Engel is currently taking a break from teaching creative writing at the University of Miami while she is on tour for her first novel, It's Not Love, It's Just Paris. The book is the story of Lita, a young Colombian woman, and the adventures she encounters during her year abroad. In 2010, Engel received acclaim for Vida, a collection of nine linked short stories. It was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, and Engel was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award and winner of a Florida Book Award. She will be a featured author at the Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Oct. 26 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.
What books are on your nightstand?
There are at least 20 books on my nightstand at any given time, but the five that are on rotation are Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby, Tropical Animal by Pedro Juan Gutierrez, Everyone Leaves by Wendy Guerra, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, and Algerian Chronicles by Albert Camus.
Do you recommend them all?
Yes. I'm always seeking out international literature and am very excited by good translations. I'm also a devoted fan of Camus and think everyone should read his journals and essays. The Kirby book is a revelation and shines a harsh light on our animal prisons that should not be ignored.
You and Edwidge Danticat will both appear at our festival and are both successful authors residing in Miami. Are there others that you've got your eye on?
Miami, against expectations, is an extremely literary city with a vibrant community of writers and artists, both emerging and established. There's M. Evelina Galang, whose new novel I'm really looking forward to reading; short story writer Lynne Barrett; the novelist John Dufresne (another featured author for the Times festival); and the brilliant poet Adrian Castro, just to name a few. And the two local MFA programs and arts organizations like the University of Wynwood and Miami Poetry Collective keep the city flush with fresh talent, which is very inspiring.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer