My love of reading is parallel to my love of travel. A personal dream of mine is to visit every country in Latin America, Motorcycle Diaries style. Well, perhaps minus the motorcycle because, you know… book nerd here. Instead, I would ditch the motorcycle and go for a bookmobile. A huge gaudy bookmobile. In lieu of not of dropping all of my responsibilities for books, a thing I excel at, I am reading my way through Latin America, and I am sending postcards along the way.
Here are three books I’ve discovered along my “Travels.”
Trafalgar By Angélica Gorodisher (Argentina)
We all have that wacky friend that constantly regales us with tales of their crazy weekend in Vegas, their epic spring break in Cabo, or that time they almost got arrested in Rome, right? Well, if you don’t, let Trafalgar Medrano be that friend. Traflagr is a space merchant who enjoys sitting at his favorite café drinking liters of coffee while his friends laugh and ask the juicy follow up questions. Let him take you on a wild journey to the stars, and to distant lands where nothing is ever as it seems, and if there is trouble to be found, Trafalgar will find it. Trafalgar is a short story collection, and each story manages to make you laugh and contemplate life on other worlds in a really moving and thought provoking way. One of the stories followed me around all day actually. I loved Gorododischer’s take on classic science fiction themes mixed in with traditional Latin American story telling techniques. If you’re a lover of classic science fiction complete with wibbly wobbly time gadgets, you should give this one a chance.
Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement (Mexico)
Prayer for the Stolen will steal your heart, and in its place you will be left with a deep sadness, and an overwhelming feeling of frustration. It makes you never want to care for another character again. Told amid the deadly cartel wars in Mexico where being a girl is a dangerous thing. Ladydi, the protagonist blackens her teeth and runs to the snake filled holes in her backyard to hide from the nearby drug lords. She attends school when a teacher can be bothered to come from the big city, and she thinks about what life is like in places where the men actually stay. The novel takes place against the backdrop of the Mexican jungle where you feel the stifling heat, and the desperation to escape it. The book touches on themes of love, friendship, mother-daughter relationships, and perseverance. The prose is lovely, and Clement manages to squeeze out bits of humor which frankly amaze me. If you’re at all curious about the current political climate in Mexico, and its effects on the civilians, then this one is perfect for you.
Hour of the Star by Clarice Lispector (Brazil)
I recently finished this one and I’m still riding its high. I knew from page one I would love this one, if not for the characters, then for the writing alone. Lispector writes in a field all of her own. Her command of language is interesting and fascinating. The unknown narrator, a writer, recounts the life of Macabéa, an insignificant girl who no one ever notices, and if they do, it’s for the wrong reasons. She becomes orphaned at a young age, and leaves her small northeastern village for the big city where she works as a typist for peanuts. Despite her situation, she’s an optimistic character whose curiosity for the world endeared her to me. Lispector gives us a look at the despairing class issues in Latin America where being poor and brown earns you scorn and ridicule. This little book made me fall in love with Lispector, and I’m so thrilled to power through her backlist.
Have any of you read these authors? I’ll be sending more “postcards” from my bookish “travels” so stay tuned!