[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 Display Comments Add a Comment
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
Boston Court Performing Arts Center
70 North Mentor Avenue
131 Avenue 50
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JacketFlap tags: calculus, Jaime Escalante, Edward James Olmos, Stand and Deliver, Add a tag
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.
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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JacketFlap tags: La Voz Femenina, La Carpa de los Rasquachis, Dylan Thomas Prize, The César Chávez Peace and Justice Committee of Denver, Migrant Farm Worker Division of Colorado Legal Services, El Centro Su Teatro, Add a tag
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.
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.
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..."
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Essay and photographs re-embody Cesar Chavez, not as icon, but as a man struggling for workers' rights.
96 pages, 50 B&W photographs
8.25" x 8.25" x .30"
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
9" x 9" x .25"
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 Display Comments Add a Comment
Tom Miller. Revenge of the Saguaro. Offbeat Travels Through America's Southwest. El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2010.
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 Display Comments Add a Comment
CON TINTA GOALS & VISION:
· 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
ACHIEVEMENT AWARD RECIPIENTS:
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
PLEASE JOIN AND SUPPORT CON TINTA AT THIS YEAR'S AWP CONFERENCE IN DENVER:
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:
El Paso Display Comments Add a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: writers, Kansas City, Fred Arroyo, Xánath Caraza, Latino Writers Collective, Demetria Martínez, Add a tag
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
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
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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The Macondo Foundation is conducting a national search for an Executive Administrator. Responsibilities include: fundraising, organizational business administration, event planning and public communications. For a detailed job description please read below. Compensation commensurate with experience. Interested applicants can submit resume and cover letter to email@example.com by May 31, 2010.
Macondo Executive Administrator Job Description
Summary: The Executive Administrator of the Macondo Foundation directs the overall operations, management, and development of the organization and its programs, personnel, budgets, and project.
Duties: Uphold the values of the Macondo Foundation: As the only full-time employee for the Macondo Foundation, the executive administrator will work with participant members and members of the Board to further the goals of the organization.
Plan, organize, implement, oversee, and control all operational and program functions of the Macondo Foundation which include planning an annual week-long writing workshop, overseeing a residency program and administering several awards. Provide leadership and coordinate/delegate responsibility to volunteer participants, volunteers and part-time staff for objectives and programs.
The position reports to Board and is responsible to keep the board informed. The Executive Administrator will maintain and implement the Macondo Foundation’s mission through its programming objectives and financial goals. Develop the diverse resources and funding streams necessary to financially support Macondo Foundation operations and projects.
Should be proficient in managing multiple grants, projects and/or contracts. Be able to oversee and develop budgets and raise $50,000- $100,000 annually. Work with potential donors, network and build partnerships with other organizations. Represent the Macondo Foundation in the local, regional and national arenas as an articulate and professional spokesperson with effective public presentation skills and the capacity to communicate with diverse audiences, including community leaders, media representatives, and other writers and colleagues. Must have the ability to write and speak cogently and possess highly-developed leadership and organizational skills. Timely and critical decision-making skills are necessary.
Qualifications: Preference will be given to candidates who have a professional or academic degree. The ideal candidate will have a non-profit environment background, program planning and grant writing. Possess demonstrable leadership skills, creativity, and innovation in previous and/or current position(s). The ideal candidate will have thorough knowledge relating to the creative writing field. The ideal candidate will also have thorough knowledge of budgeting, audits, fair labor standards, and regulations for non-profit environments. Must be comfortable with technology and proficient with Microsoft Office, a basic proficiency in Adobe Products, Dreamweaver and Quickbooks. Excellent verbal and written communication skills, ability to act independently, and capability to make high-level decisions on behalf of the organization are required. Salary is negotiable and commences with experience.
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Honesville PA: Boyds Mills Press, 2010.ISBN: 1-59078-385-9
Two recent Los Angeles Times columns by the paper’s book blogger Carolyn Kellogg talk about the fast-disappearing publisher-sponsored author book tour, and new ways authors are solving the marketing challenge of helping a book find its audience.
The Times article observes how “name” authors have little difficulty getting tours, hotel stays, and large audiences. But for every big time author there are dozens of non marquee gente, quality writers who, once discovered, get onto the radar of a loyal cadre of followers, but never seem to catch the big bucks, splashy market, break. And it’s getting all the more difficult.
As the business of publishing changes, book tours increasingly look like bad risks. "In 99.9% of cases," says Peter Miller, director of publicity at Bloomsbury USA, "you can't justify the costs through regular book sales."
Kellogg illustrates one self-funded tour that drained $2500 from the pockets of a married pair of authors who hit the road with no assurance of finding an audience when they set up shop.
That expensive itinerary is not the exception, nor exceptional. Prospects generally appear dismal. Print media are closing down book sections, indeed, bookstores are shuttering with alarming frequency. I see faint hope in states taxing internet sales like Amazon, perhaps awarding a meagre competitive advantage to local brick and mortar booksellers. On a more concretely positive note, technology fills some of the need via webposted video that brings eye and ear into play via the interposed medium, or "virtual book tours".
Bloguero René Colato Laínez, author of several bilingual children’s picture books is one of those niche market writers with a strong following but not necessarily a big bucks market. René’s recently published, “My Shoes and I” addresses that book tour conundrum. He’s adopted the “Virtual Book Tour,” strategy, coordinating cyber appearances on a variety of book and reader-devoted blogs.
A Virtual Book Tour is an inspired idea, albeit with a major drawback—text-heavy blogs mean an absence of face-to-face contact between reader and writers. It’s a keen disadvantage.
As Kellogg illustrates, a name like T. C. Boyle puts on a performance that is its own reward for author and audience. Kellogg quotes Boyle sayiDisplay Comments Add a Comment
I work at Skyline Community College. The eve before the March 4 Day of Action, when teachers and students were to take to the streets to protest the massive cuts facing the public schools in California, a group of colleagues and I were talking about the challenges Latino students face in school. And we should be concerned. White students are twice as likely to graduate from a community college as Latino students. Between Latino and white students who enter colleges and universities at the top of their class, the stats are only slightly better: 81 percent of white students get their bachelor’s degree compared to 57 percent of Latinos (Fry).
We didn’t even go into the reasons for the dismal success rates among Latino students, because we’ve heard them all: poverty, poor English language skills, immigration hardships, overriding family pressures. Certainly as a Latina, I want strong Latino leadership and I am continually puzzled at how the fastest growing population can have such little voice in our society. Then I came to this conclusion: The United States just doesn’t like Latin America.
Our country’s ambivalence toward Latin America is well documented. The U.S. has always had the attitude that Our Southern Neighbors are not quite up to par to be taken seriously. When I was researching the Good Neighbor Policy propaganda of the 1940's, for my Brazilian-American novel Samba Dreamers, I was saturated with political cartoons of sombrero-ed babies in diapers sucking pacifiers and throwing tantrums, all misbehaving under Uncle Sam’s admonishing gaze. We were supposedly establishing stronger diplomatic ties to Latin America to fight the Axis powers, yet we thought of Latin Americans as no more than naughty children and we treated them as such. This attitude was reflected in the U.S. support of Latin American military coups that took place from the 1960s to the 1980s under the pretense that Latino leaders just couldn’t govern their own countries. No matter that our involvement killed thousands of people and sent several economies into a tail spin, the U.S. government thought they knew best.
