Book Review: Kulti by Mariana Zapata

For years, I have been passionate about sharing books and authors focused on Latinx representation. As a reader, I have always loved being able to get lost in a book. Kulti by Marian Zapata met both of these needs.

Kulti is led by protagonist, Sal Casillas, a Latina playing professional soccer in the US. The book’s action begins when her childhood hero/crush, international soccer star Ryan Kulti joins her team to serve as assistant coach. Kulti and Casillas begin a mentoring relationship in which the focus is advancing her soccer skills. Meanwhile, Sal’s tenuous relationships with teammates begin to crumble as rumors circulate about her relationship with Kulti.

In this book, the lead character is a career-focused Latina. That resonated with me because I am a career-focused Latina. And although my career is not the same as the characters, being able to identify a hard-working, career-focused Latin lady in a non-labor job was cool to see.

I thought this was a strong storyline, for “chick” lit. The writing was compelling. You wanted to finish the chapter and start the next one. But the most important aspects of this book for me were its diversity and apolitical message.

The truth is that as a lifelong reader, I have had to make efforts to find books like this one- books featuring protagonists living regular lives. Normally, books featuring Latino protagonists are immigration focused-stories. As an immigrant, I do acknowledge that immigrant stories are important. But, as someone who grew up in this country and feels American it was nice to see a regular American woman who happens to be Latina, living her life.

If I had to give this book any criticism, it would be that the end of the book turns romantic and I wish that this had not happened. I wish that the story had allowed the male and female leads to just remain as friends. Of course, that romantic turn is what puts this story in the “Chick Lit” genre.

Overall, I found this book incredibly satisfying. I thought that the author did a great job of making a likable character and a good storyline. The story kept me hooked until the end. I highly recommend it.

Book Review: Echo by Pam Muñoz Ryan

For years, there has been a debate among book lovers, does listening to an audiobook count as “reading?”

For a long time, I tried to be a purist about this. Reading engages the mind in a different way than listening, I would argue. Eventually, I realized that I was still engaging with a story. I began to count my audiobooks in my annual reading tally.

Reading is important for me. From a young age, I was the type of person that would get wrapped up in books. Even to this day, a good story can keep me up at night. However, the experience of getting wrapped up in a story usually only occurred for me when I had a book in hand.

In 2019, that changed for me. I fell in love with the audiobook presentation of ECHO, a novel by Pam Muñoz Ryan.

I didn’t set out to find the audiobook presentation of this book. In fact, when my friend recommended the book, I knew very little about it. And, although I once read Ms. Muñoz Ryan’s book Esperanza Rising, I did not recognize her name when I was given the recommendation. All I knew was that my friend has great taste in books.

This book would be a great read from a book. The author knows how to weave a compelling tale. She creates well-rounded characters. But, this book really lends itself to an audiobook rendition.

The stories of four young people- Otto, Friedrich, Mike, and Ivy- are intricately linked by a harmonica and the desire for something more. The narrative is rich and detailed. However, the audiobook rendition provides musical background during parts of the narrative. The effect is that the audiobook really transports you to the story. Additionally, the reader does an excellent job with an amazing story.

I fell absolutely in love with this story. It was beautiful and well written. It is a book that should become required reading in schools. I loved it! And, you will too. If you like being lost in a story, you will love Pam Muñoz Ryan’s story, Echo. I highly recommend it.

Six Spanish Movies that will make you feel…

I am an avid consumer of popular culture. I love movies and television. In fact, it was thanks to American television growing up that I learned some of the finer nuances of American culture.

As an adult, nothing makes me feel connected to my Latin roots like Spanish based movies and music. If you, like me, like to use your Spanish skills to enjoy this type of media then here is a list to inspire you. This list includes movies from the 1980s to 2000s.

Like Water for Chocolate

Como El Agua Para el Chocolate is a 1992 film based on the 1989 novel by Laura Esquivel. This is an arthouse movie that is set during the Mexican Civil War of 1910.

This story is complex and beautiful. It is a deeply symbolic movie is about star-crossed lovers. It also features a highly toxic relationship between mother and daughter. There is some nudity so don’t be alarmed by the front nudity featuring major 80s bush.

Under the Same Moon

Bajo la Misma Luna is a 2007 journey’s hero movie focusing on a young boy. After the death of his grandmother who is raising him in Mexico, he travels unaccompanied to Los Angeles where he hopes to find his mother played by Kate Del Castillo. You will cry. That is… if you have a soul.

