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Chicana Chicano Literature, Chicana Chicano Writers, Chicana Chicano Fiction, Children's Literature, News, Views, Reviews
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1176. "Anywhere But L.A." at Metropolis Books

Please come join me at Metropolis Books this Saturday for a reading and book signing of my new story collection, Anywhere But L.A. (Bilingual Press).

DATE: Saturday, April 17
TIME: 4:00 p.m.
WHERE: Metropolis Books, 440 S. Main St. L.A. 90013
CONTACT: 213-612-0174
MORE INFO: Click here

Praise for Anywhere But L.A.:

"Like the cities they describe, the stories in Anywhere But L.A. shift and slide and refuse to be pinned down. Daniel Olivas is an exciting writer, whose prose rings with humor, insight, and power." -- Daniel Alarcón, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight

"Funny yet touching, these skillfully rendered characters remind us of our own vulnerability. Individually, the stories are punchy and sharp; collectively, the stories create a colorful mural of a thriving Latino community." -- Kathleen de Azevedo, author of Samba Dreamers

"Daniel Olivas has mastered the knack of telling intricate tales that are natural, never labored, and a genuine pleasure to read." -- Manuel Ramos, author of The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz

"Olivas is a writer who will take risks and surprise you. His stories delve into the topical themes of Latino and Chicano literature and beyond." -- Sergio Troncoso, El Paso Times (Read full review here)

"Anywhere But L.A. completes a satisfying California trilogy that observes, interacts and imagines the many dimensions of the American Southwest through an honest and genuine lens." -- Rigoberto Gonzalez, My Latino Voice (Read full review here)

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1177. Earth & Poetry Day at Whittier Narrows Natural Area

Earth & Poetry Day event

April 18 at Whittier Narrows Natural Area

The public is invited to enjoy the timeless combination of nature and poetry when the historic Whittier Narrows Natural Area plays host to a free Earth & Poetry Day event on Sunday, April 18, 2010.

The family-friendly celebration, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., will include a docent-led nature walk at 11 a.m. followed by poetry performances and refreshments beginning at 12:30 p.m. Attendees are invited to bring a nature-themed poem to share.

The event will include performances by touring poet Jared Paul, of Providence, R.I., and Southern California poets Deborah P. Kolodji, Chris Wesley and Erika Ayón.

All activities will take place in or leave from the picnic area outside the nature center.The event marks both National Poetry Month and the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which this year falls on Wednesday, April 22. The natural area, a wildlife sanctuary founded by the National Audubon Society, celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2009.

The Whittier Narrows Natural Area is located at:

1000 N. Durfee Ave.
South El Monte CA 91733

(626) 575-5523

across from South El Monte High School
Parking is free

The event is sponsored by the nonprofit Whittier Narrows Nature Center Associates. For further event information, please contact Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo at (626) 484-0582.

Some info on one of the featured poets:

Erika Ayón emigrated from Mexico when she was five years old. She grew up in South Central Los Angeles and graduated from UCLA with a B.A. in English. She was selected as a 2009 PEN Emerging Voices Fellow and is currently working on a collection of poetry entitled Orange Lady. The title stems from her childhood experience of selling oranges with her family on the streets of Los Angeles. Erika's writing addresses issues of poverty, race, cultural implications, gender, and the immigrant experience.

2 Comments on Earth & Poetry Day at Whittier Narrows Natural Area, last added: 4/11/2010
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1178. AWP impressions, short & random

I'm hung-over, feet sting from hundreds of steps back and forth across the Colo. Convention Center and downtown Denver. Workshops, readings, panels, lit journal tables, accompanying literary tipos, Chicano and otherwise. Someone else can provide an organized report on AWP. These bits are what float my mind from the past two days:

Sudden Fiction Latino panel. Bloguero Daniel Olivas leads Lisa Alvarez, Stephen D. Gutierrez, Pedro Ponce, Alicita Rodriguez and Edmundo Paz Soldán. The readings are way too short; the authors and audience have come such a long way. I want to hear more, about Bisbee, climbing staircases, instructions on singing, the Chinese wall and more. I'll only get to do that from the book.

The panel moves fast to a fine discussion about Raymond Chandler's words:

"down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective in this kind of story must be such a man. He is the hero, he is everything. He must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor, by instinct, by inevitability, without thought of it, and certainly without saying it. He must be the best man in his world and a good enough man for any world."

I wonder if Chandler knew he was anticipating the New Latino 21st Century author. Or what all Chicanos have to be to live where we do?

Con Tinta Celebration honoring Alicia Gaspar de Alba, with a tribute to Lalo Delgado. Lalo's family fills half the room. A Chicano gathering of family, Chicanitos animados running the aisles, beer glasses tapping toasts. Not the best place for a reading. I'm remembering Lalo read Stupid America, decades ago; still seems apropos.

Today, platefuls of comida mexicana and hearing bloguero Jesse Tijerina tell of his daily dealings with cholos, gangs at the Colorado middle school where he works as principal. His kids clearly have an Advocate; Jes, a block, building our gente's future. So where's he find time to do La Bloga posts, I wonder?

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1179. And so it goes

I'm writing this early in the week as I also prepare for the AWP Conference. I'm sure I won't have any time Thursday night to deal with my usual obligations like La Bloga -- that's the night of the Con Tinta pachanga, which grows each day in terms of expectations and legendary status. I will be there and so will several (a hundred?) other Latina/o writers including comrades from La Bloga. But that was last night.

It's weird the way things work out. I received copies of my new book, King of the Chicanos, a few days ago. Hot off the press, literally. Much too new to be sold at AWP but I will do my damndest to get the word out. Quite a high to see a new book with my name on it. A trip. My head could explode. That old chingon feeling returned.

So around the same time that the books showed up, literally almost as I was cutting open the box, my water line busted and my basement flooded.

We scurry to block water with ripped towels and rags. I call the water department - the person answering the phone says they will send someone to turn off the water by 2:30 PM (it's 10:00 AM!) I scream emergency, and let her know that the house could float away. She says she will do what she can. Then I call the plumber I have used much too often in the past few years. Sure, he says. He'll come by as soon as he can - half hour or so. More towels, more rags - panic starts to set in as we haul and shove boxes containing the remains of our early years out of the basement. The water flows.

The water guy shows up - he turns off the water but can't do much else. Flo tells me that the water continues to ripple and flow. She says goodbye to her stored copies of Liberty Meadows and La Perdida (Part One!) I say goodbye to our carpet.

