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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 have the opportunity to select their favorite book from the Tejas Star list during the 2008-2009 school year.
Congratulations to Xavier Garza! His bilingual book Lucha Libre, The Man in the Silver Mask: a bilingual cuento (Cinco Puntos Press) won the 2008-2009 Tejas Star Book award.
This is the description of the book:
THEY'RE NO LONGER SOMEONE NAMED ALEJANDRO LOPEZ OR HORACIO BALDERA. THEY BECOME CHICANO POWER, THEY BECOME THE RED DEVIL.
Do you know what lucha libre is? Have you ever been to a lucha libre match and seen los technicos and los rudos—the good guys and the bad guys—dressed up in their wild costumes and crazy masks? How would you feel if the most famous luchador of all time actually stopped and smiled at you? Find out what happens to Carlitos when The Man in the Silver Mask—a man he’s never seen before in his whole life—turns and does that very thing to him.
Kids—of all ages—are drawn to the allure of lucha libre and its masked men and women. In Lucha Libre, young fans will see this fascinating world come alive: favorite heroes and much-feared villains, dressed in dazzling and outrageous costumes, strut and prance across the mat and bounce against the ropes, daring anyone to take them to the floor!
The 2008-2009 Tejas Star Book Award finalists are:
-Andricaín, Sergio (Comp). (2008). Arco Iris de Poesía: Poemas de las Américas y España. New York: Lectorum [Scholastic]. Olga Cuellar (Illus.) ISBN: 1930332599
-Argueta, Jorge. (2006). La fiesta de las tortillas/The Fiesta of the Tortillas. Miami: Alfaguara [Santillana]. María Jesús Álvarez (Illus.) ISBN: 1598200941
-Brown, Mónica. (2007). Butterflies on Carmen Street/Mariposas en la calle Carmen. Houston: Piñata Books [Arte Público]. April Ward (Illus.) ISBN: 9781558854840
-Colato Laínez, René. (2005). I am René, the Boy/Soy René, el Niño. Houston: Piñata Books [Arte Público]. Fabiola Graullera Ramírez (Illus). ISBN: 1558853782
-Cuenca, Héctor. (2008). La cucarachita Martina. New York: Lectorum [Scholastic]. ISBN: 1933032367
-Lázaro, Georgina. (2007). Juana Inés. Cuando los grandes eran pequeños. New York: Lectorum [Scholastic]. Bruno González Preza (Illus.) ISBN: 1930332572
-Pérez, Amada Irma. (2007). Nana’s Big Surprise/Nana, ¡Qué Sorpresa! San Francisco, Calfornia: Children’s Book Press. Maya Christina González (Illus.) ISBN 0892391901
-Romeu, Emma. (2007). El rey de las octavas. New York: Lectorum [Scholastic]. Enrique S. Moreiro (Illus.) ISBN: 193303226X
-Ruiz-Flores, Lupe. (2007). The Woodcutter’s Gift/El regalo del leñador. Houston: Piñata Books [Arte Público]. Elaine Jerome (Illus.) ISBN: 9781558854895
-Tafolla, Carmen and Sharyll Teneyuca. (2008). That’s Not Fair! Emma Tenayuca’s Struggle for Justice/¡No es Justo! La lucha de Emma Tenayuca por la justicia. San Antonio, Texas: Wings Press. Terry Ybañez (Illus.) ISBN: 9780916727338
-Zepeda, Gwendolyn. (2008). Growing up with Tamales/Los Tamales de Ana. Houston: Piñata Books [Arte Público]. April Ward (Illus.) ISBN: 9781558854932
....And the nominees for the 2009-2010 Tejas Star Book Award are:
-Alire Sáenz, Benjamin. (2008). A Perfect Season for Dreaming/Un tiempo perfecto para soñar. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos. Esau Andrade Valencia (illus.). Lluis Humberto Crosthwaite (trans.). ISBN: 978-1-933693-01-9. Gr. 1-5.
-Anaya, Rudolfo. (2007). The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press. Amy Córdova (illus.). Enrique R. Lamadrid (trans.) ISBN: 978-0-8263-4214-0. Gr. 3+.
-Brown, Monica. (2007). My Name is Gabito/Me llamo Gabito. Flagstaff, AZ: Luna Rising. Raúl Colón (illus.). ISBN: 978-0-87358-908-6. Gr. K-3.
-Costales, Amy. (2007). Abuelita Full of Life/Abuelita llena de vida. Flagstaff, AZ: Luna Rising. Martha Avilés (illus.) ISBN: 978-0-87358-914-7. Gr. K-2.
-Garza, Xavier. (2008). Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid. El Paso, TX: Cinco Puntos. ISBN: 978-1-933693-24-8. Gr. 2-5.
-Gonzalez Bertrand, Diane. (2007). We Are Cousins/Somos primos. Houston: Piñata Books. Christina E. Rodriguez (illus.). ISBN: 978-1-55885-486-4. Gr. K-3.
-González, Lucía. (2007). The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos. San Francisco: Children’s Book Press. Lulu Delacre (illus.). ISBN: 978-0-89239-222-3. Gr. 3-6.
Maria walks into the central city crowd, homeless, destitute, the rest of her life in front of her. And that’s that. Bluhm chases her, losing ground until suddenly she is not there.
After twenty years with Maria, before that life with a wife, his mother, two kids, a maid, Carlos Bluhm stares into the brownness of the city numb with pain, oblivious to the crowd’s resentment of his gringoness on their streets. In the distance, Bluhm’s German-Peruvian pals call his name to bring him back into their protective embrace. So ends Marie Arana’s Lima Nights. It’s a novel whose pages you keep turning not because the characters are endearing—quite the opposite—but to see if there’s a point to Carlos Bluhm’s loser of a life.
Maria has never been there throughout the novel, despite her pivotal role in the mess that is Bluhm’s life. He first spots her at a taxi dance bar, Lima Nights, where women keep men buying liquor, then after hours making whatever deals they can turn. An experienced woman counsels Maria to capture a man’s attention by slipping her datos into the guy’s coat pocket. Make a good choice and a woman earns long-term security and a taste of the good life that comes of being a man’s mistress.
Maria chooses Carlos, a forty-something man out on the town with his three pals. Not that Maria’s been on the job all that long, or other work for that matter. She’s fifteen years old, a couple weeks from turning legal. Maria desperately wants out of a life in Lima’s worst slum, her mother an alcoholic who takes in men and laundry to support Maria and her two brothers. Talk about highly motivated to do whatever it takes to shake free of that futureless history, that’s Maria. If something good has come of Maria’s years with Carlos it’s the slim chance that her future will not be to return to that slum and her mother’s footsteps.
But Lima Nights is not Maria’s story. And it’s not Carlos Bluhm’s, despite his central role. Lima Nights is a political novel. Marriage politics looms above all, defining the tragedy that comes to familia Bluhm. Arana casts a cold, subjective eye on men’s philandering and women’s tolerance. Except for Oscar the shrink, the cohort are scions of rich families down on their luck. With their grandfathers’ economic empires dismantled, the men live in Lima’s elegant houses but work regular jobs like camera salesman, appliance store entrepreneur, hotel manager. Bluhm struggles to make ends meet; to pay for his pleasures he begins dismantling his heritage, selling family silver and pre-hispanic artifacts.
Maria never gives a conscious thought to what she’s done to Bluhm’s family, other than one uncomfortable moment staring into the eyes of Bluhm’s younger son, who is older than Maria and who finds Maria beautiful. The women’s attitudes range from bitter resentment of the men covering for each other to zero tolerance only when confronted by hard proof. That’s Bluhm’s wife. Only when confronted with firm evidence of Bluhm’s tryst with the Indian girl, does the wife move out, taking Bluhm’s mother with her, and the maid. Maria moves into the empty house the first night. It is an empty dream but she takes full advantage of it, investing the next twenty years of escape in making the nest a comfortable home.
Bluhm’s friends cannot understand his actions. Not that the girl is not alluring, nor that she’s only fifteen. Only the psychiatrist is troubled by the child’s age. For his part, Bluhm anxiously waits until her birthday to make his first physical move on her. Maria’s main fault is being a chola--brown-skinned India. Indians like her, according to Bluhm’s buddies, are good for a one-night stand but not someone to settle down with. It’s an attitude Maria feels too, thinking herself disposable to men like Bluhm.
This vicious prejudice permeates Bluhm’s light-skinned society. It is the immovable force against the irresistible force of Peru’s indigenous and mestizo masses. This ugly undercurrent of hatred converts Lima Nights from a sadness-infused battle of the sexes fable to a frustrating metaphor for Peru’s decaying colonialism. The intractable divide between cholas like Maria and white-skinned Europeans like the Bluhm’s German-Peruvian social circle offers no escape to either side. There is hope. Bluhm’s sons wash their hands of their father’s past—neither of them wants nor needs the old place, they’ve carved out their own fortunes by dint of their own labor. Just as there’s hope that Maria’s future will not be like her past, if she can parlay into a job what she’s learned as a chola living a middle-class gringo life. If not, there’s always the slum, or the Shining Path, or something less.
A ver, Maria. Suerte. Carlos, you did it to yourself and whatever happens next, you have it coming. Readers have it coming to them to enjoy Arana's Lima Nights.
There's the second Tuesday of June 2009. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. And thank you for visiting La Bloga.
La Bloga welcomes your comments. Click the Comments counter below to share your thoughts on today's or any column. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists, as last week when Lydia Gil reported on Luis Urrea's reading at Denver's Tattered Cover. If you have a book review, or an arts or cultural event to report, click here and tell us about your guest column.
Stephen D. Gutierrez's new book of short fiction, Live from Fresno y Los: Stories (Bear Star Press, $16 paperback), bears witness to the excitement and pain, exhilaration and disappointments, of growing up Chicano in Fresno and Los Angeles during the 1970s.
He renders his world in honest, eloquent brush strokes, creating stories that are simultaneously grounded in a particular culture while remaining universal in their message. He does this without sacrificing his trademark sense of humor.
He so perfectly captures the awkwardness and yearnings of puberty in the new collection that some of his stories made me break out into a cold sweat. In a recent interview with him, I asked how he felt as he revisited that era through fiction.
Gutierrez acknowledged that he "felt emotionally drawn into the times of those stories, not necessarily painfully, but fully aware that I had somehow come to grips with whatever inspired the stories by writing about them somewhat artistically -- that is to say, with the detachment necessary to shape raw emotions into something meaningful."
But in the end, no matter how difficult it might have been to revisit the past, writing makes Gutierrez happy, which, he said, is the bottom line.
One of my favorite stories in the collection is "The Barbershop," which concerns an aging father's last days and his family's attempts to cope. The power of this story comes from the very simple attempt by the father to get a haircut and maintain some dignity. The story, Gutierrez said, is "pretty much autobiographical." He explained that his father suffered from a "horrendous" form of early-onset Alzheimer's complicated by other maladies.
"One day I saw him take what I already knew to be a heroic walk up to the front door of his regular barbershop for his last haircut. The image of him setting off down the sidewalk stayed with me, and I tried to make something out of it."
In the story "Harold, All American," Gutierrez writes about the racial and ethnic tensions among East Los Angeles teenagers: Chicanos vs. "Okies" vs. "wetbacks." The youths' emotions are raw and tattered, and their reaction to the surrounding world is nothing less than brutal. I asked Gutierrez whether he thought this type of struggle continues into adulthood.
"I think it does change," he said. "Everybody grows up, matures, laughs about it, how stupid one was as an adolescent, how commonly adolescent one was after all, how narrow-minded and protective of one's own fragile identity against everyone else." However, Gutierrez acknowledged that "there are some who refuse to grow up and carry hate into their adult lives," which he said is simply sad.
Gutierrez's stories have a particular emotional resonance for me because they conjure up images and personalities from my old neighborhood near downtown Los Angeles.
But there is universality in his subjects: adolescent struggle, aging parents, deep friendships, falling in love, the need to make a place in the world. Gutierrez understands this aspect of his stories.
"I think all writing is geared toward a particular audience; the suburban novel is going to bore stiff the urban reader," he explained. "But let me amend that: Most writing, by default, is particularized and necessarily appealing to a smaller audience than intended."
In the end, he hopes his characters "are deeply recognizable from whatever background you have -- they are people caught in the crux of life, facing their own demons."
Without a doubt, Gutierrez has succeeded in creating characters that transcend accent, culture and place in these deeply moving, well-crafted stories.
Far be it from me to argue with Simon Cowell, but as I watched the finale of American Idol and boy-next-door Kris Allen win the title I finalized a theory I have been brewing for the last few months. You see Simon has told Kris from the beginning that he had to be more confident, cockier, but I would argue that the boy’s humility and lack of cockiness is exactly what won the competition for Kris. And I’m wondering…does this represent a sea change in the arts, particularly in the music industry?
I actually began thinking about this when I attended a keynote speech given by brilliant Dominican author Julia Alvarez. The conference organizer who was doing the introduction stood before us and read a long list of all of Julia’s publications as people shifted in their chairs. She listed every award and accolade (of which there are MANY) whilst the author herself sat on the stage in her rebozo looking uncomfortable and anxious as we were for it to be over with. Finally Julia leaned over to the woman and told her, “You can skip through all that. Please.” She really wasn’t about all that and clearly wasn’t comfortable being fawned over. Now you could argue that the very fact that she would tell the woman to move on displayed a certain level of confidence, but being confident and being arrogant are two very different things. Ms. Alvarez is the former but not the latter. But that very afternoon I was on my elliptical listening to Latin Hip Hop and Reggaeton and it came to me… Perhaps with the current national climate, the time for arrogance is fading.
I was listening to Pitbull and Daddy Yankee and began counting how many times they repeated their names and their record labels as part of the “lyrics.” When I play Nicky Jam’s album “The Black Carpet” it has become a joke between my son and I how many times he says, “Nicky Jams, yo!” over and over and over throughout the recording, as well as the name of the album. I mean, I KNOW who it is and what it’s called, I bought the damn thing, didn’t I? I stopped and admitted that this had begun to seem arrogant and self-indulgent to me. Now I know it was begun as a way for a people who fought for recognition and a voice to represent themselves, a way for unrepresented people to demand to be heard, and I know this has played an important part in the culture of modern music. But though I am far from the usual demographic I think things are changing. I think in this Obamera (Obama-era…I just made that up!) and with the country struggling with the economy and survival we are turning outward rather than inward, confident rather than arrogant.
Now I know the average AI watcher is not going to be into Reggaeton, but I can guarantee that a large amount of those young girls who voted for Kris also paid 99 cents to download Fergalicious, which could not be more self-promoting if it tried, but it was hard not to respond to his total non-pretention and lack of slickness. Though I am a serious Adam fan I couldn’t help but be drawn in to Kris’s shock as they announced his name as the winner. He, like Julia Alvarez, comes across as someone you could be friends with who just happens to be talented and famous. They don’t need to repeat their names over and over again because we remember their names because we like them. We like them because they’re not obnoxious and constantly reminding us that they’re better or more famous. They’re one of us.
Am I just an aging idealist whose channeling her socialist mother, or do you think the “me generation” is now become an “us generation?” One can only hope.
This post is motivated by similar articles I've read lately about why it's great to be a Latino in the U.S. or particular cities, etc. Lacking any brilliant inspiration for today's edition of La Bloga, I decided to steal the idea and give you my own list. No particular order, just how the pieces came to me. I have more than five reasons, but I ran out of time. Maybe I'll continue with my list in future posts. If you have your own suggestions, send them in. Click on the comments link below.
1. Canción Mexicana - this radio program has been on the air for 24 years, an amazing run, and it's still as strong as ever. The show is broadcast on Denver's public radio jazz station, KUVO,89.3 FM and on the Internet at www.kuvo.org. The show is hosted by Florencia Hernández-Ramos and Debra Gallegos every Sunday from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm (Mountain).
Here's what the KUVO website says about this very popular show that has become a cultural icon in the Rocky Mountain West: New Mexico, Colorado and Tejano music with information excerpts from Latino USA and News From Our Community. Canción Mexicana has dominated jazz89 KUVO's Sunday line-up in both audience and business support. The best of the best in Tex-Mex music, Canción Mexicana has been frequently recognized in Denver's major newspapers. The program consistently ranks in the top five slots on Sunday mornings in the Denver metro area and has enjoyed the number one spot. It's cumbia, it's rancheras, and a little bit of mariachi - it's all that and more; it's Canción Mexicana with the best New Mexico, Tejano and Colorado music. There's music on Canción Mexicana as well as reports from Latino USA with a glimpse into what's happening in the community. Get ready to dance!
2. La Raza Rocks- this show follows Canción Mexicana at 1:00 pm, Sundays, on KUVO. Pocho Joe and Gabe are the incredibly knowledgeable hosts of an hour of the best of Latino rock - new and old - Sunny & the Sunliners, Santana, Los Lobos, the Iguanas, Los Lonely Boys, and Dr. Loco and his Rockin' Jalapeno Band. Interviews and information are part of the show's presentation. Pocho Joe and Gabe like to dig deep into Chicano rock, coming up with groups like Thee Midniters, Tierra, Little Julian Herrera, El Chicano,War, the Blendells,Cannibal & the Headhunters, and the Premiers, but they also present the latest groups and singers. Over the years, this show has introduced Denver to Ozomatli, Quetzal, Alejandro Escovedo, the Blazers, and many more. As Pocho Joe likes to say, the show covers the "roots and branches" of Chicano soul music. It'll tear you up.
3. Su Teatro - this theater group sprung from the Movement more than thirty-five years ago (1971) as traveling agit-prop, consisting mostly of long-haired students. Today it is a well-established production company that every year amazes Denver audiences with the diversity and brilliance of Latino and Chicano theater. Under the direction of the long-haired Anthony Garcia, El Centro Su Teatro is about to enter a new phase with a multi-million dollar facility that promises to continue to enrich the Denver cultural scene with outstanding plays and events. In recent years, Su Teatro has presented remarkable theater such as Rudy Anaya's Bless Me, Ultima; Ollin; El Sol Que Tú Eres (Daniel Valdez and Tony Garcia collaborated on this Chicano version of the myth of Eurydice and Orpheus); Las Chicas de 3.5” Floppy;Death and the Maiden; and Catastrophe by Samuel Beckett. Annual events include the Neruda Poetry Festival (10 years), The XicanIndie Film Festival (11 years), and the Chicano Music Festival (12 years).
4. A bevy of writers and a strong literary tradition. Denver became the home for beloved poet Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado, author of one of the most famous Chicano poems ever published, Stupid America. Lalo probably is the best known Denver Chicano writer, but the city and the state have a long history of writers who have proudly preserved the history of Colorado's Chicanos, and made a little of their own while they were at it. Names that immediately come to mind include Margie Domingo, Flor Lovato, Ramon Del Castillo, Anthony Vigil, Joe Navarro, and Corky Gonzales for I Am Joaquin, a classic bit of Chicano lit. (The Denver Public Library has arranged for a Rudolfo "Corky" Gonzales Exhibit at the Central Library, June 2 through September 20, 2009. A special reception to honor the exhibit is set for June 18 from 7 - 9 pm at the Central Library, 10 West 14th Avenue Parkway.)
The tradition continues and there are young poets reading and writing all over the city, with readings and slams happening at places like the Taza de Café where Café Cultura did a regular thing, Cafe Nuba, the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, the Neruda Poetry Festival, Art From Ashes, etc. We got fiction writers, too - Mario Acevedo, Aaron A. Abeyta, Rudy Garcia, Emma Perez, Angel Vigil, Reneé Fajardo, and yours truly, to name a few. Denver is a city that loves to read; it has great independent bookstores and many author events. Now if we could just get a permanent book fair.
5. The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC) and theMuseo de las Américas.These two institutions sit on Santa Fe Drive in Denver's West Side. They provide art, artifacts, history, and venues for performance artists, poets, film-makers, and sculptors. CHAC has been around for thirty-one years, created by a group of artists who saw the need for their own space, devoted to their understanding of art and the creative process. That spirit still lives on at CHAC. The Museo has consistently presented world-class exhibits of Latino, Chicano and Latin American art, and has developed a national reputation for its adherence to its mission. As the website says, the Museo educates our community about the diversity of Latino Americano art and culture from ancient to contemporary through innovative exhibitions and programs. With the Latino population growing exponentially in the Denver and wider communities, the Museo plays an important role in building pride in the Latino community's heritage and promoting understanding among cultures. Other history and art museums in Denver cannot focus on one segment of the community in a sustained or comprehensive manner. The Museo was organized to fill this important niche in the cultural milieu. Under the leadership of newly-appointed director Maruca Salazar, a celebrated artist in her own right, the Museo should make an even bigger impression on the art-loving Denver residents.
The cool thing about this list is that you don't have to be a Chicana or a Chicano to enjoy the music, art, writing or history. We like to share.
Like I said, send in your own suggestions for this list - is it really great to be a Chicano or Chicana, wherever you live? If so, why?
La Bloga welcomes journalist Lydia Gil to our roster of guest columnists. Ms. Gil teaches Spanish and Latin American literature at the University of Denver. She reports on cultural and literary news for the Hispanic News Services of EFE and is the author of Mimí's Parranda/La parranda de Mimí, a bilingual children's book.
Luis Alberto Urrea stopped in Denver last Tuesday to present his new novel Into the Beautiful Northat the Tattered Cover, as part of an extensive book tour, which started in Kankakee, IL on the 20th. Urrea has been on the run since, reading in Denver, Tempe, Philadelphia, NYC, DC; tomorrow in Portland; the 4th in Seattle... You get the picture.
The reading was great, mostly because the actual reading was minimal and it was more like a long, chilled conversation with the audience. And also because he brought goodies: cardboard abanicos and postcards with the logo of Tacho's "La Mano Caída" restaurant and internet café... Yes, not only is he a wonderfully skilled writer, with 14 books and tons of awards to his name, but also a marketing wiz. And you thought multi-city book tours were dead...
Urrea seems super dedicated to his fans... To those unhappy with the lighter tone of Into The Beautiful North "because it's not The Hummingbird's Daughter " he promises a sequel of the latter for next year and this, in addition to the film version, directed by Luis Mandoki and starring Antonio Banderas and Ivana Barquero. And, to those who think that The Hummingbird's Daughter should be considered typical of his writing, he insists that it was, indeed, the exception.
He said that after Hummingbird and The Devil's Highway, writing his latest novel was a treat. He wanted to have a good time, a sort of literary holiday... And from what he told us, a very well deserved holiday. It turns out that his previous work was a long, introspective look at growing up in the Barrio and at breaking what he calls "the secret codes of machismo"... It was rejected by his publisher. So you see, even writers with long lists of awards and Hollywood credits get their manuscripts rejected. So, gente, keep writing!
Several of the many anecdotes Urrea shared with the audience were not surprisingly about the writing life. How, for instance, he's a long-distance writer, going pretty much from the computer to the chiropractor... Readers seem forever curious about these things: when do you write, what's your favorite poem, they ask, as if the answer could shed light on a coded passage of fiction or revive a moribund writing routine... So while answering one of those questions, Urrea explained that many of his ideas for narrative have actually come from poetry. When he's in between writing projects, he says, "that's when stacks of poetry books start to take over the house..." What a nice image.
Estoy leyendo... Purgatorio by Tomás Eloy Martínez. Not your typical story about desaparecidos during the Dirty War in Argentina. In 1976, Simón Cardoso, a cartographer, is detained by the military and never seen again. His wife, Emilia Dupuy, unconvinced of his death, awaits his return amidst the predictability of her suburban life in New Jersey. Three decades after his disappearance, Emilia, now a middle-aged woman with distant memories of her youth, runs into Simón in her neighborhood and recognizes him instantly, as he seems oddly to be frozen in time... A good read, so far.
Congratulations to the International Latino Book Award Winners!
CATEGORY A – CHILDREN AND YOUNG ADULT BOOKS
Best Educational Children’s Book - English The Song of the Coconut – Adalucía - Cholita Prints & Publishing Co.
Best Educational Children’s Book - Spanish Quiero Ser Poeta - Rafael Garcia Jolly, José Carbonell Pla, Antonia Moreno, María D. Torres Bañuls - LetraRoja 2ND Place: El secreto del dorado - Maria Villegas y Jennie Kent - Villegas Asociados S.A. Honorable Mention: Figúrate: Animales, Fantasía y Mundo - María Villegas y Jennie Kent - Villegas Asociados
Best Educational Children’s Book - Bilingual Dealing With Insults - Qué Hacer con los Insultos - Marianne Johnson - Rosen Publishing/Buenas Letras 2ND Place: Teo in Palo Verde - Adam Del Rio - Lectura Books 2ND Place: Ronaldinho - José María Obregón - Rosen Publishing/Buenas Letras Honorable Mention: Las Abejas - Katie Franks - Rosen Publishing/Buenas Letras
Best Children’s Picture Book – English Abuelos - Pat Mora - Groundwood Books 2ND Place: The Secret Legacy - Rigoberta Menchú - Groundwood Books Honorable Mention: Kitchen Dance - Maurie J. Manning - Clarion Books
Best Children’s Picture Book – Spanish Los Tres Reyes De Oriente - Lluis Farre - Bambú 2ND Place: El mejor mariachi del mundo - J. D. Smith - Raven Tree Press Honorable Mention: Mira, Mira - Angels Navarro - Bambú
Best Children’s Picture Book – Bilingual Rachel and the Lion - Stephanie Lainez - Story House Books 2ND Place: Colors!¡Colores! - Jorge Luján - Groundwood Books Honorable Mention: The Storyteller’s Candle - Lucia Gonzalez - Children’s Book Press
Best Young Adult Fiction – English Dark Dude - Oscar Hijuelos - Atheneum/Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing 2ND Place: Amor and Summer Secrets - Diana Rodriguez Wallach - Kensington Publishers Honorable Mention: Mr. Clean and the Barrio - David Bueno-Hill - Urbano Books
Best Young Adult Fiction – Spanish or Bilingual El Asunto Galindo - Fernando Lalana - Bambú 2ND Place: Odisea - Albert Jané - Combel Editorial, S. A Honorable Mention: Carlito’s Story - Max Benavidez & Katherine Del Monte – Lectura Books Honorable Mention: No sapiens - Ariel González - Libros en Red
Best Young Adult Nonfiction - English The Barefoot Shoeshine Boy - Al Rivera - Author House
Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation – English Soccer’s Story & A Futbol Fable - Gil Sperry - Amigo del Mar Press
Best Young Adult Sports/Recreation – Spanish or Bilingual Go Milka Go! ¡Core, Milka, Corre! - Raquel Benatar - Renaissance House
CATEGORY B – NONFICTION
Best Arts Book - English The Journey of Frederic Edwin Church - Through Colombia and Ecuador - Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaria - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: Line: 7 Elements of Art - Jane Castillo - Crystal Productions Honorable Mention: Yolanda M. Lopez - Karen Mary Davalos - Chicano Studies Research Center Press (UCLA)
Best Arts Book - Spanish or Bilingual Manuel Hernández - Manuel Hernández - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: Alicia Viteri: Memoria Digital - Alicia Viteri - Villegas Asociados S.A. Honorable Mention: Herman the Jester and the ABC’s of Art - Rafael Filion - Author House
Best Biography - English Crazy Loco Love - Victor Villaseñor - Arte Público Press 2ND Place: The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes - José Antonio Burciaga - University of Arizona Press 2ND Place: Paths to Discovery - Norma E. Cantú - Chicano Studies Research Center Press (UCLA) Honorable Mention: Take Me With You: A Memoir - Carlos Frias - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
Best Biography - Spanish or Bilingual Bolívar, Delirio y Epopeya - Víctor Paz - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: Llorando en la Oscuridad - Pablo Chapoy - Ediciones Del Ermitaño Honorable Mention: Yagruma: Amores Prohibidos en Epocas de Tirania - Francisco Calderon Vallejo - Conceptos Editoriales Honorable Mention: Un Sueño Americano - Oscar de la Hoya - Rayo Honorable Mention: De Ciertas Damas - Carlos Lleras Restrepo - Villegas Asociados S.A.
Best Business Book - Spanish or Bilingual El Latino más rico en los Estados Unidos - Rubén Ruiz - Wealth and Millionaire Publishing 2ND Place: Hablidades Para el Trato Personal en los Negocios - Dr. Camilo Cruz - Taller Del Éxito
Best Gift Book - English Colombia by Color - Benjamin Villegas - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: Holywood - Se Habla Español - Rafael J. Rivera-Viruet & Max Resto - Terramax Entertainment Publishing
Best Gift Book - Spanish or Bilingual Secreto: El Libro De La Gratitud (The Secret Gratitude Book) - Rhonda Byrne - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: Quiero Ser Poeta - Garcia Jolly, Carbonell Pla, Moreno, Torres Bañuls - LetraRoja 2ND Place: Pardon My Spanglish ¡Porque Because! - Bill Santiago - Qwirk Books Honorable Mention: Gringosincrasias - Emma Sepúlveda - Asterión
Best History/Political Book - English No Greater Love: The Lives and Times of Hispanic Soldiers - Major General Freddie Valenzuela, with Jason Lemons - Ovation Books
Best History/Political Book - Spanish or Bilingual Principio y Fin Delmito Fidelista - José Alvarez - Trafford Publishing 2ND Place: Alberto Lleras - Alberto Lleras - Villegas Asociados S.A.
Best Reference Book - English A Simple Guide to U.S. Immigration and Citizenship - Luis Cortes - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
Best Reference Book - Spanish or Bilingual De Inmigrante a Ciudadano - Luis Cortes - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: El Latino más rico en los Estados Unidos - Rubén Ruiz - Wealth and Millionaire Publishing
Best Cookbook - English Latin Evolution - Jose Garces - Lake Isle Press, Inc.
Best Cookbook - Spanish or Bilingual Larousse De Los Postres - Paulina Abascal - Ediciones Larousse 2ND Place: Y Hoy ¿Qué Les Doy? - Lourdes Al cñiz y Lourdes March = Grijalbo - Random House Mondadori Honorable Mention: La Comida de Italia - Un viaje para los amantes de la cocina - María Villegas & Sophie Braimbridge - Villegas Asociados
Best Health Book - English The Art of Healing Latinos - David E. Hayes-Bautista & Roberto Chiprut - Chicano Studies Research Center Press (UCLA)
Best Health Book - Spanish or Bilingual Mami, tengo hambre! - Jeamme Warren Lindsay, Jean Brunelli, Sally McCullough - Morning Glory Press 2ND Place: Y Hoy ¿Qué Les Doy? - Lourdes Al Cñiz y Lourdes March - Grijalbo - Random House Mondadori
Best Religious Book - English Misa, Mesa y Musa Vol 2 - Kenneth G. Davis - World Library Publications 2ND Place: Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage: Unlocking the Secrets to Life, Love and Marriage - Mark Gungor – Atria Books
Best Religious Book - Spanish or Bilingual Autobiografia de un Yogui (revised) - Paramahansa Yogananda - Self-Realization Fellowship 2ND Place: Susurros de la Eternidad - Paramahansa Yogananda - Self-Realization Fellowship Honorable Mention: Reconstruye Tu Vida: El Camino a la Felicidad Sin Limites - T.D. Jakes – Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
Best Self-help Book - English The Barefoot Shoeshine Boy - Al Rivera – Author House 2ND Place: I Love You. Now What? Falling in Love is a Mystery. Keeping it Isn’t - Mabel Iam – Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: Family Activism: Empowering Your Community Beginning with Family and Friends - Roberto Vargas – Bennett-Koehler Publishers Honorable Mention: The Latino’s Guide to Parenting - Suzanne Moreno - Ed-Ventures Publishing Co.
