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Reading Takes You Places: Week 8 - Columbia and other South American Countries

Posted: July 30, 2020, 11:39AM

Where do you want to go this summer? This week we're heading South America!

This week we are visiting Columbia for summer reading!

Hola! Bienvenido to Week 8. On July 30, Kim Grewe, PhD, Professor and Instructional Designer at Northern Virginia Community College and co-presenter K.V. White, an English Professor originally from Venezuela will provide travel, geography, culture, and language of Columbia and Venezuela.

Watch this People's University Online live, July 30 at 6:30 pm on YouTube, Facebook, or the OCPL websiteLog into your YouTube or Facebook accounts to send questions and comments to Dr. Grewe and K.V. White during the program. 

For those who cannot tune into our People's University programs on Thursday nights, all of our programs are recorded and available for playback following the presentation.

Have kids? See our recommended reading for kids below and don't miss our online Summer Reading programs!

Featured Book

Love in the Time of Cholera book coverLove in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
From the Nobel Prize-winning author, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, comes a masterly evocation of an unrequited passion so strong that it binds two people's lives together for more than half a century.

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is devastated, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs—yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he does so again.

With humorous sagacity and consummate craft, Gabriel García Márquez traces an exceptional half-century of unrequited love. Though it seems never to be conveniently contained, love flows through the novel in many wonderful guises—joyful, melancholy, enriching, and ever-surprising.

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Love in the Time of Cholera

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Other Books by Garcia Marquez

One Hundread Years of Solitude book coverOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
One of the twentieth century's enduring works, One Hundred Years of Solitude is a widely beloved and acclaimed novel known throughout the world. The novel tells the story of the rise and fall of the mythical town of Macondo through the history of the Buendía family. Rich and brilliant, it is a chronicle of life, death, and the tragicomedy of humankind. In the beautiful, ridiculous, and tawdry story of the Buendía family, one sees all of humanity, just as in the history, myths, growth, and decay of Macondo, one sees all of Latin America.

Love and lust, war and revolution, riches and poverty, youth and senility, the variety of life, the endlessness of death, the search for peace and truth—these universal themes dominate the novel. Alternately reverential and comical, One Hundred Years of Solitude weaves the political, personal, and spiritual to bring a new consciousness to storytelling. Translated into dozens of languages, this stunning work is no less than an account of the history of the human race.

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News of a Kidnapping book coverNews of a Kidnapping (non-fiction) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
This astonishing book by the Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez chronicles the 1990 kidnappings of ten Colombian men and women - all journalists but one - by the Medellin drug boss Pablo Escobar. The carefully orchestrated abductions were Escobar's attempt to extort from the government its assurance that he, and other narcotics traffickers, would not be extradited to the United States if they were to surrender. From the highest corridors of government to the domain of the ruthless drug cartels, we watch the unfolding of a bizarre drama replete with fascinating characters: Cesar Gaviria, the nation's cool and secretive president; Diana Turbay, a famous television journalist and magazine editor; three indomitable women who are imprisoned for miserable months in a small room with a light perpetually on; an eighty-two-year-old priest with a mission to bring the regime and the cartel to the negotiating table; and Escobar himself, the legendary drug baron who changes his bodyguards daily and maintains a private zoo with giraffes and hippos from Africa. All of this takes place in a country where presidential candidates and cabinet officers are routinely assassinated; where police go into the Medellin slums to murder boys they think may be working for Escobar; but where brave and honest citizens are trying desperately to make democracy survive.

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News of a Kidnapping

About the Author

Photograph of Gabriel García MárquezGabriel Garcia Marquez
Columbian novelist Mr. García Márquez, who received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982, wrote fiction rooted in a mythical Latin American landscape of his own creation, but his appeal was universal. Raised in a large ramshackle house by his maternal grandparents, the elements of his youth were interwoven into García Márquez's fiction, a blend of history and mystery and politics. His grandfather Nicolas Márquez Mejia was a liberal activist and a colonel during Columbia's Thousand Days War; his grandmother believed in magic and filled her grandson's head with superstitions and folk tales, dancing ghosts and spirits. His 1967 publication, One Hundred Years of Solitude, established him as a giant of 20th-century literature. 

