. Athena's Books: Red Glass...A Slice of Hispanic Culture
Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Red Glass...A Slice of Hispanic Culture

Exciting news! Laura Resau, author of Red Glass, will be a visiting author at South Texas ISD during the month of March. I am completely thrilled! Like I told you a couple days ago, I picked up Red Glass right before a live chat with Laura over at the Readergirlz website. I absolutely loved the book and raved about it to our librarians. So, thank you, Lucy, for contacting Laura and making this happen. She'll be presenting to teens and teachers from Med High and Sci Tech over here in Mercedes, Texas and also at the Edinburg and San Benito campuses...to an audience of readers who will recognize and appreciate the references to Hispanic culture in Red Glass. Can't wait to get more details on her school visit!

Check out this excerpt: I held Pablo's hand, and when no one was looking Angel would slip his hand into mine for a moment, or I would let my arm graze his, or he would touch me with the excuse of pointing out something and let his hand linger a few beats. The crowd was pushing us into each other and we let it happen. I loved the shade created just for a moment between his arm and mine, his face and my neck, my hair and his hand. And in this space, I could almost forget that he was leaving for good.

And this one too: And then suddenly, Angel's hand was on my hip and he was turning me around and pressing me to him and whispering, out of breath, "Lime-girl." I felt my breasts against his chest, and I breathed in his soap, the detergent of his T-shirt, next to the destroyed Virgen on the sliver of moon, with only a few tiny stars left on her cape, I could see why someone would want a mnoment of complete happiness, even if it wouldn't last.

In Red Glass, Sophie is a teenage girl who has always been afraid of everything--of the sheer number of possible illnesses and tragedies that may come hurling towards her. She is especially afraid of losing life to death and losing those whom she has come to love, including Pablo, a six year old illegal immigrant whose parents died crossing the border into Arizona, and Angel, a young man who many might judge as Sophie's complete opposite with his gold chains and low-slung jeans. Sophie's fears are put to the test when she agrees to travel into Mexico with her aunt Dika, Angel, and Mr. Lorenzo (Dika's boyfriend and Angel's father) to reunite Pablo with his family. Together they create their own little world made up of car, heat, Mexico, and Neruda (Hispanic poet Pablo Neruda) as they travel several days to the state of Oaxaca, a place where some still speak a more indigenous form of Spanish called Mixteco.

Sophie is aware that Pablo might break her heart if he agrees to stay with his family, but what she does not expect is that Angel, someone she has only barely met, may do further damage by going south into Guatemala to find his own mother. Angel knows of death, having nearly lost his own while picking coffee beans during his youth. And, with the hope of finding his mother alive, Angel feels his home is his mother. He sees nothing wrong with making his life in Guatemala rather than the US. He had never wanted to leave his tierra (his land) in the first place. Sophie finds it difficult to understand how anybody, including Pablo and Angel, would be willing to leave the safety and luxury of the U.S. for a world that is more uncertain. Or, rather, a world uncertain to Sophie only.

But, throught the example of strong women, Sophie is able to see she is not the first to endure obstacles and pain. First there is her aunt Dika, a Bosnian refugee whose home was destroyed and who once had a great love in her life. Then there is Nola, who lhas always loved one man, a gitano (gypsy), her entire life even though circumstances have kept her from being with him. There's also her mother who is willing to provide midnight meals to illegal immigrants who are living near life and death situations. And then, there are the women of Pablo's village who show Sophie how to manage the hard work of village life--stirpping kernels off dried corncobs, carrying heavy buckets down dirt roads, making tortillas over a fire and turning them over with her own fingers. (Hey, I barely pick them up with my nails and sometimes resort to a fork or spatula.) And the men? Well, the men do the men work in the fields. That's how my parents, grandparents, and long line of ancestores made their lives.

With their example, Sophie discovers she has more strength than she thinks possible. The gringuita (slang word meaning white girl) from the ends up risking her life through possible bus hijackings and gang abductions in order to rescue the life of a man she has grown to love--Angel Reyes. Now, does he find his mother? Does he come back with Sophie? I won't tell you, but I will say he finds the guavas sustaining life and the red glass once worn by his mother and now draped around Sophie's neck.

But, what I really enjoyed the most was all the cultural flavor...the description of boys selling tiny packs of chicles, the sounds of the cumbia, and the assembly line of tamale making. Now, for those of you who don't know what I'm talking about...chicles refer to gum, the cumbia is a rythmic style of music, and tamales....mmmmm...you've got to eat them! Tamale making is a Mexican tradition still alive here in South Texas. Of course, many of us buy them by the dozen, but even I know exactly what the tamale assembly line is all about. Basically, a bunch of women (the grandmas, aunts, etc.) get together, especially during the holidays, and make loads of tamales for all to share and take home. It's quite an elaborite process of kneading, spreading, and boiling, but it does provide a pleasant time of sisterhood, laughter, and fellowship with all the comadres (close, female friends and relatives). Ok. l'll admit a little gossip probably takes place, too, but it's all in good fun. And, Laura describes it right on. It's been a while since I've done the whole tamale thing...I have to plan better this Christmas and get over to my Mom's whenever she gets the tamale making bug!

Read it! It'll get you in the mood for some awesome, home-made Mexican food. A road trip, yummy food, romance, true-to-life descriptions, and Laura's beautiful imagery...can't go wrong with it. You'll love it! Hmmm...I think I'll make some real tortillas sometime this week.