This post marks my latest and only third review for TLC Book Tours. Obviously, “The Sky’s the Limit” (truly) with these tours as I have read and posted about non-fiction (Unbound) and short fiction (All the News I Need).
Today’s featured book is a bit different from my previous reads.
Concepción and the Baby Brokers
From the publisher:
In nine interconnected stories set largely in Guatemala, Concepción and The Baby Brokers brings to life characters struggling with familiar emotions and dilemmas in a place unfamiliar to most Americans. From the close-knit community of Todos Santos to the teeming dangerous capital city, to a meat-packing plant in Michigan and the gardens of Washington DC, Deborah Clearman shows us the human cost of international adoption, drug trafficking, and immigration.
A Cup of Tears, the opening novella, reveals a third-world baby farm, seen through the eyes of a desperate wet nurse, a baby broker, and an American adoptive mother. In “The Race” a young man returns to his native village to ride in a disastrous horse race. “English Lessons” tells of a Guatemalan immigrant in Washington DC who learns more than English from a public library volunteer. A teenage girl tries to trap her professor into marriage in “Saints and Sinners.”
With searing humanity, Clearman exposes the consequences of American exceptionalism, and the daily magic and peril that inform and shape ordinary lives.
What I Thought:
Concepcion and the Baby Brokers weaves together stories from all aspects of Guatemalan society. It reminded me a bit of a Barbara Kingsolver novel, perhaps because of the Latin American angle. Clearman’s voice is clear and simple (again like Kingsolver’s). She describes her characters in regard to their life experiences with little elaboration on the motivation. (Most of the motivation in this novella and short stories involve simply surviving or striving for a simple happiness.) I could feel empathy for her characters and I could understand their decisions and rationale in a society that is difficult for some of us in the States to understand.
I enjoyed this compilation, all connected yet separate stories.
My Culinary Inspiration:
I wanted to make something indigenous to Guatemala and after a quick search for authentic recipes, I landed on Guatemalan Quesadillas (Sweet Cakes).
Guatemalan Quesadillas (Sweet Cakes)
Unlike the cheesy goodness slapped between two tortillas (a la a Mexican quesadilla), this Guatemalan dish is like a rich buttery muffin. The original recipe, an heirloom Gourmet one, can be found here .
- 3/4 c. rice flour
- 1 t. baking powder
- 1/4 t. salt
- 7 T. unsalted butter, softened
- 2/3 c. sugar
- 3 large eggs
- 1/2 c. farmer cheese, at room temperature*
- Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle. Line muffin cups.
- Whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl.
- Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. Beat in eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, then beat in cheese. Mix in flour mixture at low speed until just combined.
- Divide among nine muffin cups (a slightly rounded 1/4-cup batter each). Bake until pale golden and a wooden pick inserted in center of a cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool cakes in pans on a rack 15 minutes, then turn out onto rack and cool to warm.
*If you don’t have farmers cheese, you can drain cottage cheese as a substitute or use ricotta (which is what I did).
These little cakes are a sweet reminder that life does not have to be as dark as depicted in Concepcion.
Aside: For another level of sweetness, these little cakes are wonderful with strawberries on top.
I am also linking up with April’s Foodie Reads…