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Garcia Marquez books available through WVDeli
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More Columbian Literature

Recommended Columbian Authors

Photo of Author Jaime ManriqueJaime Manrique
Jaime Manrique is a bilingual author, poet, and scholar whose writing often explores personal and historical themes of Latin America. His works challenge the homophobia and machismo that are so deeply ingrained in the Latin culture.

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Our Lives are the Rivers: a novel 
Set against the majestic Andes, this sweeping novel beautifully renders the true-life story of Manuela Senz, one of the most controversial women in the history of the Americas.

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Our Lives are the Rivers
Cervantes Street
The actual facts of Miguel de Cervantes's life seem to be snatched from an epic tale: an impoverished and talented young poet nearly kills a man in a duel and is forced into exile; later, he distinguishes himself in battle and is severely wounded, losing the use of his left hand; on his way back to Spain his ship is captured by pirates and he is sold into slavery in Algiers; after prolonged imprisonment and failed escape attempts, he makes his way back home, eventually settling in a remote village in La Mancha to create his masterpiece, the first modern novel in Western literature: Don Quixote. Taking the bare bones of Cervantes' life, Jaime Manrique has accomplished a singular feat: an engaging and highly accessible take on a brilliant, enigmatic man and his epoch.
Like This Afternoon Forever
For the last fifty years, the Colombian drug cartels, various insurgent groups, and the government have fought over the control of the drug traffic, in the process destroying vast stretches of the Amazon, devastating Indian communities, and killing tens of thousands of homesteaders caught in the middle of the conflict. Inspired by these events, Jaime Manrique’s sixth novel, Like This Afternoon Forever, weaves in two narratives: the shocking story of a series of murders known internationally as the “false positives,” and the related story of two gay Catholic priests who become lovers when they meet in the seminary.

Photograph of author Juan Gabriel VasquezJuan Gabriel Vásquez
Regarded as one of the most important Latin American novelists working today, Juan Gabriel Vásquez is is a critically acclaimed Colombian writer, translator, and award-winning author. 

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For four decades, the pen-and-ink creations of celebrated political cartoonist Javier Mallarino have shoved bad laws and inflated careers off a cliff. Then a young woman appears and reminds him of his buried past, and he must question everything he's done. In Reputations, Juan Gabriel Vásquez examines the weight of the past, how a public persona intersects with private histories, the burdens and surprises of memory. In this intimate novel, Vásquez brilliantly plumbs universal experiences to create a masterly story, one that reverberates long after you turn the final page.
The Sound of Things Falling
A young lawyer reflects on the mid-twentieth-century uprising between Pablo Escobar's drug cartel and government forces that trapped Pablo's community in a nightmarish existence and culminated in a friend's murder.

Ebooks available through WVDeli

Photograph of Author Laura RestrepoLaura Restrepo
Journalist, novelist, political activist, and academic,  Restrepo's search for her own particular style of writing, led to a blend of reality and fiction that makes her work so captivating. She uses her research as a journalist as the basis for her fictional works, but she blends that journalism with literary creativity.

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Delirium: a novel (2007)
In this remarkably nuanced novel, both a gripping detective story and a passionate, devastating tale of eros and insanity in Colombia, internationally acclaimed author Laura Restrepo delves into the minds of four characters. Through a blend of distinct voices, Restrepo creates a searing portrait of a society battered by war and corruption, as well as an intimate look at the daily lives of people struggling to stay sane in an unstable reality.
Leopard in the Sun: a novel (2000)
In Laura Restrepo's stunning novel, a feud between two Colombian drug families escalates into a bloody, high-stakes war that will leave no one in its path untouched. The Barragáns and the Monsalves are rival clans, each steeped in wealth and power, each subject only to laws of their own making. Leopard in the Sun is an operatic Latin tragedy, complete with chorus of local gossips and popular legend. 

Spanish-language e-books available through Hoopla - no waitlists
View all Restrepo books available

Photograph of author Ingrid BetancourtIngrid Betancourt
Born December 25, 1961, in Bogotá, Colombia, Ingrid Betancourt was a politician and presidential candidate celebrated for her determination to combat widespread corruption. In 2002 she was taken hostage by the FARC, a brutal terrorist guerrilla organization. For more than six and a half years, the FARC held her hostage in the Colombian jungle. She was rescued on July 2, 2008 and has since written about her experience as well as penning a novel. 

