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!

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JUVENTUD earns the spotlight at Washington Independent Review of Books ~ plus my “Table of Contents” menu at Real Pants

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Tremendously excited to see this thoughtful review of Juventud at the Washington Independent Review of Books. Reviewer Patricia Ann McNair says,

“Because Juventud is at its best a love story between Mercedes and Manuel, Blakeslee has to navigate the language of romance and sex as well as that of history and politics. When these things work together, the writing is at its most interesting: “We made love on the couch, where countless volunteers had bickered over ideas and spilled Cokes and cried for their captive relatives; the cushions stung my knees.”

There is another love story here, too, the one between Mercedes and her father, Diego, the most complex and compelling character in these pages. Diego’s love for his daughter both protects and damages her, despite his best intentions. This is the relationship that most matters in Mercedes’ story, the one that drives the novel forward. It is potentially the most rewarding, as well.”

In addition, I had a great fun inventing a Juventud-themed menu at Real Pants for their “Table of Contents” series.

Hard to believe, now that I’m back behind the register at Bookmark It in Orlando, that just a couple of weeks ago I was running from one Northern city in the height of autumnal bloom to another. If you haven’t made it yet to a launch event, you may get a glimpse here of my Sunday Salon NYC reading on Oct. 18th in the East Village (Jimmy’s 43). We sold out once again that night, a wonderful precedent that I very much hope will continue!

Happy pub date to JUVENTUD, and high praise from Publisher’s Weekly!

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Publisher’s Weekly loves Juventud! Here’s what they have to say: “What begins as running away from tragedy and betrayal turns into seeking out the reconciliation of one’s past. This tale of self-discovery and intense first love is spiced with bursts of action and curious twists. It will engage readers who have a soft spot for entertaining storytelling and a familiarity with Colombian social history.”

After a month on the road of speaking to audiences and signing copies, today’s *official* pub date feels somewhat surreal. For a taste of what it’s like to be “in conversation with” the novel, check out this wonderful interview from earlier this month with my longtime friend, fiction writer Robin Rozanski, who teaches at The Loft, for their blog: The Loft Interview with Vanessa Blakeslee. Robin and I have been fast friends since I first walked into Pat Rushin’s contemporary fiction class back in August 2002, and enjoyed a wonderful sojourn in the Czech Republic back in 2005 as participants in the Prague Summer Program.

Tonight, if you’re in the Orlando area, I’ll be presenting Juventud and talking about the novel drafting process as a guest of the UCF MFA program’s GWA series. The campus bookstore will have copies for sale/signing. The event is free and open to the public.

JUVENTUD playlist at Largehearted Boy, and the latest Q&A with Deborah Kalb

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I wrote about the music that inspired Juventud for Largehearted Boy (read the list and check out the songs here: Juventud playlist on Spotify). From classical guitar to Shakira’s pop hits, salsa to Mark Piszczek’s “Dangerous Times,” these are the tunes I turned to again and again.

Also this week, a conversation about Juventud with Deborah Kalb for her excellent blog, who interviewed me last year for Train Shots. Read our latest chat here: Book Q&A with Vanessa Blakeslee

Finally, today, at long last, I return to Florida for a (brief!) breather and then the first book launch events in my home state, beginning next week. I’ll be speaking to the GWA at UCF, 7:00 pm, HPA Room 126. Free and open to the public. The UCF Barnes & Noble will be there with books for sale, and of course, I’ll be signing afterward.

 

JUVENTUD Research Notes & Book Trailer up at Necessary Fiction

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Wonder what went into building the vivid world of turbulent 1990s Colombia in Juventud? Some of the primary footage I referenced while drafting the book also ended up in the official book trailer, released last month by the good folks at The Rumpus. You can read my notes and view the trailer today over at Necessary FictionJuventud Research Notes & Book Trailer

John King and I discuss JUVENTUD in the latest episode of The Drunken Odyssey

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Such a pleasure it was to have this conversation with my friend and Drunken Odyssey host, John King, about my debut novel, Juventud, what inspired the story, and to a greater extent, the novel-writing process. You may listen here:

Interview with Vanessa Blakeslee about her novel, Juventud

More to come soon — today’s book tour stop brings me to the Heartland Fall Forum in Chicago, IL, where I’ll be pitching the novel to independent booksellers from across the Midwest in a speed-dating style lunch event cleverly dubbed, the “Moveable Feast.” Wish me luck!

This week: “Tricks of the Trade” in Publisher’s Weekly & Interview at Tin House!

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Greetings from the Juventud book tour in medias res — to my left is a cozy fireplace blazing in the Marriott, Fairfax, VA, where yesterday I had the pleasure of presenting before an enthusiastic crowd at Fall for the Book. Next stop: the Toadstool Bookshop in Peterborough, NH this Saturday, Oct. 3rd, at 2 p.m.

As we speed toward Juventud‘s official pub date (Oct. 20th), numerous articles, interviews and “conversations” are slated to hit the web. Two of the most exciting appeared this week: my article on what I’ve learned in wearing two hats as an author and Bookmark It staff member at Publisher’s Weekly “Tricks of the Trade”, and with great thanks to Litlandoan Hunter Choate, a perceptive and probing interview about Juventud at Tin House interview with Vanessa Blakeslee, aptly dubbed, “The Peripheral Unknown.”

Hope you enjoy the reads, and if you’re in the NH region this weekend, that you’ll stop by and join in the novel-release festivities!

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