December 8, 2014

REVIEW: LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS by Suzanne Chazin

  
   
   
"Maybe it was necessary, this shedding of the old ways with each generation. He had abandoned so much of what defined his mother...But lately, he'd begun to wonder if he'd abandoned too much.  He felt like there was a box inside of him that had been locked away for so long, he'd forgotten where he'd put the key.  There were things he treasured in that box: the sultry music of his childhood, the playfulness and sensuality of his culture.  He longed to open himself up to these things again." --Jimmy Vega




The Latina Book Club is happy to promote books by non-Latinos with great Latino characters.  LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS by Suzanne Chazin is such a book.   The premise for this book could have been “ripped from today’s headlines.” 

It’s riveting, suspenseful, tragic, hopeful, with realistic settings, authentic voices, continuous action and enough twists and turns to keep readers up all night.  (I was!)

SUMMARY:   Jimmy Vega is a juicy, complex character, estranged from his culture with serious displacement issues.  He’s a homicide detective navigating the world of undocumented immigrants—not illegal —in suburban New York, and often times he is in over his head.   

It all starts with the murder of a female undocumented immigrant.  Why her?  Where is her missing child?  Is the murder connected to the escalating hate crimes around town?  Detective Vega has to find answers and fast before a clash of cultures; before mistrust and bigotry rear their ugly heads more than they have already.  But the answers will surprise everyone—himself most of all—and change a town forever.

 Readers will find that Ms. Chazin has done an excellent job of bringing the undocumented populace to life in THE LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS.  They are “real” people—with names and dreams, courage and quiet determination.  There’s Caesar who brought his children so they could live a better life; Kenny who’s been awarded a college scholarship but may not be able to go due to his immigration status; Rodrigo who longs for his wife and children but is stuck in a strange hard land until he can raise enough money to go home; there’s Adele a daughter of an immigrant who graduated from Harvard and runs the town’s immigration center; and so on. 

Readers will empathize with these characters, and hopefully with the real undocumented immigrants across the U.S.  And maybe, just maybe, our country’s new immigration policy will be more accurate and more humane.

LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS is the first book in a planned trilogy about undocumented immigrants in suburbia and a jaded Detective determined to protect and serve.  Book 2, A BLOSSOM OF BRIGHT LIGHT, will be released in Fall 2015.  Chazin hopes to raise greater awareness through these books about the issues the undocumented face in the U.S.  The Latina Book Club wishes her luck, and looks forward to the series and seeing Detective Jimmy Vega in action again.###


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   Suzanne Chazin is the daughter of Russian immigrants.  She has published three mystery novels about the New York City Fire Department, inspired by her husband, a high-ranking FDNY chief.  LAND OF CAREFUL SHADOWS is her first novel in 11 years.  To learn more about this author and her books, please visit her at www.suzannechazin.com.




December 3, 2014

INTERVIEW WITH YADHIRA GONZALEZ-TAYLOR

 
The Latina Book Club is pleased to welcome children's author Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor.  Yadhira is a Native New Yorker, born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. She served in the US Army Reserves, was an Assistant District Attorney, and is now an adjunct professor at a community college.  She was inspired to become a writer by her three daughters and her parent's homeland, Borinquen bella.



Q:  Yadhira, you are a lawyer by day and an author by night.  What attracted you to writing? Why children’s books?

There is a great deal of writing that takes place in a lawyer’s working life. However, the writing is often dry and lacks passion depending on the area of law practiced. Lawyers write legal memoranda, briefs for appeals, complaints, and more. These writings are serious in nature and leave very little room for creativity.  Legal writing has been part of my daily professional life since 2002. Reading documents also forms a large part of my day to day work experience.

I dabbled in creative writing as a child but never thought of myself as someone who could write a book for sale or distribution. Most of my writing, until two years ago, consisted of self-reflective writing like journaling and poetry that I shared on social media.The idea for the children’s books came as a result of being a parent. I read to all my children at bed time and sometimes I would recite folktales.

