My book First Stop in the New World is the only street-level panorama of contemporary Mexico City available in the English language. It includes chapters about food, sex, crime, religion, politics and a host of other subjects – but all told through the stories of Mexico City residents, who have an ingenious knack for survival despite sometimes brutally difficult obstacles.
It received incredible reviews. Reed Johnson of the Los Angeles Times called it “streetwise and up-to-date … a charmingly idiosyncratic, yet remarkably comprehensive portrait of one of the planet’s most misinterpreted urban spaces.” Mary D’Ambrosio of the San Francisco Chronicle said, “As Joseph Mitchell captured life on the margins of midcentury New York, Orhan Pamuk the melancholia of 20th century Istanbul, and Martha Gellhorn civilian suffering in Civil War Spain, Lida masterfully details the plight of a struggling and repressed city.” And Richard B. Woodward of The New York Times opined, “To test the quality of a travel book, it helps to ask: Would you like to share a meal or a drink with the writer? On the evidence of his book, which reveals him to be an expansive soul with big eyes and an even bigger heart, Mr. Lida should expect calls from a lot of newly arrived strangers, including me.”
There were also excellent write-ups in the Chicago Tribune, the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Hispanic Magazine, the Wall Street Journal Online, the San Antonio Express News, the Associated Press and various newspapers around the country. The Houston Chronicle, New York Magazine and the St. Louis Post Dispatch all included the book on their lists of recommended reading, and the San Francisco Chronicle included it on its list of the best books of the year.
If you’re interested in finding out more about First Stop in the New World, here is a link to its Amazon page.
While also about Mexico City, Las llaves de la ciudad, written in Spanish, is completely different from First Stop in the New World. This is a collection of previously published magazine articles, each one about a different person in Mexico City. You’ll meet a man who claims to be the city’s first private detective, and another who sells Nazi paraphernalia at La Lagunilla (the city’s most important flea market). There’s a glue-sniffing street urchin, the proprietor of the first and only boutique in the world that sells only bulletproof clothing, and the stylist who did Paris Hilton’s head while she was here. Each of these people is like a stone in a mosaic, and collectively they form a vision of the largest city in the Western hemisphere.
A collection of ten short stories, all of which are set in Mexico, Travel Advisory dramatically illustrates what happens when Mexicans’ and Americans’ expectations of one another are fulfilled – or turned inside out. “Bewitched” portrays Rhoda Coldwell, a skeptical reporter from Philadelphia, who is rubbed with fluids and oils, wet leafy branches, and literally brought to her knees by a sinister witch in a backwater swamp in southern Mexico.
In “Taxi,” the man behind the wheel of a cab recounts his frustrations and hard luck as he and a band of accomplices kidnap, rob and torture a middle-aged couple while trying to extort money from their ATM cards.
In “Free Trade,” the hapless Maria Concepción, a maid from a small Oaxacan town, will find herself more used than employed as she succumbs to the urges and necessities of the well-to-do family that hired her. Other characters include Rick in “The Recruiting Officer,” a burnt-out, drunken CIA operative, disgraced in his Mexico posting; and the young, gay narrator of “Regrets,” a producer of TV comercials and rock videos in Mexico City, whose forays in back-room bars and dark discos have made him cynical beyond his years.
When Travel Advisory was published, the San Francisco Chronicle said, “This is the kind of writing, dark and daring and fully felt, that makes one look forward to what Lida writes next.” Gambit Weekly in New Orleans called it, “a guide to human nature so compelling that you must turn the page.” WNYC Public Radio in New York said, “This is a wonderful, painful revelation of a book.”
Here is a link to its Amazon page, where both used and new copies can be purchased.