The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

8942147“We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.” With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.


The Madonnas of Echo Park is a collection of short stories by Mexican American writer Brando Skyhorse. Although I seldom review short stories on this blog, I couldn’t pass on the opportunity to pay homage to such beautiful work of literature.

Having won both the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Prize for First Fiction, this novel really lives up to its hype. Each chapter is a different story told in first person in a beautifully crafted prose highlighting the intersections and clashes of American and Mexican culture.

In Los Angeles, you could rent an apartment, buy groceries, cash checks, and socialize, all in Spanish.

The Madonnas of Echo Park tells the stories of Mexican Americans in the constantly changing landscape of Los Angeles’s Echo Park neighborhood, a predominantly Latino community. This novel compiles a collection of interrelated stories that are heavily character-driven and that leave you contemplating the themes present in each story long after you finish reading the book.

“Faith is a luxury for those who are able to ignore what the rest of us must see every day. Pessimism, distrust, and irony are the holy trinity of my religion, irony in particular.”

“The time between your first major fight with your best friend until you make up is, for a teenage girl, about as long as it took for God to create the universe. . . . It’s excellent training for having a boyfriend.”


Format: Paperback240 pages
Published: February 8th, 2011 by Free Press (first published June 1st, 2010)
ISBN: 1439170843
Source: Purchased
Rating: 4 stars
Genre: Fiction

Review: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Ari Dante Cover

Title: Aristotle and Dante Discover The Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz

Pages: 368

Genre: YA

ISBN: 9781442408920

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers 

Rating: 4-Stars

Dante can swim. Ari can’t. Dante is articulate and self-assured. Ari has a hard time with words and suffers from self-doubt. Dante gets lost in poetry and art. Ari gets lost in thoughts of his older brother who is in prison. Dante is fair skinned. Ari’s features are much darker. It seems that a boy like Dante, with his open and unique perspective on life, would be the last person to break down the walls that Ari has built around himself.

But against all odds, when Ari and Dante meet, they develop a special bond that will teach them the most important truths of their lives, and help define the people they want to be. But there are big hurdles in their way, and only by believing in each other―and the power of their friendship―can Ari and Dante emerge stronger on the other side.

I decided to read this novel after I joined Caught Read Handed’s Blogger’s Book Club. This was the novel featured for the month of May, and I’m so glad that I decided to join that book club.

Quite often I start reading a book without ever reading previous reviews, and many times I don’t read the book jacket—If a book has a good title and a good cover, then I’m bound to give that book a try. So, this was the case of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Not only this book has an interesting title, but it also has a great cover to go with it.

This is such a beautifully written novel by Benjamin Alire Saenz, and it completely took me by surprise. Saenz prose is magical! This book was such a pleasure to read, and I loved the two characters—Ari and Dante. A coming-of-age story with a twist; The author captured the angst and despair of a fifteen-year-old in a simple, but by no means simplistic way.

I loved how he tackled the topics of sexuality and puberty, and how he questioned traditional roles without making it too dense. In fact, this is a beautiful story of love, friendship, acceptance and discovery.

“The problem with my life is that it was someone else’s idea.”

I definitely recommend this book to pretty much anyone with an open mind.

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