An Interview With Author Carmen Amato

by Viviana Hurtado

It’s Friday which means for weeks on L4LL, it’s Carmen Amato day, when this author publishes fresh, relevant, and entertaining posts on how to get and keep your Read On. Today the tables have slightly turned on Carmen as we interview her about her just-published novel Hat Dance. Part of the Emilia Cruz international mystery novel series, Carmen dishes about the household name Latinas who inspired her main character and how books can build bridges between people. For all the aspiring writers out there, Carmen gives you a must-read primer on how to get published and the pros and cons of traditional and self-publishing.

As if that wasn’t enough of a gift for L4LL readers, Carmen is also offering Hat Dance for free on Kindle again today, Friday August 30!

Viviana Hurtado (L4LL): Congratulations, Carmen for just publishing Hat Dance! This mystery/psychological thriller is set in Acapulco, Mexico. Tell us the plot and main characters.

Carmen Amato: First, thanks so much for this interview and the opportunity to work with L4LL over the past few months. For an author, anything that helps to promote literacy is a true labor of love!

HAT DANCE is the second novel in the Emilia Cruz mystery series. It follows CLIFF DIVER, which when I last looked was #12 on amazon’s list of Top Rated International Mystery and Crime novels and the #27 best selling book in the Hispanic Fiction category. My books haven’t knocked Ian Rankin or Junot Díaz off the best seller lists but they are in contention!

The series pits Emilia Cruz, Acapulco’s first and only female police detective, against both Mexico’s drug war and culture of machismo. The plight of those missing in Mexico will be a continuing theme. In HAT DANCE, Emilia tracks cold cases of missing women and is asked to find a girl from her own neighborhood while also hunting for an elusive arsonist. As Acapulco burns and Emilia ends up on the wrong side of a dirty Vice cop, she’ll start making deals for information and access. But the deal she makes with the devil could be her last . . .

Here are some of the characters readers will meet:

  • Emilia Cruz Encinos: An Acapulco native forced to grow up too fast, she’s been a cop for nearly 12 years and a detective for two; a strong woman in a squadroom that didn’t want her and is still trying to break her. Emilia is a good liar, a fast thinker, a determined investigator and a mean kickboxer.
  • Franco Silvio: A former heavyweight champ, Silvio is the senior detective and the most vocal opponent of women detectives.
  • Victor Obregon Sosa: The head of the police union for the state of Guerrero is a dangerous and deceptive man. Sex with him is always on offer, he wields enormous power, and Emilia is rightfully wary of him.
  • Carlota Montoya Perez: Acapulco’s beautiful and ambitious mayor is willing to twist anything—even the truth—to accomplish her political goals.
  • Kurt Rucker: Manager of Acapulco’s most deluxe hotel, he’s a former U.S. Marine who knows what he wants and isn’t afraid to go after it.

The city of Acapulco looms as large as any character in the series. There’s the Acapulco that tourists know; luxury hi-rises, candlelit nights on the beach, the sweep of the most beautiful bay in the world, the majesty of the clear blue Pacific. There’s also the Acapulco that is a prize to be fought over by drug cartels–the city that is home to hookers and thieves, the streets where life is cheap and poverty is as pervasive as the wind off the ocean.

Both of these versions of Acapulco claw at the each other and force Emilia to survive between them. No investigation will be easy, no crime will be simple.

L4LL: The main character is a woman, Emilia Cruz. Tell us about her and why you were drawn to develop a strong female lead.

CA: Two of the biggest influences in my life have been my mother and grandmother, both strong women who made hard decisions in their lives. My best friends are strong women who live busy, multi-faceted lives. That’s how I define myself as well. A strong female character who copes with both personal and professional challenges and grows as a result is my comfort zone as a writer.

To create the Emilia character I took as inspiration 3 well-known Latinas: Justice Sonia Sotomayor, boxer Marlen Esparza, and actor America Ferrera. I wrote a blog post on my website earlier this year, explaining how they each inspired me.