The Motorcycle Diaries

This movie came out in 2004 and it features one of my favorite actors, Gabriel Garcia Bernal. If you do not already know him, you are missing out. Garcia Bernal portrays a young Ernesto “Che” Guevara in this dramatic biopic. The movie is based on the real life events that led to Guevara’s enlightenment and acknowledgment of social injustice.

Belle Epoque

1992 movie.  I watched this movie when I was entirely too young! Belle Epoque is about a young Spanish Army deserter who has sex with four sisters. As sexist and gross as that sounds, this movie was actually highly acclaimed and features a young Penelope Cruz as Luz, the youngest sister who ultimately marries the adorable, army-deserting loser.

Love is a Bitch

Amorres Perros or  (2000). This excellent movie stars Gabriel Garcia Bernal in a dramatic ensemble about a people linked together by a horrific car accident. It is Crash before Crash came out.

Ladron Que Roba Ladron (2007)

This movie is a Robin Hood-esque, heist comedy. In addition to having a premise that will help you justify cheering for the “bad guy” robbers, you will enjoying Gabriel Soto’s beautiful body as he sweats and digs a tunnel.

What is your favorite Spanish-language movie?

Book Review: In the Midst of Winter

A book review of Isabel Allende‘s, “In the Midst of Winter.” 
 
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I read this book at the end of 2018 in preparation for my first book club meeting of 2019. There are few things that can stir me in the way that a well written book can. Among the authors that I have read, there is but a handful that I can count on to meet this need. Isabel Allende is one such author.
 
This is a beautifullywritten story. In this book, Allende takes the lives of three individuals. She braids the stories of their past to help explain their present actions. To me, it felt contrived. The premise- two people help a stranger with illegal tasks- is far-fetched. Among the other members of my book club, the feeling was the same. Most were unable to overcome this issue and enjoy the book.  
 
I did. And, I am glad that I pushed past my initial reaction. Allende is an author who surprises me. She managed to do that in a few places in this book. Plus, I enjoy her way with words. And this skill remained present.
 
If you are an Allende fan, I recommend this book. You may like it. If you are reading Isabel Allende for the first time, don’t pick this book as your representation of her work. You may be disappointing. Rather, I recommend starting with the books Daughter of Fortune, Paula, and Eva Luna. A qualifier, I have not read the books Paula and Eva Luna. Those were recommendations by mi amiga Marta Alfonso Durruty.
 
Have you read In the Midst of Winter? What did you think about it?

Book Review of “I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter”

A young woman dealing with loss, love and learning.

Fall 2018, I learned about a young adult author that completely excited me. Erika Sanchez, a professor of Poetry at Princeton University. She is the author of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter. Her debut novel was released by Knopf Books in October 2017. Now, I cannot say why I had not heard about it sooner. But, I am so thankful that I did. I connected with the story.  

The moment I heard the title, I knew that I had to read this book. The title proved just as intriguing for others in my social circle. After I finished reading it, I took to social media to laud its praises. I posted on Facebook,

If you have not already picked up your copy of this book. Do it! It is devastatingly beautiful. #iamnotyourperfectmexicandaughter

I read the first comment following my post:

Yes, you are my perfect Mexican daughter!! 

I laughed. My mom had posted a response. I could hear her saying those words, the Y’s in yes and you sounding more like J’s.

But, being a “Perfect Mexican Daughter” did not make me feel any less connected to this book. In fact, I felt connected to it deeply because I do not see myself as the perfect Mexican daughter. Like Julia Reyes, the book’s protagonist, I have felt hopelessness and despair. I have desired to rebel against my culture and circumstances. As a grown woman, I was able to enjoy the book and detach more than I would have years earlier.

The story is beautiful and raw. It is a literary masterpiece. It is a coming of age/maturation story of a young woman living in Chicago with her undocumented parents. Julia is a flawed, high schooler. She is suffering from depression, possibly PTSD and poverty. She is dealing with the questions left by her sister’s death. I could not to stop reading it. 

The book starts as the Reyes family learns that Olga, the older daughter, is dead. It is an excellent story that will grip you. And, if you come from a Latina background, it will feel familiar in a way other books may have never felt familiar.

The book ends beautifully. You grow to love a teenager who, like other teenagers, can be very unloveable. And, it will remind you to love the rebellious teenager you were. Since reading it, I have recommended it to everyone. And I hope that I have inspired you to read it as well.

I chose to include this book as part of the January theme for my blog because this book helped me re-evaluate and reset myself. It reminded me how much I long to have literature that features characters who look like me. Most importantly, it made me re-evaluate my dream of becoming an author and reset my goals in accomplishing the task. It is this book that helped launch me back into the trajectory of starting this blog.

Con Cariño, Amada.

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