Don’t Worry, There’s Always More Latino Lit

This is the final week of Hispanic Heritage Month, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of Latino Lit. We hope that you’ve been able to expand your reading horizons over the past month as we know we have. Remember that Local is Global. By reading about diverse cultures and people, we can understand more about ourselves and our community. If you want more, don’t forget about the UNG Reads events throughout October, including the movie showing of Bless Me, Ultima tonight!

Esperanza Rising—Pam Muñoz Ryan

Esperanza’s life in Mexico was perfect. Her family was wealthy, she wore pretty dresses, and she could have anything she ever wanted. Her life was idyllic, until her father was murdered. When Esperanza’s tio threatens her mother and family, they’re forced to move to California in the middle of the Great Depression, leaving her Abuelita behind. Now, Esperanza must work in the farm sheds, packing produce instead of attending school. Winner of the Pura Belpré Award, Esperanza Rising is the beautiful tale of what can happen when one girl rises above the circumstances and overcomes the obstacles that are thrown her way.

Signs Preceding the End of the World—Yuri Herrera, Translated by Lisa Dillman

Makina knows all about survival. Living in the dangerous parts of Mexico, it’s nothing new to her. So it’s not fear which drives her from Mexico, but her mother’s request to find her brother. The only way to reach American is to illegally cross the border, aided by Mr. Aitch, a “reptile in pants” and opportunistic drug lord. Now she’s searching for her brother, carrying two secret messages as she struggles to adapt to the different world she is exposed to. Yuri Herrera understand language, and Dillman’s translation help an English-speaking audience experience the otherworldliness of the original.

The Savage Detectives—Roberto Bolañom, Translated by Natasha Wimmer

The Savage Detectives, or  Los Detectives Salvajes as it was published first, follows Juan García Madero, college student and eventual drop-out, but it’s about Arturo Belano and Ulises Lima, the Visceral Realists. Due to a violent encounter in the desert 20 years ago, they’re still on the run now. Following, Belano, Lima, and Madero, we meet a foul-mouthed American grad student, the great-granddaughter or Leon Trotsky, an Argentinian photojournalist, a Chilean stowaway, and so many more eclectic characters. Told in a non-linear story line, their lifelong quest to find the founder of Visceral Realism leads them on a journey that any young bohemian will love.

Xtabentum: A Novel of Yucatan—Rosy Hugener

This story follows two women who are living in the Mexican Revolution in Merida, Yucatan. Amanda Diaz is of European descent, one of the small families who dominate the politics and economy of the region. Amanda’s friend, Carmen is a Mayan Indian, daughter of one the Diaz’s servants. Carmen is whipped by the Diaz’s neighbors, and it releases the horrors of social injustice between the classes. Following the family across generations, this is the story of two women, their granddaughter, and unsureness about if their friendship can overcome everything else.

 

The Cruel Country—Judith Ortiz Cofer

Judith Ortiz Cofer was a Puerto Rican native who moved to New Jersey with her family in 1956 and then to Augusta, GA in 1967. She was the Regents’ and Frankin Professor of English and Creative Writing at UGA. Winner of the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, a Pushcart Prize, and inductee of the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame, Cofer was “a beautiful representative of the Latino community, but.. a poet for everybody.” She wrote multiple works of poetry, creative nonfiction, and short stories, all of which are deserving of praise. Cofer’s stories described her characters fight to maintain “their own dignity and creative potential” amid the duality of Puerto Rican and American culture, which she herself lived up to. She will be dearly missed by everyone at the UNG Press.

 

Favorite Books Series: Staff Picks

October, just in case you didn’t know, is National Book Month, aka the perfect excuse to read, read, read! Fall is the best time for reading. It’s getting cold and chilly out, so you can snuggle up with a blanket and some fuzzy socks and hot chocolate and just lounge to your heart’s content. We’ll be showcasing some of our favorite books this month in celebration. To start, here are our favorites, picked from our own bookshelves.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Recommended by BJ Robinson, Director

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by Shakespeare between 1598 and 1599. Lies, trickery, and deceit run rampant and prove that communication is important in a relationship! Don Pedro woos Hero for Claudio; Beatrice and Benedick are tricked into confessing their feelings; Hero fakes her own death. It’s a story where miscommunication is king, and chaos reigns.