Best Self-help Book - Spanish or Bilingual Triunfar en la Vida - Paramahansa Yogananda - Self-Realization Fellowship 2ND Place: ¿Se Habla Dinero? The Everyday Guide to Financial Success - Lynn Jimenez - John Wiley & Sons
Best Spiritual/New Age Book - Spanish or Bilingual El Viaje - Siete pasos para diseñar y dusfrutar una vida con propósito - Lic. Rafael Ayala - Taller Del Éxito 2ND Place: Secreto: El Libro De La Gratitud (The Secret Gratitude Book) - Rhonda Byrne - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: Autobiografia de un Yogui (revised) - Paramahansa Yogananda - Self-Realization Fellowship Honorable Mention: El Latino más rico en los Estados Unidos - Rubén Ruiz - Wealth and Millionaire Publishing
Best Travel Book - English Winter in Kandahar - Life in Afghanistan Before the Taliban - Ana M. Briongos - Trotamundas Press
Best Travel Book - Spanish or Bilingual El Viaje de Frederic Edwin Church - por Colombia y Ecuador - Pablo Navas Sanz de Santamaria - Villegas Asociados S.A.
CATEGORY C – FICTION
Best Popular Fiction - English Gunmetal Black - Daniel Serrano - Grand Central Publishing 2ND Place: Ghosts of El Grullo - Patricia Santana - University of New Mexico Press
Best Popular Fiction - Spanish or Bilingual No sapiens - Ariel González - Libros en Red
Best Novel – Adventure or Drama - English Brida - Paulo Coelho - Harper Collins 2ND Place: The Flowers - Dagoberto Gilb - Grove Press Honorable Mention: If I Die In Juárez - Stella Pope Duarte - University of Arizona Press
Best Novel – Adventure or Drama – Spanish or Bilingual Por La Vida De Mi Hermana (My Sister’s Keeper) - Jodi Picoult - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: El Infinita en la Palma De la Mano - Gioconda Belli - Rayo Honorable Mention: Luna llena. Cabalgando sin riendas - Carmela Escobar - Libros en Red Honorable Mention: Nada Importa - Alvaro Robledo - Villegas Asociados S.A.
Best Novel – Historical Fiction - English Alejandro and the Fishermen of Tancay - Braulio Muñoz - University of Arizona Press 2ND Place: Valfierno: The Man Who Stole the Mona Lisa - Martin Caparros - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
Best Novel – Mystery - English The Case Runner - Carlos Cisneros - Arte Público Press 2ND Place: The Paris Enigma - Pablo de Santos - Harper Collins Honorable Mention: Gunmetal Black - Daniel Serrano - Grand Central Publishing
Best Novel – Mystery - Spanish or Bilingual Sangre en el desierto - Alicia Gaspar de Alba - Arte Público Press 2ND Place: Tácticas contra el tedio - Mauricio Bernal - Villegas Asociados S.A.
Best Novel – Romance - English The Heartbreak Pill - Anjanette Delgado - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: More Than This - Margo Candela Honorable Mention: Tarnished Beauty - Cecilia Samartin - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster
Best Novel – Romance - Spanish or Bilingual Luna llena. Cabalgando sin riendas - Carmela Escobar - Libros en Red
Best Graphic Novel – Spanish or Bilingual Aleida x anos - Vladdo (Vladimar Flórez) - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: Ellos/Ellas - Silvia Vallejo - Villegas Asociados S.A.
Best Poetry Book - English Half of the World in Light - Juan Felipe Herrera - University of Arizona Press 2ND Place: Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland- Latino Writers Collective - Scapegoat Press Honorable Mention: The Buried Sea - Rane Arroyo - University of Arizona Press
Best Poetry Book - Spanish or Bilingual Lugar de Origen - Place of Origin - Elena Lafert & Melina Draper - Oyster River Press 2ND Place: Susurros de la Eternidad - Paramahansa Yogananda - Self-Realization Fellowship Honorable Mention: Secretos - Chuyin Rocha - Createspace
CATEGORY D – DESIGN (Title – Illustrator/Designer(s) - Publisher):
Best Cover Design Take Me With You: A Memoir - James Perales - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: Alicia Viteri: Memoria Digital - Villegas Asociados S.A. Honorable Mention: The Richest Latino in America - Rubén and Richard Ruiz - Wealth and Millionaire Publishing
Best Cover Illustration El secreto del dorado - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: The Song of the Coconut – Adalucía - Cholita Prints & Publiching Co.
Best Interior Design Manuel Hernández - Villegas Asociados S.A. 2ND Place: The Song of the Coconut – Adalucía - Cholita Prints & Publiching Co.
Best Use of Photos Colombia es Color - Villegas Asociados S.A.
CATEGORY E – AUDIO
Best Children’s Audio Book – Spanish or Bilingual Animals at the farm/Animales de la granja - Gladys Rosa-Mendoza - Me + Mi Publishing 2ND Place: My Family and I/Mi familia y yo - Gladys Rosa-Mendoza - Me + Mi Publishing
Best Non-Fiction Audio Book – Spanish or Bilingual La Ley de la Atracción - Dr. Camilo Cruz
CATEGORY F - THE MARIPOSA AWARDS
Best First Book - English Take Me With You: A Memoir - Carlos Frias - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster 2ND Place: Reclaiming Paris - Fabiola Santiago - Atria Books/Simon & Schuster Honorable Mention: The Seamstress - Frances de Pontes-Peebles - Harper Collins Honorable Mention: Carnival of Memories - Yocasta Fareri - iUniverse
Best First Book - Spanish Luna llena. Cabalgando sin riendas - Carmela Escobar - Libros en Red 2ND Place: Pardon My Spanglish ¡Porque Because! - Bill Santiago - Qwirk Books Honorable Mention: Herman the Jester and the ABC’s of Art - Rafael Filion - Author House Honorable Mention: Secretos - Chuyin Rocha - Createspace
Charley Trujillo leans into his story. The historical Tiburcio Vasquez had been a fluently bilingual upperclass scion of a Californio familia on the mid-19th century Monterey peninsula. Vasquez ran afoul of the clash of cultures--perhaps because he was too good at moving in and out of his hispanoparlante cultura and his equally educated Englich, I think—and went on the lam from la jura. Escaping a feared Mexican-killer lawman, Vasquez was pinched in West Hollywood by a local posse. In the newspapers of the day, Tiburcio’s personality won the day, but the jury hanged him anyway, no hard feelings, in 1875.
Trujillo, the author of Soldados, and Dogs From Illusion, writes with straightforward power about Chicanos in Vietnam, so his upcoming documentary film on this California legend should prove to be equally compelling. My conversation with Charley at the National Latino Writers Conference highlights the little-known, or mis-known, early history of Chicano culture in California. These people had stories; had newspapers, writers, an information culture, and that was a hundred years ago. So large a story, so small a memory.
Against that historical amnesia comes a much-needed historical novel, Daniel Cano’s Death and the American Dream. Next year marks the centennial of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, along with a starting point in the chronology of Mexican immigration into California. In Death and the American Dream, populated by an unusual protagonist supported by strong women, set against a convincing historical landscape, Cano treats his reader to six years in the life of a fugitive from the Mexican revolution who settles into a Mexicano community, not in East L.A., but a barrio that occupied today’s Brentwood on the tony west side.
Any title with “American Dream” in it has to be writ large, and the main problem with Death and the American Dream is it is writ too short. With success of this novel, it could become one in a series of historical novels tracking the conflicted biculturalism of that revolution-driven Chicano diaspora, in the person of Pepe Rios, who is not yet thirty as the novel ends in 1920. Pepe would be around 80 in 1970, the height of the Chicano Movement. It would be interesting seeing how Cano gets us there.
In 1911, eighteen year old Pepe Rios thrashes away from battle in Juarez to safety on the El Paso del Norte shore, where locals have set up picnics to take in the Mexican fireworks. Soldiering with Pancho Villa, Pepe gets tangled with the federales and believes he’s betrayed both his Villista compañeros and the feds, and killing his brother. Unable to tell his mother of his own role in the brother’s death, Pepe’s guilt launches him into headlong flight from the welter of confusions surrounding the battle and likelihood of execution by whichever side catches him first.
Crossing the river, Pepe kills an opposing soldier. Moving toward California, Pepe gets involved in killing a white man. Then Pepe’s best friend Seferino disappears into the hands of Los Angeles police and dies a suicide because he had it coming. These are the deaths that weigh heavily on Pepe—a son’s debt to his mother; the gallows; class and ethnic aporia--just as he’s about to get his first real taste of the American dream. The year is 1915. Pepe’s changed his name to José San Juan, and after years of subsisting on a steady diet of hard physical labor, San Juan—Cano always calls him Pepe--finds a dream job as a cub reporter at Martín Algodón’s newspaper, El ababar.
Cano puts strong women into Rios’ life. For his part, Pepe is not one of those “el hombre domina” tipos but willingly seeks his woman mentors. Ángela, the severe boss and cultural coach, continues where the priest left off back on el rancho, training the student’s mind. The alluringly beautiful Camilia, who years earlier has mentored Pepe Rios in passion, now his publisher’s wife, has gotten Rios/San Juan the life-changing break. Eusebia, a troubled woman, mother, and intimate confidant, disdains Pepe’s social whorl.
Mentored by seasoned bilingual veterana Ángela Durón, a writing career opens to the skilled letter-scribe and habitual diarist. Pepe hungrily takes to Ángela’s training. Secretly, he hopes one day to investigate Seferino’s murder, expose corruption, and bring a measure of justice to his “Just Us” excluded gente. Cano is spare but effective establishing the pervasive brutality of cop v. comunidad of the period, the Them and Us still extant. There’s no whining in Pepe’s bitterness. Cano allows Pepe and his neighbors seething outrage, moderated for similarly outraged readers by the dramatic irony that Pepe’s role is to be a tool. On one hand, the capitalist running dog Algodón keeps a willing Pepe on a financial leash. On the other hand, the anarchists cynically exploit Pepe, playing his ghosts against his better judgment, driving him to despicable and dangerous acts.
Language is no barrier to the monolingual Pepe. His beat is the newspaper’s society pages and occasional hard news piece. Los Angeles’ Spanish-speaking upper crust society opens to San Juan. Movers and shakers who love seeing their names and faces in the paper welcome the writer into their society, and Pepe’s a natural bon vivant and surreptitious interviewer. He gets good stuff that Ángela turns into interesting copy. Even without his own byline, other editors clamor for the reporter’s news. The money helps. With advanced skill, and notoriety, come danger. Ricardo Flores Magon comes to town to publish the famous Régeneración. In hot pursuit: the cops, the feds, the Mexican feds, judges, anglo media. Magon will eventually get 20 years that cost his life.
Home life offers little comfort to the fatigued and deeply stressed reporter. He’s out late at fancy events, often, in the company of attractive women who seem available. His wife aspires to none of Pepe’s social graces. Her values rest in her home, family, and gente. Eusebia recognizes her indianness as polar opposite to what draws Pepe out of the home. She understands her role. She brought her own children to marriage with Pepe. She knows as does he, that Pepe settled on her, still haunted by the memories of another woman. She recognizes the constant presence of the glamorous ex-lover, Camilia, in Pepe's career.
Cano’s description playing the two women against each other illustrates the dysjunction of Pepe’s torment. His wife has just looked into a mirror noting proudly her Amerindianness:
Pepe saw strength and beauty as he looked into her eyes—not a woman’s socially accepted beauty—bright eyes, curved lips, or shapely body—but something deeper, a chasm that lulled and puzzled at the same time, an enigma that transcended the flesh. Where Camilia, his ex-lover and now the wife of his employer, radiated beauty, intelligence, charm, grace, and poise, Eusebia exuded simplicity and dignity. She existed like the morning sun, a cloud, a wave, a puff of dust, or a blade of grass.
In an interesting writer's tack, Eusebia suffers mental illness. Deep bouts of depression leave her confused and angry. To his credit, Pepe doesn't blame Eusebia for her illness. He doesn't help her, merely tolerating her absences when depression seizes her and family life goes around her. To Cano's credit, he doesn't blame Eusebia either. Conventional writers would say, "pobre Pepe, married to a crazy woman." Eusebia has values, integrity, and thinks critically. Her illness is a fact of life that she manages as best she can. But the illness appears to be winning and we begin to lose Eusebia as a character. This mental illness motif adds interest and value to an already involving story, a unique instance of a good book doing good.
I understand that Eusebia has to play third fiddle to Ángela and Camilia. They stand for power and social mobility; Pepe's chosen slice of the dream. Eusebia connects to home, earth, fecundity, fragility; things Pepe takes for granted, or ignores. And Death and the American Dream, after all, is Pepe's story.
Pepe's workdays and nights bring him superficial contact with strangers. His only close personal connections include Eusebia and a friend he knew in the old days. Lacking much outlet, Pepe seethes in constant outrage at restrictive covenants in housing, heavy-handed lawmen, resentful English-speakers, his publisher’s willingness to publish lies that curry favor with industrialists and anti-unionists of both the US and Mexican governments. Already intoxicated by rubbing up against big shots, he doesn't notice his increasing taste for booze.
Pepe / San Juan becomes ensnared by the Magon movimiento. Ángela is one of the conspirators, and all along her mentoring has been directed toward Pepe’s recruitment. She reels him in like a fish on Santa Monica pier where Eusebia and Pepe met. The mentor tantalizes and torments Pepe with details of Seferino’s capture and suicide, with knowledge of that long-ago and far away killing. Pepe/San Juan becomes a spy for the Magones. When Ángela asks Pepe to use the publisher’s wife to spy on her husband, Pepe fails to recognize the organization’s manipulativeness. Instead his moral center spins ambivalently between getting the elegant former lover back into the sack, and betraying his obligation to Eusebia and their children. Tellingly, Pepe cannot make a convincing enough case for his wife’s side, but ends up driving the would-be lover into a towering rage that shatters their ties forever. Pepe is absolved of his responsibility to take effective action one way or the other. Is this as good as it gets?
Death and the American Dream is Cano’s second Pepe Rios novel. The eponymous 1991 title from Houston’s Arte Publico calls out “find and read me”, to learn how this current story fits into Cano’s earlier Rios story, and to observe a writer’s growth. This one’s a masterwork so the comparison will prove useful. While at the library, Daniel Cano’s Shifting Loyalties stands tall alongside Charley Trujillo’s as a must-read in United States war literature, and that of Chicanos in Vietnam combat.
The ending of Death and the American Dream will leave readers shaking their heads with surprise and mixed, mostly conflicted, emotions. Historical fiction has to follow the script, so there are no happy endings for Chicanas and Chicanos in 1920. Already the two older Rios boys are school dropouts; if it were 2009, they’d be skateboarders and asshole taggers. But it’s 1920 and the one is in and out of trouble, the other puts in hard physical labor but has begun spinning out of control. The older daughter has begun her own life, picking fruit up the central valley. Her kids will be in their seventies and eighties today, WWII veterans, Korean war vets, too, if she has as large a family as her mother. And medication is helping Eusebia's illness. But then, those are stories for another novel. Daniel?
Final Dispatch from Alburquerque...National Latino Writers Conference Wraps With Promise
I have been remiss and a poor guest in delaying thanking Carlos Vásquez and the National Hispanic Cultural Center for inviting my participation at the 2009 National Latino Writers Conference. Thank you, Carlos, Greta, Katie and the staff of the National Hispanic Cultural Center for a multi-faceted gem of a conference.
I presented a workshop on reading your work aloud and attended workshops on writing poetry, novels, cultural journalism, screenplays, memoir, children's picture books, and panels featuring publishers, editors, and agents. Saturday morning, I observed the interviews between individual writers and a publisher, editor, or agent. Present a quality work, make a convincing presentation and the writer takes another step toward publication.
Vásquez limits attendance to fifty writers. People attend from across the nation and literary ascendencias. Mexico and Puerto Rico gente attend in good proportions. This year included at least one Colombian, a couple Salvadoreños, and gente I didn't get to meet from otros países. Enrollment cost is a well-kept bargain secret, but transportation is extra. As a result there's a good contingent of New Mexico writers. The conference draws a multigenerational group, from college freshman to retirees, from ex-Marines to ex-GIs. Collegiality is probably the second-most valuable experience writers take home from Alburquerque. It is a hotbed of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino stimulating literary discussion.
