In case you didn’t know, I’m Brazilian! I know I hammer this into people’s heads, but it’s a big part of my identity that I am not sure shows on my blog very often, especially on my reading. It’s recently come to my attention the glaringly obvious fact that I read mostly books from US & UK – in fact, I might read more Irish books than Brazilian. Which is unacceptable.
Realizing this was a reality check and so I’ve been taking steps to read more Latinx books. To do that, Michelle is helping me come up with a TBR according to my personal taste. In case you didn’t know, she is a wonderful blogger (and fellow Latin American, from Venezuela!) who’s offering TBR-picking services for bookworms! Not just of Latinx books 🙂
If you, like me, want to diversify your reading, she will choose a few books for you and email you her picks according to your personal taste & what you’d like to read – I asked her for some Latinx books, especially some written by women, and she delivered! I’m excited to read books that were not on my radar at all or that I hadn’t considered picking up before. I’ve only read 1 so far but I loved it already and it’s always so exciting to get her emails!
(I am advertising this because she absolutely deserves it, but I haven’t been neither paid nor asked to do this. I used her service, paid for it myself and really enjoyed it. For full disclosure, we are friends for a few years now.)
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
Julia Alvarez is a Dominican-American author, and this book is about the Mirabal sisters with a fictionalized accounting of their lives, from childhood until the day three of the sisters are murdered by Trujillo men. This is a fascinating, heartbreaking but also very inspiring read and such a gem! (And recommended by Michelle!)
Este é o Mar / Éste es el Mar by Mariana Enriquez
I didn’t love this one but I’m willing to give a chance to Things we Lost in the Fire, which is a horror with fantastical elements and sounds amazing. Este és el Mar tells the story of a mythical creature called Helena, who starts off in the Hive and wants to become a Luminosa – one of the undying, beautiful beings who turn Rock Stars into Legends, to be remembered and adored for all eternity. I haven’t seen an English translation yet.
Perto do Coração Selvagem / Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector
Another sort-of-miss for me! I see how this could be a brilliant read for some people, but for me it didn’t work; it was a bit too meandering and vague.
That will surely teach me to pick up only the stuff Michelle recommends! 2/3 of the recent reads I didn’t really like, and were both my own picks.
Some Books on my TBR
I’m not listing everything because I think that’s a bit tedious, so here are some books on my TBR that are also available in English and I’m very excited to read!
A Chave de Casa / The House in Smyrna by Tatiana Salem Levy
A recommendation by Michelle that I’m SO excited for!
In Rio de Janeiro, a woman suffering from a mysterious illness, which is eroding her body and mind, decides to accept a challenge from her grandfather: to take the key to the house where he grew up — in the Turkish city of Smyrna — and open the door.
As she embarks on this pilgrimage, she begins to write of her progress. The writing soon becomes an exploration of her family’s legacy of displacement in Europe, told in several narrative strands. Sifting through family stories — her grandfather’s migration from Turkey to Brazil, her parents’ exile in Portugal under the Brazilian military dictatorship, her mother’s death, and her own love affair with a violent man — she traces her family’s history in a journey to make sense of the past and to understand her place in it.
With an epic sweep of time and place — traversing Brazil, Turkey, and Portugal — this is a profoundly moving portrait of a young woman finding her way back into life. Spare, heartfelt, and evocative, The House in Smyrna is an unforgettable story from one of the most accomplished and original new voices in Brazil.
A Vida Invisível de Eurídice Gusmao / The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao by Martha Batalha
I found this through the website where I get most of my ebooks, it was one of their recommendations! I’m not sure it’s my style but why not!
Euridice is bright and ambitious. But this is Brazil in the 1940s, and society expects her to be a loving wife and mother. While Antenor is busy congratulating himself on his excellent catch, Euridice spends her humdrum days ironing his shirts and removing the lumps of onion from his food, dreaming of the success she could have made of herself – as a writer, dressmaker or culinary whizz – in another life.
Her free-spirited sister Guida, on the other hand, is the kind of person who was ‘born knowing everything’. When she returns from her failed elopement with stories of heartbreak and loss, the lives of Euridice and her husband are thrown into confusion, with disastrous consequences.
The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao is a darkly comic debut, bursting with vibrant Brazilian spirit and unforgettable characters – a jubilant novel about the emancipation of women.
Cadáver Exquisito / Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Balterrica
Weird fiction is a hit-or-miss for me, but this one looks like a hit! I heard about this one through other bloggers, the translation comes out on August but the Spanish version is out since 2017.
Working at the local processing plant, Marcos is in the business of slaughtering humans—though no one calls them that anymore.
His wife has left him, his father is sinking into dementia, and Marcos tries not to think too hard about how he makes a living. After all, it happened so quickly. First, it was reported that an infectious virus has made all animal meat poisonous to humans. Then governments initiated the “Transition.” Now, eating human meat—“special meat”—is legal. Marcos tries to stick to numbers, consignments, processing.
Then one day he’s given a gift: a live specimen of the finest quality. Though he’s aware that any form of personal contact is forbidden on pain of death, little by little he starts to treat her like a human being. And soon, he becomes tortured by what has been lost—and what might still be saved.
Noche en Caracas / It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo
Another recommendation by Michelle!
In Caracas, Venezuela, Adelaida Falcón stands over an open grave. Alone, she buries her mother—the only family she has ever known—and worries that when night falls thieves will rob the grave. Even the dead cannot find peace here.
Adelaida had a stable childhood in a prosperous Venezuela that accepted immigrants in search of a better life, where she lived with her single-mother in a humble apartment. But now? Every day she lines up for bread that will inevitably be sold out by the time she reaches the registers. Every night she tapes her windows to shut out the tear gas raining down on protesters. When looters masquerading as revolutionaries take over her apartment, Adelaida must make a series of gruesome choices in order to survive in a country disintegrating into anarchy, where citizens are increasingly pitted against each other. But just how far is she willing to go?
Las cosas que perdimos en el fuego / Things We Lost in the Fire: Stories by Mariana Enriquez
Same author from Este é o Mar, but I think this book is more my style.
In these wildly imaginative, devilishly daring tales of the macabre, internationally bestselling author Mariana Enriquez brings contemporary Argentina to vibrant life as a place where shocking inequality, violence, and corruption are the law of the land, while military dictatorship and legions of desaparecidos loom large in the collective memory. In these stories, reminiscent of Shirley Jackson and Julio Cortázar, three young friends distract themselves with drugs and pain in the midst a government-enforced blackout; a girl with nothing to lose steps into an abandoned house and never comes back out; to protest a viral form of domestic violence, a group of women set themselves on fire.
But alongside the black magic and disturbing disappearances, these stories are fueled by compassion for the frightened and the lost, ultimately bringing these characters—mothers and daughters, husbands and wives—into a surprisingly familiar reality. Written in hypnotic prose that gives grace to the grotesque, Things We Lost in the Fire is a powerful exploration of what happens when our darkest desires are left to roam unchecked, and signals the arrival of an astonishing and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Since I loved In the Time of the Butterflies, I immediately added this to my TBR.
Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves—lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack—but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.
Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including—maybe especially—members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?
Como agua para chocolate / Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
This is a bit of a challenge read that Michelle recommended because at surface level it doesn’t look like my style, but I think I could really love this book!
This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother’s womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way.