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Western Hemisphere Challenges

December 18, 2008

I’ve decided to do two regional reading challenges to get to know my fellow Western Hemisphere-ans a little better: the Caribbean Challenge and the Exploration: Latin America Challenge.

For the Caribbean Challenge, I’ll be reading six books over the course of the year written by Caribbean authors and set in the Caribbean. I’ve decided to do a bit of a pool, rather than narrow it down right away:

  • Miguel Street by V.S. Naipul: a connected short story collection that’s been hanging out on my shelves for awhile, set in Trinidad and Tobago.
  • The Dragon Can’t Dance by Earl Lovelace: a novel also set in Trinidad during Carnivale.
  • The Farming of the Bones and/or The Dew Breaker by Edwidge Danticat: my library has both of these works by the Haitian author. The former is set in the Dominican Republic in the 1930s, which means the Haitian protagonists are in danger from the dictator’s new policy of genocide. The latter is based around the confessions of a former Haitian torturer visiting his daughter in America.
  • The True History of Paradise and/or The Pirate’s Daughter by Margaret Cezair-Thompson: my library only has the latter, which is a coming of age story in Golden Age Jamaica in which Errol Flynn plays a roll. The former also sounds interesting, set in 1980s Jamaica whose disintegration forces a young woman to leave the island her family has lived on for generations. The stories of her ancestors are woven in with the main plot.
  • The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz: I don’t think I need to explain this one, by the Dominican author who won the Pulitzer for it. :) I won this from the generous softdrink.
  • Cereus Blooms at Night by Shani Mootoo: by another Trinidad author, this novel is set in the fictional Caribbean island of Lantanacamara and seems to include some definite magical realism.
  • The New Moons Arms or Skin Folk by Nalo Hopkinson: my library gave me several options for this Jamaican-born, Guyana-, Trinidad-, and Canada-raised writer, and these two sound the most interesting. The former is a novel centered around middle-aged Calamity, whose life suddenly seems to be invaded by Carribean magical realism. The latter is a short story collection full of Caribbean folklore

For the Exploration: Latin America challenge, I’ll be reading four books by April from the following pool (in putting it together, I tried really hard to find new-to-me authors, an equal gender balance, and geographic distribution):

  • The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea: I’ve wanted to read this novel set along the Mexico-Arizona border for quite awhile, and my library has a copy.
  • Gabriela, Clove, and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado: this is the only author I’ve read before. I didn’t love my first experience with him, but when I came across a copy of this novel at my library sale earlier this year, I decided to give him a second chance! Plus, I have a weakness for the lusophones. ;)
  • In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez: my library has a copy of this thrilling tale of underground revolutionary women in the Dominican Republic in the 60s.
  • The Mixquiahuala Letters by Ana Castillo: my library doesn’t have a copy, but I might just have to buy this epistolatory story of a Mexican/Indian woman and her American friend. Why? Because the table of contents gives three different options for the order to read the letters in: conformist, cynical, or quixotic. How can I resist that, even if I have no idea how to pronounce the title?
  • The House on the Lagoon by Rosario Ferre: another book I might end up buying, this time by a Puerto Rican author. It’s set up in a he-said, she-said manner; a Puerto Rican woman has decided to become a novelist and uses her husband’s family history as material. But he keeps interupting to correct her. Another really neat format. :)
  • Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina Garcia: I’ve heard mixed reviews of this account of three generations of Cuban women, but since my library has it, I figure I can check it out for myself.
  • The Book of Imaginary Beings by Jorge Luis Borges: I think it’s criminal that I’ve never read anything by this Argentinan master! And this one seems adorable and erudite all at once. :)
  • The Temptation of the Impossible by Mario Vargas Llosa: ok, so this is a literary criticism of Les Miserables, but it sounds so interesting and I’ll be finishing Les Mis soon and Llosa’s a Latin American writer! Still, I can see this one not really counting. ;)
6 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2008 8:13 pm

    those are awesome lists!:) i am doing the latin america challenge as well.. but didnt know about the caribbean one.. you have totally tempted me to take part in that as well.. i read miguel street a while ago and loved it.. i like naipaul’s books..

  2. December 18, 2008 9:35 pm

    Didn’t know about the Latin America Challenge; I may well join in that one along with Scavella’s Caribbean Challenge. (I’m just finishing up the 2008 Africa Reading Challenge which has been fun.)

    I don’t know what work of Amado you’ve read before; “Gabriela” is very good, but “The War of the Saints” is my favorite of his.

    “The Farming of the Bones” is also excellent; I’ll be reading “The Dew Breaker” along with you for Scavella’s challenge.

    See you around the challenges.

  3. December 19, 2008 7:00 am

    I absolutely find your lists entertaining to read. And thank you for introducing me to “lusophones”. GOOD for me to know, since I’m tutoring a gal from Brazil. And I love the title of that book (now added to my tbr)

  4. December 19, 2008 10:31 pm

    Ramya, thanks! I’m excited about the Caribbean challenge-I’ve never read anything from the region before (well, I did read The Wide Sargasso Sea earlier this year, but that’s it), so it’s like brand-new terroritory. :)

    Hedgie, I wish I had done the Africa reading challenge! The War of the Saints is the one I read and didn’t love the way I hoped…but mybe it was timing or something. Looking forward to doing the challenges together! :)

    Care, thanks-I figure I have to get them posted, so hopefully they’re not too boring! :) And Amado has the best titles. :D

  5. December 20, 2008 4:55 am

    Great lists of books for both, never heard of many of them so I’ll be looking out for you reviews. I joined the Caribbean challenge too – i have joined so many challenges for 2009!

    The Dragon Can’t Dance is great, I read it at university and loved it.

  6. December 21, 2008 1:57 pm

    Katrina, awesome! I’m glad you loved The Dragon Can’t Dance. :)

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