Benjamin Alire Saenz
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About Benjamin Alire Saenz
Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother's house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park. Later, when the family lost the farm, his father went back to his former occupation—being a cement finisher. His mother worked as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. During his youth, he worked at various jobs—painting apartments, roofing houses, picking onions, and working for a janitorial service. He graduated from high school in 1972, and went on to college and became something of a world traveler. He studied philosophy and theology in Europe for four years and spent a summer in Tanzania. He eventually became a writer and professor and moved back to the border—the only place where he feels he truly belongs. He is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso, the only bilingual creative writing program in the country. Ben Saenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border. He is also a visual artist and has been involved as a political and cultural activist throughout his life. Benjamin Sáenz is a novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children's books. His young adult novel Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood was selected as one of the Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2005, and his prize-winning bilingual picture books for children—A Gift from Papá Diego and Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas—have been best-selling titles. A Perfect Season for Dreaming is Ben's newest bilingual children's book which has received two starred reviews, one from Publishers Weekly and one from Kirkus Reviews. He has received the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Lannan Fellowship and an American Book Award. His first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, won an American Book Award in 1992. That same year, he published his first collection of short stories, Flowers for the Broken. In 1995, he published his first novel, Carry Me Like Water (Hyperion), and that same year, he published his second book of poems, Dark and Perfect Angels. Both books were awarded a Southwest Book Award by the Border Area Librarians Association. In 1997, HarperCollins published his second novel, The House of Forgetting. Ben is a prolific writer whose more recent titles include In Perfect Light (Rayo/Harper Collins), Names on a Map (Rayo/Harper Collins), He Forgot to Say Goodbye (Simon and Schuster), and two books of poetry Elegies in Blue (Cinco Puntos Press), and Dreaming the End of War (Copper Canyon Press).
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Books By Benjamin Alire Saenz
This Printz Honor Book is a “tender, honest exploration of identity” (Publishers Weekly) that distills lyrical truths about family and friendship.
Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.
Four starred reviews!
“Messily human and sincerely insightful.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
The highly anticipated sequel to the critically acclaimed, multiple award-winning novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe is an “emotional roller coaster” (School Library Journal, starred review) sure to captivate fans of Adam Silvera and Mary H.K. Choi.
In Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, two boys in a border town fell in love. Now, they must discover what it means to stay in love and build a relationship in a world that seems to challenge their very existence.
Ari has spent all of high school burying who he really is, staying silent and invisible. He expected his senior year to be the same. But something in him cracked open when he fell in love with Dante, and he can’t go back. Suddenly he finds himself reaching out to new friends, standing up to bullies of all kinds, and making his voice heard. And, always, there is Dante, dreamy, witty Dante, who can get on Ari’s nerves and fill him with desire all at once.
The boys are determined to forge a path for themselves in a world that doesn’t understand them. But when Ari is faced with a shocking loss, he’ll have to fight like never before to create a life that is truthfully, joyfully his own.
Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don't appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican-American working-class barrio of El Paso called "Dizzy Land." His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother's shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.
San Antonio Express-News wrote, "Benjamin Alire Sáenz exquisitely captures the mood and voice of a community, a culture, and a generation"; that is proven again in this beautifully crafted novel.
Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He's also an alcoholic and in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn't remember how he got there. He's not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive--well, what's up with that?
I have it in my head that when we're born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people's hearts he writes Happy and on some people's hearts he writes Sad and on some people's hearts he writes Crazy on some people's hearts he writes Genius and on some people's hearts he writes Angry and on some people's hearts he writes Winner and on some people's hearts he writes Loser. It's all like a game to him. Him. God. And it's all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don't like God very much. Apparently he doesn't like me very much either.
The "Hollywood" where Sammy Santos and Juliana Ríos live is not the West Coast one, the one with all the glitz and glitter. This Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edge of a small town in southern New Mexico. Sammy and this friends--members of the 1969 high school graduating class--face a world of racism, dress codes, war in Vietnam and barrio violence. In the summer before his senior year begins, Sammy falls in love with Juliana, a girl whose tough veneer disguises a world of hurt. By summer's end, Juliana is dead. Sammy grieves, and in his grief, the memory of Juliana becomes his guide through this difficult year. Sammy is a smart kid, but he's angry. He's angry about Juliana's death, he's angry about the poverty his father and his sister must endure, he's angry at his high school and its thinly disguised gringo racism, and he's angry he might not be able to go to college. Benjamin Alire Sáenz, evoking the bittersweet ambience found in such novels as McMurtry's The Last Picture Show, captures the essence of what it meant to grow up Chicano in small-town America in the late 1960s.
Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?
This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.
"Sentimental and ferocious, upsetting and tender, firmly magic-realist yet utterly modern. . . Sáenz is a writer with greatness in him." —San Diego Union Tribune
With Carry Me Like Water, Benjamin Alire Sáenz unfolds a beautiful story about hope and forgiveness, unexpected reunions, an expanded definition of family, and, ultimately, what happens when the disparate worlds of pain and privilege collide.