Food service at the NHCC is unsurpassed. Registration includes breakfast, lunch, and banquet. Fruta, pan, burritos, salsa, come fresh to table. Main dishes taste and look good, presentation enhanced by attentive servers who don't let anyone down, even gente with food allergies and vegan writers. The conference program should list the mug shots and names of the key staff in that kitchen. ¡Ajua¡ to the cooks and servers.
Attention to detail--exemplified by the menu, the promptness and ease of getting everyone served and seated, but seen in all facets of programming--accounts for the smooth flow of the two and a half day literary festival. CPT rarely rares its head, events run on time. In the case of Open Mic, to the second.
Scheduling features tracks for fiction, poetry, movie, children, young adult writing, and the critically important panels. Two or more subjects are workshopped during ninety minute periods. Writers elect a course of study, following a topic or instructor, or sampling broadly as a way of enlarging their writer's repertoire of genre. Workshop presentations range from hands-on writing sessions to lecture-discussion variants.
Some instructors recognize the obstacle of offering more than token feedback and abandon the hands-on notion altogether. Reyna Grande, for instance, breaks a novel into five elements, then uses a metaphor of painting a canvas to discuss writing a novel.
Demetria Martinez does explication de texte, asserting that artifacts from everyday life are the stuff of memoir, then reading from Mother Tongue, where Martínez validates her assertion.
Some workshop leaders elect to conduct writing exercises, filling paragraphs or lists to fit schemata of a play, or a character, or a poem. Valerie Martinez, for instance, outlines a view of poetic sensibility, then distributes magazines and trinkets to foment vocabulary exercises that, who knows, could be, become, a poem?
There truly is not time to read or get feedback on one's exercises. Workshop leaders who engage enrollees in a lot of writing invariably collect the work and promise to read and get back to the writer. Thankfully for some, a modicum of feedback comes at the tail end of the ninety minutes. The best prepared writers, preferring the focused feedback of considered reading, as opposed to extemporaneous first impression, have mailed manuscripts in advance, for their Saturday interview. One improvement Vásquez and organizers might consider is widening this tarea model, with workshops springboarding from exercises completed prior to arriving.
One improvement definitely not worthwhile would be upping the limit on enrollees. This would be disastrous to the already minimal feedback provided in workshops. Worse, more gente would profoundly alter the personalized character of this warmly collegial, culture forming event. Aside from this, the NHCC staff is severely stretched to provide portable video projectors and audio for PC and Mac systems. For now, the conference is small enough to videotape, or videoconference. Interposed media like those is a far better method for enlarging the National Latino Writers Conference audience.
I placed my own presentation on "reading your stuff aloud to audiences" on my Read! Raza website. Using video from the 1973 Festival de Flor Y Canto, I illustrate important considerations writers plan for, whenever they get the opportunity to present their work to an audience. This is a talking script, not the fleshed out presentation, which I extemporize a la brava. This is the kind of workshop that would benefit from the tarea model. Bring the writer to Alburquerque with a rehearsed 10 minute reading. Meet in 3 or 4 person workshops for an hour and a half. Videotape, critique, revise, do it again (the next day). The drawback is not doing the illustrated lecture, which is so much fun owing to having so wonderful an audience. Sadly, I did not take my audience's photo.
Among the highlights of the conference is the Keynote Address. Last year, Rudolfo Anaya addressed the shape and place of Chicano writing. This year's speaker was the seminal critic and anthologist, Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. This Keynote, and the reading by the Premio Aztlán awardee, should be videotaped and distributed through the NHCC's website. Thankfully, we have the Web.
Here are four excepts from Dr. Ortego's address, titled, La Tarea Y El Trabajo: Summary And Assessment Of Contemporary Latino American Literature. Click here for a full-text PDF of Dr. Ortego's address.
Over the years that I knew Tomas Rivera, the Chicano author of Y no se lo trago la tierra—first recipient of the Premio Quinto Sol Award in 1972—he would say of his writing, “Ta cabron la cosa,” meaning the task of writing was not always easy. Still, se require el trabajo, the writing must be done. In that sense, all of us who write—especially those of us Latinos who write about our experiences as Latinos—somos trabajadores de la raza. As Paul Tournier, the Swiss physician and philosopher put it in the Meaning of Persons (1957): We are not free of the task, but neither are we free of its responsibilities. The task (la tarea) looms large before us but the work (el trabajo) must be undertaken to complete the task. And what is that task? For us as Latinos and as writers that task is not just to add our literary voices to the chronicle of the human condition but to testify to the presence of our people in that chronicle. That task is formidable, even daunting, but not insurmountable.
. . . .
Given this distinction, the state of Latino American literature today is extraordinarily vibrant made more vibrant by the pulse of Latin American literature. Of course there's a connection. Somos primos. Representing "various Latino nationalities" as Carlos Vasquez has described the participants of this conference, Latino Americans are attuned to the pulse of Latin America. The reverse is not always true. Latino American writers are not as widely recognized in Latin America as Latin American writers are recognized in the United States. Few Latino American writers find their works translated into Spanish for a Latin American literary public. While there is a significant number of Latino American writers who write in Spanish, they are not lionized by that Latin American literary public as Latin American writers like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Julio Cortazar, and Jorge Luis Borges--to name but a few--are lionized in the United States.
. . . .
The point is that the term “Latino Writers” most often directs inquiries to Latin American writers. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that few Americans outside of Hispanic literary specialists know very much about U.S. Latino literature today. To be sure, there are successful U.S. Latino writers like Sandra Cisneros Rudolfo Anaya, Denise Chavez, Piri Thomas, Miguel Algarin, Nicolasa Mohr, Achy Abejas, and Angel Castro. In the main, however, when pressed, uninitiated Americans will ask quizzically: Are there U.S. Latino writers. Who are they? What this points to is the woeful ignorance of Americans about U.S. Latinos despite their long historical presence in the United States. This also points to the woeful inattention to and neglect of Latino Americans in the daily mainstream of American life.
. . . .
In 1970 I sent a piece of fiction entitled “The Dwarf of San Miguel” to John DiStefano at the New England Review. Within a week he called me excitedly hoping I hadn’t commit-ted the story elsewhere. It was a good story, he said, and he wanted to publish it in the very next issue of the New England Review. I didn’t tell him his was the 21st journal I had sent it to. The 20 previous rejections told me they liked the story but that the beginning needed work or that the middle didn’t quite hold the story together or that the ending needed something punchier. For me this epi-sode confirms that a piece finds its publisher and that a writer must hold firm in trusting his or her art. Of the million words I’m sure I’ve written by now I don’t write with a publisher or a reader in mind.
Next year marks the tenth iteration of the National Latino Writers Conference. La Bloga is happy to announce the opening of registration, so be alert for los datos in November or December.
Rigoberto Gonzáles Reviews YA Novel in El Paso Times.
Dan Olivas didn't get a chance to remind readers of Young Adult literature to catch Rigoberto's take on Diana López' Confetti Girl, a novel of a parent's death, adolescent stirrings, with a generous helping of comedy, Gonzáles find it a satisfying book, concluding,
López weaves Lina's bilingual and bicultural upbringing into the narrative seamlessly, giving young Latina readers an added element to connect with.
"Confetti Girl" is a satisfying read that belongs in the distinguished company of such young-adult Texana titles as Claudia Guadalupe Martínez's "The Smell of Old Lady Perfume."
La Bloga's Tuesday sign-off reminds readers La Bloga welcomes comments on the daily column. Simply clicking the Comments counter below launches the comment program. La Bloga also welcomes Guest Columnists. This Thursday, Lisa Alvarado is happy to share the column with Lydia Gil, a cultural journalist working for the Spanish news agency Efe. Lydia is covering Luis Urrea's reading of Into the Beautiful North at Denver's Tattered Cover.
A busy Tuesday for me, for you, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.
I have always been nervous about visiting my old neighborhood.
One day, my brother Salomon—a renowned Chicano artist—invited me and our two younger brothers, Noel and Ismael, to meet him at the Ramona Gardens housing project in East Los Angeles, where we grew up.
My brother had to retouch his mural in memory of Arturo “Smokey” Jimenez, who was murdered, according to many witnesses, by the cops in 1991. The unprovoked killing sparked days of protests and riots from local residents against a long-time history of police brutality and harassment in the neighborhood.
Two days later after receiving Salomon’s phone call, I drove my navy blue ‘67 Mustang to the projects.
More than twenty years ago I left the projects to attend UCLA.
I’d feared returning to my old neighborhood ever since, not knowing how my childhood friends and local homeboys would welcome me.
I abandoned them all: Buddy, Herby, Ivy, Chamino, Peanut Butter, Mayto and Fat Ritchie—there is always a fat kid. I left them in a hostile place. Together, we were safe. Separated, we became vulnerable.
My heart pounded as I approached the graffiti-decorated projects. I parked at the Shell gas station on Soto, near the 10 freeway. I looked at the rear-view mirror as I combed my dark black hair with my Tres Flores gel and reminded myself that this is where I came from. I gained my composure and slowly mustered a tough demeanor. Signs of weakness only attract the bullies in the projects. I started the engine, cruised over the railroad tracks and speed bumps, passed the vacant Carnation factory and parked in front of La Paloma Market—two blocks away from Smokey’s mural.
As I got out of my car, I was quickly confronted by the homeboys.
“Where are you from, ese?” one of the homeboys asked, slowly approaching me.
“Hey punk, what are you doing in our neighborhood?” another homebody demanded to know. He must have been only 13-years-old, but was ready to throw down.
Before I could answer, a stocky homeboy replied, “Hey man, leave him alone. I know this vato. We go way back.”
“Fat Ritchie, is that you?” I asked, relieved to be saved from the onslaught of blows that awaited me.
“That’s right,” he said, as he welcomed me with a bear hug.
“Hey bro, how’d you get so buff?” I asked, amazed at his transformation from the neighborhood fat kid to the muscular gangster. “Where do you work out? Gold’s Gym?”
“Na man, try San Quentin State Prison,” he proudly responded. “There ain’t no Gold’s Gym in the projects.”
“Oh,” I said, feeling like an idiot for asking such a stupid question. “By the way, have you seen Mayto?”
“I don’t know what happened to him,” Fat Ritchie responded. “Most of the guys we hung out with when we were kids are either dead, in jail, on drugs or got kicked out by the housing authorities. Only the dedicated ones stuck around to protect the neighborhood.”
As kids, we roamed the projects without paranoid parents dictating our every move. Life in the 1970s was not as violent. It was a time before crack and high-powered guns flowed into the projects without limit. While drugs and violence existed before the drug business skyrocketed and outsiders intervened in the projects, back then any problem among the homeboys usually resulted in an old fashion fistfight. And since no rival gang or outsider dared to come into the projects, Ramona Gardens was a haven for all of us.
We were just a bunch of project kids hanging out, playing sports and getting into trouble. Every time we got into trouble, Mayto was in the middle of it.
There was something special about Mayto. He was tall and muscular for an eleven-year-old. He had dark-skin and curly brown hair. He had great athletic skills that garnered him respect in the projects. Despite his crooked teeth, he was always smiling. He seemed restless, always planning for his next scheme and adventure. Like many kids in the projects, he didn’t have a father, making it difficult for his mother to constantly keep track of him and his two younger brothers.
Reminiscing about Mayto takes me back to the summer of 1978, when I played sports with my childhood friends all day long. Baseball season had just started. It was a hot Sunday morning. We met, like always, in front of Murchison Street School. We had no park in the projects so we played on Murchison’s hot asphalt playground. We brought our cracked bats, old gloves, ripped baseballs and hand-me-down Dodger T-shirts.
One by one, we scaled the school’s twelve-foot fence. Most of us climbed easily, like Marines performing boot camp drills. But Fat Ritchie struggled. Like many other times, he found himself sitting on top of the fence as Buddy shook it.
“Don’t mess around man,” Fat Ritchie pleaded with Buddy to stop.
“Hey Buddy,” said Mayto, “leave him alone or else I’ll kick your ass, again.”
Once on the playground, we picked teams. Suddenly, Mayto ran off towards the school bungalows without a word. The game was not the same without Mayto. We would miss his home runs and wild curveballs. He would even nose dive like Pete Rose when he stole second base. But the game must go on, and we started to play without our best player.
Short a man, the team captains argued over the odd number of players to pick from. As a compromise, they decided that the team with fewer players got Fat Ritchie.
As the game began, we heard a noise coming from the janitor’s storage facility, adjacent to the empty bungalows with the broken windows.
“It’s just Mayto messing around,” yelled Chamino from right field.
In the bottom of the third inning, Mayto finally emerged from the storage area. He ran across the playing ground with his clothes drenched in motor oil.
“Nobody say shit or else,” he said, as he raced by us during our game.
“What did he say?” asked Buddy.
“Nothing,” I replied. “Let’s keep playing, it’s just Mayto being Mayto.”
“Come on, let’s play,” said Herby. “I need to go home before I Love Lucy starts.”
A few minutes later, a police helicopter appeared over the school’s storage area. Five cop cars surrounded the school. Before we could run, the cops cut the lock on the fence and stormed the playground like a SWAT Team.
We knew the routine. We got down on our knees, put our hands behind the back of our heads and waited to be spoken to. “Did any of you project punks see a kid run through here a few minutes ago?” said the tall white cop. “He’s about five feet tall and full of oil.”
Following the neighborhood code, we stayed quiet.
“Fine,” said the exasperated cop. “I want this playground cleared before I arrest all of you for trespassing.”
Frustrated, the cops drove away without a clue leading them to Mayto. We slowly picked up our bats, gloves and balls to leave the play yard.
Out of nowhere, Mayto reappeared and ran towards the storage room. This time, he emerged carrying a large, oily item. Fat Ritchie checked out the storage room.
“Mayto ripped off Toney-the-Janitor,” said Fat Ritchie in a panic.
We all ran home before the cops returned.
Days later, as we played tackle football on the parking lot, Mayto cruised by in a gas-powered go-cart. We chased after him on our bikes and skateboards, trying catch up to him.
It wasn’t your typical wooden go-cart that required being pushed from behind. It was a customized, low rider go-cart—cherry red, with velvet seat covers, a leather steering wheel and small whitewall tires with chrome plated spoke rims. The engine was positioned in the back, like a VW bug. It was a gem.
“Where did you get that low rider go-cart?” I asked with envy.
“I made it myself,” Mayto said without making a big fuss over his invention.
Aware of his tendency to stretch the truth a bit, I closely examined the go-cart. The frame consisted of parts from Mayto’s old Schwinn bike. The seat, under the velvet cover, was a milk crate from La Paloma Market. And I will never forget the steering wheel. Mayto took it from the stolen ’76 Cadillac El Dorado convertible the homeboys abandoned in the projects before they torched it. The steering wheel still had the shiny Cadillac logo in the center. The engine looked familiar, but I couldn’t figure out where Mayto got it.
“Read what is says on the engine,” Mayto said, impatiently.
I took a second look at the oily engine. I read aloud with a look of confusion, “Property of M.E.S.”
“Are you a dummy or what?” Mayto asked with a smirk. “M.E.S. stands for Murchison Elementary School.”
“Oh, man!” I said. “You stole that … I mean you got that from the storage room when the cops were looking for you at Murchison.”
“Why do you think they don’t clean the playground anymore,” he said. “Do you remember that big vacuum cleaner that Toney-the-Janitor drove after school while trying to hit us?”
“Yeah, that punk hit me one time,” I said.
“I hated that man,” said Mayto. “That’s what he gets for messing with us.”
“How about a ride?” I asked.
“Get on before the cops come by,” he replied.
We cruised around the projects in his customized, low rider go-cart, chasing down the little kids on their way to church and the winos in front of La Paloma market. Protecting their turf, the winos hurled empty Coors beer cans at us, missing us by a mile. Unfazed, Mayto stepped on the pedal. Not paying attention, he ran over a cat. It belonged to Mother Rose, the only black lady left in the projects. Fearing Mother Rose’s wrath, he kept driving until we got drenched from the gushing water coming from the yellow fire hydrant. Lacking a local pool, the homeboys would open the fire hydrant during the hot summer days for the kids to get wet.
