Books by Terri de la Peña

A IS FOR THE AMERICAS by Cynthia Chin-Lee
Released: Sept. 1, 1999

PLB 0-531-33194-6 This alphabet guide to North, Central, and South America gives a good indication of the land's cultural and geographic sweep, from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego, including its 48 countries and dependencies and 11 large language groups. The territory is vast, comfortably accommodating J for "jalape§o" (Mexican) and K is for "kayak" (Inuit), plus ocelots, llamas, empanadas, and igloos. As Spanish is the predominant language in the Americas, there is a strong Latin texture to the book, with Native American and African influences also fairly conspicuous. Each entry is sensibly explained and set in its context as much as possible. The authors don't attempt encyclopedic coverage, but rather peek into some cultural byways; there is information served up as simple nuggets of insight, as well as facts that are provocative, which may well send readers off on further exploration. Sanchez's artwork is highly descriptive, with lots of color and an emphasis on clothing and architecture, and infusing dry portions of the text with life. (Picture book. 5-9) Read full book review >
LATIN SATINS by Terri de la Peña
Released: Sept. 25, 1994

It's hard to believe that de la Pe§a (Margins, 1992) tries to work terms like ``multicultural,'' ``racist,'' and ``homophobic'' onto almost every page, but she does in this wearying, preachy novel. De la Pe§a seems to think that the mere act of using words like ``dyke'' or ``tits and clits,'' and dropping concepts like AIDS, homophobia, sexual preference, racial discrimination, and solo sex into everyday conversation is groundbreaking when, in fact, it's all been done many times before. Her efforts would have been better spent on a more convincing narrative and stronger writing. Somehow, in de la Pe§a's world, novels are meant to send a message—the ``right'' message. And the story?'s not so important. So we're stuck watching the mini-dramas of four queer Chicanas who mix music and social commentary in a singing group called the Latin Satins. Like: Will the celibate songwriter ever stop masturbating over her well-worn volume of lesbian erotica and actually get a real lover? (Of course. In fact, the stranger she sees across a lagoon one morning at the beginning of the book, the first woman she's attracted to since breaking up with her closeted ex two years before, turns out to be the same friend-of-a-friend trying to get a date with her throughout the story.) Or: Will the lead singer change her skirt-chasing ways to keep a stormy new affair with the bisexual backup singer from causing turmoil in the group? (Not an issue, since the backup singer's black rapper boyfriend comes home to reclaim her and their biracial daughter.) And don't expect any more creativity from the lyrics. Other than the sardonic ``Bushwhacker,'' it's just more of ``We must unite to write, create/Abolish stereotypes, fight hate.'' A broken record. Read full book review >
MARGINS by Terri de la Peña
Released: April 1, 1992

A disappointingly thin first novel about a young Chicana grad student's coming out. De la Pe§a is a winner of the Chicano Literary Prize from the University of California, Irvine. When aspiring writer Veronica Melendez, 22, is injured in a car crash that kills her lover and best friend, Joanna, Veronica is left alone to put the pieces of her life back together. Staying in her brother's apartment and watching her teenaged nephew while his father is away, she meets and becomes sexually involved with neighbor Siena Benedetti, a bisexual model who has recently gone through her own personal tragedy. Veronica and Siena have a passionate affair, but when they are discovered by Veronica's nephew, he runs away in disgust and is hit by a car. This accident eventually leads Veronica to come out to her Chicano family, including her sister, a nun, and reveal as well the real nature of her relationship with the dead Joanna. In the end, Veronica leaves Siena, who has never really felt comfortable in the lesbian world, for the fiery filmmaker RenÇ Talamontes. Soap-opera-ish in plot and surprisingly one-dimensional in style. At times this reads like a graphic lesbian Harlequin romance, complete with the heroine falling for the brutish, forceful seducer, despite initial protests of distaste. Instead of revealing a potentially rich Chicano texture, the novel's action seems to take place in a vacuum, albeit a politically correct one. Read full book review >