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Even Silence Has an End (Memoir)
Even Silence Has an End
 is Ingrid Betancourt's deeply moving and personal account of her six years abducted by the FARC. The facts of her story are astounding, but it is Betancourt’s indomitable spirit that drives this very special narrative-an intensely intelligent, thoughtful, and compassionate reflection on what it really means to be human.
The Blue Line (Fiction)
Set against the backdrop of Argentina’s Dirty War and infused with magical realism, The Blue Line is a breathtaking story of love and betrayal by one of the world’s most renowned writers and activists. Betancourt draws on history and personal experience in this deeply felt portrait of a woman coming of age as her country falls deeper and deeper into chaos. 

Ebook available through Hoopla
Letters To My Mother
On December 1, 2007, during the arrest of several guerillas in Bogotá, the Colombian police confiscated a short video clip of political hostage Ingrid Betancourt. Kidnapped on February 23, 2002, Betancourt has become an international symbol in the struggle for liberty and the fight against barbarity. Accompanying the video was a twelve-page letter, dated October 24, 2007, written by Betancourt to her mother and family. From the depths of the Colombian jungle, Betancourt's words are an impassioned declaration of love to those dearest to her.

Literature From Other South American Countries


Photo of Romulo GallegosRómulo Gallegos
Romulo Gallegos is best known for being Venezuela's first democratically elected president. But in his native land he is equally famous as a writer responsible for one of Venezuela's literary treasures, the novel Dona Barbara. Published in 1929 and all but forgotten by Anglophone readers, Dona Barbara is one of the first examples of magical realism, laying the groundwork for later authors such as Gabriel Garcia M Marquez and Mario Vargas Llosa.

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Doña Barbara
Following the epic struggle between two cousins for an estate in Venezuela, Dona Barbara is an examination of the conflict between town and country, violence and intellect, male and female. The title character, Dona Barbara, is a beautiful and mysterious woman rumored to be a witch with a ferocious power over men. When her cousin Santos Luzardo returns to the plains in order to reclaim his land and cattle, he reluctantly faces off against Dona Barbara, and their battle becomes simultaneously one of violence and seduction.

Spanish-language e-book available through WVDeli
Doña Barbara


Photo of Mario Vargas LlosaMario Vargas Llosa
Peru's foremost author, Mario Vargas Llosa's commitment to social change is evident in his novels, plays, and essays. In 1990 he was an unsuccessful candidate for president of Peru. Vargas Llosa was awarded the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature "for his cartography of structures of power and his trenchant images of the individual’s resistance, revolt, and defeat."

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Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter (1977)
Reality merges with fantasy in this hilarious comic novel about the world of radio soap operas and the pitfalls of forbidden passion. Interweaving ever-more-fevered tales, Vargas Llosa's novel is mischievous and masterful, a classic named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times Book Review.
The War of the End of the World (1984)
Set in nineteenth-century Brazil, and based on a real episode in Brazilian history, this novel is the story of an apocalyptic movement led by a mysterious prophet to establish another republic: Canudos, whose citizens are all the damned of the earth, the prostitutes, bandits, and beggars who flee to the Brazilian frontier.
The Feast of the Goat (2001)
In this "masterpiece of Latin American and world literature, and one of the finest political novels ever written" (Bookforum), Mario Vargas Llosa recounts the end of a regime and the birth of a terrible democracy, giving voice to the historical dictator Rafael Trujillo and the victims, both innocent and complicit, drawn into his deadly orbit. Trujillo, the depraved ailing dictator whom Dominicans call the Goat, controls his inner circle with a combination of violence and blackmail. In Trujillo's gaudy palace, treachery and cowardice have become a way of life. But Trujillo's grasp is slipping. There is a conspiracy against him, and a Machiavellian revolution already underway that will have bloody consequences of its own.
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Available through WVDeli
Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter
Interweaving ever-more-fevered tales, Vargas Llosa's novel is hilarious, mischievous, and masterful, a classic named one of the best books of 1977 by the New York Times Book Review.


Photo of Paulo CoelhoPaulo Coelho
Known for employing rich symbolism in his depictions of the often spiritually motivated journeys taken by his characters, Brazilian author Paulo Coelho is considered one of the most influential authors of our times. His books have sold more than 165 million copies worldwide, have been released in 170 countries and been translated into 80 languages.