Driving for over an hour, we eventually ran out of gas. Luckily, Mayto was always prepared. He had a small water hose handy and I volunteered to siphon some gas from an old Toyota Pickup that belonged to Father John from Santa Teresita Church. Mayto said that he was once an alter boy and that Father John wouldn’t mind if we borrowed some gas. Grateful for the ride, I went along with his story and siphoned the gas before mass was over.
The gasoline left a bad taste in my mouth. But that adventurous ride was worth every drop I swallowed.
Those were the days.
The phone rings. It’s three a.m.. I slowly open my eyes, take a deep breath and nervously answer the phone.
“What’s wrong?” I ask, knowing that good news never comes at three a.m..
“Fat Ritchie’s dead,” my sister Rosa says.
I hang up the phone. I feel numb. I don’t know whether to scream or cry. Another childhood friend is dead. When is it ever going to end, I wonder aloud?
Like most of the kids from the projects, Fat Ritchie never had a chance from day one. He was a short, chubby kid who was constantly picked on by the other kids. Whenever we played handball, the kids would force him to stand against the wall until everyone had a chance to hit him with the ball.
Once, while playing football at Murchison, the quarterback gave him the ball and everyone, including his teammates, dog piled on him until he couldn’t breathe. Once he got up, everyone acted like they were innocent.
Since I last saw him, however, no one dared to pick on him. While Fat Ritchie had the respect of the neighborhood, it was another story with the cops. Pissed that they couldn’t bust him on anything major, the cops busted Fat Ritchie for armed robbery based on the word of a local snitch.
One week later, Fat Ritchie died while in custody. The cops said that it was suicide, but we’ve heard that story over and over again.
Three days after receiving the tragic news, I return to the projects to pay my last respects to Fat Ritchie and inquire about my old friends. I arrive late. The church is full. I decide to wait outside with the other mourners, waiting for the coffin to be taken to the hearse.
Suddenly, I see a tall homeboy with light-skin and curly brown hair carrying the coffin with three other homeboys. They’re all dressed in black with dark black shades hiding their tears.
“Is that Mayto?” I ask the nearest person next to me.
“What, ese?” he asks, sounding annoyed.
“Nothing man,” I reply, letting him know that I too was from the projects.
Once the homeboys gently place the coffin in the hearse, I quickly walk towards the tall homeboy as he makes his way towards a ’67 Impala low rider. He gets into his car and starts the engine.
“Mayto, is that you?” I yell out at the homeboy as he begins to drive away.
He glances at me with without a word, looks forward and makes his way towards the cemetery.
The belief that land is sacred, embodying the memory and inheritance of those who sacrificed to settle it, is common among New Mexican Hispanos, or Nuevomexicanos, and Santa Fe serves as their unique geographic and symbolic center. The city will celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of its founding in 2010 and this anthology honors its role as the foundation of New Mexican Hispanic culture.
Divided into nine parts, this collection reflects the displacement that many Hispanos feel having watched their hometown transform into a tourist and art Mecca. Parts I and II pay homage to Santa Fe through the sentiment that Hispano writers express for the city. Parts III and IV provide historical maps for places that have been reconstructed or obliterated by development, while Part V is dedicated to Santa Fe's distinctive neighborhoods. Parts VI and VII express nostalgia for traditional lifeways. Part VIII illustrates the spirit of Santa Fe and Part IX reflects on traditions that stand the test of time.
Rosalie C. Otero is the director of the University Honors Program, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, and the associate dean of University College. She has written several book chapters, articles, and short fiction.
A. Gabriel Meléndez is professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque.
Enrique R. Lamadrid is a literary folklorist and cultural historian in the University of New Mexico's Department of Spanish and Portuguese. In 2005, he was awarded the Americo Paredes Prize by the American Folklore Society in recognition of his work as a cultural activist.
When Rosita, the loveliest gal in the Pecos River Valley, offers her delicious rhubarb pie as first prize for the Great Grasshopper Race, a thousand love-struck vaqueros line up for the competition. Of course everyone believes that the legendary cowboy Pecos Bill, riding his giant grasshopper, Hoppy, is a shoo-in for the grand prize. Sure enough, Bill and Hoppy give an impressive performance, crisscrossing the Southwest in a raucous ride. But young Juan, who is hopelessly in love with Rosita, astonishes them all when he and Jack the Jackalope take a miraculous ride around the world and across the Milky Way. The daring pair return, covered in stardust, to claim the beautiful Rosita and her delicious pie.
Set in New Mexico, Anaya's fanciful story, coupled with Amy Córdova's vivid illustrations, brings the tradition of Southwestern tall tales to a new generation of young readers.
Ages 6 and up
Rudolfo Anaya, widely acclaimed as one of the founders of modern Chicano literature, is professor emeritus of English at the University of New Mexico. Anaya was presented with the National Medal of Arts for literature in 2001 and his novel Alburquerque (the city's original Spanish spelling) won the PEN Center West Award for Fiction. He has also received the Premio Quinto Sol, the national Chicano literary award, the American Book Award from The Before Columbus Foundation, the Mexican Medal of Friendship from the Mexican Consulate, and the Western Literature Association's Distinguished Achievement Award. He is best known for the classic Bless Me Ultima.
Amy Cordova lives in Taos, New Mexico, where she is co-owner of her own gallery, Enger-Cordova Fine Art. She has illustrated many children's books and teaches art to elementary school children at the Yaxche Learning Center.
NEW DIRECTOR AT MUSEO DE LAS AMERICAS The Museo de las Américas (Museo) Board of Trustees announced that Maruca Salazar has been selected as the new executive director. Additionally, David Dadone, former director of operations for the Museo, has been promoted to deputy director. Salazar will assume the position in July.
We are delighted that Maruca Salazar will be leading the Museo de las Américas as the new Executive Director, stated George Martinez, Board president. She comes to us with a wealth of artistic, administrative, and curatorial experience. Furthermore, Maruca's relationships with teachers and artists throughout the region will greatly assist us in increasing the scope and reach of our education programs, while expanding our artistic vision.
Prior to joining the Museo, Salazar served as the arts coordinator and arts staff developer for Denver Public Schools. During her tenure, Salazar developed an integrated arts education program, and was responsible for the development and stewardship of the $6.5 million arts budget. She holds a Master's of Arts in Multicultural Education from the University of Colorado, Denver; and a Bachelor's of Arts in Multicultural Education from the University of Veracruz, Mexico.
This is the opportunity of a lifetime and a true honor, stated Salazar. As an artist and educator, as well as a long time supporter and participant of the Museo de las Américas, I am committed to advancing Museo's legacy of learning and sharing.
A longtime advocate for the arts, Salazar is a founding member and supporter of the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council, XicanIndie Film Festival, Pirate Gallery, and the Museo de las Américas. As a Visual Artist she has exhibited at local museums and galleries, including the Museo and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver.
This is an exciting time for the Museo, stated Martinez. The Board and staff are confident that Maruca will lead the Museo to new and exciting places, and cement our place as a cornerstone of Denver and the West's cultural community.
About the Museo de las Américas Museo de las Américas (Museo) is the Rocky Mountain region's foremost museum dedicated to educating its community about the diversity of Latino Americano art and culture from ancient to contemporary. The Museo presents exhibitions and education programs that offer new views on Latin American art, advancing the role of Latino artists in the global cultural dialogue, and becoming a cultural hub for the local, national, and global community. The museum is centrally located in the historic Santa Fe Arts District - one of Denver's oldest Latino neighborhoods - at 861 Santa Fe Drive. For more information, please visit: www.museo.org.
Congratulations to Maruca! She's a great fit for the Museo.
HIT LIST READING AND SIGNING AT THE TATTERED COVER On May 21, Mario Acevedo and I read and signed Hit List at the Tattered Cover here in Denver. We promoted the event as the M&M show and free M&M cookies were given to all who attended. I know that Mario and I had a good time and we think our audience did too. We sold a good number of books and read from our stories in the collection. Mario also read from Shortcut to the Moon by Alicia Gaspar de Alba, a prime example of the terrific writing that can be found in this book. Here's a bit from Alicia's story:
When you're from El Paso, you get used to the rough grain of the wind. The leaves turn piss yellow or brittle brown in the fall, not every shade of red and gold and purple, and the winter wind doesn't frostbite your thighs or turn your tears to icicles. In Iowa City, you learn the meaning of seasons. At the Black Angel Cemetery, where I spent untold hours practicing Iowa Writing Workshop techniques that felt like they were making me change from being left-handed to right-handed, the colored leaves of oaks and maples stood out among the headstones like fiery panes of stained glass. What I loved most about that year in Iowa, other than the cornfields and the blizzards and the daffodils blooming under the snow and the juicy double cheeseburgers at George's Bar, was getting blitzed on Cuervo and Colombian with my cousin Ivon in all-night, heart-to-heart sessions that we called "shortcuts to the moon."
I read from A.E. Roman' s Under the Bridge, a story that introduces Chico Santana, the private investigator that plays a lead role in Roman's debut novel, Chinatown Angel. You may recall that I interviewed Roman for La Bloga just before his book came out this past March. The book is great and you should pick it up if you are any kind of reader who appreciates exciting fiction, crime or otherwise. Here's part of what I read to the Tattered Cover audience:
My name is Chico Santana. I'm a private investigator. First off, I'm a nice guy, My wife Ramona says so, and she's part Haitian and part Dominican, so it must be true.
If you look closely at my nose, you can tell it's been broken twice. And if you pay attention to word on the street, you'll come to understand that the men who broke my nose are no longer eating anything that won't flow up a straw. I'm not a tough guy. A lot of tough guys are six feet under. I'm just lucky.
And I'm also not one of those PIs that sit at a desk with his feet up, waiting for his bosses ... to throw him a bone. Nor am I one of those types who are always bragging how close they can come to your chin without hitting you. I have no .38, but I do have a license to bust your ass, and if I have to, I will bust your ass and maybe even the ass of somebody you love.
Mario's story leads off the collection. Oh, Yeah is a short piece but it has plenty of humor, surprises, and tension to whet your appetite for the rest of the stories. My story, The Skull of Pancho Villa, features Gus Corral, a character I've grown fond of and who is starring in the novel I've just started. Here are a couple of photos from the event.
Manuel Ramos and Mario Acevedo at the Tattered Cover, May 21, 2009
Mario and Manuel sign copies of Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery
Edited byGerald So withPatrick Shawn Bagley, R. Narvaez, and Anthony Rainone
ISSN 1945-75106" x 9", 36 pages, saddle-stitched$6.00
The Lineup: Poems on Crime, Issue 02, has arrived. What does poetry have to do with crime? As Patrick Shawn Bagley says in his introduction to the latest issue of this chapbook, Poets do not ask that question. People for whom poetry is a vital part of their reading life do not ask that question. ... So why do we write crime fiction, let alone crime poetry? One may as well ask why we write -- or read -- anything at all. We do it in an attempt to understand. We do it to find some kind of meaning in events that all too often leave victims, perpetrators and everyone around them damaged or destroyed. ... Here you will find proof beyond any reasonable doubt of poetry's relevance to modern life.
Get your hands on this book and dig deep into serious, provocative images. I'm honored that my poem, The Smell of Onions, is included. The Lineup has quite a lineup of contributors: Amy MacLennan, Jennifer L. Knox, Deshant Paul, Stephen D. Rogers, Sophie Hannah, Christopher Watkins, Carol Novack, John Harvey, reed Farrel Coleman, Patrick Carrington, Karen Petersen, Janis Butler Holm. I hear that issue 03 will have Sarah Cortez as one of the editors. Sarah is the co-editor of Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery.
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but music is worth a thousand pictures. This is aptly illustrated by Mariachi Classics, a 2009 CD released by Mariachi Real of San Diego on the Mardi Gras Records label.
The CD has sixteen covers of songs that should be in the repertoire of any mariachi worth its salt. Many of the tunes evoke visions of girls in bright yellow, red, and blue swirling skirts with colorful satin ribbons in their hair. Others conjure up a snorting, prancing horse that rears up on its hind legs straddled by a charro waving his sombrero just as the Mariachi comes to a crescendo.
The table is set by the opening song, Las Mañanitas, signaling that what is coming is indeed a taste of old Mexico. In Mexico where most people follow the Catholic calendar, Las Mañanitas is traditionally sung to those celebrating the feast day of the Saint whose name they bear. In the United States, for people of Mexican heritage, no matter by how many generations or by how many miles they are distanced from Mexico, Las Mañanitas has become the “birthday” song.
All of the canciones on the CD are standards and the Mariachi Real de San Diego gives exciting renditions. A song becomes a standard by being played over and over again and in this case for decades. The songs have survived wars, crossed borders and been passed from generation to generation. Yet each time they are sung they sound as exciting as the first time but familiar enough that we know every word.
No matter how you translate it, the Mariachi Real de San Diego lives up to its name. In Spanish “real” means royal. This Mariachi’s vocal and instrumental mastery blend together seamlessly to create solid, soul-stirring renditions of these Mexican standards. If you only speak English, you’re also right - this is truly a REAL mariachi. ____________ Thanks, Flo - here's a video of Mariachi Real de San Diego
Malin Alegria Estrella Alvarez is turning fifteen, and she's not happy about it. For as long as she can remember, her mother has been planning an elaborate quinceañera, complete with a mariachi band, cheesy decorations, and a hideous dress. Estrella is so over it.
Reyna Grande Dancing with Butterflies is about four women who share a love of Folklorico dancing. It was inspired by Grande's own love of Folklorico, and her desire to bring it to Latino Literature.
René Colato Laínez Together a little boy and his grandma discover a world of language and realize that loved ones have special ways of understanding each other.
Josefina Lopez A journalist and activist, Canela believes passion is essential to life; but lately passion seems to be in short supply. It has disappeared from her relationship with her fiancé, who is more interested in controlling her than encouraging her. It's absent from her work, where censorship and politics keep important stories from being published. And while her family is full of outspoken individuals, the only one Canela can truly call passionate is her cousin and best friend Luna, who just took her own life.
Fred Arroyo Remember that the dream of one is the dream of everyone. Ernest is searching for a place where he can live beyond his past.
Patricia Santana Premio Aztlan at NHCC Latino Writers Conference Having left her much-loved San Diego barrio, Yolanda Sahagún is now living in the university dorms when a series of events—her mother dies and her father sells their home—forces her to re-examine her life.
Luis Alberto Urrea. Into the Beautiful North. NY: Little Brown, 2009. ISBN-10: 0316025275 ISBN-13: 978-0316025270
Don't say anything negative when I ask this question: Into the Beautiful North is one of those novels a reader will not put aside until its conclusion, ¿No?
But then the reader will ask if Urrea's current novel is worthy of the praise heaped upon the author's notably wonderful novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter?
No. It's not.
On the other hand, Hummingbird's Daughter is an impossible work to follow; that is one superb novel. Whatever you are reading next, stop that. Go to your library or bookseller and take delivery of The Hummingbird's Daughter. Read it. You're welcome de adelantado.
Into the Beautiful North, is not Hummingbird's Daughter. How could it be? A buddy novel, Urrea wisely sets out not to build on Hummingbird but to do something completely different. And quite well, ese, if you get what I mean, y si no, pues, no. But Into the Beautiful North is one of those funny pieces that comes along only every once in a while, so, finishing the dramatic Hummingbird, read this next one; you owe it to yourself.
Would any film fanatic compare "The Wizard of Oz", let's say, to "El Norte," or, maybe "Spanglish"? As an intellectual romp, one might. Howzabout comparing Into the Beautiful North to "The Magnificent Seven?" Now there's the delightful parallel; not mine, but Urrea's. His crew of colorful characters venture out from backwater Sinaloa to the mercilless frontera of San Diego / Tijuana, perhaps the two worst cities in the world, on a "mission from God" like los hermanos azul.