Mike, my plumber pal, arrives with helpers and tools. He looks around and shakes his head. His assistant says "Oh shit," not something you want to hear from your plumber's assistant. Mike decides that he needs to get to the pipe under the floor - under the floor! Now we're saying goodbye and adios to thousands of dollars as the plumber jack-hammers the concrete. Fare thee well to hundreds more as he calls for help in the form of a loud, smoky, oil-dripping machine to dig up the front yard so he can make the connection to the main line. The machine coughs and belches in the street; the neighbors shake their heads and shut their curtains; and the wet clay turns to sloppy mud. The men can't find the main line - it's deeper than they expected. They break the sewer line looking for the water line. Then it starts to rain.

We are in hog heaven now - nothing but mud outside, and what used to be the grandkids' running, screaming and jumping space (the basement) is now a muddy mire of broken concrete and sloshy carpet. Santiago, one of the helpers, digs and shovels mud until it piles almost to the ceiling. The ground is so wet that the water sits in pools - they are having a very hard time replacing the pipe. My house is so old that there is no easy repair job, ever. But they promise that we will have a shower and toilet by that evening. The plumbers don't keep their promise. Goodbye new book high.

The next day Flo and I shower at my office. We use the toilets at my office. We drink water at my office. We try to avoid the house - it is a mess. But we have to return. The plumbers finish the job about midday. More digging by the monster, more digging by Santiago who now has brought his wife to "clean up." She's wearing a skirt and a blouse made for the dance floor. The basement frightens her

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1180. What I Am Looking Forward To @ AWP

I started counting down the months when I first got word the AWP conference would be taking place in Denver, Colorado. Almost daily I've studied the AWP website as to map out the events I plan on attending. While (in all honesty) the daily list of panels and other happenings has proven too overwhelming to breakdown into my own personal schedule, I have set my sights on a couple of can't miss events.

Con Tinta @ Laguna's Mexican Bar & Grill
Tonight, Con Tinta will host it's 5th Annual Celebration at Laguna's (1543 Champa Street) from 5:30 to 8:00 pm. Along with our very own Manuel Ramos and the prolific Rigoberto Gonzalez in attendance, Con Tinta will honor Denver's late poet laureate, Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado and Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba for their literary achievements.
One Poem Festival @ Dikeou Collection
On Friday, Momotombo Press and Palabra Literary Magazine will host the One Poem Festival of nearly 30 poetas, yes count them 30 notable Latin@ authors at the Dikeou Collection (1615 California Street) from 6:30 to 9:00 pm. Writers in attendance include the likes of La Abuelita de Chicana poetry, Lorna Dee Cervantes and Richard Blanco. The ghost of Lalo is sure to be in the house for this one!!!
Manuel Ramos and his "King Of The Chicanos"
La palabra en la calle dice their may be a few copies of the King Of The Chicanos floating in and around the festival throughout the next few days; been waiting awhile to get my greasy hands on a copy of Ramos's newest novel del movimiento. A

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1181. Award-Winning Children's Books

Felicidades to Xavier Garza, Carmen Tafolla and Magaly Morales

Tejas Star Book Award

The winner for 2009-2010 is Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid by Xavier Garza

The Tejas Star Book Award was created by the Region One ESC Library Advisory Committee to promote reading in general and for readers to discover the cognitive and economic benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism. All the children of Texas will have the opportunity to select their favorite book from the Tejas Star list during the month of February.

Santa needs help! Abracadabra!

A cowboy and his nephew become Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid!

Let’s welcome Santa’s newest helper: his cousin Pancho, a farmer living down in South Texas who is so smart he speaks Spanish and English. Back in the day, Pancho was a mariachi singer with a whole lot of style and a fancy sombrero. But as the years passed, Pancho got, well, a little older and a little wider all around. Then one night his primo Santa Claus showed up. Santa needed some help! Pancho volunteered. And then, poof, Santa transformed Pancho into the resplendent Charro Claus with his incredibly Flying Burritos. And Charro Claus, it turns out, even had his own surprise elf—his nephew Vincente!

All Christmas Eve, Vincente and Pancho deliver toys to the boys and girls on the border. Neither rain, cloudy skies, wire fences nor concrete walls keep them from covering every inch of their newly assigned territory. And they don’t forget a single town or city. How could they? The border is their home.

2010 Tomás Rivera Book Award

What Can You Do With A Paleta?
Written by Carmen Tafolla
Illustrated by Magaly Morales

Texas State University College of Education developed the Tomas Rivera Mexican American Children's Book Award to honor authors and illustrators who create literature that depicts the Mexican American experience. The award was established in 1995 and was named in honor of Dr. Tomas Rivera, a distinguished alumnus of Texas State University.

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1182. 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto Launch; Review: Jimmy Santiago Baca, A Glass of Water.

Michael Sedano

Visions and Voices: The Arts and Humanities Initiative at the University of Southern California has awarded a grant funding 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto to Barbara Robinson, USC Libraries Curator of the Boeckmann Center Collection for Iberian and Latin American Studies, and Maria Elena Martinez, Associate Professor of Latin American History and American Studies and Ethnicity.

As chronicled in La Bloga over the past two years, Tuesday Bloguero Michael Sedano has been organizing this reunion of the landmark first Festival de Flor y Canto held in 1973 at USC. Dozens of poets, writers, and academics shared work at the 1973 event. Of these, thirty-nine presentations were preserved on videotape, including one musician and three teatros.

Sedano has focused his reunion efforts on the videotaped artists from 1973. Sadly, José Montoya and Roberto Vargas presentations are absent from both UC Riverside and Texas A&M Kingsville libraries. Those are the only known repositories of the 1973 videos. Contacted to date--most of whom will be appearing at 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto, September 15, 16, 17--are Alejandro Murguía, Alurista, Avelardo Valdez, E. A. Mares, Elias Hruska, Enrique La Madrid, Estevan Arellano, Frank Sifuentes, Javier Pacheco, José Montoya, Juan Contreras, Juan Felipe Herrera, Olivia Castellano, Roberto Vargas, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, Ron Arias, Teresa Palomo Acosta, Tomás Atencio, Veronica Cunningham, Vibiana Chamberlin. In addition, Marco Antonio Dominguez, a 1973 poet not videotaped, will read, perhaps accompanied by his son, an MFA candidate at UTEP. Remote hope exists that José Montoya and Richard Montoya will also present a father-son reading.

