Showing posts with label Charles Rice-González. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Charles Rice-González. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011: Favorite Quotes

I love quotes! I collect them just as I collect books. I've done this for years. I highlight them, bookmark them, think about them. I have little post-its and sticky notes all over my books, and a notebook of favorite quotes. Sometimes I re-visit them and depending on depth even have to write something about them!

Here are nine favorite quotes, and an excerpt from a poem, I collected this year.

  • "Because" ... "ye've bewitched and bespelled me, my sweet Silence, didn't ye know? I'll agree that the sky is pink, that the moon is made o' marzipan and sugared raisins, and that mermaids swim the muddy waters o' the Thames, if ye'll only stop weepin'. Me chest breaks apart and gapes wide open when I see tears in yer pretty eyes. Me lungs, me liver, and me heart cannot stand to be thus exposed." -- Mickey -- Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt
  • "The scent of you," he said so softly. "Heaven help me, the scent of you." -- Clevedon -- Silk is for Seduction by Loretta Chase
  • "To address your question fairly, Miss Eversea... while I understand my broken engagement is a popular topic of conversation among the fashionable set, one must consider the possibility that the end of it was serendipitous for both Lady Abigail and I. And that thus freed our hearts might now love more appropriately and happily." Take that, Miss Eversea. He was rather proud of thatThat epic, steaming mound of balderdash. -- Alex -- What I Did For A Duke by Julie Anne Long
Urban Fantasy
  • "The Beast Lord walked out of the warehouse. The screen went dark. My knight in furry armor." -- Kate Daniels -- Magic Slays by Ilona Andrews
Science Fiction
  • "The beautiful thing about losing your illusions, he thought, was that you got to stop pretending." -- Miller - Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey
Historical Fiction
  • "In New York nobody looks at a woman with that arrogance anymore. Measuring her, weighing her, calculating how much flesh there is in each one of her breasts and thighs, how much hair on her pubis, the exact curve of her buttocks. She closes her eyes, feeling slightly dizzy. In New York not even Latins—Dominicans, Colombians, Guatemalans—give such looks. They’ve learned to repress them, realized they mustn’t look at women the way male dogs look at female dogs, stallions look at mares, boars look at sows.." -- Urania -- The Feast of the Goat by Mario Vargas Llosa

Gay Fiction
  • "All men have macho in them. Even gay ones, but there are varying degrees, and while most forms of macho are lethal to the progression of the world and society, there are some acceptable levels, very low levels, that can sometimes be useful." Chulito by Charles Rice-González

Gay Speculative Fiction
  • "I squeeze it in my grasp and it shrinks to a twirlable size, sits comfortably between my fingers, a pen. There is no need for any statement of authority more grand than this, I think, not in this day and age. What was comfortable in one era as a humble reed with a wedge-shaped end, will be comfortable here and now as simple ballpoint. It is the most important of all these objects of power, I think -- though I am prejudiced, I suspect -- the original of all tools for shaping order and chaos." -- "Oneirica by Hal Duncan" -- Wilde Stories 2011: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction edited by Steve Berman
  • "Combat isn't where you might die -- though that does happen -- it's where you find out whether you get to keep on living." War by Sebastian Junger

"Before Cortés lops off a messenger's
hands and has another trampled,
before the branding and burning,
there is wonderment
and, for a moment, endearment
as Cortés dances, off beat, around
the long neck of his field piece." --
Excerpt from Cortés and Cannon
 Empire by Xochiquetzal Candelaria

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

LGBT 2011: Favorite Books & Authors

It is that time of the year! Time to choose favorite LGBT authors and works for 2011. But first, to all of you who love this sub-genre and stop by, whether you comment or lurk, a big thanks for your support and readership throughout the year.

As you know, I'm an eclectic reader and as such my reading preferences do not remain static. Last year my interests veered towards gay speculative fiction, however although I read spec-fic this year and continue to love it, in the end gay fiction really won the day. Of course I also read romances along with mysteries, thrillers, young adult, and a few erotic tales.

I've read some excellent LGBTQ books throughout 2011, and choosing favorite authors and their works has not been an easy task for me. I am highlighting five authors and their works by categories, however for each category under "Other Favorites" I've also listed the rest of my top choices for 2011.

Alex Jeffers wrote my absolute favorite gay fiction book this year, The Abode of Bliss: Ten Stories for Adam (Tincture, 2011). This book has everything that I look for in a work of fiction and more. It has plot, purpose, characterization, excellent use of language, literary merit, depth and more, more, more. Reading the book was pleasure that I'll enjoy again and again.

