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Read 'Em or Weep

by Jose B. Gonzalez
Nov 21, 2005

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This holiday season, I want my gifts back. Not that I am angry with anyone or holding a grudge or anything like that, but it is just that I'd like to say "humbug" to the people to whom I have given books in the past only to see them sit on their shelves in mint, "as new" condition, without so much as a page ever having been exposed to a reading light.

I would like to be the recipient of those books that are waiting for new owners and that I can take back and regift to others or reread myself.

First on the list is Soy la Avon Lady and Other Stories by Lorraine Lopez. This debut collection by this little known author has sat on a close friend's bookshelf for too long. The stories provide a dark, yet real perspective of the lives of working class Latinos. Like The Last Tortilla and Other Stories by the talented storyteller Sergio Troncoso, this collection stays away from stereotypes and offers a mix of contemporary Latino characters and Latin American traditions.

The other two books I want back are ones that I gave to a relative a year ago. This person insists that she has read them, and I want to believe her, since she has devoured just about every other book by a Latino author that I have given her. But anytime I bring these two particular books up, she changes the subject, which to me is the same as confessing that she never even unwrapped my gifts.

One is Carlos Eire's National Book Award Winner, Waiting for Snow in Havana, which shares some of the masterful narrative style of Judith Ortiz Cofer and Luis Alberto Urrea. The other is Denise Chavez's Loving Pedro Infante, which might look impressive on a bookshelf but needs an audience in order to be fully appreciated.

Since the holidays are about receiving as much as they are about regifting, I wouldn't mind getting copies of books that I have not given away either. Francisco Goldman's The Ordinary Seaman has been on my list for much too long, as has been Alfredo Vea Jr.'s La Maravilla. And to get rid of the holiday blues, a copy of Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul wouldn't hurt either.

As for music, anyone who would like to make me happy would get me any CD of Los Lonely Boys. Also, since all the music I own by their predecessor, Santana, is in cassette tapes, I would like to add Carlos' albums in CD format to my list. I promise these musicians won't sit idly by as I enjoy my new — or sort of new — books.

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About the Author

Jose B. Gonzalez is professor of English at the United States Coast Guard Academy and is co-editor of Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature.

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