I’m proud and honored to be among the talented Puerto Rican writers on the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Centro Voices list, ‘Essential Boricua Reading for the 2015 Holiday Season’.
Boricua – From the Taíno Indian name for Puerto Rico, Borinquen, Boricuas were the natives who lived in what is known today as Puerto Rico. Boricua means “Brave and noble lord”. Borinquen means “Land of the brave and noble lords”. A Boricua is a Puerto Rican or a person of Puerto Rican descent.
‘A Decent Woman’ is listed under Fiction.
With the holiday season approaching, and after the success of our 2014 book list, we have put together another for books published in 2015 dealing with Puerto Ricans in the U.S., as well as in Puerto Rico. We’ve included books on history, society, culture, race, music, politics, sexuality, literary criticism, fiction and poetry, as well as children’s and young adult literature. Our list, of course, is not comprehensive, and we encourage readers to tell us about those that we missed. And by the way, that they are included here means that they were published, not that we are endorsing any.
We’ve divided the books into three major categories: Books about Puerto Ricans in the United States; Books about Puerto Rico; and Literature. Each category has subcategories by theme. Finally, you’ll also find some of the books published in 2014 that we missed. In making the selection for the first two categories (Books about Puerto Ricans in the United States and Books about Puerto Rico) we’ve only included books published by academics in academic publishers or in commercial publishers of academic books. We’ve not selected self-publshed books.
All the books are available from local libraries, major internet vendors, or you can ask your local brick-and-mortar bookstore to order them. Wherever possible each title has an active link to the publisher’s page on the book. There is also a short description of the book, as it appears on the publisher’s webpage.
In compiling this list I want to thank Lena Burgos-Lafuente, Marithelma Costa, Marilisa Jiménez-García, Lawrence La Fountain Stokes and Richie Narvaez for their suggestions. They all contributed towards making the list more comprehensive.
We hope that the list piques your interest and that you enjoy your purchases!
BOOKS ABOUT PUERTO RICANS IN THE UNITED STATES
History, Migration, Culture and Social Conditions:
Caronan, Faye. 2015. Legitimizing Empire: Filipino American and U.S. Puerto Rican Cultural Critique. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. [ISBN: 978-0-252-08080-7]
“When the United States acquired the Philippines and Puerto Rico, it reconciled its status as an empire with its anticolonial roots by claiming that it would altruistically establish democratic institutions in its new colonies. Ever since, Filipino and Puerto Rican artists have challenged promises of benevolent assimilation, instead portraying U.S. imperialism as both self-interested and unexceptional among empires.
Faye Caronan’s examination interprets the pivotal engagement of novels, films, performance poetry, and other cultural productions as both symptoms of and resistance against American military, social, economic, and political incursions. Though the Philippines became an independent nation and Puerto Rico a U.S. commonwealth, both remain subordinate to the United States. Caronan’s juxtaposition reveals two different yet simultaneous models of U.S. neocolonial power and contradicts the myth of America as a reluctant empire that only accepts colonies for the benefit of the colonized. Her analysis, meanwhile, demonstrates how popular culture allows for alternative narratives of U.S. imperialism, but also functions to contain those alternatives.”
Findlay, Eileen J. Suárez 2015. We Are Left without a Father Here: Masculinity, Domesticity, and Migration in Postwar Puerto Rico. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. [ISBN: 978-0-8223-5782-7]
“We Are Left without a Father Here is a transnational history of working people’s struggles and a gendered analysis of populism and colonialism in mid-twentieth-century Puerto Rico. At its core are the thousands of agricultural workers who, at the behest of the Puerto Rican government, migrated to Michigan in 1950 to work in the state’s sugar beet fields… Chronicling the protests, the surprising alliances that they created, and the Puerto Rican government’s response, Eileen J. Suárez Findlay explains that notions of fatherhood and domesticity were central to Puerto Rican populist politics… Findlay argues that the motivations and strategies for transnational labor migrations, colonial policies, and worker solidarities are all deeply gendered.
McMains, Juliet E. 2015. Spinning Mambo into Salsa: Caribbean Dance in Global Context. New York: Oxford University Press. [ISBN: 978-019-93-2464-4]
“Arguably the world’s most popular partnered social dance form, salsa’s significance extends well beyond the Latino communities which gave birth to it. The growing international and cross-cultural appeal of this Latin dance form, which celebrates its mixed origins in the Caribbean and in Spanish Harlem, offers a rich site for examining issues of cultural hybridity and commodification in the context of global migration. Salsa consists of countless dance dialects enjoyed by varied communities in different locales. In short, there is not one dance called salsa, but many.
Spinning Mambo into Salsa, a history of salsa dance, focuses on its evolution in three major hubs for international commercial export-New York, Los Angeles, and Miami. The book examines how commercialized salsa dance in the 1990s departed from earlier practices of Latin dance, especially 1950s mambo. Topics covered include generational differences between Palladium Era mambo and modern salsa; mid-century antecedents to modern salsa in Cuba and Puerto Rico; tension between salsa as commercial vs. cultural practice; regional differences in New York, Los Angeles, and Miami; the role of the Web in salsa commerce; and adaptations of social Latin dance for stage performance.”
Wanzer-Serrano, Darrel. 2015. The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. [ISBN: 978-1-4399-1203-4]
“The Young Lords was a multi-ethnic, though primarily Nuyorican, liberation organization that formed in El Barrio (Spanish Harlem) in July of 1969. Responding to oppressive approaches to the health, educational, and political needs of the Puerto Rican community, the movement’s revolutionary activism included organized protests and sit-ins targeting such concerns as trash pickups and lead paint hazards. The Young Lords advanced a thirteen-point political program that demanded community control of their institutions and land and challenged the exercise of power by the state and outsider-run institutions.
In The New York Young Lords and the Struggle for Liberation, Darrel Wanzer-Serrano details the numerous community initiatives that advanced decolonial sensibilities in El Barrio and beyond. Using archival research and interviews, he crafts an engaging account of the Young Lords’ discourse and activism. He rescues the organization from historical obscurity and makes an argument for its continued relevance, enriching and informing contemporary discussions about Latino/a politics.”
Herrera, Brian Eugenio. 2015. Latin Numbers: Playing Latino in Twentieth-Century U.S. Popular Performance. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. [ISBN: 978-0-472-05264-6]
“Latin Numbers is a work of performance history, examining the way in which Latino actors on the twentieth-century stage and screen communicated and influenced American ideas about race and ethnicity. Brian Eugenio Herrera looks at how these performances and performers contributed to American popular understanding of Latinos as a distinct racial and ethnic group. His book tracks the conspicuously “Latin” musical number; the casting of Latino actors; the history of West Side Story; how Latina/o performers confront stereotypes; and the proliferation of the gay Latino character in the AIDS era. With a flair for storytelling and a unique ability to see the deeper meanings embedded in popular culture, Herrera creates a history that will appeal to popular culture enthusiasts, theater aficionados, and those interested in the cultural history of Latinos. The book will also delight readers interested in the memorable (and many of the lesser-known) Latino performances on stage and screen.” [Note: the analysis of the film West Side Story and of Puerto Rican performes looms large in this book.]
