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Valdes-Rodriguez, Alisa 1969–

Valdes-Rodriguez, Alisa 1969–

PERSONAL: Born 1969, in Albuquerque, NM; daughter of Nelson P. Valdes (a sociologist) and Maxine Conant (a poet); husband's name Patrick (divorced); children: Alexander. Education: Berklee College of Music, graduated, c. 1993; Columbia University, M.A., 1994. Hobbies and other interests: Playing tenor sax.

ADDRESSES: HomeNew Mexico. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Writer, journalist, public speaker, and novelist. Boston Globe, Boston, MA, reporter, c. 1994–98; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, reporter, 1998–2001; Albuquerque Tribune, Albuquerque, NM, features editor, 2001–. Frequent public speaker on college campuses nationwide. Chica Lit Club Fiesta (a writers conference), founder.

AWARDS, HONORS: Pulitzer Prize nomination; feature writing award, American Society of Sunday Newspaper Editors; Woman of the Year distinction, Latina magazine; 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the Nation distinction, Hispanic Business; 25 Most Influential Hispanics in America distinction, Time.

WRITINGS:

The Dirty Girls Social Club, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2003.

Playing with Boys, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2004.

Haters, Little, Brown (New York, NY), 2006.

Make Him Look Good, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Contributor to newspapers.

ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to The Dirty Girls Social Club were optioned by Jennifer Lopez/Columbia Pictures.

SIDELIGHTS: Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez's debut novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club, captivated many reviewers and readers when it was released in 2003, and the film rights were quickly optioned by Columbia Pictures. The novel follows the lives of six Latino friends, now in their late twenties, who met while students at Boston University. The six "sucias," or "dirty girls," each have unique lives and problems: Spanish-Amerindian Rebecca, the founder and editor of a Latin women's magazine, is grappling with a failing marriage to a Marxist academic; Puerto Rican material girl Usnavys is an ambitious executive at United Way; Mexican-American Amber is a struggling musician; Colombian-born Elizabeth hosts a Boston morning TV show and has become a born-again Christian; half-Cuban Lauren is a feisty newspaper columnist; and Sara, from a wealthy Jewish-Cuban family, is a stay-at-home mom dealing with an abusive husband. At their bi-annual gathering in Boston, the women unite to discuss their quandaries and their triumphs, and amid the camaraderie some hidden tensions emerge. As Valdez-Rodriquez told Carina Chocano in Entertainment Weekly: "If somebody asked me what my message is, I would say that it's that Latinos are as diverse as the world."

Noting that Valdes-Rodriguez tells her novel in "six distinct voices and points of view," Shelley Mosley praised The Dirty Girls Social Club in the Library Journal as "a universal friendship book, crossing cultural lines as the characters advise, comfort, and support each other." Citing the book as an "engaging novel" featuring "fast-paced dialogue and a pop-culture sensibility," Book contributor Mikita Brottman added that Valdes-Rodriguez's "heroines transcend stereotypes."

Valdez-Rodriguez' second novel, Playing with Boys, was published in the fall of 2004, and focuses on the lives of three L.A.-based Latina entertainment professionals. High-powered talent agent Alexis Lopez works to bring her Mexican-American clients, a band named Los Chimpances del Norte, into entertainment prominence. She also cultivates other new acts and talents. Marcella Gauthier Bosch is a temperamental actress looking for a serious, Latina-focused movie script that will let her break out of stereotypes and her own reputation as a Spanish soap opera star. Olivia Reyes, a frumpy homemaker, mother, and screenwriter, is still recovering from trauma experienced when her father was shot by Salvadoran soldiers. She has just such a script available, a deeply autobiographical piece, which Alexis encourages her to submit to the studios with the idea that Marcella would be perfect in the role of Olivia's mother. Other characters, such as Olivia's unfaithful husband, Marcella's goth boyfriend, and Alexis's middle-aged white wanna-be-a-gangsta boyfriend, complicate matters for all three main characters. Within the humor, however, some more serious themes arise, including exile, sexual abuse, absent fathers, and infidelity. "It all sounds incongruous, but the unexpected elements add welcome heft," observed Moira Bailey in People. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called the book a "funny, guilty pleasure of a novel" and a "funny, heartfelt piece of escapism, Latina-style."

