August 15, 2016

BLOG TOUR: Q&A WITH RENÉ COLATO LAÍNEZ (New Book!)


The Latina Book Club welcomes author René Colato Laínez and chats with him about his new book and illegal aliens.

  

Q:  Congratulations on your new book, MAMÁ THE ALIEN/ MAMÁ LA EXTRATERRESTE.  We love how your books are bilingual.  Do you write the Spanish version first or the English?

René Colato Laínez Thank you! I am so happy that MAMÁ THE ALIEN/ MAMÁ LA EXTRATERRESTE is ready to fly and visit homes, classrooms and libraries. When I am writing a story for the first time, I write it in English or Spanish. When it is time to submit the manuscript for publication, my agent always submit an English manuscript. I work on that manuscript with my editor until it is ready to print. It is until then, when I translate the manuscript from English to Spanish.


Q:  Thanks to you and many other diverse authors, our children are finally seeing books with heroes that look like them.  When you were growing up, did it bother you that the books you were reading had no Latino characters?  Did you then fill your writing with them?

RCL:  I grew up in El Salvador speaking Spanish, having fun with my friends and relatives and celebrating all the national holidays. It was until I arrived to the United States and I began to read books to my students when I noticed that there were not characters that look like us in those books. So I decided to write my students’ stories. I illustrated them with the students’ photographs or drawings. Then, they took their books homes. They were so happy to be in those books.  I wanted my students to see themselves in books and to know that their stories are important. This challenged me to start to write and submit my own stories for publication.


Q:  We know your uncle author Jorge Buenaventura Laínez was your inspiration.  What other authors –Latino and non Latino-- do you enjoy?

RCL:  As a child I enjoyed reading the Spanish translation of Charlotte’s Web by E.B White and the Spanish classics Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra and Marianela by Benito Pérez Galdós. The first book that I was able to read in English was Charlotte’s Web because I knew the story by heart in Spanish. Knowing the story in Spanish helped me to understand what I was reading in English. I like to read Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, Laurie Halse Anderson and Kate DiCamillo. I have so many favorite authors that it is so hard to only name a few.   


Written by Rene Colato Lainez 

Illustrated by Laura Lacamara 

Lee & Low Books

Q:  The Library of Congress just recently banned the works “illegal” and “alien” from their postings and all libraries.  What do you think -- Is this one small step for libraries, one giant step for immigrants?

RCL:  I am happy that the Library of Congress wants to change “illegal alien” to “undocumented immigrant.” Many children just like myself did not have any other option that to cross a border to come to the United States. I could not understand the illegal aspect of my journey. Was it illegal to escape from a war and to look for better opportunities in another country? I wrote an article about this topic. You can read it here.  

I think this is a big step for both libraries and immigrants. I hope that other institutions do the same because we are all children of Planet Earth.


Q:  Your children’s books are amazing.  Do you ever think about writing a longer children’s novel?  What are you working on now?

RCL:  I just actually finished writing my first middle grade novel that looks at the experience of war through the eyes of two children, based on my own experience growing up in the middle of the Salvadoran Civil War. Also, I have a forthcoming bilingual picture book about the childhood of Salvadoran priest and human rights activist, Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero. In Telegrams to Heaven/ Telegramas al cielo readers will discover the dream of little Oscar to become a priest. (Luna’s Press, Fall 2016)


Q:  Before we go, we have to ask…. What do aliens eat for breakfast?

RCL:  Maybe they drink a lot of milk for breakfast if they are traveling in the Milky Way.###


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  René Colato Laínez was born in El Salvador. He is an award-winning author who holds an MFA in Writing for Children from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Críticas has called René's characters "immigrant heroes." He currently lives in Los Angeles, California.  Learn more about him and his books at http://renecolatolainez.com/



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August 8, 2016

WE’RE ALL LIVING TELENOVELA LIVES BY JONISHA RIOS (New Release!)




The Latina Book Club congratulates actress-writer-comedian Jonisha Rios, whose book, CURSE OF THE BLUE VAGINA AND OTHER STORIES, was just released. Jonisha  shares with us a funny story of a Mom at a supermarket short on funds who ends us with more than she bargain for.  Welcome!




“WE’RE ALL LIVING TELENOVELA LIVES….”
by Jonisha Rios

I’m in line at Winn Dixie here in Orlando, in one hand is a box of no frills pull-up pampers, in the other a basket with a half gallon of milk, cereal for the baby, an iced tea- and my guilty pleasure - an “US weekly magazine”.  I’m a sucker for those mags, especially when my life sucks.  I just look at the photos of the rich and famous and realize we aren’t all that different.  They’re just as screwed up as poor people are.