Márques Reiter, Rosina and Luis Martín Rojo, editors. 2015. Sociolinguistics of Diaspora: Latino Practices, Identities, and Ideologies. New York: Routledge. [ISBN-13: 978-0-4157-1299-6]
“This volume brings together scholars in sociolinguistics and the sociology of new media and mobile technologies who are working on different social and communicative aspects of the Latino diaspora. There is new interest in the ways in which migrants negotiate and renegotiate identities through their continued interactions with their own culture back home, in the host country, in similar diaspora elsewhere, and with the various “new” cultures of the receiving country. This collection focuses on two broad political and social contexts: the established Latino communities in urban settings in North America and newer Latin American communities in Europe and the Middle East. It explores the role of migration/diaspora in transforming linguistic practices, ideologies, and identities.” [Note: the book’s first two chapters analyze the linguistic situation and usages of Puerto Ricans—predominantly in Chicago.]
Pérez, Gina M. 2015. Citizen, Student, Soldier: Latina/o Youth, JROTC, and the American Dream. New York: New York University Press. [ISBN: 9781479807802]
“Since the 1990s, Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) programs have experienced unprecedented expansion in American public schools. The program and its proliferation in poor, urban schools districts with large numbers of Latina/o and African American students is not without controversy. Public support is often based on the belief that the program provides much-needed discipline for “at risk” youth. Meanwhile, critics of JROTC argue that the program is a recruiting tool for the U.S. military and is yet another example of an increasingly punitive climate that disproportionately affect youth of color in American public schools.
Citizen, Student, Soldier intervenes in these debates, providing critical ethnographic attention to understanding the motivations, aspirations, and experiences of students who participate in increasing numbers in JROTC programs. These students have complex reasons for their participation, reasons that challenge the reductive idea that they are either dangerous youths who need discipline or victims being exploited by a predatory program. Rather, their participation is informed by their marginal economic position in the local political economy, as well as their desire to be regarded as full citizens, both locally and nationally. Citizenship is one of the central concerns guiding the JROTC curriculum; this book explores ethnographically how students understand and enact different visions of citizenship and grounds these understandings in local and national political economic contexts. It also highlights the ideological, social and cultural conditions of Latina/o youth and their families who both participate in and are enmeshed in vigorous debates about citizenship, obligation, social opportunity, militarism and, ultimately, the American Dream.” [Note: the research for this book was done in a predominantly Puerto Rican high school in South Lorrain, Ohio.]
Quesada, Uriel, Letitia Gomez and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, editors. 2015. Queer Brown Voices. Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism. Austin: University of Texas Press. [ISBN: 978-1-4773-0730-4]
“In the last three decades of the twentieth century, LGBT Latinas/os faced several forms of discrimination. The greater Latino community did not often accept sexual minorities, and the mainstream LGBT movement expected everyone, regardless of their ethnic and racial background, to adhere to a specific set of priorities so as to accommodate a “unified” agenda. To disrupt the cycle of sexism, racism, and homophobia that they experienced, LGBT Latinas/os organized themselves on local, state, and national levels, forming communities in which they could fight for equal rights while simultaneously staying true to both their ethnic and sexual identities. Yet histories of LGBT activism in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s often reduce the role that Latinas/os played, resulting in misinformation, or ignore their work entirely, erasing them from history.
Queer Brown Voices is the first book published to counter this trend, documenting the efforts of some of these LGBT Latina/o activists. Comprising essays and oral history interviews that present the experiences of fourteen activists across the United States and in Puerto Rico, the book offers a new perspective on the history of LGBT mobilization and activism. The activists discuss subjects that shed light not only on the organizations they helped to create and operate, but also on their broad-ranging experiences of being racialized and discriminated against, fighting for access to health care during the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and struggling for awareness.”
BOOKS ABOUT PUERTO RICO
Amador, José A. 2015. Medicine and Nation Building in the Americas, 1890–1940. Nashville, TN: Vaderbilt University Press. [ISBN: 9780826520210]
“As medical science progressed through the nineteenth century, the United States was at the forefront of public health initiatives across the Americas. Dreadful sanitary conditions were relieved, lives were saved, and health care developed into a formidable institution throughout Latin America as doctors and bureaucrats from the United States flexed their scientific muscle. This wasn’t a purely altruistic enterprise, however, as Jose Amador reveals in Medicine and Nation Building in the Americas, 1890-1940. Rather, these efforts almost served as a precursor to modern American interventionism. For places like Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil, these initiatives were especially invasive.
Drawing on sources in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and the United States, Amador shows that initiatives launched in colonial settings laid the foundation for the rise of public health programs in the hemisphere and transformed debates about the formation of national culture. Writers rethought theories of environmental and racial danger, while Cuban reformers invoked the yellow fever campaign to exclude nonwhite immigrants. Puerto Rican peasants flooded hookworm treatment stations, and Brazilian sanitarians embraced regionalist and imperialist ideologies. Together, these groups illustrated that public health campaigns developed in the shadow of empire propelled new conflicts and conversations about achieving modernity and progress in the tropics.”
Baerga, María del Carmen. 2015. Negociaciones de sangre: dinámicas racializantes en el Puerto Rico decimonónico. Madrid/Frankfurt: Iberoamericana/Vervuet. [ISBN: 978-8-4848-9798-9]
“Negociaciones de Sangre analiza el complicado terreno de las concepciones raciales que circularon en la América decimonónica y su encarnación particular en el contexto puertorriqueño. Reflexiona sobre la categoría de raza en diálogo con fuentes documentales, tales como juicios de disenso, legitimaciones, enmiendas a partidas sacramentales y justificaciones de limpieza de sangre, entre otros. Teoriza lo racial como un proceso dinámico que construye diferencias esenciales entre individuos de ambos géneros. Concibe la raza como un proceso en lugar de un fenómeno estático, como usualmente se tiende a caracterizar.
Apartándose de la noción de universo racial triple (blanco/ negro/ pardo) que plantea la historiografía, este trabajo plantea que el proceso de racialización en el Puerto Rico del siglo XIX fue uno mucho más fluido, el cual se movía en gradaciones dentro de un continuo en el cual se no sólo se dirimía la pertenencia a la condición de blanco, pardo o negro, sino que además se ventilaban diferencias al interior de cada una de estas categorías. Argumenta que el ordenamiento racial que imperó en el Puerto Rico decimonónico fue uno de naturaleza ponderativa que sopesaba la multiplicidad de elementos que incidían en la “calidad” de una persona. Este diagnóstico tomaba lugar en un contexto en el que no existía consenso social en cuanto a los elementos esenciales que definían la diferencia racial. Frecuentemente las evaluaciones realizadas eran impugnadas y, en algunos casos, modificadas. De ahí, que la condición racial de las personas no era algo que se fijase el momento del nacimiento o que quedara inscrito en el acta de bautismo, sino que podía transformarse a través de la vida de un individuo.”
