Gabriela Alemán is known for her spirited and sardonic take on the fatefully interconnected — and often highly compromised — forces at work in present-day South America, and particularly in Ecuador. In her new collection of eight hugely entertaining short stories, Family Album (City Lights), Alemán teases tropes of hardboiled detective fiction, satire, and adventure narratives to recast the discussion of national identity. A muddy brew of pop-culture and pop-folklore yields intriguing, lesser-known episodes of contemporary Ecuadorian history, along with a rich cast of unforgettable characters whose intimate stories open up onto a vista of Ecuador’s place on the world stage. From a pair of deep-sea divers using Robinson Crusoe’s map of a shipwreck to locate sunken treasure in the Galápagos Archipelago, to a night with the husband of Ecuador’s most infamous expat, Lorena Bobbit, this series of cracked “family portraits” provides a cast of picaresque heroes and anti-heroes in stories that sneak up on a reader before they know what’s happened: they’ve learned a great deal about a country whose more well-known exports — soccer, coffee, and cocoa — mask an intriguing national story that’s ripe for the telling. Family Album is Alemán’s rollicking follow-up to her acclaimed English-language debut, Poso Wells. Alemán will be joined in conversation by Rodrigo Fuentes, author of Trout, Belly Up.