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What will you be reading?

2018 is just around the corner which is incredible! This year has been a packed year for me for many personal reasons both good and bad. I think 2018 will be another exciting and filled year including wedding bells!

There are several books that I am looking forward to reading in 2018. Frankly, the book I am most anticipating is SUICIDE CLUB by Rachel Heng. I am a huge of dystopian fiction and have already read some of Rachel’s short fiction. It doesn’t debut until July but it’s on my list to pre-order.

In February, we have HEART BERRIES: A MEMOIR by Terese Mailhot to look forward to. Roxane Gay has already said wonderful things about this memoir. It’s exciting to see people of color including indigenous folks have a voice and tell their stories.

As a writer who writers short stories, I do love short story collections. I wish that there was more attention given to short stories. Though “Cat Person” became quite a viral short story so hopefully that opens up the dialogue and more people will show interest in our niche. BACK TALK a collection by Danielle Lazarin is set to debut in 2018 as well! It’s a collection of stories about women. I’m making a conscious decision to read more fiction about and by women.

It’s evident I am most focused on emerging writers in contemporary fiction. And there are still several books on my reading shelf that I need to read but it won’t stop me from buying more!

There are of course a plethora of other fiction and nonfiction being published in 2018. I’d love to hear what you are looking forward to reading in 2018!

Review: THE LEAVERS

Just a few days ago, I finished reading THE LEAVERS by Lisa Ko. On the surface, THE LEAVERS is about immigration and the American dream that draws folks from around the world.

But THE LEAVERS is more than an immigrant story. It’s a story about a mother-son relationship. It’s rare to see this relationship shown in novels or film. We often get stories of mothers and daughters or fathers and sons. It’s also a story about identity and belonging. Both Deming and Polly struggle with fitting in their surroundings whether that be in New York, China, or Ridgeborough. That struggle of fitting is exacerbated for Deming when he is adopted by a white family.

Polly is easily my favorite character of THE LEAVERS. She is a flawed woman just like women in real life. She has hopes and dreams that she never gives up and though life has thrown a lot of hardships at her, Polly persevered. In some ways, this novel is about survival. Ultimately, what I loved the most that Polly was portrayed as a mother but she was not defined by motherhood. Polly maintained her own goals, aspirations, and dreams whether it was dreaming of managing the nail salon, moving to Florida, teaching, or the ending which I will not spoil.

The details are rich with imagery and dialogue and the alternating narratives worked well for the novel. This is a wonderful read that I’d recommend to anyone even those who don’t read often as it is not a difficult read but a well-worth one

Happy Book Lovers Day!

Today is Book Lovers Day! This is the first time that I’ve heard of it. To no one’s surprise, I love reading and I love books. I think all things literary should be celebrated. To celebrate this day, I thought I’d write up a quick post with some of my favorite books. Some of these are novels and some may be short story collections.

EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng

This is a novel that I still constantly think about. All the characters are flawed in a realistic way. I did sometimes find myself hating James or Marilyn and at other times could relate or at least empathize. I think this novel is a powerful exploration of interracial marriage, racism in the 70s, and parental expectations. I was drawn in from the first page and that interest never wavered.

ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE by Benjamin Alire Sanez

I believe this novel is classified as a young adult novel and it’s a damn good one! The novel follows the titular characters who are both Mexican-American. Ari and Dante are so different from one another as Dante is open about who he is and outwardly confident and Ari doesn’t exhibit those same traits and struggles inwardly with identity. This novel is a great examination of ethnic identity and familial relationships and furthermore an exploration of sexuality. It’s wonderful to see gay men of color represented especially in an ethnic background who are considered ‘macho’. I’m excited for the sequel!

THE GIVER by Lois Lowry

This is a novel I read numerous times. I believe this was the novel that introduced me to dystopia fiction as a child. This novel shows the importance of individuality and memory. Jonas’ realization that the world he lives in is not a utopia coincides with his coming of age. I believe this book is a great stepping stone for young readers that inspires free-thinking and encourages voracious reading.

IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY by Ned Vizzini

Oftentimes we as a society like to tiptoe around mental illness or worse have an incorrect preconceived notion of what it means to have depression. It was refreshing to read a novel where the protagonist had a suicidal episode but the novel wasn’t dreary. It’s important for all of us to remember that having depression doesn’t mean that someone can’t have moments of happiness or laughter. I enjoyed this novel and its characters. I am still saddened that Ned is no longer with us.