As I inch up to the cash register, I’m suddenly filled with dread “Will I have enough? Did my husband remember to refill the prepaid card? I look over at my child who has decided he wants a toy.  As I whisper, “No, Bobby, Mommy doesn’t have enough” he gives me a look: “If you don’t buy that iced tea and magazine, I can have this hot wheels car...”

Never mind the fact that he has at least 100 different matchbox cars all in different colors that his grandma and countless other relatives gave him.  I reach into my pocket and pull out a five, I never put stuff on that card unless its 100% for him, so the $5 is for my iced tea and magazine. But then again, I may have to vote on only one item in the whole basket if this card doesn’t go through. Two people are ahead of me. I look over at my son who has found a quiet spot on the floor to play with the car that he has somehow already removed from the packaging.

I love my son, but lately I’ve been feeling really lonely.  I just got out of an emotionally draining, and some would even say abusive, relationship.  It was a strange kind of abuse in that he didn’t beat me or even sling nasty words my way - it was more of him constantly rejecting me, being utterly unaffectionate, and then being loving, attentive, and kind to everyone else he met. He did this right in front of me and it was very hurtful.

I once asked if he could give me just an hour of his time per week so we could sit down and discuss parenting issues that came up and he said, “I don’t have an hour.” And then, within minutes, started texting back and forth with some girl he made plans with “for work.” The time spent on that exchange alone was more than an hour. 

Eventually we began to live as roommates...  He started to come home late, really late.  When I questioned him about his whereabouts, I’d get sneers and dirty looks. What was it that changed?  Was it because I became a mom and quit my job to be with my son instead of paying some stranger to care for him? He eventually walked out on me blaming it on all my questions.  

As I was scrolling through old texts of the phone he left behind, there was an exchange between my husband and a gal pal of his, who I actually finally met after years of them having a deep friendship I was never aware of. Anyway in this particular back-and-forth, they made fun of me and chuckled over how curt and nonresponsive he purposely made his texts. Naturally, when he didn’t pick up the phone I’d resort to sending him a text block about our son.  Listen, what you do is apparently your business, but when I need to know you’ll be there to watch our son, that it something where a little clarity beyond a “k” is appreciated. 

Right before he finally left, I noticed he’d take off his wedding ring. It was then that I could feel myself sinking into despair. He blamed me, saying he wasn’t happy. But here is what he wasn’t happy about: BEING A RESPONSIBLE ADULT. It was too much for him - and to be fair, it’s tough for most of us.

My grandma always told me never to end up with a typical Latino man, because they almost always leave.  I argued, saying, “That’s BS Abuelita, my Dad who is your son didn’t, so I’m not buying into it.” Well, unfortunately, in my case she was right. 

So, I'm officially that single Latina mom. And the worst part is, I’m broke.  Broker than ever before.  I get some child support, but it’s barely enough.  Although I do have a part-time job cleaning homes on my apartment floor, it’s not enough that will afford me the opportunity to move out of this ghetto apartment complex.  My apartment building is so ghetto that if you look it up online you’ll see it has more sex offender dots than the state of California has black smog particles.  

It’s now my turn to pay for the groceries that have been bagged when, BEEP BEEP BEEP… “I’m sorry this card isn’t going through do you have another one?”

I’d run out of the store, but can’t leave my kid behind. I scan the line and see that what was just one person behind me is now 10. Some are rolling their eyes. All I keep thinking is maybe I don’t need these pull ups, but then if Bobby wets the bed that means quarters for laundry. 

I pretend to search my wallet for another credit card.

As I’m searching my purse, my kid runs up to me with another toy car that is way overpriced. 

“No, honey, I can’t get that right now please.”

A woman 3 people down the line mumbles under her breath. “Just put it all back already, I gotta go.”

I smile at the cashier and shrug. Bobby starts to cry and plead with me.

“New card isn’t activated I guess.”

“Happens all the time, no need to worry. I’ll put this stuff back…” she says in a reassuring tone.

As I attempt to scoop my screaming child into my arms, I feel this tap on my shoulder.  When I turn around I see this man standing behind me. Not just any stranger, a hot stranger in a suit, 6’10,” fit, with sparkling green eyes, and a smile that made me blush. From his wallet he pulls out a crisp 100 dollar bill. My smile quickly fades. I don’t want to be seen as a charity case.  I have some left over rice and beans I can cook at home.

“She’s with me,” he says to the cashier with a wink.

Crazy embarrassed, I gently pull his hand away; I wanted to hug him, but I also didn’t want anyone to “save” me.  It all just made me feel even more worthless. Finally, I got the words to speak.

“No, it’s ok, I have some extra pampers in the car.” 

“And milk, and food? What about that magazine.  I think you really need it.”

I laugh. The people in line begin to grow impatient.  