L4LL: This is part of a political thriller series featuring Emilia Cruz. What is it about this character, genre, Mexico, and the current climate of drug violence that draws you to this place and characters?

CA: In the description for CLIFF DIVER, I shared a story about encountering a junkie on Christmas during Mass at our church in Mexico City. He was the tip of an iceberg that included shootouts in major cities, multiple drug seizures, rising numbers of dead and missing, the murders of mayors, governors and journalists.

Major US news outlets didn’t carry much of this kind of reporting in deference to domestic politics, the Middle East, and Lindsay Lohan. News about Mexico was mostly immigration-related. The real story–the toll that the drug wars were taking on the people and culture of Mexico–wasn’t getting out.

I carried my memories of Mexico with me when we left. I poured them into a Cinderella story set against the backdrop of Mexican political corruption and cartel violence. The result was the 2012 political thriller The Hidden Light of Mexico City. The reviews made me sure that contemporary fiction could ignite popular interest in what was happening in Mexico better than the news.

I knew, however, that a standalone novel can only take an independent author so far. I needed to take it a step further.

The resulting formula? A mystery series (the most popular literary genre) + an iconic city that US readers will recognize + relationships with heat + action from today’s headlines = Emilia Cruz.

L4LL: You love to travel and “love”–marrying “the smartest man I could find” with whom you’ve moved to Mexico and Central America–provides inspiration for your writing. What is it about the region and the people that captured your imagination, making them settings, even characters in your books?

CA: I grew up in an Italian family where going to church every Sunday was an Event. My extended family all lived in the same city and came together for every holiday. My grandfather’s home movies were all of people eating. I loved all the associated rituals: helping my grandmother set the table with her good china, arranging pepperoni, olives, and roasted red peppers for the antipasto, cranking the handle of my grandparents’ pasta maker to turn out homemade capellini.

When I moved to Mexico so much was already familiar. Church, family, rituals of food, celebrations of the homemade. It was easy to make it all my own.

I was lucky to have ready-made bridges between one culture and another. I think more bridges need to be built and books can serve as building material.

L4LL: Can you tell us about your experience publishing, specifically with CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform?

CA: All 3 of my currently published books are exclusive to Amazon as ebooks for Kindle and paperbacks printed by Amazon’s Createspace service. The industry calls it being an “independent author.”

Createspace and the Kindle publishing platform give authors a lot of options and I love that I maintain all creative control. It is ultimately my decision how the final product looks, when it is released, and the retail cost. Most importantly, it is my decision how professional the books and their presentation will be. I had a publishing contract in 2011 but felt that the publishing company was offering a poor quality product to readers and I ultimately walked away.

In today’s digital world, print copies are a very small percentage of total book sales unless you are J.K. Rowling. Both royalties and sales volume is significantly higher for Kindle ebooks and I know many authors who do not sell print books at all. Moreover, bookstores generally will not stock print books by independent authors. Some book reviewers will not accept indie books for review, either.

L4LL: We are not editors, publishers, and literary agents yet are often approached for guidance on how to publish a book. Can you share some tips for budding authors?

CA: Getting a book in front of an audience and even racking up a few sales is no longer the hard part. Polishing your product, however, is. Many rush to publish because they can—there is no editorial filter—and they skip over quality control. Here is my best advice.

  1. Don’t fall in love with your first draft. Fall in love with your characters, in the setting, and in the plot twists. Keep editing and rewriting until your manuscript is as good as it can be. Learn to be a ruthless editor of your own work.
  2. Don’t change points of view within a single section. Just when a reader has identified with a certain character–whoops–suddenly they are inside another character’s head. This is my personal pet peeve. Read novels by Leon Uris and Ken Follett for great examples of keeping points of view separate and how to use different points of view to advance the plot.
  3. A writer’s group is a terrific way to get feedback on a draft and learn best practices from fellow writers. A side benefit is encouragement and the feeling that you’re not the only one with a writing obsession.
  4. Find a writing partner and share drafts for timely feedback and brainstorming.
  5. Finally, in this day of instant access to information, there is no excuse for bad punctuation. A random typo is one thing, consistent punctuation errors in a published work is another.

