3 Books: Latin American Authors

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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

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 

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.

 

 Lis

 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!

 

Andiamo!

Cinque Terre

Hello, lovely people! I have just wrapped up my first year of library school, and after breakdowns, meditation sessions, mindful breathing, yoga, and lots of red wine, I am alive. Barely. It’s still quite early, but I  am already indulging in summer vibes. I remember last year I was lamenting my circumstances having just taken a job, instead of traveling. Two weeks in I wanted to quit my job after realizing I would have to wait a year before I could ask for vacation time. It was tragic.  Well, I just wrapped up a year at the job, and I did take a small vacation before the year, and now  I am using  some much deserved vacation time.  I am headed to La Bella Italia! I’ve been before, but this time around I am not a broke unemployed undergrad with some shaky Italian under my belt. This time I am a slightly less book graduate student who is using her paid time off from work. Adulthood isn’t so bad most of the time. Last time I also only got to travel through Rome, and this time I’ll be hitting up a few more cities, and my Italian is…adequate, I am hoping at least. I have been studying  pretty much everyday since I booked the trips six months ago, so it better be adequate.

Aside from researching all the bookish sites I plan on visiting,  the food, transportation, and the general gorgeousness of the country, I’ve been reading as much Italian authors as I can get my hands on. Italian translations are not that east to come by, at least not in the U.S. I’ve found. Which is sad  because the ones  that I have  found, have been gems.  If you are at all interested in books by Italian authors, or books set in Italy, here are the three best ones I’ve read so far.

Books:

Me, You

Me, You by  Erri De Luca

Me, You takes place in a small island off the coast of Naples. It’s inhabitants are still reeling from the effects of  Word War II, a topic that is has become a taboo for many Italians, especially the men. The unnamed narrator is visiting the island for the summer, and he becomes engrossed in the quite fishing life of his Uncle. He is very nostalgic and curious for the past he didn’t live. Through his curiosity we learn what it was like for Italian men who fought in World War II, and their feelings about what they did and didn’t do. The novel is also a quite love story as the boy  soon meets and falls in love with a Jewish girl who recounts her own experience during the war. The unnamed character struggles with dealing with the present and the past as they seem to converge at such a transformative time in his life. His mediations about life, love, and war stayed with me for days.  Erri de Luca’s prose is so vivid and lush. I felt transported to this small island and its marriage to the sea.

 

Leonine

Léonie by Sveva Casati Modignani

I have a thing for rich people problem novels especially when they’re multi- generational. Léonie follows  the Cantoni family, a Milanese family who made its fortune by manufactoring faucets. The family is successful and on the surface they appear to have it all, however, that is far from the truth. The family members each harbor their resentments and their secrets which slowly come to light as Léonie,  the wife of  Guido, the Cantoni family heir, slowly unravels them all.  However, Léonie harbors secrets of her own, such as her once a year disappearance to a small hotel on the shores of Lake Como… This often felt like a soap opera, but it was great! I loved the twist and turns, discovering they whys and hows of some of the family members secrets, and the unexpected ending. Also, the insight into Italian culture and life from the rich to the poor was insightful.

 

Beautiul

Beautiful Ruins be Jess Waters

(Not an Italian author, but the book is partially set in Italy, and has Italian culture and language references.)  I Initially read it for the Italian bit, but I enjoyed the story as a whole. Jess Waters weaves the Italian coastline with the classic golden Era Hollywood and new era Hollywood. It has dry humor, and twist, and celebrity cameos.  It was such a joy to read, and I loved how I barely needed to consult my Italian dictionary!

Books on deck:

I Hadn’t Understood by Diego De Silva

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

The Day Before Happiness by Erri De Luca

All Our Yesterdays by Natalia Ginburg

I’m hoping to get to these before the trip, so perhaps I’ll do a follow up post about these.

I’ve also been watching Italian movies, if you’re at all interested I could do a second post talking about my favorites! And, please let me know of any Italian authors or books that are set in Italy that I’ve missed.

Thanks for reading! Ciao 🙂

The Best of April

Here are the books that gave me solace during the hectic month that was April.

Queen of the Night

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. ( A grand sweeping epic of love, betrayal, resilience, and music. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time. )

Bonsai

Bonsai by Alejandro Zambra  (If you love literature, this short little book is everything)

Ruby

Ruby by Cynthia Bond  (Magical Realism anyone? Beautiful yes, but not for the faint hearted)

MArch

March (Book One) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Finished this in one sitting. I was engrossed the entire time)

Me, You

Me, You by Erri De Luca (A quite read that transports you to the beautiful  and simple Italian island life)

sorcerer_front mech.indd

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho (Bad ass women and magic make a beautiful combination)

Lastly,

SInf

Signs Preceding The End of The World by Yuri Herrera ( An odyssey  with a twist. Also, kudos to the translator)

And that was the best of my reading month. Let’s hope May is just as good!

What were the best books you read this month?