I’m a reader of all genres of books and post reviews at Goodreads.com, however, I wanted to try an author interview for a book I recently read. (Something new for the new year).
As a long time reader of the blog Eat Less Water and a believer in water scarcity and our impact on the environment, I asked Ms. Ramirez for an interview. She graciously accepted the request.
EAT LESS WATER: The solution to worldwide water shortages is in our kitchens.
1. How did you come up with the title of your book?
Before I began writing Eat Less Water, I had a small distribution business of water conservation products for the shower. As I got deeper into the world of water conservation, I sought more information and research on the topic of water scarcity. One of those books was When the Rivers Run Dry. The book introduced me the concept of water footprint and virtual water.
Once I learned food was the most significant user of freshwater in the world, I instantaneously knew if I was to impact greater change, I needed to change my focus from the bathroom to the kitchen.
The idea for the book came in the form of the title. I remember the moment distinctly. My husband was sitting next to me at the time. I said to him, “I am going to write a book about water and food, and it will be called Eat Less Water.” When I said the title out loud, I knew it was to be. Seven years later, I held the completed book in my hands.
2. What, if any, literary pilgrimages have you gone on?
One year into writing Eat Less Water, I came across, A Room of Her Own (AROHO), week-long writers retreat for women at Ghost Ranch in New Mexico. I immediately completed the application and sent it in before the idea was forgotten. A month later, I learned I was accepted to participate.
The retreat was a turning point. It was not until that literary pilgrimage in the shadow of the Pedernal mountain that I embodied my identity as a writer. During the retreat, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, Marilynne Robinson spoke of the role of writers. She said,
writers must tell the truth as we see it.
She continued that it is the truth that pushes back against fascism. Her words bore deep. I responded with tears. I knew at that moment with absolute certainty that I am a writer. Writing for change is what I was designed to do. I returned on this pilgrimage two more times, to re-inspire and re-charge amongst other creative women.
3. What do your plans for future projects include?
My next book project is called, “In Search of Real Food in American Public Schools.” I found my first public school while on my book tour in NYC. This book, like Eat Less Water, will require, travel, interviews and lots of research.
My hope is to create a blueprint for parents, educators, and students to improve our current food programs within the current school funding and regulations.
And to reimagine a food system that supports small-scale farmers working to grow clean, nutritious food that’s good for our children and the planet. In many ways, it is a continuation of what I started in Eat Less Water.
I’m also working on a smaller project; an “Eating Less Water” coloring book for young children. Each chapter of the “Eat Less Water” book begins with beautiful drawings of the plants and animals featured in the book. The coloring book will contain these drawings accompanied by a short introduction to water footprints, water conservation of the connection between our food and water.
4. What has been one of your most rewarding experiences as an author?
The process of writing a book is a private act. I form sentences and construct ideas in my mind. During the writing process, I was selective about who I invited in to critique and discuss my pages. The moment the book was published, the ideas no longer belonged to me alone, they now exist in the public realm, that is expanding on a daily basis. This expansion is both exhilarating and uncomfortable.
The book has stretched me to unknown territories, has put me in contact with new people, and tests my willingness to say “yes” to new opportunities. The experience can be uncomfortable at times because it is outside the safety of my solitary writing cocoon. And it requires me to surrender myself to the expansion of my world experience.
What has helped me to embrace this natural transition from writer to author, is the sage advice from a mentor.
“The work is not complete until it is received,”
she told me. I say this in my mind before I set out into a new situation to expand the reach of Eat Less Water.
5. What is the main thing you want readers to take away from your book?
I want readers to feel empowered, and to realize the solution to water shortages is in each of our kitchens. Our food pantries represent rivers, aquifers, lakes from every part of the planet. In my pantry, I have rice from Vietnam, chocolate from Ghana, coffee from Guatemala, flour from Kansas, eggs from Ojai, California and lettuce from Oxnard. Each country, state, region deals with water scarcity issues ranging from not having enough-supply, or not having enough “clean” water quality.
Food is the most significant user and polluter of water.
If we are to be part of the solution of global water solutions, we must begin with our food choices, supporting farming methods that save water. We are connected to the world’s water with each meal.
I hope Eat Less Water to be like a pebble tossed into the stillness of water that grows ever-widening circles. More specifically my vision for the book is the following:
to reveal the connection between what we eat and the impact on rivers and lakes,
to generate more business for farmers dedicated to growing food using farming methods that save our water resources,
to inspire policy change at the individual, farm, corporate, and government policy level.
Ever since I figured out how to use the Goodreads widget I’ve been posting reviews on books I’ve read.
Either the widget is dead, malfunctioning or my brain is on overdrive and I’ve forgotten how to use the darn thing, but the widget is not working. Hence, here are reviews on the two latest books I’ve enjoyed in the last month.