About two years ago, my youngest, was very interested in old folktales.  At first, I used to tell the usual ones like THE THREE BEARS, THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, and other Grimm tales. Then my husband suggested that I find something a little closer to our culture.  I immediately thought of la Cucarachita Martina who was a staple character in my household growing up. My grandmother used to tell me the story often. So I started reciting it to my daughter as I remembered it. Before we knew it we had adapted it with our own version, with new details and a different ending.

I tried the traditional publishing route but no one was interested in publishing. I self-published the first title, MARTINA FINDS A SHINY COIN, in July of 2013. Soon thereafter my daughter and I found ourselves inventing other stories for Martina, which lead to MARTINA AND THE WONDROUS WATERFALL. Currently, there are several other stories working their way out of the confines of our imaginations.


Q:  Do you write in Spanish and then translate into English or vice versa?  Do you write in both languages?

I think in Spanish, I write in English, and translate to Spanish. I was born in New York City and went to live in Puerto Rico when I was five. Spanish is my first language, but my English language skills are stronger. I translate my work into Spanish and then use the assistance of hired editors to double check all those nuances, conjugations, and accents that come with the Spanish language.


Q:  Tell us about Martina.  What kind of stories should we expect to see in the series?

Oh, Martina! I love Martina. I feel like I gave birth to a fourth daughter. The illustrator, Alba Escayo, and I hold the cute and clean little roach dear and near to our hearts. Martina is humble yet proud. She is flexible, yet stubborn, and beautiful in a simple way. She is smart, talented, and musically gifted. She is a complete package.

Both stories deliver a lesson in a fun and entertaining way. The stories teach values and character. The fables mirror our human existence, our jealousies, insecurities, and selfishness. Both stories have a Puerto Rican flair. For the Martina series, any future stories will contain moral, cultural, or ethical messages with an artistic focus on Puerto Rico or Latino culture. Who knows maybe Martina will visit the great City we all know as Gotham. Stay tuned!


Q:  Do you have plans to write in other genres like young adult? Fiction?

I have been writing a memoir for years, but I am not ready to expose that side of me yet. I wrote a manuscript during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2013. The working title is “Soledad Abandoned” and it is in the redrafting stages at the moment. It is a love story that will be published under a pen name. For November 2014, my NaNoWriMo adventure was writing an urban dystopian novel.


Q:  Tell us about you.  What is your background?  Where did you grow up?  How do you celebrate your Latinidad?

I am the oldest of two. My parents came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico in the 70s and soon after I was born.  When I was five I went to live with my grandparents in Caguas,Puerto Rico. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned Spanish and was immersed in Puerto Rican culture.  The place where I lived was very small and rural; a working class neighborhood with a population of less than 800 people. All the neighbors knew each other and were like family. I came back to the Bronx when I was eight and returned to Puerto Rico when I turned thirteen and back to the Bronx when I was sixteen. I guess you can call that a transient upbringing between two different worlds! 

I celebrate my Latinidad by showing pride in my history and in my writings. I am always proud to say I am Puerto Rican from the Bronx and I am more than happy to educate people on what Puerto Rican culture really looks like. I think we are responsible for breaking the stereotypes that have evolved through our representation in the media and in mainstream literature.


Q:  How can fans find you? Do you have a website? Are you on social media?

I can be found in several places on the web. My website is www.ygtbooks.com and that site has links to other sites that contain information on my work, blog interviews, news articles, and book reviews. I am a goodreads.com author and I do giveaways so be sure to join me as a friend and add my books to your “to be read”shelves. I am on Twitter @gothamesq.

Also, Martina has her own Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. She is at www.facebook.com/martinafindsashinycoin and @martinascoin.  My books are available at La Casa Azul Bookstore, on 103rd and Lexington; through amazon.com, bn.com or directly from my website.###



December 1, 2014

BOOK OF THE MONTH: NUNO by Carlos Aleman (and Giveaway!)

