Art by Sarah Tillman
Out of print from McSweeney's (HC)
Available now from Mariner Books (Houghton Mifflin) (PB)
Aarti of BookLust came up with the idea of the A More Diverse Universe Tour. From September 23-29, bloggers will be reviewing speculative fiction titles by authors of color. You can go here to read more about why this tour is happening. The full schedule is available here.
THE PEOPLE OF PAPER is not an easy book to describe. You can throw around terms like 'postmodern' and 'magical realism' to try to get a grip on it. While both of those are accurate, they're too small for THE PEOPLE OF PAPER. It's a highly experimental novel, ambitious, a mesh of fiction and fact, a meditation on art, the debut of Salvador Plascencia, and it should be a total mess. There is a character whose name is cut out of the book. But it's a mesmerizing work that exceeds its ambition and stands apart as something unique and exciting.
I could tell you that there is a woman made of paper in the story. There is a prophetic baby who speaks in black rectangles. There is a grown man, Frederico de la Fe, who still wets his bed. There is the daughter of the man, Little Merced. There is Saturn, who the man wars against. There is Saturn, who is the author. There's enough crazy typography to make TRISTRAM SHANDY and HOUSE OF LEAVES look like your normal left-to-right reading experience. There is a love story. There is a gang war. There are flower pickers. Most of the book takes place in California, El Monte, to be specific. But none of the little details can truly prepare you for reading THE PEOPLE OF PAPER.
Yet, it's the small details that linger with you after finishing. (And okay, the binary chapter, which - if you're like me - you plugged into your computer to find out what it said. No, I'm not going to give it away. I was disappointed at first and then liked it.) THE PEOPLE OF PAPER is a wild ride, but there's a grounding in character that many less-successful experimental novels forget. Each of the many narrators has a distinct voice.
And, honestly, I can't imagine many readers THE PEOPLE OF PAPER wouldn't appeal to. It's a book about making art, about writing, about being a character, about reading, about how books work. It's bibliophile meta that still functions as a story.
Since the A More Diverse Universe Tour is partially about the author, here is some of Plascencia's description of himself, from an interview with the Nashville Review:
"Professionally—albeit a meagerly profitable enterprise—I’m a writer. But I’m not a professional Mexican; that’s Ruben Navarrette’s gig. I’m a Latino. I’m a writer. I identify as both, but not when “Latino” is serving as a modifier. ...A small, personal list of suggestions (mostly YA) for further reading:
This might seem like I’m contradicting what I said earlier—I’m not—but what was a major [publisher] going to do with an experimental Mexican-American writer? The reality is that—aside from the Cisneros and Dagoberto Gilb, writers who reinforce parochial views of Latinidad—there are very few of us on the majors. Name them. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Alex Espinoza, Joe Loya, and my fellow El Montian Michael Jaime-Becerra. But Joe and Michael were under Rayo, some HarperCollins specialty imprint aimed exclusively at Latinos. The Houghton Mifflin’s and HarperCollins don’t see us as marketable to the general public. There is Luis Rodriguez—a writer that heavily informed me—but even he is pushed as some sort of exotic criminal. ...
But there are obvious advantages, too. Sometimes, for no good reason aside from the fact that I were born south of the Rio Grande, my name gets tangled up with the greats: Bolaño, Borges, García Márquez. I’m never going to complain when that happens."
- AKATA WITCH by Nnedi Okorafor - YA novel in my own TBR
- ALIF THE UNSEEN by G. Willow Wilson - An exciting genre-bender I've reviewed
- ANGEL SANCTUARY by Kaori Yuki - My all-time favorite manga (only 20 volumes!)
- ASH or ADAPTATION by Malinda Lo - Fantasy lovers to the first; sci-fi to the second
- BATTLE ROYALE by Koushun Takumi - Make up your mind about the comparisons to THE HUNGER GAMES; also it's just an interesting read
- CITY OF THE BEASTS by Isabel Allende - This series used to be pretty popular
- THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS by Rinsai Rossetti - A lyrical, lovely debut that I adore
- THE HUNT by Andrew Fukuda - I have this vampire novel on my to-buy list
- LEGEND series by Marie Lu - Loved the first book and awaiting the second
- LOST AND FOUND by Shaun Tan - Anything by him is great but I've reviewed this one
- ONCE UPON A TIME IN AOTEAROA by Tina Makereti - May be harder to find since it's by a Maori writer and published by a small New Zealand press; I only know about it because I received it as a gift
- THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie - Banned Book Week is coming up; make your own decision about the controversy
- SORRY PLEASE THANK YOU: Stories by Charles Yu - Yu is an emerging talent
- TANTALIZE series by Cynthia Leitich Smith - Also has a diverse selection of narrators
- A THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS trans. Husain Haddawy - His translation is so much more better than the popular (public domain) one by Sir Richard Burton I'm not even kidding
- THE VICIOUS DEEP by Zoraida Cmy favorite of the mermaid trend rdova - This is