Standalone Novels In Publication Order
- Carry Me Like Water (1995)
- The House of Forgetting (1997)
- In Perfect Light (2005)
- Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood (2006)
- Names on a Map (2008)
- He Forgot to Say Goodbye (2008)
- Last Night I Sang to the Monster (2009)
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012)
- The Inexplicable Logic of My Life (2017)
Poetry Collections In Publication Order
- Calendar of Dust (1991)
- Flowers for the Broken (1992)
- Dark and Perfect Angels (1995)
- Elegies in Blue (2002)
- Dreaming the End of War (2006)
- The Book of What Remains (2010)
- Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club (2012)
- The Last Cigarette on Earth (2017)
Picture Books In Publication Order
- A Gift from Papá Diego (1988)
- A Perfect Season for Dreaming / Un tiempo perfecto para soñar (2008)
- The Dog Who Loved Tortillas (2009)
- The Story of Me (2019)
Non-Fiction Books In Publication Order
- Finding Your Literary Voice (1999)
Aristotle and Dante Books In Publication Order
- Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe (2012)
- Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World (2021)
Standalone Novels Book Covers
Poetry Collections Book Covers
Picture Book Covers
Non-Fiction Book Covers
Aristotle and Dante Book Covers
Benjamin Alire Saenz Books Overview
This immensely moving novel confronts divisions of race, gender, and class, fusing together the stories of people who come to recognize one another from former lives they didn’t know existed or that they tried to forget. Diego, a deaf mute, is barely surviving on the border in El Paso, Texas. Diego’s sister, Helen, who lives with her husband in the posh suburbs of San Francisco, long ago abandoned both her brother and her El Paso roots. Helen’s best friend, Lizzie, a nurse in an AIDS ward, begins to uncover her own buried past after a mystical encounter with a patient. With Carry Me Like Water, Benjamin Alire S enz unfolds a beautiful story about hope and forgiveness, unexpected reunions, an expanded definition of family, and, ultimately, what happens when the disparate worlds of pain and privilege collide.
At seven, Gloria Santos accepts a ride with a charming stranger and loses the only world she has ever known. Abducted and kept hidden by a respected academic for twenty long years, Gloria is raised in the shadow of her captor’s dark, disturbed mind. She enters womanhood believing that life demands servitude, love means obsession, and fear is all encompassing. Driven to violence to free herself, Gloria is caught between a world she hates and one she does not know. Now she must find the strength to bury her twisted past or risk losing her newfound freedom forever…
From award winning poet Benjamin Alire S enz comes In Perfect Light, a haunting novel depicting the cruelties of cultural displacement and the resilience of those who are left in its aftermath.
In Perfect Light is the story of two strong willed people who are forever altered by a single tragedy. After And’s Segovia’s parents are killed in a car accident when he is still a young boy, his older brother decides to steal the family away to Ju rez, Mexico. That decision, made with the best intentions, sets into motion the unraveling of an American family.
Years later, his family destroyed, And s is left to make sense of the chaos but he is ill equipped to make sense of his life. He begins a dark journey toward self destruction, his talent and brilliance brought down by the weight of a burden too frightening and maddening to bear alone. The manifestation of this frustration is a singular rage that finds an outlet in a dark and seedy El Paso bar leading him improbably to Grace Delgado.
Recently confronted with her own sense of isolation and mortality, Grace is an unlikely angel, a therapist who agrees to treat And s after he is arrested in the United States. The two are suspicious of each other, yet they slowly arrive at a tentative working relationship that allows each of them to examine his and her own fragile and damaged past. And s begins to confront what lies behind his own violence, and Grace begins to understand how she has contributed to her own self exile and isolation. What begins as an intriguing favor to a friend becomes Grace’s lifeline even as secrets surrounding the death of And s’ parents threaten to strain the connection irreparably.
With the urgent, unflinching vision of a true storyteller and the precise, arresting language of a poet, S enz’s In Perfect Light bears witness to the cruelty of circumstance and, more than offering escape, the novel offers the possibility of salvation.
