October is Latin American & Hispanic Heritage Month* in Canada, as well as Women’s History Month! So with that, I figured I should spotlight a title that talks about the intersection between Latin American heritage and gender.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction for 2020. Cruz was inspired by her mother’s experience in writing Dominicana, though when Cruz presented her mother with the idea of writing this novel, “the older woman was apparently unconvinced: “Who would be interested in a story about a woman like me? It’s so typical.” Typical but rarely represented among mainstream narratives, Cruz counters” (Anderson, Dominicana by Angie Cruz Review in The Guardian). The fate of her entire family – their upward mobility and the way out of the Dominican Republic – rests upon 15-year old Ana’s marriage to Juan Ruiz, a man more than twice her age, who promises to whisk her away to New York (her family to be brought over after). Once in New York, Ana discovers that the life of riches and glamour she and her family had envisioned Juan would bring her was far from the truth: in a foreign land, without her family, where she does not speak the language, she is locked in a small apartment most of the days, waiting for Juan to come home. But as Ana herself says, “Bully me, and I transform into an ant”. Cruz captures Ana’s loneliness poignantly, the sense that nothing is going as either she or Juan had wanted, and the feeling of being trapped with no way out: this marriage is bigger than either of them. Although as a reader, you likely feel more for Ana, as a child bride going someplace unknown knowing no one apart from her new husband (though she doesn’t know him well either), you get the sense that no one in this generation has gotten closer to the American Dream. Not Mamá, not Juan, not César… Dominicana ends on an ambiguously hopeful note, but I won’t spoil it for you here: the novel is well worth a read.
(Posted on behalf of Sarah) I once observed that no month needs a party like long dreary November. This is not yet November, but I tend to find the same principle can apply in October. The air gets colder, the nights start sooner and run longer, the days get a little greyer, and people start talking about vitamin D supplements and warm places. And because 2020 has been a challenging year for everyone, it’s time to find something to celebrate.
Enter Latin American Heritage Month which runs throughout October under various names across the country. This is an opportunity to celebrate Latin American culture and learn more about the way Canada’s Latin American community shapes the fabric of our nation.
Broadly speaking (perhaps too broadly), Latin America is considered to be made up of countries in North, Central, and South America where Spanish and Portuguese prevail as colonial languages; and the largest Latin American Canadian communities are Mexican Canadians, Colombian Canadians, and Salvadoran Canadians.
Any celebration starts with music, and there are many Latin American Canadian musicians to check out this month. Juno award winning Chilean-Canadian guitarist Oscar Lopez has been making music since the 1970’s. He started out doing rock covers before finding his niche in Latin-style acoustic and flamenco music, and winning awards for his beautiful instrumental work. He also teamed up with folk singer James Keelaghan to explore the place where Latin and Celtic music meet. Lopez’s Best of album Flashback is a lovely introduction to his work.
And in another part of the scene, you will find Toronto born country and roots artist Lindi Ortega. whose music is influenced by her Mexican and Irish heritage as well as her experiences across Canada, and her time spent in Nashville. Her voice has been likened to Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris. Her latest album, Liberty, is available on Hoopla.
It’s February, Black Heritage Month. The book that I want to share with you today is not directly related to the black heritage, but it’s relevant – I want to explore a stigma that we hope to break down in this society .
In my role as the Literacy and Readers Advisory Librarian, I have been trying to keep up with our Canadian literature, but sometimes I regrettably missed some really good titles. When I found Stranger by David Bergen, the 2005 Giller winner with many other subsequent awards, I was astonished by the profundity that his clean, short prose had offered.
The story started with a passionate love story between Dr. Eric Mann and Iso, the “keeper” of the same fertility clinic that the doctor worked for in Guatemala, with Iso thinking that Eric and his wife had been living separate lives. But one day, Eric’s wife, Susan, suddenly appeared at the clinic to take the fertility treatment. While Eric almost completely vanished from Iso during Susan’s presence, he continued to promise that he didn’t want Susan in town. When Susan left, Eric resumed his ritual with Iso, taking her on trips in his motorcycle, making love with her, enjoying the freedom without any need for responsibilities. Until one day, he hit a little boy on a country road, and at the same time, Iso found out she had had a baby growing inside her; you would think now there should be some consequence imposed on the doctor, but insanely, not quite …
I don’t want to spoil the rest of the intricate plot. But I suspect, at this point, part of the world might be questioning why Iso is so naïve, then the conversation might be steered into a very subtle and grey territory and put women in such situations at disadvantage.