Reading, Watching, Listening

What I’ve been reading: Issues of Doctor Who Magazine and Doctor Who Insider, Doctor Who comics on my iPad (do you see a theme emerging?), and I just started The Age of Dreamingby Nina Revoyr. I’ve been quite consumed by all things Doctor Who lately, thanks to the new season, but I decided to start this book by Revoyr. I’m a huge fan of silent movies, so when my friend mentioned it on her book blog, I had to pick it up. It’s about a Japanese silent movie star named Jun Nakayama telling the story of his life 40 years later to a newspaper reporter. I’m only two chapters in, but I’m already loving it. The narrator’s voice is a bit stiff and overly formal in spots, but I’m guessing that has more to do with the history/time of the subject matter than the author’s writing style. It’s certainly not a perfect book, but I’m still enjoying it immensely. I’ll just pretend I didn’t notice those weird transitions between time frames and the absurdity of some of the plot elements.

What I’m Reading Next: I’m definitely going to tackle Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse, which is an anthology of 22 apocalyptic stories by authors like Stephen King, George R.R. Martin, Nancy Kress, and more. It’s been on my Amazon wish list for a while, and all this talk about the rapture lately has rekindled my desire to read it. I’ve always enjoyed a good end-of-the-world, dystopian, or natural-disasterish novel, so I’m expecting to love the snot out of Wastelands. After I finish that, I might gravitate toward a Cristina Garcia (The Lady Matador’s Hotel) or Julia Alvarez (Return to Sender) novel – I need to give my Latina authors some much-needed reading time.

What I’ve Been watching: Doctor Who, season 6. LOVE IT. Eccleston will always be my Doctor, but Matt Smith is inching his way up there on my list. Amy is less obnoxious this season, and I even find myself warming up to River Song. I know, I know, blasphemy – but she’s kind of bad ass this season. I think that may have something to do with the fact that she’s not saying “spoilers!” every ten seconds. The last episode, The Doctor’s Wife written by Neil Gaiman (!!!), was super sexy and epic and, quite frankly, a Whovian’s wet dream – my favorite of the season thus far. The dark, fairy-tale feel of season six is quite to my liking; I know a lot of fans have been complaining about how “different” Moffat’s style is compared to Russell T. Davies, but that’s exactly what I like about Doctor Who. It’s constantly changing and always keeping you on your toes. I like a variety of styles and genres, so as long as the Doctor is there, I’ll watch it.

I’m also watching Warehouse 13, which is a show on the SyFy channel. I’m almost done with season one, and it’s just okay. Too many cheesy one-liners and it’s trying too hard to be Bones meets The X-Files. Bleh. I probably won’t download season two. It’s not nearly as good as Eureka.

I’ve been hearing a lot about the BBC show “Being Human”, so I decided to give that a go. I’ve watched the first three episodes, and I’m liking it a lot. I’m not typically a fan of vampires, but it doesn’t annoy me here. The most interesting story line, by far, is with the ghost. I’m trying to get my mom to watch this too so we can discuss our thoughts. She loves vampires, so I’m sure she’ll love this.

What I’m Watching Next: Probably season 2 and 3 of Being Human, and I’ll try to get into Smallville. I tried watching it back when it first came on, but couldn’t get into it. I’m a massive Superman fan, so I should give it another shot – right? I have a lot to catch up on. Also, that new show “Once Upon a Time” looks like it could be good. It’s on ABC, so it will probably get cancelled before the end of the first season, but I’ll watch anyway.

What I’ve Been Listening To: Madonna’s Immaculate Collection, Christopher Eccleston reading a very abridged version of The Book Thief (such a lovely, heartbreaking story – I purchased the unabridged book), The B52’s Funplex, and STILL trying to get through The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo audio book. It’s a chore and I’ll never keep all those characters straight in my head.

What have you been watching and reading lately?

