Genius (Still) At Work
Reuben Martinez of the relocated Librería Martinez offers his top 10 summer reads
The economic crisis has slammed us all, and Reuben Martinez is no exception. Thankfully, the supah-genius (just ask the MacArthur Foundation) has found a way to keep on keepin’ on. His Librería Martinez, the renowned bilingual bookstore, moved in April—but only one building to the north on Santa Ana’s Main Street, into the space that once housed only the children’s bookstore. Yes, the site of the original store’s expansion has become the entire store.
“It broke my heart to close that beautiful store,” Martinez says of the space he opened in 1993. “I waited too long, but we’re comfortable now.
“Reducimos el tamaño, pero el corazon sigue creciendo [We reduced the size, but our heart keeps growing],” he declares with his typical earnest warmth. “¡Aquí estamos, y no nos vamos!”
He notes that, even though business is tough, his new position as a Presidential Fellow at Chapman University—a paying gig—is keeping him busier than ever. He describes the fellowship as like an “ambassadorship” to the Latino community on behalf of the school’s math and science programs, connecting high-school kids with Chapman, “telling them when they can apply, where they can get information on financial aid.” Chapman “wants more Latinos, and now the word is out that they’re welcome here,” Martinez says.
Yet even with his hectic schedule, Martinez found time to put together asummer reading list for ?you and yours—books for grown-ups, books for kids, books for grown-ups to read to kids. So get reading, already.
1. I’m Just Like My Mom, Me Parezco Tanto a Mi Mamá/I’m Just Like My Dad, Me Parezco Tanto a Mi Papá by Jorge Ramos
This bilingual children’s book for those 1 to 7 years old is double-sided—one side for dad, the other for mom. “We’ve had him at our store about four times,” Martinez says of Ramos, the internationally famous Spanish-language news anchor. “This is his first children’s book, a wonderful story for parents to read out loud to their child.”
2. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
“Make this summer an adventure!” Martinez exhorts. “Life is an adventure—look at the things that are happening to me at my age. I’m walking around Chapman, and people are calling me Dr. Martinez, Professor Martinez—I was lucky to finish high school!”
3. The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
“Sandra’s one of my best friends,” Martinez says. “At first, they used to tell her, ‘Who’s going to read this book? You’re a Latina, forget about getting it published’—and she’s in demand right now.” This quarter-century-old novella about family, friends and growing up is told in short vignettes: “Good for summer.”
4. Rogelia’s House of Magic by Jamie Martinez Wood
Martinez calls this OC-based author “A Latina J.K. Rowling.” This work, about three kids and a “summer they’ll never forget,” is definitely for the young-adult set, but it has a strong local appeal for older readers.
5. Las Niñas by Sarah Rafael García
Another local author, Garcia is also a volunteer at Librería Martinez. “She’s a very good writer,” Martinez says. “It’s a memoir about her dad, who passed away when she was young, and about the life of her and her sisters growing up without him.”
6. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
“Someone asked me if this might be a little thick, and I said, ‘That’s all right; take all summer to read it!’”
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
“I just like that old buzzard,” Martinez says of the sci-fi icon. “I know him; he just doesn’t give up. He’s like a godfather of literature. And there’s a lot of young people out there who haven’t read it. As long as I’m alive, I’m going to sell that book.”
8. The Alchemist (El Alquimista) by Paulo Coelho
“A fable to follow your dreams—a coming-of-age book,” Martinez says. “Let’s dream this summer. Everything and anything is possible!”
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9. Las Venas Abiertas de América Latina (Open Veins of Latin America) ?by Eduardo Galeano
“The gift that President [Hugo] Chávez [of Venezuela] gave to President [Barack] Obama,” Martinez says. “So that he would understand what’s going on in Latin America.”
10. Rain of Gold (Lluvia de Oro) by Victor Villaseñor
Martinez says this nonfiction account of the author’s family’s adventures in the differences between Mexican and Mexican-American culture “is one of our best-sellers.”
Librería Martinez, 1200 N. Main St., Ste. 100-D, Santa Ana, (714) 973-7900; www.latinobooks.com.