As I was writing my review of this book, I remember thinking that if I re-read this novel and wrote another review a year later it would probably be totally different because there's just so much there. I know it happened when I re-read Jeffers' fantastic novella in letter form Do You Remember Tulum? (Lethe Press 2011-Kindle Ed.)When a writer has so much to offer a reader each and every time they pick up his works, there's no question as to where he belongs. This year for me that's at the top. You can read my review by clicking on the title of the book above, however I'm also going to direct you to a recent review of this book by the writer George Seaton at the Out in Print blog where he includes quotes and passages. I read it and loved it!
Other Favorites:
LEE THOMAS - Mystery/Thriller
I love mysteries and thrillers and in The German (Lethe Press, 2011-Kindle Ed.), Lee Thomas wrote a fantastic mystery and thriller with a touch of horror that just had more to say. This novel hooked me from the moment I read the prologue. I absolutely love how this new-to-me author constructed the story. His multi-layered exploration of deep rooted prejudices and fears taking place against a historical background and in a small town setting gave this thriller depth. The fact that on different levels these same prejudices and fears can be equated to those found in contemporary times makes the story plausible to an certain extent, giving the circumstances a chilling factor. There's no way I'm not reading more works by Lee Thomas if they are all of the same caliber. Excellent, I loved it!
Other Favorites:
STEVE BERMAN (Editor) - LGBTQ Anthology

I read a few LGBTQ anthologies this year, some better than others. Anthologies are a great way to find new writers. This is a proven method that works for me. The downside of anthologies is that somehow there are almost always highs and lows. Having said that, you'll understand my choice for top pick for LGBTQ Anthology editor in 2011. 
This year Steve Berman edited two anthologies that made the grade for me. In the Speaking Out: LGBTQ Youth Stand Up (Bold Stroke Books 2011) anthology I could tell as soon as I began reading each little story and personalized account that both the contributing writers and editor put their hearts and souls into the whole product. In fact, this book meant so much to Mr. Berman, that he started a fundraiser campaign to donate this worthwhile book to school libraries around the country. Wilde Stories 2011: The Year's Best Gay Speculative Fiction (Lethe Press 2011) is the second anthology. Let me tell you, this anthology includes some excellent gay spec-fic short stories. It offers everything that I love about this sub-genre. Plus, again there are excellent new-to-me writers in there that I'll be hunting down throughout next year for new releases. Kudos to Mr. Berman for gathering such excellent writers and stories for both collections.
Other Favorites:
On the romance front I'm making distinctions. A couple of my favorite authors are tough to qualify because they are either fiction with a clearly defined romance or a romance with fiction qualities.

I was first introduced to Charles Rice-González's work this year when I read the From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction anthology. As a writer, he contributed one of my favorite short stories "Michael Moves to Faile Street." As co-editor, Rice-González together with Charlie Vázquez also gave the reader an excellent overall view of the gay Latino sub-culture. So it shouldn't be surprising that right after I read that book my search for gay fiction novels by some of those same Latino writers began in earnest. That's when I found this author's full-length debut novel Chulito (Magnus Books, September 2011 - Kindle Edition). I love this author's down to earth depiction of his characters, and both his understanding of the Latino culture and the way he approaches issues that affect the gay community from the gay Latino's point of view. I also love the fact that he conveys emotional connection by way of romance, love, angst, yearning, deep friendships, and more. So yes, this is an author that reached me this year and one I'll continue to look for in the future.
HARPER FOX - Gay Romance
I read quite a few gay romances in 2011, although you'll find few reviews! For some reason I had a tough time finding gay romances that really hit the spot this year.  However, there is one author who stood out for me, and that is Harper Fox. I've read a total of four books by her, two of them this year, Driftwood(Samhain Publishing, 2010) and The Salisbury Key (Samhain Publishing, 2011). They are all winners. I love her writing style and characterization, as well as the romances. I need to catch up and read The Midwinter Prince and Last Line. However, one thing I know is that I will continue to read her work. 
Other Favorites:
  • Victor J. Banis: Coming Home (MLR Press, 2010)*
  • Samantha Kane: Cherry Pie (Loose ID, 2011) 
  • Xavier Axelson: The Incident (Seven Windows Publications, 2011)
  • K.A. Mitchell: Collision Course (Samhain Publishing, Ltd, 2008)*
* (Books published prior to 2011) 

How about you? Who were your favorite LGBT authors of 2011? How about your favorite books? 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

...On Chulito by Charles Rice-González

I was able to finish reading one book last week while surrounded by stressful family situations, mainly because that book just wouldn't let me go even through all my worries and stress. That says something about a book, yes? Of course, this is by no means a perfect book, plot-wise there are a couple of questions that are not answered by the end, but this is a minimal complaint from me compared to what it offered.

That book is Chulito by Charles Rice-González. This author co-edited and included a story in the From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction anthology that I reviewed recently. However, Chulito is not a pure fiction read, although the excellent writing and the in-depth exploration of characters and their motivations certainly places it in that category. Chulito takes center stage in this story as he comes to terms with his sexuality and his developing romance with childhood friend Carlos. So there's a coming-out story with a romance between two young adults -- sixteen and seventeen years of age -- with sexual content and mild violence included. How the author goes about telling his story? Well, that's what this is all about.

