In his latest novel, King of the Chicanos (Wings Press, $16.95 paperback), Manuel Ramos paints a gritty and convincing portrait of Rámon Hidalgo, a fictional leader of the Chicano movement. This is a must-read chronicle of one man’s struggle against oppression as well as his own personal demons.
But Ramos is best known for six previous crime novels most of which feature the fictional detective, Luis Móntez. Despite winning critical and popular recognition for these works of fiction, he decided to move in a decidedly different direction with the creation of civil rights activist Hidalgo.
“The idea for King of the Chicanos has been with me for years,” Ramos told me recently. “Just the fact that it took me ten years to write attests to the difficulty I had putting the story together.” Ramos added: “I believe that writers and artists are historians -- that we are the preservers of a history that otherwise will be lost. I urge old friends and younger students to tell the stories that they know -- their communities, their families, their own lives.”
In the novel, Ramos weaves in the names of actual writers such as Rudolfo Anaya, Lucha Corpi, Alfredo Véa, among others. He includes a character, Roberto Urban, who is befriended by Hidalgo and who eventually becomes a writer himself. I wondered why Ramos included writers in his narrative.
“The times I write about in the book were an era of political and social unrest, but they were also periods of Chicano cultural renaissance and rebirth,” explained Ramos. “Everything from music to art to poetry to fiction writing underwent massive change and Chicanos were in the forefront of redefining American culture. I happen to believe that writers played an integral role in the changes and reformation of society and so they are included in a book that attempts to talk about some of those changes.”
Hidalgo is such a perfectly drawn character -- a man simultaneously damaged and noble -- that readers could be forgiven for believing that Ramos based him on a real person. “He is a total figment of my writing,” said Ramos. “As they say, any similarities to actual persons are coincidences. If readers think Hidalgo is based on a ‘real’ person, I take that as a compliment. I want him to be as real to readers as he is to me, his creator.”
The novel does raise many questions, including: Is the Chicano Movement dead? Ramos did not hesitate with his answer: “The Movement is not dead, absolutely not.” He explained that it “may not be called the Chicano Movement, and I think that term has come to mean the politics and agitation of a set period in history, but there are wonderful and exciting things happening every day that call on the stamina and courage of Chicanos and Chicanas, just like in the days of El Movimiento.” His conclusion: “I do believe that the legacy of El Movimiento has not been forgotten and that the spirit of those times continues in a myriad of ways.”
Ramos demonstrates through this remarkable and vital novel that the Chi Display Comments Add a Comment
Olga Garcia Echeverria
I recently found out that two of my all-time favorite writers, Isabel Allende and Gioconda Belli, will be featured here in Los Angeles on May 10th. Sadly, I won't be in town, but that's no reason to hoard the good news.
About the Featured Writers:
(fotos borrowed from authors' websites)
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JacketFlap tags: Cecile Pineda, Monmouth County, Janina's Letters, Passaic County Jail, immigrants, detention centers, Jean Blum, Add a tag
© Cecile Pineda 11 22 09
Cecile Pineda traveled to the East Coast to interview Jean Blum who volunteered in the detention centers of Passaic and Monmouth Counties in N.J. Beside documenting prison abuse, physical and verbal, inadequate diet, medical neglect, casual cruelty and disregard of their civil and human rights, Blum initiated one of the first official inquiries into the unrecorded death for lack of medical attention of immigrant detainee Tanveer Ahmad, a New York cabbie, and one of 106 such immigrant detainee deaths for lack of medical attention for which the ACLU and the New York Times obtained evidence through a Freedom of Information Act request. For the first installment of this series, click here.
"DHS/ICE is breaking our families apart”
In immigrant detention, scant attention is paid to “family values.” A summary of grievances by detainees at Monmouth County [NJ] Jail dated January 16, 2006 contains the following: “Over 95% of the detainees here are New York based…. All of our families [reside] in New York. DHS/ICE…never in their minds, have they ever taken the hardship for our families to travel over “3 HOURS” (round trip) to see us. What is even [worse] is that the visit is only “15 MINUTES.”
