Brush Up on Your Shakespeare

Summer is coming to an end, and it’s time to prepare for the coming school year. Time to put down that breezy beach read and pick up a Shakespearean classic. Brush up on the Bard’s classic works of literature by reading Douglas Bruster’s “To Be or Not to Be: Shakespeare Now!” (Continuum, 2007).

In his book, Bruster, professor of English, offers a series of intellectual stories examining Shakespeare’s individual words, idioms and phrases. With a particular focus on the complexities of Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” speech, Bruster explores the myriad of questions it raises, such as knowledge and existence.

A great resource for literary scholars, actors, playgoers and readers, the book provides insight into Shakespeare’s remarkable expansion of the English language.

Bruster is the author of “Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare,” “Quoting Shakespeare,” “Shakespeare and the Question of Culture” and coauthor of “Prologues to Shakespeare’s Theater.”

Alumna celebrates belated Quinceañera with debut novel

Belinda Acosta, alumna of The University of Texas at Austin’s Michener Center for Writers and longtime columnist for the Austin Chronicle, debuts as a published novelist this month with the release of “Damas, Dramas and Ana Ruiz,” the first of two books she has written for Grand Central Publishing’s “A Quinceañera Club,” a new series which will explore Mexican American life and culture.

What is a quinceañera?  In the Hispanic culture, it’s a girl’s 15th birthday party, a coming-of-age celebration much like a sweet sixteen, but with much deeper religious and social significance.  Belinda, who was born in Nebraska to a mother from South Texas and a father from Northern Mexico, had never attended one before she signed the book contract.  She threw herself into researching the ritual, attending quinceañeras, going to trade shows, talking to other Latinas about their experiences, and reading such books as Julia Alvarez’s “Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA.”

The result is a book that smartly and deftly explores questions of family relationships as well as cultural identity.  Acosta, who regularly reviews TV and other media in her weekly column, found inspiration in such shows as the hit OC, which combines story lines of teenaged characters with those of adult characters and appeals to viewers of widely differing ages.

Set in San Antonio, Texas, the novel tells the story of Ana Ruiz, a working professional and mother of 14-year-old  Carmen. Carmen blames her mother for their father’s recent abandonment of the family, and Ana plans the party as a means to reconnect with her angry daughter, but things go terribly awry. Author Joy Castro lauds Acosta’s deft portrayal of the “psychological tensions that the quinceañera moment provokes in mothers who are forced . . . to face their own aging at exactly the moment they’re supposed to be celebrating their daughters’ beauty and maturity.”  Belinda seamlessly weaves Spanish and Spanglish into her prose, giving the novel a lively and authentic voice.

In addition to her column and freelance reviews, Acosta is also a playwright and essayist whose work has appeared in Poets and Writers and aired on Latino USA.

A book release party is planned on August 18th at Cuba Libra (409 Colorado) from 6 to 8 p.m.—complete with cocktails, cupcakes and dancing, a sort of belated quinceañera for Acosta herself.  On August 25, she will read and book sign at 7 p.m. at BookPeople, on the corner of West 6th and N. Lamar.

Oscar Casares’ “AMIGOLAND” releases August 10

Even before its official release on August 10th, Oscar Casares’ novel, “Amigoland,” is following in the footsteps of his acclaimed 2003 debut, “Brownsville.” Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly gave the novel starred reviews, and USA Today and Time Out New York included it on their recommended summer reading lists even before it was in print. Harper’s and The Wall Street Journal, among others, have upcoming reviews and Texas Monthly has excerpted the novel in its August issue.  A state-wide tour is scheduled in bookstores, on campuses, and at literary festivals throughout the fall.

Austin’s BookPeople will host a reading by Casares and a book signing at 7 p.m., Thursday, August 13.

Casares joined fiction faculty of the Department of English and the Michener Center for Writers in 2004 after “Brownsville’s” publication to critical acclaim.  Reviewers agreed that his collected stories had captured the unique Tex Mex culture of his hometown and the ordinary joys and sorrows of his characters without reducing them to socioeconomic stereotypes or writing “message” fiction. The New York Times said “with quiet mastery of the smallest detail, Casares puts us on neighborly terms with the locals.”

“Amigoland,” set on the South Texas border with Mexico, is the story of estranged brothers Don Fidencio Rosales—querulous, nearly 92 years old, and living in a nursing home—and Don Celestino, twenty years his junior and newly widowed, who finds himself somewhat ambivalently involved with his young cleaning woman, Socorro. The housekeeper is a catalyst for the brothers reconnecting, and the improbable trio takes off on a bus trip into Mexico, where the siblings hope to settle a long-standing dispute about how their grandfather arrived in the U.S. and Socorro hopes to find clarity in her unlikely romance. The trip stirs up powerful issues of family and pride and about how we care for the people we love.

BookPeople is on the corner of West 6th Street and North Lamar Blvd.

Oscar Casares' "AMIGOLAND" releases August 10

Even before its official release on August 10th, Oscar Casares’ novel, “Amigoland,” is following in the footsteps of his acclaimed 2003 debut, “Brownsville.” Both Kirkus and Publishers Weekly gave the novel starred reviews, and USA Today and Time Out New York included it on their recommended summer reading lists even before it was in print. Harper’s and The Wall Street Journal, among others, have upcoming reviews and Texas Monthly has excerpted the novel in its August issue.  A state-wide tour is scheduled in bookstores, on campuses, and at literary festivals throughout the fall.

Austin’s BookPeople will host a reading by Casares and a book signing at 7 p.m., Thursday, August 13.

Casares joined fiction faculty of the Department of English and the Michener Center for Writers in 2004 after “Brownsville’s” publication to critical acclaim.  Reviewers agreed that his collected stories had captured the unique Tex Mex culture of his hometown and the ordinary joys and sorrows of his characters without reducing them to socioeconomic stereotypes or writing “message” fiction. The New York Times said “with quiet mastery of the smallest detail, Casares puts us on neighborly terms with the locals.”

“Amigoland,” set on the South Texas border with Mexico, is the story of estranged brothers Don Fidencio Rosales—querulous, nearly 92 years old, and living in a nursing home—and Don Celestino, twenty years his junior and newly widowed, who finds himself somewhat ambivalently involved with his young cleaning woman, Socorro. The housekeeper is a catalyst for the brothers reconnecting, and the improbable trio takes off on a bus trip into Mexico, where the siblings hope to settle a long-standing dispute about how their grandfather arrived in the U.S. and Socorro hopes to find clarity in her unlikely romance. The trip stirs up powerful issues of family and pride and about how we care for the people we love.

BookPeople is on the corner of West 6th Street and North Lamar Blvd.