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Episode 249: Xochitl Gonzalez

BY MEGAN LABRISE • January 4, 2022

Xochitl Gonzalez discusses her hotly anticipated debut novel, Olga Dies Dreaming.

On this week’s episode, debut novelist Xochitl Gonzalez discusses Olga Dies Dreaming (Flatiron Books, Jan. 4), the story of a supersuccessful Nuyorican wedding planner and her Congressman brother, who represents their beloved, swiftly gentrifying native neighborhood of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. They’re middle-aged and grappling with success, setbacks, secrets, and their respective relationships with their absent mother.

Here’s a bit of Kirkus’ starred review of Olga Dies Dreaming: “The siblings both have bad consciences about having compromised the ideals of their mother, a radical activist for Puerto Rican independence who abandoned the family when Olga was 12 and is now a fugitive. Vivid portraits of various friends and relatives capture the richness of Nuyorican culture, and sharp-eyed observations of the Brooklyn social and political landscape underpin a busy plot. It climaxes with the catastrophic impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico.…debut novelist Gonzalez’s stinging and knowledgeable commentary about the American sociopolitical order that keeps Black and brown people poor and powerless suggests that radical remedies are called for, even if she gives the personal dramas of her appealing main characters pleasingly hopeful final acts. Atmospheric, intelligent, and well informed: an impressive debut.

Gonzalez and host Megan Labrise get into the buzz surrounding the book, which was won by Flatiron in a 10-bidder auction; how Olga functions as both a family saga and a love story; Gonzalez’s writing and editing process; the research she undertook to realistically represent different times and places; the compromises characters make to advance in a corrupt system; how the book was optioned for a series by Hulu, with Gonzalez writing and co-executive producing the pilot starring Aubrey Plaza, Ramón Rodriguez, and Jesse Williams; and much more.

Then editors Laura Simeon, Eric Liebetrau, and Laurie Muchnick offer their top picks in books for the first week of 2022.

Editors’ picks:

Spin Me Right Round by David Valdes (Bloomsbury)

The 1619 Project: A New Origin Story edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones, Caitlin Roper, Elena Silverman, and Jake Silverstein (One World/Random House)

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan (Simon & Schuster)

Also mentioned on this episode:

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (St. Martin’s Griffin)

Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones and Renée Watson, illus. by Nikkolas Smith (Kokila)

The Gifted School by Bruce Holsinger (Riverhead)

Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro (Knopf)

Small Animals: Parenthood in the Age of Fear by Kim Brooks (Flatiron Books)

 

Thanks to our advertisers:

Among the Beautiful Beasts by Lori McMullen

A Kite for Melia by Samuel Narh

 

Fully Booked is produced by Cabel Adkins Audio and Megan Labrise.

 

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