L4LL: Can you explain the pros and cons of self-publishing versus mainstream publisher?

It’s a tough business, one that is in decline, where it’s difficult for talented authors to make it past gatekeepers in the form of publishers, editors, and agents, and one that does not understand the urgency of tapping into new readers such as Latinos for its survival. How have the advances in technology helped you and other authors?

CA: As the traditional publishing industry shrinks, authors without close ties to that industry will be by and large locked out. Those writing content that isn’t the “flavor of the day” have even a slimmer chance of being discovered and offered a contract. Money is tight, and ironically, editors are now trolling Amazon’s best seller lists and independent authors are being offered traditional publishing contracts but only because they have a proven following and sales.

So frankly, I think publishing independently is the only way to go that doesn’t involve years of wasted time and postage costs mailing queries and manuscripts to people who didn’t ask for them.

The pros of independent publishing are:

  • Retain creative control.
  • Reach audiences immediately.
  • Royalties as high as 70% and paid monthly.
  • You are discoverable by publishers who comb Amazon lists to find breakout authors and subject matter experts.
  • Some book contests are exclusive for indie authors.

The cons are:

  • Your book still must be as professional in all aspects as those traditionally published. It is a lot of work to do cover, editing, formatting, etc and can be costly unless you acquire the skills to do it yourself.
  • You are responsible for your own marketing/cover/author platform.
  • Libraries and bookstores rarely agree to stock independent titles.
  • Important review opportunities can be limited.
  • The quality of independently published books varies widely; many people’s experience leads them to equate “independently published” with “poor quality.”
  • Ineligible for some big-name book contests.

In contrast

The pros of traditional publishing are:

  • Libraries and bookstores may stock you depending on your publisher’s distribution.
  • May receive an up front royalty.
  • Cachet of having a publisher’s name on the Amazon sales page and being able to answer the question of who is your publisher
  • Someone else does the cover, interior and ebook formatting, intellectual property rights protection, etc.
  • Eligible for most book contests.

The cons are:

  • The publisher may own the rights to your work, preventing you from setting a fair price, reprinting, moving to another publishing house, etc. In many cases authors have lost thousands in royalties because they signed away rights to content, characters, and more.
  • You find out you are responsible for your own marketing/cover/author platform!
  • Much lower royalty percentages, generally paid quarterly or even bi-annually.
  • Loss of creative control means you can end up with an unsuitable cover, inaccurate back cover info, etc.
  • Your chances of being offered a contract are very low.
  • You almost always need an agent, who takes a share of your income, to navigate the process.
  • A contract for one book does not automatically translate into a contract for the next.

This is just my experience, and other authors who have gone down a different path will no doubt have a different view. I’d never rule out a traditional publishing offer but will never again sacrifice creative control.

L4LL: What’s next for Emilia Cruz?

CA: Next up is publication in The Huffington Post of “The Beast,” the very first Emilia Cruz story, as part of Huffpost’s showcase of female writers over 50. A collection of short stories, entitled MADE IN ACAPULCO, will follow this fall. Two more Emilia Cruz novels are planned for 2014. Still others are in the outline stage.

A continuing subplot will be Emilia’s hunt for missing women. Will she ever close out all her cases? Will she marry Kurt? Will she survive partnership with Silvio?
L4LL: What’s next for Carmen Amato?

CA: I hope that the Emilia Cruz series becomes one of those cross-cultural bridges I talked about earlier. The mystery series is a literary genre that is hugely popular in the US and several series have brought a popular awareness to new places (Russia and Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko series; Sweden and the Dragon Tattoo books.) Maybe Emilia can do this for Mexico.

At the same time, I hope the cultural details and connection to current events appeal to Latinos. You have talked on the L4LL website about encouraging a love of reading—which leads to better education rates—in Latino youth. A mystery can be a more attractive choice than literary fiction for young adults still building an interest in reading. A series may encourage them to continue to read.

