#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Books, Diversity, Latina writer, Latino Literature, Self Identity

DiverseLit: 10 New Summer Reads 2014

beach, reading
A Nice Place to Read- flickr.com cc license

Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light.–Vera Nazarian

 

The weekend was beautiful, sunny but not too warm, breezy but just enough to cool the face. It’s going to be an awesome summer to go to the beach, backyard, or lay out on the couch and read.

Even if it were dreary and rainy, I’d still read.

I’ve assembled my list of ten books for twelve weeks of summertime reading pleasure. My picks are based on authors whose writing I admire and other picks are based on the story they promise to tell.

These books are my travels, where I can go back in time, or to other cultures, or to hear words in other languages.

The subjects cover relationships, romance, loss, disability, prejudice, courage, and resilience.

Genres include historical fictions, contemporary lit, memoir and Young Adult novels.

China Dolls - Lisa See
China Dolls – Lisa See

1. China Dolls by Lisa See

Three young women from different backgrounds meet in San Francisco in 1938, forming a bond that will test their friendship after the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.

2.The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman

Set against the backdrop of 20th century history, a Russian immigrant girl transforms herself into an ice cream mogul — one whose past threatens to trip her up. 

Book of Unknown Americans-C. Henriquez
Book of Unknown Americans-C. Henriquez

3-The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

A budding romance between a Mexican girl and Panamanian boy offers a glimpse of the struggles, fears and misunderstandings of Latin American immigrants. 

4.Take This Man – A Memoir by Brando Skyhorse

Brando Skyhorse was brought up in Echo Park in the 1970s believing he was the son of an incarcerated American Indian activist. This memoir explores his turbulent, five-stepfathered childhood and his discovery, decades later, of his true origins. 

5.Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter by Maria Venegas

Brought up in the U.S., Maria Venegas had a tumultuous relationship with her gun-toting father back in Mexico. This debut book explores her relationship with this man and his often violent choices. (July 3, 2014)

6. The Amado Women by Désirée Zamorano

Southern California is ground zero for upwardly mobile middle-class Latinas. Matriarchs like Mercy Amado—despite her drunken, philandering (now ex-) husband—could raise three daughters and become a teacher. Now she watches helplessly as her daughters drift apart as adults. The Latino bonds of familia don’t seem to hold in this novel about four women linked by birth, separated by secrets of sex, money and death.

Diverse Lit, YA novel
Like No Other

7. Like No Other by Una LaMarche

Trapped in an elevator during a hurricane in Brooklyn, a Hasidic Jewish girl and a book-smart African American boy make a forbidden love connection that could lead to dire consequences. (July 24, 2014-YA novel).

8. Girl in Reverse by Barbara Stuber

When Lily was three, her mother put her up for adoption, then disappeared without a trace. Or so Lily was told. Lily grew up in her new family and tried to forget her past. But with the Korean War raging and the fear of “Commies” everywhere, Lily’s Asian heritage makes her a target. She is sick of the racism she faces, a fact her adoptive parents won’t take seriously. For Lily, war is everywhere—the dinner table, the halls at school, and especially within her own skin. (YA novel).

9.  A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman

Veda, a classical dance prodigy in India, lives and breathes dance—so when an accident leaves her a below-knee amputee, her dreams are shattered. For a girl who’s grown used to receiving applause for her dance prowess and flexibility, adjusting to a prosthetic leg is painful and humbling. But Veda refuses to let her disability rob her of her dreams, and she starts all over again, taking beginner classes with the youngest dancers. (YA novel).

Pig Park -YA fiction
Pig Park -YA fiction

10. Pig Park by Claudia Guadalupe Martinez

Fifteen-year-old Masi Burciaga neighborhood is becoming more of a ghost town each day since the lard company moved away. Even her school closed down. Her family’s bakery and the other surviving businesses may soon follow. As a last resort, the neighborhood grown-ups enlist all the remaining able-bodied boys and girls into a scheme in hopes of luring visitors. Maybe their neighbors will come back too. But something’s not right about the entrepreneur behind it all. (July 1, 2014-YA novel-MOVED to SEPT. 14 pub date).

Ten books in twelve weeks. Now, get thee to the library or your favorite bookseller and start reading.

I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense-Harold Kushner

 

Creativity, poetry, poets, Self Identity

What Stimulates Your Creativity?

This morning We Wanted to Be Writers newsletter popped up first on my reading list. My eyes landed on a headline highlighting a poetry collection by Clare Martin.

For me, few morning rituals are better than a great cup of coffee while perusing a thought provoking poem or article.

Ten poems filled the page.  I ended up reading all of the poems twice, some four times. 

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of Queen of America, says (her poetry is) “dark and lovely and full of a deep organic pulse. Like the landscape of her beloved Louisiana, her work is alive with mystery. You could swim in this hot water, but there are things down inside its darkness that might pull you away forever. It is an exquisite drowning.”

I couldn’t get two of her poems out of my head. Images swirled until I observed the scenes in the poem unfold.

