Join Word Up for a celebration of the release of Carmen and Grace: A Novel (out 4/4/23) by Melissa Coss Aquino, a Bronx native! In conversation with Melissa will be fellow Boricua writer Elisabet Velasquez, author of When We Make It.
"In a world fraught with violence, Melissa Coss Aquino brilliantly delivers a heartwarming, loving novel with characters you are inspired to ride or die with. . . . If you love reading novels about creative, ambitious, and relentless women who are committed to community and making a way out of no way, read this book!" — ANGIE CRUZ, author of How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water and Dominicana
This event is a $5 suggested donation ticket with 50 max attendees. Please register in advance.
In compliance with Word Up Community Safety guidelines, all attendees for this event must remain masked at all times.
Recirculation, a project of Word Up Community Bookshop, is located at 876 Riverside Drive (near 160th St.) in Washington Heights, NYC. You can take the 1 train to 157th St., A/C train to 163rd St., and the M4 and M5 to Broadway and 159/160th.
An emotionally riveting coming-of-age drama about two cousins lured into the underground drug trade at a young age and the inextricable ties that bind them, as one woman seeks power and the other seeks a way out—the debut of a vibrant and stunningly original new voice in fiction.
Carmen and Grace have been inseparable since they were little girls—more like sisters than cousins, survivors of a childhood marked by neglect and addiction and a system that never valued them. For too long, all they had was each other. That is, until Doña Durka swept into their lives and changed everything, taking Grace into her home, providing stability and support, and playing an outsize role in Carmen’s upbringing too.
Durka is more than a beneficent force in their Bronx neighborhood, though. She’s also the leader of an underground drug empire, a larger-than-life matriarch who understands the vital importance of taking what power she can in a world too often ruled by violent men. So, when Durka dies suddenly under mysterious circumstances, Carmen and Grace’s lives are thrown into chaos. Grace has been primed to take over and has grand plans to expand the business. While Carmen is ready to move on—from the shadow of Durka and her high expectations and, most of all, from always looking over her shoulder in fear. She’s also harboring a secret: she’s pregnant and starting to show, and desperate to build a new life before the baby arrives.
But how can Carmen leave the only family she’s ever known—this tight sisterhood of women known as the D. O. D., a group of lost girls turned skilled professionals under Durka’s guiding hand, all bonded in their spirituality and merciless support for one another—especially now, when outside threats are circling, and Grace’s plans are speeding recklessly forward?
As tough and tender as its main characters, Carmen and Grace will grab readers from the first page with its raw beauty, depth of feeling, and heart-pounding plot. A moving meditation on the choices of women and the legacy of violence, it’s a devastatingly wise and intimate story about the bonds of female friendship, ambition, and found family.
Melissa Coss Aquino is a Puerto Rican writer from The Bronx. She received her MFA from The City College of New York, CUNY, and her Ph.D. from The Graduate Center, CUNY in English. She currently works as an Associate Professor in the English department at Bronx Community College, CUNY. She is a proud IWWG, VONA, AROHO and Hedgebrook alumna.
Elisabet Velasquez is a Boricua writer born in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Her work is featured in Muzzle Magazine, Winter Tangerine, Centro Voces, Latina Magazine, Longreads, We Are Mitú, Tidal, and Martín Espada’s anthology https://www.wordupbooks.com/book/9780810140776What Saves Us: Poems of Empathy and Outrage in the Age of Trump. When We Make It is her debut novel. Elisabet lives in Jersey City, New Jersey.
MASKING POLICY: All attendees ages 2 and older must wear a mask at all times when indoors at the store and during events at Word Up and Recirculation.
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ACCESSIBILITY: Recirculation is a wheelchair-accessible space with one ramp from the street level down to the store. Most of the shelves are on wheels and can be moved to provide additional access. The bathrooms are not yet ADA compliant and do not yet have a changing table but are gender neutral. The events are mic’d for sound and videos are captioned when possible. Free ASL interpretation is available for most programs upon request. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to request interpretation as early as possible. If you have specific questions about the space or how an event can be made more accessible to you, please do not hesitate to contact us at email@example.com.