Lee-Borges, José. 2015. Los chinos en Puerto Rico. San Juan: Editorial Callejón.
“Esta es una mirada inteligente y sentida de lo que significó ser chino en Puerto Rico, a partir de la desgarradora y forzosa inmigración en el siglo XIX de los presos chinos que llegaron de Cuba, hasta el duro presente. En la páginas de José Lee, los chinos de ayer los enraizados de hoy no son exóticos karatecas innatos, ni comen perros ni gatos, sino gentes capaces de practicar la disciplina, el sacrificio, la responsabilidad y la solidaridad como el resto de los cristianos. Créanme, esto no es un cuento chino más, sino el rescate de otra pieza genuina del acertijo colonial.”
Ortiz Carrión, José Alejandro, con Teresita Torres Rivera. 2015. Voluntarios de la libertad. Puertorriqueños en defensa de la República Española 1936–1939. San Juan: Ediciones Callejón. [ISBN: 978-1615051618]
“La historia y los relatos sobre la Guerra Civil Española (1936-1939) siguen causando fascinación. Considerada por muchos como la antesala de la Segunda Guerra Mundial; en ella, el tema de los voluntarios internacionales de la libertad, una de las manifestaciones de solidaridad internacional más formidable del siglo XX, sigue provocando investigaciones y publicaciones en autores de Europa y América. Jóvenes antifascistas de hasta 54 países combatieron a los militares sublevados en las primeras columnas milicianas, en las Brigadas Mixtas Españolas y en las legendarias Brigadas Internacionales. Consideraron la agresión al gobierno electo de la República Española una amenaza de intervención e imposición abierta de las dictaduras en Europa y América. Así, estos voluntarios internacionales se convirtieron en los primeros combatientes contra el fascismo en la década de los 30. El autor sigue la trayectoria de 73 puertorriqueños que participaron como voluntarios en defensa de la República Española en calidad de oficiales militares, milicianos, brigadistas, corresponsales combatientes y comisarios de propaganda en el Ejército Popular de la República. Otros participaron como médicos, voluntarios de acción social en la retaguardia y oficiales gubernativos. El relato de Ortiz Carrión, incorpora datos de los sucesos de la guerra como los vivieron estos puertorriqueños, recogidos a través de sus testimonios o de testigos de la contienda. Algunos ofrendaron heroicamente sus vidas y sus restos descansan en los campos de batalla de España; otros fueron prisioneros en campos de concentración franquistas o en los campos de refugiados en Francia. Un buen grupo regresó a Puerto Rico y a Nueva York, y otros tuvieron que exiliarse en la República Dominicana y en México.” [Note: the book relates how half of all the Puerto Rican volunteers hailed from New York.]
Rodríguez Beruff, Jorge y José Bolivar Fresneda, editores. 2015. Puerto Rico en la Segunda Guerra Mundial: el escenario regional. San Juan: Ediciones Callejón.
“Hemos subtitulado esta segunda parte El escenario regional, el cual es analizado en los seis primeros ensayos sobre el Caribe colonial británico, el francés, cuba, la isla de La Española y el papel regional de Puerto Rico. Este volumen también explora nuevos ángulos del impacto de la guerra en Puerto Rico en la sección “Guerra y sociedad”; le presta particular atención a la experiencia de los militares puertorriqueños que participaron en el conflicto y se acerca a diversos aspectos de la cultura, en las secciones subsiguientes. Como ha señalado el historiador británico, Edward Hallet Carr, nunca hay historia definitiva. Esta obra no pretende serlo. Pero, a través de los 17 ensayos de este volumen que tratan temas novedosos —como el papel de la Falange Española, la participación de las mujeres, la guerra aérea contra civiles o el impacto en la arquitectura y la construcción— se muestran los logros de un notable movimiento de investigación en que participan académicos de diversas generaciones y disciplinas. Aunque puedan faltar por colocar algunas piezas e el rompecabezas, estos ensayos, tomados en conjunto co los de la primera parte, nos permiten construir una imagen compleja abierta sobre un evento mundial de grandes y diversas repercusiones para el país y la región.”
Stark, David M. 2015. Slave Families and the Hato Economy in Puerto Rico. Gainesville: University Press of Florida. [ISBN: 978-0-8130-6043-9]
“Scholarship on slavery in the Caribbean frequently emphasizes sugar and tobacco production, but this unique work illustrates the importance of the region’s hato economy–a combination of livestock ranching, foodstuff cultivation, and timber harvesting–on the living patterns among slave communities.
David Stark makes use of extensive Catholic parish records to provide a comprehensive examination of slavery in Puerto Rico and across the Spanish Caribbean. He reconstructs slave families to examine incidences of marriage, as well as birth and death rates. The result are never-before-analyzed details on how many enslaved Africans came to Puerto Rico, where they came from, and how their populations grew through natural increase. Stark convincingly argues that when animal husbandry drove much of the island’s economy, slavery was less harsh than in better-known plantation regimes geared toward crop cultivation. Slaves in the hato economy experienced more favorable conditions for family formation, relatively relaxed work regimes, higher fertility rates, and lower mortality rates.”
Culture, Music, Politics, Identity and Literary criticism:
Colón Montijo, César. Compilador. 2015. Cocinando suave: ensayos de salsa en Puerto Rico. Caracas: Fundación Editorial el perro y la rana. [ISBN: 978-980-14-2950-0]
“Se vale de la metáfora culinaria tan presente en la salsa para juntar a críticos, académicos, poetas, músicos, periodistas, cronistas y fotógrafos puertoriqueños en una compilación compuesta por 18 textos que exploran mediante géneros como el ensayo, la crónica y la fotografía los más diversos e interesantes aspectos del ritmo que definió y aun define nuestro ser caribeño y latinoamericano: La muerte y sobrevivencia de la salsa; los vínculos de la industria musical salsera con el narcotráfico; el monopolio y discriminación que ejerció Fania Records; las vivencias de las leyendas de la salsa con las drogas, la cárcel, dios y la cuestión de género; el ethos de los soneros mayores y menores, así como también su impacto en nuestra cultura; los ritmos que influyeron y fueron dando forma, color y contenido a la salsa; la subjetividad y experiencia de los agentes que viven por y para este ritmo son algunos de los ingredientes con los que César Colón Montijo cocino este guiso sabroso tanto al paladar de los especialista como de los aficionados.”
