Leticia-UrietaLeticia Urieta is a Tejana writer from Austin, TX. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and is a fiction candidate in the MFA program at Texas State University. She won Agnes Scott’s Academy of American Poet’s prize in 2009 and her work has appeared in Cleaver, the 2016 Texas Poetry Calendar, and Blackheart. Leticia lives in Austin, Texas with her husband and two dogs. She is using her love of Texas history and passion for research to write a historical novel about the role of Mexican soldaderas in Texas’ war with Mexico.


LOVE, HATE and OTHER FILTERS, a young adult novel by Samira Ahmed, reviewed by Leticia Urieta

LOVE, HATE and OTHER FILTERS, a young adult novel by Samira Ahmed, reviewed by Leticia Urieta
LOVE, HATE and OTHER FILTERS   by Samira Ahmed Soho Teen, 281 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta Maya Aziz sees her world through a camera lens. “One thing I’ve learned,” she says, “People love a camera, and when I’m filming, they see it, not me, so whenever I need to, I can disappear behind my trusty shield.” She is often the observer, experiencing her life on the outside looking in. As the novel opens, Maya is at a crossroads: she has been accepted to NYU’s prestigious filmmaking program, but her traditional Indian Muslim parents want her to go to school in Chicago, within reach of their influence and protection. To them, filmmaking is a hobby; for Maya, it is how she makes sense of a world where she is still unsure of where to place herself. To add complications to her decision, she begins flirtations with two different boys: the one her parents set her up with, Kareem, and Phil, a white American boy she grew up with in their small Illinois town. As her flirtation with Kareem progresses and she grows closer with Phil, Maya is forced to reckon with the good-girl, parent-pleasing persona she has cultivated her entire ...
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LABYRINTH LOST, a young adult novel by Zoraida Córdova, reviewed by Leticia Urieta

LABYRINTH LOST, a young adult novel by Zoraida Córdova, reviewed by Leticia Urieta
LABYRINTH LOST    by Zoraida Córdova Sourcebooks Fire, 321 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta Alejandra Mortiz is a bruja. She lives her life in the presence of death. She comes from a long line of brujas, each with their own unique manifestation of power. But Alex, as her family and friends know her, does not revere the magical legacy of her family; she fears it. After seeing her Aunt Rosaria rise from the dead as a child, Alex is burdened by the sense that magic is not a gift, as her sisters Rose and Lula believe, but a curse. Her fear grows more acute as her Death Day approaches. This is a bruja’s coming of age celebration when the manifestation of her power is blessed by her ancestors. To add to Alex’s worries, strange things are happening. She crosses paths with a young brujo, named Nova, who is a charming and suspicious element in her already tense life. She hears mysterious voices in her head, and her magic power begins to appear in frightening ways, alienating her from her family and her best friend Rishi. When the family is attacked, Alex has to take things into her own hands to ...
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A TYRANNY of PETTICOATS: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls edited by Jessica Spotswood reviewed by Leticia Urieta

A TYRANNY of PETTICOATS: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls edited by Jessica Spotswood reviewed by Leticia Urieta
A TYRANNY of PETTICOATS: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers & Other Badass Girls edited by Jessica Spotswood Candlewick Press, 347 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta In her introduction to the anthology, A Tyranny of Petticoats: 15 Stories of Belles, Bank Robbers and other Badass Girls, editor and author, Jessica Spotswood, describes her longtime interest in the study of history as something “tactile and ever present,” beyond dates and facts. Spotswood acknowledges the problematic nature of historical writings in the past: “Despite their many contributions, women— especially queer women, women of color, and women with disabilities—have too often been erased from history.” Her acknowledgement captures the spirit of the book; the need to give women authors a chance to fill this absence, and tell the complex stories of young women that mainstream history has forgotten. Spotswood has collected fifteen authors, including herself, to contribute short stories that reflect the perspectives of girls across different time periods of American history, starting from 1710 and ending in 1968. The collection spans different regions, cultures, classes and linguistic traditions. As a writer, I can imagine the challenges these authors faced to create this wonderful array of stories, to compress the unique ...
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SEEING OFF THE JOHNS, a young adult novel by Rene S. Perez II reviewed by Leticia Urieta

SEEING OFF THE JOHNS, a young adult novel by Rene S. Perez II reviewed by Leticia Urieta
SEEING OFF THE JOHNS by Rene S. Perez II Cinco Puntos Press, 220 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta In the Texas town of Greenton, the talented few become mythical figures in the eyes of the locals, leaving those outside the spotlight to contemplate where they stand in the scheme of small town life. This could be a familiar story about growing up in someone else’s shadow, but, in this case, Seeing Off the Johns explores what happens in the aftermath of disaster; the loss of young life on the cusp of greatness. Jon Robison and John Mejia, or “the Johns,” as the Greentonites call them, are two high school sports stars who receive scholarships to play baseball for the University of Texas at Austin. The day they prepare to leave town is met with celebration and sadness as they two young men sever ties and move on from the place that nurtured and worshipped them. On the way to Austin to move into their dorm rooms, the Johns’ tire blows out on the highway, killing them both in the crash. Their end is the novel’s beginning. It seeks to tell the legend of the Johns versus the reality of them, ...
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OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez reviewed by Leticia Urieta

OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez reviewed by Leticia Urieta
OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez Carolrhoda LAB, 402 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta Out of Darkness is broken into parts: before the disaster and after. This compelling novel is rooted in history, and the book begins with the aftermath of the 1937 New London school explosion in East Texas and a town reeling from disaster. Volunteers move debris, collect the severed limbs of school children, and build caskets for the dead. The narrative voice embodies the horror, the grief, and the growing need for someone to blame. This is how the story begins, with a sense of impending doom, and this feeling of dread pervades the rest of the novel, the “before”, leading up to the “after.” The story encompasses a school year, oscillating between the third person points of view of a family hoping to make a new start. Naomi Vargas moves to New London from San Antonio with her twin brother and Sister, Beto and Cari, to live with their father, her stepfather, Henry Smith. From the beginning, the rules are clear; no Spanish at school or around town; watch where you go; attend church revivals and socialize with the locals. New London is an oil ...
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INK AND ASHES by Valynne E. Maetani reviewed by Leticia Urieta

INK AND ASHES by Valynne E. Maetani reviewed by Leticia Urieta
INK AND ASHES by Valynne E. Maetani Tu Books, 380 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta Valynne E. Maetani’s debut novel, Ink and Ashes, begins with the narrator Claire’s eerie statement: “I stared at my pink walls, wishing away the smell of death. I imagined the wispy smoke snaking its way through the narrow spaces around my closed door, the tendrils prying at tucked away memories.” This observation cements her voice as protagonist, a mixture of sensitivity, uncertainty, and fierceness. As the smell of incense wafts up to her room – part of a ritual to honor her father since his passing ten years ago – she struggles to reconcile memories of her father with what she later discovers about him. And it’s this powerful voice that leads us through a heart-pounding narrative journey, exploring the nebulous nature of memory and trauma. At seventeen, Claire deals with the typical issues of a teenage girl: homework, relationships with boys, and overprotective parents. Still, her life is colored by the loss of her father. Looking back through his old journal, Claire discovers a mysterious letter from her father addressed to her stepdad George, whom she believed her father had never met before. Suddenly, the ...
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SURVIVING SANTIAGO by Lyn Miller-Lachmann reviewed by Leticia Urieta

SURVIVING SANTIAGO  by Lyn Miller-Lachmann reviewed by Leticia Urieta
SURVIVING SANTIAGO by Lyn Miller-Lachmann Running Press Teens, 312 pages reviewed by Leticia Urieta Many authors employ a tried-and-true formula for young adult novels with a female protagonist: girl is displaced for a period of time to live with a relative or parental figure from whom they feel disconnected, girl meets love interest, and adventure ensues. Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s Surviving Santiago, the sequel to her first novel Gringolandia, meets these expectations with the inclusion of some of these tropes: the displacement to another country, the disconnected parent, the dangerous love interest and the naïve teenage girl, but the novel partially subverts this formula. It explores complicated relationships and the self-empowerment that occurs when one accepts people for who they are. Christina “Tina” Aguilar is sent off to her homeland of Santiago, Chile for the summer at the insistence of her estranged father, Marcelo. It’s been eight years since she has returned to Chile after Marcelo was imprisoned by Pinochet’s dictatorship for his work with the Socialist underground. Tina leaves her friends and newly remarried mother in Madison, Wisconsin to stay with Marcelo and her Tia Ileana, her aunt and her father’s caretaker. Tina hopes that this will be a chance to ...
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QUERENCIA by Leticia Urieta

QUERENCIA by Leticia Urieta
QUERENCIA by Leticia Urieta The first time my sister Mari lost her baby, only twenty weeks, the doctor assured her that she could try again. “The body is miraculous, it can bounce back from anything,” as though her womb just needed to be cleared of the cluttered, grasping mess inside. I was recruiting a student for my college, flipping through brochures in her living room. They sent me all over the Southwest as their official bilingual recruiter. The girl sat next to me and ran her hands over the glossy pictures of the campus. She would be the first in her family to go to college. Her mother, who sat on my other side, peered at the pictures of the dormitories. She paused over the listings of scholarship information and fees accrued over the first academic year and wanted me to assure her that they could afford it, that her baby wouldn’t be so far away. “Unas horas,” I reminded her, showing her the route from I-20 across Louisiana and into Texas. When the visit was over, the mother sent me off to my hotel with arepas wrapped in tin foil. I relished being among these hopeful families, taking on ...
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