There are quite a few aspects of the book that grabbed me from the beginning. Rice-González develops the romance and especially Chulito's slow journey toward coming to terms with his sexuality by using the South Bronx as the backdrop for his story, so his characters are for the most part Puerto Rican kids from a Latino neighborhood. First, he really captures the neighborhood's atmosphere -- both the sense of belonging and the claustrophobia felt by the residents of Hunt's Point. Second, his focus and grasp of Latino macho culture is excellent. The author depicts how the extreme macho Latino's attitude manifests itself toward women. However where the author really succeeds is in his main focus which is in showing how the gay sub-culture is viewed and the effects that macho attitude has on gay Latinos.

Rice-González explores this macho culture from the inside out by making Chulito a Latino "thug in the making," one who has to make a decision between being what it's expected of him in front of his "boys," or being true to himself and his very confusing feelings for his childhood friend Carlos. As you can well imagine, this is not an easy decision for Chulito to make, not when he has been brought up to believe that being a "pato" means rejection and possible violence from the very people that mean so much to him.

Carlos represents the smart, educated Latino young man who left the neighborhood to go to college. He's also gay, out, proud and ready to leave the neighborhood, except that he himself is pulled back not only because his mother and Chulito live there, but also because of that sense of belonging. Carlos is an admirable character in this story, not only because he is 'out' in the neighborhood and doesn't care what anyone thinks of him, but because he refuses to compromise his beliefs. Interestingly enough, to a certain degree even Carlos can't help but be attracted to and admire the beauty of Latino men. The macho attitude is a big turn-on for him, Chulito's in particular.

There's a section in the book where Chulito is dreaming and Rice-González conducts an in-depth exploration of the different degrees on the "macho" scale. This is also where the author begins to bring some balance to the equation.
Then they had a quote from the woman who invented the Macho Meter: "All men have macho in them. Even gay ones, but there are varying degrees, and while most forms of macho are lethal to the progression of the world and society, there are some acceptable levels, very low levels, that can sometimes be useful." 
There are female characters included in the story and Rice-González mixes it up by portraying sad, dysfunctional and healthy relationships between men and women to round up this story. There are also examples of different types of males used across the board. From the drug dealer Kamikaze and the would-be macho thugs hanging on the corner, to ex-convicts and the hard working men who populate the neighborhood.

Also key to this story are the gay characters that live in the neighborhood: Julio or La Julia owns the local travel agency and serves as an example and mentor to the younger men. Puti is the sad and lonely local drag queen. Lee from the Chinese restaurant, and one of the best characters in this story, Brick. Brick is a tough ex-drug dealer who got out of the game and whose best friend is Julio. He's flawed with positive and negative sides to his character, but serves as a great example of the Latino uber macho whose masculinity is not threatened by his close friendship with a gay man. Overall there's a wonderful mixture of characters.

Rice-González takes his time developing this story. Chulito's background, feelings, the challenges he faces on a daily basis are all explored in-depth. His life in the neighborhood as a runner for Kamikaze, the local drug dealer and Chulito's mentor. The relationship he has with his "boys" from the neighborhood. The deep love he shares with his mother Carmen and the resentment and indifference he feels for his dead father. Coming to terms with his sexuality is not an easy step or a ride in the park, and his romance with Carlos is riddled with deep disappointments, betrayal, tenderness, passion, yearning (like you wouldn't believe), angst, and deep love.

Ever since I read From Macho to Mariposa I've been looking for other books to read by gay Latino writers and well... I thought this book might be the perfect beginning. It was. Chulito is a great mixture of gay fiction and romance with a focus on the gay Latino experience. I highly enjoyed Charles Rice-González's writing style and his down to earth, no holds barred depiction of characters, culture, sub-culture, circumstances and setting in Chulito. I will keep my eye on this writer, hopefully there will be more books like this one from him in the future.

Category: LGBT - Gay Fiction/Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Magnus Books/September 23, 2011- Kindle Edition
Grade: B

Visit Charles Rice-González here.

ETA: This was not meant to be a review, just my thoughts or impressions on the book (see post title). But, I think it turned into a review in the end, so I gave it a grade... Solid with excellent qualities!   

