Books by Ilan Stavans

Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His latest books include Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language and The Schocken Book of Modern Sephardic Literature.


GOLEMITO by Ilan Stavans
Released: July 1, 2013

"This competent picture book addresses the problem of bullying and offers an original, if not completely successful, blend of Jewish and Aztec culture and folklore. (Picture book. 7-11)"
Stavans presents the story of Sammy and Ilan, two Jewish boys living in Southern California, who combine their individual strengths to face bullying. Read full book review >
EL ILUMINADO by Ilan Stavans
Released: Nov. 13, 2012

"Another bold, if gratuitous, experiment from an academic with impeccable credentials and a keen sense of the secrets we hold most dear."
What do you get when you cross a Mexican-born Jewish intellectual with the creator of the Rabbi Harvey comics? Surprise—it's a most unusual conspiracy thriller. Read full book review >
ESSAYS & ANTHOLOGIES
Released: Nov. 1, 2012

"Too scholarly for some readers, but Stavans provides a relevant, fresh point of view."
Born in Mexico City and educated in a Yiddish-language school, Stavans (Latin American and Latino Culture/Amherst Coll.; Gabriel García Márquez: The Early Years, 2010, etc.) collects some of his journalistic output as a deeply engaged cultural observer. Read full book review >
GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ by Ilan Stavans
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Jan. 5, 2010

"Excellent. Longtime students of García Márquez will find fresh insights, and Stavans provides an excellent introduction for those readers new to the master's work."
Illuminating study of the first writings of Colombian literary giant best known for One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967). Read full book review >
RESURRECTING HEBREW by Ilan Stavans
Released: Sept. 30, 2008

"A gem for readers interested in Hebrew and the politics of language."
A personal and intellectual search for the history of modern Hebrew. Read full book review >
DICTIONARY DAYS by Ilan Stavans
PSYCHOLOGY
Released: April 1, 2005

"Delicious little essays of powerful intellectual curiosity."
Charming, loose-fitting essays about the sublime and silly pleasures of reading the dictionary. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 11, 2005

"An unusual anthology, then, well worth dipping into."
Accounts of religious persecution and exile, plus assertions of ethnic pride, dominate these 28 prose and verse selections: a collection representing the multinational minority culture that sprung from the 1492 expulsion of Spain's Jews. Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 1, 2001

"A penetrating analysis of the displacement and internal divisions created by linguistic adaptation, but undermined by a rickety narrative structure."
An often sophisticated, more frequently discursive memoir on transnational and translingual migration from Mexican-born critic and scholar Stavans (Latino U.S.A., 2000, etc.). Read full book review >
LATINO U.S.A. by Ilan Stavans
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Sept. 1, 2000

"Despite some odd byways, and an occasional clumsy sentence, a cartoon history for everyone: painless, witty, and inviting."
Educational comics have an honorable history, forged in the US by the visual didact Larry Gornick, and in Latin America by Rius, to whom Stavans (Amherst) and his artist collaborator pay tribute in their cartoon overview of Latin culture's relation to the US. Read full book review >
Released: Dec. 1, 1999

"            The border breaks down at this collection's core.  No matter how resonant the metaphor, the writers Stavans has gathered do not address cultural and political divisions as directly as the omnipresent links between power, language, and art."
            A collection of "piezas de ocasion" - slim essays, reviews and prologues by South American writers looking north, and North American writers looking south. Read full book review >
THE OXFORD BOOK OF JEWISH STORIES by Ilan Stavans
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Nov. 1, 1998

A generous collection of 52 stories from Europe, Africa, and the Americas that spans two centuries. Read full book review >

FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: May 1, 1998

($17.95 paperback original; May; 327 pp.; 1-880684-49-7):  A bilingual collection of 16 approximately contemporary stories chosen as their favorites by such esteemed translators as Gregory Rabassa, Edith Grossman, and Helen Lane.  Editor Stavans contributes an imposingly learned prefatory essay ("Translation and Identity"), and the translators themselves add informative brief prefaces to such pleasant surprise inclusions as Uruguayan Felisberto Hernández's edgy "The Crocodile"; Argentinian Ana Maria Shúa's hilarious tale of domestic mayhem and embattled parenthood ("A Good Mother"); and Dalton Trevisan's droll minimalist vignette "Three Shots in the Afternoon."  This high-concept anthology helpfully showcases several other lesser-known writers as well - and joins Oxford's Book of Latin American Short Stories (1997) as one of the best currently available volumes in its field.

Read full book review >
NEW WORLD by Ilan Stavans
Released: Jan. 1, 1997

The pangs of cultural dislocation and the pressures imposed by both rural and urban poverty are central themes in this generous anthology of 23 stories by mostly unfamiliar Hispanic-American writers. The collection's general unevenness may be observed in microcosm in editor-contributor Stavans's savvy Introduction (an overview of the recent ``renaissance'' of such writing) and also in his story ``The Kiss,'' a tale of revenge that feels oddly dispassionate and detached. Read full book review >

THE ONE-HANDED PIANIST by Ilan Stavans
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Feb. 1, 1996

A first collection of stories, including a novella and also an autobiographical essay, from the Mexican-born critic best known for his journalism and nonfiction studies of Latino history and culture (such as The Hispanic Condition, p. 151). The unifying theme of Stavans's fiction is announced in the essay ``Lost in Translation'' (written in English), which summarizes his Jewish-Mexican origins, ethnic and intellectual disorientation, and literary ambitions: ``the mysteries of my divided identity.'' The stories, which are uniformly discursive and so muted and dispassionate they scarcely feel fictional at all, concern thinly sketched protagonists and narrators caught in dreamlike states of derangement or incompletion. ``A Heaven Without Crows'' is an imaginary letter written by the dying Franz Kafka to his friend and literary executor Max Brod explaining why Kafka wishes his writings destroyed (``nothing imperfect should survive''). ``House Repossessed'' constructs but does not develop an arresting metaphor for a girl's alienation from her own sexual nature. ``The Spot'' on a man's shirt provokes a fantasy of disease and disintegration; and ``The One-Handed Pianist'' neurotically insists she's losing one of her hands—but neither piece does much with its originating idea. ``The Invention of Memory'' posits an intriguing situation—a married woman's furtive fixation on her new neighbor—but the relationship between her loneliness and his enervation (he's a ``memory expert'' whose powers are lapsing) is never made clear. Read full book review >

BANDIDO by Ilan Stavans
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Released: Sept. 27, 1995

A deeply considered essay on the Chicano movement's worldly Aquinas. Best known through his thinly disguised appearance as Hunter S. Thompson's drug-gobbling Samoan attorney in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1972), the Mexican-American lawyer and political activist Oscar Acosta receives a faithful, and appropriately irreverent, biographical rendering in the hands of Mexican intellectual Stavans (The Hispanic Condition, 1995, etc.). Read full book review >

RELIGION
Released: March 1, 1995

Part history and part cultural encyclopedia, a sophisticated- -sometimes too sophisticated—discussion of Latino identity as displayed in art, literature, and popular culture. Stavans (Growing Up Latino, not reviewed) asks more questions than he can answer about Latino identity—in part, he concludes, because the Hispanic community is continuously creating itself. Read full book review >