Inside a modest storefront in Loxley, Ala., 18-year-old Maria Lola Melisio points out the Mexican spices and other products for sale in her mother's market.
"There are the leaves where you make your tamales — you roll them up in that," she says.
Melisio has long dark curls and is wearing a houndstooth scarf in support of the Alabama Crimson Tide. When she was 7 years old, she entered the U.S. illegally from Mexico with her mother, and still has a scar on her back from crawling under the border fence. It's a story she's kept secret until now.
The literary world was abuzz this year with the runaway success of "Fifty Shades of Grey" and J.K. Rowling's books for grown-up muggles. But it was Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Philip Roth's retirement that got the attention of commentator Ben Dolnick.
BEN DOLNICK: This fall, in an interview with a French magazine, Philip Roth announced his retirement. I no longer have the stamina to endure the frustration, he explained. Instead, he's been entertaining friends, playing with his iPhone, and eating meals prepared by a personal chef.
It's probably not true that truth is stranger than fiction, but in the hands of a great biographer, it can be just as compelling. Novelists can create unique and unforgettable characters — there's never been anyone quite like Jane Eyre or Ignatius J. Reilly — but there's no shortage of fascinating literary protagonists who just happened to exist in real life.