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Sunday Tertulia

Sunday Tertulia

by Lori Marie Carlson

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a gathering of confidants who share poetic musings, secret sorrows, and savory treats.

Cherished Latin traditions and fragmented American dreams come together in this novel that celebrates in a symphony of seven voices, women's wisdom, sensuality, and spirituality.

This is a story


a gathering of confidants who share poetic musings, secret sorrows, and savory treats.

Cherished Latin traditions and fragmented American dreams come together in this novel that celebrates in a symphony of seven voices, women's wisdom, sensuality, and spirituality.

This is a story about Caire, a young, struggling New Yorker whose understanding of life changes after a group of older and wiser Latina women bring her into a close-knit circle: their Upper West Side tertulia. Every third Sunday of the month they come together for an afternoon of revelry, at which delicious food and strong opinions are served up in equal measure. At the tertulia no subject goes unexplored, from health and nutrition to romance and heartbreak; from motherhood and beauty to work, Old World traditions, and urban anxieties. Through the recollections and counsel of these intelligent, independent women—among them a retired pharmacist from Puerto Rico, a Mexican doctor, a Peruvian chef, and an Argentine professor of literature—Claire comes to know their diverse, exotic, and sometimes contradictory attitudes about the female experience.

As the conversation glides along with the spontaneity of an improvised song, Claire slowly begins to see the trials in her own personal and professional life through a prism more poetic and worldly. And, as the tertulia sizzles with anecdotes, gossip, and lore, Claire also becomes aware of the nuances that shade and distinguish Latin American history and tradition, from Mexico and the Andean plateau to the Southern Cone and Caribbean islands.

Wholesome, humorous, and bittgersweet, The Sunday Tertulia illuminates the intersection of diverse Latin American cultures in the melting pot of the United States. With an elegant flair it captures the romance and challenges of El Norte while celebrating the mystery and lyricism of women's universal hopes and dreams.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
For readers who loved Amy Tan's Joy Luck Club, and Whitney Otto's How to Make An American Quilt, this charming first novel is the Latina woman's answer to their call. In seven disparate voices, The Sunday Tertulia celebrates women's sensuality, individual spirituality, and hard-won wisdom in Sunday afternoon "tertulias"-or chats-filled with food, fun, and caring.

Claire, a young woman whose life in New York appears to be stalled, finds herself swept up by a group of older Latina women one afternoon as they find her sitting alone on a bench in the botanical garden, contemplating life. They invite her to join their monthly tertulias, and soon she finds herself spinning out the story of her life, receiving advice in return, and hearing the very different stories of each of these intelligent, strong-willed women who slowly become her friends. No subject is off-limits to these fiery gals: from infidelity to work, and from health to food to motherhood and more, each of these women has an opinion, and none are afraid to express it, despite the often contradictory nature of their views.

A retired Puerto Rican pharmacist, a Mexican doctor, a Peruvian chef, an Argentine literature professor, a Bolivian painter, and a Chilean landscape architect-readers will come to know each of these spirited women and to love them as does Claire.

Sizzling with song, anecdote, gossip and lore, and infused with Latin American history and tradition, Carlson takes the lid off the melting pot of Latina America and celebrates the mystery, lyricism and universal hopes and dreams of women everywhere.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
1 ED
Product dimensions:
5.00(w) x 7.12(h) x 0.87(d)

Read an Excerpt

After five years of living in Manhattan I realize there is nothing more beautiful than an afternoon in mid-September, when the sky is the color of lavender and the light behind the clouds is opalescent, heavenly. Everything in the city comes back to life in autumn, and that includes the tertulias in Isabela's apartment. This is the first one of the season, and after so much traveling in August, we are anxious to catch up. I'm the only one who didn't go away; as usual, I didn't have sufficient funds. So, whether I intended to or not, I explored my city and learned a little more about it. For instance, where to go to escape the suffocating pollution that drapes every corner (the Boat Basin off Riverside Drive at 79th Street), how to sleep in a room whose windows are painted shut, without air conditioning (with ice-soaked towels covering legs and stomach and a fan), what to eat on next to nothing (iceberg lettuce chopped finely with a carrot, cucumber, and a slice of turkey), and even where to go to meet nice men (definitely the eleven o'clock service at almost any church; my preference is Riverside).