A number of 1973 readers have died, including Oscar Zeta Acosta, Lynne Romero, Omar Salinas, raúlrsalinas, Mario Suarez, Marcela Trujillo, Ricardo Sánchez, Tomás Rivera, QEPD. Honoring these deceased luminaries, 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto's program includes ¡Presente! a program of memorial readings performed by actors or friends of the late artists.

A number of contemporary poets have submitted materials for consideration and inclusion in 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto. Numerous invitations have been accepted, with others pending. Based on preliminary responses to the Call for Artists, the three-day event will provide a full schedule blending the reunion voices, many of today's established Chicana Chicano Latina Latino poets, and up-and-coming newer voices.

In addition, Francisco Aragón and University of Notre Dame's Letras Latinas, is co-sponsoring with 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto a program featuring three poets including Diana Garcia, Emmy Pérez, and Maria Melendez.

2010 Festival de Flor y Canto also includes the opening of a semester-long photographic exhibit of Sedano's photography from 1973, together with the debut of the digitized video recordings of the original festival. Doheny Memorial Library's Digital Library Initiative will allow world-wide access to the historic, nearly lost, 1973 performances, as well as those documented during 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto.

The 1973 anthology, Festival de Fl

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Fifth Annual Celebration
at the AWP Conference

Thursday, April 8, 2010
5:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Laguna’s Mexican Bar & Grill
1543 Champa St., Denver, CO 80202 Phone: (303)623-5321
Con Tinta Contact Info: Richard Yañez, ryanez4@epcc.edu

Featuring Authors and Select Titles for Sale from
The University of Arizona Press

Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing
Frances Payne Adler, Debra Busman, and Diana García

The Desert Remembers My Name: On Family and Writing
Kathleen Alcalá

In an Angry Season
Lisa D. Chávez

A Question of Gravity and Light
Blas Falconer

Camino del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing
Rigoberto González

Flexible Bones, How Long She’ll Last in This World
Maria Melendez

Flamenco Hips and Red Mud Feet
Dixie Salazar

Odalisque in Pieces
Carmen Giménez Smith

The Last Tortilla & Other Stories
Sergio Troncoso

Follow Con Tinta on facebook.com/continta

For a list of select AWP panels and other events featuring writers from the Chicano/Latino Literary community, visit Con Tinta's handy guide here

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1184. The Two Escobars: Fierce History in the Futbol Fields

by tatiana de la tierra

I was on a farm in Colombia when I heard the news on the radio: Pablo Escobar was dead. A living legend, the richest and bloodiest drug dealer in the world had been gunned down on a rooftop in a middle-class neighborhood in Medellin. The news on that day—December 2, 1993—was stunning. Escobar was at the epicenter of Colombia’s violence during the time that he was king of cocaine. Under his rule, presidential candidates were assassinated, airplanes were bombed, cops were hunted down and politics spun out of control. Yet he was also a family man, generous with the poor populace of the slums he came from, and complicated and eccentric as hell.

Hip to the grisly headlines, I hesitated when I took my first trip to Medellin, Escobar’s hometown. I discovered a new age mecca in Medallo as I lived in a raw foods commune and encountered Bach flower remedies, crystal healing, rebirthing, energy work, yoga, oxygen chambers and cell therapy. But I noticed a strange thing while taking taxis throughout the city—taxi drivers swerved away from policemen or anyone on a motorcycle. Eventually I figured it out. Escobar’s hit men were on a campaign (and were rewarded) to kill policemen and two men on a motorcycle, a driver and a shooter, was the modus operandi. Getting out of the way of potential gunfire—that was a good thing.

Dangerous, daredevil, kooky, charismatic and visionary, Escobar intrigued me. He is the subject of books, movies and popular art. Colombian painter Fernando Botero memorialized Escobar’s rooftop death dance in a portrait that shows him tottering on top of the world as he dies. Tourists and locals visit his gravesite at Jardines de Montesacro in Medellin. Seventeen years after his death, his name resonates. As I read in the New York Times recently, descendants of the hippos from his private zoo continue to roam around Hacienda Nápoles on the outskirts of Medellin, where he had an impressive collection of exotic animals, including rhinos, kangaroos, elephants and giraffes. (Most of the animals starved to death after Escobar was killed.)

When I saw a listing for the movie The Two Escobars, I raced to the theatre expecting an exposé of the “good” Pablo Escobar versus the “bad” one. Directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist, The Two Escobars was not what I expected. It is a documentary about the role that Escobar’s (and other dealers’) drug profits played in elevating Colombia’s soccer teams to international acclaim. The other Escobar in the movie is Andres Escobar, the soccer star who accidentally scored a goal for the opposing team while playing for the World Cup in 1994 in Pasadena. That play cost him his life; he was gunned down in the streets of Medellin at 3:30 A.M. on July 3, 1994.

Watching the Two Escobars took me back to those days of bombings, bloodbaths and the repercussions of Colombia’s agreement to extradite drug dealers to the United States. Pablo Escobar and other cocaine kingpins—Los Extraditables—fought fiercely against this. The slogan of that campaign still rings in my ears: “Preferimos una tumba en Colombia a una carcel en Estados Unidos” (We prefer a tomb in Colombia to a jail in the United States).

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1185. Escalante's ganas pasan a otros. 1 Poem Festival.

Following up on last Saturday's La Bloga post, comes this from the Los Angeles Times, Wed., 3/31/10:

OBITUARY by Elaine Woo

"Jaime Escalante, the charismatic former East Los Angeles high school teacher who taught the nation that inner-city students could master subjects as demanding as calculus, died Tuesday. He was 79.

"The subject of the 1988 film Stand and Deliver, Escalante died at his son's home in Roseville, Calif., said actor Edward James Olmos, who portrayed the teacher in the film. Escalante had bladder cancer."

To read the entire L.A. Times article, go here.

You can leave a testimonial or message for the family here.

A Memorial is scheduled for Sat. April 17th. Time and location TBD. Info should be available soon here.

To hear a very well-done audio biography of Escalante from NPR's All Things Considered, go here and click on the Olmos/Escalante photo.

For those interested in Escalante's major article on his teaching philosophy and methodology, go here.

As described in last week's post, there are at least three books you can check on Jaime Escalante and his students' achievements. No matter which button you click, video you watch or how you learn more, if you are ever lacking some inspiration--and I don't mean only about teaching--hearing, reading or thinking about his work will serve you well. Especially if a little ganas would make all the difference.