 
 
Fans of Carlos Aleman are in for a Holiday Treat!  We are giving away autographed copies of NUNO to three lucky readers. 
Just leave a comment below or Retweet our social post.  Good luck!--mcf
 
 
 

Aignos Publishing, Dec 2014

 
 
Woman is the only hope for this world, a world that is long-suffering, patient, kind, forgiving, peaceful and loving. What a gift a woman is, absolute proof that God loves us.  But foolish man can't appreciate this because of the ego.--Bernando Bolocco
 
 
 
An ancient river of fallen tears and solitude brings my soul to you. Our two lips touch like fresh and salt water meeting. There is a deep and mysterious power in you. In our dreams or in the spirit world, somewhere between the manifested and unmanifested, there is something that is woven. It is our story. Brief but perfect, it devours all of existence. My love, my love, my love for you. --Nuno
 
 
 
 
 
   
 
 
Carlos Alemán mixes magical realism and romance with an expert hand to create a vibrant, exhilarating and passionate tale.
 
The protagonist Nuno is an idealistic young man, full of dreams and hopes and love.  But reality and war are evil task masters.  Luckily the love for a good woman helps him endure and transcend pain, suffering, darkness and despair.  This is the type of quixotic hero that readers will always cheer for. 
 
NUNO is the prequel to Alemán's HAPPY THAT IT'S NOT TRUE.  It is the first book of a trilogy /family saga about the Velasco family who leave the Old World (Cuba) for the New World (America).  Book three, DIEGO IN TWO PLACES will be out early 2015.  We can't wait!
 
SUMMARY:  Nuno is a sensitive boy living a poor existence with his melancholy aunt in a war-torn Cuba. There is little joy in their existence until they meet a traveling preacher that changes their lives forever.  Bernando Bolocco confides in Nuno the secrets of the universe, the truth of God -- "woman is the only hope for this world." These words define Nuno's future.  He falls in love with the girl next door, Gabrielle. For her, he steals a book by Bolocco full of the secrets to a woman's heart.  But before the sweethearts can consummate their love, Nuno is off to war.  Gabrielle promises to wait for him and that promise keeps his faith and spirit alive while he is a prisoner. But the years go by and Gabrielle and her family move to America.  Nuno falls into darkness and despair but again it is the memory of their love that saves him and helps him endure all things to come.###
 
 
Read The Latina Book Club's review of HAPPY THAT IT'S NOT TRUE by clicking here.

Read The Latina Book Club's interview with Carlos Alemán by clicking here.

 
 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Carlos Alemán is the author of NUNO and the soon to be released DIEGO IN TWO PLACES.  His debut work, AS HAPPY AS LING was a finalist in the 2012 International Latino Book Awards. In 2013, the release in paperback of HAPPY THAT IT'S NOT TRUE was named one of the best novels of the year by the Latina Book Club.  He is a judge in the 2014 National Association of Hispanic Publications' José Martí Awards.  Carlos lives in Sunrise, Florida with his wife Jean. Visit him at www.carlosaleman.com.
 
 
 
REMEMBER!  Leave a comment below or Retweet our social post and you might be one of three lucky winners of an autograph copy of NUNO.
 
 
 

November 10, 2014

REVIEW: THE GHOSTS OF HERO STREET: How One Small Mexican-American Community Gave So Much in World War II and Korea by Carlos Harrison


In honor of Veteran's Day, The Latina Book Club would like to take a moment to say "Thank You" to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in this country's armed forces around the world.  We thank you for our liberty and our freedom, and we wish you come home soon, safe and sound.  God bless You All.---mcf



All gave some. Some gave all.


Carlos Harrison has written a gripping, harrowing and triumphant book about Mexican families who immigrated to a small railroad town in search of a better life.  It was rough for them--learning a new language, adapting to a new cultural, and facing discrimination at every turn.  Yet, their faith in their new country never faltered.  These "new" Americans sent 57 of their sons to fight in two fierce wars; Not all came home.  Through interviews with families and friends, Harrison introduces us to the survivors and the fallen. Heroes all.

BOOK SUMMARY:  They came from one street, but death found them in many places: in a distant jungle, a frozen forest, and trapped in the flaming wreckage of a bomber blown from the sky. One died going over a fence during the greatest paratrooper assault in history. Another fell in the biggest battle of World War II. Yet another, riddled with bullets in an audacious act of heroism during a decisive onslaught a world, and a war, away.