I also think the series, as well THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY, would translate well to film. There would be some great roles for Latino actors. The most popular pages on my website are the dreamcasts. I’m sure Hollywood will be calling any day!

Cuba Libre: Understanding Cuba in 12 Books

Cuba is a place of tumultuous history, faded glory, and fields of cane. Many Latino families draw strength from their Cuban roots while at the same time struggle to make sense of has what happened in the years since the Cuban Revolution and rise of Fidel Castro.

No one book explains all, but both fiction and non-fiction can lead us to a better understanding of this troubled, but still magical place, and even give a glimpse of what may be in store for Cuba’s future.


Havana Bay by Martin Cruz Smith
The Arkady Renko series sends the Moscow-based detective to Cuba several years after the break with Russia in order to bring home the body of a Russian diplomat. But nothing is easy in Fidel’s Cuba and Arkady finds himself not only investigating the death but becoming embroiled in local political unrest. A powerful, haunting thriller.

The Mares of Lenin Park by Agustin D. Martinez
The Mares of Lenin Park address many themes; Cuban life, the Russia-Cuba relationship, drug culture, and coming-of-age issues as seen through the eyes of a young teen. The book recently won the Prize Americana. Author Martinez talked to L4LL readers last week. Read the interview here.

Cuba by Stephen Coonts
Jake Grafton, now an admiral, is the main character in many of Coonts’s books. In a bit of an homage to the Cuban Missile Crisis, a power struggle in Cuba leads to a powerful new weapon being trained on the US. Grafton must vault into the cockpit of a new type of aircraft to save the day. A blockbuster, just like all the Grafton books, and for good reason.


Take Me With You by Carlos Frías
Florida journalist Frias goes to Cuba for the first time as a reporter and discovers the land of his parents for the first time. A compelling and beautifully written homage to both his family and to his roots in Cuba.

Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire
This story of a boyhood in Havana as the revolution encroaches is full of disparate personalities, mystical dreams, and impending doom. Eire will ultimately be sent to the US as Cuba falls to Castro as one of the children airlifted without their parents to Miami. The New Yorker called the author’s style as “urgent and so vividly personal.”

Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth about Cuba Today by Yoani Sanchez
The amazon description says it all: “She’s been kidnapped and beaten, lives under surveillance, and can only get online—in disguise—at tourist hotspots. She’s a blogger, she’s a Cuban, and she’s a worldwide sensation. Yoani Sánchez is an unusual dissident: no street protests, no attacks on big politicos, no calls for revolution. Rather, she produces a simple diary about what it means to live under the Castro regime: the chronic hunger and the difficulty of shopping; the art of repairing ancient appliances; and the struggles of living under a propaganda machine that pushes deep into public and private life.”


Bacardi and the Long Fight for Cuba by Tom Gjelten
NPR correspondent Gjelten follows the story of the Bacardi family’s rum empire and how it has been entwined with Cuba’s fate over the past 150 years. A different angle from which to view history and very entertaining. Salud!

Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy and Arthur Meier Schlesinger
Perhaps the definitive account of the Cuban Missile Crisis by the late RFK, a major player in the event.

Havana Nocturne: How the Mob Owned Cuba and Lost it to the Revolution by T. J. English
The rumors have always run rife about the Mob’s links to pre-Revolution Cuba and English aims to write the definitive account of what really happened in all its “sexy, decadent, ugly glory.”

Without Fidel by Ann Louise Bardach
Award-winning reporter Bardach caps a decade of books about contemporary Cuba and Cubans in Miami and their lobbying power with this portrait of Fidel and Raúl Castro.


The Houses of Old Cuba by Llilian Llanes
Distinctive architecture of Cuba from the curator of the Museo Wilfredo Lam in Havana, complete with discussion of how the architecture is influenced by tropical climate and cultural heritage.