How refreshing to discover a border crossing story that is a comedy. Not that Into the Beautiful North, is not a deadly serious border crossing story; it is. But the crossing ain't the tale, it's the cultural gaps that define the limits of these characters' experience, and infuse the plot with a sense of dread that, thankfully, Urrea holds in abeyance.
On their first crossing, they get caught. Not in a calamitous tragedy for the three teenage girls, but for their friend, Tacho, a gay vato who's assumed the role of protector and adult. Tacho gets an asskicking by assholes from the ICE. La migra, the regular tipos, are just regular good people doing a job, but these newly appointed jerks have no sense of honor. But then, Urrea sets up the beating long in advance of the mid-novel crossing.
Tacho has a lot of smarts that, owing to Mexico's extreme poverty, never had the benefit of a classroom. He's not ashamed of his sexuality, nor do his fellow villagers shun him for being himself. Outsiders, like the corrupt cops who come through selling mota to tourist surfers, could make life a misery. Tacho laughs at their hatred by taking the stereotypically gay limp-wristed posture as the name of his bar, La Mano Caida. As Tacho and the three luscious teenage girls are being processed back to TJ at the San Ysidro lock-up, he calls out the name of his business. The mensos from ICE hear Tacho wrong; they hear a terrorist organization, "Al Kaeda." It's a funny phonetic trick but also a satiric gut punch. As a literary device, it strikes me as a contrivance. The one weak element in an otherwise brilliant novel. I wonder if Urrea came up with the joke first, then forced the plot to arrive at that moment?
Ni modo. Pretend you've never read Urrea's earlier work and take Into the Beautiful North for itself. You'll laugh, breathe sighs of relief, nod your head knowingly at the deadly serious facts that rest just beneath the surface of this wonderfully comedic satire of manners, love, lust, and immigration.
Memorial Day, 2009.
Every year I struggle to defeat my sentimental nature that tends to the maudlin. This year, I lost, and sank into a green funk, staring into the faces of some soldiers I trained with back in 1969. A friend asked if I know where these vatos are today, if they lived through that year? I do not know, and I do not want to know.
The storms start out there, on Monterey Bay. Grey blue haze obscures the horizon between sea and sky. Eyes front, but the vista compels our eyes to dart left, to take in the wondrous mottled light beyond the red roofs and yellow barracks, past the sparkling white sand of the firing range. On the water, bright patches where sunlight penetrates the morning dank define the luminous swell and ebb of the tide. Darker greys wash down from the ether shouting rain! Wetness swooshes across the water, heading directly toward us. “The Daily Dozen.” Windmill stretches. Jumping jacks. Jump thrust. “United States Army Drill Number One, Exercise Number Five, everyone’s favorite, the Push Up.” We drop to the front leaning rest position and begin the four count exertion. “One, two, three, ONE, Drill Sergeant, one two three TWO, Drill Sergeant…” Peripheral vision of breathtaking beauty counterweights a boot shouting in your ear, “keep your butt down, Trainee!”
We smell the rain coming, pushing the air before it, enveloping us in cool humidity that smells wet, that raises gooseflesh. Now we hear its relentless arrival. Below us, Ft. Ord has surrendered to its drenching. Visibility zero down there in forbidden territory. We are maggots, confined to The Hill.
The first heavy drops of water strike us, a few more, more. At the order we pull our waterproof poncho from our gear, hunker down under the protective sheet. We are forty green tipi spaced dress right dress across the platoon’s PT field. The rain noise drowns out any other sound but the swirling wind pushing up from the bay. An unrelenting volume of water strikes our heads and backs. We savor these moments of privacy, alone with our own thoughts and memories, for now the Army only this dull green light and the sound of the passing squall. We feel rivulets form, tingle, and stream the length of our spine as the water courses down to the ground. We are blind; we can see only our boot toes and the corona of daylight that glows at the periphery of our waterproof poncho. Mud splashes against our now scuffed, once spit-shined combat boots. Run-off forms around our toes, puddling fashions the outlines of our leather as erosion sculpts a memory of our presence on the land.
The noise abates. The rain passes. We obey. Ponchos off. Stand tall. Monterey Bay sparkles with magical light, whales, porpoises, salmon, sardines, Steinbeck…"U.S. Army Drill Number One, Exercise Number Five. The Push Up…”
We bitched and moaned. We laughed. I hope we all lived.
So here we are, the last Tuesday of May, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. See you in June.
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William Archila was born in Santa Ana, El Salvador, in 1968. When he was twelve, he and his family immigrated to the United States to escape the civil war that was tearing his country apart. Archila eventually became an English teacher and earned his MFA in poetry from the University of Oregon where he received the Fighting Fund Fellow Award. The award-winning poet's work has been published in many literary journals including AGNI, Blue Mesa Review, Los Angeles Review, Bilingual Review/Revista Bilingüe, Crab Orchard Review, and The Georgia Review. Archila also appears in the anthologies New to North America: Writing by Immigrants (Burning Bush Publishing, 2007), and Another City: Writing from Los Angeles (City Lights, 2001).
From the publisher:
In The Art of Exile, William Archila asks readers to engage with a subject seldom explored in American poetry: the unrest in El Salvador in the 1980s and its impact on Central American immigrants who now claim this country as home. In language that is poignant and often harrowing, the poet takes us on a journey from Santa Ana, El Salvador, to Los Angeles, California. Archila bridges race, class, metaphor, and reality with astuteness, mingling humor and pain with a skill that denigrates neither.
"A poet of the heart and head, of the personal and public, at times William Archila's poignant poems make me hear and feel an echo of Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo." --From the introduction by Yusef Komunyakaa, Pulitzer Prize winner Here is a poem from The Art of Exile:
"Self-Portrait with Crow"
As I punch the time-clock, I know men will be gunned down at dawn in a distant continent, someone will dart into a café with a bomb nestled
in the belly, by the roadside a woman will moan over the body of a man, shrunken, stretched on the earth, that God will finger the forehead of a dying country,
all of it funneled through the news on TV. But tonight, instead of tuning in, I’m going to kneel beside the window, recognize myself in the croak of the crow, high above the black tree
of winter, claws hooked and rough, wings swept back and hunched, face masked with exhaust. I’m going to try, even if I fail, to see myself whole, complete in the cry, in the beak of the crow.
◙ My review of Stephen Gutierrez’s new collection, Live from Fresno y Los (Bear Star Press), appeared this weekend in the El Paso Times. In part, I say of the collection: Stephen D. Gutierrez's new book of short fiction, "Live from Fresno y Los: Stories" (Bear Star Press, $16 paperback), bears witness to the excitement and pain, exhilaration and disappointments, of growing up Chicano in Fresno and Los Angeles during the 1970s.
He renders his world in honest, eloquent brush strokes, creating stories that are simultaneously grounded in a particular culture while remaining universal in their message. He does this without sacrificing his trademark sense of humor.
◙ I had a wonderful time last week visiting UC Irvine to speak about Latino in Lotusland (Bilingual Press) along with two of the anthology's 34 contributors, Lisa Alvarez and Richard Mora (who contributed to the anthology under his pen name, Victorio Barragán, in honor of his grandfather). Our host was Alejandro Morales (who is also in Latinos in Lotusland), professor of Spanish and Portuguese in the School of Humanities. Many thanks to UC Irvine (students, faculty and staff) for making us feel at home.
◙ Last year, I told you about Arizona's Hispanic Flyboys 1941-1945 (Writers Club Press, 2002) by Rudolph C. Villarreal. On this Memorial Day, you might want to revisit (or visit for the first time) that post on this remarkable book that documents the heroism of our people that is too often overlooked. Click here to read the post.
◙ That’s all for now. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!
I brought my son to the Stowe Library before vacation so he could pick out some reading material. As he was looking through some books on drawing, I glanced through the young adult section. Since that is turning out to be the age group I most enjoy writing for, I read a lot of YA titles, and the library often gives a different selection than the local book store. When Carlos had finished choosing he came over to find me. There were some of the newer YA releases placed on easels on the top of the wooden cases and he reached up and pulled one down and handed it to me.
“Mom, this is great book. You have to read it.”
I glanced at the illustration of the young black boy in the cover’s bleak, snowy setting, his head leaning on a large-eyed gray cow and was intrigued. I opened it, flipped through its pages and gasped dramatically (as is usually my fashion…subtle I ain’t).
“Carlos! It’s written in verse! You know how I feel about poetry…”
“Mom, you won’t even notice it, I promise!”
Yes, we reverse roles sometimes and no, I’m not proud of my poetryphobia, but at least I listened to him and checked the book out.
I was very glad I did.
Katherine Appelgate’s touching novel, Home of the Brave is indeed written in poetic free verse, and as Carlos promised I did indeed forget that within the first few pages. It is the story of Kek, a refugee who has escaped the political unrest that plagued his native Sudan. He lost his father and his brother in the fighting and though he was separated from his mother, he has never lost hope that he will see her again. He is placed with his aunt and cousin in Minnesota (in the winter no less) and has to adapt to a different climate and culture as he mourns the loss of his immediate family and country. It is his happenchance encounter with a sad old cow—whose name just happens to translate to ‘family” in his language— that helps him deal with his intense feelings.
There is humor, such as when Kek, while trying to be helpful to his aunt, washes the dishes in the clothes washing machine. Sadness when he recounts the horror of the “night of men in the sky with guns/the night the earth opened up like a black pit/and swallowed my old life whole” (21). And touching when…well, I won’t give away the ending. It sounds cliché to say that I laughed and cried but…I laughed and cried.
More importantly, however, the book captures challenges that face all immigrant children who have to adjust their entire lives to a new home. Home of the Brave is ultimately a universal story, one that many will relate to. But as is their nature, children usually adapt better than adults. This is true for Kek who brings his open heart to this new, cold place and ultimately bonds with Lou, the old woman who owns the farm and the cow who provides the comfort and brings a piece of Kek’s home.
After I finished reading it, I grasped the book to my chest and had to admit to my son he was right. The only thing that reminded me it was poetry was the incredibly beautiful and evocative language, as I got lost in Kek’s story so easily. I’m glad I have my son and characters such as Kek who can teach me about poetry and maintaining open hearts, who teach me that even if you’re afraid there is always something to learn, beauty to be had.
Among the most valuable experiences available to writers attending the conference are one-on-one meetings with agents, publishers, and authors. Here are a few shots from the 9:00 set of meetings.
By the way, technology is a wondrous way to pass a lay over. Like in Las Vegas, where the airport provides free wi-fi throughout the building, along with dedicated stations with AC plugs to keep the Mac running and charging while the camera uploads to the drive, and Adobe Fireworks does its magic shrinking the files to acceptable size. Tan cool, que no? Que si!
An exhausting day of workshops, open mic readings, banquet, awards. Superb presentations by readers. Again, I apologize for not making the effort to name each individual, but promise to exert some diligence within the next few days to correct these shortcomings.
On another hand, the fotos today came out superbly. But then, several of these were shot by Michelle Adam, who has an excellent eye for a shot.
Herein find Valerie Martínez' poetry workshop, "On the Brink: Writing the Unpredictable Poem"; Salomé Martínez-Lutz' "Things to Consider When You Want to Write a Play"; Open Mic; Agents Panel; Children's Literature Panel; Publisher & Editor's Panel; Banquet.
Banquet photos include Premio Aztlán honoree Patricia Santana, reading from her beautiful novel, Ghosts of El Grullo, and Keynote speaker Josefina López, reading from her stimulating novel, "Hungry Woman in Paris."
La Bloga wishes Dagoberto Gilb a quick recovery - we were saddened to hear of his health issues but we understand that he is doing well and should be back writing soon, which is great news.
A family representative released this statement on May 11:
Dagoberto Gilb had a minor stroke on April 29. He is grateful for everybody's concern and well wishes, and is now privately recuperating in rehab. He will be released within a few weeks and is looking forward to resuming writing and working.
The award-winning writer's most recent novel is The Flowers (2008). Prior to that he edited Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas Mexican Literature (2007). Gilb is a tenured professor in the creative writing program at Texas State University in San Marcos. You can find out much more about the writer on his website, click here.
Those of you who want to send your best wishes to Mr. Gilb can post a comment here on La Bloga and we will make sure he gets your messages.
I came across the following quote attributed to Dagoberto Gilb:
Write from the gut and soul. Spill it. Write from las alturas and from hoyos (avoid cheap, italicized, affected use of Spanish words). Don't offer excuses, explanations, apologies, apologias (the Latin). Remember Danny Santiago? His theme, his gimmick and hook, was being Chicano. Explaining, i.e., apologia lit. In other words, don't write for Them. Don't respond to their issues (if they ask about the gang problems in your community, ask them what they're doing about their biker and pedophile problems). Try to please God or the Virgin and not others (well, Others). But privately. As in silent prayer. They know you are flesh, know your tears of joy and pain. You will quit your day job; if you're a writer, you'll be fired often enough, anyway. If you want to be The Leader of the People, if you want to be a Saint, if you want to be The Guru, please don't pretend to be first of all a writer. Unless you're dead. Notes on Lit from the Americas
Mario Benedetti, a prolific Uruguayan writer whose novels and poems reflect the idiosyncrasies of Montevideo's middle class and a social commitment forged by years in exile from a military dictatorship, died Sunday, May 17, his secretary said. He was 88.
Benedetti died at his home in Uruguay's capital, Montevideo, personal secretary Ariel Silva said. He had suffered from respiratory and intestinal problems for more than a year, and had been released from a hospital on May 6.
Called "Don Mario" by his friends, the mustachioed author penned more than 60 novels, poems, short stories and plays, winning honors including Bulgaria's Jristo Borev award for poetry and essays in 1985, and Amnesty International's Golden Flame in 1986. In 1999 he won the Queen Sofia prize for Iberoamerican poetry.
His writings on love, politics and life in Uruguay's capital were turned into popular songs and a movie, and his readings in his homeland attracted sold-out crowds.
Esquire made this recent announcement concerning its writing contest:
This contest is open to all, and the winning story will be published in a future issue of the magazine (as well as here, the new online home of Esquire fiction).
We encourage you to enter, but you have to follow the rules. The first and most important rule — besides, of course, that the story has to be original — is that the story must be based on one of three titles that we have provided.
Second rule: Your story cannot exceed 4,000 words. We are serious about that, too.
Simple. Pick your title and start writing. And don't disappoint us.
LA BLOGA FLASH FICTION WRITING CONTEST?
Because I had such a good time writing my half-dozen pieces for ficción rápida, my post last week, I've been thinking about sponsoring a flash (i.e., very short) fiction contest here on La Bloga. We can't offer $2,500 like Esquire, but we can get you published here on our blog. And I may come up with a signed book or two, from authors you will certainly recognize, as additional prizes. But the contest won't happen unless there is significant interest. So, if you like this idea post a comment and let me know. If we get enough interest, I'll have more details next week.
Playwright, author and film director Luis Valdez will speak followed by a book signing from 8 to 10 p.m., said Gloria Velazquez, a Cal Poly professor of modern languages and literature. The event is free and open to the public.
Valdez founded his internationally renowned theater company, El Teatro Campesino (The Farm Workers’ Theater) in 1965 during the United Farm Workers struggle and the Great Delano Grape Strike in the Central Valley. His play Zoot Suit is considered a masterpiece of the American Theater as well as the first Chicano play on Broadway and the first Chicano major feature film, Velazquez said. For more information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a handful of snapshots from Thursday's Day One of the 2009 National Latino Writers Conference.
Each day concludes with a beautiful event, a ten minute Open Mic concert. Writers get ten minutes, timed to the second, to share their work, poem, story, novel. My apologies to the writers that I have not documented their names here.