Of course today, we wouldn’t dream of thinking along such “stereotypical” lines in our politically correct consciousness. We acknowledge at least, that Latin American governments (with the exception of Cuba) are democratically elected. Instead, in keeping with its usual paternalistic nature, the U.S. does what parents do when they are tired of reprimanding their children: they ignore them. Perhaps I react too strongly at my newest addition of American Writing Programs Chronicle or my Poets & Writers magazine as I find little to no Latino writers hired in MFA programs, or receiving awards, or getting their stories recognized in anthologies such as Best American Short Stories and the O. Henry Prize Stories. But I don’t see a lot of Latino involvement in other fields either. Sure, a few Latinos are let into the exalted world of recognition, but the U.S. culture is very careful of whom it lets in, le Display Comments Add a Comment
de la tierra
My blood and I, we’re getting to know each other these days. Doing dialysis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday keeps me hyper aware of the blood that flows inside of me. Two fifteen gage needles pierce the vein in my left arm, one for the blood that flows out to be cleansed by the artificial kidney and one for the blood that returns to me. I watch the blood through yards of clear tubing that wind from my body to the machine.
My blood is a carousel of pretty ponies being ridden by girls with long red locks. I like to look at it and wander inside. One drop of blood carries a snapshot of last night’s dinner, tomorrow’s potential diseases, the shadows of my ancestors. One drop of blood is a flowing fingerprint. It is a crystal ball.
Under a high definition darkfield microscope, one drop of blood shows erythrocytes, leukocytes and platelets along with potential parasites, toxins, infections and more. Last year I had my finger pricked by a naturopath and oozed a little blood onto a slide for my first live blood analysis. I sat back to watch the blood’s performance on the monitor and applauded as my blood cells clumped together and wiggled around doing the conga to the Miami Sound Machine.
But the doctor wasn’t smiling. “That’s rouleaux,” he said, referring to the stacked cells, an indication of poor oxygen distribution in the blood. Not too long after that appointment I was hospitalized for two weeks due to low platelets and rouleaux turned out to be the least of my problems. I needed blood—lots of it—whole blood, plasma and platelets. Bags of blood were special delivered to me in the hospital. I blessed each one, amazed that the blood of others would conjoin with mine in red matrimony.
Those days were the beginnings of my obsession with blood. The underlying cause of my lack of blood was kidney malfunction, I learned. Healthy happening kidneys produce erythropoietin, a hormone that faxes the bone marrow an order to cook up some blood. I danced around the hospital corridor with an Ipod blasting Juanes’ “Mi sangre” into my ears, rocking out and jiggling the kidneys, urging them to get with the program. But in the end, shots of genetically engineered erythropoietin were my saving grace.
The first blood I remember seeing was during an outing in the countryside in Colombia when I was four years old. I don’t know the cause, but blood poured down a boy’s leg, staining the top of a huge boulder that he was standing on in the middle of a river. Another similar memory took place when I was with my family in Miami Beach and my brother’s leg was gashed with a broken bottle. I watched his blood soak into the golden sand. Besides that, the blood that I remember in my childhood was for human consumption—the fast dark blood of chickens that flows after their heads are sliced off, the dry reddish brown of bulging blood sausages, the red flesh of carcasses strung out for sale at la carnicería.
Blood became most personal when I was playing kickball in sixth grade and discovered a dark wet stain on my pants. Eventually I came to love my bloods, which were supposed to come monthly but came only every once in a while. Other women complained about their periods, but I celebrated mine. I dipped into my papaya to fill my painter’s palette with red and used the color to paint on typing paper and bathroom walls. Mostly, my blood art consisted of psychedelic swirls.
Dialysis is an ongoing live blood
March 10th marked the birthday of one of the pioneers of LGBT literature, John Rechy. To celebrate and festejar John Rechy I invite you to read two reviews. One is a review of his last book, About My Life and the Kept Woman, by fellow bloguero Daniel Olivas: http://labloga.blogspot.com/2008/04/rechy-remembers.html . The second one is of his first work, City of Night. It is my honor to introduce you to a new guest columinist, Andrew J. Peters. Al rato!
