The Story of Spanish
Authors: Jean-Benoît Nadeau and Julie Barlow
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Review by Dwain Richardson
According to 2012 statistics prepared by the Cervantes Institute, Spanish is the native language of some 500,000,000 people. It has official status in 21 countries, and 18,000,000 people worldwide are learning Spanish as a foreign language. Indeed, Spanish is now the world’s second or third most widely spoken language. With such compelling statistics, one might ask: How did Spanish become so important in the world today? Why are so many people learning it? Answers to these questions, and many others, can be found in The Story of Spanish.
Cloudburst: An Anthology of Hispanic Canadian Short Stories
Editors: Luis Molina Lora, Julio Torres-Recinos
Publisher: University of Ottawa Press
Review by Martin Boyd
In 2008, the publication of the anthology edited by Luis Molina Lora and Julio Torres-Recinos, Retrato de una nube. Primera antología del cuento hispano canadiense ["Portrait of a Cloud: First Anthology of Hispanic Canadian Short Fiction"] marked a milestone in Hispanic Canadian literature: the first anthology exclusively dedicated to short stories written by Hispanic Canadian authors. Five years later, the appearance of the translation of the same anthology into English, under the title Cloudburst: An Anthology of Hispanic Canadian Short Stories, published by University of Ottawa Press, marks another milestone: the first anthology of Hispanic Canadian short stories translated into English, making the richness and diversity of Hispanic Canadian short fiction available to English-speaking readers for the first time.
Nosotros los Nobles
Director: Gaz Alazraki
Studio: Alazraki Films
Review by Martin Boyd
It is no secret to most Mexicans that the central issue underlying all the turmoil that has affected their country in recent years – from the violence of the so-called “drug war” to the teacher protests that have brought Mexico City to a standstill on several occasions this year – is the growing gap between rich and poor. The Mexican economy has expanded considerably in recent decades to turn the country into one of the world’s economic superpowers; nevertheless, only a select group of Mexicans have benefited from the revenues earned from the country’s increasing productivity. Mexico’s economic inequality has led many commentators to speak of the emergence of “two Mexicos”, “one that is the beneficiary of neoliberal globalization, and the other that receives scarcely a few drops of the wealth that is created” (Agustín Basave, El Universal).
Artists: Barbara Croall and Paulina Derbez
Distributor: Conscious Musician Productions
Review by Dulce Huet Covarrubias
Altri Suoni, the new CD of avant-garde music composed and performed by Mexican violinist Paulina Derbez and indigenous Canadian composer Barbara Croall (of the Odawa Nation), is a sonic production that takes us back simultaneously to our origins as humans and as acoustic beings. Voice and violin intertwine their different expressions, constructing a rite of sounds and silences, which we can discern as they emerge from the deepest corners of our resonant and dissonant memory.
El difunto Fidel
Author: Teresa Dovalpage
Review by Mickey Garrote
The laughable truth is the essence of Teresa Dovalpage’s novel El difunto Fidel (“The Late Fidel”). Could this be this author’s most comic work yet? The truth is that the story will keep you laughing all the way through. And the story offers a truthful picture of a dysfunctional family of Cuban exiles in Miami. Are there any exile families that aren’t dysfunctional?
The Whirling of the Serpent: Quetzalcoatl Resurrected
Author: José Luis Díaz
Review by Manuel Romero Mier y Terán
Being Mexican sometimes seems like an internal contradiction, as the vast majority of the Mexican population hold both the Spanish Conquistador and his indigenous victim in disdain. But this reality of our nation – which also resonates in other countries of Latin America – was not always the case. Before other chimeras like the Virgin of Guadalupe, China Poblana and the Mestizo, there was the Plumed Serpent, Lord of the Earth and Sky: Quetzalcoatl. He was a character that my generation learned about in history text books at elementary school as a god, priest or wise man who was expelled from his home after getting drunk on pulque, and who then departed on a boat of serpents promising he would return one day, thereby forging one of the most meaningful legends of Mexican psychological identity.
Martha Bátiz and Martin Boyd at the book launch for “Papalotero”
A heartfelt thank you to all who attended the book launch for my novel Papalotero at Accents Bookstore, this week. For those who missed it, an excerpt from the presentation on the novel by Mexican-Canadian writer Martha Bátiz is included below. – Martin Boyd
Las largas horas de la noche
Author: Antonio Álvarez Gil
Publisher: Plaza Mayor
Review by Arístides Vega Chapú
A comprehensive overview of contemporary Cuban writing would be so difficult that I would even dare to suggest it would be impossible, especially if the aim were to be impartial and objective. One reason for this is the number of books issued by rural publishers, in limited print runs that fail to reach every corner of the country. Many such books are left out of the studies and lists we generally use to support a knowledge that almost always, especially in recent years, proves too relative to be called definitive. Another factor is the quantity of excellent literature written and published in places far from Cuban shores that never reaches our hands. We are mutual strangers; we are so utterly unaware of these authors that we might claim their writing does not belong to our single, indivisible national literature, in spite of the fact it constitutes one of the most solid parts of our culture.
La casa de nadie y otros relatos
Author: Ángel Mota Berriozábal
Publisher: Lugar Común
Review by Gerardo Barajas-Garrido
There are books that aim simply to entertain the reader, and there are others that go further, offering a reflection on the social problems that a country’s individuals face on a daily basis. The latter is the case of La casa de nadie y otros relatos, a collection of short stories by Ángel Mota Berriozábal, a Mexican-born writer currently based in Montreal. With extraordinary precision, through a series of stories that are independent but linked through their setting in the same city, this young author reveals the complexities of the human condition. It is in this way, with acerbity and wit, that he proves true Guy Vanderhaeghe’s observation that, while history tells us what people have done, historical fiction brings us closer to how they felt when they were doing it (quoted by Allan Casey in “A Good Guy”, Quill & Quire, Sep. 2011, pp. 16-18).
Author: Martin Boyd
Publisher: Editorial Ink
Mexico City, 2012
Review by Brian Kennedy
Martin Boyd describes Papalotero as an “intercultural love story“, and the novel certainly offers an incisive and frequently comical picture of the clashes of cultural perspectives that inevitably occur in cities as richly multicultural as Toronto. But I would argue that the clash of values explored in Papalotero is something even more essential, something that transcends cultural boundaries: a clash between the basic human desire to control and regulate life, and the courage to embrace it, to truly live it and love it, recognizing it as the extraordinary accident – or miracle – that it really is.