This is La Bloga's René Colato Laínez and his Los Bloguitos teammates. Below, Malín Alegría enjoys a tasty moment of poetry. Here Greta Pullen and a National Hispanic Cultural Center staff member draw the names. Laughter during Demetria Martínez' seminar on writing memoir. Lydia Gil workshop on cultural journalism. Photographers will appreciate the challenge of shooting against a white screen in a dimly illuminated auditorium. A moment of mirth during Reyna Grande's novel writing seminar. Another low light space. I dislike flash, so intrusive. The morning opens with an alumna of the NHCC's youth workshops. Maybe Carlos will send us the poem that drew tears from some of the morning plenary session attendees. Felipe Ortego y Gasca's address on the status of latino letters. Perhaps La Bloga can share the text of Dr. Ortego's address? The host with the most, Carlos Vásquez, Director of History and Literary Arts. Carlos and the staff run a fantastic event. Warm hospitality, a beautiful facility. ¡Ajúa¡ Carlos & gente.
Following are an NHCC board member, and the director of the Center, Danny López.
From acclaimed Latina poet and author Pat Mora comes a delightful collection of haiku focused on some of the most familiar (and a few unfamiliar) foods that are native to the Americas. Blueberries, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, and more, these poems capture the enduring appeal of foods that have been part of the diverse cuisines of the Americas for centuries. Each haiku is accompanied by information about the food’s origins, and some fun facts about its history and current uses. With joyous illustrations that practically jump off the page, artist Rafael López captures the essence of each haiku and brings these delicious poems to life.
Gente: About two weeks ago I was fortunate enough to read for Paul Martinez Pompa (Pepper Spray/Momotombo Press) at Triton College in River Grovee, IL. I was paired with Maurice, and loved his sly, insightful, lyrical, muscular writing. Below is a brief description of who Maurice is, and below that, samples of the poetry that made me laugh and stirred my soul.
Maurice Kilwein Guevara was born in Belencito, Colombia in 1961 and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee, where he teaches in the MA and PhD Programs in Creative Writing as well as in the Latino Studies Program. Previously, he has taught at Vermont College, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Universidad de las Américas (Mexico), and Universidad del Norte and Universidad Javeriana (Colombia).
His first book of poetry, entitled Postmortem (U. of GA Press), won the National Contemporary Poetry Series Competition and was published in 1994. His second volume, Poems of the River Spirit, was published in the Pitt Poetry Series in 1996. Autobiography of So-and-so: Poems in Prose came out in 2001 with New Issues Press. POEMA, his fourth collection, was released in 2009 by the University of Arizona Press.
A dynamic presenter of his own work, Kilwein Guevara has given poetry performances and workshops in Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain, Cuba and throughout the United States. His work has appeared in Poetry, Parnassus, Ploughshares, Exquisite Corpse, Kenyon Review, TriQuarterly, and The Journal of the American Medical Association. His poetry has been anthologized in Touching the Fire: Fifteen Poets of Today’s Latino Renaissance (Anchor/Doubleday), American Poetry: the Next Generation (Carnegie Mellon University Press), The New American Poets: a Bread Loaf Anthology (U. Press of New England), and No Boundaries: Prose Poems by 24 American Poets (Tupelo Press), among others.
In 2009, he will be a Senior Research Grantee with La Comisión Fulbright en Ecuador, doing background research for a novel and a play. .He has served on the Board of Directors of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) and was the first Latino to be elected as its President. He is married to the poet Janet Jennerjohn; they have two sons and live in Milwaukee.
Hector the Colombian Who Butchered the Hair of Juan Ramón
You don’t know him? Oh, I figured cause he’s Colombian too. I don’t get my hair cut from him no more. Used to. Used to sit down with him in his shop over on Lincoln Avenue, and he cut my hair, I guess he cut my hair like maybe twenty twenty-five times, you know for least ten years, y fueron cortes de pelo de calidad buena. See the thing is Hector the Colombian he can bullshit so much you need waders after a while, him talking about his village in the Andes, and his mother who wears a crown of thorns cause she’s a super-duper Catholic lady and sees angels in the Tupperware, and his bother that’s a narcoleptic mechanic, and his six sisters in Colombia who is so beautiful they still ain’t married, and he says that’s the difference between Colombia and every other country in the planet is how beautiful the Colombian women is, etcetera. But the last time I got my hair cut by Hector he looked terrible like he ain’t slept in a week, and I can smell the aguardiente through the cheap cologne and gold chains. Snip snip clip clip he starts up again on how perfect like an emerald ripped out of the belly of the mountain the Colombian women is clip clip. Now he starts crying saying God the Almighty and/or Jesus Christ and even the Holy Mother is jealous of Colombia because the Colombian women is so beautiful like gold shimmering in the sunshine, and God’s jealousy is the reason why Colombia has earthquakes and mudslides and more blood than a butcher shop clip clip clip when out of the blue he says Who am I kidding? She left me porque yo soy un verdadero pendejo and I drink too much and I’m a mess and a bad person clip clip, and I start feeling the hot tears falling on my head and neck drip clip, and I give a quick peek at the mirror and it’s a mess. He’s fucking up big time, cutting big ugly bald shapes into my scalp like I got a dog disease, and it’s all uneven clip drip with drops of blood. The problem, Juan Ramón, is I am afraid I am too democratic and love all the women equal, but for some reason they don’t feel the same way about democracy as I do clip clip. But I say, Hector look man my head’s all fucked up, chingado, you fucked up my head man check it out, and he wipes his eyes, puts the scissors and comb down by his side, and I say I ain’t paying for that shit. That’s a shit-job you done, and he says in a low, empty voice: You’re right, Juan Ramón. You look the way I feel. This one is on me, totalmente gratis.
Poema cubano con cara vieja
La red Pared Pared La red Poema cubano Con cara café Face note Net of creases Come come Comes Comes out Crops up A stogie Sprouts A brown stump Faces out Pores Cinnamon Time-net a brown face Pores Becomes De la pared Un puro Comes out A brown face Crops up Out of the white Outcomes Out of the white plaster A leathered rolling Cheekbones slope of forehead Looks down And comes a brown face You A brown face comes out of the white You Out of the wall Brown pores A galaxy Damp old puro Eyes hooded Looking down A brown face comes out of the white plaster, stump of puro in his mouth
POEMA, University of Arizona Press (2009) 978-0-8165-2725-
Copyright 2009 by Manuel Ramos. All rights reserved.
Exercising the writing muscle ...
Olga forgot the reason she left the house as soon as she crossed the street. Wayne worried later that night but she had been mad at him when he went to work and he guessed she was staying at her bitch sister’s place, paying him back.
Olga slept in the park and then in an alley and then it didn’t matter where she slept.
A year later, as she sprawled on the sidewalk, Wayne almost stepped on Olga but he didn’t recognize her. She still couldn’t remember why she left the house.
“One more beer for me and my friend here.”
“I told you, I ain’t your friend and I don’t want your beer.”
“What a joker. Why you acting like this? Let me get the next round.”
“You keep messin’ with me and I’m gonna hurt you.”
“You drink this beer or I’ll cut you again.”
“That’s what I’m talkin’ about. You can’t handle it. You get mean. Hell. Give me the beer.” Trial
The defendant leaned over to his attorney and whispered, “This isn’t going the way you said it would. That jury’s not buying any of it. You’re not getting paid if you can’t pull this off. What else you got?”
The lawyer stood up.
“Go ahead with your closing argument,” the judge said.
The attorney coughed. “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. My client just told me that he wants to change his plea. He admits that he shot Mr. Martínez, but he was crazy with jealousy when he did it. I know we can’t be changing horses this late in the game, but I thought you should know how mixed up my client is.”
The defendant jumped on his attorney and beat him with his fists until the bailiff pulled him off.
“Court’s in recess,” the judge said to the jurors. “You are excused. I’m declaring a mistrial. We have to do this all over again with a new jury.”
The bloody lawyer stumbled from the courtroom. He dabbed at his swollen lip with a handkerchief. He felt like smiling but he held back.
Flash finished his latest masterpiece with a final puff of yellow. He took a deep breath. Paint fumes and downtown smells filled his lungs. He wanted to say that he had created a fantasy of love and rebellion on the warehouse wall but there was no one to say it to. He added his tag. This is good, he thought. I nailed it.
He packed up his spray cans and rags.
Flash walked away from the wall and his painting. A tune popped in his head and he whistled. What song was that?
He realized he was hungry. He had been at it for more than three hours. Endings made him sad.
He sprayed paint into a rag and covered his nose.
“I think it’s the H1N1 influenza.”
“Swine flu? You think? Don’t you know?”
“The lab has to confirm it, but, yeah, you got it. You need to rest, drink fluids. We’ll see about a treatment plan after I get the confirmation.”
“I could die.”
“Not likely. We haven’t seen the serious cases, like in Mexico. You have to take care of yourself, though. It could get really bad. You have to wait here, in isolation, until we know for sure.”
“Thanks, I guess.”
The doctor had a mask across his mouth. The patient coughed into the air and spit on the floor.
He ran at 6:30 every morning. At least thirty minutes. Several blocks around his neighborhood; winter, summer, spring, fall. He ran into the rising sun or the cold wind. His face soaked up sunshine or dripped raindrops or melted snow. As he ran, his heavy breath roughed up his throat and ignited his lungs. The pavement beat his legs and twisted his knees. Unaccountable pain dotted his muscles. The first few months he sweated off pounds that had been hanging on his body for decades. When he had no extra weight to lose, he exposed ribs and cheek bones. His clothes swirled around his body like blankets in the wind. He ate less food. He drank less alcohol. He slept fewer hours. His friends worried.
“I’ve never felt better,” he said. “But then, I’m a poet.”
Please join Mario Acevedo and me at the Tattered Cover, 2526 East Colfax at Elizabeth, Denver, on May 21 at 7:30 p.m. Mario and I will read from our stories, and a few others, in the new anthology Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery. This crime fiction collection has something for everyone, from traditional to hard-boiled mystery stories. Stop by and join in the fun.
Guerrillas, Narcos, Washington, & the Ghosts of 1910 FNS Special Report
A new twist with unpredictable political consequences has emerged amid the shifting battle fronts of Mexico’s narco war. Sometime last weekend and somewhere in the mountains of southern Guerrero state, a group of at least 20 armed men presenting themselves as a column of the Revolutionary Army of the Insurgent People (ERPI) appeared before Mexican reporters.
Uniformed and armed with AK-47 rifles, the group was led by Comandante Ramiro, or Omar Guerrero Solis, one of the most wanted men in Mexico and an almost folkloric figure who escaped from a prison outside Acapulco more than six years ago and wasn’t publicly seen again until last weekend’s secret press conference.
In comments to reporters, Comandante Ramiro accused the Calderon administration of not only staging the fight against drug trafficking, but of also protecting the interests of alleged drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman. The masked guerrilla commander charged Guerrero Governor Zeferino Torreblanca, who was elected with the backing of the center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) and social sectors sympathetic with the guerrilla movement, with also protecting Chapo Guzman and an alleged associate, Rogaciano Alba.
A former head of the Guerrero Regional Cattlemen’s Association, Alba also served as the mayor of the Guerrero town of Petatlan for the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Gunmen associated with Alba are responsible for about 60 murders in the conflictive Tierra Caliente and Costa Grande regions of Guerrero, Comandante Ramiro said.
“The strategy of combating the narco is phony,” Comandante Ramiro charged. “Here in Guerrero, for example, the narcos participate in meetings that the army and state government hold to strike at one cartel and protect another, but essentially they are the same, because they murder, kidnap and torture,” he asserted. “Here the cartel of Chapo Guzman is serving the army, and vice-versa..”
The fugitive rebel leader likewise accused Erit Montufar, director of the Guerrero state ministerial police, of involvement in criminal activities in the Tierra Caliente region of the state.
Comandante Ramiro said narco-fueled violence was inspiring young people to join the ERPI’s ranks, which had successfully expelled Alba’s men from some mountain zones. The ERPI, he said, is engaged in active armed self-defense, “striking” and “dismantling” paramilitary groups connected to Alba and the state government.
The guerrilla leader said his troops try to avoid confrontations with Mexican soldiers, whom he called “sons of the people” welcome to join the revolutionary movement.
The ERPI first emerged in 1998 as a splinter faction of the leftist Popular Democratic Revolutionary Party/Popular Revolutionary Army (PDPR-EPR). Two top ERPI leaders, Jacobo Silva and Gloria Arenas, were captured by the Mexican army in 1999, but the guerrilla group survived and reorganized.
The EPR, as well as other spin-offs, remains active. As the 15th anniversary of the founding of the organization’s armed wing neared this month, the PDPR-EPR issued a new communique.
In its message, the underground organization addressed the recent flu epidemic, deficiencies in the Mexican healthcare system, human rights, political scandals, labor movements, the suffering of the mothers of Ciudad Juarez femicide victims, and more.
The group also said its members were reviewing the next step to take in its campaign to force a clarification of the fate of two high-ranking leaders, Edmundo Reyes Amaya and Gabriel Alberto Cruz Sanchez, who were allegedly disappeared by the Mexican government in May 2007.
Subsequently, the EPR waged a sabotage campaign against gas pipelines to force the appearance of its two leaders. The guerrillas later declared a truce, and a mediation commission was established between the EPR and Calderon administration. The commission, however, recently broke down, with no word on the fates of Cruz and Amaya.
Now 33 years old, the ERPI’s Comandante Ramiro told Mexican media he first joined the Poor People’s Party, a predecessor group of the PDPR-EPR which was founded by the late legendary rebel leader Lucio Cabanas in the late 1960s, when he was fourteen years of age.
According to Comandante Ramiro, the ERPI is organized like Cabanas’ old Campesino Justice Brigade, with units going up and down in size. Claiming his organization enjoys broad popular support in the Guerrero countryside, Comandante Ramiro said he spent the last four years year in the mountains, adding with a half-smile, “without a vacation.” Addressing reporters, he personally challenged President Calderon and Defense Secretary Galvan to come fight against him if they had a beef and stop sending “innocents” to die.
Replies to Comandante Ramiro
Reaction to the rebel leader’s bravado was slow in coming from Calderon administration officials and Governor Torreblanca, but other state officials and well-known political figures in Guerrero had quick words of response.
Dismissing Comandante Ramiro’s allegations, State Ministerial Police Director Montufar contended the fugitive was using the name of the ERPI to cover for crimes including cattle rustling, robbery and rape.
“How is it possible that someone who escaped from the Acapulco penitentiary, a delinquent of that level, assumes the mantle of defender of social causes?” Montufar responded.
Armando Chavarria, coordinator of the PRD group in the Guerrero State Congress and a former state interior minister under Torreblanca, urged the governor to initiate a dialogue with the ERPI.
“Personally, I don’t justify the armed struggle,” Chavarria said, “but I understand it.” The veteran politician said the ERPI’s public reemergence, arising from a grinding poverty trapping hundreds of thousands of people in the state, “makes the situation graver in Guerrero.”
After news of the EPRI’s reappearance hit the press, residents reported stepped-up Mexican military movements, especially in the Tierra Caliente.
While Mexican guerrillas engaged the media this past week, presumed narcos mounted their own publicity campaign by hanging more so-called “narco-banners” in Guerrero, Morelos, Tabasco, Sinaloa, and Chihuahua. Directed at President Felipe Calderon, Federal Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna and other top law enforcement officials, the latest messages were strikingly frank, with the banner signers acknowledging they were not members of a Boy Scout troop but nevertheless protesting alleged Calderon administration retaliations against family members of accused narcos. According the anonymous authors, the global code of conduct mandates that the family “should be respected.”
A New Game for Washington?
Locally, the EPRI column led by Comandante Ramiro adds another explosive element to a multi-faceted conflict underway in Guerrero involving several rival drug cartels, the Mexican armed forces and different police agencies, which often back different crime groups and battle one another. Last month, a fierce battle in the mountains between the army and suspected gunmen from the Beltran-Leyva cartel left at least 15 gunmen and one soldier dead. Along with large-caliber weapons and grenades, 13 suspects were seized by the army.
Politically, the persistence and even growth of the ERPI further signals the collapse of the broad-based political movement spearheaded by Zeferino Torreblanca that swept into power in early 2005 based on promises of change and end to decades of corruption and misrule by the PRI party.