All came from a single street in a railroad town called Silvis, Illinois, a tiny stretch of dirt barely a block-and-a-half long, with an unparalleled history.  The twenty-two Mexican-American families who lived on that one street sent fifty-seven of their children to fight in World War II and Korea--more than any other place that size anywhere in the country. Eight of those children died.

It's a distinction recognized by the Department of Defense, and it earned that rutted, unpaved strip a distinguished name. Today it's known as Hero Street. This is the story of those brave men and their families, how they fought both in battle and to be accepted in an American society that remained biased against them even after they returned home as heroes.  THE GHOSTS OF HERO STREET, is the compelling and inspiring account of a street of soldiers--and men--who would not be denied their dignity or their honor.##


NOTE:  You can follow The Ghosts of Hero Street on Facebook.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carlos Harrison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor and writer of more than a dozen books in English and Spanish. A former national and international correspondent for the Fox News Channel, Harrison also has written two award-winning television documentaries and seven feature-length screenplays, as well as hundreds of newspaper articles and dozens of magazine pieces.  Visit him at www.carlosharrison.com.


November 5, 2014

LITERATURE IS A GIFT TO THE WORLD: WHY THE YOUNIVERSITY MATTERS

by Jonathan Marcantoni



Authors Jonathan Marcantoni and Chris Campanioni are the founders of YouNiversity.  Their first class is about to “graduate.”  It’s been a learning experience for both the students and the teachers.  The Latina Book Club congratulates Jon and Chris on their vision, and wish their graduating students much publishing success.---mcf




Jonathan Marcantoni
 I am a Puerto Rican writer. That is how I introduce myself. Puerto Rican first, writer second. Writing, not only the practice but my entire conceptualization of the artform, is filtered through that identity. I pride myself in being a storyteller of my people, of our struggles on and off the island, of our pan-Latino community. As co-founder of Aignos Publishing, I put such a heavy emphasis on Latino literature I would receive emails from non-Latino authors asking if we signed them as well. I felt bad when I received those emails, I never meant to be exclusive, and it planted a seed of doubt concerning whether my nationalist swagger was helping or hindering artists.

When Chris Campanioni and I started the
Chris Campanioni
YouNiversity, 
the idea was for it to be universal, yet our main focus was on finding Latino students. . The goal of the YouNiversity is to empower and strengthen passion for the art of writing as well as educate aspiring writers on the business aspect of a literary career. Having been published in both English and Spanish, I knew how hard it was to find a good, respectable publisher willing to take our work as it is, without whitewashing the content or asking us to change the way we tell stories to be more palatable to Middle America. To try to publish in many Latin American countries is an uphill battle, especially in the Caribbean. Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have the best infrastructure for publishing opportunities. Otherwise, most publishers you find are dedicated to academic, historical, or political works. There are but a handful of publishers that focus on experimental or socially-conscious literature. In Puerto Rico, there is only one, Isla Negra, that is dedicated to serious, innovative literature, and they only accept submissions once a year. So our attention was immediately on Latino artists who desperately need a leg up in finding their way in the publishing world.  What we ended up with was something different altogether, and the experience has opened my eyes to the importance of being an international, and not just Latino, author.

Three students, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood from Eastern Michigan University, and Julia Horniacek from Ramapo College in New Jersey, were selected from fifteen applicants. We had originally chosen a fourth author, from Mexico, but she quickly dropped out due to her unwillingness to complete the assignments. We had a Puerto Rican author who contacted us, and who was full of charisma and enthusiasm, but not enough to actually submit a writing sample. The experience was incredibly disheartening, and it made me wonder why Latino authors were not taking us up on the opportunity we had presented them with. This attitude blinded me to a bigger truth, which is that we had reached out to college organizations, writing groups, Facebook and Twitter, yet for all the promoting and outreach, very few people in general responded.