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1186. AWP and Denver Cultural News

Today's post is heavy on the AWP, rightfully so. Before I get to that, a few pedazos y pedacitos.

Mariela in the Desert
a play by Karen Zacarías, April 2- May 15 at the Ricketson Theater in Denver's Performing Arts Complex.

Set in on a ranch in the Mexican desert in the 1950s, Mariela, herself a painter, is caring for her ailing husband Jose, a painter whose fame eclipsed hers long ago. They inhabit the artistic circle of internationally-renowned painters Jose Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siquerios and Diego Rivera.

Mariela tricks her daughter, Blanca, into returning home by sending a telegram that her father has died. Blanca also is a painter who has recently sold one of her paintings for a significant sum of money. She returns with her fiancé, an American art critic who is her mother’s age.

Old jealousies are soon reignited: Jose’s paintings were never as inspired as Mariela’s; Mariela never had the career that Jose had and that Blanca seems destined for; and Blanca, in an artistic dry spell, has always envied her mother’s creativity. Add to this the mysterious death of Carlos, the couple’s other son, who haunts the play, and the prize-winning painting of “The Blue Barn,” which has been slashed and sits shrouded in the living room. As past grievances are rehashed and long hidden feelings rise to the surface, the characters go through an exorcism that either resolves in liberation or destruction.

April 2nd through May 1st

Join us in celebrating Santos art - one of the oldest, still living traditions of early, remote Hispanic settlements.

Opening Reception: April 2nd 5 - 10 PM

Book Release Party: April 7th 7 - 9 PM Celebrate with writer Tim Z. Hernandez in the release of his debut novel Breathing In Dust featuring readings by Lee Herrick, Michael Luis Medrano and Zuleman Inai. The public is welcome to attend!

Sabado de Santos: April 10th 2 - 4 PM Historian/Educator/Santero Jose Raul Esquibel. Call to register for this event.

Gallery hours are Wed & Thurs 10-4, Fri 12-6, Sat 12-4. Show is open to the public.
Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, 772 Santa Fe Drive, Denver

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1187. Poetry in Denver!

Poet Martín Espada at the University of Denver

The DU Center for Community Engagement and Scholarship (DULCCES) presents award-winning Latino poet Martín Espada for a reading and discussion of his recent poetic work to take place on the DU campus on April 8, 2010.

The event, which is free and open to the public, will be held at 7:00pm in the Craig Hall Community Room, 2148 South High Street in Denver.

The reading is part of the DULCCES cultural events agenda for the academic year, as it highlights the Center’s mission to promote the intellectual, creative and political empowerment of Latino communities.

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1188. Story Behind the Story: The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez

By René Colato Laínez

When I lost my first tooth in El Salvador, a fantastic ratón (mouse) took it. He was the same ratón that took my mamá’s, papá’s and abuelito’s teeth. Every child knew him. He was El Ratón Pérez and in exchange for a healthy tooth, I always received a surprise. Sometimes, I received money and other times toys and even tickets to the circus! I always eagerly awaited the next visit from El Ratón Pérez.

When I moved to the US as a boy, I wrote an essay about El Ratón Pérez. My teacher called me to her desk and asked me what I was trying to write. I told her all about El Ratón Pérez and she said, “Oh, you are writing about the Tooth Fairy.” She crossed all the Ratones Pérez and asked me to change then to Tooth Fairies. I could not envision El Ratón Pérez with wings and carrying a magic wand. Where was El Ratón Pérez?

I became a teacher at Fernangeles Elementary School in Los Angeles. One afternoon, I heard the teacher next-door running and screaming through the hallway, “Ah, one of my students has a mouse in his room! I need to go to the office and call social services.”

The teacher was ready to faint from the impression. I asked her what was happening and she told me that one of her students lost his first tooth and that a mouse came to his room last night and took it. But this was not the worst part. All the other students said they knew the mouse, too.

“The boy said he wants the mouse to visit his house every night!” the teacher said.

“I knew that mouse and as a child, I also waited for his visits.” I told the other teacher. “ He is El Ratón Pérez, the Hispanic tooth collector. Last night this famous and adventurous mouse visited your student because he lost his first tooth.” The teacher started to laugh and did not go to the office. Instead, she went to celebrate with her student.

After this incident, I wondered what would happen if the Tooth Fairy met El Ratón Pérez for the first time? What would they say to each other? Would they get along? Read and find out. My new book, The Tooth Fairy Meets El Ratón Pérez, was released by Tricycle Press/Random House on March 23, 2010.

For more info, visit: www.renecolatolainez.com

Early praise for the book:

“A marvelous story merging cultures seamlessly and with great humor. Adults will enjoy this read-aloud just as much as kids.” --- Sandra Cisneros, award-winning author of The House on Mango Street

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1189. NHCC Literary Prizes; Tomás Rivera Conference; Melinda Palacio at Tia Chucha

Michael Sedano

National Hispanic Cultural Center Awards Two Literary Prizes

The National Hispanic Cultural Center and the National Latino Writers Conference is pleased to announce the winners of the NHCC’s two literary awards. The first is the Premio Aztlán awarded to an emerging author who shows promise as a writer. The second is the bi-annual NHCC Literary Award given to an established writer with an impressive body of work and who has impacted the productivity and success of other writers.

Luis Alberto Urrea has won the NHCC Literary Award for the breadth of his work in non-fiction, poetry, novel, short fiction, essay and memoir. Mr. Urrea has published fourteen books and several titles are forthcoming. He has been a past faculty member of the National Latino Writers Conference. From his presence at the NLWC we know him to be generous with his attention and knowledge in a workshop setting.

Urrea has been the recipient of the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize for fiction, a Pulitzer Prize finalist for non-fiction, winner of the Lannan Foundation Literary Award for non-fiction, the Premio Fronterizo Award/Border Book Festival, the Latino Literary Hall of Fame award and the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award, among others. Luis Urrea is presently a Professor of English/Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The selection committee for 2010 included: Francisco Aragón, director of Letras Latinas, the Institute for Latino Studies literary program at Notre Dame University; Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Chair and professor of the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies; Rigoberto González, Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University; E.A. Tony Mares, Professor Emeritus of English, University of New Mexico; and Demetria Martínez, author, activist, lecturer and columnist.

