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Book Friday 2018: Books For Gifting This Holiday Season
You know what used to stress me out most about the holidays?
Figuring out the gift situation.
What are we buying for whom and how are we delivering it?
The list was always long; the number of days too short.
A few years ago I decided it was time to streamline.
Now my holiday shopping consists of gifting either books, handmade products I purchase from friends, or coquito (Puerto Rican coconut holiday drink) that I make and bottle myself.
For kids, I try to gift holiday themed books or books aligned with their current interests. (Check out my round up of holiday books here: Holiday Books for Your Kids: From Thanksgiving to Día de Los Reyes).
When choosing books for adults, I do my best to gift signed copies of books written by my friends (win win win!).
Read on below for more on my gift giving strategy and for a round up of 2018 books written by my phenomenal friends!
I hope this lists inspires you to support these writers and/or your own creative friends this holiday season.
As always, I encourage you to support your local bookstores and libraries, and encourage them to order any of the books they don't already have.
If, however, you plan to purchase any of these books online, please use my links below; as an Amazon associate I will earn a small commission for qualifying purchases at no cost to you.
CHRISTMAS IN JULY!
I admit I'm partial to Halsey Street because Naima features an excerpt of my poem "Adiós" as an epigraph to the work. I couldn't be more honored to appear on the pages of this finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize!
If you love New York or the Dominican Republic, you'll revel in Naima's sharp descriptions of both places.
If you're troubled by the breakneck pace of gentrification in our cities, Naima's exploration of gentrifying Brooklyn will hit close to home.
If you know anything about fraught mother / daughter relationships, well this novel goes there too.
If you're in the thick of your twenties or remember the flailing of those figuring-things-out years, your heart will feel for Naima's Penelope.
You know what I'm saying here... go buy your copy of Halsey Street, like yesterday!
Blas and I met in 2008 when a fellow poet invited us both to lunch during AWP in NYC. We were chatting and I asked him where in Puerto Rico his family was from and he answered "Ponce." I responded, "Oh that's not too far from my family in Salinas." To which he responded, "You're family's from Salinas?! So is mine! I always say Ponce because most people don't know Salinas." We spent the rest of lunch playing the "Do you know so & so?" game and determined that our cousins definitely went to school together.
That long story is all to say I love Blas, my fellow poeta Salinense. This collection speaks so softly and such depth.
Description: Charting a journey through schoolyards and laundromats, suburban gardens and rice paddies, yoga studios and rural highways, Michelle Brittan Rosado crafts poems that blend elegy and praise. In settings from California to Malaysian Borneo, and the wide Pacific between them, she explores themes of coming-of-age, mixed-race identity, diaspora, and cultural inheritance. With empathy for the generations past, she questions how we might navigate our history to find a way through it, still holding on to the ones we love. Like an ocean wave, these poems recede and return, with gratitude for the quotidian and for beauty found even in fragments.
I've preordered Michelle Brittan Rosado's Why Can't it Be Tenderness as a gift to myself on my birthday (Treat Yourself!). Michelle and I met at a reading in Long Beach a few years back. We have since both become writer Mamas and our littles have become playmates. I can't wait to read this collection! From the description: "Like an ocean wave, these poems recede and return, with gratitude for the quotidian and for beauty found even in fragments."
Urayoán Noel was the first person to ask me what my dissertation would be about as soon as he and I met (I had just started my MA). He knew I would be Dra. Alvarado before I did and I could not be more grateful for his friendship and his brilliant example. This brilliant friend, mentor, and fellow Boricua poet-scholar has been busy ushering into the world not one but TWO translations in 2018!
Description: "Pablo de Rokha, finally accessible to the English-speaking world, is a major Chilean poet of the early 20th century, who ought to sit front and center alongside Neruda, Mistral, Huidobro, Vallejo and Girondo; and Urayoán Noel's work here as translator and editor is a historical and archival restoration on a massive scale. Noel's evocative introduction--which refuses 'to disentangle de Rokha the vanguardist from de Rokha the indigenous poet'--brilliantly situates de Rokha as a poet who is as focused on the local as he is on the international. De Rokha strikes the modern reader as entirely contemporary, in his form, language and, most interestingly, in how he foretells the political and economic violence of a global, neoliberal continuum. This translation will dazzle, and de Rokha's voice, with its hyperbole, its contradictions, its obsessive critique of Yankeeland, will, inevitably, say as much about 2018 as it does about 1922." --Daniel Borzutzky
Description: Wingston González has carved out a distinctive way of creating beats with words, a spiritual questioning of godliness, and a space of immersion in a Garifuna history marked by the 1797 expulsion from St. Vincent and subsequent exile to the coast of Central America. One of the most prolific Garifuna writers today, González has built a window into contemporary Black indigeneity in Mesoamerica, but also closed that same window in a sidelong attack on colonialist language and syntax, rewriting Spanish as he goes. Urayoán Noel's translation moves the ludic experimentation with Spanish into an English that also tears at the colonial heart of Occidental imaginings.