“No really, it’s fine. I get paid tomorrow, it’s really no big deal…” I say sounding confident as shit. 

“Just stop. I can see in your eyes that you’re hurting. Just let me get these for you. To cheer you up.”

God, was it that obvious I was suffering? Ugh!

 “My dad left when I was 2.  These years are the make it or break it years.  He couldn’t handle the emotions or the responsibility right?  Neither could my dad.”

“I’m sorry, I’m Hilda.  You’re right… it’s been a tough year.”

 I agreed to let “David” pay. Not because I wanted him to, but because I just wanted these other people behind me out of the store.

What started as an embarrassing low morphed into something pleasurable. David was funny as hell. An investment banker, who had a passion for music and an obvious soft spot. When he walked me to my beat up Honda civic, I turned and thanked him.  I insisted on giving him a check and made him promise to cash it when I told him to. I said even if he chose not to, I begged him to please pay it forward.

His random act of kindness gave me some hope.  True, we just met. Thing is, some people you meet feel like strangers, but others you have an immediate connection with. He showed me the type of care and compassion in a conversation that made feel heard.  But, I missed my husband and was deeply saddened that he was no longer around for me.  

David reached into his pocket and pulled out a business card embossed with shiny gold lettering. 

“If you need anything, food, magazines, a friend...”

And with that he drove off in his black BMW. 

I put the keys in the ignition.  As I started to reverse, I suddenly slammed on my brakes because right behind me was a car.  I hear a knock at my window.  I turn, roll it down, and there he is… David.

“I’ll be in town this week - wanna go out sometime?”

And just like that, I was ready to date and see if life would bring me a taste of something different, if only for an evening… ###



BEST PROMOTIONAL QUOTE ON CURSE OF THE BLUE VAGINA:

"This is NOT a book about feminie hygene - it's hillarious"
    ---Jonisha's sister



BOOK SUMMARY:  In the CURSE OF THE BLUE VAGINA AND OTHER STORIES, critically acclaimed Latina actress-writer-comedian Jonisha Rios, adapts her favortie plays into two fun novellas and a collection of monologues inspired by live interviews and conversations with women from all walks of life. The comedic collection of stories kicks off with the story of Cassandra Martinez. Just hours away from getting married she discovers she's cursed with a scary ailment that strikes good Latina women everywhere and keeps them from attracting the true love they deserve. She sets out to break the spell once and for all. In Nude in New York, Jonisha shares her own personal inspirational tale about her favorite aunt who teachers her a secret about the importance of a few cups of coffee. Overall this fun collection meant to make you laugh, feel inspired and walk away feeling appreciation for our precious, often funny lives.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jonisha Rios is a graduate of American Musical and Dramatic Academy and the University of Connecticut. She is an award-winning actress and the writer and solo performer of the critically acclaimed one-woman-show Nude in New York.  In November of 2007, Lions Gate released her first written feature film A Wonderful Christmas: Feliz Navidad. Jonisha is in pre-production for both her comedy DVD’s Blame it on Rios and The Curse of the Blue Panties and she will be starring in a pilot set to shoot this year for a major TV network. Jonisha produced the award-winning short film Racket, co-wrote, and produced the award- winning short film Sweet Tooth. She also wrote and starred in the award-winning short film Saved by the Pole. Jonisha’s passion is to create great projects for children and adults. Learn more about Jonisha and her book at: www.CurseoftheBlueVagina.com 


 READ LATINO!



August 5, 2016

BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE SORROWS OF YOUNG ALFONSO BY RUDOLFO ANAYA


  
“The world is full of sorrow,” Agapita whispered to Alfonso.

Did she stamp those words into his destiny?




University of Oklahoma Press

The story of Alfonso, a Nuevo Mexicano, begins with his birth, when the curandera Agapita delivers these haunting words into his infant ear. What then unfolds is an elegiac song to the llanos of New Mexico where Alfonso comes of age. As this exquisite novel charts Alfonso’s life journey from childhood through his education and evolution as a writer, renowned Chicano author Rudolfo Anaya invites readers to reflect on the truths and mysteries of the human condition.

Because Alfonso “didn’t write his own biography,” it falls to his childhood friend, the anonymous narrator here, to tell his story, through a series of letters addressed to a mysterious figure named K. The narrator depicts young Alfonso caught between dual influences: his beloved, devout Catholic mother, Rafaelita, and the folk healer Agapita. After suffering a terrible accident that leaves him physically handicapped, Alfonso faces intellectual crises during his university years, all of which move him down the path of his destiny.

In describing these events, the “old man” writing the letters interweaves Alfonso’s experiences with fragments of his own life and of the New Mexican llano that both men have called home. The trajectory of Alfonso’s life in turn mirrors the history of New Mexico and the turbulent beginnings of the Chicano movement in which the young protagonist plays a trailblazing role.