Other nominees included: Francisco X. Alarcón, Alurista, Gloria Anzaldúa, Norma Cantú, Ana Castillo, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Ray Gonzalez, Juan Felipe Herrera, Graciela Limón, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, John Phillip Santos, Sabine Ullibarrí, and Helena María Viramontes.

The National Hispanic Cultural Center Literary Award has been given since 2002. Past award recipients include: Rudolfo Anaya, Denise Chávez, Pat Mora and Martín Espada. The award will be presented to Luis Alberto Urrea on Friday evening May 21st during the National Latino Writers Conference banquet. The NHCC Literary Prize is $2,500.00 and Mr. Urrea will be in attendance to accept the award and make remarks to the National Latino Writers Conference.

Gloria Zamora, a

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1190. Writers Write. Period

By Daniel Olivas

[Author’s note: I just received a markup of my forthcoming novel, The Book of Want, from my editor. The book will come out next spring from the University of Arizona Press and I am getting excited about it. But this also means that I must make time to focus on these edits. So, I thought it’d be appropriate to republish a little essay I wrote for La Bloga a few years ago that offers tough love to those who wish to become “writers.”]

When I hear would-be authors proclaim that they could write the Great American Novel if only they had time, I simply want to laugh. It reminds me of the story (perhaps apocryphal) about a dentist who blithely informed Isabel Allende that he planned to become a novelist when he retired. She quipped: “Oh really? And when I retire I’ll become an oral surgeon!”

What I’m about to say will sound like tough love or even cruel, but here goes: A writer finds time to write regardless of hectic schedules, energetic children, and needy lovers. No excuses.

Rather than leave it at that, let me describe how I’ve written five books (four published, one making the rounds awaiting judgment), edited a 115,000-word anthology of short fiction set for publication next year, in addition to posting each Monday on La Bloga, and writing book reviews and essays for numerous print and online publications. I do this while juggling the time demands of marriage, parenthood and holding down a stressful, full-time day job as an attorney with the California Department of Justice.

First, I note that as a lawyer, I essentially write for a living. Though some time is spent in court, most of the “heavy lifting” occurs in my office at my computer as I write legal memoranda, motions and briefs. I work under tight, court-determined deadlines. There is no room for writers’ block. My goal with legal writing is simply to tell a coherent, compelling story. So, if you have a “day job” where you must write, you have an advantage that other budding authors don’t because you are constantly honing your writing skills. True, writing a memo to your boss on how to improve sales might not resemble that detective thriller brewing in your brain, but I truly believe that being required, on a daily basis, to craft sentences and paragraphs in a non-literary forum will benefit your creative writing.

Second, I specialize in short stories. Even the novel I’m working on is made up of interconnecting short stories. In other words, I write self-contained pieces that I can complete within a relatively short period. This works for me. But if you want to write a novel and you feel as though you can barely get an hour alone at the computer, let me suggest that you break it up into baby steps so that the mountain you’re about to scale doesn’t seem so daunting. Promise yourself to write 500 words a day. That’s two, double-spaced pages. Not so scary, right? I write in the evening, usually when my son is asleep and my wife is relaxing. I find that I can squeeze in one or two hours of writing each night. On weekends, I’ll sneak in another one or two hours in the morning. Those hours add up as do the pages.

Third, I don’t waste my time talking about what I want to write. Don’t get me wrong. I love discussing the craft itself when I’m in the company of other writers or on a book panel. But there is nothing more boring than someone telling me what he plans to write when that person hasn’t produced a word. It sounds like this to me: Blah, blah, blah. I’m sounding cranky now, right? Oh well.

Fourth, when I’m not writing

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1191. Arte Today!

Olga García Echeverría

It's a beautiful Sunday and if you're wondering what's going on in the City of Angels today in relation to arte, here are a few things you won't want to miss.

Oedipus El Rey by Luis Alfaro
Extended Showings!

Boston Court Performing Arts Center
70 North Mentor Avenue
Pasadena, CA


If you're feeling art-deprived because you still haven't checked out Luis Alfaro's modern adaptation of Sophocle's classic play Oedipus Rex, don't despair. Originally, the play's last LA showing was scheduled for today, but due to sold out box offices, the production has been extended until Sunday April 11th. Yay! My roommate and I had the opportunity to see the play last night and both of us gave it a solid thumbs up. Among other things, I loved the way Alfaro takes the classic Greek myth and barrioizes it. When asked why he chose to delve into and re-envision the Greek myth, Alfaro shares "I wanted to do something about the prison system. I read this horrible statistic that the recidivism rate in California is something like 65%. It’s shocking, and 47% of those returning to prison are Latino. 22% of those released from prison also go back within hours. So, I started thinking about where the new kingdoms are and how there’s an alternate society where some people grow up. I was exploring why the California prison system is an industry and the whole bit and that got me writing and thinking about Oedipus, a young king, who gets out of prison and is looking for his new territory, some place to conquer. I took all the beats of Oepidus, who kills his father, marries his mother, etc. and it all kind of came together and made sense." Aside from Alfaro's unique adaptation, I also found the performance by Marlene Forte (who plays Jocasta, Oedipus' mother) superb. To read more about Alfaro's play, check out Michael Sedano's earlier bloga on Oedipus El Rey http://labloga.blogspot.com/2008/02/oedipus-pinto.html

Also happening in the city today...

La Palabra Poetry Reading Series features Liz Gonzalez

Co-hosted by Laura L. Longoria and Don Newton
Sunday March 28th

Avenue 50 Studio
131 Avenue 50
Highland Park, CA

Liz Gonzalez' work recently appeared in Bordersense and Cooweescoowee, and her fiction recently appeared in Women on the Edge: Writing from Los Angeles. Her awards include the Arts Council for Long Beach's 2005 Professional Artist Fellowship and a wrting grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. She is a member of the Macondo Foundation, founded by Sandra Cisneros. Currently Liz is the 2009/2010 Puente English instructor at Long Beach City College, and a creative writing instructor through the UCLA Writer's Extension Program. For more info: lizgonzalez.com

Two Great Openings Today at ChimMaya Gallery

The Art of Healing...Mind, Body, and Soul
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1192. Ganas - Chicano national treasure hit by cancer

In 1982 a Bolivian immigrant named Jaime Escalante made national news because 18 of his high school students passed the Advanced Placement exam in calculus. Actually, the sensational news was that they were all inner-city L.A. Chicano kids. The corporate testers, Educational Testing Service, threw out their scores, since it's common knowledge, even to this day, that poor brown kids can't do, or in this case, outdo what preppy, rich Anglo kids do, at least academically.

