World Book Night

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo

World Book Night is April 23!
World Book Night is April 23!
I’m excited to say that Francisco and I have signed on as “givers” for World Book Night, which is coming up on April 23, Shakespeare’s birthday and UNESCO International Day of the Book (which just might be our new favorite holiday!). We’ve partnered with our neighborhood independent bookstore, The Astoria Bookshop, and will be giving away 20 copies of 12 Years a Slave to “non-readers and light readers,” people who don’t read frequently either because of means or other reasons.

The idea, of course, is to help inspire a love of reading in other people, and as big readers ourselves–neither of us could imagine a world without books–we’re thrilled to be part of this project. You can learn more about World Book Night on the event’s website, and if you’re interested in participating as a giver in 2015, you can sign up here to be notified when applications are being accepted for next year’s World Book Night.

To see a list of this year’s books (LOVE that a range of genres, authors, languages, and large print editions are being distributed!), click here.

New World Library Offers 40% off Books, Including “Pope Francis in His Own Words”

Text & Photo:
Julie Schwietert Collazo
I’ve tried not to talk about Pope Francis in His Own Words too much, as I find endless self-promotion an extremely unbecoming trait, but since it’s the holidays and our publisher, New World Library, is offering a deep discount on its entire catalog of books, including the Pope book, I figured I could talk about it for a minute.

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The book has now been published in Croatian, Dutch, German, Hungarian, Italian, Korean, Spanish, and Portuguese. I’m probably forgetting at least one international edition. The Italian edition is doing particularly well–it has been a bestseller in Italy, where it’s sold under the lovely (translated) title, The Gospel of the Smile.

New World Library is selling the US edition at a 40% discount now through December 13 when you buy the book on their website. Every book in their inventory will be sold at the same discounted rate, so stock up for the book lovers on your holiday list. Enter code “NWLDec” at check out.

Happy holidays!

Latest News and Upcoming Appearances

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo

Here's the cover of the sixth edition!
Here’s the cover of the sixth edition!
There’s been a lot going on lately, and I’ve been fingers to keyboard and face to screen working on a variety of projects. The deadline for the New York State guidebook looms large; the mock-up for the cover came in about six weeks ago and so the book feels very real now. I have two chapters left to deliver and some maps and photos to finalize before this project wraps up.

Pope Francis in His Own Words is available in nearly a dozen languages now and Lisa Rogak and I received word last week that we’re best-selling authors in Italy. Our publisher there, Piemme, gave the book a brilliant title in Italian: Il Vangelo del SorrisoThe Gospel of the Smile. It’s a beautiful hardcover edition and, well, the fact that it’s selling so briskly alongside so many other Pope Francis titles is pretty exciting.

Here in the US, I’m hoping to offer a reading/talk at the recently opened Astoria Bookshop about the English edition of Pope Francis in His Own Words.

I’ve got lots of articles coming out this month: an article about San Juan, Puerto Rico for the cruise magazine, Porthole; a profile and a feature article in Emory Magazine; and several pieces for The Latin Kitchen. I also have a feature in the Bahia Beach issue of Bespoke Magazine. An article slated to run in Saveur has been shelved for the time being, which is disappointing; I’m hoping it will get rescheduled for a future issue.

An anthology to which I contributed an essay.
An anthology to which I contributed an essay.
I’ll be in South Carolina the first week in November and will be signing copies of the anthology, Hub for the Holidays, to which I contributed an essay. I’ll be joining the other authors at The Chapman Cultural Center for the event; I’d love to see you if you’re in the area. The signing is on Sunday, November 3, at 2:00 PM. Directions and parking information for Chapman Cultural Center are here.

And now- back to business. I have articles forthcoming in Porthole (this time about San Juan haberdasher Guillermo Cristian Jeffs), GOOD (about Mexico City), and National Geographic Traveler (December/January issue- can’t tell you what the topic is yet).

Now in New York: Pablo Helguera’s “Libreria Donceles” at Kent Fine Art

Text & Instagram Photos:
Julie Schwietert Collazo

My online friend–soon to be “in real life” friend because we’re having lunch together tomorrow– journalist Monika Fabian, tipped me off to Pablo Helguera’s installation, “Librería Donceles,” at Kent Fine Art on 11th Avenue between 24th and 25th Streets.

"Portadas Feas"-"Ugly Covers"
“Portadas Feas”-“Ugly Covers”

Writing about the exhibit for New York Daily News, Fabian explained the show’s concept:

“In a city where one in four citizens speaks Spanish, it both surprised and saddened artist Pablo Helguera to watch New York’s Spanish-language bookstores close over the years…. So Helguera did something about it. Last month, he “opened” Librería Donceles, the city’s only Spanish-language used bookstore, at the Chelsea gallery Kent Fine Art through Nov. 8. Bibliófilos — book-lovers in Spanish — can browse and buy the rare finds, most of which would never be found in local stores, Helguera says….”

