Just a couple more days before the “30 days and nights of literary abandon” :)
I’m in. Who’s with me?
Victoria Torres is an Argentine American woman who still lives at home. A slightly over-weight college drop out, Victoria works at her father’s restaurant – a gathering place for the Argentine community in Burbank, California. Lacking direction in life and self esteem, she’s shocked when a fellow Argentine American boy she grew up with comes back to town and takes an interest in her. Eric is handsome, successful and they share a common history, but what is he doing back in town, will he stay, and what does he see in Victoria that she can’t see in herself?
Evenings at the Argentine Club by Julia Amante brings something unique to a genre saturated with stories of Mexicans and Cubans, (not that I don’t enjoy those stories as well!) The first few chapters were a little slow going, but it soon becomes an unpredictable page turner as one becomes emotionally invested in Victoria and Eric’s turbulent but passionate courtship. (Some scenes are borderline Romance novel material but she pulls it off leaving the reader wanting more.)
The story of Victoria and Eric’s budding romance is contrasted by the crumbling marriage of Victoria’s parents, Victor and Jacqueline. Amante is successful at weaving the two together and demonstrates a superb ability of being able to get into each character’s heart and show us what they’re feeling – from a stubborn, overly macho father and husband, to his lonely heart-broken wife who struggles with his infidelities, empty nest syndrome, and her stifled dreams.
I found myself identifying equally with young, insecure Victoria as she falls in love as well as her wise mother Jacqueline who mourns her grown children and is frequently a victim of nostalgia and loneliness. Emotions are so well described in this book that I will admit to shedding a few tears.
This is a really beautiful story that touches on many common themes such as sacrifice, marriage, love, confidence, family, and independence. But what I found most interesting in Evenings at the Argentine Club were the more unique thoughts on how different people define success, and how immigrant families with American-born children can achieve the American Dream while still remembering who they are.
Non-Spanish speakers will appreciate that Amante uses Spanish words judiciously throughout and always in a context that is easily understood, making Evenings at the Argentine Club accessible to everyone.
The motto of Zumba creator, Beto Perez, is “Ditch the workout. Join the party!” and that is exactly what Zumba feels like.
I am an avid hater of exercise, especially aerobics classes. (I am forever traumatized by the Jazzercise my Mom made me take as a child.)
Zumba is like nothing I’ve tried before. It’s fun, contagious and addictive. I never thought I would look forward to exercise until I took Zumba classes and this kind of enthusiasm is incredibly common amongst other “converts” to the Latin dance craze.
One thing I loved about Zumba was that the instructors are trained to let everyone take things at their own pace. My class was a mix of young sorority girls, stay-at-home-moms, business women, and women old enough to be my grandmother – not to mention we were all different shapes and sizes and at all different levels of fitness. One woman had a professional background in dance, one claimed to have no sense of rhythm, another hadn’t exercised in years. None of this mattered. Everyone put into it what they were able to and at the end of the hour long class, every single one of us were hooked.
As for the book itself, it’s a great introduction to what Zumba is for those who are not familiar. A short DVD is included which gives brief instruction on a few of the moves and has samples of a few songs on it as well.
The book contains the life story of Beto Perez, which is inspiring, as well as information on Zumba itself and a meal plan with a few recipes if you’re interested. The meal plan is not the secret crash diet you’ve come to expect from fitness books, but is a very well rounded, sensible diet of whole grains, lean meats, fruits, vegetables, etc. (Basically common sense eating but it may be helpful to have every meal written out for some people.)
If you’re looking to get in shape, or just have some fun, I highly recommend Zumba.