Woman sitting on the edge of the ocean-gettyimages.com
Woman sitting on the edge of the ocean-gettyimages.com

SHE WALKS INTO THE SEA

She walks into the sea, out of the sea, into the sea, swinging her arms. Casting the net, her hanging breasts are like soundless bells. She crouches on an outcropping of rocks holding the line. If the nets are empty, her children will feed on night—fill their mouths with clouds, devour stars. She shovels star lit pebbles with a bare foot. She faces the moon, pulling hard. She pulls to her chest, pulls with her back, her thighs, and the muscles of her neck. Her face stiffens with anger. She breathes and desperation breaks. The haul is large, glittering. Spiked fins slap her calves. She bleeds—

Children gather for the slaughter.

First published in Lily Literary Review

Male purple sunbird-gettyimages.com
Male purple sunbird-gettyimages.com

MUSE

We marry into grief
and the poems pile

up against our ribs.
Secrets hold to us

and we hold to them.
We are bound to endings

as the culmination
of light binds us.

Darkness: a berry,
blood on the tongue—

It has been a long time
since we have written poetry.

Why do we wait?
Fault-lines split the earth.

The ink of the crow
marks the cloud—

Shall we not muse
upon its bantering wings?

Clare Martin’s debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published fall 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. These poems are from the collection. 

Several things can help stimulate creativity: walks in nature, a bubble bath, music, looking at a photo, or just being quiet. So what gets your creative side glowing?

Encouragement, Health, Inspiration, New Year intentions, Self Care, Self Identity, Self-confidence, Self-Esteem

Three Minute Inspiration

Three Minutes-gettyimages.com
Three Minutes-gettyimages.com

In my Yahoo feed I came across a website called “Give it 100 days: Practice something for 100 days.”

Three minutes was all it took to inspire me to try something different.

Participants chose weight loss, ukulele playing, learning to dance, or sing. I’m sure this “practice something for 100 days,” could extend to writing what you’re grateful for in a journal, penning a rough draft for a novel, cooking, love letters. The ideas are endless. 

On Give It 100 Days, taking and posting a video everyday to their site is required, although you can do your new thing without a public video. If you’re very determined and extroverted you’ll post a video.

What I decided to do is learn to play the piano. (But no video). This idea fit right in with my intention word for 2014: Move.

I have an old Emerson piano that my daughter learned to play on several years ago. I found her old piano practice books ” Prep Course for the Young Beginner,” and flipped through the illustrated book for 5-10 year olds.

The keys now have taped letters “A,B,C,” on them to help me know where to place my hands. Looks a little tacky but who cares. I’m going start on page one of that young beginners book and give it a try-at least for 100 days.I may just learn a whole song or two.

But back to the three minute inspiration. This came after I viewed Lakiesha’s time lapsed video ” Losing Weight and Finding Love in Myself.” This young woman made a 100 day plan for her health and because she loves herself. 

Check it out.

Do you have a 100 day plan inside of you?

 

Artist Frida Kahlo, Chingona, Empowerment, Frida, Hope, Latino Rebels, Maribel Hernandez Designs, Self Identity, Strong Women

Reasons to Celebrate Frida Kahlo’s Birthday

Around the blogosphere and Facebook, many are paying tribute to the artist, activist, feminist icon and chingona Frida Kahlo. Last year I remembered her anniversary.  Today is her birthday.  

https://www.facebook.com/LatinoRebels

Over a hundred years after her birth, Frida remains memorable. In addition to her art, much of this has to do with her honesty about emotional and physical pain, her activism, her love of country and her self-identity as a woman. These are reasons to celebrate Frida’s birthday. 

Frida Kahlo produced 143 paintings, 55 of which are self-portraits. When asked why she painted so many of these, Frida replied:

 “Because I am so often alone….because I am the subject I know best.”

Her honesty in her response is precisely why she is remembered. Similiar to her au naturel face of unplucked eyebrows and unshaven upper lip, this was a woman who was comfortable with her identity. What she highlighted in many photographs, was her indigenous and mestizo roots and the culture of Mexico. 


This was a woman who lived a life in physical pain from several injuries and still painted.

 “I am not sick. I am broken. But I am happy to be alive as long as I can paint.” * 

.
She was a woman who lived a life marked by emotional pain and depression. Her beloved mother, Matilde Calderon, died of breast cancer. Her father, who encouraged her to paint after her horrible accident died of a heart attack. She had several miscarriages. Her husband, Diego Rivera, was infamously unfaithful.


“I drank because I wanted to drown my sorrows, but now the damned things have learned to swim.” **

Frida was a ‘relatable’ artist. Carlos Fuentes, famed Mexican novelist said: 

“Frida found a way of painting pain – of permitting us to see pain and in so doing, reflecting the pain of the world. … She is a figure that represents the conquest of adversity, that represents how – against hell and high water – a person is able to make their life and reinvent themselves and make that life be personally fulfilling… Frida Kahlo in that sense is a symbol of hope, of power, of empowerment…”

Frida’s philosophy of life was described just days before her death, in her still life, using the words Viva La Vida (Long Live Life). 

This was a woman who took pain and depression, placed it on canvas along with her vision, and created beauty. It takes a strong woman to translate tragedy into beauty.  

 “It is not worthwhile,…to leave this world without having had a little fun in life.” ***

That, right there, sums it up. Happy Birthday, Frida.



*Letter to Ella Wolfe, 1938, quoted in Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo by Hayden Herrera In a footnote, Herrera writes that Kahlo had heard this joke from her friend, the poet José Frías.

**Quoted in Time Magazine, “Mexican Autobiography” (27 April 1953) a year before her death.

*** Smithsonian Magazine