Wednesday, February 25, 2009


I'm going to try to post reviews as they come in but the truth is I'm way behind: Booklist, El Paso Times, Library Journal and articles in a handful of periodicals, including some recent stuff in Cafe Magazine and Poets & Writers have already come out. I'm always a little wary of reviews, though I know I've been lucky. It's just that I really don't read them well at all the first few times. It's only after a while that they really sink in, that I have enough distance to see what was good, what veered off course, etc. I also need the distance to have the nerve to claim them -- that is, to understand that they're talking about my work. I think, having been a journalist for so long -- having been on the other side of the pen, so to speak -- it's still disconcerting to suddenly be on this side (okay, not so suddenly, but it still feels new to me ... ).

So I'll start with the one that got things rolling, the debut review from Publisher's Weekly:

Ruins Achy Obejas. Akashic, $15.95 paper (206p) ISBN 978-1-933354-69-9

In 1994 Havana, times are hard: for maladroitly named Usnavy and his family, home is one windowless, sparsely furnished room, and rationing is so tight that “pieces of a blanket... beaten and marinated in spices and a little beef broth” pass for sandwich meat. When not managing the local bodega or playing dominoes with childhood friends, earnest Usnavy tries to keep his out-of-work wife and 14-year-old daughter from despair and disillusionment. His one treasure, as precious as his mother's legacy, is a “most extraordinary lamp… of multicolor stained glass and shaped like an oversized dome.” Around this lamp (a genuine Tiffany?), poet and novelist Obejas spins a mystery with political ramifications. Keeping within the tight frame of Usnavy's day-to-day life, Obejas confronts the ruin of Cuba; the fate of those who escape to the States, and those who remain; and broad issues of religious and sexual identity. With the deft and evocative detail of a poet's, Obejas's prose is as illuminating and honest as her struggling protagonist. (Mar.)

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