Tag Archives: benjamin alire saenz

The Last Cigarette on Earth by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

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“I was a man who had lived in drought for so long that what I desired most was rain. But the rain never came.”

This book of poetry was heart-wrenching. Saenz always writes the most profound words that create the most impressive sentences. I read this slowly because I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed. There’s always so much emotion packed into his poetry, and the subjects are never easy. But I really loved every moment I spent reading it.

“How many people can you love anyway? Love may be infinite but the human heart has its limits. That’s why they’ve built a wall between us and Mexico.”

This collection is full of personal accounts, including a drug addiction. I was surprised to hear Saenz talk about this in person during a book reading, but I was curious as well. I think it’s really brave of him to write about such a difficult topic. I’m glad he did. He’s mentioned many times how therapeutic writing is for him. I’ve felt the same way.

“One day, an angel will arrive to lead me into paradise. I will send the angel away.”

Saenz also wrote about the border between the U.S. and Mexico, which is a topic he often writes about. I’ve read so many of his books: fiction, short stories, poetry, children’s book, you name it. And in so many of them, he’s talked about the dangers and terrible deaths that happen in Juarez. But it never gets easier reading about it. Mexico is my country. I hate to be reminded of its cruelty.

“Work is a word he knew. It was what he was born for. Work his future, his fate, his destiny.”

I was also really touched to read about Saenz’s relationships. He wrote about a few important men in his life. I loved his raw honesty. But there was also a not-so-subtle gilt throughout that comes from his sexual orientation. I don’t know if I’m interpreting it right because I’m not him, but it hurts to think he holds guilt because he’s attracted to men. I know he was a priest once, and that religion isn’t very accepting. But there is such a thing as accepting your sexuality while maintaining your faith and/or religion. That just really hit close to home.

“To think that once my love for you was fire and now my heart has leapt beyond desire.”

I think it’s obvious how much I enjoyed this book. It left me thinking, but that’s a good thing. I’d recommend Saenz’s poetry to anyone. His poetry is beyond beautiful.

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The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

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“That’s the way it was when you loved someone. You took them everywhere you went — whether they were alive or not.”


Benjamin Alire Saenz is known for writing beautiful novels. Most people know him only for his masterpiece (and my personal favorite) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. During the past couple of years, I’ve made it my duty to read most of his books. I’ve read his adult and young adult fiction, poetry collections, short story collections, and children’s books. Each and every story has brought something new and sweet to my life. And The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is no exception.

I struggled with this book. I’m not sure why. I picked it up the day after I graduated from college, hoping that with my suddenly acquired free time, I’d finally get to read it. But then life got in the way, and I fell into a reading slump, and the book was pushed aside, forgotten. Every time I picked it up, I hated it. I hated the writing, the characters, the lack of plot (which is unusual for me), and I doubted my love for Saenz’s writing, after all this time.

But I finished the second half of the book in two days, and I smiled, laughed, and cried a few times. I underlined all my favorite passages and drew hearts on the margins during all the best scenes. I grew to love the wonderful characters, and appreciate the themes and messages so carefully woven into the story. I understood the beauty of it. And it was, as usual, so easy to relate to.

Saenz writes stories with an emotional punch. You never see it coming, but when it comes, it comes hard. That’s how I felt while reading about Salvador, a young Caucasian boy raised by a gay Mexican man. Although Vicente is not Sal’s bio dad, he’s the only father he’s ever known and loved. But Sal knows nothing about his bio dad, and he fears those genes he inherited are changing him. Then there’s Samantha, or Sam, Sal’s best friend, who is practically his sister. She’s strong and stubborn in the best ways. I loved the way she expressed herself and took care of Sal. And of course, there’s Fito, who joins their little group to make it better. Fito is a gay boy who comes from a bad family, who doesn’t have time to worry about trivial things because he’s very set on going to college. I loved him with all of my heart, and I was so glad I got to meet him.

I could sit here and try to explain the story, but that would be pointless. I think all that needs to be said is that this story is about familial love, strong friendships, staying still and moving on. Most of all, it’s about coping with loss, which is never easy. It’s about appreciating the good people around you, and seeing them for who they really are. It’s about life in the border town of El Paso, and what it means to belong, and how you can see the world in a new light every day.

This is why Saenz continues to be one of my favorite authors. He writes stories to remember. And his stories always find their way to my heart.

