Gramercy Book Club: Meet Award-Winning Author Patricia Engel! Discuss her Powerful Novel, Infinite Country. Facilitated by Denison’s Latin Studies Scholar Monica Ayala-Martinez!

Tuesday, March 23, 2021 - 7:00pm

Award-winning novelist Patricia Engel will join Gramercy Book Club participants after the discussion of her latest novel, Infinite Country, an urgent and lyrical saga about the trauma of migration and the meaning of home, ripe for discussion in its emotional depiction of the epic journey of a Colombian family fractured by deportation. Monica Ayala-Martinez, Director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies concentration at Denison University, will moderate the group discussion and interview with Engel. 

Registration for this LIVE! book club discussion is on Eventbrite, where you will receive login information and full instructions. A general admission ticket to access the event is $5. A ticket that includes a copy of Infinite Country (available any time after its March 2nd publication date) waives the fee and is $27. Please note that registration closes at 5 pm on the day of the program.

Denison University is a Community Partner for this book club program.

In its starred review, Booklist wrote: “Remarkable...this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one.” Engel’s novel is a moving portrait of belonging and sacrifice.

Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.

How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they struggle to keep themselves whole in the face of the hostile landscapes that threaten to drive them apart. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America? 

Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred. 

Patricia Engel is the author of The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards, New York Times Notable Book, and winner of Colombia’s national book award, the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories appear in The Best American Short StoriesThe Best American Mystery StoriesThe O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Born to Colombian parents, Patricia teaches creative writing at the University of Miami.  

Monica Ayala-Martinez, a native of Colombia who was a philosophy and psychology professor there, later came to the United States for her Master’s and Ph.D. in Spanish. She has been a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at Denison University since 1997. Currently the director of the Latin American and Caribbean Studies concentration at Denison, Ayala-Martinez’s areas of research are in Cuban and Brazilian contemporary literature and culture.