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Spotlight: Latina writers – Julia Alvarez

Lately, I’ve been thinking about writing a novel on growing up half Cuban/Latina and half European/white, and what that means to me and how I identify.  When I was younger, I never really thought about this.  And I know I never really had to think about it because I was perceived as white and was never discriminated against because of my skin color/name/ethnicity.  No one knew I was Cuban unless I told them.  But then I would come home from school to my mom cooking picadillo on the stove and maybe one of her telenovelas playing in the background.  Whenever my aunts visited (especially my Aunt Maggie), there was always loud voices and spanish words flying back and forth.  I always felt connected to my heritage, but never explored my identity until recently.  I still don’t know how to identify; I have a hard time saying I’m white even though I benefit from white skin privilege because I can’t deny my blood, and I have a hard time identifying as Latina BECAUSE I benefit from that white skin privilege.  Being biracial or bicultural is a confusing thing.

Ever since I’ve been exploring my identity, and even before, I have been trying to read more Latina/Cuban writers.  I feel connected to them; it’s like I’m reading my family history or reading prose by someone who understands me.  And as a woman, their voices are relatable to my own feelings.  Even if you’re not Latina, it’s still really important to read any published works you can by these women to understand their experiences – knowledge is power.  And that is why I am going to share their life and works with you.  Every few weeks, I hope to review another Latina writer.  But for the first article on Latina writers, I chose to do my favorite author.  Leave a comment if you’ve read her, or if this blog made you want to read her!

Julia Alvarez

Born: March 27th, 1950

Julia was raised in the Dominican Republic, but was born in New York City.  Her parents left NYC soon after she was born and returned to the D.R.  They were still under the dictatorship of Trujillo, and her father became involved in the underground.  When Alvarez was 10 years old, her family fled back to the United States after the underground’s failed attempt to overthrow the dictator.  She knew little English, and was often made fun of by her classmates.  Throughout grammar school and high school, Julia was extremely determined and knew she wanted to be a writer.  On her website, she states:

“When I’m asked what made me into a writer, I point to the watershed experience of coming to this country. Not understanding the language, I had to pay close attention to each word — great training for a writer. I also discovered the welcoming world of the imagination and books. There, I sunk my new roots. Of course, autobiographies are written afterwards. Talk to my tías in the D.R. and they’ll tell you I was making up stuff way before I ever set foot in the United States of America. (And getting punished for it, too. Lying, they called it back then.) But they’re right. As a kid, I loved stories, hearing them, telling them. Since ours was an oral culture, stories were not written down. It took coming to this country for reading and writing to become allied in my mind with storytelling.”

In 1971, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Middlebury College with a Bachelor or Arts degree.  In 1975, she received a Masters in Creative Writing from Syracuse University.  Afterwards, she began teaching creative writing at high schools and then colleges.

In 1991, while she was teaching at Middlebury College, she published her first novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, a story about four sisters coming to the U.S. from the D.R. with their family.  It was a very big success, and she ultimately left her tenured teaching position to become a full-time writer.  Future works included In The Time of the Butterflies, Something to Declare, !Yo!, In the Name of Salome, and Saving the World.

In addition to writing, Alvarez and her husband started an organic sustainable coffee farm and literacy center in the Dominican Republic.  Proceeds from the coffee go to the school located on the farm which teaches literacy to adults and children as well as where foreign students come to learn about sustainability.  You can learn more about this in her book A Cafecito Story.

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Must-read Works

In The Time of the Butterflies

Buy at Amazon.com

This was the first Julia Alvarez book that I read, and it is still my favorite.  It may even be my favorite book of all time.  I’ve given it as gifts, and everyone who reads it falls in love.  This book (which was also made into a fairly decent movie) is about the Mirabal sisters – three women who were key members in trying to overthrow the vicious dictator, Rafael Trujillo, in the late 50s.  This is historical fiction, and it is done very well.  It’s beautiful and heartbreaking, and I still think about the book to this day.

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Before We Were Free

Buy at Amazon.com

This is the story of 12-year-old Anita de la Torre, a young girl living in the Dominican Republic.  She lives a happy life with her family (aunts, uncles, cousins, parents) in an island compound.  However, when black cars with men in uniform begin showing up at her home, things start to change.  The reader gets to see what it is like, as a child, to live under a dictatorship and how frightening it is.  This is something you should read after reading In The Time of the Butterflies – it almost feels like a continuation, even though it is not.

Other works:
Yo!: A Novel
A Cafecito Story
Saving the World