Author on the Airwaves: J. Bret Maney

Arte Público Press Author J. Bret Maney featured on Houston Public Media

Houston Public Media radio host Eric Ladau interviewed Maney for its website’s “Arte Público Press Authors” feature, and along with the transcript, their conversation is available to listeners on the station’s interactive site through on-demand audio streaming here.

Click here to see all Arte Público authors featured on Houston Public Media.

About the Author:

J. Bret Maney joined the Lehman faculty in 2015 as an assistant professor of English. He is a literary scholar and translator whose research and teaching focus on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American literature and culture, the digital humanities, and the practice and theory of translation. His literary scholarship has appeared or is forthcoming in CENTRO: Journal of the Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Studies in American Naturalism,the Journal of Modern Literature, Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy,and The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia.

In the field of translation studies, Maney is the translator and co-editor of a bilingual scholarly edition of Guillermo Cotto-Thorner’s Manhattan Tropics/Trópico en Manhattan, the first novel about the Puerto Rican mass migration to New York City (Arte Público, 2019). He has published other literary translations from the French and Spanish in journals such as Asymptote, Exchanges, Small Axe, Gulf Coast, Lunch Ticket, and The Brooklyn Rail. He is a past recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant and was the 2019 Poetry Runner-Up in the Asymptote Close Approximations International Translation Contest. He is also the creator and curator, together with his students at Lehman, of the public digital humanities project, Mapping New York Literary History.


About his new book, Manhattan Tropics / Trópico en Manhattan:

“Walking underground” for the first time in his life, Juan Marcos Villalobos, a freshly arrived migrant to New York City, offers his seat to a woman standing on the subway. Though his English isn’t up to her rude reply, he quickly realizes that good manners in Nueva York are quite different than in Puerto Rico!

Juan Marcos is eager to continue his studies in the United States and rents a room from family friends living in El Barrio, or Spanish Harlem. Soon, he has a job wrapping packages at a department store that pays as much as he made teaching high school at home. As he interacts with the Puerto Rican community in New York, he witnesses the problems his compatriots encounter, including discrimination, inadequate housing, jobs and wages. Despite these problems, friendships and romances bloom and rivalries surface, leading to betrayal and even attempted murder!

Originally published in 1951 as Trópico en Manhattan, it was the first novel to focus on the postwar influx of Puerto Ricans to New York. Cotto-Thorner’s use of code-switching, or “Spanglish,” reflects the characters’ bicultural reality and makes the novel a forerunner of Nuyorican writing and contemporary Latino literature. This new bilingual edition contains a first-ever English translation by J. Bret Maney that artfully captures the style and spirit of the original Spanish. The novel’s exploration of class, race and gender—while demonstrating the community’s resilience and cultural pride—ensures its relevance today.