Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Publisher/Year: Books on Tape, 1993
Length: 5 hours, 56 minutes
Narrated by: Kate Reading
What it is: Set on a Mexican ranch at the turn of the century, Mama Elena keeps a tight leash on her daughters. Tita has it the worst; she is expected to spend the rest of her life cooking and caring for her cruel mother. When her chance at happiness arrives and she falls in love with a man named Pedro, her mother refuses to consent to their marriage, and instead arranges for another of her daughters to marry Pedro. As a skilled chef, Tita infuses magical realism into the story, pouring her emotions into the food she prepares, including the wedding food she is forced to prepare for her sister and Pedro.
Why I listened to it: It’s a classic, and I felt like the last person on the planet who had not read this book. This book was also banned in Tucson.
What I thought: I feel like a bad Mexican for saying this, and I know I’m in a very small minority, but I think I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like Esquivel’s writing. At all. It started a couple of years ago when I read Malinche (which I deemed one of my worst reads of 2010), but since that was my only encounter with Esquivel, I chalked it up to the book. But no, it’s Esquivel. I can see why people like her epic-style storytelling; her writing has a sweeping grandness to it. And I wanted to like Esquivel for writing about some of the problematic gender expectations in Mexican culture. But I just could not get on board with the message. The rest of this part is one big spoiler, so highlight the text to read it: Tita pines away for Pedro for her entire adult life, even though he marries her sister and royally screws her over. When they finally get a chance to be together, he dies (from happiness. UGH, what a douche.)…at which point, her life is no longer worth living, so she goes out with a bang. Please no.
Chicano! the History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement by Francisco A. Rosales
Publisher/Year: Arte Publico Press, 1997
What it is: A history textbook published to accompany a 1996 PBS documentary of the same name. The book focuses on the history of the U.S. – Mexico border, especially the important moments for Mexican Americans in California, Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona. The book then builds up to the activism of the Chicano movement in the 1960s through the mid-1970s.
Why I read it: This is one of the books that was banned in Tucson, Arizona, and I’m on a mission to read entire list of banned books.
What I thought: The book is very interesting, and I’d love to watch the documentary to see how the two complement each other. I already knew some of the things that Rosales covered, but there was a lot I didn’t know. I also loved getting to learn a little more about south Texas history, and think of some of the stories my grandfather used to tell me about his childhood and school experiences in the context of the book (like being punished for speaking Spanish).
Greetings, lovely readers. I’m still alive. I’ve had a frustrating, hectic, and depressing September (one of my cats has vanished into thin air). Between grad school and teaching, I haven’t had as much time to blog as I’d like. HOWEVER, last week was awesome because I went to Austin to see Junot at Book People. I tweeted a little about that trip, then decided to Storify it instead of rewriting everything. If have trouble viewing the screen grabs, here’s the Storify link:
Junot was in Austin last Tuesday. I live about 6 hours away, but y’all know how obsessed I am by now, right? I went, armed with my stack of books.
It’s Banned Books Week! Since it’s also Latino Heritage Month, I wanted to share some banned books written by Latin@ authors. These books all have have multiple bans and/or challenges under their belt, so I also thought it would be fun to include one of the stories behind each book:
Bless Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, and violence
From 1990-1999, Rudolfo Anaya’s 1973 classic, Bless Me, Ultima was ranked at #78 on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently banned/challenged books. From 2000-2009, it jumped to #32 on the list (it was the 5th most challenged book of 2008). The book is about a young Mexican boy coming of age in New Mexico in 1940, as he struggles to come to grips with his culture, religion, and the expectations placed upon him.
Banned: In 2005, parents in Norwood, Colorado fought to have the book taken out of its schools. They wanted the books burned rather than donated to an organization who could use them out of fear that the books would fall into the hands of innocent children. The superintendent who ordered the books to be destroyed has since admitted he never read the book.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Reasons: sexually explicit, rape, violence, promoting intolerance
The House of the Spirits is another book that has sat on the ALA’s top 100 list of banned books for the past two decades. The book is a family saga that follows three generations of a Latin American family.
Challenged: In 2000, the principal of a Fairfield, California school pulled the book off high school shelves following parent complaints. Two school board members agreed with the principal, but a couple of months later, the school board voted unanimously too keep the book.
Rainbow Boys by Alex Sanchez
Reasons: homosexuality, profane language, vulgarity
Rainbow Boys is a coming of age young adult novel about three gay high school seniors. It deals with subjects like HIV, homophobia, and coming out. The book has won numerous awards, including the International Reading Association’s Young Adults’ Choice and the ALA’s Best Book for Young Adults.
Challenged: In 2005, a group of about 15 people in Marshfield, Wisconsin wanted the book removed from school library shelves. One parent (who hadn’t read the book) insisted that it was a “homosexual recruiting tool.” The school board ultimately rejected the request to have the book removed.
And finally, what would this list be if I didn’t get in at least one dig at Arizona? Last May, Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law that effectively eliminated ethnic studies programs (although their real target was Tuscon school district’s famed Mexican American studies program). One of the books that ban supporters kept referring to was Chicano scholar Rodolfo Acuna’s Occupied America: A History of Chicanos. Superintendent Tom Horne was famously quoted as saying, “the title of the book implies to the kids that they live in occupied America, or occupied Mexico.” Other accusations: the book teaches students to think of themselves as victims of racism and to think of white people as oppressors. The ban on the Mexican American studies program–and by extension, the book–went into effect as of January 1, 2011.