Estefan Kitchen by Emilio Estefan
Music and food! Who could ask for anything more? Emilio and Gloria Estefan offer up recipes from their Bongos Cuban Café as well as “personal accounts, culinary inspiration, and Cuban cuisine’s historical context.” A lovingly written and presented keepsake cookbook.

What titles would you recommend we add to this list?

HAT DANCE, Carmen Amato’s latest book in the Emilia Cruz series set in Acapulco, is FREE today for L4LL Kindle readers! Click here to get your free ebook and remember to leave a review when you finish the book.

HAT DANCE follows CLIFF DIVER, the first book in the Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “consistently exciting.”

In HAT DANCE, Detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil in a desperate attempt to stop an arsonist and find a missing girl. But when the music stops, the consequences will be deadly.

Check out all Carmen’s books at and connect with her on Twitter @CarmenConnects or Her Pinterest boards illustrate her books and can be found at

An L4LL Interview with Author Agustin D. Martinez

It is always a treat when one author gets to interview another. We know the work that goes into each book, love to hear about what inspires a fellow scribbler to turn thoughts and imagery into words, and can’t resist probing to find out what parts of another author’s background is revealed in a book’s pages.

This week I was lucky enough to chat virtually with Agustin D. “Gus” Martinez, the author of the Prize Americana-winning novel, The Mares of Lenin Park, and am delighted to share the experience with L4LL readers.

Carmen Amato: You write in many genres. Tell us a little about yourself and what inspired you to become such a diverse writer.
Guz Martinez: I grew up in Miami, Florida and taught English in Miami before moving to the Washington, DC area where I currently reside and still work in the field of education. In high school and college, I was involved in theatre, and therefore, I began my writing career writing plays. From there, I began writing short stories, and ultimately, my first novel, The Mares of Lenin Park.

When I write, there are certain topics or characters that I feel should be written in one of these forms, plays or fiction. Sometimes, it is necessary for me to tell a story using only dialogue and stage directions, while there are certain topics, such as Uli’s story in Mares, which I feel could only be told in the form of a novel, one reason being that the setting in the novel is as much a character as are the actual characters in the book.

CA: Your book, The Mares of Lenin Park, has an unusual title. Tell us what it means and how you chose it.
GM: Students of mine used to tell me about a park they visited as children, Lenin Park. I developed almost an extended metaphor of mares in the park, old and graying, with blinders on, yet they carried on not knowing what existed outside of their line of sight. In the novel, this image comes up a few times symbolizing how, unfortunately, we sometimes live within the confines of what we see or hear, not knowing of other worlds that exist outside our own. The image I painted in the book is almost the same as that in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

CA: The Mares of Lenin Park address many themes; Cuban life, the Russia-Cuba relationship, drug culture, and coming-of-age issues. How did you research all this and how much is drawn from your own background?
GM: Growing up in Miami, I constantly heard stories of what Cuba was like before and after the Revolution, what my parents and immediate family experienced and how they were divided on the political beliefs early on. In fact, some family still remains in Cuba. Aside from stories I heard growing up, students of mine in Miami told me numerous stories of what life in the early ‘90s was like in Cuba without the support of the Soviet Union. This period interested me, and I decided to set the novel during this “special” period, as Castro referred to it. I further interviewed family who visited from Cuba, and through the Internet, I was able to communicate with my aunts, uncle and cousins who still reside in Havana.

CA: Describe the ideal audience for The Mares of Lenin Park.
GM: Some people believe that since the book’s protagonist is a teenage boy that this is a young adult novel. It may be; however, I think it is a true crossover novel and many of my readers, who are mostly adults, seem to enjoy the novel just as much as some of the teenagers who have read the book. I believe that the themes are universal, not just themes that relate to the coming-of-age of Uli Aguilera.

CA: What author or book has influenced you the most?
GM: I was immediately hooked to the writings of Mark Twain as an adolescent. His stories, themes, and use of satire have influenced my writing greatly.

CA: Do you think that much Latino literature is widely read outside the Latino community? Why or why not?
GM: I’m really not sure about this. I know that I am always on the lookout for Latino literature. I think more and more, Latino writers such as Junot Diaz are making a big splash in the literary community.

