Mexico

Like Water for Chocolate

"Earthy, magical, and utterly charming, this tale of family life in turn-of-the-century Mexico blends poignant romance and bittersweet wit. 

This classic love story takes place on the De la Garza ranch, as the tyrannical owner, Mama Elena, chops onions at the kitchen table in her final days of pregnancy. While still in her mother's womb, her daughter to be weeps so violently she causes an early labor, and little Tita slips out amid the spices and fixings for noodle soup. This early encounter with food soon becomes a way of life, and Tita grows up to be a master chef, using cooking to express herself and sharing recipes with readers along the way."

(A special thank you to book club member, Aisha Esbhani for the suggestion.)

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The Body Where I Was Born

The first novel to appear in English by one of the most talked-about and critically acclaimed writers of new Mexican fiction. A Bogotá 39 author & Granta "Best Untranslated Writer," Nettel has received numerous awards.
 
"From a psychoanalyst's couch, the narrator looks back on her bizarre childhood—in which she was born with an abnormality in her eye into a family intent on fixing it. In a world without the time and space for innocence, the narrator intimately recalls her younger self—a fierce and discerning girl open to life’s pleasures and keen to its ruthless cycle of tragedy.

With raw language and a brilliant sense of humor, both delicate and unafraid, Nettel strings together hard-won, unwieldy memories—taking us from Mexico City to Aix-en-Provence, France, then back home again—to create a portrait of the artist as a young girl. In these pages, Nettel’s art of storytelling transforms experience into inspiration and a new startling perception of reality."

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Down the Rabbit Hole

While more of a novella than a novel at 97 pages, this book was shortlisted for the 2011 Guardian First Book Award and the awarded the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize.

"A pint-size novel about innocence, beastliness and a child learning the lingo in a drug wonderland. Funny, convincing, appalling, it's a punch-packer for one so small." - Famed author, Ali Smith

"Tochtli lives in a palace. He loves hats, samurai, guillotines, and dictionaries, and what he wants more than anything right now is a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. But Tochtli is a child whose father is a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, and Tochtli is growing up in a luxury hideout that he shares with hit men, prostitutes, dealers, servants, and the odd corrupt politician or two. Down the Rabbit Hole, a masterful and darkly comic first novel, is the chronicle of a delirious journey to grant a child's wish."

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Signs Preceding the End of the World

A metaphysical read shortlisted for the Rómulo Gallegos Prize

"Short, suspenseful . . . outlandish and heartbreaking." - New York Times

"Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there’s no going back. Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages - one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld."

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Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz

"Latin America's great poet rendered into English by the world's most celebrated translator of Spanish-language literature.

Sor Juana (1651–1695) was a fiery feminist and a woman ahead of her time. Like Simone de Beauvoir, she was very much a public intellectual. Her contemporaries called her 'the Tenth Muse and 'the Phoenix of Mexico,' names that continue to resonate. An illegitimate child, self-taught intellectual, and court favorite, she rose to the height of fame as a writer in Mexico City during the Spanish Golden Age.

This volume includes Sor Juana's best-known works: 'First Dream,' her longest poem and the one that showcases her prodigious intellect and range, and 'Response of the Poet to the Very Eminent Sor Filotea de la Cruz,' her epistolary feminist defense—evocative of Mary Wollstonecraft and Emily Dickinson—of a woman's right to study and to write. Thirty other works—playful ballads, extraordinary sonnets, intimate poems of love, and a selection from an allegorical play with a distinctive New World flavor—are also included."

(A special thank you to book club member, Judy Shenk for the suggestion.)

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The Underdogs


Lauded as the greatest novel of the Mexican Revolution, The Underdogs is "a foundational work of modern Mexican and Latin American literature."

"Demetrio Macias, a poor, illiterate Indian, must join the rebels to save his family. Courageous and charismatic, he earns a generalship in Pancho Villa’s army, only to become discouraged with the cause after it becomes hopelessly factionalized. At once a spare, moving depiction of the limits of political idealism, an authentic representation of Mexico’s peasant life, and a timeless portrait of revolution, The Underdogs is an iconic novel of the Latin American experience and a powerful novel about the disillusionment of war."

Note: This translation by Gustavo Pellon is the one we recommend. (Other translations are often considered stilted with dialog rendering the characters as caricatures of themselves.) In addition, this version offers an extensive appendix setting the novel in its historical, literary, & political context.

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