América by Esmeralda Santiago
América Gonzalez is a hotel maid at an island resort off the coast of Puerto Rico. She cleans up after wealthy foreigners who look past her as a non-entity. Her married boyfriend, Correa, beats her and their fourteen-year-old daughter thinks life would be better anywhere but with América. When a wealthy, too busy, family asks her to work for them in the United States, América plans her escape from Correa and her old life.
Domestic violence, family dynamics, fear, and choices are themes in this novel. The ongoing violence that América endures is sometimes difficult to read. One feels like yelling at her to drop the bastard and make better decisions, however the author illustrates that this is no easy task.
Reading about a character who makes poor choices can often be a turn-off, however the author engages the reader by describing the protagonist and her backstory effectively.
Beautiful descriptive prose keeps you reading but the redundant descriptions on setting is sometimes too much and the eye wants to scan for the forward movement in the story.
I love the dialogue, the emotional reactions, and interplay between the maids. I loved how the author gave us the dialogue between the mother and protagonist. The villain in the story was well played.I learned some things about Puerto Rico, the culture and language which is a plus in my opinion.
I didn’t like the way the daughter’s character was written. She had the same extremes of reaction over the entire book.
These glitches may be because this is the author’s first novel (1996). I would definitely read Esmeralda Santiago’s other books.
One Man Tango by Anthony Quinn and Daniel Paisner
Description from publisher:
“While bicycling near his villa in Ceccina, Italy, veteran actor Anthony Quinn begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery through a varied and colorful past–and delivers one of the most fascinating star biographies ever written. Resonating with Quinn’s own passionate voice, an infectious zest for living, and a wealth of juicy anecdotes, One Man Tango is by turns resilient and caustic, daring and profound. It is a memoir as bold as the man who wrote it. Includes a 16-page photo insert. HC: HarperCollins.”
Anthony Quinn was a hero of many Latino’s, being that he was a well known actor in the ’40-’70’s when few Latinos were on the big screen. Not only did he come from Mexico, but he grew up in East Los Angeles. He was associated with the Kennedy’s, Catholics, Cesar Chavez, laborers, and California politics which further endeared him to the Mexican American community.
I couldn’t help loving this book.When I read the memoir it was as if Anthony Quinn himself was in my family room recounting his memories. He lived as passionately as his many love affairs.
Remember Zorba the Greek? Well, Anthony Quinn had that enthusiasm for living. His early life was one of extreme poverty in Mexico, with his Mexican Irish father who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and his Mexican Indian mother.
The memoir is as fast paced as his bicycle ride through the hills of Ceccina, giving the reader an insight into the hills and valleys of the actor’s life, which is fascinating. Besides being an actor he was a laborer, boxer, artist, vintner, writer and philanthropist.
His memory of the movie stars, producers, and directors that he worked with is fascinating, juicy and very entertaining. He worked with Marlon Brando, Laurence Olivier, Mickey Rooney, Carole Lombard, Maureen O’Hara, Rita Hayworth, and numerous other memorable actors. His memoir reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and the world, with all the side dishes that go along with these characters.
Particularly interesting was his experiences and conflicts with mobsters, politicians, and movie moguls, including his father-in-law, Cecil B. De Mille. Their family dynamics were extremely interesting.
Anthony Quinn often reminisces about his poor choices, the emotional turmoil he put his wife and family through, and looking back it seems he regrets some of his decisions. But what also comes through the memoir is that he loved his family like a ferocious lion.
This memoir is one of the most well-written, insightful, and candid story I’ve ever read. There are many beautifully written phrases and visuals that make you feel you are on that bicycle ride through the towns and cities of Mexico, East Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Italy.
Mild heat and sunshine warmed my neck of the Oxnard Plains for a whole five days. So warm (76-80 degrees) we could actually visit our beautiful beaches and plunge into the 65 degree Pacific Ocean. I know, we’re weather spoiled rotten here on the Southern California coast. But the June gloom had its pluses. Cold weather thick with a marine layer is a reading opportunity waiting to happen. I must confess I sat in a comfy chair and read two books in 8 evenings instead of taking a walk. My reading tastes lean towards contemporary fiction, historical fiction, memoirs and crime thrillers. When the characters are of other cultures, set in exotic locales, and have a smattering of humor, other languages, and interesting protagonists, the book is usually placed on my “To Be Read,” list.