Rediscovering John Rechy's City of Night
by Andrew J. Peters
Among his many accomplishments, John Rechy has a special place in the history of gay American literature. His début novel City of Night, released in 1963, was one of the few overtly gay-themed works to achieve commercial success in the pre-Stonewall era. While earlier authors contributed critically-acclaimed portrayals of same-sex love, usually of the tortured, unactualized variety—Thomas Mann's Death in Venice and James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room for example, Rechy broke ground with his insight into the homosexual underground where men created identities such as "hustler," "fairy," and "daddy" beneath a society that criminalized their desires. Rechy's dispassionate depiction of urban subculture was carried forward by such great authors as William Burroughs and Paul T. Rogers.
Rechy also happens to be the only writer of Latino descent among the gay novelists of his time. But while City of Night takes inspiration quite literally from Rechy's personal search for identity, his story sheds sparingly little light on issues of culture. Besides the autobiographical narrator, there's only one Latino character in the entire novel: a ferocious drag queen rendered in two gripping pages. The narrator's interaction with her is brief but central to the novel's theme of the triumph of self-expression over social sanction.
That Rechy chose not to address race is to some degree a matter of his narrator's make-up and his particular journey. He's on a mission to bury his childhood innocence which was indelibly scarred by his father's abuse, thus his relationship to other characters is sexualized, brief and transactional. Still, it is through the narrator's "scores" and sexually-compulsive encounters that he gradually comes to learn about himself: the hustler Pete who swaggers with heterosexual bravado but reaches out with growing desperation for emotional connection to the narrator; a score named The Professor who chronicles his hustler "angels" in a scrap book but breaks off with the man he loves at the insinuation of reciprocal affection; the thirty-something Skipper who touched fame for a moment while he was kept by a Hollywood director but was tossed aside for the next young thing and spends his days and nights in a skid row bar.
Rechy's omission of culture reflects the real life choices of many gay men of color in the 1960's (and beyond). His literary canon exemplifies the challenge to integrate racial and sexual identities prior to the relatively
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Hace mucho tiempo, when we were fit enough to carry a picket sign and young enough to walk a picket line holding it, supporting the United Farmworkers (UFWOC) was an easy decision. Hell, back then some of us couldn't even afford to buy grapes, so it wasn't such a sacrifice to stand up for the basic civil/human rights of those who provide our food.
If you've been out of that loop, you may be surprised to hear that the struggle is not over. And needs our support, again. Below is a message from UFWOC that deserves your read, if not more:
Tell 3,000 stores about Giumarra Vineyards' abuses
Retailers are in a special position to keep their suppliers accountable. This is why farm workers out at Giumarra Vineyards, the nation's largest table grape grower, are seeking their help in keeping their employer accountable.
We know from experience, however, that it is you--the consumer--whom grocers are most responsive to. Please let Unified Grocers, a Forbes Fortune 1,000 company made up of over 3,000 independent retailers, know that as a purchaser of Giumarra's Nature's Partner produce, they have a responsibility to hold this company to higher standards.
The conditions at Giumarra are deplorable. Go here to see what Giumarra employee Domingo Valderrama says about how his company treats farm workers:
You may be surprised to hear that Giumarra can get away with denying workers water or breaks during the hot summer months of CA's Central Valley, where temperatures climb to the triple digits. Not only is this a grave injustice, it is also illegal. However, this company has a long history of such violations.
State enforcement of the law has proven to be inadequate in protecting these workers. In order to be able to ensure their own protection, farm workers need union representation. Giumarra goes to great lengths to avoid losing any power over the farm workers toiling in their fields. In the past, they've harassed and intimidated workers who have tried to gain union representation.
In order to make sure that Giumarra cannot do this again, we need you to tell the buyers of Giumarra's and Nature's Partner's produce to demand this company uphold the law. Join Domingo in saying, "Si Se Puede!" Click here to send this message to them.
