November 30, 2016

EXCERPT: THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ BY ELIZABETH HUERGO



Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts 
from exciting novels by Latino authors.

This excerpt seems most apropos because of the death of the real Fidel Castro this past week. 




THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ
By Elizabeth Huergo
Unbridled Books
*Excerpt

One particular good citizen, Saturnina, was squatting on a doorstep just a few blocks away, feeding a hard biscuit to a hungry stray dog, when she heard the news that Fidel and his brother had fallen. Saturnina rose from her corolla of ragged skirts and began to walk toward the throng of people gathering before the building and spilling over into the street, blocking the morning traffic. Though she could see nothing of what had happened, in a swirl of petticoats and skirts she began to mimic the words she heard: “¡Socorro! ¡Fidel calló! Help! Fidel has fallen!”

Saturnina, Sybil of the succulent bit of news that lodges like a string of pork gristle in the space between back teeth, began to fidget and whirl her way through the edges of the gathering crowd, calling out what she had instantly accepted as fact: The apocalypse that would precede the return of her son Tomás, whom she had lost decades earlier in the violent interregnum between Fulgencio Batista and Fidel Castro, had begun.

“¡Fidel calló! His brother has fallen, too!”

Stepping and swirling, the old woman tripped along the farthest perimeter of the bloody scene. As she passed along the streets calling out her news, housewives peered through rusted iron rails, pulling back quickly into darkened interiors. Men and women on errands or on their way to work or school stopped to listen, then sped on, looking back over their shoulders nervously.


*Excerpt from the novel THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ by Elizabeth Huergo printed by permission of Unbridled Books. All rights reserved.



BOOK SUMMARY: On July 26, 2003, the 50th anniversary of the Moncada Army Barracks raid that sparked the Cuban revolution, something unexpected happens. When Fidel Pérez and his brother accidentally tumble to their deaths from their Havana balcony, the neighbors’ outcry, “Fidel has fallen!” is misinterpreted by those who hear it. That wishful mistake quickly ripples outward on the running cries of the people, and it gloriously reawakens a suppressed city.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Huergo was born in Havana and immigrated to the United States at an early age as a political refugee. A published poet and story writer, she lives in Virginia. THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ is her first novel. Visit her at www.elizabethhuergo.com.


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November 28, 2016

CASTRO IS DEAD: BOOKS ABOUT LIFE BEFORE, DURING AND AFTER FIDEL


  
Millions of people have been dreaming about Fidel Castro’s death for almost 60 years.  It’s finally true – Fidel Castro died on Friday, November 25, at the age of 90.  Funeral arrangements are underway in Havana, while in Little Havana/Miami the celebration continues. 

The Latina Book Club offers some books about life before, during and after Fidel. Happy Reading.

  
  1. BEFORE NIGHT FALLS by Reinaldo Arenas (Penguin Books)
  2. CUBA: ANOTHER SIDE OF THE STORY by Iris M. Diaz (Xlibris)
  3. CUBA DIARIES: AN AMERICAN HOUSEWIFE IN HAVANA by Isadora Tattlin (Broadway Books)
  4. CUBA IN SPLINTERS: 11 STORIES FROM A NEW CUBA edited by Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (OR Books)
  5. CUBAN-AMERICAN, DANCING ON THE HYPHEN by Amarilys Gacio Rassler (SPS Publications)
  6. DANCING WITH CUBA: A MEMOIR OF THE REVOLUTION by Alma Guillermoprieto (Vintage)
  7. DREAMING IN CUBAN by Cristina Garcia (Ballantine)
  8. EVERYONE LEAVES by Wendy Guerra (Amazon Crossing)
  9. FINDING MAÑANA: A MEMOIR OF A CUBAN EXODUS by Mirta Ojito (Penguin)
  10. HAVANA DREAMS: A STORY OF A CUBAN FAMILY by Wendy Gimbel (Vintage)
  11. HOW TO LEAVE HIALEAH by Jennine Capó Crucet (St. Martin’s Press)
  12. LA BELLE CREOLE by Alina Garcia-Lapuerta (Chicago Review Press)
  13. MEA CUBA by Guillermo Cabrera Infante (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  14. MORTIFICTIONS by Derek Palacio (Tim Duggan Books)
  15. SOFRITO by Philippe Diederich (Cinco Punto Press)
  16. REYITA: THE LIFE OF A BLACK CUBAN WOMAN IN THE TWENTIETH CENTURY by Maria De Los Reyes Castillo Bueno (Duke University Press)
  17. THE DEATH OF FIDEL PEREZ by Elizabeth Huergo (Unbridled Books)
  18. THE DISTANT MARVELS by Chantel Acevedo (Europe Editions)
  19. THE FIRELY LETTERS: A SUFFRAGETTE’S JOURNEY TO CUBA by Margarita Engle (Henry Holt & Co.)
  20.  THE MAMBO KINGS PLAY SONGS OF LOVE by Oscar Hijuelos (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
  21. THE MARES OF LENIN PARK by Agustin D. Martinez (Press Americana)
  22. THE PRINCE OF LOS COCUYOS by Richard Blanco (Ecco Press)
  23. THE SKINNY YEARS by Raul Ramos y Sanchez (Beck & Branch Publishers)
  24. WE CAME ALL THE WAY FROM CUBA SO YOU COULD DRESS LIKE THIS? by Achy Obejas (Cleis Press)
  25. WAITING FOR SNOW IN HAVANA: CONFESSIONS OF A CUBAN BOY by Carlos Eire (Free Press)




