Dec 10th 2020

Join Marisel Vera and Alyssa Vera Ramos for a discussion of Marisel Vera’s The Taste of Sugar.

This event will be streamed via YouTube Live on the Pilsen Community Books YouTube Channel. Register for free here for a link to view the event to be sent to you the day of the event.

It is 1898, and groups of starving Puerto Ricans, los hambrientos, roam the parched countryside and dusty towns begging for food. Under the yoke of Spanish oppression, the Caribbean island is forced to prepare to wage war with the United States. Up in the mountainous coffee region of Utuado, Vicente Vega and Valentina Sanchez labor to keep their small farm from the creditors. When the Spanish-American War and the great San Ciriaco Hurricane of 1899 bring devastating upheaval, the young couple is lured, along with thousands of other puertorriqueños, to the sugar plantations of Hawaii—another US territory—where they are confronted by the hollowness of America’s promises of prosperity. Writing in the tradition of great Latin American storytelling, Marisel Vera’s The Taste of Sugar is an unforgettable novel of love and endurance, and a timeless portrait of the reasons we leave home.

This event is free to the public, but we encourage you to support both the author and Pilsen Community Books by purchasing The Taste of Sugar here. Your support makes excellent free programming like this possible!

Marisel Vera is a Chicago writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. Through her work, Vera explores the particular burdens that Puerto Ricans, on the island and in the diaspora, carry as colonial subjects of the most powerful country in the world. Her latest novel, The Taste of Sugar (Liveright Publishing, June 2020), is a tale of love and endurance on the eve of the Spanish-American War, told through two Puerto Rican families. Vera is also the author of If I Bring You Roses (Grand Central), a story about a Puerto Rican couple who move to the United States during 1950s’ Operation Bootstrap to chase the American Dream in Chicago’s factories. Vera is currently at work on a novel about four Puerto Rican girls growing up in 1970’s Chicago, The Girls from Humboldt Park (working title).

Alyssa Vera Ramos is a theatre maker, space holder, director, and culture worker dedicated to dreaming a liberated world– and practicing living into that world every chance we get. Over the past decade, she has directed, devised, and co-written many plays (and workshops!) for many audiences throughout Chicago, with tours to Austin, New Orleans, and more. Alyssa is the Artistic Director of For Youth Inquiry (FYI) Performance Company, housed at Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and creating original, participatory theatre experiences to support the sexual health, rights, and identities of young people. She is also a founding member of femmes of color artistic collective, FEMelanin (documented in Ensemble-Made Chicago and featured at the LTC Sin Fronteras TYA Festival) and an organizer of Swarm Artist Residency, where she focuses on curating healing and racial justice experiences for Midwestern-based artists.

Upcoming work includes an epic play, created with playwright Marisel Vera, You Can’t Cover the Sky With Your Hands, threaded with ancestral memory, satire, and bomba (our traditional, Afro-Boricua “music of resistance”). You Can’t Cover the Sky With Your Hands charts the history of sterilization–forced and without consent, birth control trials, and other reproductive oppression by the State (U.S. and Puerto Rico) that Puerto Rican women – nuestras antepasadas.

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