If you are searching for a good book to give one of your loved ones – or yourself – on this holiday season, consider one of the following recently published books.
It took Peruvian-American author Daniel Alarcón less than a decade to establish him as one of the strongest new voices of U.S. literature. His first book, the collection of short stories War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award. In 2007, he was named one of the Best Young American Novelists by the prestigious literary magazine Granta and one of the “Bogotá 39,” a group of up-and-coming Latin American writers. That same year he published his first novel, Lost City Radio, which won the 2008 PEN USA Novel Award and the 2009 International Literature Prize. In 2010, the New Yorker named him one of 20 promising writers under 40. Last year, he launched Radio Ambulante, an initiative to produce and broadcast radio shows scripted by young Latin American writers.
Alarcón’s latest novel, At Night We Walk in Circles, confirms his relevance in today’s literary landscape. Set in an unnamed South American country in the aftermath of a terrible civil war, the book tells the story of Nelson, a young actor who joins a radical theater company that he deeply admired since he was a child. Going on tour with the company allows Nelson to rediscover his own country and involve himself with the life of his fellow actors. The tour will eventually become a journey of self-realization, betrayal, and identity. (Riverhead Books, 372 pages)
Edwidge Danticat is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Haitian writers. She is also a vocal advocate of her people’s tragic history and present-day concerns. Claire of the Sea Light is her second fiction work in almost a decade.
Written in a beautiful, hypnotic prose, the novel begins with the disappearance of a young girl—the Claire of the title—in a seaside town and with the frenetic search undergone by her father to find her. The girl will return at the end of the novel, transformed into the link of the town’s characters, their miseries and their hopes. (Knopf, 240 pages)
Rennie, a university professor, travels to Puerto Rico to bury his parents, who died in an accident. Once there he discovers that the woman he always called mom was not his biological mother. The encounter with his birth mother throws Rennie into a life-changing conflict where love and memory will intersect with Puerto Rico’s reality (Arte Público Press, 250 pages)
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, in 1973, Juan Pablo Villalobos was introduced to U.S. audiences with his novel Down the Rabbit Hole, a dazzlingly funny story of a paranoid drug lord’s little son. Villalobos’ second novel, Quesadillas (translated from the Spanish by Rosalind Harvey) is an even more shocking tale. Set in a Mexican rural town, it recounts the struggle of a family to overcome the dire living conditions imposed by rampant inflation and a corrupt government. Evading easy classification, Quesadilla is a black humor satire that features eroticism, UFOs, gentrification, and riotous rivalries. (FSG, 168 pages)
The poet, fiction writer and critic Alicia Borinsky was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She is the director of the Writing in the Americas program at Boston University. The bilingual edition of Frivolous Women and Other Sinners is an invitation to the darker and lighter side of love. Mothers, wives, friends and lovers compose an enthralling and dangerous gallery of characters. Translated into English by Cola Franzen and the author. (Swan Isle Press, 215 pages)
Claudio Iván Remeseira is a New York-based award-winning journalist, writer, and critic. Translator of the Spanish-language on-line section of The Nation and editor of Hispanic New York, an online portal and blog on current events and culture. Editor of Hispanic New York: A Sourcebook (Columbia University Press, 2010), an anthology of essays on the city’s Latino, Latin American & Iberian cultural heritage, and winner of the Latino International Book Award in the category of Best Reference Book in English (2011).