And behind bulletproof glass, furthermore, a lot of the detainees are getting deported without being able to even hug or kiss our parents, kids, wife, etc...! [They] are being deported on a daily basis, on an unknown date. [Fifteen] minutes just for them to say “goodbye” seems really bad! It is just extreme hardship for our families to travel so far for 15 minutes only. DHS/ICE is breaking our families apart before they even try to deport us!”
Roddy Sanchez in a letter to Blum dated June 11, 2005 states: “A lot of times when night falls, I cry because I have a newborn daughter. I got my whole family out here, but when you go in front of the judge they tell you, take your family back to your country, or the judge will say they can always go on welfare….” But the dreams and hopes of most detainees with families do not include taking them back with them to their country of origin, and in many instances, family members are legitimate citizens of the United States.”
Quoted in the NJCRDC’s
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Stevon Lucero has a new mural that will be unveiled on May 1 up in Laramie, Wyo. Stevon's mural is a "depiction of Latinos in Wyoming." He calls it Paredes Hablando: Walls that Speak. Stevon's work is full of energy, color and spirit, so this mural should be something. Plus, there's also a film, 2501 Migrants by Yolanda Cruz. An excellent trailer for the film can be found here. All of this is in support of Laramie's Radio Montañesa: Voz de la Gente, 93.5 FM.
A poetry reading by Juan Manuel Patraca at 2:00 p.m., May 8, at the Boulder Public Library at Broadway Street and Arapahoe Avenue in Boulder. At the free public event, Mr. Patraca will read in English and Spanish from his new book of poems titled 32 Biographies of Humble People. The Mexican-born Patraca mops and vacuums Denver area offices by night and jots down ideas for his poems while riding the bus to and from work. His poetry tells the stories of those who have contributed to the struggle for social and immigrant justice as well as his own reflections on his experiences with injustice.
NEW BOOK FROM TIM Z. HERNANDEZ
Breathing, In Dust
Tim Z. Hernandez
Texas Tech University Press
Deep within California’s golden agricultural heartland lies a rotten core: the fictional farming community of Catela, where the desperate realities of poverty, drug abuse, violence, and bigotry play out in the lives of cucarachas and coyotes, tweekers and strippers, wetbacks and white trash. Seventeen-year-old Tlaloc, namesake of the Aztec god of fertility and destruction, has grown up among the migrant-worker communities that follo Display Comments Add a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: Latino Poetry, National Poetry Month, Francisco Aragón, Add a tag
Francisco Aragón interviewed by Lydia Gil
LG: Could you comment on the representation of Latino poets during National Poetry Month? Were there any major events that highlighted Latino poets?
FA: Two events come to mind with regard to events featuring Latino and Latina poets this month. One took place this past April 17th in the Bronx: "ACENTOS Festival of Latino and Latina Poets." Fish Vargas and Rich Villar were, I believe, the principal organizers and among the poets that took part were Martin Espada and Willie Perdomo among more established voices and Diana Marie Delgado, Rachel McKibbens, and Paul Martinez Pompa, among more emerging ones. But there were many more. The other signature event this past month took place at an AWP off-site event in Denver, CO on April 9th: it was a "One Poem Festival" sponsored by Momotombo Press and PALABRA and whose organizers included the poets John Michael Rivera, J. Michael Martínez and elena minor, the editor of PALABRA. This event featured nearly 30 poets from all over the country, including Richard Blanco, Diana Garcia, Tim Z. Hernandez, Kristin Naca, Gloria Vando and so many others. One special feature of the evening was that at its conclusion, Silvia Curbelo, the judge of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize, officially announced Emma Trelles as the winner of the 4th edition of this prize, which supports the publication of a first book by a Latino or Latina poet. I would also point to the Latino Writers Collective in Kansas City, MO, particularly the efforts of Linda Rodriguez in organizing both readings and workshops there.
