Sunday, October 28, 2012

Review Round Up: October 28, 2012

Laurie Ann Guerrero reviews Javier O. Huerta’s American Copia: an Immigrant Epic

Back in April of this year Laurie Ann Guerrero’s manuscript, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Ding was announced winner of the 2012 Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize.  Judge, Francisco X. Alarcón selected her manuscript, for what he called: “the power of these poems to engage the great diversity of human reality with empathy, and do this, also with tremendous imagination.”

In her review of Javier O. Huerta’s American Copia: an Immigrant Epic (Arte Público, 2012), Laurie Ann Guerrero hones in on a key idea, which I had internalized when reading this collection but had previously struggled to define. I am referring to what Laurie Ann Guerrero refers to as Huerta’s “Americanized sense of entitlement,” and the un-doing of that myth of upward mobility through a simple trip to the grocery store. Here is what Laurie Ann Guerrero has to say:

"Today I am going to the grocery store," begins Javier O. Huerta's American Copia: an Immigrant Epic. This is the sentence the INS required him, as part of his naturalization process, to write in order to prove his English language proficiency…. "I wanted to tell the INS agent that I could do things with the English language that she could never imagine. Instead I settled for showing her that the sentence scans as iambic pentameter."
 Huerta apologizes for his arrogance, alluding to his Americanized sense of entitlement, and hones in on the task of dissecting that entitlement as well as accessibility — to healthy, low-cost foods, to education, to security in the places we call home.”

            [Continue Reading.]


Rigoberto González reviews Bejamin Alire Saénz’s Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

 In a recent blog post featuring Lorena Duarte, Xochiquetzal Candelaria and Rigoberto González, a mile-stone moment in Latino/a Poetry Now, was highlighted: this being installment three of Latino/a Poetry Now and more specifically the reading and visit to Macalester College in St. Paul by the three aforementioned poets. What marked this reading as particularly memorable is not only that it signaled the halfway point in this multi-year national reading tour but also in that it raised the bar in setting “a benchmark for integrating pedagogy and interactions with students.” As a number of students had already dialogued with the poets through their books in the classroom this made for a much-anticipated reading and lively discussion.  Another of pedagogical tool that should be highlighted was this Poetry Society of America roundtable, published well in advance of the reading and in which the poet’s discussed their craft.

A prolific writer himself, Rigoberto González points out Bejamin Alire Saénz’s prolific output of books in every genre and describes the wait between Saénz’s first collection of stories and Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club (Cinco Puntos Press, 2012) as “definitely worth it.”  This second collection of short stories, features a cast of male protagonist lost between linguistic and national borders, seeking refuge from violence and loneliness in place like the Kentucky Club and other taverns dotting the tragic spaces between Cuidad Juárez and El Paso, Texas.

Here is what Rigoberto González had to say:

“Perhaps the most compelling story that takes place along this war zone is "He Has Gone to Be with the Women," a gay romance between a middle-aged college professor in El Paso and a driver across the border who refuses to surrender to the fact that Juárez has become "a city hungry for the blood of its own people." Though they find temporary solace in each other, despite their differences in class and nationality, it's the violence in Juárez that ultimately pulls them apart, reminding the professor that finding bliss in a broken world "was more heaven than I deserved."

As an allegory for current El Paso-Juárez relations, this story is nothing short of a masterpiece.”

            [Continue Reading.]


Raquel Z. Rivera reviews Lourdes Vázquez’s Not Myself Without You

I first read Lourdes Vázquez’s novel Not Myself Without You (Bilingual Press, 2012) last summer in between traveling from Indiana to California. Blending elements of memoir, fiction, and even the interview, Vázquez provides a highly readable novel centered on a working class Puerto Rican family’s connection to the spirit world. This family’s communion with the world of spirits gives us a narrative that is at once both personal and historical. Here spirits commune and interact with the bodies of the living to recreate the colorful and complex sociopolitical fabric of the Caribbean basin. 

Here is what Raquel Z. Rivera, of La Bloga, has to say:

A playful and powerful novel that in the book jacket is described as a fictionalized memoir, Not Myself Without You is a gripping tale centered around family and neighborhood life in Santurce, Puerto Rico, featuring numerous fascinating characters, love affairs, hatreds, betrayals, politics and a very popular Spiritist temple.

But though Santurce serves as the spatial axis, the novel also moves across various sites of Puerto Rican migration including New York, Spain and a few countries throughout the Caribbean Basin, thus making the text refreshingly immersed in the complex geographic movement that pervades Caribbean experiences.