As story builds upon story, the commonality of traits among the narrator, his subject, and perhaps Anaya himself appears more than coincidental. Permeated by Anaya’s trademark religious and mythological imagery, The Sorrows of Young Alfonso is a luminous meditation on memory, reality, and the human experience.###


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Rudolfo Anaya is Professor Emeritus of English at the University of New Mexico and author of numerous books, including  THE OLD MAN”S LOVE STORY. He has received numerous literary awards, including the Premio Quinto Sol and a National Medal of Arts. Anaya resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico.


READ LATINO!


July 14, 2016

CUBA WEEK! FUN FACTS ABOUT CUBA



Cuba.  The name alone conjures up images of beautiful women, dashing men, smoldering cigars and savory dishes.  
All true, and luckily Cuba is no longer forbidden territory.  More than 10 major airlines have direct flights to Cuba, 
and there is even a brand new US-owned hotel on the island. 

Havana is once again open for business.

To Celebrate Cuba, The Latina Book Club has put together some fun facts.  How many do you know?###




FUN FACTS ABOUT CUBA

  1. Cuba is 90 miles from Miami.
  2. It’s the largest island in the Caribbean.
  3. Fidel Castro took over the country in 1959.
  4. Baseball is the most popular sport in Cuba and yet by National Decree 83a, passed in 1962, professional sports are illegal.
  5. As of 2013, Cuba has nine sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
  6. The Manjuari fish can only be found in Cuba.
  7. Ernest Hemingway wrote THE OLD MAN & THE SEA and FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS while living in Cuba.
  8. There is a John Lennon Park in Cuba, complete with statue.
  9. Cuba has over 200 bays and 250 beaches to explore.
  10. Cuba holds one of the highest literacy rates in the world at 99.8%.  Education is free to all Cuban citizens.
  11. Cuba has two currencies – one for tourists, one for natives.
  12. The island looks like an alligator from the air.
  13. The Soviet Union had transferred over 150 nuclear weapons to Cuba by the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1961.
  14. Cuban cigars are known as the finest cigars in the world. They are hand crafted with homegrown tobacco.
  15. Voting in Cuba is mandatory.
  16. Cuba was discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492.
  17. Pope John Paul II visited the island in January 1998.
  18. Cuba has the best health care systems anywhere in the world and so many doctors that they are often sent to other countries that have shortages.
  19. In the 2008 Olympics, Cuba won 24 medals.
  20. Spanish is the official language on the island, but a lot of Cubans speak English.

  
Check out our “Cuban” Book of the Month:  THE SKINNY YEARS by Raul Ramos y Sanchez by clicking here.  And, get your free recipe ebook with savory dishes featured in the story.
  
Click here for a list of Famous Cubanos!.

And click here to find books by or about Cubans everyone should know.  


 
CELEBRATE CUBA!

READ LATINO!






July 11, 2016

CUBA WEEK! THE MARES OF LENIN PARK BY AGUSTIN D. MARTINEZ



The Latina Book Club continues its Celebration of Cuba.
Here’s a young adult novel about a teen hero struggling to reconcile the two faces of his native land.



 
Hollywood Books International
SUMMARY:  Winner of Prize Americana, THE MARES OF LENIN PARK is the story of Uli, a fourteen-year-old Cuban boy, who struggles to reconcile his deceased father's heroic past with his mother Graciela's new marriage. Finding it more and more difficult to live in the economic times of Cuba following the fall of the Soviet Union, Uli learns that the Revolutionaries are closer than expected - dealing drugs to support the failing economy. These discoveries catapult him into a journey involving work camps, murder, and a voyage at sea.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Agustin was born in Panama after his parents fled Cuba in the early ’60s. He grew up in Miami and currently lives in the Washington, DC metro area. Agustin’s short fiction has appeared in Arcadia Literary Journal, The Binnacle, The 34th Parallel Magazine, The Write Room, Apropos Literary Journal, The Adirondack Review, Press 1, Sugar Mule, Review Americana, and Hinchas de Poesia. His debut novel, THE MARES OF LENIN PARK (Hollywood Books International,2013), won The Institute for the Study of American Popular Culture’s Prize Americana for Prose.  In 2012, Agustin started his career as a playwright. His one-act play, Blasphemous Rumours, was produced at the Florida International University Theatre (Miami), and my 10-minute play,Ham and Eggs, was produced at the Silver Spring Stage One-Act Festival (Silver Spring, MD). The latter play was also published in Palooka Journal. Agustin has worked as a teacher, translator, and a high school principal. He is currently an educational administrator in Fairfax County, VA. Check him out on Facebook/TheMaresOfLeninPark.