My “There Will be Other Summers” Predictions

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Last year, I made a post briefly discussing the news that Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is getting a sequel entitled, There Will be Other Summers.

Now that I’ve let my excitement simmer for a while, I have more coherent predictions for the upcoming sequel. First of all, can we talk about how wonderful Benjamin Alire Saenz was in letting us know he’s close to finishing writing the book? I love when authors update their readers on their writing progress.

There’s no release date for TWBOS yet, but I’m hoping it’ll come out in late 2018, hopefully, maybe. I have been waiting for this book pretty much since Saenz first talked about it on his twitter.

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Saenz twice, and I’ve heard him talk about a few things regarding the sequel. So I have come up with a list of things I really want to read in this highly anticipated book. (Spoilers for Ari & Dante ahead).

  • Dante’s new sibling! I want to see Dante interacting with the baby. (I hope he’s a boy and they name him Diego). DANTE AND ARI BABYSITTING! Yes, please.
  • Ari and Dante hanging out with Gina and Susie — maybe double dating? I would love for Gina and Susie to be a couple honestly. They would be so great together.
  • Somehow, Dante convinces everyone to go dancing together and Gina and Susie are on board with the idea, but Ari needs more convincing. Eventually, they go and Ari ends up being an amazing dancer. Hidden talent, obviously. Dante loves it when Ari dips him.
  • Prom? — Saenz mentioned during NTTBF this year that he was writing a sex scene between Ari and Dante. So, if we wanna get super cliche, I think Dante would suggest to Ari to go to prom and have after-prom-sex. I don’t think Ari would have a lot of arguments because he would just be freaking out about Dante just casually tossing around the idea of sex.
  • High school graduation. I would love to see the different graduations, and the boys having to dress up for both, in case they’re on different dates. After graduation, Ari, Dante, Gina, and Susie would all go out to the desert to drink under the stars. They would lose track of time, listening to the radio in Ari’s truck, and they would make it home after sunrise, all full of soft smiles.
  • College life. Where will Ari and Dante go to college? Will they go to separate colleges, and if so, how separate? Will they both attend college? I have no idea. I honestly think Ari would be set on going right away, but Dante would want to take some time to just do art, and both of those options are great.
  • I know this is me hoping for too much, but a road trip would be incredible. Maybe a small one where Ari and Dante take a trip to the beach? They take the truck and Dante begs to drive it sometimes even though he doesn’t have a driver’s license yet, but he swears he’s a great driver. Then Dante wants to swim in the ocean and Ari doesn’t know if he likes sand, but Dante talks him into it because what can’t Dante talk him into? They chase ghost crabs at night and pick up a bunch of seashells and Ari actually gets a tan and Dante loves it.
  • Ari’s brother. Will he eventually get out of prison or will Ari go visit him? Will there be a relationship built between them again? I can see Ari going to see him, but not really knowing how to act around him. Will his brother be involved at all, in any way?
  • Death? I don’t wanna be grim, but Saenz is known for writing tragedy into his stories (I’ve read plenty of them). I know he is wonderful and would not kill off Ari or Dante, but I’m not sure anyone else is safe. I would be so hurt if either one of Ari’s or Dante’s parents die. I love them all so much. But this is me just being super negative ’cause maybe nobody will die and everything will be full of happy moments. (RIGHT?)
  • Will this book take place over two years like the first one, or will it be longer, or shorter? The title alone implies more summers, so I’m thinking it will be set in more than a one-year time period.
  • Again with the title. It sounds sort of depressing. Will Ari and Dante be together throughout the length of the book, or will they break up? If they do break up, I hope it doesn’t last long. I get that they’re young and this is both of their first relationship, which realistically makes it highly unlikely they will last, but this is fiction and maybe we get more privileges here. I would honestly not be surprised if they do break up for a short while. But only to help them realize they don’t want to be apart.
  • I’m certain Ari and Dante will be public in their relationship, but I still wonder if they will be out only to their family and close friends, or to everyone. I think Dante would be on board with being public to everyone, even after what happened to him, but maybe out of their own safety, Ari would want to keep it hidden. Or he would just be ready to fight anyone who tries to hurt him or Dante. Let’s be honest, Ari could take down anyone.
  • I know that this book will be set right around the AIDS crisis, but I want to remain hopeful that that won’t play a role in this story. Saenz wrote Carry Me Like Water, which I believe follows a gay character suffering from AIDS. I haven’t read it yet because the premise is too sad for me to bear, so I really hope neither Ari or Dante get affected by it. I don’t like sad gays, but the good thing is that Saenz doesn’t either.
  • To end on a hopeful note, I think this book will have so many touching moments between Ari and Dante. Think of it this way: we get to see what happens after the night when Ari accepted his feelings for Dante, and he felt no shame for them. That’s such an incredible moment, and I can’t believe we get to see more! Ari and Dante are both amazing characters, and they won’t disappoint.
  • We get to see them as a couple now. And they get to do on a first date, and then many others. We get to see them around their families again, and LEGS. There are endless possibilities for happy moments, and I can’t wait.