For Fun Facts About Cuba, click here.


For Famous Cubans and Cuban-Americans, click here.




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November 23, 2016

EXCERPT: LUCK IS JUST THE BEGINNING BY CELESTE LEON


  
NEW! Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts from exciting novels by Latino authors. Happy reading!

and Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!




By Celeste León
Floricanto Press


Book Summary:  This novel is based on Celeste Leon’s father’s true story – he won the Puerto Rican lottery and used the winnings for the benefit of all. It’s fiction but an inspiring heroic adventure.  Read our review of LUCK IS JUST THE BEGINNING by clicking here.  And click here for Celeste Leon’s post about her father.




CHAPTER 1
Maunabo, Puerto Rico
November 17, 1944

Ramon León had a powerful premonition. Something extraordinary was about to happen.

Just that morning, he shot an unprecedented seven free throws in a row. He watched the seventh ball soar into the air and sail through the tattered net when numbers appeared, high in the sky above the palm tree that held the faded backboard nailed to its mighty trunk. A 14 trailed by three zeros pulsed red above the clouds, so vibrant that Ramón believed God Himself had painted it.

His heart fluttered in his chest like a moth caught in an oil lamp. He could scarcely breathe before the vision faded away in the breeze. A trail of gooseflesh swept up his arms until his mother’s voice broke his trance, calling him to work at her tienda de ropa. Ramón tucked his basketball under his arm and hurried across the plaza, the only paved area in his village.

He passed the whitewashed colonial Catholic church and the enormous ceiba trees shading park benches. This morning, Ramón was the only person in the plaza, but the benches would soon be occupied by young boys who polished shoes for a penny with their square limpias botas and old too frail to work in the sugar cane fields.

Ramón stepped into the store, legs trembling—had he imagined that vision in the sky? Would everything suddenly look different? No, the shelves were lined with the same bolts and rolls of cotton, broadcloth and muslin from which his mother fashioned shirts, pants or skirts that villagers ordered when they could afford it. He placed the basketball under the counter where he tallied purchases, and washed his hands in the old ceramic basin. He began to press and straighten the rolls tight against one another when the tarnished brass doorbell jingled to announce his first customer, an elderly jíbara from the barrio.

Ramón nodded to acknowledge her. He wondered: what did it mean—the number above the clouds? What other extraordinary things might happen today? When the peasant woman laid seven brown buttons on the worn counter and counted fourteen pennies, a revelation struck him like a fist: fourteen cents, seven buttons, and seven free throws. He was the seventh child to survive after his beloved mother lost her first eight babies, the lucky one, born in a caul on the seventh day of the seventh month.  

“I hope Caimito comes today. It’s lottery ticket day, and my husband’s been saving two dimes to play,” the woman declared.

There was no reason the lottery vendor wouldn’t roll into Maunabo in his battered old truck. Hurricane season had passed, the roads were clear and the sky electric blue. The tropical breeze carried the scent of the sea.

At that moment, Ramón felt the gooseflesh again. Now he knew what those numbers meant. He must play that number in the lottery.###


Excerpt published with permission. All rights reserved by author.


About the Author: CELESTE LEON is an award winning author. Her passion for the past ten years has been writing Luck is Just theBeginning, the novel inspired by the true story of her father’s life in Puerto Rico, released by Floricanto Press on November 23, 2015.  The book earned a Mariposa Award for Best First Book in the 2016 International Latino Book Awards, a Finalist in Multicultural Fiction in the 2016 International Book Awards and was selected as Book of the Month (August 2016) by the Las Comadres National Latino Book Club. Ms. León is a 2013 Alumna of The Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her personal essay, Finding Home, about her travels to Puerto Rico, won first prize in the Annual Contest for High Sierra Writers of Reno, Nevada; her short stories have appeared in Chicken Soup for the Soul, Celebrating People Who Make a Difference and The Preservation Foundation. To contact Celeste or for additional information, including reviews, interviews such as NPR, and scheduled appearances visit www.celesteleon.com. Also, visit her at www.celestejleon.blogspot.com and


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November 16, 2016

EXCERPT: JESUS AND MAGDALENE BY JOAO CERQUEIRA



NEW! Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts from exciting novels by Latino authors. Happy reading!



by João Cerqueira
Line by Lion Publications



Yes, this novel is about The Second Coming.

