Category Archives: magic realism

The Sunday Salon: My first challenges

The Sunday


2009themedreading-278x3001My first new read of the New Year falls within the parameters of the Themed Reading challenge, which asks readers to pull books from their TBR stack that share a common theme. I chose Latino authors, as I have an ample supply of qualifiers.

So Far From God by Ana Castillo, written in 1993, has become required reading for some literature courses and is considered a breakthrough novel on Chicano life. Set in the small New Mexico town of Tome, the book tells the story of Dona Sofia and her four daughters, each with her own unique abilities – and tragedies. I’m loving the book, with all its Spanglish and references to both Mexican and Native American cuisine, healing arts, spiritual beliefs, and traditions.

The novel also explores the determination of women, as Sofia organizes her neighbors to preserve their heritage and improve their existence by building, bartering, and engaging in enterprises as a community. The long, descriptive chapter titles remind me of Jorge Amado, whose Gabriella, Clove and Cinnamon I will probably read next for this challenge.

well-seasoned-readerFor the Well-Seasoned Reader challenge, I am listening to Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace…One School at a Time by Greg Mortenson and David Relin. I’ve had the book for some time, but decided to check out the audio version.

The book recounts the adventures of  Greg Mortenson, a trauma nurse by profession and mountaineer by choice. While descending from an unsuccessful climb up K2 in Pakistan’s Karakoram mountains, Mortenson wanders into the small village of Korphe. He promises to build a school and ends up building 51 of them, especially for girls, as a tribute to his sister. This is a story I’ve been looking forward to reading – or hearing, as it turns out – and so far it’s wonderful.



Filed under audiobooks, award winners, book chat, Challenges, Latin American authors, magic realism, Nonfiction, Salon Sundays

Yay! My First Reading Challenge

2009themedreading-278x300I’m entering my first reading challenge with Wendy‘s 2009 challenge:

The Themed Reading Challenge is a six month challenge designed to help readers clear books from their to-be-read stacks which center around a common theme or themes. Here are the “rules”:

  1. Books should be chosen from the reader’s TBR pile (this may be an actual physical pile or a virtual pile).
  2. The goal is to read 4 to 6 books linked by theme.
  3. Overlaps with other challenges are allowed.
  4. Readers may change their list of books at any time.
  5. Readers may choose three different levels of participation:
  • Read at least 4 books with the same theme.
  • Read at least 5 books that share at least TWO themes.
  • Read at least 6 books that share MORE than two themes.

My theme: Read at least 4 books written by Latino/Hispanic authors. This is the perfect opportunity for me to move some of my TBR stack, which includes these choices:

Gabriella, Clove and Cinnamon, Jorge Amado
Swift as Desire, Laura Esquivel
Esperanza’s Box of Saints, Maria Amparo Escandon
A Handbook to Luck, Christina Garcia
So Far From God, Ana Castillo
American Chica, Marie Arana
A Simple Habana Melody, Oscar Hijuelos
In the Time of the Butterflies, Julia Alvarez
The Years with Laura Diaz, Carlos Fuentes
Bitter Grounds, Sandra Benitez

I’ve read other works by most of these authors, but some will be newly discovered voices. I may refine this list a bit and go for 5 books – two by men, three by women; two based on history, three purely fiction; two set in the author’s native country, three set in the U.S. – whatever. I have until February to decide. Thanks, Wendy!


Filed under book chat, Latin American authors, magic realism

Dreaming in Cuban

Who: Cristina Garcia

Why: A wonderful, beautiful book about Cuban women and how they responded to Castro’s revolution. Celia is a treat, guarding the coast of Cuba. Her daughters have their own ideas. Old ideas clash with new, but in a good way. Read if you’re an activist who would like to see Cuba opened to U.S. tourists. Or if you’re a mom struggling with a relationship with your daughter.

When: If you ever get to Cuba, read it there. If not, just read it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latin American authors, Literary Fiction, magic realism


Who:  JoAnne Harris
When: autumn, winter, or spring
Where: by the fire or in the gentle sun

Why: Everyone’s seen the movie, which is wonderful (Johnny Depp is in it, for starters), but the book is even more wonderful. Includes some important themes that don’t convey to the screen, mostly the struggle of women within the boundaries of Christianity. This book is magic!

Leave a comment

Filed under magic realism, Uncategorized

Caramba! A Tale in Turns of the Card

Who: Nina Marie Martinez
You can’t resist the way this book looks, with its quirky illustrations
Why: You love nostalgia. I almost need another category for this unusual book. The cover looks like something from the 1950s or 60s, and the illustrations are great fun. But the subject matter is hardly old-fashioned. Highly recommend for those who enjoy eclectic books.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latin American authors, magic realism

Crossing the Mangrove

Who: Maryse Conde
anytime you want to be transported to an exotic locale
Why: It’s unusual, with exquisite prose. An exotic tale from Guadaloupe.

Leave a comment

Filed under Latin American authors, Literary Fiction, magic realism

Like Water for Chocolate

Who: Laura Esquivel
You miss Mexico and you’re not on a diet
Where: beach, mountains, and all points in between
Why: An appetizing approach, using recipes to tell the story, plus warm, memorable characters. I watched the movie after reading the book, and I don’t know how anyone could follow it without reading the book first. Read it, even if you’ve seen the movie!

Leave a comment

Filed under Latin American authors, magic realism