The Jewish Book Council loves JUVENTUD ~ and other great reviews!

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Last week the Juventud fall book tour wrapped up at the Savannah Seersucker Reading Series, Miami Book Fair (which I’ve described to more than one friend as “Disney World for lit lovers”) and D.C.’s Kramerbooks, all events fully attended and followed by astute Q &As. Those who know me also know that I love speaking on panels and “in conversation” with other writers. Somehow, when I share the stage with fellow writers, the pressure is off and I can relax and focus more, and speak from the mind and heart about the novel. November was no exception, and I am so pleased that the fall tour ended on a high note. If you missed my take on Miami, you can read this lively, pre-book fair round-up by Ryan Rivas for Lit Hub.

Savannah’s local paper featured a nice write-up of the Seersucker reading series’s “Curbside Splendor episode,” which you may check out.

Meanwhile, though I may have lagged behind in blog-posting, the warm welcome of the novel into the world has not. The Jewish Book Council gave the novel a glowing review, saying, “Blakeslee’s poetic language and exquisite descriptive detail give Juventud a canvas on which to portray what it is like to grow up with daily peril and family secrets. Where is trust? The book provides a realistic history of the drug wars beyond headlines as it transports the reader to Colombia’s streets, cities, and farms. The characters’ intriguing discussions about social justice, good and evil, activism, love, forgiveness, and hope serve to strengthen and enhance the story’s essence.”

Book lovers at popular blog sites have had some nice things to say, too: “I found Juventud both enlightening and disturbing,” says reviewer Larry of It’s Either Sadness or Euphoria. “Blakeslee really captured Mercedes’ voice so well, and I felt she gave the character complexity so she was so much more than a pampered teenager who suddenly found a conscience. I also found that she had a deft hand when it came to evoking the dichotomy of Colombia’s beauty and the extreme poverty and violence affecting the country.”

Last but not least, the Orlando Weekly suggests Juventud for their holiday “shop local” guide. The Weekly has been unflagging in their support for the novel, for which I’m ever grateful.

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Interviews at Fiction Writers Review and the Orlando Weekly, plus letter to my adolescent self at DEAR TEEN ME

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Gearing up for the hometown launch of Juventud tomorrow evening at 6-9pm at the East End Market, and crossing fingers here that we’ve got enough copies of the novel for the crowd that will be descending after this locally-focused author spotlight in the current issue of the Orlando Weekly. I’ll be spending this evening baking Colombian sugar cookies for tomorrow night’s festivities, and perhaps a few other surprises.

More great press this week, including a conversation I had recently with Barrett Bowlin about Juventud at Fiction Writers Review. “Train Shots,” the story, was published under his editorship of Harpur Palate and you can imagine his excitement in following the collection’s success, especially the news that it has been optioned for film.

An especially enjoyable piece to write was the letter to my adolescent self, featured this week at DEAR TEEN ME. I tackled a subject I’ve been itching to write about for a while — how the AIDS scare paralyzed my generation — although I never would have guessed my essay would emerge in the shape of a letter…to myself. Hope you enjoy the read.

Lastly, thanks to Ryan Rivas and LitHub for including me in 30 Questions for 30 Writers at the Miami Book Fair, which is in just a couple of weeks. MBFI is one of my favorite literary events in the Sunshine State, and it will be a dream come true to present Juventud to the audience there on Saturday, Nov. 21st.

Now, off to bake!

An excerpt of JUVENTUD at Joyland, and the latest Interview at the Masters Review!

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Wondering what I’ve been reading at all these far-flung tour stops? Joyland literary magazine featured an exclusive excerpt from Juventud this week, which happens to be the scene I find myself reading the most often. It’s definitely one of my favorites in the novel, one that seems to spur thoughtful Q&A as it did last night with the attentive crowd who came out for my author talk at the West Hartford library. Students, library regulars, VCFA and Bread Loaf alums filled the house, and it was truly a joy to catch up at long last with friends old and new.

Also this week, my latest interview on Juventud is featured at the Masters Reviewhttps://mastersreview.com/interview-vanessa-blakeslee-on-her-debut-novel-juventud/. Hope you enjoy. Meanwhile, I’m off to catch a bus and then Amtrak, for tonight’s reading at the Dire Literary Series in Boston.

Smart takes on JUVENTUD in the latest reviews from The Rumpus and Ploughshares!

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Two extraordinarily thoughtful reviews of Juventud were published this weekend, each one honing in on the “youth” aspect of the book in unique ways. Here, from the Ploughshares review of Juventud: ‘In the beginning of the novel, Mercedes describes a young boy who has been displaced by the conflict. He holds a sign stating, “Ayuda. Somos desplazados.” Help. We are displaced. This moment serves two purposes: the boy’s sign reflects Mercedes’ emotional state during a time of violent sociopolitical upheaval, and also holds Mercedes—and Juventud’s readers—responsible for serving those ravaged by conflict.’

And I was elated to mull over the final paragraph of this review of Juventud at The Rumpus: “The novel’s title brings to mind Kenneth Lonergan’s seminal play This Is Our Youth. Though Lonergan’s teenage characters live and work and play on the Upper West Side of New York City, they suffer seemingly similar plights as Mercedes—particularly Warren, one of the nineteen-year-old soul-searching protagonists, whose dad engages in successful but murky business dealings. As Warren describes him: “But my father is not a criminal. He’s just in business with criminals.” Though we never meet Warren’s father, we learn about his fate, particularly at the end of play in Warren’s closing monologue: “but when he was at the height of his powers, he totally lost control of his own daughter, and she ended up getting beaten to death by some guy from the world next door to us.” Like Mercedes and many young people,  Warren’s sister was drawn to worlds unlike her own, and she becomes a sort of cautionary tale about the cost of rebellion. Mercedes, on the other hand, is a strong agent of her own fate, who leaves casualties in her wake. Blakeslee does not deliver a neat ending; instead, she provides a story worthy of deep philosophical discussion and debate.”

Seeing these latest reviews in dialogue with each other is affirming beyond measure, and writing a thoughtful critique takes diligence and effort. I’m grateful for both of these essays being out in the world, and to have Lonergan’s work brought to my attention. Juventud appears to be finding itself in fine company, indeed!