Book Summary:  Jesus returns to earth and meets activist Magdalene who is fighting for a better world. He finds an extremist ecological group, which is plotting to destroy a maize plantation it believes to be genetically modified. Then, he observes the rise up against a tourist development that is built on a forest preserve. Finally, he witnesses an armed conflict between blacks and gypsies. However, although he limits himself to accompanying Magdalene, attempting only to pacify those on bad terms, he is unable to escape the fury of mankind. And only a con man will recognize him.




According to the gypsy community, it was the blacks who started the riots.

A gang of adolescents, who liked to harass gypsy women and to scrawl graffiti insulting the virility of the men, entered the gypsy café and, after refusing to pay for their drinks, smashed up the furniture and stole the takings from the till. Knowing that calling the police would only cause more problems, the gypsy community was forced to solve the problem on its own, to dispense their own justice. A meeting was held in the patriarch’s house and it was decided to retaliate that very day, “because with us it’s an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and no one laughs at the gypsies for long.” They then went after the assailants. And it wasn’t hard to find them, as they were celebrating the raid in one of their houses, in euphoric fashion. The gypsies weren’t the first to shoot, however, because bullets began to fly as soon as they rounded the corner of the road in which the gang was lurking. From that night on, the blacks started to attack any gypsy; even women and children weren’t spared.

Questioned on what had happened, Dona Eufrásia, a gypsy in her sixties, who sold designer clothes at the market, said the following: “Of course they’re the ones that started it. Who else could it have been? These blacks are bad blood! They leave their children on the street and the girls will do it with anyone. They sell drugs and rob people. I’ve never seen one do a day’s work. Do you know what they want? They want to kick us out of here and take our houses. They should stick them all in a boat and send them back to where they came from.”

According to the black community, the whole thing happened differently.

No robbery took place at the café, and no one caused any damage to the premises. It was a Saturday evening and the boys had decided to have a beer and chose this place by chance. They entered in an orderly manner and politely asked to be served. But the café owner replied, “We don’t serve blacks here, each to his own.” At that very moment, the gypsies got up from their tables and started to shove them outside the establishment. Still not happy, outside they set about pummelling them with punches and kicking them. In the end they chased them away, forcing them to take refuge in a house nearby. It was then that some of the gypsies pulled out their pistols and began firing at the windows before others arrived with shotguns, adding to the fusillade. The young men’s reaction was defensive; if they hadn’t fought back they would have met their maker, as the gypsies were preparing a raid on the house.

A witness to the event, Lourenço Marques, godfather of one of the victims and retired builder, got his feelings off his chest. “Everyone knows it was the gypsies who attacked us. We are a serious people around here, we don’t want trouble with anyone. But, with the gypsies it’s impossible, man! They think that this place is theirs, they don’t respect anyone, they threaten you and pull out their weapons for the slightest thing. Robbery and drugs are their main source of income. Have you ever seen them working or picking up rubbish? Of course not. These problems will only come to an end when they are all thrown into prison.”    

For her part, another resident, Dona Lurdes, housemaid and white — but whose dark complexion and curly hair seemed to want to deny her Caucasian status — also gave her opinion of the facts. “Whose fault is it? It’s both their faults. It was peaceful here before all these blacks and gypsies got here. Everyone knew and helped each other, the neighbors were like a family. If you needed a bay leaf you just knocked on your neighbor’s door; people looked after other people’s children. But after they arrived our neighborhood became hell, what with stealing, drugs, fighting, shooting. You can’t sleep at night for all the racket. It’s scary around here. It’s enough to make you sick with worry. And the police don’t lift a finger. If it was up to me, I’d send them all back to where they came from.”###

Excerpt published with permission. All rights reserved by author.



About the Author: JOAO CERQUEIRA is the author of eight books published in six countries.  THE TRAGEDY OF FIDEL CASTRO won the USA Best Book Awards 2013, the Beverly Hills Book Awards 2014, the Global Ebook Awards 2014, was finalist for the Montaigne Medal 2014 and was considered by ForewordReviews the third best translation published in 2012 in the United States. JESUS AND MAGDALENE won the silver medal in the 2015 Latino Book Award and was considered by the unheard-voice.blogspot one of the best books published in 2015. The short story, A house in Europe, won the 2015 Speakando European Literary Contest, received the bronze medal in the Ebook Me Up Short Story Competition 2015 and an honorable mention in the Glimmer Train July 2015 Very Short Fiction Award. His works are published in The Adirondack Review, Ragazine, Berfrois, Cleaver Magazine, Bright Lights Film, Modern Times Magazine and others. Visit him at http://www.joaocerqueira.com/.