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Review: From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction edited by Charles Rice-González & Charlie Vázquez

Prepare yourself to dance in a disco in Silver Lake, check out papis in Orchard Beach, cross the border from Guatemala to Mexico on your way to the U.S., see a puro macho bathe in a river in Puerto Rico, make love under a full moon in the Dominican Republic, sigh at a tender moment in an orange grove in Lindsay, visit a panaderia in Kansas, see a full blown birthday party in Juarez, and be seduced by a young artist in the South Bronx. These are some of the stories in this collection of thirty gay Latino writers from around the United States. There are ''don't mess with me''' divas, alluring bad boys, and sexy teenagers, but also empowered youth for whom being queer is not a question and a family that grows wings on their heads. The infectious rhythms of House music in New York City are adjacent to cumbia in Mexico, next to reggaeton in Puerto Rico, alongside Latin pop in L.A. and merengue in an east coast city. But the spectrum of experiences and emotions that inhabit our days gives these stories dimension and gay/queer Latinos a common ground. The stories are vibrantly varied and clearly connected in this ''era of lost signals'' in which we live.
From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is an anthology written and edited by gay Latino writers from varied backgrounds and walks of life. That in and of itself was a huge draw for me. As seen from the gay Latino's perspective, I also hoped to find that great mixture of different backgrounds and countries that make up what we call the Latino culture and what makes our community unique.

The anthology is composed of 29 short stories. Individually you'll find different writing styles and types of stories, from the magical cuento, to love letters, and stories of neglect, loneliness, rejection, sex, drugs, and yes... yearning and love. Through the unique and beautiful rhythm found in the blending of two languages and two cultures that is often found in works by Latino writers, the reader experiences pain, joys, highs and lows.

The stories serve as little windows into the gay Latino experience. Some writers go back to their roots and set their stories in the land of their birth or that of their parents: Puerto Rico, Mexico, Guatemala, and the Dominican Republic. These stories serve to set atmosphere and define cultural differences within this anthology. There's La Huerfanita by David Andrew Talamantes, a disturbing account set in Mexico about a little boy who is abused by his father because he's not macho enough... or one of my favorite stories, the beautiful Yermo by Charlie Vázquez, written in letter form, about an unforgettable encounter in Puerto Rico between an islander and a Nuyorican from the Bronx.

Other stories are edgy and creative. There are quite a few of these, however as an example Fairy Tale by Justin Torres is a riveting cuento magico written in the form of a letter to an absent father where fantasy is used to convey neglect, and worth mentioning is A Doomed Gay Marriage where Rigoberto González writes shorts within a short story addressed to "the writer," "the cook," "the musician" and more, depicting reasons a marriage to each in turn would fail.

Among the stories depicting young adult experiences one of my favorite is On the Line by Benny Vázquez. I love the way the writer captures the cultural reality of views and attitudes by family and loved ones toward the two young men's changing relationship through the young man's mami's character. It's a story of friendship and love found and lost in an urban setting. And of course there's Pregnant Boy by Chuy Sánchez, the magnificent story about a boy who has seen and lost too much and yet hopes against hope for love. He is naive and a cynic, an astounding and heartbreaking combination.

The bulk of the stories, however, depict lost loves, past relationships and those regrets that leave empty spaces and "what ifs" behind. I loved Michael Moves to Faile Street by Charles Rice-González, a well-written, and complete story about a man with a need to set things right after having failed his ex-lover, and Requiem Sartajeno by Rick J. Santos pulled me in to the point where I thought I was reading a whole book instead of a short story. However, it was The Fermi Paradox by Ben Francisco that made me say "wow" after I finished it. A story about yearning for lost love while dealing with rejection and hoping there's a way to fill the emptiness left by it all. This was a complete story with excellent writing, pacing, plot and prose that left me wanting more from this author.

Urban settings are quite popular in this anthology, from the East to the West Coast, Chicago to Miami and in between, however there are some stories that do highlight life in those urban settings more than others. Dark Side of the Flame is a dark trip indeed where Danny González explores drugs, sex and loneliness. And, the anthology ends with a bang and on an upbeat note that made me laugh out loud with Orchard Beach by Robert Vázquez Pacheco where Bronx Diva La Joey teaches a mistaken papi a lesson he won't soon forget. "¿Pa' qué fue eso?!"

Taken individually some stories are better written than others and I do have favorites among them -- too few of them are mentioned above. As a whole, however, From Macho to Mariposa: New Gay Latino Fiction is a different kettle of fish altogether. The editors of this anthology Charles Rice-González and Charlie Vázquez successfully capture the differences and commonalities within the gay Latino community and the gay experience from a distinct cultural perspective.

Pulled together, the stories do convey that distinct flavor. Whether it's achieved by highlighting societal views of the gay son, friend, nephew or neighbor within the Latino community as a whole or the importance of la familia -- mami, papi, brothers, sisters, tíos or primos -- the neighborhoods, the different foods or the music, that flavor can almost be felt and tasted by the reader. Most of all I think these gay Latino writers achieve this as only they can by expressing their experiences, with passion, heart and emotion.

Category: LGBT Gay Fiction
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Tincture/August 1, 2011
Source: ARC Lethe Press
Grade: B