Our Sunday afternoon ritual of catching up invigorates the pace of our month. We gossip, recount favorite stories, and I get an earful of advice. There is a lot of teasing. The conversation seems to fall out faster than a dip of castanets. We jump from topic to topic so freely that at times I can tell who is saying what or why. We're just so happy to be back. Meanwhile, Isabela conducts the flow of our voices with the artistry of Zubin Mehta, using her solid hands to bring one of our voices higher or lower, depending on which is more in tune with her way of thinking. She definitely has a few ideas about my most pressing concern of the moment: I just can't seem to get ahead in my career. No matter how hard I work, or how much effort I put into all the aspects of my job, nothing changes the fact that I'm still a paralegal making very little money. I keep asking myself how this can be. Wasn't I the girl about whom everyone would say, "Claire, you'll be a star someday?" In college all my diligent work led to success. Excellent grades and praise from professors. I was good with people, a manager and leader. Involved with student government, I had a flair for bringing disparate groups together on campus, fraternity brutes and overachieving scholar types, students whose worldly airs rubbed Middle American innocents the wrong way, the joiners of every dub and committee and the loners who studied on Saturday nights in the library basement. And I believed, that's the thing, I really believed that I would be recognized outside of college in the very same way. I thought that being a woman in our enlightened society would be no different, in terms of achieving success, than being a man.

So how can I explain why my boss said recently, "I can't give you a raise on your good looks, Claire," when I asked him for a modest increase in my low salary? I had just been given someone else's job--coordinating assignments in the translations department of the law firm--in addition to my own. The guy who had this responsibility before me was being paid twice as much as I am now, and I have two jobs to do. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my gift for languages and ability to speak Spanish, German, and French would get me into trouble in such a tony law firm.

On my way to Isabela's, I am still furious thinking about that sexist comment. It seems to me that when a woman is young, people tell her that she lacks stature, that she's too inexperienced to be taken seriously. As she grows older, they say she shouldn't complain too much about work ("Be nice!") because there is so much competition from younger women bubbling over with energy. My heart aches at the thought. Isabela and her friends, of course, always have a way of setting me straight, telling me to buck up or eat right or concentrate on the positive. Isabela, especially, seems to thrive on offering her opinions.

Isabela - Claire, my dear, if you want to get ahead you have to fight; otherwise you'd be sitting in a chair doing the same thing all your life. Yes, yes, you know that. But by fighting I don't mean being aggressive in your conversation or your actions. You can fight by using your charms. A smile here, a smile there. Being a good listener, asking questions, Knowing how to dance can't hurt, either. I think a woman needs a little angel and a little duende to get by in this world. You need to be sweet and you need to be hot as a jalapeño. Así, lo es. Nobody, for example, can charm people like my cousin Celinda and at the same time get exactly what she wants. And she is so smart! When she left Cuba, she couldn't take anything with her, just the clothes on her back. But Celinda had an extremely good idea. She gathered together all her Colombian emeralds and her sisters' diamond jewelry and had the jeweler in her town take the stones from their settings. But how to smuggle out this wealth without arousing the suspicion of the authorities? She had to find a receptacle of sorts that no one would dream of looking into or coming near. Do you know what she did with all those stones? She put them in her baby's dirty diapers! When they were at the airport and the officers were checking everyone, not one of them would come near her baby, Alejandrito, that day. In fact, those big strong men were pinching their oh-so-sensitive noses.

What People are Saying About This

Rosario Ferre
Sensitive, delicate, and original, this is a book of meditations on the essence of femininity in the best sense of the word.
— (Rosario Ferre, author of The House on the Lagoon
Ana Castillo
A surprise bouquet of provocative lilacs...truly a delightful read.
— (Ana Castillo, author of So Far From God)
Elena Poniatowska
Better than any psychoanalysis, The Sunday Tertulia shows how women can cure any soul ailment by giving each other sound advice, expecially if it comes from the ancient voice of the earth, the one Latinas know well.
— (Elena Poniatowska, author of Tinisima)

Meet the Author

Lori Marie Carlson was born in Jamestown, New York. She holds an M.A. in Hispanic Literature from Indiana University and has taught at several universities. Carlson is also the author of seven books for young adults, including the acclaimed Cool Salsa. The Sunday Tertulia is her first novel. She lives in New York City.

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