December 21, 2009

2009 Wrap-up

Hello everyone!
I want to begin this post by thanking the increasingly large number of followers of this blog. You are the reason I continue to write it, despite a very busy schedule. The holidays have been busier than usual and I don't plan on writing again until next year, so this wrap up will include a number of items I've been meaning to share with you for some time now. Happy holidays!

Another Record Broken

You may have read about Planeta’s million-copy printing of the Spanish edition of Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol, but you may not be aware of the ways in which the Spanish publisher’s publicity efforts have crossed new frontiers. Want to see the best-selling author speak Spanish? Then, visit Tinta Fresca, the site for reviews of Spanish language books, where you can see a short introductory clip featuring Mr. Brown welcoming the magazine’s readers in Spanish, atop a full Spanish language interview. But that's not all, El símbolo perdido, as the Spanish language edition is called, made history in my own hometown of New York on November 26th , when it was advertised on the Times Square big screen. It is the first time in PR Newswire history that a Spanish book is shown on the famous screen.

The Spanish language edition of "The Lost Symbol" displayed on the famous Times Square "big screen."

For more information on El símbolo perdido, visit the book’s official site.

Why I’m Thankful

This year, I was offered a wonderful opportunity to work with a dear friend when I was asked to translate Pat Mora’s exquisite bilingual picture book Gracias/Thanks, in which a young boy tells about some of the everyday things for which he is thankful. I am thankful for having a small part in the making of this wonderful book, which represents one of those rare, perfect combinations of text and images. Pat’s poetic text, beautiful in its simplicity, is perfectly matched by John Parra’s warm illustrations.

But don’t take my word for it, read some of the glowing reviews it has received:

From School Library Journal/Críticas® magazine:

“The poetic writing flows in both Spanish and English and carries a sense of happiness brought by the simple things in life. The cheery and brightly colored acrylic illustrations are full of fun details and add depth to the text.” (Full review.)

From Booklist® (starred review):

“These blessings are remarkable for their childlike imagination and fresh imagery…Books of thanks can run toward clichés, but the originality and liveliness of language and art in this one will inspire children to consider their own blessings." (Full review only available to subscribers.)

From Kirkus Reviews® (starred review):

“Mora has a keen sense of the concrete, child-friendly detail, and it’s put to splendid use here. Readers will find themselves nodding in agreement as the unnamed narrator gives thanks to the ladybug that lands on his finger, the bees that don’t sting him and his little brother, who throws mashed peas at their sister. Parra’s folk-art–style acrylics evoke a suburban neighborhood replete with twining morning glories, green lawns, and red-tiled roofs. Domínguez’s Spanish translation precedes the English text of this bilingual tale on each spread, a thoughtful touch that honors both the book’s creators and its Latino audience. For this graceful celebration, ¡gracias!" (Full review.)

If you are looking for a wonderful bilingual book with a great message, make sure you pick up this one. You’ll be glad you did!

My Favorite Books of 2009

Here is a short list of some of my favorite books of 2009. It is by no means exhaustive, since my schedule this year did not permit me to put out my usual call to publishers to evaluate their full lists. It is also uniquely mine, and includes books that I’ve worked on, authors I’ve worked with, stories that left me hungry for more from the same author, and some children’s books that I think every Latino parent should have.

If you don’t see your favorite, add it to the list in the comments section! Together, we can come up with a fantastic list of Latino and Spanish language titles for those looking to give books as presents this year. And if you haven’t yet, run out and buy a book for a friend or a family member, or many books! Remember: “a home without books is a body without a soul.”

For Children:

"In My..." series of finger puppet books, illustrated by Argentine artist Lorena Siminovich.

Some fun and educational choices in Spanish from Rufus Butler Seder and Georgina Lázaro.

Some wonderful bilingual choices from René Colato Laínez, Guadalupe Rivera Marín (Diego Rivera's daughter), and Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy.

Tween and teen choices by some of our best Latino authors: Julia Alvarez, Diana López. and Matt de la Peña.

