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From the "Axis of Evil" to the literary realms of Spanglish.

The Quince Seed Potion By Morteza Baharloo Bridge Works, $23.95

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow mindedness," wrote Mark Twain. Though first-hand experience is clearly best at stimulating genuine understanding, most gay and lesbian Americans are not flocking to the Islamic Republic of Iran. The country's dubious "Axis of Evil" tag may be overblown, but homosexuality is indeed punishable by death, leading us to skip for, where Morteza Baharloo's The Quince Seed Potion buys a window seat to the turbulent modern history of Iran in the same way that Pearl S. Buck's The Good Earth transported us to pre-Communist China. Spanning 1928 to 1981, the saga is told through the eyes of Sarveali Jokar, a servant to a great dynasty of rural landowners in the ancient city of Fars. "Oblivious to the modern age that was sweeping [his] country in the midst of World War II," and through decades of humiliation, heartbreak, and opium addiction--not to mention the violent Islamic revolution of 1978-1979--Sarveali is sustained by a deep homoerotic affection for his favorite master and boyhood companion, Teimour Khan. Told in episodic tales reminiscent of the Persian classic The Thousand and One Nights, this haunting and at turns humorous Potion provides instant access into a world that remains off-limits to most.

Killer Cronicas: Bilingual Memories By Susana Chavez-Silverman University of Wisconsin Press, $19.95

Who says you can't have it both ways? Susana Chavez-Silverman, whose previous work includes editing a series of essays about Queer Sexualities in Latin, Latin American, and Spanish Culture, effortlessly flows between Spanish and English in her tongue-twisting book of memoirs, Killer Cronicas, taking us on a bilingually nuanced voyage from California to South Africa, Argentina, Spain, and Chile. Reading these tenderly crafted tales is certainly more gratifying than watching Adam Sandier in that godforsaken Spanglish movie, but Chavez-Silverman's prose may be challenging to readers who don't speak at least a little Spanish. In a passage that anyone who knows Southern California will find deliciously droll, she writes, "So here I am, gente, dizque back home, just north of Route 66--1a Foothill Blvd.--right on the easternmost edge del condado de Los Angeles, right smack on the edge, tambien, del Evil--que digamos, del Inland Empire." Adrift in the world, exploring new cultures through the post-modern lens of a Jewish-American Latina lesbian, Chavez-Silverman reminds us that as the world continues to shrink, as language and identity continuously mutate, individual perspective grows stubbornly less, not more, diluted. Even if you haven't mastered Spanish enough to catch the microscopic linguistic nuances, Killer Cronicas is a refreshing read before or during any visit to Latin America--an excellent way to brush up on your vocabulario.
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Title Annotation:books
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 2005
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