Keep up with the Giumarra campaign at: http://action.ufw.org/giumarra
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Rights in a Foreign Land: Women, Domestic Violence, and Migration
Araceli Calderón González
Melissa Sánchez writes in the Yakima Herald-Republic about Araceli Calderón González and her book published last year in Mexico, Rights in a Foreign Land: Women, Domestic Violence, and Migration. You can read the entire article, which I recommend, at this link. Calderón, a writer who currently makes her home in Greeley, Colorado, has collected stories and poems from 17 women from Mexico who have migrated to Yakima, Washington. The women have all been served by La Casa Hogar, which has helped roughly 4,500 immigrant women since it was started in 1995.
The article notes: She had come in 2006 to collect stories from immigrant children for a book to be published in Mexico. But Calderón sensed a greater story in their mothers and in the other women she met here.
"It made me cry to wonder why these immigrants come to Yakima," said Calderón, a children's book author and literacy advocate. "Why do they leave home? Their communities may be poor, but they're so beautiful."
What Calderón discovered upon returning over the next two years was a narrative of domestic abuse that follows Mexican women into the United States, and the healing process they would begin inside a yellow house on South Sixth Street. It's an issue that receives little attention either here in the United States or in Mexico.
"Here and now, she tells them time and time again. She teaches them that life is worth living. She opens the way for them so that they may open the way for their children."
I don't know if this book is available in the United States. I would appreciate any information about the book and the author.The Farthest Home Is in an Empire of Fire: A Tejano Elegy
John Phillip Santos
In his acclaimed 1999 memoir Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, John Phillip Santos told the story of one Mexican family- his father's-set within the larger story of Mexico itself. In this beautifully written new book, he tells of how another family-this time, his mother's-erased and forgot over time their ancient origins in Spain.
Every family has a forgotten tale of where it came from. Who is driven to tell it and why? Weaving together a highly original mix of autobiography, conquest history, elegy, travel, family remembrance, and time travelling narration, Santos offers an unforgettable testimony to this calling and describe Display Comments Add a Comment
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Dangerous Liaisons: Feminist Engagements with Race, Sexuality, Class, and Gender in Theatre and Media- 35th Annual Women and Theatre Program (WTP) Conference Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) August 2, 2010 – Los Angeles, CA University of California, Los Angeles
What would it mean to create a “dangerous liaison” between the feminist and the queer? What are some of the experiments and pursuits made towards interrogating how the theatre and media influences the production and reception of race, sex, class, and gender in feminist and queer performances? This call for papers asks for explicative representations of how feminist and queer performance intersects with race, sexuality, class, and gender to perform/critique the “dangerous liaisons.”
ATHE’s conference theme this year is Theatre Live: Theater, Media, and Survival, and though theater and media are at the centre of the WTP’s conference theme as well, we deploy the concept of “dangerous liaisons” as we interrogate the influences of theatre and media on feminist and queer communities, performance, collaborations, and other related issues. The WTP wishes to use the 2010 conference as a moment to explore ways to include those who have been excluded from political processes, to examine the impacts of theatre and media on feminist and queer communities, to build and explore collaborations among marginalized groups. Some topics suggested by our membership include:
Media and Performing the Body
Construction of Sex, Sexuality, and Gender in Popular Culture
Cultural Icons of Feminism and Queer (Mothers, Divas, Monsters, Superheroes, etc…)
The Body and Representations of Femininity
Female Sexuality in the Theatre and Media Representations of Ethnic Sexualities and ‘Otherness’ (dis/ability, ethnicity, queer, etc..)
Eroticism as Power Race and Gender in Media
Class Differences in Feminist and Queer Communities
Feminist Beliefs of Religion, Spiritual, Secular, and Sexuality
Feminist Activism and Pedagogy on Immigration and Marriage Equality
The Conference Committee encourages proposals that incorporate innovative formats, numerous voices, partnerships and active dialogue. You are urged to go beyond the traditional 3-speaker presentation for seminars, roundtables, performances, workshops, and poster sessions.