The ‘Hollywood’ where Sammy Santos and Juliana R os live is not the West Coast one, the one with all the glitz and glitter. This Hollywood is a tough barrio at the edge of a small town in southern New Mexico. Sammy and his friends, members of the 1969 high school graduating class, face a world of racism, dress codes, war in Vietnam and barrio violence. In the summer before his senior year begins, Sammy falls in love with Juliana, a girl whose tough veneer disguises a world of hurt. By summer’s end, Juliana is dead. Sammy grieves; the memory of Juliana becomes his guide through the difficult year ahead. Sammy is a smart kid, but he’s angry. He’s angry about Juliana’s death, he’s angry about the poverty his father and his sister must endure, he’s angry at his high school and its thinly disguised gringo racism, and he’s angry he might not be able to go to college. Benjamin Alire S enz, evoking the bittersweet ambience found in such novels as McMurtry’s The Last Picture Show, captures the essence of what it meant to grow up Chicano in small town America in the late 1960s.
The Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is like so many others in America in 1967, trying to make sense of a rapidly escalating war they feel does not concern them. But when the eldest son, Gustavo, a complex and errant rebel, receives a certified letter ordering him to report to basic training, he chooses to flee instead to Mexico. Retreating back to the land of his grandfather a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have catastrophic consequences on the fragile bonds holding the family together.
Told with raw power and searing bluntness, and filled with important themes as immediate as today’s headlines, Names on a Map is arguably the most important work to date of a major American literary artist.
‘I mean, it’s not as if I want a father. I have a father. It’s just that I don’t know who he is or where he is. But I have one.’
Ramiro Lopez and Jake Upthegrove don’t appear to have much in common. Ram lives in the Mexican American working class barrio of El Paso called ‘Dizzy Land.’ His brother is sinking into a world of drugs, wreaking havoc in their household. Jake is a rich West Side white boy who has developed a problem managing his anger. An only child, he is a misfit in his mother’s shallow and materialistic world. But Ram and Jake do have one thing in common: They are lost boys who have never met their fathers. This sad fact has left both of them undeniably scarred and obsessed with the men who abandoned them. As Jake and Ram overcome their suspicions of each other, they begin to move away from their loner existences and realize that they are capable of reaching out beyond their wounds and the neighborhoods that they grew up in. Their friendship becomes a healing in a world of hurt.
San Antonio Express News wrote, ‘Benjamin Alire S enz exquisitely captures the mood and voice of a community, a culture, and a generation’; that is proven again in this beautifully crafted novel.
‘ There is never a question of either S enz’s own extraordinary capacity for caring and compassion or the authenticity of the experiences he records in this heartfelt account of healing and hope.’ Booklist
Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He’s also an alcoholic and in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He’s not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive well, what’s up with that?
I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser.
It’s all like a game to him. Him. God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently he doesn’t like me very much either.
Benjamin Alire S
a new collection of stories by this Chicano writer
poems by author of CARRY ME LIKE WATER, et al
Benjamin Saenz writes, In the desert, we live in a desert of translation. That is exactly what he sets out to do, in this, his third book of poems translate experience into words. He writes of history and learning and death. He writes of loss and knowledge and the difficulties of coming to terms with the harsh and untamable landscape of the border. Ultimately, his elegies are stones that praise the lives of those who have given him words.
This gripping suite of twelve dreams, infused with the conflict along the border of Mexico and the United States, traces humanity’s addiction to violence and killing from boys stepping on ants to men shooting animals, men shooting women, men shooting enemies. The Dreams begin in a desert landscape where poverty and wealth grate against each other, and the ever present war becomes ‘as invisible as the desert sands we trample on.’ The dreams, however, move toward a greater peace with S enz providing an unforgettable reading experience.
From ‘The Fourth Dream: Families and Flags and Revenge’:
I don’t believe a flag
enough to kiss
or even burn.
Some men would hate me
enough to kill me
if they read these words.
‘Rage,’ S enz said in an interview, ‘must be a component of any writer’s life. But this rage must also be contained otherwise our very bodies will become chaos our minds will become chaos. We need order.’ S enz finds that order in poems, transforming his rage into something ‘more beautiful and gracious and forgiving.’
Poet and novelist Benjamin S enz has written 10 books of poetry and prose, most recently In Perfect Light HarperCollins. He was a Catholic priest, doing missionary and charity work in London, Tanzania, and the barrio parishes of El Paso, Texas. Upon leaving the priesthood, he was awarded a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. He teaches in the MFA program at University of Texas, El Paso.
