July Book Discussion: "Kinky Gazpacho: Life, Love & Spain" by Lori Tharps

  • July 27, 2014 · 12:30 PM
  • Costa Brava

If you love Spain as much as I do, please join me for a discussion of a book about this beautiful and mysterious country with a different twist: Spain seen through the eyes of an African-American woman, Lori Tharps.  She offers insights into the country and Spanish culture that most of us who have been there probably have never thought about.

Magazine writer and editor Lori Tharps was born and raised in the comfortable but mostly white suburbs of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where she was often the only person of color in her school and neighborhood. At an early age, Lori decided that her destiny would be discovered in Spain. She didn't know anyone from Spain, had never visited the country, and hardly spoke the language. Still, she never faltered in her plans to escape to the Iberian Peninsula.

Arriving in the country as an optimistic college student, however, Lori soon discovers Spain's particular attitude toward blackness. She is chased down the street by the local schoolchildren and pointed at incessantly in public, and her innocent dreams of a place where race doesn't matter are shattered. The story would end there, except Lori meets and marries a Spaniard, and that's when her true Spanish adventure really begins.

Against the ancient backdrops of Cádiz andAndalucía, Lori starts the intricate yet amusing journey of rekindling her love affair with Spain and becoming a part of her new Spanish family. From a grandmother who spies on her to a grandfather who warmly welcomes her to town with a slew of racist jokes, the close-knit clan isn't exactly waiting with open arms. Kinky Gazpacho tells the story of the redeeming power of love and finding self in the most unexpected places.

At its heart, this is a love story. It is a memoir, a travel essay, and a glimpse into the past and present of Spain. As humorous and entertaining as such favorite travel stories as Under the Tuscan Sun, this book also unveils a unique and untold history of Spain's enduring connection to West Africa. Kinky Gazpacho celebrates the mysticism of travel and the joys of watching two distinct cultures connect and come together.

About Lori Tharps

Lori L. Tharps is an assistant professor of journalism at Temple University, an award-winning author, freelance journalist and popular speaker.

Originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, she left the Midwest in search of an authentic life experience beginning with four years at Smith College. (Technically, one of those years was spent studying abroad in Salamanca, Spain.). After graduating from Smith, with a B.A. in comparative education and Spanish, Tharps spent two years working on Madison Avenue at one of New York City’s top-ten public relations agencies. While there she worked tirelessly writing press releases and organizing press events for a certain candy company, powdered soup distributor and a well-known maker of dry toast. After realizing she’d never succeed as a PR executive, Tharps entered Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism and has been writing her way through the world ever since.

After graduation from Columbia, Tharps was a staff reporter at Vibe magazine and then a correspondent for Entertainment Weekly. She has written for Ms., Glamour, Suede, Vogue Black, Caribbean Life, Grid Philadelphia, xoJane.com and Essence magazines. She has also written for The Columbia Journalism Review, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The New York Times, The Root.com and Ebony.com. Her work can also be read in the anthologies, Young Wives Tales: Stories of Love and Partnership (Seal Press), Naked: Black Women Bare All About their Skin, Hair, Hips, Lips and Other Parts (Perigee), Bitchfest: Ten Years of Cultural Criticism from the Pages of Bitch Magazine (FSG) and Women: Images & Realities. A Multicultural Anthology (Avalon). Tharps is also the creator and writer of the blog, My American Meltingpot. In general, Tharps enjoys writing stories about cultural cross-pollination, race and identity. She also has a special interest and expertise in black hair culture and politics.

Currently, Tharps lives in Philadelphia with her husband and three children. She doesn’t have a dog, but if she did, his name would be Otis. She has traveled extensively throughout the United States, Europe and the Caribbean. Tharps is fluent in Spanish and can say I love you in seven languages.  For more on Lori Tharps, visit her website at http://loritharps.com/.

About Costa Brava Restaurant

Costa Brava is a hidden gem in Pacific Beach.  This is the best Spanish restaurant in San Diego IMHO.  It'll remind you of a tapas bar in Spain.  The tapas are excellent, as is the sangria.  For San Diegans, visiting Costa Brava is the next best thing to visiting Spain!  Here is their Yelp page:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/costa-brava-san-diego


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  • Wilfredo P.

    Just read the book again and enjoyed it even more the second time around. Lori raises many interesting issues that we will discuss over delicious Spanish tapas and sangria. See you at Costa Brava. Ole!

    July 20

    • Andrea H.

      Just finished it yesterday:)

      July 25

    • Wilfredo P.

      Excellent discussion! And the food and sangria were excellent, too! Thanks to all members who attended. I'm glad we were able to discuss the controversial subjects of this book in an intelligent and civilized manner.

      July 27

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