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The Alchemist (1988) - regular print
The Alchemist - audiobook on CD
Paulo Coelho's masterpiece tells the mystical story of Santiago, an Andalusian shepherd boy who yearns to travel in search of a worldly treasure. His quest will lead him to riches far different—and far more satisfying—than he ever imagined. Santiago's journey teaches us about the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts, of recognizing opportunity and learning to read the omens strewn along life's path, and, most importantly, to follow our dreams.
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View all Coelho e-books available 
View all Coelho audiobooks available


Photograph of author Isabel AllendeIsabel Allende
Chilean writer Isabel Allende, whose works often contain aspects of the genre magical realism, was one of the first successful women novelists from Latin America and has been called "the world's most widely read Spanish-language author." She is the goddaughter of Salvador Allende, the first socialist president of Chile who was her father's cousin. Allende's life was forever changed when General Augusto Pinochet led a military coup in 1973, toppling Salvador Allende's government. During an attack on the presidential palace, Salvador Allende was shot and killed. (After decades of controversy surrounding the cause of his death, an autopsy confirmed in 2011 that it was a suicide.) Isabel Allende became active in aiding victims of the repression and brutality of Pinochet's regime, but realizing it was dangerous to stay in Chile, she fled the country with her husband and two children in 1975 and lived in exile in Venezuela for 13 years. The author calls her writing style "realistic literature, rooted in her remarkable upbringing and the mystical people and events that fueled her imagination," and explains that her work is "equally informed by her feminist convictions, her commitment to social justice, and the harsh political realities that shaped her destiny."

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The House of Spirits (1985)
In 1981, Allende began writing a letter to her grandfather, who was dying in Chile. The letter became the basis for her first novel, The House of the Spirits (1985), which became a worldwide bestseller and launched her literary career. The novel tells the story of two families living in Chile from the 1920s until the 1973 military coup, weaving together elements of magical realism and political testimony.  The House of the Spirits is the magnificent epic of the Trueba family—their loves, their ambitions, their spiritual quests, their relations with one another, and their participation in the history of their times, a history that becomes destiny and overtakes them all.
Inés of My Soul (2006)
A magisterial work of historical fiction, Inés of My Soul chronicles the astonishing life of a daring Spanish conquistadora who toiled to build the nation of Chile-and whose vital role has too often been neglected by history. Meticulously researched, it engagingly dramatizes the known events of the real-life Inés Suárez's, crafting them into a novel full of the narrative brilliance and passion readers have come to expect from Isabel Allende.
My Invented Country: a nostalgic journey through Chile (non-fiction, 2003)
A highly personal memoir of exile and homeland, filled with the wit, melancholy and distinctive voice that have charmed readers of her fiction, in My Invented Country Allende acknowledges the role of memory and nostalgia in shaping her life, her books, and her very connection to that most intimate place of origin. Allende revisits the imaginary Chile of her childhood and young adult years as well as the real one that exists today. She evokes the magnificent landscapes of the country, a charming, idiosyncratic Chilean people with a violent history and indomitable spirit, and the politics, religion, myth, and magic of her homeland that she carries with her.
View all Allende books available at the Library

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View all Allende e-books available
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View all Allende e-books available
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Photo of Author Roberto Bolano Roberto Bolaño
Roberto Bolaño (1953—2003) was a Chilean author who was one of the leading South American literary figures at the turn of the 21st century. Although he became a well-known and critically hailed author in Spanish-speaking countries following the publication of Los Detectives Salvajes (1998), Bolaño was not widely translated until after his death. His worldwide literary reputation was made with the posthumous publication of his magnum opus, 2666 (2004).

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The Savage Detectives (1998)
This dazzling novel that established Bolano's international reputation is the story of two modern-day Quixotes—the last survivors of an underground literary movement, perhaps of literature itself—on a tragicomic quest through their darkening world.

Audiobooks available through WVDeli
The Savage Detectives
The Third Reich (2010 - posthumous)
War-games champion Udo Berger and his girlfriend Ingeborg are on holiday. There they meet another vacationing German couple, Charly and Hanna, and a band of shady locals. They have fun, see the sights, relax. Then, late one night, Charly disappears without a trace. The Third Reich is a stunning exploration of memory and violence. Reading this quick, visceral novel, we see a world-class writer coming into his own. 
2666 (2004 - posthumous)
Composed in the last years of Roberto Bolaño's life, 2666 was greeted across Europe and Latin America as his most brilliant achievement, surpassing even his previous work in its strange beauty, daring experimentation, and epic scope. The book's subject matter ranges from the heady heights of literature and love to the gritty realism of violence and death as it explores how humans make sense of senseless events. Its throng of unforgettable characters includes academics and convicts, writers, and cops, pursuing their own separate yet interrelated quests for meaning. 

