LitBirthdays September 15, 2014

Happy Birthday Marie Arana!

Marie Arana born September 15, 1949

Marie Arana (born 1949) U.S. / Peruvian journalist, memoirist – American Chica (2001);  Bolivar, American Liberator (2013)

Read the Wikipedia entry for Marie Arana here and visit Arana’s website here. Read more about Arana here.

Listen to Marie Arana on the Diane Rehm Show in 2001.

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LitBirthdays September 8, 2014

2014 National Book Festival Report

Darling: A Spiritual Autobiography

by Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez

Richard Rodriguez talks about life and the essays in his book. (Excerpts from his speech at the 2014 National Book Festival)

Introduction and the death of religion

(5 minutes)

Lost touch with the local

(5 minutes)

Women and the darkness of the cave

(5 minutes)

Mother Teresa and questions

(11 minutes)

From the Booklist description:

“Richard Rodriguez may be the most empathic essayist in America….His sentences are reliable joys: liquid and casual, they slip in and out of philosophy and anecdote noiselessly, like people padding through an empty chapel, expecting to hear nothing more than the sound of their own passage.”

(Sasha Frere-Jones, The New Yorker)

From reader reviews:

This is essay writing carried to the highest level of art, but without the stuffy sound of that term, if that’s what it has for you. He is never ponderous, always engaging. He collages more than he used to, bits and pieces of historical or topical writing, jumps back and forth from past to present, turns on a dime from universal to personal, and allows full range to his erudition, which is considerable. (Bartolo)

If there is a uniting thread in this collection, it is the essays devoted to examination of the three religions that sprang of desert origins–Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The author’s own ambivalent but steady connection to Catholicism is examined throughout, particularly when he is musing about homosexuality and women. His observations on these subjects are compelling and authentic. (Barry Ballow)

Richard Rodriguez is a compelling oral essayist. The voice, the perpetual expression of sadness, the complex mix of cultures he personifies produce an often arresting composite on TV where we can see and hear him. I am sorry to say I was disappointed by cold words on the printed page, which I found disjointed and often incomprehensible. This seems to be a collection of essays tied together by the label “spiritual autobiography” which it did not seem to be, at a level I could understand. I did find one bright spot: his praise of the “heroic women” — the Sisters of Mercy who educated him– is moving, and long overdue in our culture. (Dr. Jay)




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LitBirthdays September 5, 2014

Alicia Ostriker 5
2014 National Book Festival Report

The Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog

by Alicia Ostriker

Alicia Ostriker reads some of her poems.

Long Busy Day

Espresso bubbles, I shout
Breakfast in a minute


The Blessing of the Old Woman, the Tulip, and the Dog

To be blessed said the old woman
is to live and work so hard
God’s love washes right through you
like milk through a cow


West Fourth Street

The sycamores are leafing out
on west fourth street and I am weirdly old


Deer Walk Upon Our Mountains

When they see me said the old woman
they stop where they are
and gaze into my eyes for as long
as I am willing to stand there


Persephone to Demeter

You up there on the surface
poor sad woman ratty old quiltyou understand nothing
of the rapture of libertyno I am not afraid of the subway
or the smell of piss


The Drink Triptych

Well what can I say
said the old woman
giggling a bit
a glass or three of wine was normal at dinner
but one also enjoyed martinis


Demeter to Persephone

I watched you walking up out of that holeAll day it had been raining
in that field in Southern Italyrain beating down making puddles in the mud
hissing down on rocks from a sky enraged


The Promise Triptych

I promised myself
said the old woman
that I would always remember
the afternoon I slow-danced naked with him
in his cheesy apartment
on St. Mark’s Place


Lais to Aphrodite

They called you the laughing one
Aphrodite, honey womanI suppose because you laugh when our hearts crack
like red eggs. and we want to die


In War Time

Ah here you are at last
sorry about the guards
I hope they didn’t give you much trouble
I was afraid you’d never make it
across the river before curfew
let me take your coats



The optimists among us
taking heart because it is spring
skip along
attending their meetings
signing their e-mail petitions
marching with their satiric signs


Paw on Your Lap

Remember the funniest place we ever made love
a pair of economy seats on an overnight to London
we imagined nobody noticed


From the description:
In a voice absolutely her own—wild, earthy, irreverent, full of humor and surprise—Ostriker takes on nothing less than what it feels like to be alive.

– Joan Larkin

From reader reviews:

I hardly ever write reviews, although I’m an avid reader, especially of poetry, and of contemporary American poetry. But Alicia Suskin Ostriker’s “The Old Woman, the Tulip and the Dog” is such a wonderful discovery for me that I needed to write down a couple of words. It’s a new favorite of mine, and I’m buying copies to give as gifts. There is so much humor, wit and compassion in these verses, as if the author were looking at three different natures/perspectives (the old woman’s, the tulip’s and the dog’s) and witnessing how, in the end, they share so much – being at times laughable, foolish, adorable, vain, lovely, wise, mysterious, captivating. The book is a gem.

– Gabriela Sasaki

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LitBirthdays September 3, 2014

2014 National Book Festival Report

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass

by Meg Medina

MegMedina2 Excerpts from Meg Medina’s August 30, 2014 talk about her book, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.
Part 1 – Why write this book?
(3 minutes)
Part 2 – Latino Lens
(5 minutes)
Part 3 – The “A” word
(5 minutes)

From the Booklist description:

“When Piedad “Piddy” Sanchez hears that Yaqui Delgado is going to crush her, she has no idea why she has become a target of one of the roughest girls in her new Queens school. But Yaqui tells everyone Piddy is a skank who shakes her ass when she walks, and as the bullying escalates from threats to physical attacks, Piddy finds herself living in constant fear. A strong student with a bright future at her old school, Piddy starts skipping school, and her grades nosedive.”

From reader reviews:

“When I went to Masterman Junior High, lo these many years ago, I was accosted by a student who told me L.R. (protecting the not-so-innocent here with initials) wanted to fight me. I had no reason to want to fight L.R.; I didn’t even know her. And in my former school, no such physical fights took place, so I was in shock. Because of this, I could totally identify — Piedad (Piddy) is in a new school and gets informed in the same way that a tough stranger wants to fight her and Piddy, too, is unaccustomed to such unsought violence.” [Diane Wilkes]

“What I loved most about the book was the family and friends of Piddy Sanchez. Piddy picks up a motley assortment of friends — friends who are stuck-up, geeky or cool. They all have their flaws and Piddy doesn’t gloss over them, which makes the friendships in the book seem all the more realistic. On top of that, the family around Piddy are just as complex and fascinating as her friends. Her mother’s best friend Lila is like the cool aunt I always wanted. She’s sassy, beautiful, and dispenses wisdom like she’s giving out candy — here, try it and you’re welcome. Piddy’s relationship with her mother is what really gets me. Her mother reminds me of my mother — snippy, full of strange advice, and strong. The story isn’t just about bullying. It’s about the mother-daughter relationship that is growing and changing. Strong female relationships are front and center in this book.” [Jessica Y]


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