If you never heard about this, then you've never seen the film Stand and Deliver, starring Ed Olmos as Escalante. You can remedy this gap in your education by at least watching the movie, directed by Ramón Menéndez. Briefly though, here's what rolls past before the credits at the end:

  • Twelve of those students that year retook the exam and their original scores were reinstated.
  • In 1983, 30 students passed the Advanced Placement test.
  • In 1987: 73 passed.
To learn more about Escalante's work, his students and their accomplishments, there's books on the subject. I found the Mathews' book much more informative:

Escalante: The Best Teacher in America by Jay Mathews (Owl Book - 1989)
Jaime Escalante: Sensational Teacher by Ann Byers (Library Binding - 1996)

Of course, every teacher should know about Escalante, and especially about ganas, which is so often heard in the movie. Ganas de aprender translates as being willing to learn, have the yearning to succeed. What's obvious in the film though is more; it's the eagerness, the thirst, the passion for knowledge, and that must have been more like what happened in Esclante's classroom.

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1193. Rasquache

La Carpa de los Rasquachis, written by Luis Valdez, directed by Anthony J. Garcia

Su Teatro
stars in the regional premiere of Luis Valdez's classic farm worker tale of an everyman immigrant told in rollicking corridos and performed in the classic Mexican tent-show style.

Written 45 years ago, La Carpa de los Rasquachis toured the world and gave birth to the Teatro Chicano movement.

If you ever liked anything Su Teatro has performed, come see the play that started it all.

March 19 - April 17 - Thursday, Friday and Saturday - 7:30 p.m.

The Denver Civic Theater -721 Santa Fe Dr.
Tickets - $18 general - $15 students and seniors
Groups of 12 or more people $12 each
Special promotional rates available upon request.

John Moore in the Denver Post gave the play three stars:
" Best of all, Su Teatro has come home to the westside neighborhood from where it was long ago displaced,
along with much of its community, for the Auraria campus. A historic move calls for a historic production,
and Luis Valdez's La Carpa de los Rasquachis, considered by many the masterpiece of the Chicano theater, qualifies."

La Voz Femenina 7 - an east end live art production
March 28th, 5 pm Café Flores 6606 Lawndale Street, Houston, TX 77023 $ Free

Voices Breaking Boundaries (VBB) is pleased to announce the second installment of its spring 2010 East End Live Art series, La Voz Femenina 7. Each year VBB collaborates with Arte Público Press to celebrate International Women’s Month. This year’s show includes films, art exhibits, open mic, and discussion, featuring Erica Fletcher, Liana Lopez, Delilah Montoya and Brian Parras. VBB’s Founding Director, Sehba Sarwar, will host the evening. “La Voz Femenina, now in its seventh year, is a powerful tradition of collaboration with Arte Público. VBB was founded by women, and to celebrate and recognize women’s struggle is an integral part of what we do,” says Sarwar.

La Voz Femenina 7 is cosponsored by Arte Público Press, Houston Institute for Culture, KPFT Pacifica Radio 90.1 FM, and Café Flores. The program is curated by Samina Mahmood, Gunjen Mittal, Selina Pishori, and Jacsun Shah.

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1194. Raising Bilingual, Bicultural Kids

A little over one year ago, two Latina moms, who had recently retired from TV and print journalism, decided to share their journey of bilingual parenting--roadblocks and all!--through SpanglishBaby, an online community dedicated to the joys and concerns of raising bilingual children. Their fast-growing blog offers something new everyday to parents and teachers interested in bilingualism, with content organized in categories such as "Daily Learning", "Ask an Expert", "Must Reads", "Your Story", and even a "Forum" where readers can connect and share stories.

As new mothers, Roxana Soto and Ana Flores realized that, in spite of what demographics would suggest, there was great misinformation and few resources for parents determined to raise bilingual, bicultural children in the US. And that's how SpanglishBaby was born.

According to Soto, Spanglish Baby's first year has been full of both challenges and surprises. Among the former she cites the typical trials of starting a blog: building consistent traffic and creating fresh and interesting content. A loyal readership has emerged over the past months and, to celebrate this and its successful first year, Soto and Flores completely redesigned the blog, allowing readers to navigate the site more easily and to have a more participatory role. They've also added five regular contributors who, according to the editors, provide fresh perspectives on bilingual parenting on a weekly basis.

"We're also working on a major campaign through which we hope to bring bilingual resources in the form of books, toys and games to deserving schools in need," adds Soto.

For their second year, Soto would also like to increase SpanglishBaby's male readership and, hopefully, add a male contributor to its weekly lineup.

For the rest, Soto and Flores hope SpanglishBaby continues to be the community they envisioned from the beginning: a place where parents raising bilingual/bicultural children can feel supported, understood and welcomed to participate and share.

Keep up the great work, ladies!

2 Comments on Raising Bilingual, Bicultural Kids, last added: 3/21/2010
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1195. Guest Tribute to Bobbie Espinosa - Book Events and News

This week I have a bit of news about new books and book events and a guest column from Pocho Joe, the Denver DJ who produces La Raza Rocks for radio station KUVO (89.3 FM, www.kuvo.org) every Sunday, 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm (Denver time) along with his co-host, Gabe. Pocho Joe pays tribute to Bobby Espinosa, the guiding light and one of the original members of El Chicano, who recently passed away. By the way, a memorial service for Bobby will be held Saturday, March 20, 2010 at 1:00 p.m. at Saint Alphonsus Catholic Church, 532 S. Atlantic Blvd., East Los Angeles, 90022. Reception after service at Steven's Steak House, 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm 5332 E. Stevens Place, Commerce, Ca. 90040

Bobby Espinosa Tribute – Aired on KUVO March 14, 2010

In the 1960’s a group of San Gabriel High School students led by bassist Freddy Sanchez formed a Chicano band called the VIP’s. The VIP’s included guitarist Micky Lespron. Their Mexican-American rhythm and blues style of music was missing a key component. Freddy met a keyboardist from a Chicano surf band (Micky & the Invaders) and invited him to join the VIP’s. His name was Bobby Espinosa. This began a life-long professional and personal friendship and brotherhood.