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November 14, 2016

BOOK OF THE MONTH: THE WOMEN OF LA RAZA: AN EPIC HISTORY OF CHICANA-MEXICAN AMERICAN PEOPLES BY ENRIQUETA L. VASQUEZ


Women are coming into their own, slowly but surely.  In fact, we almost had our first Female President of the United States. That glass ceiling may not be shattered yet, but one day. Until then, women will continue to fight for their rights and their place in history, like the women in this month’s Book of the Month by Enriqueta L. Vasquez.  Happy Reading! 



An Epic History of Chicana-Mexican American Peoples
by Enriqueta L. Vasquez


In the beginning there was woman.

The Women of La Raza is a “Plain talk” woman’s perspective of history with a special value for both the spoken and written word. I use plain talk because there is a certain respect for plain talk, in the old tradition. In ceremonial circles one asks for, “la Palabra,” to speak. I have been humbled many times by the Indigenous peoples of Mexico where ‘la palabra,’ oratory, is highly valued.—Enriqueta L. Vasquez



The Women of La Raza, Xhicana, Latina Book Club, Maria Ferrer, Enriiqueta Vasquez, HERstory


HERstory!  From goddesses to queens to rulers to heroines of independence to the 21st century Xhicana, THE WOMEN OF LA RAZA is an astonishing collection of Mexican and Mexican-American women.  Author, artist and activist Enriqueta L. Vasquez has put together a remarkable, ambitious and informative history of these women through the ages, and it’s one that readers will not forget.  We really hope this book makes it into history and women’s history curriculums.


BOOK SUMMARY:  The history of Mexican Americans spans over more than five centuries and varies from region to region across the United States.  Yet most of our books devote at most a couple pages on Chicano history, and much less attention is given to herstory of Chicanas.
            Thewomen of La Raza offers a powerful antidote to this omission with a vivid account of the struggle and survival of our people and woman’s place in the history, who, despite discrimination in schools, jobs, and housing has contributed considerably to the development of this country.  The book ranges from female centered stories of pre-Columbian Mexico to profiles of contemporary social justice activists, labor leaders, organizers as well as today’s leaders and activists.
            There is much to be learned from the women who fought and died in the War of Independence from Spain and the Mexican Revolution.  These women fought and died with their young children at their side and in the invasion from The United States of America.  This thoroughly enriching view of Chicana women’s history promises to become a classic.#



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Enriqueta L. Vasquez, born and raised in Cheraw, Colorado of Mexican-Tarascan parentage, is an artist, activist and writer co-authored “Viva La Raza!” (Doubleday, 1974) with Elizabeth Sutherland Martinez for which they received the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award. She was on the editorial staff of the Chicano newspaper “El Grito del Norte,” based in Española, New Mexico.  Her regular columns in El Grito as well as some of her poetry became well known and were used in many books and publications as well as conferences and women’s studies.  Enriqueta’s writings from El Grito were published in 2007 in an award winning book “Enriqueta Vasquez and the Chicano Movement” in the Hispanic Civil Rights series by Arte Publico Press, Houston, Texas. Along with her well known writings, Enriqueta designed and painted on several murals. She worked at the Centro Campesino in 1981 where she published a leaflet newspaper and produced a slide show film named “De Sol A Sol.” The film was used for educational and organizing purposes. Enriqueta is widely traveled, having been to Cuba, China, Spain, Germany, many parts of the southwest, as well as Mexico where she did much of the research for The Women of La Raza.  She is presently working on a number of short stories and poetry for publication in her next book.  Follow her on Facebook: Enriqueta.l.vasquez.


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November 9, 2016

EXCERPT: LIGHTS OUT: A CUBAN MEMOIR OF BETRAYAL AND SURVIVAL BY DANIA ROSA NASCA


NEW! Every Wednesday The Latina Book Club will feature excerpts from exciting novels by Latino authors. Happy reading!

And Congratulations to Dania on her new book just out last month! 
LIGHTS OUT is an emotional, heart wrenching memoir of what was and could have been in Cuba.


Cuba, Latina Book Club, Maria Ferrer, Dania Nasca, Fidel Castro
by Dania Rosa Nasca
New Release – October 2016


Book Sumary:  Dania Nasca chronicles Fidel Castro's rise to power and the truth behind the dictator. His fascination with Hitler, Mussolini, and other fascists lead to a totalitarian state of sorrow and pain. At the same time, she shows a deep love and respect for the history and culture of Cuba. 