To write well about your life, you need to have a life worth writing about. On that score, S enz hits pay dirt. Booklist A former Catholic priest, this poet creates prayerful verse that is at once mystical and utterly human. The Washington Post Poet, novelist, and popular YA writer Benjamin Alire S enz writes to the core truth of life’s ever shifting memories. Set along the Mexican border, the contrast between the desert s austere beauty and the brutality of border politics mirrors humanity s capacity for both generosity and cruelty. In his numbered series Meditation on Living in the Desert, S enz turns to memory, heritage, and a host of literary progenitors as he directly confronts matters of faith, civil rights, and contemporary politics always with the unrelenting moral urge to speak truth and do something. I am looking at a book of photographs. The photographs document the exodus of Mexicans crossing the desert.I am staring at the face of a woman who is more a girl than a woman. She is handing her documents to a government official. I know and you know and we all know that the documents are forged. The official is not in the photograph. Only the frightened eyes of a girl. A former Catholic priest who worked with Mother Teresa, Benjamin Alire S enz has published five books of poetry, four novels, a collection of short stories, and two bilingual children s books. He received the American Book Award and teaches in the bilingual MFA program at University of Texas, El Paso.
Sensitively told and true to the experience of many Mexican Americans, this bilingual picture book bridges the borders that separate all families who must live far apart from their loved ones. Booklist’…
accompanied by innovative illustrations, originally modeled with clay. Reminiscent of Mexican folk art, they fit the story especially well, conveying its warmth and poignancy.’ Kirkus Reviews’A tender love story of a book…
a kiss on the forehead at bedtime!’ Naomi Shihab Nye’A stylist in both poetry and prose, S enz has now taken his magic of flight to younger readers. This is his gift to them. Parents, snuggle up to your children at night and read this delightful tale of Dieguito.’ Gary Soto’La traducc on al espa ol es buena y el dise o del libro es atractivo.’ People en Espa ol’The tender story in A Gift From Pap Diego / Un regalo de Pap Diego by Benjamin Alire Saenz is sprinkled with Spanish expressions throughout the English version, adding to the flavor of this bilingual tale. A glossary of the terms used is provided at the end of the book. In addition, a complete Spanish text is printed on each half page. Illustrations of wonderful clay figures painted with bright colors highlight the narrative and provide an attractive graphic border. This paperback original is a debut into the world of children’s books for Mr. Saenz, and he has succeeded in writing a poignant read aloud book for young children at once entertaining and comforting.’ Barbara Bonds ThomasBenjamin Alire S enz was born in his grandmother’s house in Picacho, New Mexico a farming village 40 miles north of the border between Mexico and the United States. Ben s parents spoke mostly Spanish at home and his grandparents spoke only Spanish, so Ben learned much of his English from his brothers and sisters, his friends, and by watching cartoons on television. When he was a little boy, he was a passionate reader of comic books Superman, Spiderman, Batman, and all the rest of the Super Heros. Ben thought it was cool that Superman could fly. Growing up, Ben discovered that he liked to write. He liked to draw and paint, too.
This is a bilingual book for kids and dogs and even their parents. Like all kids, Little Diego and his big sister Gabriela argue over their new dog Sofie. She belongs to me, says Diego. No, she’s mine, says Gabriela. It s only when Sofie gets really sick that they find out who their tortilla loving pup really belongs to. Once again, Benjamin Alire S enz shows he understands the chemistry and dynamics of family, this time with a dog stirring up the recipe. The illustrations for The Dog Who Loved Tortillas are by Geronimo Garcia, who created the characters of Little Diego and Gabriela first introduced in S enz s early best selling title A Gift from Pap Diego sixty thousand copies in print. Benjamin Alire S enz received three starred Publishers Weekly reviews in 2008 one for his young adult novel He Forgot to Say Goodbye Simon & Schuster and two for his illustrated book A Perfect Season for Dreaming Cinco Puntos Press. Long at the forefront of the emerging Latino literature in the United States, he has received both the Wallace Stegner and Lannan fellowships, and he is a recipient of the American Book Award. His young adult novel Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood was named one of the Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2005. Saenz lives in El Paso, Texas. Geronimo Garcia is a highly successful and internationally recognized graphic designer. He lives in El Paso, Texas.
Benjamin Alire Saenz examines the importance of language and who you are as a person to the voice you choose as a writer. ‘Assume people don’t care; make them care with language,’ he says. Topics include how to aim for the emotional truth, use specific language, analyze and select your words, and achieve mystery, clarity, and immediacy.