Upcoming Event
  • Catalina: A Novel

    by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
    Price $28.00
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    Catalina: A Novel

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio at Harvard Book Store


Catalina: A Novel

in conversation with Irene Mata


July 31, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes Karla Cornejo Villavicencio—author of the National Book Award finalist The Undocumented Americans—for a discussion of her debut novel Catalina. She will be joined in conversation by Irene Mata—Director of the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities at Wellesley College.

About Catalina

When Catalina is admitted to Harvard, it feels like the fulfilment of destiny: a miracle child escapes death in Latin America, moves to Queens to be raised by her undocumented grandparents, and becomes one of the chosen. But nothing is simple for Catalina, least of all her own complicated, contradictory, ruthlessly probing mind. Now a senior, she faces graduation to a world that has no place for the undocumented; her sense of doom intensifies her curiosities and desires. She infiltrates the school’s elite subcultures—internships and literary journals, posh parties and secret societies—which she observes with the eye of an anthropologist and an interloper’s skepticism: she is both fascinated and repulsed. Craving a great romance, Catalina finds herself drawn to a fellow student, an actual budding anthropologist eager to teach her about the Latin American world she was born into but never knew, even as her life back in Queens begins to unravel. And every day, the clock ticks closer to the abyss of life after graduation. Can she save her family? Can she save herself? What does it mean to be saved?

Brash and daring, part campus novel, part hagiography, part pop song, Catalina is unlike any coming-of-age novel you’ve ever read—and Catalina, bright and tragic, circled by a nimbus of chaotic energy, driven by a wild heart, is a character you will never forget.

Praise for Catalina

“Smart, charming, funny, ambitious...By so enthrallingly and perceptively giving unprecedented individual voice to a defining issue of our time, Catalina seems destined to be a contemporary American classic.” —Francisco Goldman, author of the Pulitzer Prize finalist Monkey Boy

“An unforgettable character...Page after page I wrestled with Catalina but she refused to be pinned down, earning my fury and affection. She’s an American original, a fragile and funny powerhouse.” —Quiara Alegría Hudes, author of My Broken Language

“Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, one of the most kinetic and ingenious writers of this sorry epoch, has given us a hero among heroes—a young woman as extraordinary and regular as us all, or as we hope to be. Catalina forever. Everybody else is on notice.” —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Irene Mata
Irene Mata

Irene Mata

Irene Mata is the Director of the Suzy Newhouse Center for the Humanities, an Associate Professor of American Studies, and the Faculty Director of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship Program at Wellesley College. She was born and raised in an immigrant family in the El Paso/Juárez border area and earned her BA and MA in English and Women’s Studies from New Mexico State University and her PhD in Literature from the University of California at San Diego. Mata’s research blends her love of literature, performance, and cultural studies and focuses on interrogating the representation of communities of color in contemporary creative works. Her first book, Domestic Disturbances: Re-Imagining Narratives of Gender, Labor, and Immigration, examines the stories created by Chicana/Latina writers through a new immigrant narrative paradigm. Her second manuscript, Beyond the Moment: The Art of Resistance in Latinx Performance, engages with Latinx performance texts that rely on previous moments of resistance to imagine new—and future—visions of social change. At the root of all of Mata’s work is a deep love for community and an abiding commitment to social justice.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is the author of the National Book Award finalist The Undocumented Americans. Her work, which focuses on race, culture, and immigration, has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Vogue, Elle, n+1, The New Inquiry, Interview, and on NPR.

Photo Credit: Talya Zemach-Bersin

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