EXCERPT:

A Vignette

There Used to Be a Carousel


Every year a traveling fair, Los Caballitos (the Little Horses) de Labrada came to my home town of Holguín. The fair came to the same spot every year: an empty, dusty field on the corner of Calles Fomento and Aricochea. It was a simple but colorful traveling amusement park, and it brought much joy to children and parents alike. The fair had all kinds of rides, but the carousel with its horses was the most beloved.

Anticipation of Los Caballitos was a wonderful feeling for me. Each year I was bubbling over with excitement, remembering the beautiful carousel, the music, the different food vendors, and the admission tickets that cost just pennies. It was there I first tasted cotton candy. I remember my parents’ delight when they introduced me to my very first cotton candy. I still remember my amazement when the vendor kept turning the stick round and round and the cotton candy grew bigger and bigger. When I finally tasted it, I could not believe how quickly or how sweetly it dissolved on my tongue.

Although the government takeover of large private businesses was spreading to medium-sized and some smaller businesses at the time, Los Caballitos de Labrada was still operating freely, or so it appeared. Yet the last time Los Caballitos came to town, it brought a different experience. For me, it was the most powerful realization about how everything that was colorful, joyful, and beautiful had disappeared or turned gray.

I was so excited when I saw the workers setting up the rides. Finally, the day came. I was going to go on the carousel first of all. I got a couple of coins from my mother and ran as fast as I could to the lot.

Arriving, I stopped dead in my tracks. My feet froze to the ground. I felt as if a giant with a huge hand had slapped me across the face and stopped my heart.

There in front of me was the carousel, except it didn’t have its beautiful, multi-colored horses and carriages, its organ, and its sprightly music. The beautiful, bright horses were gone, replaced by flat wooden cutouts in the shape of horses, held together with screws or glue and painted an ugly, dark, uniform gray.

If there were any other rides, I did not notice. The place was deserted. There was no music, excitement, or joy. One look at the merry-go-round was all I needed to see. I turned around and went home, my heart and stomach aching with an enormous sadness. I can only describe it as a sickened feeling all over my body and permeating my being; it was that dark, gray, and depressing. Everything, absolutely everything, is gone or gray, gray, gray. This thought ran over and over again in my mind. I was ten years old.

Eventually Los Caballitos de Labrada would be closed by the government, but not before it came to town, all over Cuba, one last time: gray, ugly, and lifeless, to shatter the heart of every child.

Only those of us who lived under Fidel know that the travesty must have been calculated. I remember thinking, My God, there will be nothing, nothing to look forward to, and that was the purpose. It was part of the soulless implementation of the communist state’s plan to rob children of joy, dreams, and childhood; to mold them into spiritless communists. Fidel stole happiness from children and from their parents.

Sometimes I think Fidel stole more from the poor than from the rich, for the arrival of Los Caballitos gave even the most impoverished children a moment in the sunshine each year. Even the poorest could scrape together the few pennies to ride the carousel and experience the delight, freedom, and flights of fancy children need to nourish their imaginations. We were robbed of even that precious beam of sunlight in our children’s lives. It was done to extinguish the light in our souls.###


Excerpt published with permission. All rights reserved by author.



About the author:  DANIA ROSA NASCA was born in 1958 in Holguín, the City of Parks, Oriente, Cuba, the year the Cuban Revolution drove Batista from power. She was given a front-row seat to Fidel Castro’s takeover of the government and all private enterprise. When she was twelve, she and her family immigrated to the United States through a US-sponsored Freedom Flight. Dania works as a financial counselor for the University of Rochester’s Strong Memorial Hospital. She closely follows world affairs, especially events in Cuba and other communist countries. A proud Cuban American and a hockey mom who hates snow, she lives in Rochester, New York, with her husband, Tony, their son, Anthony, and their Chihuahua-Manchester terrier. Rochester has been her home ever since she arrived in the United States. Visit her blog at https://lightsoutacubanmemoir.blogspot.com.


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November 7, 2016

REVIEW: CERTAIN DARK THINGS BY SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA

  
The Latina Book Club welcomes a new reviewer, Julia Abrantes. 
She is an avid reader and a member of the Leadership Team at Las Comadres Book Club.



Latina Book Club, Maria Ferrer, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Latino authors, Read Latino,
Thomas Dunne Books/ St. Martin's Press/ MacMillian
by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Review by Julia Abrantes


 Welcome to Mexico City… An Oasis In A Sea Of Vampires…


This story takes place in futuristic Mexico City.  The time has come when Vampires are mixed in with locals all around the world.  This book talks about different species of vampires.  Some species glow in the dark, others have distinct hair, in others the females can sprout wings (not your white fluffy fairy wings, but rather big blue-black majestic feathers).  Some species feed by draining the life force from their prey, others can only feed from the young.  Anyway, I digress. 