SUBMISSION PROCESS: Submissions for the Display Comments Add a Comment
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R.I.P.: Montemayor, Mexican Literary Giant, Renaissance Man
In a world of clipped discourse and fleeting images, Carlos Montemayor stood apart from the mainstream. A student of ancient and modern languages, Chihuahua’s native son promoted Maya, Zapotec, Guarani and other indigenous poetry of the Americas. The 62-year-old scholar wrote acclaimed books, received prestigious literary awards and contributed regularly to publications including the daily La Jornada and the national news magazine Proceso. A lover of the musical arts, he found time to sing opera.
Mexico’s literary giant and Chihuahua’s Dean of Letters is now dead. Born in Parral, Chihuahua, in 1947, Montemayor succumbed to stomach cancer early on the morning of February 28 in Mexico City. Less than three months earlier, in December 2009, Montemayor was handed Mexico’s National Arts and Sciences Award by President Felipe Calderon.
A novelist, poet, essayist, teacher, translator, researcher, and tenor, the multi-lingual Montemayor was perhaps most of all a defender of the dispossessed.
As a young university student in Chihuahua City in the 1960s, Montemayor witnessed first hand a mass movement of small farmers for land. He even met youths who felt compelled to take up arms for the first guerrilla movement in Mexico after the Cuban Revolution.
Later, while residing in Mexico City, Montemayor was stunned to hear the idealistic young people in Chihuahua who were willing to lay down their lives for a greater cause officially described as bandits, cattle rustlers and delinquents.
“This is what really affected me, because I knew their honesty, their cleanliness, their integrity, their militancy, their generosity, ” Montemayor once told a Mexican reporter. “This impression of how the official version can brutally destroy the truth of human life marked me forever.”
Coming of age in a time of social and political upheaval, Montemayor was considered by many to be Mexico’s leading expert on left-wing guerrilla movements. After carefully researching the movements from all angles, and talking directly to survivors of the struggles, Montemayor wrote two novels that dramatically retold the stories of the armed uprisings of the 1960s and 1970s.
Montemayor’s classic 1991 work The War in Paradise relived the guerrilla movement and dirty war that jolted the southern state of Guerrero in the 1970s. A later novel, Arms of the Dawn (2003), employed the same technique of historical fiction to retell the story of the 1965 attack on the army barracks in Madera, Chihuahua, by revolutionaries led by Arturo Gamiz and
Olga García Echeverría
I'm not really sure if real women have to have curves (I know some flacas who are pretty bad-ass), but in my opinion female filmmakers, especially indigenous female filmmakers like Yolanda Cruz, have to have a lot of nerve.
Film, afterall, has traditionally been a male-dominated field, and when we consider the historical representations of indigenous people in the media, such as the stereotypical savage or the noble indian, we can appreciate the challenges faced by contemporary filmmakers like Cruz.
Yolanda, though, isn't one to feel limited by past or present. Like many visionary artists, she's about cultivating and creating, even in times of economic crisis and even within a field where far too often the voices of women of color are excluded. With seven award-winning films to her name, the last of which is a feature-length documentary, Yolanda's proven that she's not intimated by the industry and that she's serious about increasing the representation of indigenous people in the media.
Born in the mountainous region of Cieneguilla, Oaxaca, Yolanda has been defying traditional gender roles since her early years. “As a child, I was taught certain gender-specific things, such as embroidery, knitting, and cooking. At the time, the idea was that these things would help prepare me to be a good housewife, but I wanted more than that."
Although the treatment of women in Mexico is definitely an issue, Yolanda makes it clear that it is not always the case that women are oppressed. "There were four girls in our family. Although my father always wanted a boy, which he eventually got, he taught us girls not to limit ourselves because of our gender. He pushed us to do non-traditional things too, such as work on his car. I was also surrounded by a lot of strong women in my family and community. I actually didn’t feel limited by my gender. If anything I felt stronger about the issue of class.”