Diego, a deaf-mute, is barely surviving on the border in El Paso, Texas. Diego's sister, Helen, who lives with her husband in the posh suburbs of San Francisco, long ago abandoned both her brother and her El Paso roots. Helen's best friend, Lizzie, a nurse in an AIDS ward, begins to uncover her own buried past after a mystical encounter with a patient.
This immensely moving novel confronts divisions of race, gender, and class, fusing together the stories of people who come to recognize one another from former lives they didn't know existed— or that they tried to forget.
“Ben Saenz’s vivid imagination captures all that is beautiful, agonizing and redemptive in the crossings we make through borders of geography and culture. But it is in the interior journeys of the psyche and the soul that we must find salvation; Saenz’s brilliant prose penetrates to that core and he finds and exposes that truth. A reader can ask for no more than this: to be spellbound by a story, and to come to the last page with a sense of having been being changed and allowed to carry something of it away.” —Abraham Verghese, author of My Own Country
From award-winning poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz comes a haunting novel depicting the cruelties of cultural displacement and the resilience of those who are left in its aftermath.
In Perfect Light is the story of two strong-willed people who are forever altered by a single tragedy. After Andés Segovia's parents are killed in a car accident when he is still a young boy, his older brother decides to steal the family away to Juárez, Mexico. That decision, made with the best intentions, sets into motion the unraveling of an American family.
Years later, his family destroyed, Andés is left to make sense of the chaos—but he is ill-equipped to make sense of his life. He begins a dark journey toward self-destruction, his talent and brilliance brought down by the weight of a burden too frightening and maddening to bear alone. The manifestation of this frustration is a singular rage that finds an outlet in a dark and seedy El Paso bar—leading him improbably to Grace Delgado.
Recently confronted with her own sense of isolation and mortality, Grace is an unlikely angel, a therapist who agrees to treat Andés after he is arrested in the United States. The two are suspicious of each other, yet they slowly arrive at a tentative working relationship that allows each of them to examine his and her own fragile and damaged past.
With the urgent, unflinching vision of a true storyteller and the precise, arresting language of a poet, Sáenz's In Perfect Light bears witness to the cruelty of circumstance and, more than offering escape, the novel offers the possibility of salvation.
“A book of great lyrical power, Names on a Map is a heartbreaking mirror for our own time, about an American family torn apart by an unjust war. In Ben Saenz’ dexterous, tender hands, this novel is a salve upon the wounds of both then and now.” —Ruben Martinez, award winning author of Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail
A haunting novel from award-winning author and poet Benjamin Alire Saenz, about a family of Hispanic immigrants handling the psychological effects of a war they don’t feel is theirs to fight
In 1967, at the height of the Vietnam War, the Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is just like thousands of other American families coping with a war they feel does not concern them. When Gustavo, the eldest son—the “bad boy” of the family—is told to report for basic training, his ideology and sense of patriotism is put to the test.
Opting to flee to Mexico and avoid the draft, Gustavo soon realizes he is no more culturally connected to his ancestral homeland than he is to the America that called him to war. Poignant and insightful, Names on a Map explores with complex detail the harsh nature of immigrant life in the United States—and the emotional tug-of-war experienced by all those with allegiance to more than one country.
Une histoire d'amour, d'une profondeur et d'une justesse bouleversantes !
Aristote, 15 ans, est un adolescent en colère dont le frère est en prison. Dante est un garçon du même âge, hyper expansif, qui voit le monde à sa façon. Quand ils se rencontrent à la piscine, ils semblent n'avoir rien en commun. Pourtant, ils commencent à passer du temps ensemble et développent une profonde amitié. Une de ces relations qui change la vie et dure pour toujours. Et ils en ont bien besoin car entre un frère absent dont personne ne parle, un père qui porte en lui les souvenirs de toute une guerre et des cauchemars terribles pour Ari, la vie est plus que difficile. Se tisse alors entre les deux garçon une véritable amitié d'abord, puis une histoire d'amour : c'est l'un avec l'autre et l'un pour l'autre, que les deux garçons vont partir en quête de leur identité et découvrir les secrets de l'univers.
Une histoire d'amour, d'une profondeur et d'une justesse bouleversantes !
Depuis qu'Ari a rencontré Dante, sa vie a basculé. Il ne cherche plus à se rendre invisible. Il ne fuit plus la compagnie des autres. Mais le souvenir de son frère emprisonné hante toujours ses nuits, son père est plus secret que jamais, et l'avenir est une terrifiante page blanche. Surtout, il ne sait que faire de ce désir envahissant qui ne lui laisse aucun répit...
Main dans la main, Aristote et Dante se tiennent prêts à affronter la violence d'un univers qui hait la différence.