Cortés, Jason. 2014. Macho Ethics: Masculinity and Self-Representation in Latino-Caribbean Narrative. Bucknell University Press. [ISBN 978-1-6114-8637-7]
“Masculinity is not a monolithic phenomenon, but a historically discontinuous one – a fabrication as it were, of given cultural circumstances. Because of its opacity and instability, masculinity, like more recognizable systems of oppression, resists discernibility. In Macho Ethics: Masculinity and Self-Representation in Latino-Caribbean Narrative, Jason Cortés seeks to reveal the inner workings of masculinity in the narrative prose of four major Caribbean authors: the Cuban Severo Sarduy; the Dominican American Junot Díaz; and the Puerto Ricans Luis Rafael Sánchez and Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá. By exploring the relationship between ethics and authority, the legacies of colonial violence, the figure of the dictator, the macho, and the dandy, the logic of the Archive, the presence of Oscar Wilde, and notions of trauma and mourning,Macho Ethics fills a gap surrounding issues of power and masculinity within the Caribbean context, and draws attention to what frequently remains invisible and unspoken.”
Domínguez-Rosado, Brenda. 2015. The Unlinking of Language and Puerto Rican Identity: New Trends in Sight. Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing. [ISBN: 978-1-4438-8060-2]
“Language and identity have an undeniable link, but what happens when a second language is imposed on a populace? Can a link be broken or transformed? Are the attitudes towards the imposed language influential? Can these attitudes change over time? The mixed-methods results provided by this book are ground-breaking because they document how historical and traditional attitudes are changing towards both American English (AE) and Puerto Rican Spanish (PRS) on an island where the population has been subjected to both Spanish and US colonization. There are presently almost four million people living in Puerto Rico, while the Puerto Rican diaspora has surpassed it with more than this living in the United States alone. Because of this, many members of the diaspora no longer speak PRS, yet consider themselves to be Puerto Rican. Traditional stances against people who do not live on the island or speak the predominant language (PRS) yet wish to identify themselves as Puerto Rican have historically led to prejudice and strained relationships between people of Puerto Rican ancestry. The sample study provided here shows that there is not only a change in attitude towards the traditional link between PRS and Puerto Rican identity (leading to the inclusion of diasporic Puerto Ricans), but also a wider acceptance of the English language itself on this Caribbean island.”
Font-Guzmán, Jacqueline. 2015. Experiencing Puerto Rican Citizenship and Cultural Nationalism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. [ISBN: 978-1-1374-5522-2]
“Puerto Ricans experience their citizenship and cultural nationalism within the context of an unincorporated territory in which they have limited participation in the legal framework devised to govern them. Drawing from in-depth interviews with a group of Puerto Ricans who requested a certificate of Puerto Rican citizenship, legal and historical documents, and official reports not publicly accessible, Jacqueline N. Font-Guzmán shares how some Puerto Ricans construct and experience their citizenship and national identity at the margins of the US nation. The narratives shared in this book help us understand how citizenship construction can assert cultural national identity within colonial relationships. Moreover, discussing Puerto Rican identity as a necessity calls into the spotlight a discussion of the identity of U.S. citizens. What does it mean for a U.S. citizen to be seen as the ‘Other’?”
Gelpí, Juan, Marta Aponte Alsina y Malena Rodríguez, eds. 2015. Escrituras en contrapunto: estudios y debates para una historia crítica de la literatura puertorriqueña. San Juan: Editorial de la Universidad de Puerto Rico. [ISBN : 970-8-4773-176-3]
“Este volumen toca algunas salientes de un proceso literario, desde los primeros libros impresos en Puerto Rico en el Siglo XIX hasta la literatura más cercana en el tiempo. Su naturaleza dialógica y diversa en lo que a autoría se refiere, apunta a una multiplicidad de intérpretes y lecturas que destacan la complejidad de la trayectoria de las letras puertorriqueñas y operan a partir de ese carácter complejo. Contra la fijeza y linealidad de la escritura como cosa acabada, preterida, oponemos la fugacidad y simultaneidad de la música, su vibrante actualidad y mutabilidad, su capacidad polifónica.”
Godreau, Isar P. 2015. Scripts of Blackness: Race, Cultural Nationalism, and U.S. Colonialism in Puerto Rico. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. [ISBN: 978-0-252-08045-6]
“The geopolitical influence of the United States informs the processes of racialization in Puerto Rico, including the construction of black places. In Scripts of Blackness, Isar P. Godreau explores how Puerto Rican national discourses about race–created to overcome U.S. colonial power–simultaneously privilege whiteness, typecast blackness, and silence charges of racism.
Based on an ethnographic study of the barrio of San Antón in the city of Ponce, Scripts of Blackness examines institutional and local representations of blackness as developing from a power-laden process that is inherently selective and political, not neutral or natural. Godreau traces the presumed benevolence or triviality of slavery in Puerto Rico, the favoring of a Spanish colonial whiteness (under a hispanophile discourse), and the insistence on a harmonious race mixture as discourses that thrive on a presumed contrast with the United States that also characterize Puerto Rico as morally superior. In so doing, she outlines the debates, social hierarchies, and colonial discourses that inform the racialization of San Antón and its residents as black.
Mining ethnographic materials and anthropological and historical research, Scripts of Blackness provides powerful insights into the critical political, economic, and historical context behind the strategic deployment of blackness, whiteness, and racial mixture.”
Noya, Elsa. 2015. Canibalizar la biblioteca. Debates del campo literario y cultural puertorriqueño (1990-2002). San Juan: Ediciones Callejón. [ISBN: 978-1-6150-5175-5]
“Vividos con una gran intensidad, el debate de la posmodernidad y la renovación narrativa de la última década del siglo XX no habían generado, hasta este libro, un estudio abarcador y sistemático de esa coyuntura en la cual se produjeron diversas tensiones y no pocas disputas en el campo literario y cultural de Puerto Rico. Elsa Noya, autora de Leer la patria: estudios y reflexiones sobre escrituras puertorriqueñas (2004), así como profesora e investigadora de la Universidad de Buenos Aires, nos entrega una obra crítica sumamente valiosa que abarca una multiplicidad de aspectos relacionados con ese momento: desde la repercusión de las nuevas reflexiones teóricas hasta las posibilidades de leer de otro modo, en un diálogo fértil, las revistas culturales y la literatura. La autora trasciende los binarismos que, con frecuencia, pueblan y dan vida a los debates culturales al intervenir con verdadero tino crítico, a la vez que cuestiona los planteamientos y las simetrías de quienes en ellos polemizan. Con un fervor solidario, esta estudiosa latinoamericana lee la compleja malla cultural de un país al que le ha dedicado años de docencia e investigación. Desplegando una solvencia metodológica admirable, se adentra, por ejemplo, en el estudio cuidadoso de las revistas culturales del fin de siglo, Bordes, Nómada y Posdata, y, de igual modo, en las nuevas articulaciones de la narrativa de fin de siglo. Este libro es lectura imprescindible para quienes se interesan por los procesos culturales y literarios de Puerto Rico.”