When Yolanda was six, her family migrated from her home village to the city. She notes that although the people in the city were also from indigenous backgrounds, many were second generation and had lost many of their indigenous roots, such as language. "In Mexico, there is a lot of discrimination toward indigenous people, especially against those who retain their native language and customs. More than anything I think this discrimination has to do with ignorance. When I first arrived to the city, I had to create my own space and let others know that they couldn't mess with me. I had to break-out of the negative stereotypes that others had of me and prove them wrong.”
Yolanda also broke away from traditional expectations by becoming a filmmaker. “I grew up in a culture where the goal, especially in regards to education, is to get a good job that pays for life’s immediate needs. Art isn’t necessarily that type of job. But I wanted to be different. For an indigenous woman to choose a career in filmmaking is a challenge because as it is there aren’t many female filmmakers out there.”
Yolanda first got involved in film during her college years. “As a student I was involved in theater and photography and that eventually evolved into film. For me, film was a much more active medium than photography. I wanted something interactive that could be used as a tool for organizing and giving voice to the community that I belong to."
Yolanda's chosen medium has definitely proven effective. Her first student project at UCLA, Entre Sueños, a short film about an indigenous woman seeking her identity, was chosen for the Sundance Film Festival in 2000.
Maceo Montoya grew up in the small town of Elmira, California. He comes from a family of artists, including his father Malaquias Montoya, a renowned artist, activist, and educator, and his late brother, Andrés Montoya, whose poetry collection The Iceworker Sings won the American Book Award in 2000.
He lives in Woodland, California where he paints and writes. His first novel, The Scoundrel and the Optimist, is available now from Bilingual Review Press. The following is an excerpt from Montoya’s novel.
Chapter 1 from The Scoundrel and the Optimist
Of Filastro Agustín's seven children, the only one he couldn't bear to beat was his youngest son, Edmund. There were, to be exact, three reasons for this. First of all, Edmund was a very fragile boy. His head seemed much too large for his puny body, his limbs merely an assortment of sticks. Filastro firmly believed in good solid beatings, not just for his own children, but also for his nephews and the neighborhood riffraff, not to mention his wife (and when drunk, just about anyone). But Filastro also firmly believed in one's right to live, and he had reason to worry that his sickly-looking child might very well die if dealt too serious a blow.
The second reason follows the first. Filastro, worrying about his son's fragility, took him to the doctor and asked point-blank: "Doctor, I'm worried that if I beat him I might kill him! What is your opinion? Is it safe?" The doctor examined the boy from head to toe, checked his pulse, peered into his tonsils, and hit his knee with a small mallet. "I think this boy would be perfectly fine with a good beating from time to time," said the doctor in his final analysis. "Well, that's fantastic!" Filastro exclaimed, his face radiant. "But," continued the doctor, "there's something you should be careful about."
"And what is that?" Filastro asked.
"His psychological state," replied the doctor.
"His what? Just what in the hell are you talking about?"
"It means that bones and flesh heal, but feelings do not."
"What do you take me for, a sissy, doctor? Don't give me that schoolgirl shit. What do I care about feelings?"
"You must care," the doctor implored. "If his psychological state is damaged, you never know what might happen. Dreadful consequences! Remember, Filastro, Add a Comment
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Circle of Women Stamp Project
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For more details visit www.latinochildlitconf.org
This April 23rd and 24th celebrate the rich traditions and diversity within the Latino cultures at the National Celebration of Latino Children’s Literature Conference. Discover how to meet the informational and literacy needs of Latino children via high quality, culturally-relevant literature and the latest educational strategies. Engage in unique networking opportunities with librarians, teachers, educators, and researchers from across the nation as we explore how to make intercultural connections and serve this rapidly growing, uniquely diverse population.
As the number of Latino children and their families continues to increase, so does the need for understanding these diverse cultures. This exclusive conference provides a forum for sharing current research and practice addressing the cultural, educational, and informational needs of Latino children and their families. At the same time, the conference also examines the many social influences that Latino children’s literature has upon the developing child.
