A deeply meaningful collection that navigates important nuances of identity.

NEPANTLA FAMILIAS

AN ANTHOLOGY OF MEXICAN AMERICAN LITERATURE ON FAMILIES IN BETWEEN WORLDS

An anthology featuring Mexican American writers negotiating life in between cultures.

In an anthology that feels long overdue, Troncoso gathers 30 Mexican American writers to relate their accounts of what it means to be an American or, more often, what it means to not feel fully American. The anthology, which is divided into fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, contains mostly never-before-published works woven together by the common thread of “nepantla,” a Nahuatl word that means “mutual place” or the “in-between.” Alex Espinoza discusses being rejected due to his queerness, viewing his experience through the lens of machismo and alcoholism, two powerful forces that he notes often exist in tandem. In a short story, feminist poet ire’ne lara silva explores the concept of “crossing over” in Mexican culture, both literally (to the U.S.) and in the afterlife, while Octavio Quintanilla’s short poem conveys the fear of law enforcement that can often haunt immigrants long after they arrive in America as well as the constant threat of deportation. The liminal spaces in which these moving, sometimes heart-wrenching stories take place range from the geographical to the metaphysical. Often, the literal borders erected to keep out Mexican migrants become metaphors for a deeper struggle to find the meanings of us and them. Many of the writers express a frustration at being either “too Mexican” or “not Mexican enough." The rejection from both sides foments a desire to belong to something uniquely apart from either, giving birth to a diaspora that embraces the idea of existing in several worlds. “The either/or proposition that forces you to choose between your community and, say, your country has never been true,” Troncoso writes in the introduction. “The very skills we learn to cross borders within ourselves help us to cross borders toward others outside our community.” Other contributors include Sandra Cisneros, Reyna Grande, Francisco Cantú, and Stephanie Elizondo Griest.

A deeply meaningful collection that navigates important nuances of identity.

Pub Date: April 2, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-62349-963-1

Page Count: 262

Publisher: Texas A&M Univ.

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2021

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A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

A WEALTH OF PIGEONS

A CARTOON COLLECTION

The veteran actor, comedian, and banjo player teams up with the acclaimed illustrator to create a unique book of cartoons that communicates their personalities.

Martin, also a prolific author, has always been intrigued by the cartoons strewn throughout the pages of the New Yorker. So when he was presented with the opportunity to work with Bliss, who has been a staff cartoonist at the magazine since 1997, he seized the moment. “The idea of a one-panel image with or without a caption mystified me,” he writes. “I felt like, yeah, sometimes I’m funny, but there are these other weird freaks who are actually funny.” Once the duo agreed to work together, they established their creative process, which consisted of working forward and backward: “Forwards was me conceiving of several cartoon images and captions, and Harry would select his favorites; backwards was Harry sending me sketched or fully drawn cartoons for dialogue or banners.” Sometimes, he writes, “the perfect joke occurs two seconds before deadline.” There are several cartoons depicting this method, including a humorous multipanel piece highlighting their first meeting called “They Meet,” in which Martin thinks to himself, “He’ll never be able to translate my delicate and finely honed droll notions.” In the next panel, Bliss thinks, “I’m sure he won’t understand that the comic art form is way more subtle than his blunt-force humor.” The team collaborated for a year and created 150 cartoons featuring an array of topics, “from dogs and cats to outer space and art museums.” A witty creation of a bovine family sitting down to a gourmet meal and one of Dumbo getting his comeuppance highlight the duo’s comedic talent. What also makes this project successful is the team’s keen understanding of human behavior as viewed through their unconventional comedic minds.

A virtuoso performance and an ode to an undervalued medium created by two talented artists.

Pub Date: Nov. 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-26289-9

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Celadon Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 31, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2020

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A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Sedaris remains stubbornly irreverent even in the face of pandemic lockdowns and social upheaval.

In his previous collection of original essays, Calypso (2018), the author was unusually downbeat, fixated on aging and the deaths of his mother and sister. There’s bad news in this book, too—most notably, the death of his problematic and seemingly indestructible father at 96—but Sedaris generally carries himself more lightly. On a trip to a gun range, he’s puzzled by boxer shorts with a holster feature, which he wishes were called “gunderpants.” He plays along with nursing-home staffers who, hearing a funnyman named David is on the premises, think he’s Dave Chappelle. He’s bemused by his sister Amy’s landing a new apartment to escape her territorial pet rabbit. On tour, he collects sheaves of off-color jokes and tales of sexual self-gratification gone wrong. His relationship with his partner, Hugh, remains contentious, but it’s mellowing. (“After thirty years, sleeping is the new having sex.”) Even more serious stuff rolls off him. Of Covid-19, he writes that “more than eight hundred thousand people have died to date, and I didn’t get to choose a one of them.” The author’s support of Black Lives Matter is tempered by his interest in the earnest conscientiousness of organizers ensuring everyone is fed and hydrated. (He refers to one such person as a “snacktivist.”) Such impolitic material, though, puts serious essays in sharper, more powerful relief. He recalls fending off the flirtations of a 12-year-old boy in France, frustrated by the language barrier and other factors that kept him from supporting a young gay man. His father’s death unlocks a crushing piece about dad’s inappropriate, sexualizing treatment of his children. For years—chronicled in many books—Sedaris labored to elude his father’s criticism. Even in death, though, it proves hard to escape or laugh off.

A sweet-and-sour set of pieces on loss, absurdity, and places they intersect.

Pub Date: May 31, 2022

ISBN: 978-0-316-39245-7

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 11, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2022

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