With an expanded line-up, the VIP’s were invited to Eddie Davis’ recording studio in Hollywood to record a rendition of Gerald Wilson’s song Viva Tirado. Gerald had written this jazz piece to honor the great Mexican bullfighter, Jose Ramon Tirado, who refused to kill the bull he was fighting. The recording session was magic and Eddie saw so much talent in this group of young Chicanos.

Eddie Davis recognized how racist our American society was towards Mexican-Americans. He knew that previous Latin groups had to hide their cultural identity just to get airplay in regional markets. He convinced the VIP’s to change their name to El Chicano in a daring move in order to confront the music industry and help American listeners come to grips with America’s second largest minority at that time.

El Chicano was born in a burst of cultural pride in 1970. Keep in mind that until the Chicano civil rights movement in the 1960’s and ‘70’s, the term Chicano had a negative connotation. Mexicanos used Chicano as a put down for Mexican Americans and Anglo society viewed Chicano as a radical and anti-American term. This group of six musicians helped us to understand ‘somos Chicanos’.

KAPP Records released the album Viva Tirado by El Chicano. The group’s original line-up included: Ersi Arvisu on tambourine and maracas and vocals on later productions; Andre Baeza on congas; John DeLuna on drums; Little Micky Lespron on guitar; Freddy Sanchez on electric bass; and
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1196. Cuarta Página Reading Series – Latino Writers Collective

guest column by Xánath Caraza

The Latino Writers Collective (LWC), Kansas City, MO, has been very active at the end of winter this year. As part of the Cuarta Página Reading Series, and in an attempt to contrast the long winter in Kansas City, the LWC has brought color, empowerment, poetry, fiction, and exquisite discussions through the presentations and words of Fred Arroyo and Demetria Martínez.

In chronological order, first, the LWC, in partnership with Kansas City’s Riverfront Reading Series, invited Fred Arroyo for the evening of February 26, 2010 at the Writers Place. Fred Arroyo is a professor at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. His novel, The Region of Lost Names (University of Arizona Press, 2008) was a finalist for the 2008 Premio Aztlán and a finalist for the 2008 One Brown Book, One Nation Reading Program. Arroyo read exerpts of his novel and his new short story A Case of Consolation.

The Writers Place had a full house the evening of the event. An exquisite Q&A session followed Arroyo’s reading to finalize the night with a book signing session. The next day, February 27, the LWC met with Arroyo again at the Writers Place for a friendly potluck and discussion session. LWC members were enthusiastic with their questions about habits needed to develop as a writer. Arroyo, a renaissance man himself, very graciously shared his own experiences in becoming a writer with LWC members.

“Inspiration is always welcome but developing your own rituals as a writer is an important part of becoming one” in Arroyo’s words. Miguel Morales, a LWC member, asked Arroyo about telling stories that have already been told many times in the past by others. What Arroyo shared with the LWC was that even while some of the experiences of Latinos are similar and may have been written before, Latino authors have to keep telling these stories because each author adds freshness and insight out of the unique experience and perspective of the author.
LWC members always enrich and grow as writers from the opportunity to exchange experiences with and listen to established authors such as Fred Arroyo and Demetria Martínez.

LWC’s next Cuarta Página event was the evening of March 3rd in collaboration with the wonderful

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1197. Con Tinta at AWP in Denver

Con Tinta believes in affirming a pro-active presence in American literature. We come together in the spirit of intellectual/artistic dialogue and of recognizing our literary/social histories. Con Tinta's mission is to create awareness through cultivating emerging talent, through promoting creative expression, and through establishing alliances with other cultural/political organizations.

· Increase awareness of the Chicano/Latino literary community
· Celebrate the voices of our elders
· Cultivate emerging talent
· Promote presentations of artistic expression
· Support the current work & efforts of our members

ADVISORY CIRCLE MEMBERS: Lisa Alvarado, Blas Falconer, Rigoberto González, Maria Melendez, Juan J. Morales, Daniel A. Olivas, Michelle Otero, Richard Yañez

EX-OFICIO CIRCLE MEMBERS: Kathleen Alcalá, Brenda Cárdenas, Lisa D. Chávez, Lorraine M. López

2006 (Austin) – raúlrsalinas and Rolando Hinjosa-Smith
2007 (Atlanta) – Judith Ortiz Cofer
2008 (New York City) – Sandra María Esteves and Tato Laviera
2009 (Chicago) – Carlos Cortez
2010 (Denver) – Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado and Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba


Date/Time: Thursday, April 8, 2010, 5:30 - 8:00 p.m.
Location: Laguna's Mexican Bar & Grill
Address: 1543 Champa St., Denver, CO 80202 / Phone: (303) 623-5321
Cost: Free Buffet / Cash Bar

Please join us at the 5th Annual Pachanga for the Chicano/Latino Literary community and its allies at AWP. The event will feature special recognition of our literary antepasados, presentation of Achievement Awards, and short readings/tributes by members of our communities. The recipients of this year's Achievement Awards are Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado AND Dr. Alicia Gaspar de Alba.

Con Tinta's celebration is held in conjunction with The Association of Writers and Writing Programs annual conference. Click here for full schedule of events. For more information, e-mail Richard Yañez.

Donations for cost of the Con Tinta celebration may be sent to the following address:

Richard Yañez
El Paso

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1198. Review: Revenge of the Saguaro; Bits 'n pieces.

Tom Miller. Revenge of the Saguaro. Offbeat Travels Through America's Southwest. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2010.

ISBN: 1-933693-60-6 and 9781933693606

Michael Sedano

Back in 2000 and again in 2002, the National Geographic Society published Tom Miller's Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink. Now, in 2010, EPT's Cinco Puntos Press republishes the volume, retitled with the more southwesty title, Revenge of the Saguaro. Offbeat Travels Through America's Southwest

Under its former title, 368 libraries from California to Australia according to WorldCat, shelve the seven-essay Jack Ruby. Cinco Puntos’ addition of two essays not in the earlier volume, the title piece, “Revenge of the Saguaro” and “The Occidental Tsuris,” should find welcome space in those libraries, and your own.

Shared in common are seven essays, including “The Great Stinking Desert,” “What Is the Sound of One Billboard Falling?”, “Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink,” “Searching for the Heart of ‘La Bamba’,” “Hollywood Goes Southwest,” “Death by Misadventure,” and “The Free State of Cochise.”