For Adults:

The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Ruins By Achy Obejas

Dancing with Butterflies by Reyna Grande

Espejos by Eduardo Galeano (also available in English as "Mirrors")

Sweet Mary by Liz Balmaseda

America Libre (in English) by Raul Ramos y Sánchez

B as in Beauty by Alberto Ferreras

Happy Reading!

November 4, 2009

Award-Winning Author Reyna Grande Visits East Coast

New York City's newly renovated Museo del Barrio, in collaboration with La Casa Azul Bookstore, will host an exciting literary event, featuring Reyna Grande (Across A Hundred Mountains, Atria 2006; Dancing with Butterflies, Atria, 2009) and Sergio Troncoso (The Last Tortilla, University of Arizona Press, 1999) this Saturday, November 7th, at 2pm. The award-winning authors will join together at the museum's new Café to engage in a lively dialogue about their works.

This is part of Reyna's national book tour in support of her latest novel, Dancing with Butterflies, which uses the alternating voices of four very different women in a Los Angeles dance company called Alegría to weave a story of friendship and love: Yesenia, who founded Alegría, finds herself unable to dance and seeks a miracle from a plastic surgeon in Tijuana. Elena, grief stricken by the death of her child and the end of her marriage, falls dangerously in love with one of her under-age students. Elena’s sister Adriana, wears the wounds of abandonment by a dysfunctional family and becomes unable to discern love from abuse. Soledad, the sweet-tempered illegal immigrant who designs costumes for Alegría, must make the dangerous journey north after she returns to Mexico to see her dying grandmother.

Reyna's follow up to her critically-acclaimed Across A Hundred Mountains received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly®, which proclaimed that the novel [was] "well worth the wait." Kirkus Reviews® agrees, and praises the "fierce humanity" of its characters. You may visit Atria's blog to learn more about Reyna and her work, and to read a conversation with the author. For a full list of the author's appearances, which on the East Coast also include a visit to Philadelphia today, visit the events page on her website. I hope to see you Saturday!

October 21, 2009

Guest Blogger: Author and Editor Michelle Herrera Mulligan

Michelle Herrera Mulligan is the editor of, and a contributor to
Juicy Mangos: Erotica Collection (Atria Books, 2007), the first-ever collection of Latina erotica in English, which Pulitzer-Prize-winning author Oscar Hijuelos called “not only a tantalizing read, but a deeply rewarding one as well.” In 2004, she co-edited Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting (HarperCollins/Rayo, 2004), an anthology of essays on the contemporary American Latina experience. She received an American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP) Ruth Bennett Outstanding Contributions to Hispanic Studies Award in spring of 2006. Michelle has worked as an author and journalist in New York City for twelve years. She has contributed to Time, Woman’s Day, Latina, Teen People, and Publisher's Weekly, among many others.

Why It’s Worth It to Edit (and Contribute to) an Anthology

by Michelle Herrera Mulligan

You’ve all seen them. They drift into your inboxes with deletable subject lines like “FW:FW:Re:Please forward: New anthology editor seeks stories about sisterhood, motherhood, growing up in Miami, Detroit, Peoria...,” you get the idea. If you actually click on the message, you might make it to the part where it says compensation consists of a “small stipend upon selection.” That is, if you haven’t deleted it by then. And you probably have. I certainly did. Plenty of times. That is, until I thought of an anthology of my own.

My friend Robyn and I didn’t plan on doing an anthology, or even a book together. We mostly hung out in offices and laughed hysterically at all the weird things our mothers had in common, like favoring makeup for fifth graders, and loving telenovelas way too much. But after a while, we realized we had another important thing in common: we weren’t seeing professional women like ourselves (educated, sophisticated Latinas navigating multiple realities) on T.V., or in any of the novels or essays we were reading at the time. And we wanted to do something about it. So we decided to pose a couple of emailed questions of our own: “What has being Latina meant for you?” “What has it meant to your identity at different stages of your life?” We didn’t just send the questions to anybody. We asked the best writers and most outrageous thinkers of all of the talented women we knew. And what we got back overwhelmed us.