Quintero Rivera, Ángel G. 2015. ¡Saoco Salsero! O el swing del soneo del Sonero Mayor. Sociología urbana de la memoria del ritmo. Caracas: Fundación Editorial el perro y la rana. [ISBN: 978-980-14-2949-4]
“Cuando el melao de Ismael Rivera empezó a resonar por allá por 1954, junto a Cortijo y su combo, Puerto Rico cambió. Negros y mulatos se apoderaron del Show business (lo menos importante) y de cierta forma de la identidad boricua. Fue allí cuando el ritmo de la bomba y la plena invadieron la televisión y permearon, con su irreverente cadencia, los espacios de la cultura y las formas de hacer música en el Caribe. En este apasionante y minucioso estudio el autor hurga en los resortes sociales que eyectaron ese fenómeno que fue Ismael Rivera con Rafael Cortijo y su combo, y todo lo que ello representó y representa. Y asimismo se detendrá con deleite de orfebre a analizar los soneos del gran Maelo, para contarnos un poco cómo fue que este monstruo, con la dulzura de su discurso sonero, se hizo acreedor del título de Sonero Mayor. Sean estas páginas una nueva y hermosa excusa para celebrar la música del Caribe.”
Reyes Santos, Alaí. 2015. Our Caribbean Kin: Race and Nation in the Neoliberal Antilles. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press. [ISBN: 978-0-8135-7199-7]
“Beset by the forces of European colonialism, US imperialism, and neoliberalism, the people of the Antilles have had good reasons to band together politically and economically, yet not all Dominicans, Haitians, and Puerto Ricans have heeded the calls for collective action. So what has determined whether Antillean solidarity movements fail or succeed? In this comprehensive new study, Alaí Reyes-Santos argues that the crucial factor has been the extent to which Dominicans, Haitians, and Puerto Ricans imagine each other as kin.
Our Caribbean Kin considers three key moments in the region’s history: the nineteenth century, when the antillanismo movement sought to throw off the yoke of colonial occupation; the 1930s, at the height of the region’s struggles with US imperialism; and the past thirty years, as neoliberal economic and social policies have encroached upon the islands. At each moment, the book demonstrates, specific tropes of brotherhood, marriage, and lineage have been mobilized to construct political kinship among Antilleans, while racist and xenophobic discourses have made it difficult for them to imagine themselves as part of one big family.
Recognizing the wide array of contexts in which Antilleans learn to affirm or deny kinship, Reyes-Santos draws from a vast archive of media, including everything from canonical novels to political tracts, historical newspapers to online forums, sociological texts to local jokes. Along the way, she uncovers the conflicts, secrets, and internal hierarchies that characterize kin relations among Antilleans, but she also discovers how they have used notions of kinship to create cohesion across differences.”
Rivera-Rideau, Petra. 2015. Remixing Reggaetón: The Cultural Politics of Race in Puerto Rico. Durham, NC: Duke Univeristy Press. [ISBN: 978-0-8223-5964-7]
“Puerto Rico is often depicted as a “racial democracy” in which a history of race mixture has produced a racially harmonious society. In Remixing Reggaetón, Petra R. Rivera-Rideau shows how reggaetón musicians critique racial democracy’s privileging of whiteness and concealment of racism by expressing identities that center blackness and African diasporic belonging. Stars such as Tego Calderón criticize the Puerto Rican mainstream’s tendency to praise black culture but neglecting and marginalizing the island’s black population, while Ivy Queen, the genre’s most visible woman, disrupts the associations between whiteness and respectability that support official discourses of racial democracy. From censorship campaigns on the island that sought to devalue reggaetón, to its subsequent mass marketing to U.S. Latino listeners, Rivera-Rideau traces reggaetón’s origins and its transformation from the music of San Juan’s slums into a global pop phenomenon. Reggaetón, she demonstrates, provides a language to speak about the black presence in Puerto Rico and a way to build links between the island and the African diaspora.”
Rodríguez, Héctor “Abatal”. 2015. Arsenio Rodríguez: padre de la salsa en Puerto Rico. San Juan: Ediciones Callejón. [ISBN: 978-1-6150-5181-6]
“Para muchos melómanos y estudiosos de la música popular caribeña y latinoamericana, el género de la salsa contiene entre sus ingredientes esenciales la valiosa aportación rítmica y melódica del conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez “El Cieguito Maravilloso”. Mucho se ha escrito en torno a sus aciertos musicales y su influencia en tantas orquestas que adoptarían el estridente sonido urbano de lo que después se conocería como la Salsa. Lo que no se había estudiado ni documentado hasta ahora, es la estrecha relación que guardó el virtuoso tresista y compositor cubano con tantos músicos puertorriqueños en la urbe neoyorquina, así como sus estrechos lazos e influencias en la Isla, donde vivió una temporada y se presentó en las principales salas de baile junto a los mejores músicos del Patio. El autor se dio a la ardua tarea de rastrear esta información dispersa en múltiples fuentes primarias, incluyendo entrevistas que le hizo a ex miembros del Conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez, para contestar algunas preguntas necesarias: ¿Qué músicos boricuas integraron el Conjunto de Arsenio Rodríguez? ¿Qué canciones le compuso a Puerto Rico o fueron inspiradas por situaciones vividas en la Isla o en el barrio puertorriqueño de Nueva York? ¿Qué artistas nuestros grabaron cuáles temas suyos? Una valiosa aportación al estudio de nuestra música popular, así como al de las figuras cimeras del género salsero.”
Memoirs and Chronicles:
Manzano, Sonia. 2015. Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx. New York: Scholastic Press. [ISBN: 978-0545621847]
“Set in the 1950s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving–and troubled. This is Sonia’s own story rendered with an unforgettable narrative power. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But–click!–when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real-life–the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia’s dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times. Spiced with culture, heartache, and humor, this memoir paints a lasting portrait of a girl’s resilience as she grows up to become an inspiration to millions.”
Nieto, Sonia. 2015. Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press. [ISBN: 978-1-61250-856-6]
“In Brooklyn Dreams, Sonia Nieto—one of the leading authors and teachers in the field of multicultural education—looks back on her formative experiences as a student, activist, and educator, and shows how they reflect and illuminate the themes of her life’s work.
Nieto offers a poignant account of her childhood and the complexities of navigating the boundaries between the rich culture of her working-class Puerto Rican family and the world of school. Brooklyn Dreams also chronicles her experiences as a fledgling teacher at the first bilingual public school in New York City—in the midst of the Ocean Hill-Brownsville strike—and the heady days of activism during the founding of the bilingual education program at Brooklyn College and later in establishing and running an alternative multicultural school in Amherst, Massachusetts.
Along the way, Nieto reflects on the ideas and individuals who influenced her work, from Jonathan Kozol to Paulo Freire, and talks frankly about the limits of activism, the failures of school reform, and the joys and challenges of working with preservice and in-service educators to deepen their appreciation of diversity.
Brooklyn Dreams is an intimate account of an educator’s life lived with zest, generosity, and warmth.”
Rivera McKinley, Victoria. 2015. In Search of the Luminous Heart: From the Mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico to the Mountains of Crestone, Colorado. Airesford, UK: O-Books. [ISBN: 978-1-78279-899]
“Beginning with her family’s origins as tenant farmers in the mountains of Puerto Rico at the turn of the nineteenth century, Victoria Rivera Mckinley leads readers through dramatic and painful events, which in spite of psychological explanations, add up to experiences that are much larger.
