Monday, March 28, 2011

(I Won a Book!) Julia Alvarez Interviewed by Edwidge Danticat

I won a book.  *smiles and dances* Timing is everything. ; )

Last week, Being Latino promoted on their blog, a live webcast interview of Julia Alvarez that was set to take place later that evening on the Algonquin Books' website. They gave away two copies of Alvarez's novel, IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES, to the first two lucky readers to post the names of the Mirabal Sisters, las Mariposas, who were the inspiration behind this timeless book club favorite.

 *still dancing*

Thank you for the chance to win! I can't wait to read it.

(See Original Post: The Brilliant Julia Alvarez by Charlie Vazquez)

In this webcast, Julia Alvarez is interviewed by Haitian author Edwidge Danticat. They not only discuss Alvarez's inspiration behind the "butterflies," but also the effect the intertwined histories of the Dominican Republic and Haiti have had on their writing. In a stirring exchange between the two women, Alvarez shares a dream she has about the border that separates their two countries.

I hope you enjoy this webcast as much as I did, not only for the history lesson, but also to get a glimpse into Alvarez's creative mind: how she "receives" characters, organizes her stories and picks point-of-view.

I've included a link here to the webcast and a bulleted summary of their discussion.
  • The Mirabal Sisters
  • Creative process (she made me smile)
  • Challenges faced by authors who write historical fiction
  • Truth according to "character"
  • Movie adaptation of her novel
  • "Memory"
  • The Haitian Massacre of 1937
  • Machismo in the D.R. during Rafael Trujillo's dictatorship
  • Her current project ; )
  • Stay for the Q&A -- Alvarez answers some tough questions (e.g. her response to books published by Trujillo's descendants, the importance of respecting privacy, where she sees Latino literature going and what she's been reading.)
I plan on reading IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES during the month of May. Let me know if you'd like to read along!

"Grant me the intelligence and the patience to find the true pattern."
-- Mayan Weaver's Prayer


  • ONCE UPON A QUINCEAÑERA: Coming of Age in the USA (non-fiction): This is the book that led me to me discover this wonderful author. It's a revealing, sometimes disturbing report (with statistics) of the challenges facing young Latinas, and how the Quinceañera, a fifteen-year-old girl's "coming out" party might be sending our daughters the wrong message. Why not make education the priority, instead?
  • HOW THE GARCIA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS: This story unfolds in a reverse timeline. It follows the Garcia family's defection from the Dominican Republic to the U.S. and honestly portrays the challenges the four daughters face adapting to a new culture.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stylish Blogger Award

I have a few words of gratitude for romance writer and on-line friend Layna Pimentel, who surprised me with The Stylish Blogger Award, recently.

Layna and I have been friends on Twitter since 2009, where we met just before our first Nanowrimo. She helped keep me motivated, challenging me to writing sprints while online. And because Nanowrimo wasn't stressful enough, we soon after tackled an on-line grammar class that taught us a thing or two about modifiers.

Thank you for your friendship and support, Linz. *big, big hugs* Looking forward to the next three years. To learn more about Layna or to visit her spicy (adults-only) romance blog, please click here.

So I'm supposed to reveal seven new things about me ... yikes.


Here goes.

Seven Things:
  1. I despise peas. I see peas and immediately think slimy, green, smashed caterpillars. 
  2. I used to own a pet boa constrictor. I named her Chloe. She was so cute when I first bought her: the size of a No. 2 pencil. Then she grew. And grew. And grew. Her size never really bothered me. In fact I enjoyed her weight on my shoulders, as she ran the length of my arms, fingertip-to-fingertip. Our relationship, one based on mutual respect, changed the the day I attempted to move her after I'd  handled her food. She was a snake. Snakes smell with their tongues. And I hadn't washed my hands. As any snake would, she mistook my hand for the rat I was about to feed her. I never felt at ease handling her after she bit me. So I sent her to live with another boa named Buddha. As far as I know, they had no offspring.
  3. I once entered a beehive competition when I worked for the Media Department at the Orange County Fair. 
  4. My favorite place to visit in Southern California is the Griffith Park Observatory. When my sisters and I were growing up, our parents would take us there on weekends to explore the observatory's exhibits and surrounding grounds. It's a beautiful and tranquil place for a picnic.
  5. I'm still petrified of spiders. Why? Because they're nasty little creatures that can do this. No lie.
  6. I believe extra-terrestials exist. How could they not?
  7. Yes. I'm so old that cars looked like this (below) when I was three. At least it's not a horse-and-buggy.