I enjoy your typical vampire novel – and this is anything but typical.  Weaving together the stories from three different points of view – seamlessly.  Paranormal, a bit of a love story, hope, revenge all mushed together.  There's the Mexico City cop who is trying hard to do good in a corrupt system.  There's the homeless boy, Domingo, who meets the protagonist on a subway.  There's the dog with glowing tattoos.  There's Axl – the main character – who though vampire, had some moments that many of us can relate to. And so many more!

There is solid building of the different types of vampires.  You can actually see how the city looks by her descriptions.  Even though I've been to Mexico City, I think that for those that have not, they will be able to see it all.   

Bottom Line:  Great read. Solid writing. No gaps in the story. Looking at Mexico City in the future, learning how humans have interacted with vampires, how they mix into society.### 


Book Summary: Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is busy seeking out a living when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, must feast on the young to survive and Domingo looks especially tasty. Smart, beautiful, and dangerous, Atl needs to escape to South America, far from the rival narco-vampire clan pursuing her. Domingo is smitten. Her plan doesn’t include developing any real attachment to Domingo. Hell, the only living creature she loves is her trusty Doberman. Little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his effervescent charm. And then there’s Ana, a cop who suddenly finds herself following a trail of corpses and winds up smack in the middle of vampire gang rivalries. Vampires, humans, cops, and gangsters collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive?


For Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Spicy Blood Margarita recipe, click here.



About the Author: Mexican by birth, Canadian by inclination. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise, about music, magic and Mexico City, was listed as one of the best novels of the year at io9, Buzzfeed and many other places. It won a Copper Cylinder Award and was nominated for the British Fantasy, Locus, Sunburst and Aurora awards. Certain Dark Things is her second novel.  Silvia is also an editor and has worked on several anthologies. She is also the publisher of Innsmouth Free Press; and co-edits The Jewish Mexican Literary Review with Lavie Tidhar and the horror magazine The Dark with Sean Wallace. Learn more about Silvia at www.silviamoreno-garcia.com.


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November 4, 2016

Q&A WITH LA CASITA GRANDE’S JONATHAN MARCANTONI



The Latina Book Club congratulates Jonathan Marcantoni on the launch of La Casita Grande, 
a new publishing house specializing in Latino and Caribbean literature.


Latina Book Club, La Casia Grande, Jonathan Marcantoni, Latino Authors, Read Latino

WRITING TIP:  If you want to stand out as an artist, be true to your visions and push yourself creatively, without worrying about the marketability of your stories. --- Jonathan Marcantoni




Latina Book Club, Read Latino

LA CASITA GRANDE
An imprint of Black Rose Writing



Q: For years, we've been hearing the lament of editors and agents that they can't find any Latino authors.  And when one attends Book Expo America (BEA), all the editors keep asking for more diverse books, more Latino works.  Yet, the majority of the publishing booths at BEA this year had little to no diversity. It seems we have the editors' ears, but not the sales and marketing staff.  Did you see this too?  Where do you think Latinos are in publishing?

JONATHAN MARCANTONI This question can be its own article, to be honest. There are several factors at work here. (A) Most editors and agents are not Latino/a. No matter their political persuasion, I mean, they can be the hippiest-hipster-tree hugging-white guilt-ridden liberal in the world, and yet when they say they want diverse works, they are still looking for books that fit into what they have been taught is “marketable”. This often means having a white character, or a white-passing character (such as someone who fervently expresses their love of the United States and U.S. culture), or having a story arc that glorifies the U.S., or fits a stereotype, like poor Latinos or criminal Latinos who are reformed in some way or another. This also means a book touching on hot topic issues like immigration. These are all plots that white editors and agents, some of whom have never encountered Latinos or have only done so at a distance, and others who went to predominantly white schools where maybe they met Latinos but they were upper class ones, can relate to and feel comfortable with. Whether they realize it or not, that comfort gets in the way of appreciating artistically challenging works, or genre works by Latino authors that may not even address ethnicity or race—I know a lot of writers of color and myself included have heard from an agent or editor the question, “Why don’t you have more about immigration? Or race relations? Why don’t you talk about Day of the Dead or Cinco de Mayo?” Never mind that we have a lot more we can talk about than those subjects, and that Mexican holidays like Day of the Dead are not practiced by non-Mexicans.