LG: Have you seen any major developments in the visibility and production of Latino poets in the US in the past decade? If so, to what do you attribute them? Add a Comment
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BrickHouse Education is an educational publisher designed to meet the needs of teachers seeking high-quality, creative, and affordable materials. BrickHouse Education titles are available in English and Spanish and each is specifically designed to meet multiple curriculum standards. Students deserve the best education, and BrickHouse Education can help you provide it.
For more information visit http://www.brickhouseeducation.com
32 pages; 11.5" x 9"
Why can't I buy new toys? Why do we eat at home more often? Why aren't we going on vacation this year?
When times are tough, it is difficult for children to understand why things change. This book follows a fictional family that faces very real economic challenges, and shows how they are able to overcome each one together. A timeless and reassuring tale with an optimistic ending.
Main Subject: Language Arts
Additional Subject: Social Studies
• Express emotions
• Build self-esteem
• Family and teamwork
• Responsibility and generosity
• Identify problems and solutions
40 pages; 10.25" x 9"
From “ardilla” to “zorro,” this book is an adventurous way to learn the letters and their sounds as well as fascinating facts about animals. With rhyming text and captivating photographs, this is the wildest alphabet you’ve ever read! Includes a glossary and four pages of fun facts about the animals mentioned in the text.
Main subject: Language Arts
Additional subject: Science
• The alphabet
• Letter sounds
• Animal habitats
• Scientific vocabulary
• Climates in geographical regions
• Uppercase and lowercase letters
• Animal traits and behavior
• Describing words
• Rhyming words
32 pages; 11.5" x 9"
What do Chris Mendoza, Jessica Woo, and Becky Cohen have in common? They all want to be President of t Display Comments Add a Comment
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JacketFlap tags: indigenous, noir, native american, akashic books, Add a tag
Sarah Cortez and Liz Martínez, eds. Indian Country Noir. NY: Akashic Books, 2010.
ISBN: 9781936070053 (pbk.) & 1936070057 (pbk.)
Isn't that a marvelous cover? It shouts out loud, "Indian Country!" New Mexico's magnificent Ship Rock outlined against towering thunderclouds. I looked at the cover and thought, Jim Chee, Joe Leaphorn, House Made of Dawn. Ira Hayes, maybe.
As the adage goes, do not judge a book by its cover. Because anyone looking at the cover art of Akashic's Indian Country Noir and thinking Southwestern United States has misled themselves. Indeed, in what comes as a pleasant surprise, most of the tales selected by editors Sarah Cortez and Liz Martinez take place in a broader conception of America as indian country--the entire northern continent, in fact.
González kindly agreed to sit down with La Bloga and answer a few questions about his book and other literary matters.
DANIEL OLIVAS: In his introduction to your book, Rigoberto González (no relation) recounts meeting you about five years ago at a “gathering of the queer literati at a Chelsea penthouse, where seasoned poets and novices converged to dialogue about craft and poetics as seen through the distinct lens of sexual orientation.” Do you have any particular memories of that night that have stayed with you? Was this a turning point or milestone for you as a poet?
OCTAVIO GONZÁLEZ: I do remember that night! It was an intimidating and invigorating experience to be in a room with so many talented and witty poets. I had been taking poetry workshops and working at the collection just released as The Book of Ours, which has been a labor of love for many years.
DO: When did you decide that you would become a poet? What kind of journey has it been?
OG: I began writing fiction, actually, and only saw myself as a poet much later. This is all relative, of course, since my writing life started when I was in middle school and I began writing poetry in high school. My first poem was awful! But, even though I never felt that poetry came “naturally” to me—I think it comes more naturally to some than it does to others—I worked on it, revising my poems obsessively. One poem in my collection, “American Sign Language,” an unrhymed villanelle, has gone through more iterations than I can keep track of. Let’s just say it began as two separate poems and the refrains existed before then, as mantras in my mind, which wrote themselves, as it were.