You've already heard me gush about Halsey Street above. What are you waiting for?
I will just add that Naima and I share not only our love of books, but also some serious alumni connections. We first met as Yalies on a service trip and quickly learned we also shared Prep for Prep in common. Finally we both got our MA in English at Fordham University. We've still got to figure out our NYC Alumna book tour (lol).
Ivelisse was the first person to invite me (and pay me!) to speak on a college campus in 2010. I will always be grateful for that kindness and show of support so early in my writing life, so it's easy for me to want to show Ivelisse some love.
I love love love this debut collection of short stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez. It makes me want to hug my Mama, mis abuelas, my aunties, my cousins, mi comadres, countless amigas, and myself -- for all the ways we love and war so hard. Thank you for telling these stories. These unapologetically Boricua stories. These unapologetically women's stories.
Description: All Lindsay Fields has ever wanted was to have a best friend--someone to share all her likes and dislikes, who would truly understand her. When she enters a competition to host Nussia, a teenage alien from a different planet--and wins--thirteen-year-old Lindsay is ecstatic. Now, the Fields' are not only the first ever humans to host a Fike alien, they are also the first African-American family to do so. But Nussia is not quite what Lindsay expected. And Lindsay's family, home, and entire life changes because of Nussia's arrival... but not in the way she imagined.
Michele and I met at AROHO in 2015 and she is brilliant and fierce and truly an inspiration. We sat in on each other's sessions at the retreat and have maintained a friendship and support system online. She has let me write for her must-subscribe-to blog: The Practice of Creativity. She is not only an author and creativity coach, but also a brilliant scholar. Love her work -- in life and on the page!
Description: Legendary demon hunter Nadira Holden has been torn from her next life and resurrected in present-day New York. The demons she once battled have made peace with humans. Or, so they claim. But brawls between demons and humans are becoming more frequent, and human leaders are disappearing. Tasked by the shadowy organization that trained her, she must battle her own personal trauma and once again fight for the souls of mankind. Will Nadira remain a beacon of light to those fighting for humankind? Or will she lose her humanity to the darkness within?
I first heard Azaaa on the Writer Mom Life podcast (one of my faves!), and then we connected on the WML Facebook group. She's a mighty Writer Mama writing fierce fiction, check out her latest book This Time and listen to Azaaa's story on the Writer Mom Life Podcast.
Description: In this brave and beautiful memoir, written with the raw honesty and devastating openness of The Glass Castle and The Liar’s Club, a woman chronicles how her marriage devolved from a love story into a shocking tale of abuse—examining the tenderness and violence entwined in the relationship, why she endured years of physical and emotional pain, and how she eventually broke free.
Kelly Sundberg and I were roommates at AROHO in 2015. We hiked on the Ghost Ranch grounds and took in some breathtaking views. We also shared stories and an evening around a roaring fire surrounded by roaring women. We've been Facebook friends since. All of Kelly's fans were awaiting her memoir, myself included. It was a difficult but powerful read. Here is, in part, what I wrote to her after finishing it:
"It’s a beautiful book, deeply moving, haunting, terribly necessary. Thank you for your words. "
On October 12, I posted a photo of this collection on social media and inspired one of my poet friends to teach essays from the book in her class. I learned about it from writer friend Vanessa Mártir whose essay is included in the collection.
Not That Bad is so timely and so necessary.
Here's my post from 10/12:
Last week was emotionally draining. Still processing not just last week but this long year of #metoo.
If you still doubt that #rapeculture is real and pervasive in our culture, it’s way beyond time you wake up. You can start by reading this collection.
#notthatbad are definitely words I’ve uttered. They hit way too close to home. As do these necessary stories.
Thank you Roxane Gay for this collection. Thank you Vanessa Mártir for putting it on my radar and thank you for your powerful words within the collection
My uncle Jossie Alvarado's newest book is a must have for all baseball fans!
My uncle is a badass baseball historian. Roberto Alomar is the All-Star second baseman from Salinas, PR. This is the definitive guide to Roberto Alomar's life and career.
Samantha Thornhill and I met at a Pop Up Poets event in New York City years ago and I have followed and admired her work since. One of her most recent projects is a collection of picture books, the first of which came out this year. You know I love picture books. I think they're especially powerful when it comes to addressing difficult subjects, like how a parent's incarceration affects a child.
BEFORE YOU GO...
Words or Water