I didn’t discover Hispanic authors until I was in college. Until then, I thought the only people that wrote were white with the exception of a few black ones. When I uncovered my brethren were writing, I launched myself head first into their writing.
The heavy hitters
For a while, I was addicted to Oscar Hijuelos. I’ve probably read ever single one of his books, starting with Mambo Kings Sing Songs of Love, which became the movie that launched Antonio Banderas into the superstar stratosphere. Yikes, I just signed onto Amazon and Hijuelos has a new book, Dark Dude. But honestly, the cultural bending The Fourteen Sisters of Emilio Montez O’Brien was one of my all-time favorites.
Julia Alvarez. How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. She’s a Dominicana who writes about being a Dominicana in America. Much of my childhood trauma could have been nursed away by reading through her fiction and pseudo-fictional accounts. My favorite is How the Garcia Lost Their Accents and Yo! But currently, Once Upon a Quinceanera is downloaded onto my IPOD. I found Saving the World extremely evocative and moving.
Okay, Esmeralda Santiago is Puerto Rican! But that’s okay. According to my grandmother, I’m a little bit Puerto Rican, too! Though I haven’t read her titular memoir, When I Was Puerto Rican or the follow-up, Almost a Woman, I absolutely devoured The Turkish Lover. Ay Dios mio, I was totally heartbroken over her love affair.
Junot Diaz has gotten much press on my blog. I wasn’t a big fan of his short story collection, Drown. My conservative ears just weren’t having that slang he wields so well. But I adored The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. It made me proud to have grown up a “GHETTO NERD IN THE HOOD!”
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia taught me more than I ever thought I’d know about Cuban culture. But her next novel, The Aguero Sisters was delicious. High on melodrama with a back story on Santeria that was not to be missed! When a student I was tutoring told me she was reading the first book for class, I raved about it in one big scary rant.
Aliza Valdes Rodriguez has also been a notable mention on my blog. I admit that her trashy, beach reads featuring Latinas are not the highest form of fiction but they are juicy, albeit salacious reads. I tried to tear myself away from Dirty Girls On Top, even hiding it in my purse so no one would see, but in the end, I couldn’t put it down.
And I love Angie Cruz. No, it’s not just because she’s also Dominican and she grew up in the Heights. It’s because once I got one nibble of Let it Rain Coffee (which of course is a sendoff to the Juan Luis Guerra song), I decided to email her about how much I loved it over and over and over again. And she responded!
The golden oldies
Pablo Neruda is no Shakespeare and thank G-d for that! I am not into poetry as much as I once was but I rediscovered Neruda in Spanish and English in my husband’s large, ever expanding poetry shelf in our bookcase. Despite the deft English translations of his poems, his beautiful poetry is proof that some things are better said in Spanish.
Yes, I’m doing a total disserve by not mentioning Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez among others. Did I mention Jubana!: The Awkwardly True and Dazzling Adventures of a Jewish Cubana Goddess by Gigi Anders? No, of course, I didn’t. I am so rushing through this blog to get a cracking on some writing for my book before Yom Tov (Jewish holidays) strikes again!