The question I should have asked myself was, why are aspiring writers passing up the chance to learn about their industry, hone their craft, and make long-lasting business connections, for free? My immediate thought was that it was due to Chris and I not being famous. When a person is in a media and artistic mecca like New York or Los Angeles, it can be easy to forget that outside those cities lie endless communities where the arts are a fringe element, and worse still in the United States, largely unprofitable. Unless you are famous, you do not draw a great amount of attention from your communities. When I did semi-professional theatre in Georgia, there was always the self-parodying “diva” that obsessed over the twenty people who came to see them act in a community theatre production they had been doing for a decade or more, as if they were Bette freakin’ Davis. For most, art is more a pastime than something essential, and so trying to convince a bunch of college students bred on the mentality of making money over pursuing passion (hell, even college writing programs spend more time preparing their students to find work in the publishing world or as teachers than they do on the actual craft and art of storytelling) to dedicate a year of their lives to a creative endeavor was perhaps a bit naïve on our part.

Now, four months into the program, I believe that the reason is even simpler:

This program is very demanding. 

Since June, the students have learned how to write query letters, they have networked with industry professionals, built social media platforms, and learned how to brand themselves as artists. The YouNiversity has entered its second stage, where the focus has shifted from the business and promotional aspects of being a writer to the artistic. We want our students to understand that storytelling and promotion are separate disciplines, and that an artist should create their work outside of industry demands or trends. In order to document the progress of the students, a blog was established at http://youniversityproject.wordpress.com/ where the students have interacted with publishing and media professionals from the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Africa. In the coming months, the students will focus on strengthening their particular styles and honing their voice. They will also create multimedia projects to find new ways to translate their art to other mediums and also create new communities for that art.

Yma, Emma, and Julia, as you can tell from their names, are not Latinas. Emma and Julia are white and Yma is Sierra Leonean. They all have distinct, endearing, and intense voices. These women write with an enviable passion for exploring their inner and outer worlds, and are not afraid to push buttons or break down barriers in the pursuit of fully realizing the story they wish to tell. Working with these three women made me feel silly about my moniker of Puerto Rican writer. It is good that I love my culture and wish to help my people, but that can be done without negating the struggles inherent in all of humanity. The YouNiversity has opened up doors, professionally and creatively, for our students, but it has also taught me about the importance of artistic expression. To engender in another person the confidence to face the world and proclaim the depths of their souls is a tremendous gift, and that is what Chris and I wish to do as we expand the YouNiversity to other communities.

What I am going to say now will seem to contradict what I just said, but I do still feel it is important that we use the lessons from the YouNiversity to impact the Latino community. It is a chip on my shoulder that needs to be satisfied, and so the next iteration of the YouNiversity, in 2015, will be strictly Latino. It will also accept writers who are not in college. Chris and I will approach local organizations (Chris is in New York and I am in Colorado) to bring them on board in participating with our students, who we will seek out both in the U.S., Spain, and Latin America. By making our local communities involved, we wish to create greater participation and interaction between the students and their peers. We will also be seeking sponsors to make the YouNiversity a more immersive and multi-tiered experience that better combines visual media, social media, and literary growth amongst the participants.

From there, the sky is the limit. Ultimately, we envision bringing on more mentors from specific communities and specific genre backgrounds and literary movements. That way we can blend the universal pursuit of art with the needs of particular countries and groups. The more we can bring people together, the less we will feel the need to pigeonhole ourselves. Having self-identity can be a wonderful thing, but the identity we too often forget is that of human being, citizen of the world, and it is that identity we wish to develop most. Ultimately, the YouNiversity will be a haven for the global literary cause, giving voice to our human spirit; uniting, educating, and most of all, inspiring connection.###



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jonathan Marcantoni is the author of COMMUNION (with Jean Blasiar), TRAVELER’S REST, and THE FEAST OF SAN SEBASTIAN.  A PEN member and advocate for raising awareness of the persecution of writers and artists worldwide, he is the co-founder of Aignos Publishing and has been featured in El Nuevo Día, El Post Antillano, Warscapes, Fronteras on Texas Public Radio, Jazz y Letras, Across the Margin, and el Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano. With fellow author Chris Campanioni, he has launched the YouNiversity Project, which gives students from around the country the opportunity to learn about the publishing industry and how to pursue a career as a writer. He is an active duty Army soldier, husband, and father of three girls. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO.  To learn more about the YouNiversity Project, follow their blog at http://youniversityproject.wordpress.com/.