OUR STORY BEGINS by Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff is by far one of the greatest American short story writers. This particular collection features many of his greatest stories published elsewhere as well as new ones. This collection features one of my favorite short stories BULLET IN THE BRAIN. That story alone shows Wolff’s apt for conciseness and his ability to feature characters with depth.

WOODCUTS OF WOMEN by Dagoberto Gilb

I find Gilb’s colloquial writing incredibly compelling. There are people who view Gilb’s writing as misogynistic but I see this short story collection as an examination of Mexican-American men’s lust and love with women. At heart it’s about relationships between men and women and the complications of that. It’s also about everyday people and everyday life. At no point do I feel that the writer condones some of the characters less savory acts.

 

There are definitely many other books and short story collections I have read that I have devoured and enjoyed but the above are top-notch and I recommend. Of course there are so many other books I want to read. I am currently reading THE LEAVERS by Lisa Ko. I’ve added CHEMISTRY by Weike Wang, LOTERIA by Mario Alberto Zambrano, LOVING PEDRO INFANTE by Denise Chavez, and THE LAST NEANDERTHAL by Claire Cameron to my reading list.

I’m also looking forward to LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng out in September and SUICIDE CLUB by Rachel Heng in 2018.

 

Leave your recommendations in the comments.

On Moving

Ever since I was in grade-school, I talked about moving away from my hometown Las Cruces, New Mexico. As I grew into a teenager then later a young adult, I declared my desire more fervently. First my fantasies were peppered with becoming a photographer in Los Angeles. Later, I more realistically wanted to make a move to Austin.

For the fleeting time that I wanted to pursue an MFA, I did not apply to the schools that were nearest to me. I chose schools out-of-state but close enough that I could drive home if I ever did get homesick. Though, I vehemently believed I would never miss the town whose biggest draw is a high school rivalry that culminates annually with a football game held at the university stadium.

I didn’t get into graduate school. I didn’t find a job that was willing to hire me outside of New Mexico. But I did get a job with a company that’s created a cultural icon and I met my partner. Ultimately, he became the reason that I made the move to El Paso, TX four months ago. El Paso and Las Cruces are only separated by 50 miles but the differences are striking. It’s been an adjustment to move to a much larger city and of course to become accustomed to sharing bathroom space with another human (two when we have his daughter).

What I enjoy about El Paso is that there is always something to do such as an ice cream festival, concerts, a rose garden, the zoo, and hockey games. I tend to be a homebody but I also like to have my senses stimulated. One can only watch Netflix so much. El Paso is a border town. I’m Mexican-American and El Paso is alive with neighbors speaking Spanish and authentic Mexican food. It makes me miss Mexico so much.

It would be untruthful for me to say that I don’t miss Las Cruces at times. I miss being able to have a weekday lunch with my mom or visit her in the evening. In Las Cruces it would take fifteen minutes to get across town while in El Paso it takes me fifteen minutes just to get to a Wal-Mart (of which I still don’t know how many there are). And I’ll always argue that the Organ Mountains have a lot more character than the Franklin Mountains. New Mexico sunsets are painted with an atomic orange and champagne pink that cannot be replicated.

But I’m happy where I am at because I’m continuously building a future. My mother and the New Mexico skies are just a drive away.

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Current fave short fiction

There are a few reasons why I desperately enjoy short fiction. On one hand, when you work 40 hours a week in an office and have a family, your time allows for shorter pieces more than full-length novels. I find myself perusing short stories at work (shh, don’t tell) and while scrolling through my phone after a long day.

There’s a difference in plot and characters between short stories and novels. I wouldn’t argue that one is better than the other. However, it’s admirable when a writer is able to captivate your attention and make you care for a group of characters in spaces as small as one page but not usually more than twenty-five pages.

Two stories that I keep coming back to recently were both published in The Offing. They are “One Hundred and Twenty Muscles” by Rachel Heng and Are They Vampires, or Are They Just Chinese?” by C Pam Zhang. Both have elements of violence that are depicted in a riveting fashion. Heng’s story carries a more graphic scene of violence but it’s not off-putting and helps set the story.

Lately, I’ve been more interested in speculative fiction and fiction written by women. Always open to recommendations.