(B) The best way I can sum this up as is what psychologists call “Confirmation bias”, which in this case means editors and agents deny the existence of Latino literature that does not conform to their preconceived notions of what Latino literature is.   The Latino label itself creates a sense of a gentrified, homogenous group when in reality it is a moniker that, depending on your definition, includes all 20 countries of Latin America, or any country where a Latin-based language is spoken; we cannot make much progress within such a group since one culture is going to dominate over all the others. For now, that culture is Mexican, and if these agents and editors were honest, they’d admit that once you get away from Mexican issues, they are frankly pretty ignorant about the various nationalities that make up Latinos (and for as much as they may know about Mexico, it is not that much better). That generalization limits the kinds of stories they’re willing to consider for publication, because they already have it in their minds that stories with Latinos have limited marketing potential.

(C) This factor I’ll call “The problem of limited quality”, which is to say, the age we live in is one where people of any discipline can produce an absurd amount of any given product, and when you have an abundance of a product, it gives the impression that there is a huge number of producers who are good or excellent at what they do. The reality, however, is that the abundance of the product covers up the fact that most producers are bad at what they do, and most products suck. Put another way, the book market is awash with books, most of which were released via self-publishing companies and vanity presses who do not practice quality control. There is an inordinate amount of poorly-written, poorly-edited, poorly-assembled books on the market, and this creates the impression that there are tens of millions of writers for agents and editors to pick and choose from. Agents and editors, unlike the self-publishing realm, DO care about quality and will not publish just any book that is sent their way. These professionals often have very high standards, because when you read hundreds of manuscripts a year, you develop preferences. You become very select and set in your ways in terms of what you consider as quality. So for the sake of this argument, let us say that the tens of millions of writers is made up of 90% terrible writers who have no business putting pen to paper, let alone exposing their awful stories to the public. That leaves 10% of writers whose work is good enough to qualify for publication through a traditional publisher, no matter the size. Within that 10%, let’s say 6% in the United States are white. That leaves 1% for Asian, 1% for non-Latino Blacks, 1% for Native Americans, and 1% for Latinos. That 1% is maybe 4,000 people. And those 4,000 writers do not all have completed manuscripts, some are playwrights, screenwriters, others are poets and journalists and others are strictly novelists or short story writers. Once you break it down like that, the number decreases significantly in terms of how many books are being submitted that meet industry standards of quality, outside of any other considerations concerning content. On a quality level, the number of books worthy of publication is minuscule.   

I did see these problems, and others, especially in the realm of preparedness that writers have when they are published to actually hit the pavement and sell their books on a variety of platforms. Those were all inspirations for creating La Casita Grande.


Q: La Casita Grande seems to be an answer to this call for and lack of Latino writers.  Tell us about your new endeavor.  Tell us what the mission is.

JM:  The challenges facing writers today is not only a matter of supply and demand, of competition from other media or from social disinterest in books. These issues have been around for a long time and the solution given to us from Big Literature—which is not only comprised of the major New York houses but also the writer’s conference circuit, MFA programs, and an industry of self-help books for writers—is to produce more, to spend more money attending conferences and schmoozing with industry “insiders” and buying their books, and when all else fails, to attend a MFA program, and if that doesn’t get your book published, to teach at a MFA program.

This system has been in place for decades and not only has it created an atmosphere where writing is seen as an antagonistic, anxiety-inducing practice, where writers compete over neurosis and misery, it also most benefits upper- and middle-class whites who can afford to buy those books and attend those conferences and work unpaid internships in order to get a foot in the door. We live in a world that is increasingly conscious of cultural diversity where audiences want characters who not only represent them, they also want narratives that capture the world in new and exciting ways. The old narrative structures are increasingly being shunned, and the best way to combat this is not only to grant opportunities to ethnically diverse writers, but to also change the way in which those writers approach their art.


Our mission is to find those books that fall under the radar because they do not fit an established mold, either in technical and stylistic terms, or in relation to their content, and to develop those writers on a professional and a creative path toward realizing their potential as artists.


Q:  La Casita Grande launched with a call for submissions.  What genres are you looking for?  Are you accepting manuscripts in English and Spanish? And how polished do you want the author/ manuscript to be?  

JM:  WHAT WE WANT
1. Literature from writers in and from Latin America and the Caribbean, to include the Lesser Antilles, Haiti, Jamaica, and the Bahamas. 
2. Genre and literary fiction. Genres we are most interested in are science fiction, crime, romance, experimental/avante garde, and horror.
3. Creative nonfiction, especially travel, historical, scientific, and pop culture books.
4. Submissions can be in English, Spanish, and Spanglish.
5. We are a LGBTQ friendly publisher and would be very interested in LGBTQ stories of all genres.
6. Generally, we do want authors with previous publishing credits, but it is not a requirement.

