Sunday, February 21, 2010

Introducing: Some New Names and Books

The goal of this blog is to recognize the literary work of current Latina/o authors, most of whom were born in the United States.
  • In my early blog posts a few years ago, I discussed some "pioneers" of modern Hispanic American literature, authors such as Richard Vasquez, Rudolfo Anaya, Estela Portillo de Trambley, and Tomas Rivera. It's vital that our country recognize and honor the writers who led the awakening of this modern literature in the 1960s and 1970s and paved the path for generations of Latina/o authors to contribute to the greatness of American literature in all its genres. (See my archived posts.)
  • I've also enjoyed writing about prominent authors and their continuing achievements, folks such as Sandra Cisneros, Pat Mora, Daniel Olivas, and Gary Soto. The present cadre of accomplished Latina/o authors are changing the literary landscape; are making their presence and influence felt in literature classrooms across America; and need our support and attention so they may continue thriving.
  • At other times, I introduce writers making their debut on the literary scene, or folks who have not yet attained name recognition...but their merits and efforts warrant our recognition and discussion of their work.
In the spirit of the latter...


Sandra Alonzo is the author of a new young adult novel titled Riding Invisible: An Adventure Journal, to be officially released on March 2. I'm looking forward to reading it and talking about it on this blog. Just for you to know, however, this will be Sandra's second book. Her first, Gallop-O-Gallop, was published in 2007 and has received warm praise from her readers, who laud Sandra's "very accessible verse" and "wonderful and evocative picture book," which was illustrated by Kelly Murphy. The lovely, lyrical poems are brief enough for young readers to understand and enjoy, yet equally delightful for adults. One educator praises Gallop-O-Gallop thus: "This book is excellent for the classroom! ...The author weaves a beautiful tapestry of equine tales that's soothing for both young and old." Read more reader reviews of Sandra's book on

Sandra, who grew up near Los Angeles, always loved horses and had them as a child. As an adult now living in Central California, she still owns a horse and relishes nature by exploring the mountains near her home on horseback. Get in line for your copy of Riding Invisible, which is actually already posted on for sale. Both books are available through that website. Sandra's website is


Daniel A. Olivas, another fellow Californian, is an example of an author who has made a mark on the literary scene. His five books have received wide praise from other renowned authors, and his writing is studied and analyzed in classrooms across America. He has just released his fifth and newest book, a collection of short stories titled Anywhere but L.A. This work includes stories Daniel wrote earlier in his career ("Gordon," a whimsical story about a talking dog, e.g.) as well as new ones ("Blue" and "The Jew of Dos Cuentos," e.g.).

Daniel's effortless writing style and ability to capture a character in broad, descriptive strokes engage readers as they switch from story to story in his new book. No two stories are the same stylistically or rhetorically, and this diversity of presentation keeps the reader on his or her toes. Consider "Let Me Tell You a Story," which is told in first-person narrative by an aggressive, rough-talking young man whose family is destroyed by his carelessness. The story's language is raw and effective, and readers can "hear" the urgency of this character as he defends what he did. On the other hand, "Blue" is told cryptically by a young woman in ten distinct little segments that describe, in her words, certain seemingly innocuous events and people in her life, but these anecdotes are highly nuanced and poetic; and the reader must be careful not to miss anything between the lines. The events are not chronological, and the non-linear telling of her life story makes "Blue" mystical, poignant, and fragile.

At a recent book reading in Pasadena, California, Daniel explained how he often uses music as a means of stirring up his creativity. "Blue," he said, was inspired by Joni Mitchell's music. Daniel also discussed the challenge of balancing his everyday profession as an attorney with his great love of writing. He also visits public school classrooms and advocates for all children's literacy. Daniel Olivas is an important presence in our literature, and his works touch all people, from all backgrounds, because he portrays men, women, and children with simple but complex authenticity. Buy his books through, and visit his award-winning blog, La Bloga, at .


If you want to read a lot of Sandra Cisneros' work in one place, check out Vintage Cisneros (Vintage Books, 2004). Though this is not a new book, it is exceptionally handy and inspiring. Readers not familiar with Sandra's writing can get satiating doses of her talent in this slim paperback volume. It includes excerpts from five of her books, such as The House on Mango Street,  her seminal work; and from her newest one, Caramelo. Poetry, short stories, and novel excerpts are alternated through this book, keeping the pace lively and totally engaging. This book, like almost all the ones mentioned in my blog, is available through


Have you heard about Reyna Grande yet? You should, because her fame is spreading, and her talent is increasing quickly. I'll discuss her and her new book, Dancing With Butterflies, which was published a few months ago, in my next blog. Her star is on the rise!

Tell your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and anyone else you can grab about this website. Tell them they need to keep up with what our American Latinas/os are writing about and teaching us. There are many insights to gain, much wisdom to absorb!