Linda Rodriguez’s Every Broken Trust is a selection of Las Comadres National Latino Book Club. Her first novel, Every Last Secret, won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel Competition, was a Barnes & Noble mystery pick and a finalist for the International Latino Book Award. Her third Skeet Bannion mystery, Every Hidden Fear, will be published in May 2014. For her books of poetry, Rodriguez has received numerous awards. Currently president of the Borders Crimes chapter of Sisters in Crime and a member of Latino Writers Collective, Wordcraft Circle of Native American Writers and Storytellers, Kansas City Cherokee Community, and International Thriller Writers, she was formerly director of the University of Missouri-Kansas City Women’s Center. You can find her on Twitter, on Facebook, and on her blog.
The stack of books by my bed is always teetering. Some of the books are constant residents because I love to reread them or, in the case of anthologies, to dip into them over and over. Some are books I haven’t read yet, but have loved earlier books by that author or have had them highly recommended by people whose judgment I trust. Some are advanced reader’s copies (ARCs) of books that haven’t come out yet that I’m reading for review or to blurb.
SING: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas, edited by Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, is a marvelous compendium of poems by Indigenous poets from the Arctic Circle to Tierra del Fuego, the first-ever such anthology. Poems are published in the original tribal languages and Spanish, and all are translated into English, as well. The variety of voices is tremendous and the beauty of these poems is breathtaking and lifegiving. I find something to love every time I open this book. Also, editor Hedge Coke has written the great books, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer, her award-winning memoir, Dog Road Woman, her debut collection of poetry that won the American Book Award, and the powerful Blood Run, her book of poetry about the moundbuilder Native cultures and the need to preserve the remaining mound complexes from destruction.
Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir by Deborah Miranda is a book I recommend to almost everyone I meet. Miranda has traced the destruction and yet survival of her tribe, the Ohlone-Esselen, as well as other California Indians, through her own ancestors and family, demonstrating the damage done to her tribe and relatives and their immense resilience. This tale has never been told before and is chilling, heartbreaking, and yet full of hope and life.
Island of Bones by Joy Castro was just named a finalist for the PEN/USA Literary Awards in Creative Nonfiction. This collection of essays takes up where her critically acclaimed memoir, The Truth Book, left off. Castro, who was adopted by Cuban-American Jehovah’s Witnesses, writes from pain and love with lyrical clarity about gender, identity, violence, class, motherhood, and the academy in this book. She is also the author of two great literary thrillers set in New Orleans, Hell or High Water and Nearer Home.
Woman with a Gambling Mania by Catherine Anderson is an ARC of a book of poetry by award-winning poet Anderson and is a generous, spirited book, alive and brimming with artists and paintings, crows and rats, portraits of the antique inmates of madhouses and asylums, and the hopeful, desperate lives of immigrants and lovers.
The Gifted Gabaldon Sisters by Lorraine López is another book I often shove into people’s hands. A debut novel about four sisters and the ancient servant who raised them and blessed them with gifts at her death, this tour de force book is the coming-of-age story of the sisters interwoven with the servant’s gripping story of kidnapping and slavery told to a writer long before the girls were born. The book’s theme focuses on the lives of women in the past and present, how the distant past informs their present identities, and how they overcome or make peace with the limitations life hands them. This is a book you will go back to again and again. López is also the author of Homicide Survivors Picnic, finalist for the prestigious PEN Faulkner Award in Fiction, and The Realm of Hungry Spirits, another novel filled with humor and warmth as it details a young Chicana’s spiritual journey.
One Was a Soldier by Julia Spencer-Fleming is simply the best book, fiction or nonfiction, about the toll multiple tours of duty and the corporate corruption of private contractors take on our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and the lack of services we provide for them when they return. All of this is wrapped in a compelling mystery novel, and it’s just one of the best books of the past few years. Spencer-Fleming is a gifted novelist with a whole series of impressive mystery novels. I have pre-ordered her newest, forthcoming this fall, Through the Evil Days, and am eagerly awaiting its arrival.
The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan is another favorite mystery novel, this time taking a thoughtful look at ethics in journalism and in politics and the intersection of politics, class, and power in this country. Full of believable characters, fine writing, and complex plot twists, this is a must-read. I’ve pre-ordered The Wrong Girl, the sequel, which will be published in September.
What are your shove-into-people’s-hands books?