WHAT WE DON'T WANT
1. We are not interested in immigration or identity narratives or memoirs.
2. We are not interested in children's literature and most YA books. We will make an exception to a YA book that is especially compelling to us.


Q:   We understand LCG is looking for Caribbean and Latino writers, specifically women.  Why just Latino writers? What about a non-Latino writer with Latino characters and setting? 

JM:  There are already publishers who cater to non-Latinos, yet for Latinos, their options are incredibly limited. Outside the U.S., presses that are not in Mexico City, Madrid, or Buenos Aires often charge their authors for services or they have extremely limited distribution. Latino-run presses in the U.S., like Arte Publico or Cinco Puntos, are Mexican-run and lean more toward Mexican or Central American literature and themes. I don’t fault them for that, I lean more toward Caribbean literature because that is where I am from, I will be open and honest about that bias. Also, the Latino-run presses are not specifically promoting genre books and literary novels that veer away from immigration and identity themes, which our press refuses. There are non-Latino presses who occasionally publish unorthodox or experimental fiction from Latino authors, including Black Rose Writing, our parent company, which published my book Kings of 7th Avenue. However, no matter how well-meaning our non-Latino advocates are, they do not know the culture from the inside. We are providing a space for Latino authors to feel at home and not have to explain themselves, or justify their stylistic choices that may alienate non-Latino audiences. As for non-Latinos who include Latino characters, they have no problem finding a home for their stories, since they most often include white savior storylines, and mainstream presses love those.   


Q: When can we expect to see the first books from La Casita Grande? What books are you launching with? when? How will they be distributed -- print, digital, both? and on what platforms?

JM: Our first book is by London-based Argentinean author Fernando Sdrigotti, who has written a comedic short story collection entitled Dysfunctional Males. We will release that book in March 2017. Our second book will be a poetry collection by New York-based actor A.B. Lugo entitled Spanish Coffee/Black, No Sugar, and we are planning on releasing it Summer 2017. Our books will be available in print, Kindle, and Nook. They will be distributed via Baker & Taylor and Ingram, and available at bookstores large and small, universities, and libraries.


Q: The LCG Lounge sounds like hard work but fun.  Tell us more about it.  Can anyone join?

JM: The LCG Lounge is a blog on our website that will publish short stories, poetry, and novel excerpts. The author’s chosen to be featured on the blog will then be mentored by us with the goal of having them publish their finished manuscripts through us or our parent company, Black Rose Writing. We are limiting submissions to writers of color.


Q:  What advice would you give to today's Latino writers? what books would you recommend reading?

JM: Don’t fall into trends, and don’t limit yourself. If you want to stand out as an artist, be true to your visions and push yourself creatively, without worrying about the marketability of your stories. I recommend Jorge Luis Borges’ Fictions (Ficciones), Julio Cortazar’s Hopscotch (Rayuela), Juan Jose Saer’s The Witness (El entenado), the poetry of Julia de Burgos, and The United States of Banana by Giannina Braschi.


Q:  Now let's talk about you.  You are an author, editor, teacher, father, husband and now publisher.  When are you going to find time to do it all? What happens to YouNiversity? 

JM:  Luckily, I have a very supportive spouse. I just make the time, one way or the other, if that means spending every evening working instead of relaxing, then that is what I do. The YouNiversity Project now forms the basis of La Casita Grande’s business model, wherein our authors are contractually obligated to complete the program by setting up a social media base, arranging interviews, reviews, events, and conducting networking and community engagement. We also offer YNP 2.0, which is a paid service for self-published authors or authors whose publishers have not given them much support in promotion and building a brand for their work. For more on these programs, visit http://www.lcgeditores.com/the-youniversity-project/. 


Latina Book Club, Read Latino
Q:  When can we expect your new book? what is it about?

JM:  TRISTIANA, my first Spanish novel and the first visualist novel (wherein I employ a style that mimics painting and film), comes out in Fall 2017 under the LCG label. The book is about a group of artists in a fictional country who become embroiled in a Marxist rebellion against their country’s U.S.-backed, pro-corporate government.

This November, I begin writing Cerro Maravilla, a fictional account of the notorious 1978 Cerro Maravilla murders in Puerto Rico, which involved a group of police officers ambushing a pair of independentista activists. My account focuses on the mother of one of the victims, the undercover cop who orchestrated the murders, and his wife. My goal is to have that book released in 2018, the 40th anniversary of the crime. 


Q: Share with us how your fans can learn more about you, and how can we learn more about La Casita Grande?  

JM:  To learn more about La Casita Grande and myself, visit http://www.lcgeditores.com/. Follow us on Twitter @LCGEditores and like our Facebook Page.


GOOD LUCK TO LA CASITA GRANDE!

READ LATINO LIT!