For about two years after we got a book deal, our lives became consumed by edits, negotiations (though the individual contributor contracts started out identical, many required tweaking and much discussion), and long phone therapy sessions, pronounced by panic about what family members, former lovers, and friends would say once it all hit the shelves. The work was consuming and costly (I could have made more money writing a long magazine feature at the time). Robyn and I became infamous editors in the process; we sent the essays back for revision after revision (and put ourselves through the same). But what we ended up with in the end was worth it: a tight-knit group of friends and colleagues, a tour around the country (that we paid for ourselves), where we met young women touched by our stories, conversations started about Latina identity in the press, and most importantly, the stories themselves, gathered in a volume called Border-Line Personalities: A New Generation of Latinas Dish on Sex, Sass, and Cultural Shifting (HarperCollins/Rayo, 2004), which is still being used in college curriculums around the country.

At the end of that process, I was happy and done. I was going solo. I’d never do it again. And yet, one day I got a call, just like that classic email, asking if I would be interested in contributing to someone else’s anthology. Only I didn’t politely decline out of turn. I took a minute to listen, and that moment proved to be transformational.

The job at first seemed absurd (“Me, an editor of erotica? Are you kidding?”). I had to edit in English and Spanish, and make writers that were more experienced than me sound amazing and polished as they wrote a heavily sexual, literary, novella. And I also had to write one of those novellas myself (“I know, what?!”) “There goes another year (or two), there goes my novel,” I thought. But my capacity as a writer was challenged, yet again, expanded beyond my expectations—as was the final product: Juicy Mangos:Erotica Collection (Atria Books, 2007). As with Border-Line, the experience sparked friendships that I treasure to this day.

You may hear that anthologies don’t sell, will suck your time, and are going the way of the hardcover. What you won’t hear is this: if you get a chance to work on one that features a topic you’re passionate about, jump at the chance. You’ll never take a class that will teach you more.

Michelle Herrera Mulligan, Elisha Miranda, and Sofia Quintero, will be reading from their stories from Juicy Mangos on Thursday, October 22 at the East Harlem Café, 1651 Lexington Avenue, 7-9 p.m.

October 15, 2009

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway Winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered the contest, especially the new followers. I was very impressed by the amount of thought and consideration that went into some of the suggestions for the blog, and pleased as well, since I interpreted that great care to mean that you feel a sense of ownership with it, which I of course hope you do. Please know that I will consider your contributions carefully and plan on implementing quite a few of those suggestions. I look forward to continuing the conversation, and thank you again for your support.

And now, the winners of the Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway!

Oscar Bermeo
Christine Womack
Esther Bonilla-Read
Eileen Hu
Deborah Rosen

Each will receive a set of the five books featured in the giveaway. Books will ship directly from the publisher. Congratulations to all!

October 9, 2009

Come join me in Los Angeles this weekend!

I will be at this year's Latino Book and Family Festival in Los Angeles this Saturday and Sunday, participating on panels on the state of publishing, and interviewing the fabulous Pat Mora. Come check it out, this year's festival promises to be the best one yet! Click here for more information, and for the festival's full program, which includes events in English and Spanish.

To enter the Hispanic Heritage Month Book Giveaway, click here.

September 16, 2009

Hispanic Heritage Month Giveaway!

Hachette Book Group has once again generously provided copies of 5 of their new books by Latino authors to give away to readers of VOCES in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.

Five winners will received the whole set of five books!

To win your copies, do the following:
  1. Become a follower of VOCES by clicking on the appropriate box on the side bar.
  2. Once you have become a VOCES follower, send me an email to confirming that you have done so, and include the following information:
  • Your name and shipping address, so that we can know where to send the books.
  • An idea for a future post for VOCES, a feature that you'd like to see added to the blog, or feedback on what you like and may not have liked so much about my posts so far. This feedback benefits us all!
*Current followers of the blog will also qualify. If you are already a follower, please let me know in your email message and include the rest of the information requested.