Fun Fact: The majority of the text is written in prose, not iambic pentameter.


The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn 
by Mark Twain

Recommended by Corey Parson, Managing Editor

One of the most commonly banned books of all time The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn follows Huck where The Adventures of Tom Sawyer left off. First kidnapped by his drunkard father, then given over to be “sivilized,” Huck decides the only thing to do is fake his own death and run away. And that’s not even the craziest part. Huckleberry Finn is an adventure story, filled with bad luck and worse timing.

Fun Fact: It was first published in the U.K. It took two months before it was published in the U.S.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Recommended by Jillian Murphy, Assistant Managing Editor

Anne of Green Gables features Anne-with-an-E Shirley, accidentally adopted and supposed to be a boy. Written by Montgomery in 1908, the novel follows Anne and her life in the small, magical town of Avonlea. The novel became an instant classic and is considered one of the best children’s novels of all time. Anne lived a life of adventure and could do all the things we wished to (including cracking a slate over someone’s head. Childhood dream.).

Fun Fact: Anne of Green Gables is incredibly popular in Japan. Enough so that there’s a recreation of Green Gables in Hokkaido.

The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
Recommended by Emilee, student worker

What would you do if the gods of old were still here? Would you know? Would you maybe even be one of them? That’s who Percy Jackson is: Demigod, son of Poseidon, and supposedly the lighting thief. Percy was never told who his father was until it was almost too late. Now, he has to find Zeus’ lightning bolt and clear his name. Riordan’s series started as bedtime stories for his son which is why they translate so well to kids and adults today.

Fun Fact: There is a musical version by the same name. It first premiered in 2014 and was re-released in 2017.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Recommended by Sam, student worker

The First Bad Man is the debut novel of Miranda July, and it’s a work of surrealism that can’t be clearly defined. It’s protagonist, Cheryl, is fortysomething, aggressively polite, and clearly going through an unresolved crisis. Cheryl’s bosses convince her to let their daughter (Clee, 21, certainly aggressive, not exactly polite) live with her. From there starts a path of chaos that is certainly odd, but oddly enthralling and which will guarantee a wild ride to any reader.

Fun Fact: Before the book was released, July auctioned off items from the story. These include a jester hat, a Tibetan cloth, and special shoes (green flip-flops with nails sticking out the bottoms).

Like our book recs? Disagree with one of our choices? Want to suggest a book? Leave a comment or visit us at Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram to find more great content.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Dreamlike Stories, Real Experiences

We’re nearing the end of Hispanic Heritage Month, and we hope that you’ve been enjoying yourselves. We’re excited for the start of the UNG Reads events for Bless Me, Ultima (found here), and even more excited about these book recommendations. If you haven’t satisfied your love of Latino Lit yet, here are four more books, each with dreamlike writing, that we promise you’ll love.

The Private Lives of Trees — Alejandro Zambra

Every night, Julián tells a story about friendly trees to his stepdaughter, Daniela, before she goes to sleep, and every Sunday, he works on his own novel about his bonsai tree. The Private Lives of Trees captures the story of one night. On this night, Julián nervously waits for his wife, Verónica, to come home from her art class. As the night wears on, the air of uncertainty becomes heavier, with the audience as clueless and unsure about life as Julián is. But The Private Lives of Trees is gentle, with every sentence clearly crafted with care. The contrast makes for a bittersweet narration, the feelings of worry and love and loneliness a reminder of something we all know.

The Tango Singer — Tomás Eloy Martinez

Bruno Cadogan, an American graduate who specializes in Borges, arrives in Buenos Aires to begin his search of an elusive tango singer named Julio Martel, who’s voice is rumored to overshadow the famous Carlos Gardel. Julio has never been recorded, and his performances are unannounced and are located at seemingly arbitrary places. Cadogan hears of the famous Borges story “The Aleph,” and he finds himself drawn into the mystery and legends of the singer’s life. Martel’s performances aren’t as random as first believed and, in fact, are the keys to the city’s past that Cadogan has been searching for.

