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.

 

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.

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

 

Hispanic Heritage Month Book Recommendations

Hi everyone! We hope that you’re enjoying the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. We’re here today to bring you even more great books to read. Have a recommendation you’d like to share? Read any of these and have an opinion on it? Leave a comment, visit us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter to share your thoughts and see even more great content.

Playing for the Devil’s Fire — Phillipee Diederich

Life in Boli’s pueblo, Izayoc, goes on how it normally does: uneventfully. Boli and his friends are focused on playing marbles and not much else. They’re trying to win the prized Devil’s Fire marble from an older boy named Mosca, but then the severed head of Enrique Quintanilla is discovered. Everything changes, like how Boli’s once poor neighbors suddenly have new SUVs. Boli’s parents leave for Toluca, but then disappear, and no one will talk about it. He decides to take matters into his own hands and uncover the truth, but he needs the unlikely help of a “has-been” luchador, El Chicano Estrada. Diederich’s writing is powerful, and his young narrator sees things others intentionally miss. It’s an instant classic in young adult fiction.

Dreaming in Cuban — Cristina García

This novel follows the story and struggles of Celia del Pino and her family as they survive the Cuban Revolution. Following three generations of the del Pino family, this dreamlike story goes into the heart and soul of Cuba. The depth and the division of the Cuban Revolution has struck Celia del Pino and her family, the politics and geography leaving their mark. Cristina Garcia focuses on the affect the Cuban Revolution has on the women of the family, creating a tale that is central around womanhood. Dreaming in Cuba uncovers and brings to light the bittersweet challenges that families go through when living in a country that is in a war with itself.

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents — Julia Alvarez

When their father gets in trouble and enlists help from a CIA operative, the four García sisters—Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofia—find themselves suddenly uprooted from their Dominican Republic home and are forced to migrate to New York City in 1960. Narrated between the four García sisters, we see the experiences and challenges they face when exposed to a new culture. Overwhelmed, they try to assimilate to their new home, buying new clothes and straightening their hair, but their Dominican Republic culture is emphasized as the story is told in reverse. Considered an essential part of Latino literature, the García girls undoubtedly make their stories heard.

Lost City Radio — Daniel Alarcón

Daniel Alarcón’s Lost City Radio depicts the life of Norma, who lives in a nameless South America country that is in the aftermath of a war. Norma is the host of the country’s most popular radio station, Lost City Radio. Every week, she lists the names of those who have disappeared and gone missing as the Indians in the mountains and the poor from the barrios listen. Norma has helped loved ones reunite, all while suffering from her own husband’s disappearance at the end of the war. When a boy named Victor arrives from the jungle and gives her a clue about the fate of her husband, Norma’s life changes once again. The loss of language and culture hang over this story as Norma tries to find more than her missing husband.

 

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month With Us!

Today is the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month! It’s a month long celebration of Hispanic and Latino culture which runs from September 15 to October 15 in the U.S. We’re excited to learn more about it, and we hope you join us!

What is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage Month started in 1968 by President Lyndon B. Johnson. Originally only a week long, it was to honor the contributions and sacrifices of Hispanic and Latino Americans in the U.S. President Ronald Regan expanded it to a month-long celebration in 1988. It begins on September 15th because five Latin American countries celebrate their independence today: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their independence during the month.

Why is Hispanic Heritage Month Important?

Hispanic Heritage Month gives people an opportunity to connect to their heritage that they may not have otherwise. Over 17% of the U.S. population is Hispanic or Latino, making Hispanic Americans the largest minority in the U.S., whether ethnically or racially. 9.4% of Georgians are Hispanic or Latino as of July 2016. The Latin American diaspora has separated many people from their homelands and identities. Hispanic Heritage Month allows them to reconnect with their communities and strengthen their cultural identity.

Ways to Participate

We believe that everyone has a right to their heritage and cultural identity. “Local is Global” after all. Each Hispanic Heritage Month, the University of North Georgia hosts a series of events for students and members of the local community. Dance performances, guest speakers, and a Day of the Dead presentation will all be occuring. These events are sponsored by the Latin American Student Organization (LASO) on the Dahlonega campus, the Latino Student Association (LSA) on the Gainesville campus, and the Spanish Club on the Oconee campus, as well as Multicultural Student Affairs (MSA), directed by Dr. Robert Robinson.

UNG Reads will also be reading Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya for Hispanic Heritage Month. Project director Dr. Tanya Bennett says that this novel was chosen because of “its relatability to north Georgians with a Hispanic heritage.” UNG Reads will host campus events through October, including visiting author Daina Chaviano on October 25. More information can be found here.

Learn More

Each Wednesday during Hispanic Heritage Month, the Press will have a blog post featuring different Hispanic authors and books, as well as any updated information about the UNG events. Below are our first three recommendations. If you want to discuss these books, or have any other recommendations or requests, leave a comment, tweet us @UnivPressNG, or follow us on Facebook!

1. The Barbarian Nurseries — Héctor Tobar

The Barbarian Nurseries follows the Torres-Thompson family—half Mexican only in name—and their live-in Mexican employee, Araceli Ramírez. When the Torres-Thompson parents disappear, leaving behind two boys who Araceli has never spoken to, she must find a way to bring them to their grandfather. Tobar’s tongue-in-cheek tone creates a compelling narrative. The duality of American and Mexican identity follows each character in this book about humanity and what it means to belong.

 

2. The House on Mango Street — Sandra Cisneros

A classic. Taught byevery English teach, read by children and adults alike. The House on Mango Street is a bittersweet memory shared to the world. Told in a series of vignettes, Cisneros wrote a novel that “can be opened at any page and… still make sense.” Mango Street creates the universal ache of growing up, the pain of conflicting identities and forlorn hope that each person experiences. But in its sorrows, it reminds us that we are not alone in the world. “You can’t erase what you know. You can’t forget who you are.” But you can still be free.

 

3. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao — Junot Díaz

The de León family is cursed. The fukú has followed them for generations, in the Dominican Republic, in America, lurking in every corner. The story rotates between characters, following Oscar, his sister Lola, and their mother Beli. This novel is heart-wrenching. A dreaded tale where something always gets worse. Your heart breaks for the de León’s, but the multigenerational tale creates the feelings of being part of something greater than everyday life. The novel makes you unsure of your footing from the start, but the chaos is authentic, and as you’ll learn, ever family has their own fukú.

Sources:
National Hispanic Heritage Month 2017 (Gov)
National Hispanic Heritage Month 2017
U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Georgia
Latino Student Association connects UNG students to Hispanic culture
UNG reads “Bless Me Ultima”