Miller’s style bears repeating, he must feel, because every essay assumes the same voice and similar structure. The title conveys the major theme, but Miller’s way is theme and variations. His “La Bamba” essay, for example, begins with a consideration of a travel music mix for a Southwest jaunt, selected for location. Depending upon where your wheels are rolling, sounds would include Indian flute by R. Carlos Nakai, country folk by Latie Lee, chicken scratch music by Joe Miguel and the Blood Brothers, Alice Cooper because you're in his hometown, cantina rolas from Los Blues Ventures, and broadly regional work from Los Lobos and Los Tigres del Norte. One song, Miller suggests, fits the entire region, “La Bamba.”

The essay looks at the Ritchie Valens oldie rock version then explores further south into Veracruz and jarocho music, then back into history with Cortés and the European invasion’s syncretic influences on Mexican sounds. Miller’s musical journey U-turns from Xalapa to McCarthysim, noting folksinger Travis Edmonson was hauled before “a congressional hearing because he performed a foreign folk tune assumed to be about the bomb.”

Enriching the essay, Miller doesn’t drop "La Bamba" and stop there. Instead, he circles around the rim of the Morenci mine, delving into its ballad, “Open Pit Mine,” then heads east to the west Texas town of El Paso and Marty Robbins' hit about wicked Felina and a wild young cowboy’s misplaced passion. True to his travel genre, Miller takes you not only through the song but also to the “real” Rosa’s Cantina and associated ironies.

The title essay,"Revenge of the Saguaro," offers a gem of storytelling and righteous retribution. In a well-refined narrative, Miller tells of the death of a loser named David Grundman. Having told the story numerous times, Miller observes, not a single listener expressed any remorse over Grundman’s death. I am not the first to feel it, nor will you. You, as I, will side with Ha:san, a Saguaro cactus.

The essay links Ha:san's growing years to historical benchmarks. Saguaros themselves have populated the earth for 10,000 years. Ha:san germinated as a microscopic seedling during the hegemony o

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1199. New Books from Cinco Puntos Press

Essay and photographs re-embody Cesar Chavez, not as icon, but as a man struggling for workers' rights.

10-digit ISBN
13-digit ISBN
Page Count
96 pages, 50 B&W photographs
Product Dimensions
8.25" x 8.25" x .30"
Publication Date
March 1, 2010

Who was Cesar Chavez? Essay and photographs restore this man to his place in American history.

Chavez has become a hero, an icon, so it’s difficult for people, especially young people, to understand him simply as a man. Esteemed Latin American scholar and writer Ilan Stavans, supported by 40-plus photographs from archival collections at the Cesar Chavez Foundation, restores this man’s humanity so that readers can understand his struggles as a labor organizer and civil rights activist for farm workers.

The book discusses his growing up and his family; his comadre Dolores Huerta, who stood with him from the beginning; his relationship with Dr. King and other activists in the broader struggles for civil rights for all peoples of color; and his insistence on being an activist for the rights of farm workers when so much media attention was given to the civil rights activists in the cities.

Ilan Stavans is a nationally respected Jewish-Latino writer and scholar. His story “Morirse está en hebreo” was made into the award-winning movie My Mexican Shivah produced by John Sayles. His books include Cesar Chavez: An Organizer’s Tale (Penguin, 2008), Dictionary Days (Graywolf), The Disappearance (TriQuarterly) and Resurrecting Hebrew (Random House). Stavans has received numerous awards, among them a Guggenheim Fellowship, the National Jewish Book Award, the Latino Book Award and Chile’s Presidential Medal. He is a Professor in Latin American Culture at Amherst College.


A Lao Story of Home
by Youme Landowne
illustrated by Youme Landowne
Publication Date: July 2010

How to begin again? Fleeing war, a child finds strength in memories of home and family.

Product Details
10-digit ISBN
13-digit ISBN
Page Count
Product Dimensions
9" x 9" x .25"
Publication Date
July 1, 2010

Youme tells the true story of artist Mali Jai Dee, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Mali’s story reveals the strength of family and culture to carry a child through unthinkable hardship.

Mali Under the Night Sky is the true story of Laotian-American artist Malichansouk Kouanchao, whose family was forced by civil war to flee Laos when she was five. Before the war began, Mali lived an idyllic life in a community where she felt safe and was much loved. She loved to sit in front of her house and ask everyone who passed by, “Where

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1200. Puro Diaz

My wife heckles me quite a bit about my subscription to The New Yorker. "You pay all this money for one reason, Junot Diaz," she says each time the magazine arrives in our mailbox. "Nah," I respond but I know this to be true as by second-nature I flip to the table of contents and finger-stroll halfway down the page to the fiction icon hoping to see, ...by Junot Diaz. Hell, been doing this routine for fifteen years now.

The New Yorker's recent publication of Diaz's short story, The Pura Principal, returns to the neighborhood or as Diaz puts it the nabe of Drown with his alter ego, Yunior, brother Rafa, and Mami. We encounter Diaz at his best as narrator, Yunior, remains the linguist of lingo, spitting out phrases that validate the Pulitzer Prize winner.

It's a story about sickness, both mental and physical; Mami cures her locura through the bible, Yunior copes with marijuana, and cancer ridden Rafa takes to parrying and exchanging blows with the aftermath of his chemo. "He prided himself on being the neighborhood lunatic, wasn't going to let a little thing like cancer get in the way of his official duties," writes Diaz. "Not a week out of the hospital, he cracked this illegal Peruvian kid in the face with a hammer..."

In vintage Diaz fashion, the characters survive with tragic honesty. At first Rafa has little trouble holding his own with the cancer. He thinks himself some superhero gato loco with nine lives until his eventual demise arrives not in death, but with Pura Adama or as Mami called her, Pura Mierda. Mami knew the fresh-off-the-boat-didn't-have-no-papers Dominicana was out to fit a ring around her finger to become legit. As Yunior put it, "Something about Pura's face, her timing, her personality, just drove Mami batshit." True to Mami's prophecy, Rafa pulled a reverse Houdini and found himself shackled to la Pura.

And although it came as a surprise to Yunior, Mami wasn't having it, wasn't going to take her querido Rafa in with his new wifey. With their vices in tote the story moves on; Mami con la biblia, Yunior la mota, y Rafa la Pura Mierda. Mami knew Rafa would (eventually) find his way home. By the time Pura called, she had wrung Rafa dry. He was near death when Yunior found him and the fever had scrambled his mind into mad delusion. There would be no tomorrow for Pura; it was as if she'd never existed; it was as if Rafa had never left home.

The Pura Principle. Diaz, Junot, The New Yorker: March 22, 2010

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