Beginning Friday April 23rd at 1 p.m. on the historical University of Alabama campus, nationally-recognized Latino children’s literature expert Oralia Garza de Cortés will launch the recurring conference theme “Connecting Cultures and Celebrating Cuentos” with a powerful keynote address. Participants will then have the opportunity to attend breakout sessions related to Latino children’s and young adult literature, library services to Latinos, and literacy education for Latino children. Immediately following these small group sessions, award-winning Latina author Monica Brown and award-winning Latino artist Rafael López will discuss the collaborative synergy behind their work.
Friday evening, award-winning Latina author and storyteller Carmen Tafolla will celebrate El día de los niños/El día de los libros (Children's Day/Book Day), Latino children’s literature, and cultural literacy with a free community event at the Tuscaloosa Public Library. This Noche de Cuentos (Evening of Stories) begins at 7 p.m. and includes storytelling, refreshments, and free books for the niños.
On Saturday April 24th, Dr. Monica Brown energizes participants and opens the day’s events with a keynote address at Mary Hewell Alston Hall. Breakout sessions for both practitioners and researchers as well as graduate and undergraduate students will follow and include a variety of topics related to Latino children’s literature and literacy. Research posters will also be on display throughout the conference.
Lunch will be served at the Ferguson Center and will be followed by an engaging keynote at Mary Hewell Alston Hall with award-winning artist and illustrator Rafael López. Afterwards breakout sessions will include topics related to education, literacy, storytelling, and library services for Latino children. Storyteller and award-winning author Dr. Carmen Tafolla will bring down the house with a grand finale performance followed by a book signing with conference authors. Attendees will hav Display Comments Add a Comment
I was a librarian in Fort Lupton, Colorado the only time I met Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado. He had driven from Arvada to do a reading at our school as was a common offering of his in small farm towns across Colorado. Lalo arrived a half-hour early and I found him resting (alone) in the counselor's office, sitting with a genuine smile, the one often seen photographed on the rear covers of his many publications. And there I stood, a first year librarian in his twenties clinching a sagging bag of stapled chapbooks for Lalo to bless with an inscription. Lalo inscribed every volume and from a leather satchel he handed me a copy of his first book.
Published in 1969, Chicano: 25 pieces of a chicano mind is a member of an exclusive fraternity of movimiento classics that (not for the lack of voice, message, or beauty) somehow continue to remain prisoners of an era; its readers of today most likely mirror those of yesterday. Hopefully, this mini review will render a reader or two or three.
In the introduction, Delgado writes, "If my poems help the Chicanos to view themselves more clearly or for the Anglo or the Black man to also understand them, I have helped. If they don't, mine has been a sincere crime..." You will find that the only crime is not having read the poems assembled in Chicano.
En cultura, costumbre, y sentimiento viven estas poemas; each poem dances to the beat of a Chicano heart. It is in the simplicity of Delgado's words readers realize the harsh reality survived by the chicanito he writes of in by far the book's finest poem, Stupid America. Refraining from abridging the poem with synopsis or abstract, you will find its contents in full below.
Stupid America (a poem by Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado)
stupid america, see that chicano
with a big knife
on his steady hand
he doesn't want to knife you
he wants to sit on a bench
and carve christfigures
but you won't let him.
stupid america, hear that chicano
shouting curses on the street
he is a poet
without paper and pencil
and since he cannot write
he will explode.
stupid america, remember that chicanito
flunking math and english
he is a picasso
of your western states
but he will die
with one thousand masterpieces
hanging only from his mind.
While Delgado's work can almost never be found in chain bookstores, fans old and new are sure to liberate single volumes of his many published chapbooks from the leaning stacks of dusty used bookshops. Yes, his titles are rarities and cause para un pisto when found on those luck days as there is no denying Lalo's masterpieces endure and no longer hang only from his mind, they hang from ours as well. Display Comments Add a Comment
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