The ERPI’s ability to attract young recruits shows how the guerrilla in Guerrero, like the narco, has become part of the trans-generational landscape. Comandante Ramiro’s column represents at least the third generation of Mexicans to take up arms since the late 1960s.
The existence of a guerrilla group in the heart of the narco conflict zone has national and international ramifications, especially at a time when the Democratic Party-controlled US Congress is considering a $470 million security funding request for the Mexican government, including money for more helicopters, advanced technology and training for the Mexican armed forces. The modern military equipment could used to fight guerrillas as well as narcos.
On May 7, the House Appropriations Committee approved the military assistance package and sent it on for further action. In an action bearing perhaps more than just passing political symbolism, the Mexico aid was approved as part of a larger security outlay for Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Now, even as the new Obama administration retunes its military strategy in Central Asia, Washington could be poised to become more deeply involved in a Mexican civil conflict that has centuries of deep political, social and historical roots.
On the eve of the House committee vote, scores of prominent Mexican human rights organizations wrote the US Congress opposing new military aid. The signatories of a May 6 letter noted that allegations of human rights abuses against Mexican soldiers mainly deployed in anti-drug operations soared 600 percent from 2006 to 2008, reaching 1,230 cases filed with the official National Human Rights Commission last year. In both Guerrero and neighboring Michoacan, complaints against soldiers are on the upswing in 2009.
Juan Alarcon, longtime president of the official Guerrero State Human Rights Commission, said his agency saw an unprecedented 85 complaints against soldiers from last December to the first three weeks of April. The majority of accusations, encompassing alleged violations of search and seizure, arrest and other laws, “have nothing to do with drug trafficking or organized crime,” Alarcon insisted.
Ghosts of 1910
In some respects, the situation in Guerrero and other parts of the Mexican countryside, both south and north, resembles the era before the 1910 Mexican Revolution when armed bands, heavy-handed government forces and insurgent political forces all rose to the occasion. Then, as now, foreign companies commanded key sectors of the economy.
Ironically, the huge copper mine in Cananea, Sonora, which witnessed one of the historic, runner-up battles to the 1910 revolt, has been the scene of a mounting conflict during the last two years between the mineworkers union led by exiled leader Napoleon Gomez on one side and the Calderon administration and owners Grupo Mexico on the other. Internationally, Gomez’s group has received important backing from the United Steel Workers and other labor organizations.
The Cananea strike almost erupted into a bloody showdown just as US President Barack Obama was preparing to visit Mexico last month. Attempting to break the strike, Grupo Mexico announced the firing of more than 1,000 workers. Hundreds of federal police then began saturating the area around the mine defended by miners and a women’s defense force.
In solidarity with the Sonora strikers, mine and metal industry workers blockaded shipments of containers scheduled for export from the Pacific Coast port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacan, near the border with Guerrero.
Back in Sonora, miners took over a highway toll booth. At one demonstration, the Cananea strikers cried out: “If there is no solution, there will be revolution!”
As the Cananea strike approached its second anniversary, Sonora Governor Eduardo Bours appealed to the federal government to find a solution amicable to all parties.
This article originally appeared on May 14, 2009, reprinted here with permission from FNS.
Stephen D. Gutierrez was born in Montebello, California, and grew up in nearby City of Commerce just outside the City of Los Angeles. He earned his BA from Cal State Chico and MFA from Cornell. His first book, Elements (Fiction Collective 2), won the Charles H. and N. Mildred Nilon Excellence in Minority Fiction Award. Gutierrez has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and his writing has appeared in many literary journals. He is a professor of English at Cal State East Bay where he serves as Director of Creative Writing. Gutierrez is married with one son.
His new book, Live from Fresno y Los: Stories (paperback, $16.00), is published by Bear Star Press and distributed by the press and SPD. Of this collection, Virgil Suárez says: "If you read one book of stories this year, make it this one. Live from Fresno y Los kicks out the jams, and takes no prisoners. Enjoy, and tell a friend."
Jim Krusoe offers this assessment: "There is an ineradicable sweetness to these stories, accompanied by the crisp and happy bemusement of a genuine voice -- the sound of one person speaking directly to another, and not from the head, but from that most mysterious of mouths, the human heart."
And this from Lamar Herrin: "Stunning. Really, a lovely and loving collection of stories, nicely balanced between the vernacular and the literarily eloquent."
I’ve had the opportunity to read an advance copy of Live from Fresno y Los and I fully agree with Suárez, Krusoe and Herrin. Gutierrez kindly agreed to sit down with La Bloga and answer a few questions in honor of his new book’s publication:
DANIEL OLIVAS: Whether set in Fresno or Los Angeles, you capture the awkwardness and yearnings of puberty so perfectly that some of your stories made me break out into a cold sweat. How did you feel as you revisited that time through your fiction?
STEPHEN GUTIERREZ: I felt emotionally drawn into the times of those stories, not necessarily painfully, but fully aware that I had somehow come to grips with whatever inspired the stories by writing about them somewhat (I hope) artistically -- that is to say, with the detachment necessary to shape raw emotions into something meaningful. "Catharsis" is an overused and ill-understood term -- not even the experts understand it completely -- but in the sense of confronting past horrors with a measure of calm I felt relieved writing them, maybe even happy. Writing makes me happy, is the bottom line, however hard it may be to get to a place I'm satisfied with.
OLIVAS: "The Barbershop" is one of my favorite stories in the collection concerning an aging father's last days and his family's attempts to cope. The particular beauty and poignancy of the story grows out of the very simple attempt by the father to get a haircut and maintain some dignity. What was the inspiration for this story?
GUTIERREZ: This story is pretty much autobiographical. My father suffered from a horrendous form of early-onset Alzheimer's complicated by other neuro-degenerative maladies. One day I saw him take what I already knew to be a heroic walk up to the front door of his regular barbershop for his last haircut. The image of him setting off down the sidewalk stayed with me, and I tried to make something out of it.
OLIVAS: In "Harold, All American," you write about the racial and ethnic tensions among East L.A. teenagers: Chicanos vs. "Okies" vs. "wetbacks." It gets pretty brutal as the teens try to find their place on the pecking order. Does it change much when we grow up? Are we better equipped for adulthood by surviving such an environment?
GUTIERREZ: I think it does change. The famous tension between Okies (sometimes called "surfers," though none that I knew rode the waves, 25 miles inland from any beach worth surfing) and Mexicans (be they Chicanos or Mexican-Mexicans) and less so between Chicanos and Mexicans eases with time. Everybody grows up, matures, laughs about it, how stupid one was as an adolescent, how commonly adolescent one was after all, how narrow-minded and protective of one's own fragile identity against everyone else. But there are some who refuse to grow up and carry hate into their adult lives, how sad; or at the very least never completely rid themselves of old prejudices, recipe for stagnation. I think surviving any adolescence steels you for adulthood. The problem is that adolescence never completely ends in the quandaries it poses about selfhood. It's just a primer for the agonies of life, almost self-contained but not quite. It gives you useful tools though, like the awareness that time will pass, and change is inevitable, even if that current pimple in your life seems fixed.
OLIVAS: Your stories remind me so much of the community I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s near downtown Los Angeles in a predominantly Mexican/Chicano neighborhood. Do you ever get concerned that you're writing to a particular audience (someone like me) or do you see your fiction as being "universal"? Do you even worry about this?
GUTIERREZ: I'm happy to have any reader, one reader, two or three who enjoy my work. No, seriously, I give it some thought but not major. I think all writing is geared toward a particular audience; the suburban novel is going to bore stiff the urban reader. But let me amend that: most writing, by default, is particularized and necessarily appealing to a smaller audience than intended. That's because "universal" writing is less common than the reviewers of major book reviews with their biases in place would have us believe (or know themselves). I think my writing transcends its locale, if that's what you're asking. If you'll permit me one immodesty, I think it's universal, and I'm glad for that. I wouldn't want to just appeal to "my people," whoever they are at this point -- I know in the end I'm a member of the human race, and my stories reflect that. I hope my characters are deeply recognizable from whatever background you have -- they are people caught in the crux of life, facing their own demons.
Josefina López. NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2009. ISBN: 9780446699419
From its opening paragraphs, Hungry Woman in Paris reads with the same hyperbolic first person breathlessness of a Young Adult chiclit novel. But mothers, don't let your girls read Canela's story until they're engaged--at least--if not married. And if that adventurous daughter of yours reads Hungry Woman in Paris despite your censorship, then tells you she wants to go to Paris on vacation, alone, tell her you know about the swinger sex club scene, so don't get any cochina ideas about doing a ménage a quatre right there on the dance floor. Wouldn't she prefer a nice trip to Disneylandia, instead?
Your teenage boys will keep the novel under the mattress, and share the "best parts" with all their friends.
All of which means Josefina López achieves her purposes to, in turn, amuse, shock, tempt, and taunt sundry readers lacking the good sense to recognize Hungry Woman in Paris as a deliberately outrageous pastiche of the chiclit genre, with a generous helping of Henry Miller and Anaïs Nin. Hemingway? Canela is the movable feast, which is part of the joke, and López' affront to prudes everywhere.
The novel is an almost complete success. I say "almost" because López' first person voice leads me to wonder if there's more than a soupçon of autobiography in this ribald tale of a failed journalist on the lam from a prima's tragic suicide and the bizarre velorio, a failed engagement, an irate mother, and her own depression. Naturally, she enrolls in cooking school.
This is not your mother's Como Agua Para Chocolate, despite the recipes and cookery. Canela stumbles her way through class, affronting classmates, seducing chefs and translators, earning a few measly Euros posing nude or helping Japanese tourists buy Louis Vuitton merchandise, and, with her typically impulsive thoughtlessness, help a Turkish woman escape her husband's vengeance. Más, she then inserts herself into the notorious riots of Arab youth contra French racism, and plays cougar to a Arabic rapper from the projects. Then...other stuff happens. This is the kind of novel that readers are advised to just sit back and let unfold.
Hungry Woman in Paris boldly takes Chicana literature into places where, like a literary Star Trek, no woman has gone before. Not that there aren't a few perplexities.
Canela comes out of Boyle Heights, a semi-successful writer but a failure to meet her Mexican-American family's standards to be a good Mexican daughter. Conflicting cultural norms play havoc with Canela's and her family's expectations. Canela's spent a lifetime fleeing them with no particular direction, and this has been further complicated by US immigration strictures. France, Canela discovers, is a lot like the US, except in many ways, worse, for immigrants.
That's right, "Mexican-American," a curious choice, given Canela's upbringing among the Mexicanas and Chicanas of Boyle Heights, her allusions to protests she's been involved in, and her kick-ass attitude to rules and external controls. Canela is conscious of the distinction, electing the binational term because "Chicana" would be too difficult to explain, with her limited French. But that's the public Canela. Yet, even the private Canela prefers the hyphenated identity term, but chafes under the oxymoron.
"No, I'm North American...Mexican-American," she tells a cabbie. "I clarified for him in Spanish. I wanted to tell him I was a Chicana, but then I would have to give him a cultural and historical lesson". The incident with the cab driver offers one of the novel's more insightful moments. Canela taunts the nationalistic driver that he can call himself Spanish if he likes, but his children, and for sure his grandchildren, will call themselves French. "It won't be up to you to determine their identity, it's up to them."
Given the extremes López takes her character, her editorial conventionality comes as a disappointment. She translates all Spanish language phrases into English, if not as an apposition in a follow-up periphrasis. The only saving grace of this irritating editorial strategy is the absence of italics. "'Hmmm,' her mother says, 'donde el va, yo ya vine.' Where he is going I've already been was my mother's way of saying she had already planned for betrayal."
When all is said and done, Canela and López want to make this one point clear: men everywhere are shits, most of them. A woman has a right to live her life in whatever fashion meets her needs, wants, desires, curiosities. Keep tasting life's treats and eventually, like the runaway Turkish bride, or Canela herself, a woman will find the man who deserves her. Or is that vice versa? Could a chiclit novel have a different ending? Probably not. López' Epilogue wraps the novel into a tidy package:
"Frenchwomen don't get fat and Japanese women don't grow old or get fat...but Latina women do. We get fat and we wrinkle, but our wrinkles come from laughing and crying. We know how to feel and eat; we know how to love and to come; we know how to live ourselves to death." In the end, readers will fulfill López' wish. It was delicious. And yes, "hungry" means horny.
MONDAY, MAY 18, 2009 East Harlem Cafe and Hit List Reading Last Thursday I read at a place I am still entranced by, the East Harlem Café owned by Michelle Cruz, at 104th and Lexington in El Barrio. Two other authors from Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery, read with me, Carlos Hernandez and Richie Narvaez. A few hours before, Richie and I appeared on the Victor Cruz Show, a radio talkfest from Brooklyn. Man, did I have a good time. This is the thing about getting out there, reading and talking to people about your work. You meet new people who wow you, you get to discover what they have created, and you feel lucky. Let me count the ways.
Pancho Rodriguez and Tennessee Williams A Love Story Almost Lost to Time
Gregg Barrios sends the following news about his upcoming release. Felicidades, Gregg.
Just a heads up on the June 1st release of the trade edition of Rancho Pancho. It is the first play to be published in The Hansen Drama Series. It has a forward by David Kaplan, curator, Provincetown Tennessee Wiliams Theatre Festival. Blurbs from playwrights Nancy Cassaro (Tony n' Tina's Wedding ) and Luis Valdez (Zoot Suit ) as well as a gaggle of newspaper and magazine critics from the cities where the play has been performed.
The schedule of my first signing tour forthcoming with dates. Cities and bookstores lined up include:
Now Voyager Bookstore, Provincetown, Ma The Drama Book Shop, New York City, NY Borders - Garden District, New Orleans, LA
Hope my publisher can add your city or town to the tour. Meanwhile, there will be a special event in San Antonio to launch the book in June.
PS While the book purchase price is less expensive at B&N.com, you have to pay sales tax and shipping. At Amazon, it is at list price and you don't pay tax or shipping. But I hope you support your local independent bookstore and purchase your copy there.
"Rancho Pancho is a delightfully decadent love story. Through Barrios' beautiful work, we are given a bird's-eye view into the brilliant, prolific and complex life of our greatest American playwright Tennessee Williams." – Nancy Cassaro, actress and playwright, Tony n' Tina's Wedding.
"A wonderful piece of theater... a delicious slice of history." – Luis Valdez, playwright, Zoot Suit.
Will the swallow come back to Barbara Renaud González?
Rigoberto Gonzáles sends word that his El Paso Times Review of GOLONDRINA, WHY DID YOU LEAVE ME? is posted now at http://www.elpasotimes.com/living/ci_12386618
Sounds like a good read. Per Rigoberto's review, "The narrator's name is Lucero, and like the star in her name, she proceeds to guide the reader through a border-crossing odyssey as sad and familiar as a corrido, as hopeful as the song referenced in the title, though the golondrina in question, that determined swallow, is none other than her own mother, Amada."
National Latino Writers Conference This Week in Alburquerque
This week, I'll be posting photos and updates from the conference that starts Wednesday at New Mexico's beautiful National Hispanic Cultural Center. I'll be there to conduct the workshop "Oracy: Presenting Your Work Effectively." Look for a link to my video illustrations and notes in a future La Bloga Tuesday.
That's the penultimate Tuesday of the fifth month of the year. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except you are here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.
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Jesus Fernando Liera Cruz, a junior at Sierra Vista High School in Baldwin Park, was honored by the California Association for Bilingual Education (CABE). Libertad Cautiva won the statewide essay contest, earning him a $1,000 scholarship. He addressed his poem at the Seal of Excellence Award Banquet in Long Beach. Here is the poem in Spanish and English.
Una nueva vida, una nueva lengua, una nueva cultura
Pero con la misma esperanza de siempre, triunfar.
Todos en la sociedad me llamaban inmigrante, inmigrante!
Pobre sociedad discriminante! al no saber lo que es un inmigrante.
Inmigrante… palabra hermana de injusticia,
Prima de discriminación y madre de libertad.
Inmigrante, viajero de Dios con pasaporte universal.