Friday, December 22, 2006

Red Hot Salsa (book review)

Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States. Lori M. Carlson, Editor. New York: Henry Hold and Company, LLC, 2005. 140 pp.

Following the 1994 publication of Cool Salsa, Lori Marie Carlson has recently published its sequel Red Hot Salsa, a poetry anthology that chronicles the bicultural experiences of young U.S. Latinos. The Editor’s Note explains how a conversation about Ricky Martin between a group of Latina teens convinced Carlson that a sequel to Cool Salsa was long overdue as the contributions of Latinos in the U.S. continue to multiply. Carlson’s Editor’s Note also sets the tone for a poetic exploration of Latino adolescence.

This anthology is an impressive landscape of poetic voices which successfully depict Latino adolescence in the U.S. The poets are presented by Oscar Hijuelos, whose personal introduction recounts his unique path to becoming a writer. In this literary forum, readers will find a combination of leading Latino poets, such as Trinidad Sánchez, Jr. and Gina Valdés, and student poets, such as Robert B. Feliciano and Amiris Ramirez. The inclusion of well-known poets accomplishes Carlson’s aim of depicting the multitude of Latino contributions. Furthermore, the combination of well-known poets and student poets help portray all facets of youth via diverse Latino eyes. For example, Ivette Álvarez discusses stereotypes in her poem “Invisible Boundaries,” while Kizzilie Bonilla describes the loud barrio life in “Life in el Barrio.” The five themed sections (language, identity; neighborhoods; amor; family moments, memories; victory) also capture the complexities of being a bicultural teenager in the U.S.

Additionally, this anthology will be a great educational experience for non-Latinos. It provides a helpful appended glossary and English and Spanish side-by-side presentations of the poems. Accordingly, Red Hot Salsa depicts the Latino culture and bicultural adolescence for a diverse readership. Even though, the reader loses the creative blend of languages in the translations, as in Michele Serro’s epitaph in “Dead Pig’s Revenge,” the supplied translations allow readers of diverse background to learn about the cultures and identities of U.S. Latinos. Thus, Carlson has collected in this anthology poetic gems that depict the Latino identity, circumstances, and hopes for the future.

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