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Breaking Away July 4, 2011

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in bestsellers, Latino literature, literary fiction.
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Jon Michaud

“Going separate ways isn’t a sign that two people didn’t understand one another, but an indication that they had begun to.” This anonymous quote says more about break-ups and divorces in one sentence than many books do in all of the pages between their covers. People come together and drift apart. They burn like meteors for a time, only to fizzle out when their passion hits the atmosphere of reality. Real life often gets in the way of love. If it was ever love at all. This week in #litchat we’re discussing books that feature break-ups and the questions, consequences and casualties that follow.

Joining us on Friday, July 8, is Jon Michaud, whose debut novel, When Tito Loved Clara, was named among this year’s Tantalizing Summer Reads from O magazine.  When Tito Loved Clara is about breaking up, breaking away, and breaking through everything from first love, expectations of family and the cultural ceilings of immigrant life in America. Clara and Tito were raised blocks apart in northern Manhattan’s Inwood, a neighborhood known for its large Dominican population.  Tito and Clara live a Romeo and Juliet existence as high school lovers whose warring families were once like blood. The comparison ends here. Abused and neglected as a child, Clara uses education to break away from the dysfunction she sees everywhere she looks. Tito is a boyish dreamer too content with his cushy existence in the bosom of family to see a reason for achievement. Where Shakespeare’s young lovers choose death over separation, the couple that is Michaud’s Tito and Clara dissolves when the consequences of young love threaten Clara’s plan of escape. Years later, Tito still carries a torch for Clara and fantasizes about life with her, while Clara carries the burden of guilt from her hard decisions. A cast of mostly endearing, yet quirky characters, absorb some of the angst from Tito and Clara with secrets and consequences of their own.

Jon Michaud was born in Washington, D.C. in 1967. The son of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, he grew up in Tehran, Iran, Bombay, India, Bethesda, Maryland, and Belfast, Northern Ireland. Jon was educated at the Methodist College, Belfast and at the University of East Anglia. He holds an M.A. in Creative Writing from Lancaster University and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. Michaud is the head librarian at The New Yorker magazine. Before becoming a librarian, Michaud worked as a passport courier, a bookseller, and a bakery assistant. As a librarian, he has also been employed by Time Inc. and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. His writing has been published in IronNorth American ReviewSouth Dakota ReviewDenver QuarterlyFawlt, and other periodicals. He writes regularly for the Back Issues and Book Bench blogs on newyorker.com. Michaud lives in Maplewood, New Jersey with his wife and their two sons. He is at work on his next novel.

Follow Jon Michaud on Twitter: @JonMichaud.

Note: There will not be a moderated #litchat on Monday, July 4th, as we take the day off to celebrate American Independence Day. 


Topic of the Week: Latino Literature November 9, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, Latino literature, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, weekly topics.
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No matter on which side of the border it’s produced, there’s no argument that Latino authors have produced some of the greatest works of literature in recent history. Despite its invasion by Europeans, Latin America maintains much of the cultural identity and heritage of its native peoples, providing a colorful tapestry for storytelling. Many Latino authors draw on that culture with remarkable stories of survival, conflict, love, mystery, spiritualism and humanity. Authors such as Carlos Castaneda, Isabel Allende, Laura Esquivel, Sandra Cisneros and Jorge Luis Borges brought Latino literature into the homes and hearts of readers worldwide. We’ll discuss these authors and other Latino authors on Monday and Wednesday during LitChat.


Luis Urrea

Luis Urrea joins us as guest host on Friday, November 13. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an American mother, Luis grew up on both sides of the border. He compeled his undergrad work in writing at the University of California, San Diego, then went on to study writing at the graduate level at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Nominated for a Pulitzer for The Devil’s Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, Luis has been widely published in literary journals and has 11 books in print.

Publisher’s Weekly said this about Luis’s recently released novel, Into the Beautiful North: “Urrea’s poetic sensibility and journalistic eye for detail in painting the Mexican landscape and sociological complexities create vivid, memorable scenes.”


Alan Cheuse of the Chicago Tribune said, “Awash in a subtle kind of satire… A funny and poignant impossible journey… Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico.”

After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Luis moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.


Books Are Great Gifts

Luis’ other titles include The Hummingbird’s Daughter, By the Lake of Sleeping Children, In Search of Snow, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time. His writing has won an American Book Award, a Western States Book Award, a Colorado Center for the Book Award and a Christopher Award. The Devil’s Highway has been optioned for a film by CDI Producciones.

Luis lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Follow Luis on Twitter at: @Urrealism.

Topic of the Week: How Culture Informs and Directs Storytelling August 16, 2009

Posted by Carolyn Burns Bass in fiction, literary fiction, multi-cultural fiction, weekly topics.
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Eugenia Kim

Eugenia Kim

Some of the most powerful novels of our age have been steeped in cultures other than our own. Amy Tan, Salman Rushdie, Toni Morrison, and Gabriel García Márquez are among the most well-known authors whose books have distinctive ethnic settings. While the cultural flavor of these authors and the hundreds of other authors writing multicultural fiction, the thread that runs through them all is great storytelling. This week in LitChat we’ll talk about the ways that culture informs and directs storytelling.

Our guest host on Friday, August 21st, is Eugenia Kim, whose debut novel The Calligrapher’s Daughter, launches August 18th. Kim is the daughter of Korean immigrant parents who came to America shortly after the Pacific War. She has published short stories and essays in journals and anthologies, including Echoes Upon Echoes: New Korean American Writings, and is an MFA graduate of Bennington College. She lives in Washington, D.C., with her husband and son.

TheCalligraphersDaughter“In The Calligrapher’s Daughter Eugenia Kim beautifully chronicles both the lost world of a traditional Korea and the lost childhood of her remarkable heroine. A coming-of-age story that resonates with larger significance, the novel movingly depicts the emotional cost of transformation and the love and sacrifice that make transformation possible. The Calligrapher’s Daughter is at once the story of a single life as well as the changing life of a nation and, while the details are fascinatingly exotic, the narrative rings with the hard won truths of profound human experience. It is a note-worthy debut from a writer with great heart and real empathy.”—Sheridan Hay, author of The Secret of Lost Things

Follow Eugenia Kim on Twitter at @Eugenia_Kim