Round Rock New Neighbors is a social organization of women welcoming women in the Round Rock area since 1978. Both "new" and "old" neighbors are welcome. For more information: rrnewneighbors.org [Barnes & Noble requires that RRNN's book club be open to the public, so you do not need to be an RRNN member to attend book club, and both men and women are welcome and do attend. ]
The Friends of the Georgetown Public Library’s Hill Country Authors Series events will be listed here.
Round Rock Public Library Book Group meets monthly at 7:00-8:30 PM. Check the library website for more information, or ask Carla.
Thursday, June 30, 2011
Did the Hummingbird Make a Mistake by Running Away?
As the nominator of this month's book, The Hummingbird's Daughter, by Luis Alberto Urrea, I was trying to do three things at once during our book club meeting: (1) Lead the discussion, (2) Take notes for writing on the blog later and (3) Enjoy and be a part of the discussion. I was successful at number 3!
For an extra boost of fun, I brought a box of Jujubes candy, presumably but doubtfully similar to the jujubes that were a favorite treat of Tomas Urrea, the family patriarch in The Hummingbird's Daughter. The American Jujubes candy was created in the 1800s, so it is possible these were the jujubes mentioned in the book. In the 1800s, the candy would have been made with sugar; now they are made with corn syrup (progress in America). The candy was named after a tropical berry, but the berry is said to be nothing like the candy. I did not partake of the candies when we passed them around during our meeting. I waited until the next day, popped one in my mouth, enjoyed it carefully for a while, and finally bit down on it. When I opened my teeth, a piece of dental work came out! I had to go get it cemented back in at the dentist. I hope this didn't happen to anyone else at the meeting! If anyone wants a box of Jujubes, let me know! I don't know why, but I didn't throw them away...yet.
My notes about our discussion are minimal and scattered. I shall tell you here more about the interview with the author that I watched online and about the questions I prepared for the presentation, and will close with a few of the comments from the meeting.
Click on this link for the videotaped interview with Urrea. Toward the end, he does a reading from the book. I think it's an excellent author video. It provides insight into Urrea's personality as well as The Hummingbird's Daughter.
Urrea was born in Tijuana Mexico, the son of a Mexican father and a mother from a Virginia plantation. Urrea's love of words stems from his mother reading Dickens and Twain to him when he was a child. He didn't understand the words but loved it all anyway; I guess he was speaking Spanish. The family moved to San Diego when Urrea became ill. Later Urrea would hearken back to his Tijuana roots to write The Devil's Highway. Urrea was particularly disturbed by the contrast between the poverty in Tijuana and the wealth in San Diego, especially since you could see San Diego from the hilltops in Tijuana. Urrea's Devil's Highway was rejected by publishers for 10 years and then became a Pulitzer Prize finalist.
Urrea heard about his relative, Teresita, in family stories. He first read a book about her in 1985 and then began to research via news articles and word of mouth. For 20 years, he traveled and gathered information and studied with healers, preparing the book. Teresita has always been a figure of intrigue. Books have been published about Teresita in 1902 (by Lauro Aguirre who is prominent in The Hummingbird's Daughter), 1911, 1960, 1972, 1976, 1978; and The Hummingbird's Daughter in 2005.
The Hummingbird's Daughter covers the first 20 years of Teresita's life. On page 347 of the book, she is just becoming a grownup, around age 19. Thereafter, she grows up very quickly. Her coma occurred in 1889, and she was in El Paso by 1896. Urrea's sequel to The Hummingbird's Daughter follows Teresita's life further and is called Queen of America. It's due out in December of this year.
Questions for discussion that came to mind while reading the book were the following:
What parts of the story do you think are historical and what parts are fiction? Urrea answers this question on his interview, stating that all the mystical parts are true, via eyewitness reports and news articles. It is the daily life, food, clothing, and other settings that are fictional!
Have you seen any faith healing? A few of our book club members have had or seen experiences with faith healers. Oral Roberts was mentioned. Someone, I think Dennis, mentioned the term "magical realism." In the video interview, Urrea mentions this term, too, stating that southern American writers, Faulkner and Flannery O'Connor in particular, inspired Garcia Marquez and other Latin authors of magical realism.
Did you feel that the characters were well-developed? Were any stereotyped? This question had mixed answers in our discussion. Patty said the characters were somewhat vague but the book told the story of Mexico via the setting of the society of classes, ranch life among the classes, the mysticism among the Yaqui tribes, and the colonization by the Spaniards. Patty has a knack for picking up and crystallizing the broad historical lessons we learn from the novels we read! We discussed some of the characters' personalities and how well we felt we got to know them.
The Hummingbird's Daughter was well-liked! It is an amazing true story that is fun to imagine and very different from most people's lives. We had some criticism about a lack of depth for some of the characters. A few of us thought the book was written in a slightly hard-to-read style, with convoluted sentences. The beginning tended to be difficult, especially because of the several names for each character that is common among Spanish names. The use of Spanish words and phrases, deprecatory and lowbrow for the most part, without English translation raised a few eyebrows. Two members told me this book went right to the top of their lists of personal favorites! This made my day; nominators are always looking for that fine balance between good for discussion and fun to read!
Anybody planning to nominate Queen of America?