Five winners will be chosen randomly and announced on the site on October 15th, the last day of Hispanic Heritage Month. Good luck!

To find out more about the books, click on their titles below:

Zumba® By Beto Perez , Maggie Greenwood-Robinson ISBN: 0446546127
Evenings at the Argentine Club By Julia Amante ISBN: 0446581623
Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz By Belinda Acosta ISBN: 044654051X
Tell Me Something True By Leila Cobo ISBN: 0446519367
Amigoland By Oscar Casares ISBN: 0316159697

**Books will be delivered by publisher. Contest is open only to residents of the U.S. and Canada. Books will not be delivered to P.O. boxes.

September 2, 2009

Carolina De Robertis discusses her powerful debut novel, The Invisible Mountain

Uruguayan American Carolina De Robertis’s powerful debut novel, The Invisible Mountain, takes readers on an epic journey through the lives of three generations of women, exploring an important part of South American history and paying homage to the resilience of the human spirit. The newly celebrated author shares details with former Críticas Children's Reviews Editor Adriana Domínguez about her inspiration and some of the elements that made it possible for this ambitious project to come to fruition.

Did you purposefully set out to retell the history of Uruguay through the eyes of women?
In a way. I knew, when I began, that I wanted to write a narrative inspired by the family stories I had heard while growing up, from my parents’, grandparents’, and great-grandparents’ generations. It quickly became clear that the history of Uruguay itself was also central to the project and that women would form the heart of the book. In my family’s oral tradition, the male ancestors tended to come with long, elaborate stories, while the women were often summed up in a brief sentence or two. Where did they come from? What did they see in their world, and breathe back into it? What treasures lie buried in their silence? One of the marvelous things about fiction is its ability to excavate, explore, or reinvent such treasures, when the original truths have been lost.

The novel spans the lives of three different women over 90 years. Was it challenging to develop a project of such a broad scope?
Let’s put it this way: it was an adventure, and like many true adventures, it involved setting out without a map, a compass, or an inkling of how long or arduous the road would be. If I had known what would be required, how many years (eight) and how many drafts (I lost count), I would have been too terrified to begin. The truth is that I had no idea what I was doing when I started: I began, not because I thought I could actually write this novel, but because I was enraptured by something I could not yet see, could not hold in my hands but longed to. It was a reckless leap into the creative process, armed only with my own hunger and curiosity. Fortunately, this allowed me to embark and saved me from getting daunted until it was too late to turn back.

The narrative mentions many real-life people and events and is partly based on your own family’s history. How did you balance the story’s historical, autobiographical, and fictional elements?
My family history provided the impetus—the initial spark that gave birth to the characters—and lit up the essence of their lives. Extensive historical research provided them with a ground to walk on, a climate to inhabit. The sociopolitical landscape of the book is true to historical reality, and some of the historical figures who make appearances have even kept their names: Evita and Che, of course, but also less famous figures such as Ernesto Bravo, a young man brutalized and framed by the Peronist police in 1951, and Dan Mitrione, the torture trainer sent by the United States in 1970. Finally, of course, there was the element of fiction, of sheer invention, which is more limber than oral or formal history and so has freer ways of exploring truth. The end result is a kind of braid, woven from three intricate strands: family stories, actual history, and pure imagination.

Have you traveled to Uruguay?
I grew up in England, Switzerland, and California. My parents attempted an assimilationist approach to coping with the immigrant experience, and I visited Uruguay only twice as a child and teenager. Nevertheless, my second visit, at the age of 16, imbued me with images and sounds and smells and textures and relationships that changed the way I approached the world and my place within it. Since then, the longing to return has never left me.

Do you feel connected to your Uruguayan roots?
When I was in my mid-twenties, my parents disowned me for marrying a woman, and the journey of writing Uruguay and Argentina became an even more urgent journey of reclaiming roots I had been cut from. I returned three times while writing the novel, and each time I connected with my wonderful extended family, who did not follow my parents’ suit. I conducted research in every way I could: finding and reading books, sparking conversations, asking questions, sifting through old photographs, taking road trips, prowling the streets, smelling the streets, watching strangers, listening to the songs of a neighborhood. All of these experiences have poured into the novel. In some ways, this book is my sprawling, intimate love letter to the nation, whose culture, people, and legacies continue to capture and amaze my heart.

