Last weekend I went to the City College Book Fair and was introduced two wonderful writers. The poetry of Jimmy Santiago Baca http://www.jimmysantiagobaca.com/
was breath-taking (and I'm not even inclined toward poetry.) He's had a colorful life, grew up poor, spent time in prison, and now he writes, mentors others, and works with prisoners in a most innovative way - teaching them the therapy of writing. I cannot implore you more strongly - please check out his work - you will be amazed.
Another fantastic speaker was Luis Rodriquez http://www.luisjrodriguez.com/
- he wrote of crossing the US border from Mexico, struggling in Watts as a child, living gang life in LA and then finally breaking free of it after losing several of his closest friends to violence. Now his son is in prison for attempted murder. He's written a book called Always Running that describes his life and explicitly captures what is was like to be part of a gang. The book has been hailed in several schools, made required reading for parolees in some cases, and banned in other communities. I am slowly making my way through it now - discovering a way of life I could never imagine.
The nobel prize in literature went to Orhan Pamuk http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orhan_Pamuk
this year! This is a special treat for me since my octogenarian neighbor and I loved to discuss his works on our morning walks. If you haven't already read one of his books, I suggest you start with Snow. In his writings Pamuk explores the tensions between Muslim and American life.
Lastly, I couldn't help but read Freddy and Frederika by Mark Helprin. On my last trip to Texas I was running so late I didn't have time to grab The Danish Girl or any other book before fleeing the house, so I picked up F&F at the airport. And in spite of myself found, I found it a lovely escape. One that leaves you happier and a little wiser. It's a farce about the royal family with a delightful exploration of America and Americans. It's full of whimsy, even slapstick. I kept telling myself that it was't really funny, but I couldn't stop turning the pages. I just had to know what would happen next.
So finally, I am finishing The Danish Girl. I'm mesmerized by Lili and the bold Greta.
And now that I've read Mel's post, I'm looking forward to The Time Traveler's Wife, too.