Helguera brought several thousand books from Mexico to New York for the exhibit, which isn’t really like an exhibit at all, said the volunteer who showed me around the gallery when I stopped by for a visit this afternoon. “People taking the Chelsea Galleries Walking Tour are so confused,” she said. “They come in here and see the place set up like a bookstore and they say, ‘Wait, I thought this was an art gallery.'”

She went on to explain that Helguera told the volunteers who act as gallery docents/book vendors for Librería Donceles that he chose to set the bookstore up in a gallery rather than, say, a pop-up shop because a storefront–even a temporary one–would be cost-prohibitive. The cost of running a bookstore is, in fact, the reason that all but one of the city’s Spanish-language bookstores have shuttered in recent years (the only one in existence as of this writing is La Casa Azul, which I highly recommend). Even though Helguera’s “bookstore” will have a short run, it may (one can dream, at least) bring the importance of Spanish-language resources back into public conversation in a city that seems all too happy to let big box stores take over retail spaces that once housed places like Librería Lectorum.

Helguera’s libreria is named after Donceles, a street in Mexico City that’s known for its numerous used bookstores. Helguera sourced thousands of books from friends and complete strangers, to whom he gave pieces of his own art in exchange for the texts. The gallery is set up like a bookstore: there are a couple seating areas–one for kids, and one for folks who may want to settle in for a while and play a game of chess. There are shelves and tables laden with books, many of which are vintage. The shelves’ sections are labeled by theme, some predictable (fiction, essays, poetry) and some not so predictable (“portadas feas”-“ugly covers”; “ficción de valor dudoso”-“fiction of dubious value.”)

"Ficción de valor dudoso"-"Fiction of dubious value."
“Ficción de valor dudoso”-“Fiction of dubious value.”

The idea of Librería Donceles is for people to engage with the books, said the volunteer on duty. Visitors to the gallery can even buy one book per visit; the cost is determined by the visitor, who makes a donation that goes to Mano a Mano, a local cultural organization that, among other things, offers Nahuatl courses and workshops about Mexican arts and culture.

I ended up walking out with a collection of Julio Cortazar’s letters, and I’ll be back at least one more time before the exhibit closes on November 8.

Now Open in Cuba: English-Language Bookstore, Cuba Libro

Text: Julie Schwietert Collazo
Image: Courtesy of Cuba Libro

Cuba Libro is the island's only bookstore specializing in English-language books.
Cuba Libro is the island’s only bookstore specializing in English-language books.
Because my husband is Cuban and because I’ve visited Cuba nearly a dozen times over the past decade, I get lots of travel questions about the island. I can’t answer most of these questions, as I tend to stay with my mother-in-law and I’ve never experienced Cuba as a tourist; I end up directing inquiries to my friend Conner Gorry, who has lived on the island for longer than I’ve been visiting. Her blog and her travel app are as much intel as you’re going to get without moving there yourself.

Conner just sent word about Cuba Libro, an English-language bookstore and cafe in Havana… the island’s only English-language bookstore and cafe. It just opened this week. Here’s everything you need to know about it, straight from Conner:

This island is unique in so many ways (both good and not so) and one thing that has always struck me is that Havana must be one of the only – if not the only – capital city where you can’t get an English-language newspaper or novel. The reasons are complex (what isn’t in Cuba?!) but it means literature lovers have to beg, borrow or steal books in English or bring their Kindle well-loaded.

Located on a terminally shady corner in the desirable Vedado district, this ‘café literario’ is bringing the bookstore/coffeehouse concept to the island. All books and magazines pass through the ‘Conner filter’ (if you find a Harlequin Romance on the shelves, you get a free espresso!): I guarantee if you’re in need of quality reading material or conversation with interesting, creative Cubans, you’ll find it here.

In addition to featuring monthly shows by talented local artists – August showcases over a dozen captivating images by photographer Alain Gutiérrez – Cuba Libro offers many services travelers are after: water bottle refills; postcards, stamps, and mailing; a cultural calendar (so you won’t miss that hot concert or polemic play); and expert travel tips. This is an ethically-responsible business that offers a lending library for those who can’t afford books, a collective employment model where the entire team benefits, and an environmentally-friendly approach. Like Cuba itself, Cuba Libro strives for equity and a healthy, culturally-rich atmosphere.

This is also a regguetón free zone – we listen to real music at Cuba Libro! Come early to snag a coveted hammock or hanging chair in the garden.

Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-8pm.