Against a historical backdrop of Puerto Rico’s changing culture, she shows how a family of ten children survive and learn to look out for one another. This is a success story, but not simply because the author leaves Puerto Rico and becomes a psychotherapist in America. Rivera McKinley offers an extraordinary perspective that finds truth in how each person lives experience in his or her own way. Her own journey ends in the Rocky Mountains, where Buddhist teachings offer her a spiritual and philosophical framework with which to understand her life. In Search of the Luminous Heart is a deep and unusual look at adversity and belies terms like “dysfunctional” for family. Here, generosity of spirit is the key to survival. The family endures by using intelligence, compassion, and accepting lives that have the real taste of tears, blood, songs, and prayers.”
Rodríguez Julia, Edgardo. 2015. Breve crónica de mi tiempo urbano. San Juan: Ediciones Callejón. [ISBN: 978-1-6150-5180-9]
“Breve historia de mi tiempo urbano contiene mi “cruce” rural o, si se quiere, personal “intersección” metropolitana. Guaynabo City Blues fue el intento por describir, mediante la crónica urbana y el periodismo cultural, lo casi indescifrable, esas figuraciones de suburbia U.S.A. trasladadas al trópico de anchas avenidas, viaductos, calles llamadas marginales e intersecciones con puentes y desvíos en forma de trébol, pero que también colindan con barrios y barriadas, el arrabal y su variante en cemento llamado caserío, los mal/s, nuestra ciudad fugada para siempre. La barroca cocina nicaragüense es una crónica gastronómica que a la vez evoca los espacios pueblerinos que muchos perdimos en la infancia. La banda sonora de mi antillanía bien marca nuestro tránsito de la vellonera de cafetín pueblerino al tocadiscos “hi fi” colocado con reverencia en la sala de la casa de urbanización. Finalmente, en este libro testimoniamos la ambición citadina que recorre nuestra literatura.”
Colón, Ángel Luis. 2015. The Fury of the Blacky Jaguar. Charleston, WV: One Eye Press. [ISBN: 978-0-6924-7016-9]
“Blacky Jaguar ex-IRA hard man, devoted greaser, and overall hooligan, is furious. Someone’s made off with Polly, his 1959 Plymouth Fury, and there’s not much that can stop him from getting her back. It doesn t take him to long to get a name, Osito, the Little Bear. This career bastard has Polly in his clutches, and Blacky doesn’t have long until she’s a memory. The sudden burst of righteous violence gets the attention of Special Agent Linda Chen, FBI pariah and Blacky’s former flame. Linda’s out to get her man before he burns down half the Bronx and her superiors get the collar. All roads will lead our heroes to an unassuming house in one of the worst parts of the South Bronx, where fists and bullets will surely fly, but maybe, just maybe, Blacky will find a better reason to fight than a car. The Fury of Blacky Jaguar is the story of friends, enemies, and one sweet ass ride.”
Marcantoni, Jonathan. 2015. 2015. Kings of 7th Avenue. Castroville, TX: Black Rose Writing. [ISBN: 978-1612965598]
“Kings of 7th Avenue is set in the beautiful city of Tampa, where there is a dark side that preys on women, and nowhere is that more evident than at the Gasparilla Knight Parade, where the story reaches its climax. KINGS is the story of two couples, who are friends and partners in a new club in Tampa. Tony and Layla are two lonely people who become soul mates, and their love helps them deal with dysfunctional families and boosts them to success. Meanwhile, Lou and Ana are the perfect couple, a true picture of success, but underneath there is an abusive marriage that will destroy them and those around them.”
Older, Daniel José. 2015. Half-Resurrection Blues: A Bone Street Rumba Novel. New York: Roc. [ISBN: 978-0-4252-7598-6]
“Carlos Delacruz is one of the New York Council of the Dead’s most unusual agents—an inbetweener, partially resurrected from a death he barely recalls suffering, after a life that’s missing from his memory. He thinks he is one of a kind—until he encounters other entities walking the fine line between life and death.
One inbetweener is a sorcerer. He’s summoned a horde of implike ngks capable of eliminating spirits, and they’re spreading through the city like a plague. They’ve already taken out some of NYCOD’s finest, leaving Carlos desperate to stop their master before he opens up the entrada to the Underworld—which would destroy the balance between the living and the dead.
But in uncovering this man’s identity, Carlos confronts the truth of his own life—and death.…”
Ortiz Cofer, Judith. 2015. The Cruel Country. Athens: The University of Georgia Press. [ISBN: 978-0-8203-4763-9]
“I am learning the alchemy of grief—how it must be carefully measured and doled out, inflicted—but I have not yet mastered this art,” writes Judith Ortiz Cofer in The Cruel Country. This richly textured, deeply moving, lyrical memoir centers on Cofer’s return to her native Puerto Rico after her mother has been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.
Cofer’s work has always drawn strength from her life’s contradictions and dualities, such as the necessities and demands of both English and Spanish, her travels between and within various mainland and island subcultures, and the challenges of being a Latina living in the U.S. South. Interlaced with these far-from-common tensions are dualities we all share: our lives as both sacred and profane, our negotiation of both child and adult roles, our desires to be the person who belongs and also the person who is different.
What we discover in The Cruel Country is how much Cofer has heretofore held back in her vivid and compelling writing. This journey to her mother’s deathbed has released her to tell the truth within the truth. She arrives at her mother’s bedside as a daughter overcome by grief, but she navigates this cruel country as a writer—an acute observer of detail, a relentless and insistent questioner.”
Parker Sapia, Eleanor. 2015. A Decent Woman. Seattle: Booktrope Editors.
“Ponce, Puerto Rico, at the turn of the century: Ana Belén Opaku, an Afro-Cuban born into slavery, is a proud midwife with a tempestuous past. After testifying at an infanticide trial, Ana is forced to reveal a dark secret from her past, but continues to hide an even more sinister one. Pitted against the parish priest, Padre Vicénte, and young Doctór Héctor Rivera, Ana must battle to preserve her twenty-five year career as the only midwife in La Playa.
Serafina is a respectable young widow with two small children, who marries an older, wealthy merchant from a distinguished family. A crime against Serafina during her last pregnancy forever bonds her to Ana in an ill-conceived plan to avoid a scandal and preserve Serafina’s honor.
Set against the combustive backdrop of a chauvinistic society, where women are treated as possessions, A Decent Woman is the provocative story of these two women as they battle for their dignity and for love against the pain of betrayal and social change.”
Santos-Febres, Mayra. 2015. El exilio de los asesinos y otras historias de amor. NP: La Pereza Ediciones Corporation.
“Los cuentos que componen El exilio de los asesinos y otras historias de amor, vienen cargados de toda la dureza que supone el sobrevivir, no ya en una tierra ajena, sino peor, en una realidad extraña y sin sentido. No hay en El exilio… finales felices, como en la vida casi nunca los hay. Los personajes van a la deriva, dando tumbos entre torpes decisiones y consecuencias anunciadas, previsibles.”