Some aspects of The Invisible Mountain are reminiscent of works by Gabriel García Márquez, Isabel Allende, and Junot Díaz. Where do you place yourself within the continuum of authors writing about Latin America?
I am immensely nourished by, grateful for, and indebted to a range of Latin American authors. There are tremendous riches in the Latin American tradition, as well as in contemporary literature emerging from Latin America and from bicultural Latino writers in the United States, and I could spend many lifetimes plumbing these riches. At the same time, writers have always read widely and drawn from many streams of literature, and Latin American writers are no exception. Gabriel García Márquez was deeply influenced by the magic realism of Metamorphosis (though Kafka never receives that label), and Jorge Luis Borges was inspired by The Arabian Nights and William Faulkner. I always remember these examples and hold them close to my heart, because my own sources of inspiration also transcend borders.

What is your next project?
My second novel, which is well underway, tells the story of a young Argentinian woman raised in a military family, whose world is shaken when a dripping, haunted man appears in her living room. He turns out to be the ghost of a desaparecido—one of thousands the government kidnapped, tortured, and threw from airplanes into the sea in the 1970s—risen from his watery grave, and his presence forces her to confront the hidden, violent past that connects them. In some ways, this is a very different book; for one thing, it spans three decades rather than nine. But some of the underlying themes—such as the interplay of historical forces and everyday life, the truths hidden inside silence, and the twisting path toward authenticity—seem to be returning to the fore.

© Library Journal, 2009. All Rights Reserved. Used With Permission.
Original interview found on Library Journal's site, at:

Click here for an excerpt of the book.

August 28, 2009


I'd like to first take this opportunity to thank you all for the wonderful messages of support you have sent me regarding my new venture as a newly-minted literary agent. I appreciate them very much. I want to clarify that I will continue working on this blog, not only to fill you in on my new adventures and let you in on what I am doing on that score, but more importantly, to do my part to continue to further the cause of Latino and Spanish language literature.

To that end, I have been working closely with Uruguayan-American author Carolina De Robertis' publisher and two other blogs, to spread the word about this exciting new book that has already garnered so much praise, including a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Below, you will find a description of the book, as well as a personal introduction from the author to what will be the first in a series of three excerpts from the book posted by three separate blogs. The subsequent excerpts will be posted on La Bloga and Little Pink Book PR (in that order). Please let others know about this book and spread the word about the excerpts. Coming soon: my interview with the author for Library Journal. Enjoy!

About The Invisible Mountain
On the first day of the millennium, a small town gathers to witness a miracle and unravel its portents for the century: the mysterious reappearance of a lost infant, Pajarita. Later, as a young woman in the capital city — Montevideo, brimming with growth and promise — Pajarita begins a lineage of fiercely independent women. Her daughter, Eva, survives a brutal childhood to pursue her dreams as a rebellious poet and along the hazardous precipices of erotic love. Eva’s daughter, Salomé, driven by an unrelenting idealism, commits clandestine acts that will end in tragedy as unrest sweeps Uruguay. But what saves them all is the fierce fortifying connection between mother and daughter that will bring them together to face the future. From Perón’s glittering Buenos Aires to the rustic hills of Rio de Janeiro, from the haven of a corner butchershop to U.S. embassy halls, the Firielli family traverses a changing South America and the uncharted terrain of their relationships with one another. Click to buy the book.

About the Author

Carolina De Robertis was raised in England, Switzerland, and California by Uruguayan parents. Her fiction and literary translations have appeared in ColorLines, The Virginia Quarterly Review, and Zoetrope: All-Story, among others. She is the recipient of a 2008 Hedgebrook Residency for Women Authoring Change and the translator of the Chilean novella Bonsái by Alejandro Zambra. She lives in Oakland, California.

