When I picked up The Lost Book of Adana Moreau, I was not expecting a book featuring Hurricane Katrina and various Latin American dictatorships to be so optimistic and uplifting.
Chicago literary fixture Michael Zapata‘s debut novel had me enraptured in the first sentence. Instead of the “poverty porn” lens popular in U.S. historical storytelling, Zapata’s characters balance righteous anger with pragmatic optimism and informed action, spilling from their mouths in poetic, oral-storytelling style that make the prose sing. Zapata builds entire scenes, characters, and conflicts in single sentences; he weaves together multiple immigrant literary traditions to grapple with diaspora and survivor’s guilt in an empowering, forward-looking way. Grounding the philosophical and spiritual meanderings are very concrete journeys across Chicago on the 72 bus to the Golden Nugget on Western and Diversey, to the streets of Buenos Aires and Quito, to the trenches of Palestine, to surreal flights across the Atlantic, to natural landscapes that seem to have a voice of their own. I was so immersed that I’d lose track of time while reading, and by the time I got to interview Zapata, I was starstruck.