CA: What should Latino authors be doing to promote literacy and the love of reading?
GM: As an educator, I believe that Latino authors must promote literacy by working with schools or colleges around the country. Whether it be doing readings, signings, or just letting those in education know that our books are out there is vital. For example, I have contacted various school districts around the nation to consider my book as one of the books taught in English classes. I was surprised at all the positive response I received!

CA: What are you currently reading?
GM: I’m currently reading and almost finished with Yoani Sanchez’ book, Havana Real, based on her blogs that she wrote as a Cuban dissident. It’s fascinating! I should’ve picked it up sooner.

CA: How can L4LL readers get in touch to find out more about your books, plays, and short stories?
GM: They can always visit my book’s Facebook page, or contact me directly at I love hearing from readers!

Thank you, Gus Martinez, for such thoughtful answers. We wish you continued success with both The Mares of Lenin Park and your other writing. You can find The Mares of Lenin Park on

And remember to help both readers and writers like Gus by leaving reviews of great LatinoLit. Here is how to write a review in just a few easy steps!


Carmen Amato is the author of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and CLIFF DIVER, the first book in her Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “consistently exciting.” The next book in that series, HAT DANCE, will be released next week!
In HAT DANCE, Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil in a desperate attempt to stop an arsonist and find a missing girl. But when the music stops, the consequences will be deadly.

Check out all Carmen’s books at and connect with her on Twitter @CarmenConnects or Facebook. Her Pinterest boards illustrate her books and can be found at

A Video Book Report of El periquillo sarniento

Claudia choose El periquillo sarniento by author José Joaquín Fernandez de Lizarde. In her video book report, this rising high school senior explains the plot, characters, and that she was drawn to the book by the theme and value of morale that Fernandez de Lizarde presents in his book. Claudia’s reading comprehension, vocabulary, ability to form an argument, and public speaking are some of the literacy skills on display in her L4LL video book report.

Do we love her obvious biliteracy skills? Yes!

Hey, college-bound students: This is what you can use to augment your college applications and impress them with your portfolio!

A Video Book Report of Return to Sender

We’re so pleased to share today’s video book report that was submitted by Jared, a ninth grader in Pennsylvania. He’s chosen a moving book by author Julia Álvarez on the controversial topic of immigration. We love his presentation of the plot and characters, as well as his explanation for why he recommends the book.

Well done, Jared!

Today’s the Deadline to Submit Your Book Report Videos!

Don’t forget that today is the last day to submit your book report videos for the YA Challenge! Submitting is easy and families will be entered to win a Chromebook or Nexus 7 tablet, so just grab your camera and start filming. You can download the YA Challenge rules here.

Winners will be contacted tomorrow and the prizes will be mailed this week.

Check out this other entry below from 6th grader, Denali, who chose Dancing Home as the subject of her book review. ¡Bien hecho, Denali!

Matching Books and Museums: 3 Family Heritage Experiences

Did you ever walk through a museum and wish you knew the story behind the exhibits?

The solution? Read a related book or two before you go. You’ll gain context and be better able to appreciate what you see. Share your ideas, too, with your family as you view the exhibits.

Here are 3 family-friendly museums, matched with some great books for you and the kids, too.

1. The Museum of Latin American Art

The museum: Located in Long Beach, CA, the museum “expands knowledge and appreciation of modern and contemporary Latin American art through its Collection, ground-breaking Exhibitions, stimulating Educational Programs, and engaging Cultural Events.” Or to put it more simply, this is THE museum for artwork of all types from both noted and to-be-discovered Latino artists. In fact the museum’s website has a call for a ceramicist to get in touch!

The museum has a lot going on to support love of the arts: the quarterly calendar is loaded with exhibition information, the museum has a summer camp art program, the museum’s Viva Café is a great place to taste authentic dishes, and the director is leading a September tour of Mexico City’s art hotspots. You can also shop the online store. Check out the museum website for more.