Wait, there is one more ‘test.’ The opening page has to grab my interest and make me want to read the paragraph, and the next few. Although my summer reading list of Latina/o books shortened by two, the stack on my end table and Kindle has risen by three other non-Latina/o writers. But on to a short review on my recent reads: 1. THE SANDOVAL SISTERS’… The first few lines passed the ‘test,’: “All that praying and what does Teresa leave me? Daughters!” Estevan had no time for Alma and Pilar and left them completely in my hands. The setting is before and during the Mexican-American war of 1848, in Sante Fe, New Mexico. It’s a family saga of arranged marriages, a runaway bride, secrets, witchcraft, and loyalty. Ancient journals are a central focus for the Sandovals. These diaries hold the family genealogy, along with the family secrets, escapades, land grants, murders, and recipes that range from food, to love potions, and revenge. The three sisters depend on each other during this turbulent time, imbued in the politics of war, class, and country. They grow into strong assertive women despite their father. Historical fiction has to incorporate the time period, and the author does this very well. We hear about the wagons coming through to homestead, the Spanish landowner’s hacienda’s, kidnapping of the indigenous people, slavery, and the daily life of the people in the late 1800’s. What I didn’t embrace, as much as the first three quarters of the book was the story of Monique, after her rescue. The last chapter implies there will be a sequel to the book. (In fact, after “The End,” my Kindle has a first chapter titled “First, We Were O’Reillys.”) The sisters are in their early twenties to thirty years of age by the final chapter, so there is plenty of material for a series about the Sandoval Sisters. 2. WE THE ANIMALS by Justin Torres
This is a highly celebrated, awarded and reviewed book, first published in Sept. 2012. It’s a short book, 125 pages, and fast paced.
The first few lines of the novel seemed innocuous but then they built up into a crescendo of emotion. As a reader I had a good picture of who these boys were and I wanted to know where they were going or had gone. We wanted more. We knocked the butt ends of our forks against the table, tapped our spoons against our empty bowls; we were hungry. We wanted more volume, more riots. We turned up the knob on the TV until our ears ached with the shouts of angry men…We were six snatching hands, six stomping feet; we were brothers, boys, three little kings locked in a feud for more. How did that feel to you? I could see their faces, fists, and fury. The story fully characterized each brother, ages 6, 8, and 10. Heartbreaking, tumultuous times interspersed with funny or tender moments marked most chapters. Sometimes you wanted to put down the book, just for a breather, only to find your place again and keep reading. The novel is a coming of age story voraciously told by the youngest brother, the author. His parents rage, fume, drink, and are all together depressing, but human. With it’s tenacious prose and pace, the novel reminded me of Jack Kerouac and Junot Diaz. Maybe they were Justin Torres’ older brothers in another life. The book is that great. If you haven’t made time for reading, get to it. Take a summer trip that only a good book can give to you.
DESPERADO: A MILE HIGH NOIR by Manual Ramos is a fast paced contemporary crime mystery through the streets and changing landscape of Denver’s North Side. Gus, a not so lovable guy, is trying to rebuild his ‘loser’ life, working at and sleeping on a cot at his ex-wife’s thrift store. He’s minding his own business when an old high school buddy, Artie-the handsome, cool, now successful real estate magnate- walks in and changes Gus’s life in all the wrong ways. Artie is the not so innocent victim of a blackmail. His womanizing has caught up with him, and it’s recorded on video. He’ll pay Gus big money for his help in paying off the young blackmailer and making sure there are no future payments. Gus agrees to help Artie. But before he can meet with the blackmailer, the cops find Artie dead, carrying a large check made out to Gus. The favor for some quick cash puts Gus in the cross hairs of the local police who believe Gus murdered Artie. The police investigation is the least of Gus’s worries. His own inquiries into Artie’s death leads him to the Mexican cartel who involve him in the theft of a sacred religious symbol, the tilma of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Gus’s sister and his new love interest, Isabel, are kidnapped to ensure that Gus goes along with the cartel’s wishes. Gus, the anti-hero, has to prove that he is neither murderer nor thief, and live to tell his story. Like all good mysteries there are double crosses, twists, turns and surprises. Who I particularly enjoyed was the secondary female character Corrine, Gus’s sister, portrayed as a strong, intelligent (street and otherwise), woman with a sense of humor and family loyalty that made her hard shell exterior more lovable. She steps into the picture when she finds detectives grilling Gus about Artie’s murder. Gus: “She stood toe-to-toe with cops before she had a license to drive…” Corrine: “Unless you got a warrant or you’re arresting Gus, he shouldn’t even say prayers with you guys.” Gus: “Corrine’s voice did not waver.” What I like about this mystery is the setting and the characters. The scenes are identifiable for anyone who grew up on “the wrong side of the tracks,” or low-income areas. The characters are people of different cultures who are presented in a non-stereotypical manner.
Desperado is a page turner that keeps you hooked into the action of the story. It’s a gritty tale written vividly and clearly in a compelling style. The author, Manual Ramos, is an Edgar Award finalist, the recipient of several literary awards, and the author of eight novels, including the Luis Montez mystery series. He is an attorney who works in Denver, Colorado. I first encountered Mr. Ramos books in my local library. After reading the first one I was hooked and found his other books online. I’m now a fan. Disclosure: I received an unsolicited advanced reading copy of this novel.