Pasquala "Paski" de Archuleta, the sixteen-year-old protagonist of Haters, experiences social and cultural turmoil when her father moves from New Mexico to a new town in Orange County, California. There, she finds herself attending a new, affluent high school. Trying to make her way through the maze of high school like a normal girl, Paski finds herself attracted to a handsome rich boy, but realizes that he is already claimed by the spiteful queen of the social hierarchy, a Vietnamese model and motocross champion with a retinue of ill-tempered flunkies out to make Paski miserable. To cope, she rides her bicycle like it was a thing alive, performing complex acrobatics and stunts with ease. She also has to struggle against the psychic gifts she inherited from her grandmother and that often leave her with unwanted visions of the future. "This is chick-lit for high school girls, or more accurately, chica-lit. The names may be Hispanic, but the themes are familiar," observed Myrna Marler in Kliatt.

Make Him Look Good revolves around handsome and sexy Latin American singer Ricky Biscayne, whose vida loca is patterned after a real-life pop star, and a group of six women who have all been affected by his actions and inactions. Milan, a young woman in her twenties, is president of Biscayne's fan club and, through luck, manages to get a job as his publicist. Enamored Milan will do anything she can to please Biscayne, while her sister, Geneva, wants to protect the investment that he has made in an upscale club she is opening. Ricky's wife, Croatian fashion model Jasmimka, desperately yearns for her husband's undivided attention and wants to have his baby. Meanwhile, Biscayne is carrying on a tumultuous affair with another Latin star, singer Jill Sanchez. In the background are Irene, a firefighter and single mother who was abandoned by Biscayne in high school, and Irene's daughter Sophia, who finally figures out who her long-lost father must be. When Milan sees how badly he treats Sophia, she finally recognizes that her infatuation and star-worship had blinded her to the miserable creature Biscayne actually is. She schemes with the other women to use her publicist's talents to give the arrogant, philandering, thoroughly despicable Biscayne his well-deserved comeuppance, in public, where he cannot avoid the consequences of his behavior. Nancy Crowder Chaplin, writing in Kliatt, called the book "funny, irreverent, highly entertaining, and fast-paced," while a Kirkus Reviews critic found it an "entertaining if conventionally plotted crowd-pleaser." Valdez-Rodriquez "delivers the raunchy packed-with-attitude tale that her fans expect," commented Booklist reviewer Aleksandra Kostovski.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Book, May-June, 2003, Mikita Brottman, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 82.

Booklist, April 1, 2003, Meredith Parets, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 1381; April 1, 2006, Aleksandra Kostovski, review of Make Him Look Good, p. 22.

Entertainment Weekly, May 16, 2003, Carina Chocano, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 42; September 3, 2004, "Chick Lit 101: Sisters Are Do-ing It for Themselves," review of Playing with Boys, p. 79; April 21, 2006, Clarissa Cruz, review of Make Him Look Good, p. 873.

Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 346; August 1, 2004, review of Playing with Boys, p. 713; March 1, 2006, review of Make Him Look Good, p. 207.

Kliatt, September, 2006, Myrna Marler, review of Haters, p. 18, and Nancy Crowder Chaplin, audiobook review of Make Him Look Good, p. 59.

Library Journal, April 1, 2003, Shelley Mosley, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 132; August, 2004, Shelley Mosley, review of Playing with Boys, p. 70; April 1, 2006, Shelly Mosley, review of Make Him Look Good, p. 88.

People, September 20, 2004, Moira Bailey, review of Playing with Boys, p. 64.

Publishers Weekly, April 14, 2003, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 49; May 12, 2003, Daisy Maryles, review of The Dirty Girls Social Club, p. 20; August 30, 2004, review of Playing with Boys, p. 31; March 13, 2005, review of Make Him Look Good, p. 41.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 7, 2006, "Celebrity Dish & 'Chica Lit,'" profile of Alisa Valdes-Rodriquez.

ONLINE

Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez Web site, http://www.alisavaldesrodriguez.com (November 12, 2006).

BookPage.com, http://www.bookpage.com/ (November 12, 2006), review of The Dirty Girls Social Club.

Teen Book Review, http://teenbookreviewer.blogspot.com/ (November 12, 2006), review of Haters.

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