The Red Umbrella — Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Lucía Álvarez lives a carefree life; she dreams of her first crush and parties, but when soldiers invadeher Cuban town, everything changes. Her neighbors suddenly disappear, her friends treat her as though they were strangers, their freedom is stripped away, and Lucía’s family is being watched. As the Revolution becomes more oppressive, Lucía’s parents make a grave decision: to send her and her younger brother to the United States on their own. They’re part of Operation Pedro Pan—a exodus of more than 14,000 unaccompanied children, sent to the U.S. to escape Fidel Castro. Based on the experiences of her parents, Gonzalez shows the struggles and challenges that occur when you’re exposed to a whole new country, language, and culture.

The Weight of Feathers — Anna-Marie McLemore

For twenty years, the Paloma family and the Corbeau family have been enemies. Both families are traveling performers in competing shows: the Palomas swim in mermaid exhibitions underwater, while the Corbeaus perform tightrope acts in treetops, among the birds. Lace Paloma knows that the Corbeaus are pure magia negra, from the devil himself. Even accidentally touching a member of the other family is enough to be exiled. But disaster always ignores the rules, and it is Cluck Corbeau who saves Lace’s life. Peppered with French and Spanish, The Weight of Feathers reads like a dreamlike fairytale that any romantic reader will love.

Allen Mendenhall on Researching “The Southern Philosopher”

We’re honored to have Allen Mendenhall, editor of The Southern Philosopher: Collected Essays of John William Corrington, join us today as he talks about his research process, the help he received, and just what makes John William Corrington so interesting. You can find more by him at the Southern Literary Review and his website.

My interest in John William Corrington began in law school. I went to law school at West Virginia University to study under Jim Elkins, who is well-known in law-and-literature circles and recently had written on Corrington. I read Corrington in Elkins’s classes and at some point, reached out to Corrington’s widow, Joyce, to strike up a conversation about her late husband. Before I knew it, I was staying at Joyce’s home in New Orleans and getting phone calls from Bill’s friends and colleagues. One day, a package arrived in the English department at Auburn University, where I was a doctoral student, and in it were materials that a friend of Corrington’s sent along because he’d heard I was researching Corrington.

Some of Corrington’s other family members refused to talk to me about him. Joyce was always completely forthcoming with me when I asked her what I thought were sensitive questions. She’s not shy. The first time I found out Corrington had been married and divorced before he met and married Joyce, I was concerned about broaching the topic with her. But when I did question Joyce about this period of Corrington’s history, she didn’t miss a beat in explaining who the first wife was and why Bill had divorced.

Joyce showed my wife and me around New Orleans, took us to nice restaurants that only locals knew about, and showed me video footage of her late husband delivering a lecture. I couldn’t have gained the knowledge of Corrington that I now possess if it weren’t for Joyce’s openness and frankness.

I’ve written three books and now edited this one. The Corrington edition was harder to complete than the books I wrote. It took over seven years of work before the book finally reached print. The University of North Georgia Press has been patient with me and excellent to work with during this process.

Corrington was enthralled by the political philosopher Eric Voegelin and undertook multiple scholarly projects involving Voegelin’s complex teachings. Corrington illuminates Voegelin’s writing; in many ways, Corrington is easier to read. His prose, I think, is more accessible than Voegelin’s, and he introduces and describes the dense, esoteric subjects and concepts that characterize Voegelin’s work.

Problematic in our current time and space and political environment is Corrington’s fascination with the Confederacy. I won’t try to explain his positions on that subject here but would encourage readers to investigate for themselves his account of the role of myth and poetry in the narration of Southern history.

It’s interesting to see how Corrington went from writing Beat-style poetry in the 1960s to novels and short stories and then to daytime television scripts and philosophical tracts inspired by Voegelin. His interests and talents were diverse, and his friends and students were loyal. I’ve yet to talk to someone who disliked Corrington.

I think there’s more work to be done on Corrington’s life and thought. By bringing this collection of Corrington’s essays to print, I hope to have laid the groundwork for future scholarship on this fascinating man and his complex ideas about law, history, philosophy, and the humanities. The Southern Philosopher should generate more research about Corrington—and perhaps even get Corrington’s works in the classroom where students of a new generation can become as enamored of him as his own students were in his day.

UNG Reads Celebrates Story, Culture, and Words with “Bless Me, Ultima”

We’re honored to have Dr. Tanya Bennett as a guest author for today’s blog. Dr. Bennett is a Professor and Dean of Honors at UNG as well as the project director for UNG Reads.