Author's introduction and first excerpt


Montevideo, Uruguay, 1924: Pajarita grew up in the country and first arrived in the city as a seventeen-year-old bride. Now, her husband has not been home for days, leaving her alone with three small children and a house that has run out of food. Her friend Coco, the butcher’s wife, has come over to visit.

“First of all,” Coco said, pushing a hefty package into Pajarita’s hands, “you’re taking this meat. I don’t care what you say. I know your husband’s gone—the desgraciado.” She sat her ample body down at Pajarita’s table. Pajarita stared at the gift.

“I have no way to thank you.”

Coco continued as if she hadn’t heard. “Secondly: your plants. They’re strong. You should sell them.”


“To women in the barrio. You can start in the store, behind the counter with me. Look, once word spreads about your cures, better than a doctor and cheaper too, you’ll be putting food in those boys’ bellies.” It had never occurred to her, but she couldn’t think of a reason not to try. She took her children and a basket of leaves and roots and barks to the butcher shop. The boys resumed an epic pretend game of gauchos-in-the-campo, riding imaginary horses among the chunks of flesh that hung from the ceiling. In one corner of the room, between the chopping block and meat hooks, Pajarita arranged two small wooden stools and sat down on one. Ignazio, she thought, I want to kill you, to kiss you, to carve you like a flank; just wait and see how I’m going to live without you by my side.

Coco served as a living advertisement. Women began to come. Some of them just needed to be heard; they told sprawling, unkempt tales of death in the family, brutal mothers-in-law, financial pressures, wayward husbands, violent husbands, boring husbands, loneliness, crises of faith, visions of Mary, visions of Satan, sexual frigidity, sexual temptation, recurring dreams, fantasies involving saddles or bullwhips or hot coals. She offered them teas for comfort, luck, or protection. Other customers came with physical conditions—pain in their bones, a stitch in their side, numbness in hips, ears that rang, forgetfulness, sore knees, sore backs, sore hearts, sore feet, cut fingers, quivering fingers, wandering fingers, burns, headaches, indigestion, excessive female bleeding, a pregnancy that wouldn’t come, a pregnancy that had to end, cracked bones, cracked skin, rashes no doctor could diagnose, aches no doctor could cure. There were housewives, maids, sore-handed seamstresses, sweaty-handed adulteresses, great-grandmothers swaying with canes, young girls swooning with love. Pajarita listened to them all. She sat still as an owl as she listened. Then she handed them a small package and explained what to do with its contents. Word spread. Women came to see her from all corners of the city. She could barely keep up with harvesting from cracks in the sidewalk, nearby parks, and the pots in her own house. To Coco’s delight, the seekers often picked up their daily beef along with their cures. Pajarita set no price. Some gave her pesos, others fruit, a basket of bread, a ball or two of handspun wool. Anonymous gifts appeared on the Firielli doorstep—baskets of apples, jars of yerba mate, handmade clothes for the children. They had enough.

She had developed a peculiar sort of fame. Her name was whispered through the kitchens and vegetable stands of Montevideo. Pajarita, she cured me, you should go see her too. And when I almost. You saw me then. If it hadn’t been for her. Strange, she thought, that all of this should grow from something as familiar as plants, such ordinary things, opening new worlds, drawing the souls and stories of this city to her doorstep, unveiling a startling thing inside her: a reach, a scope, adventures with no road map, forays into the inner realms of strangers where she roved the darkness in search of something that bucked and flashed and disappeared, slippery, evasive, untamable.

One sweltering afternoon, as a hunchbacked woman who smelled of garlic confessed her infatuation with the new priest, Pajarita felt something stir inside her body. Her mind reached in to feel. She was pregnant. A girl. She filled with the memory of conception, that final night, the clawing, Ignazio’s torn and hungry skin. And he was gone. She almost imploded from the sadness.

Excerpted from THE INVISIBLE MOUNTAIN by Carolina de Robertis Copyright © 2009 by Carolina de Robertis. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.