The books: The whole family will be ready for the museum’s wealth of art with these reads.

Frida by Hayden Herrera: The definitive biography of tortured artist Frida Kahlo, used as the basis of the movie of the same name.

Mexico & Central America: A Fiesta of Cultures, Crafts, and Activities for Ages 8-12 by Mary C. Turuk: This multicultural activity book contains more than 40 activities and 3 play scripts celebrating the cultures of Mexico and Central America and their Aztec and Maya roots.

2. The National Museum of Mexican Art

The museum: Located in Chicago, IL, the museum is a rich offering of all the art and culture Mexico has to offer. The museum’s credo is that “Mexican culture exists sin fronteras, without borders, and we display artistic expressions from both sides of the border . . . the Museum is committed to creating a wide range of exhibitions that present a vibrant and diverse picture of Mexico and its history, as well as of Mexican communities in the United States.”

This means that the museum has a wide variety of collections, stemming from antique textiles to contemporary photography. Special exhibitions change regularly. The museum also has a number of programs for adults, teens and children, special programs such as a film and literature program, and a spectacular gift shop, the Tienda Tzintzuntzán. Check out the museum website for more.

The books: Dive into Mexico and Mexican heritage with an author the museum has featured in its literature program and a unique alphabet.

The Eagle’s Throne by Carlos Fuentes: In a series of letters, Mexico’s power players act out political intrigues that perfectly capture the schemes and corruption of a government run by insiders. Winner of the Cervantes Prize.

ABeCedarios: Mexican Folk Art ABCs in English and Spanish by Cynthia Weill et al: A wonderful children’s book which illustrates the alphabet with Mexican artwork.

3. The Hispanic Society of America

The museum: Located in New York City (Audubon Terrace, Broadway between 155 and 156 Streets) this is a “free museum and reference library for the study of the arts and cultures of Spain, Portugal, and Latin America.” The collections are extensive, including more than 800 paintings, 6000 watercolors and drawings, 1000 sculptures, 175,000 photographs, and 6000 decorative objects such as jewelry, textiles and ironwork.

Beyond these resources, the Society’s library is the place to go for ancestry or academic research. It has more than 250,000 books and periodicals including 15,000 volumes printed before 1701, as well as manuscripts dating from the 12th century. Check out the society’s website for more. (A bit clunky but worth checking before you go.)

The books: A visit to the Society calls out for classic reads for the whole family!

El Cid: In the anonymous medieval Spanish poem, the general Rodrigo Díaz is banished from the court of Kind Alfonso without his beloved wife Jimena or his daughters. He becomes a mercenary, El Cid Campeador, and sets out from Castile to restore his name. Read the dual language version for a truly immersive experience.

The Adventures of Don Quixote (Argentina Palacios edition): A children’s version of the most well-known piece of Spanish language literature captures the story of the traveling knight Don Quixote and his faithful squire, Sancho Panza.


Carmen Amato is the author of THE HIDDEN LIGHT OF MEXICO CITY and CLIFF DIVER, the first book in her Emilia Cruz mystery series set in Acapulco which was praised by Kirkus Reviews as “consistently exciting.” The next book in that series, HAT DANCE, will be released later this summer.

In HAT DANCE, Acapulco detective Emilia Cruz will risk a dance with the devil in a desperate attempt to stop an arsonist and find a missing girl. But when the music stops, the consequences will be deadly.

Check out all Carmen’s books at and connect with her on Twitter @CarmenConnects or Facebook. Her Pinterest boards illustrate her books and can be found at

A Video Book Report on Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match

There’s only 5 days left to submit your video book reports for a chance to win a Chromebook or Nexus 7 tablet! The deadline is August 12th. And we just love all the videos that have already come in! In fact, we’re sharing another one with you today to maybe provide some inspiration for your own children.

Below is 4th grader Kotomi Marisol’s awesome review of Monica Brown’s Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match/Marisol McDonald no combina. We love it when our multicultural kids can identify with the characters they read about!