Although the population of North Georgia is diverse in culture and ethnicity, language, religion, educational background, and economic class, there is one important value we all share: a strong commitment to young people. To foster a love for books, improvement in literacy rates, and cross-cultural understanding, the UNG Reads program will feature events throughout October, reaching across boundaries to bring together campus and community, work across city and county lines, and appeal to residents of all ages and backgrounds to celebrate reading and its benefits.

As we read and discuss Rudolfo Anaya’s beloved novel Bless Me, Ultima, or Bendiceme Ultima in Spanish, we will engage together in conversations about the challenges of growing up, the gifts of the natural world, and the importance of elders in a thriving community. In the process, parents, teachers, and mentors will model for younger readers the insight and joy that a book can bring.

Through the program’s companion books—Judith Ortiz Cofer’s Call Me Maria and Samantha Vamos’s The Cazuela that the Farm Maiden Stirred—we’ll read to and with younger readers, enjoying together the communal experience of stories and words. Research tells us that the human brain undergoes a significant period of development before the age of four years. Children who are read to during this phase of their lives often develop vocabularies notably larger and richer than those who are not read to and engaged in ways that convey to them that their thoughts and ideas are interesting and important. Further, reading with an adult teaches children the power of the written word and the role of their imaginations in understanding themselves and the world. And what warmth and excitement a child experiences sitting in the lap of an adult or older sibling and traveling through a story together! The wonderful feeling of such moments can turn into a love for books themselves, which can greatly smooth the path of adulthood.

The October UNG Reads program will create opportunity for us to read together as a community, sharing and learning about the rich culture of North Georgia’s Hispanic residents. And in the process of encouraging young people to read, we’ll have a ball! Because, as even the eldest of us knows, you’re never too old to enjoy a good story.

If you’d like to join us, events will be hosted across all five UNG campuses. More information can be found at the UNG Reads Facebook page.

Dahlonega

Oct. 7: UNG Reads Kickoff, 1-3 p.m., Vickery House

Oct. 11: Movie, “Bless Me, Ultima,” 6 p.m., Hoag Auditorium

Oct. 16: Book discussion, “Bless Me, Ultima,” Noon to-1 p.m., Hoag Student Center 209, Meeting Room C

Oct. 25: Visiting Author Daina Chaviano, 6 p.m., HNS 232

Oct. 26: Fantastic Women Marathon Read, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Hoag Great Room

Nov. 2: Day of the Dead Celebration (hosted by Dr. Maria Calatayud), 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Hoag Student Center, Great Room

Gainesville

Oct. 4: Book discussion, “Bless Me, Ultima,” 12 p.m., John Harrison Hosch Library, Room 134

Oct. 5: Movie, “Bless Me, Ultima,” 5:30 p.m., Continuing Education & Performing Arts, Room 108

Oct. 25: Visiting Author Daina Chaviano, 6 p.m., video-conferenced at John Harrison Hosch Library, Room 134

Nov. 1: Day of the Dead Celebration (hosted by Dr. Ken Martin), 12-12:50 p.m., Student Center, Robinson Ballroom

Cumming

Oct. 3: UNG Reads kickoff potluck breakfast, 7:30-8:30 a.m., Room 125

Oct. 25: Visiting Author Daina Chaviano, 6 p.m., video-conferenced, Room 246

Oct. 30: Movie, “Bless Me, Ultima,” 6 p.m., Room 104

Nov. 2: Day of the Dead Open Mic Night Celebration (hosted by Dr. Fenton Gardner), 4-5:30 p.m., Room 125

Oconee

Oct. 18: Book discussion, “Bless Me, Ultima,” Noon to 1 p.m., Student Resource Center, Room 570

Oct. 23: Movie, “Bless Me, Ultima,” 5:30–7:30 p.m., Student Resource Center, Room 522

Oct. 25: Visiting Author Daina Chaviano, 6 p.m., video-conference, Student Resource Center Room 522

Oct. 31: Day of the Dead Celebration (hosted by Dr. Ken Martin), Noon to 1 p.m., Student Resource Center, Room 512

Blue Ridge

Oct. 25: Visiting Author Daina Chaviano, 6 p.m., video-conference, Room 107