Do you guys have any predictions for this sequel?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

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“The summer was not meant for boys like me. Boys like me belonged to the rain.”

I have read this novel four times in its entirety. The audiobook narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda is one of the most beautiful things I own, and listening to it brings me a sort of indescribable peace. This is why it’s become so easy to keep revisiting this story over and over again.

I first read this novel in April 2014, and although I went in hesitant, I came out of it with one of the most wonderful discoveries of my life. This book means the world to me, and then some. This is the first book I read in which I truly saw myself in the characters.

A book starring Mexican-American characters is rare, but a book starring Mexican-American characters not stereotyped is magical. I adored that aspect the most. Being Mexican, it has always been difficult for me to see myself in any story. I never even considered the existence of novels like this, where Mexicans make up the majority of the characters in a story. And that just blew my mind.

Let me break it down for you. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe follows the story of Aristotle Mendoza, or Ari. He’s a teenage boy living in El Paso during the late 80’s. The summer arrives again, and Ari meets Dante at a community swimming pool. The two hit it off, despite Dante being a complete opposite of Ari, in his personality and looks. Their friendship becomes the focus of the novel, and their lives together and separately, closely showcase the most significant years of their adolescence. These two characters transform and develop throughout this beautiful, lyrical novel in ways unimaginable.

I loved the inclusion of the parents in this story. Ari and his mom share a sweet relationship that’s mostly composed of fun bickering, but it’s apparent how much they love each other. Dante and his dad are the same way, fighting over nothing and conspiring over everything. For years, my mom was one of my closest friend, and seeing similar relationships portrayed in this novel was fantastic. My mom actually read this book after much insistence. She read it just a few months before her passing. I remember the day she finished it. She looked at me in all seriousness and told me she loved it, and that she loved Dante the most. I cannot begin to explain how much that meant to me.

Sexuality is explored in this novel as well. Both of the main characters discuss their sexuality multiple times, in more ways than one. It is done in very realistic ways, especially during the time period it’s set in. Personally, I am open to loving any person, outside of their gender, so this resonated with me. It is incredibly important to shed light on the struggles that people who are not straight face nowadays, and have faced for years, and for that, this book is important. It teaches acceptance and love despite society’s cruelty. And it brings to life a love story like no other.

“The whole world seemed to be quiet and calm and I wanted to be the world and feel like that.”

So for these reasons, and many others, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is my favorite book. Simple as that. It still makes me laugh, cry, and remember. It is now something that constantly connects me to my mother, to my culture, to my younger self, and it is something I never want to let go.

I know this book isn’t perfect. Far from it. But there’s nothing I would change in it. I love the author, Benjamin Alire Saenz, to pieces, and I’m grateful that he wrote such an amazing, memorable story.

And every summer, especially when it’s raining, I’ll think of Ari and Dante. I’ll think of them and life will be just a little bit more bearable.

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Me, with my four copies of Ari & Dante. In English, German, Spanish, and audiobook.

Irving Library Big Read Event

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Tonight, Nicole and I had the pleasure of attending a Big Reads Event at the Valley Ranch Library in Irving, Texas. They hosted the talented Benjamin Alire Saenz, and we were both thrilled to finally meet him.

Saenz is the author of many novels, short story collections, and poetry books. He’s written Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Last Night I Sang to the Monster, In Perfect Light, and Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, among many others.

At the event, Saenz discussed his childhood, and how he first ventured into reading. He also touched on how writing has helped him personally and how the emotion in all of his stories is real, even when the stories are fictitious. He discussed his Mexican-American identity as well as his experience coming out as a gay man later in life. Overall, his panel was beautiful and inspiring, just as his books.

