Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall favorites! Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas 
Book review by Andrew ViƱales

Meeting Piri Thomas!

I read Down these Mean Streets when I was in middle school. In fact, Piri Thomas was the first author I ever met in person. It was important for my mom to make sure I saw Afro-Latinx’s contribution to literature and culture, through Piri Thomas’ work I gained access to that world. Down These Mean Streets is about Harlem, poverty, prison and coming of age for a man who experienced systemic racism in complex forms. Thomas’ rhythmic voice masterfully retells parts of his life story in a way that doesn’t romanticize the drama, but makes it more palatable. I firmly believe that my academic, social, and political work has been shaped by Down these Mean Streets, with that I end my review in the Spirit of Thomas… Punto! 

About Down These Mean Streets:
Thirty years ago Piri Thomas made literary history with this lacerating, lyrical memoir of his coming of age on the streets of Spanish Harlem. Here was the testament of a born outsider: a Puerto Rican in English-speaking America; a dark-skinned morenito in a family that refused to acknowledge its African blood. Here was an unsparing document of Thomas's plunge into the deadly consolations of drugs, street fighting, and armed robbery--a descent that ended when the twenty-two-year-old Piri was sent to prison for shooting a cop.
As he recounts the journey that took him from adolescence in El Barrio to a lock-up in Sing Sing to the freedom that comes of self-acceptance, faith, and inner confidence, Piri Thomas gives us a book that is as exultant as it is harrowing and whose every page bears the irrepressible rhythm of its author's voice. Thirty years after its first appearance, this classic of manhood, marginalization, survival, and transcendence is available in an anniversary edition with a new Introduction by the author.

About Andrew:
Andrew is a proud Afro-Latinx born and raised in the Bronx. He found his love for reading at an early age. His interests in history, culture, literature and community is a driving force for him to pursue a Master’s degree in Oral History at Columbia University. When he’s not organizing, reading, writing short stories, or on Tumblr, you can find Andrew dancing!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Fall favorites! Wonder by RJ Palacio

Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Book review by Elizabeth Rossi

Wonder is one of the best books I’ve read this year. It follows a young boy named Auggie who has a face deformity that causes other children to scream in fear when he walks down the street. In order to protect him, his parents have home-schooled him until one day Auggie makes the brave decision to enroll into a public school in the 5th grade. It is here that Auggie must face his fear of rejection and being ostracized by his peers - but it also here where Auggie finds friendship, and people willing to stand up for him and by him. 
Wonder provides an opportunity to see how being extraordinary can come in all forms, even by ordinary people. It allows us to see how bravery can come from anyone, no matter the circumstance. It also shows us that it takes facing fear in order to see the best humanity has to offer. This book can be especially useful tool for parents and teachers to start conversations with students about bullying.
I recommend this book to both youth and adults. 

A reminder that no matter your age, you can always be extraordinary in your everyday life by not being afraid to be yourself and allowing others to do the same. 

About Wonder
August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. WONDER, now a #1 New York Times bestseller and included on the Texas Bluebonnet Award master list, begins from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others. These perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.

"Wonder is the best kids' book of the year," said Emily Bazelon, senior editor at and author of Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R.J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness” —indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. Auggie is a hero to root for, a diamond in the rough who proves that you can’t blend in when you were born to stand out

About Elizabeth:
Believer that art has the power to make significant social change and that peppermint tea can always heal your tummy - Elizabeth Rossi is the Gallery Curator of LaCasa Azul Bookstore, she is also teaches painting classes and feminism. 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Fall favorites! Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat.

Happy Fall season! 
We had a great time this summer -- outdoor concerts, author mingles and paint parties. 
As the weather cools down, we though we'd suggest our favorite reads -- perfect for staying in and enjoying the new season. 

Every Friday we will post a Fall Favorite -- starting today with Doris' pick,  Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat.  

This September, Edwidge Danticat joined us for an intimate book reading and conversation with loyal fans.  When asked which of her own books was her favorite, she replied: Claire of the Sea Light (published in 2013).

I undoubtedly agreed, half way through the vignette-styled novel I felt that few other worlds could stay in my heart, like those of Ville Rose.

It is here, on a tempestuous shoreline, we first met our heroine, seven year old Claire Limye Lanme Faustin. And like a cascade, Danticat tenderly and unsentimentally reveals the people who have loved her the most, and the strangers who have loved them in turn. By the end you have this incredible patchwork of living and breathing that I was overwhelmed by my capacity to understand Haitian life in the few words she expressed.

The easy style of Edwidge Danticat's writing is what brings you in and lets you trust her in a deep, primal manner. That must be what enamors so many people to her work. The sweat of the writer's toil is clear, that she so encapsulates the essentials of life in a foreign world to the reader, and allows you to sit on that Haitian shoreline, kitchen, slum road, that you feel undoubtedly must be real. And you fall in love with the experience of reading her work, as you feel her world as if you've lived there your whole life.

In small chapters you meet the people with the power to change her life, like her father who debates whether or not to give her away for adoption. Or the dressmaker who may rekindle her role as a mother by sharing her home with the little girl. One afternoon she runs away, and like a mystery tale, Danticat artfully and confidently weaves in the lives of distantly related townspeople who all share in the sum experience little Claire has run away from, and is irrevocably made of.

About Doris:
A firm believer in the magic of books, from her Uncle Gerardo's science textbooks to her father's hilarious imitations from a book on Leonardo da Vinci's inventions, Doris-Elin Salazar currently works as a researcher at La Casa Azul Bookstore. She writes for Ashajiraa, a blog detailing the work of extraction industry activists in La Guajira, Colombia.