Santos-Febres, Mayra. 2015. La amante de Gradel. México, DF: Planeta. [ISBN: 978-6-0707-3002-3]
“1935. La llegada de Gardel a Puerto Rico causa un sorprendente revuelo. El Zorzal Criollo enamora a los isleños con su cálida y melancólica voz hasta que su exitosa gira se ve interrumpida por un intempestivo problema de salud. El azar caprichoso elige a Micaela Thorné, una mujer negra descendiente de una estirpe milenaria de curanderas, como la encargada de velar amorosamente por sus cuidados. Durante los veintisiete días que quedan recluidos en la habitación de hotel, vivirán un intenso y fogoso romance. Micaela quedará rendida ante los encantos de un hombre que le cuenta sobre mundos que ella desconoce: le habla con la misma pasión que vuelca en sus tangos sobre la verdad de sus orígenes, su vida en Nueva York, sus ascensos y descensos en la consolidación de su fama.”
Varela, Theresa. 2015. Nights of Indigo Blue: A Daisy Muñiz Mystery. Honolulu: Aignos Publishing. [ISBN: 978-0990432296]
“Daisy Muñiz is ready to embrace a fresh new start in her brownstone apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, when she is thrust into the midst of the mysterious murder of Windsor Medical Center’s most prominent surgeon, Arthur Campbell. As the secrets of the Campbell family are revealed, Daisy is forced to delve into her own troubled past and she becomes the unwitting ally to Detective David Rodriguez.”
David, El, editor. 2015. The BX Files: Contemporary Poetry from the Bronx. New York: ELKAT. [ISBN: 978-1-5177-5646-8]
“Contemporary poetry and prose from some of the most prominent Bronx, NY poets and writers.”
Ferrer, Josephina, 2015. Para Cuando Te Pierdas. New York: FlutterHorse / ShutterPlum. [ISBN: 978-1-3125-5218-0]
“Poemas para hacerte sonrier, superar, derramar y recordar de que direccion viniste. Los poemas de Josephina Ferrer.”
Flores, Juan and Pedro López Adorno, editors. 2015. Pedro Pietri: Selected Poetry. San Francisco: City Lights Books. [ISBN: 978-0-87286-656-0]
“Pedro Pietri’s often playfully absurd poems chronicle the joys and struggles of Nuyoricans—urban Puerto Ricans whose lives straddle the islands of Puerto Rico and Manhattan—and define the Latino experience in urban America. By turns angry, heartbreaking, and hopeful, his writings are imbued with a sense of pride and nationalism and were embraced by the generation of Latino poets that followed him. Pedro Pietri: Selected Poetry gathers the most enduring and treasured work among his published books, Puerto Rican Obituary, Traffic Violations, and Out of Order—and contains a generous selection of his previously unpublished works.”
Noel, Urayoán. 2015. Buzzing Hemisphere/ Rumor hemisférico. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. [ISBN: 978-0-8165-3168-4]
“Is poetry an alternative to or an extension of a globalized language? In Buzzing Hemisphere / Rumor Hemisférico, poet Urayoán Noel maps the spaces between and across languages, cities, and bodies, creating a hemispheric poetics that is both broadly geopolitical and intimately neurological.
In this expansive collection, we hear the noise of cities such as New York, San Juan, and São Paulo abuzz with flickering bodies and the rush of vernaculars as untranslatable as the murmur in the Spanish rumor. Oscillating between baroque textuality and vernacular performance, Noel’s bilingual poems experiment with eccentric self-translation, often blurring the line between original and translation as a way to question language hierarchies and allow for translingual experiences.
A number of the poems and self-translations here were composed on a smartphone, or else de- and re-composed with a variety of smartphone apps and tools, in an effort to investigate the promise and pitfalls of digital vernaculars. Noel’s poetics of performative self-translation operates not only across languages and cultures but also across forms: from the décima and the “staircase sonnet” to the collage, the abecedarian poem, and the performance poem.
In its playful and irreverent mash-up of voices and poetic traditions from across the Americas, Buzzing Hemisphere / Rumor Hemisférico imagines an alternative to the monolingualism of the U.S. literary and political landscape, and proposes a geo-neuro-political performance attuned to damaged or marginalized forms of knowledge, perception, and identity.”
Ramos, Rubén. 2015. Ultramar. San Juan: ICP.
“Como en los versos de Juan Manuel Roca en los que la poesía multiplica la esencia del referente enunciado, así, Ultramar, del poeta puertorriqueño Rubén Ramos, nos presenta el paisaje marino como un inmenso espejo donde “los mangles estiran el bosque/ van pariendo tierra.” Con una sensibilidad atisbada de principios barthesianos, ciertas imágenes del libro interpelan la conciencia afectiva para recuperar las fotografías del pasado porque “Recordar es archipiélago de saltos”. Es precisamente en ese escenario-políptico donde emergen las imágenes de una ascendencia desconocida, el abrazo/país de una familia inmediata y también, “…tierras nuevas/ que brotan de uno mismo”, hasta completar un panorama inaprensible, siempre líquido, que viene y va, entre un sentido de pertenencia y comunidad, pues “¿será que todos somos mar?”, y una tendencia de escape, de gusto por la soledad y la introspección creativa que “se hace de playas por su vocación.”
Vásquez, Lourdes. 2015. She Was So Naked. Trans. Enriqueta Carrington. Premonition. [ISBN: 978-0-6923-5297-7]
“I relive the life we had together,/when we imagined the possible,” on the one hand. On the other: “the lullaby of that machine opened its pores” and “the open backbone of memory.” Which is to say: throughout this poemario, Lourdes Vázquez, at the height of her powers, plays the whole spectrum of her instrument—from an unflinching, evocative discursiveness, to an idiosyncratic poetics of metaphor, but always with her signature flourish.”
Children and Young Adults:
Canady, Marjuan. 2015. Callalo: The Legend of the Golden Coquí. Illustrated by Nabeeh Bilal. Washington, DC: Sepia Works.
“In this story, Winston and his pal Marisol travel to the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico to unlock the mystery of the Golden Coqui. Legend has it that the Golden Coqui is trapped in the depths of the El Yunque Rain Forest and can only be freed by a special person. Who is this person? and will they be able to overcome the challenges to free the Golden Coqui, or will he be lost forever?”
Older, Daniel José. 2015. Shadowshaper. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. [ISBN: 978-0-545-59161-4]
“Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes the first party of the season. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.
With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a thrilling magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one — and the killer believes Sierra is hiding their greatest secret. Now she must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.
Full of a joyful, defiant spirit and writing as luscious as a Brooklyn summer night, Shadowshaper introduces a heroine and magic unlike anything else in fantasy fiction, and marks the YA debut of a bold new voice.”
