When Cool Salsa first came out in 1994, I was one of its early readers. I loved the book; and 20 years later, my feelings about it have not changed. Lori M. Carlson began to study Spanish in elementary school, and went on to study abroad. Exposed first to Spanish literature, she later came to the more musical, less strictly controlled poetry of Latin America. These 36 poems, divided into six sections dealing with school, the concept of home, the power of memory, difficulties faced in a new land, celebrations, and confronting the future, serve as a concise, beautifully captured snapshot of the Latino immigrant experience in the United States. Common themes of pride, misunderstanding, conflicts between familial views and more Americanized perspectives, and finding oneself infuse these radically different but somehow homogenous works. Whether reading Gina Valdez’s jazz inflected “English con Salsa” or the heartrending “ ‘Race’ Politics” by Luis Rodriguez, the sheer flow and appropriateness of the words give depth, life and additional resonance to the events narrated. Works written originally in English are translated into equally fluent Spanish. The reverse is also true—Spanish works are expertly rendered in English.
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This is a great work both for families to celebrate heritage and remember history, and for educators to use as an introduction to a rich literary tradition and a civil rights set. A tour de force—both in its year of initial publication, and now.
—Ann Welton, Helen B. Stafford Elementary, Tacoma, WA