We both got the chance to get our books signed by him, and I gave him a mug which I painted myself inspired by Aristotle and Dante. It was a wonderful experience. I really respect and admire Benjamin Alire Saenz. I look forward to all of his forthcoming books. There’s no doubt I’ll continue reading everything he ever writes.

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In Perfect Light by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review

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I cried sad tears. I cried happy tears.

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I swear, one day, Benjamin Alire Saenz will be the death of me.

Going into this, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Benjamin Alire Saenz is my favorite author. I’ve read most of his novels, short stories, and poetry. I keep coming back to his writing looking for heartfelt stories with realistic characters going through real-life issues, and he always delivers. Another important factor about his stories is that they always revolve around Mexican-American people, and that is incredibly significant to me, as a Mexican woman. Still, some of his previous works have not really impressed me, such as Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood and He Forgot to Say Goodbye. These are the last novels I’d read by him, and I figured maybe I wouldn’t be able to connect with his older works as much as I have with his newer ones, such as Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I was wrong.

In Perfect Light is one of the most beautiful, carefully crafted works of fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading. This story is painful, so painful, but so worth the pain. I’ve noticed this trend in Saenz’s novels, that of sorrowful journeys leading to a hopeful, brighter ending, and that is just what this one offered. I love these type of stories the most.

“Maybe it’s better if people think you’re stupid or slow. They don’t expect anything. I live in a world that doesn’t expect anything of me because it’s already decided I don’t matter.”

We follow the very different lives of Andres and Grace. The former is a young man who keeps getting into trouble with the law, and who carries the weight of a terrible past on his shoulders. And the latter is a woman who struggles to show her affection to her son, and debates on the right choice to make regarding her new circumstances. Both of these characters come together through counseling, and we learn about both of their heartache.

I wasn’t kidding when I said I cried. At one point, this book seriously took my breath away. Everything that happened took me by surprise, and it felt like it was happening to real people I cared about. I wanted to reach into the pages and make things better for everyone. I couldn’t believe how much Saenz managed to hurt these poor characters, but it never got to be that bad. It kept me hopeful throughout. I usually hate sad books, but this wasn’t just another sad story. This felt genuine. The hardships shown were not in vain; they were there for a reason, and the conclusion was worth getting to.

“He walked into his apartment, opened a window, and looked out into the night. He remembered the boy who used to count stars.”

I could sit here and praise Saenz, praise this book and every single word written in it, but I have no further words to describe how much I loved it, and how much it means to me. I think everyone could take something from this novel.

Book Playlist – Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

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Book: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This is one of my favorite books, and I’ve decided to create a playlist inspired by it. I constantly listen to Aristotle and Dante playlists, and I’ve put together songs that I feel truly fit the book’s themes and characters.

Listen to it on 8tracks!

Songs:

  • Summer Skeletons – Radical Face 
    We were sun-burned and shoeless kids. It was the dead of July.
  • From Afar – Vance Joy
    It shouldn’t come as a surprise, what I’m feeling, what I’m feeling now.
  • Bright – Ecosmith and Lindsey Stirling
    I think you and the Moon and Neptune got it right, ’cause now I’m shining bright.
  • Only Love – Mumford & Sons
    And I rage and I rage, but perhaps I will come of age and be ready for you.
  • Heart of Glass – Blondie
    Love is so confusing there’s no peace of mind.
  • Talking Bird – Death Cab for Cutie
    It’s all here for you as long as you choose to stay.
  • Viento – Caifanes
    Viento, amarranos. Tiempo, detente muchos años.
  • Wild – Troye Sivan ft. Alessia Cara
    Never knew loving could hurt this good and it drives me wild.
  • Ends of the Earth – Lord Huron
    There’s a world that was meant for our eyes to see.
  • These Streets – Bastille
    These streets are yours, you can keep them.
  • Pasa El Tiempo – Caloncho
    Paso el tiempo asi, y no recuerdas que era tan feliz.
  • Featherstone – The Paper Kites
    And my love is yours, but your love’s not mine.
  • 16 Years – Phantogram
    Summertime is a whirlwind away and I know that the lights won’t invade.
  • Photograph – Ed Sheeran
    So you can keep me inside the pocket of your ripped jeans.
  • We Belong Together – Los Lobos
    You’re mine and we belong together.