Ortiz, Raquel M. 2015. Sofi and the Magic, Musical Mural / Sofi y el mágico mural musical. Illustrated by Maria Dominguez. Spanish-language translation by Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Houston: Arte Público Press. [ISBN:978-1-55885-803-9]
“When Sofi walks through her barrio to the local store, she always passes a huge mural with images from Puerto Rico: musicians, dancers, tropical flowers and—her least favorite—a vejigante, a character from carnival that wears a scary mask.
One day on her way home from the bodega, she stops in front of the mural. Is one of the dancers inviting her to be his partner? “Okay, let’s dance,” Sofi giggles, and suddenly she’s in Old San Juan, surrounded by dancers and musicians playing bongos, tambourines and güiros. She begins to dance and sing with her new friends, but her pleasure turns to fear when the vejigante—wearing a black jumper with yellow fringe and a red, three-horned mask—spins her around and around! What does he want from her? How can she get away?
This story about an imaginative girl and a magical mural is an engaging exploration of Puerto Rico’s cultural traditions as well as an ode to public art and the community it depicts. Featuring Maria Dominguez’s lovingly rendered, colorful illustrations, this bilingual picture book introduces the topic of community art to children ages 4 to 8. After reading this book, children—and some adults too—will want to make and share their own artistic creations!”
Ortiz, Raquel M. 2015. Planting Flags on Division Street / Plantando banderas en la calle Division. Chicago: Colores Editorial House. [ISBN: 978-0-578-17309-2]
“Karina loves dancing bomba. In the middle of the batey, the music of the barriles, the cuá and the maraca allows her to sing and share her story.
Today, Karina is desperately trying to get to a bombazo. Once she’s on Paseo Boricua she can hear the Tan tun tun TAN of the bomba drums but, will she reach the community garden on time? Does Karina get to sing away her loneliness with the drums? Can Karina find the strength to believe that Abuelo Oscar will come home soon?
This story about an optimistic girl and a communal celebration invites readers to lose themselves in the rhythm of the barriles. It is an engaging exploration of the Afro Puerto Rican tradition of bomba as well as an ode to public art and the people who build and celebrate community for children ages 4 to 8.”
Quintero, Sofia. 2015. Show and Prove. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. [ISBN: 978-0375847073]
“The summer of 1983 was the summer hip-hop proved its staying power. The South Bronx is steeped in Reaganomics, war in the Middle East, and the twin epidemics of crack and AIDS, but Raymond “Smiles” King and Guillermo “Nike” Vega have more immediate concerns.
Smiles was supposed to be the assistant crew chief at his summer camp, but the director chose Cookie Camacho instead, kicking off a summer-long rivalry. Meanwhile, the aspiring b-boy Nike has set his wandering eye on Sara, the sweet yet sassy new camp counselor, as well as top prize at a breakdancing competition downtown. The two friends have been drifting apart ever since Smiles got a scholarship to a fancy private school, and this summer the air is heavy with postponed decisions that will finally be made.
Raw and poignant, this is a story of music, urban plight, and racial tension that’s as relevant today as it was in 1983.”
Silvera, Adam. 2015. More Happy Than Not. New York: SoHo Press. [ISBN: 978-1-6169-5560-1]
“In the months after his father’s suicide, it’s been tough for 16-year-old Aaron Soto to find happiness again–but he’s still gunning for it. With the support of his girlfriend Genevieve and his overworked mom, he’s slowly remembering what that might feel like. But grief and the smile-shaped scar on his wrist prevent him from forgetting completely.
When Genevieve leaves for a couple of weeks, Aaron spends all his time hanging out with this new guy, Thomas. Aaron’s crew notices, and they’re not exactly thrilled. But Aaron can’t deny the happiness Thomas brings or how Thomas makes him feel safe from himself, despite the tensions their friendship is stirring with his girlfriend and friends. Since Aaron can’t stay away from Thomas or turn off his newfound feelings for him, he considers turning to the Leteo Institute’s revolutionary memory-alteration procedure to straighten himself out, even if it means forgetting who he truly is.”
SOME OF THE TITLES MISSING FROM OUR 2014 LIST!:
Carrion, Samuel Diaz. 2014. Our Nuyorican Thing: The Birth of a Self-Made Identity.Introduction by Urayoán Noel. New York: 2Leaf Press. [ISBN: 978-1-9409-3907-0]
“What is a “Nuyorican”? And what does it mean? Poet, writer and activist Samuel Diaz Carrion explores this question and more in OUR NUYORICAN THING, THE BIRTH OF A SELF-MADE IDENTITY. What began as blog correspondence for the Nuyorican Poets Cafe’s website (2001-2004), quickly turned into a cultural exchange about the Cafe and Puerto Rican culture. OUR NUYORICAN THING is a compendium of those blog entries and emails that also include Diaz Carrion’s poetry through the eyes of a “Puerto Rican Indiana Jones” who has quietly studied “the trade route of a new language . . . collecting poetry and stories as the artifacts of the day.” This collection is riveting, informative and delightful, and will satisfy any reader with an appetite for cross-cultural discussions. With an introduction by Urayoan Noel.
CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. 2014. Special Issue: Untendered Eyes: Literary Politics of Julia de Burgos. Guest editor, Len Burgos-Lafuente. Volume 26, no. 2. New York: Center for Puerto Rican Studies. [ISBN: 978-1-8784-8392-8]
“Special issue of CENTRO Journal on the work of Julia de Burgos (1914-1953) in honor of the centennial of her birth. Julia de Burgos is one of Puerto Rican literature’s most iconic figures. The critical commentary on her life and work has treated her oeuvre unevenly. Even after groundbreaking studies, the tragic mode still dominates critical and biographical discourses. This special issue builds on recent attempts to rethink her life and work, discovering links with multiple poetic traditions and genealogies of thought that are not strictly bound to the insular and national frameworks that structure Puerto Rican Studies.”
CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies. 2014. Special Issue: Puerto Rican Literature of the Continent Recovered. Guest editor, Nicolás Kanellos. Volume 26, no. 1. New York: Center for Puerto Rican Studies. [ISBN: 978-1878483911]
“This special issue of CENTRO Journal (vol 26, no. 1) with guest editor Nicolas Kanellos (publisher, ArtePúblico Press) expands on the theme of Puerto Rican Literature of the Continent Recovered. This issue takes on a previously undeveloped field of Puerto Rican Studies – the recovering of Puerto Rican writers working in the United States who, as Kanellos puts it in his introduction to the issue, “have been forgotten – or simply ignored – by critics and historians.”
Gonzalez-Taylor, Yadhira. 2014. Martina and the Wondrous Waterfall. Illustrated by Alba Escayo. New York: Martina’s Coin Publishing. [ISBN: 978-0-9911-6131-7]
“Join Cucarachita Martina and her friends to find out which of the instruments they play is the best. Will it be a cello from Czechoslovakia? Maybe a Spanish guitar? Perhaps African tambourines or a guiro or cuatro made in Puerto Rico? Come along and meet some exciting characters as they each take turns playing to the most beautiful wondrous waterfall in the world.”
© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 11 December 2015.