In the spirit of sharing, I'd like to direct you to a handful of sites I like to visit when I want to learn something new:

Being Latino | Informed group of Latino writers who blog about current events, cultural topics, women and issues affecting all Latinos.

Landless | Tony Noland: Flash fiction writer and all-around interesting guy. Once even wrote about bear-trapping.

Shournalista | Julieta Talavera: Amazing photo-journalist and bilingual Spanish-English writer. Love her Chinatown podcast.

Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar | Martha Brockenbrough: Educational and funny.

The Character Therapist | Jeannie Campbell: A psychologist's take on fictional characters.

Warrior Writers | Kristen Lamb: Invaluable blogging and writing advice with a touch of humor.

What to Read | Katie K.: Voracious reader and friend. : )

Writer in Progress | Judy Manning: A writer in the trenches who writes entertainment reviews and about all things paranormal.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Guts of Fiction

This morning, while poking around flash fiction writer Tony Noland's blog, I came across this *clears throat* peculiar illustration. Looks organic, huh?

At first glance, the way its body curved and waved, I thought it might be some kind of mutant jelly fish or octopus that belonged in a jar of formaldehyde. Maybe even somebody's intestinal tract. That was until I ZOOMED IN. Close.

Go ahead. Don't be afraid. It won't bite. Click on it to view it full-size on Tony's original's post. The detail is awesome.

I love it!

Friday, March 11, 2011


“Mi Gook. This is a magic word.” -- Young Ju, A STEP FROM HEAVEN

A collection of thirty-one vignettes, A STEP FROM HEAVEN is Korean-American author An Na’s first novel. When four-year-old Young Ju discovers her family plans to move to Mi Gook--America, she can’t help but be happy. Reading her parents' expressions, she knows that America means something "good" to them.

In Mi Gook, her Apa-father says:
“Everyone can make lots of money even if they did not go to an important school in the city …”
Upon reaching America, Young Ju's parents quickly discover that immigrant life is not easy. They end up making a meager living, only able to afford renting a dilapidated house in an unsafe neighborhood.

It’s not until her brother, Joon, is born, that Young Ju understands her position in the home. Gender roles are clear: fathers are never to be questioned, sons are favored, and women who do not acquiesce are punished.

The day her father brags that her brother could someday grow up to be president, is the day she sees an opportunity to win his favor, by suggesting she could also do the same. In reply, he laughs and says:
“You are a girl, Young Ju.” 
Although this statement hurts her deeply, it doesn't extinguish her spirit. By the time she’s reached the ninth grade, Young Ju has toughened up. She’s made the honor roll and become best-friends with a girl named Amanda Doyle. Amanda and her family provide the safety net she needs when her own parents are consumed by work.

Problem is that Apa doesn’t approve of his daughter’s American friend. Young Ju's defiance of her father when he forbids their friendship is what leads to the explosive scene in the novel that changes the family forever.

A STEP FROM HEAVEN is short but filled with many poignant scenes of a daughter yearning for her father's love, as she struggles with assimilation. It's also a sometimes sad, but thought-provoking read about the challenges immigrants face when they first come to this country.

Have you had to assimilate somehow? If so, what does assimilation mean to you? If not, what do you think it means? 
“Your life can be different, Young Ju. Study and be strong. In American women have choices.” -- Uhmma--Mother, A STEP FROM HEAVEN

Recommended Reading:

To learn more about the author An Na, please visit her author site.

To Purchase:

Barnes & Noble