Ebooks and audiobooks available through Hoopla - no waitlists
View all Bolaño audiobooks available


Photo of Jorge Luis BorgesJorge Luis Borges
Literary critics have described Jorge Luis Borges as Latin America's monumental writer. An Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and a key figure in Spanish language literature, his work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature". His best-known works are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, philosophy, and religion.

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Collected Fictions
These enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges' talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect compendium for all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the master's work for those who have yet to discover this singular genius.
View all Borges books available at the Library

Ebooks and audiobooks available through Hoopla - no waitlists
View all Borges books available

Featured Children's Books

For Teens

Book Cover for City of BeastsCity of Beasts, by Isabel Allende
City of the Beasts is the first book in an extraordinary trilogy by Isabel Allende, one of the world's most acclaimed authors. When Alexander Cold's mother falls ill, the fifteen-year-old is sent to stay with his eccentric grandmother in New York. A tough and prickly magazine reporter, Kate Cold takes Alex along with her on an expedition to the Amazon to verify the existence of the fierce, gigantic, legendary creature known as the Beast. Joining them on their adventure are a celebrated anthropologist; a local guide and his daughter, Nadia; a doctor; and a local entrepreneur. But not everyone's intentions are pure-and dangerous discoveries await Alex and Nadia as they embark, with the aid of a jungle shaman, on an epic journey into the realm of the mythical Beasts of the Amazon. 

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City of Beasts  (regular print)
City of Beasts  (large print)

Available through Hoopla:
City of Beasts (Book 1)
➤ Forest Of The Pygmies (Book 2)

For Younger Kids

Is Your Mama a Llama book coverIs Your Mama a Llama? by Deborah Guarino; pictures by Steven Kellogg.
Lloyd the Llama discovers what kind of animal his mama really is in this delightful guessing game picture book, filled with whimsical riddles and endearing illustrations. Rhyming questions and answers will charm and amuse children.

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Is Your Mama a Llama? Picture book 
View OCPL Toddler Time online featuring Is Your Mama a Llama?

Audiobooks available on Hoopla:
Is Your Mama a Llama? audiobook (English language)
Is Your Mama a Llama? audiobook  (Spanish language)

Love and Roast Chicken Book CoverLove and Roast Chicken: a trickster tale from the Andes Mountains by Barbara Knutson.
One day, high in the Andes Mountains, Cuy the Guinea Pig is searching for wild spinach to eat when Tío Antonio the Fox comes in search of Cuy to eat! Tío Antonio thinks he's found dinner, but crafty Cuy has other plans. Quick-witted Cuy fools Tío Antonio not once, but three times. Combining striking wood block artwork with an authentic South American voice, this sly trickster tale shows that clever thinking is key when you're out-foxing the fox. 

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Love and Roast Chicken Picture Book
View OCPL Story Time online featuring Love and Roast Chicken

E-book available through WVDeli:
Love and Roast Chicken e-book

E-books immediately with no waitlist through Hoopla!
Love and Roast Chicken e-book (English language)
Love and Roast Chicken e-book (Spanish language)

The Great Kapok Tree Book CoverThe Great Kapok Tree: a tale of the Amazon rain forest, by Lynne Cherry
Exhausted from his labors, a man chopping down a great kapok tree in the Brazilian rain forest puts down his ax, and, as he sleeps, the animals who live in the tree plead with him not to destroy their world.

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The Great Kapok Tree Picture Book 
➤ View OCPL Summer Reading Special Online Activity featuring The Great Kapok Tree

Have you read some great world literature you'd like to share?

Tell us what you've been reading in the comments below!

And don't forget to join our online Summer Reading Challenge, "Reading Takes You Places." Each minute you read between now and August 15th will count as one mile. We'll be keeping track of countries visited in books and miles (in minutes) read through an online platform. Want to participate? Starting June 15, 2020 sign up online at or download the READsquared app at the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store. Find even more suggested books in the Adult Summer Reading Book List in READSquared. Let us know where you've traveled and how far this summer through books!


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