DO: Could you talk a bit about editing your book with María Meléndez?
OG: María Meléndez is an incredible poet and a warm, gentle, and visionary editor. She has helped me really chip away at the marble and let the forms and gestures and movements inherent in the poems come forth. We had conversations over the phone and went back and forth with ideas and suggestions. María was perfect in the way that she allowed me to edit the pieces while also guiding the wheel at important turns—I will always remember when she made a line editing suggestion and then said, Well, it depends on whether ultimately you want to end the manuscript on a hopeful note—it depends on your own vision of the whole. Her experience as a poet really helped me see the horizon or the “arc” of the collection.
DO: Who do you read? What authors have been your biggest influences?
OG: I’m working on twentieth-century fiction right now, for my dissertation research, so I’m really interested in Junot Díaz, a fellow Dominican-American author. I’m also intrigued by the modernists at the beginning of the twentieth century—the lyrical modernists such as Woolf and the Joyce of the “Penelope” chapter of Ulysses. Two novels that really inspire me are Story of an African Farm (by Olive Sc Display Comments Add a Comment
By tatiana de la tierra
Freud could end up twitching in his grave if he got his hands on Myriam Gurba’s Dahlia Season. A series of stories and a novella that feature Chicano/a teenage characters, this book goes beyond Mexican American clichés and gets into the heads of a series of unlikely protagonists. Among them are best friends who turn Goth together; a girl who cross dresses and cruises for anonymous sex on the beach at night; a boy who bribes his plus size English teacher with homemade flan and then deals with the news of his girlfriend’s pregnancy at home; and Angel Malo, the tattooed queer who has a deep encounter with La Dreamer. Then there’s Desiree Garcia, the central character in the novella. Enrolled in Catholic high school and shipped off to her aunt’s house in Guadalajara in the midst of teen angst, Desiree negotiates her bicultural identity within her family and friendship framework as she deals with her peculiar brand of neurological madness. Desiree and the rest of the crew are fleshed out, believable people, each of them imperfect and beautiful in some way. These gender-bending stories are gritty and edgy, packed with tender and humorous moments throughout.
A California native of Mexican descent, Myriam Gurba has a Bachelor of Arts in History from University of California at Berkeley and currently teaches high school in Long Beach, California. Gurba hosts the Guayaba Salon, a latina writer’s collective in Long Beach and will be touring with the traveling queer writers’ and performance troupe Sister Spit next spring. Dahlia Season (San Francisco: Manic D Press, 2007) is her first published book. (See dahliaseason.com for touring information and other interviews.)
de la tierra: You have an amazing mix of characters. Where do you get your inspiration for them?
Gurba: I derive inspiration for my characters from varied places. For most of the short stories in my collection, there were anecdotes that I heard told in contexts that would bury them. However, I didn't want these stories to be lost. To me, they're part of a larger queer folklore, this tradition of oral storytelling that we have that overlaps with chisme. For example, the story about the trans person cruising Long Beach for men was inspired by a tale I was told in a bar. . .
Desiree Garcia, the novella's main character, is in large part me. In her, I wanted to include all these parts of myself that often marginalize me and illustrate that, hey, this person is relatable, this person is human. I wanted to also create a character that defied easy categorization. To say Desiree is a lesbian character doesn't work because her later love interest is trans. To focus solely on her ethnic identity as a Chicana does her injustice, too, because she is such a bratty American. To focus on her neurological disorders is to ignore the fact that she is quite sane. Desiree is a total freak but in a way that I honor, respect, and find splendid as a peacock.
de la tierra: There are loaded issues that come up in your stories—such as abortion, transgender identi
© Cecile Pineda 11 22 09
Cecile Pineda traveled to the East Coast to interview Jean Blum. Blum is a Holocaust survivor whose memories of being hidden from the Nazis and living her early years as a traumatically displaced person motivated her to start ALAFFA, an organization devoted to helping immigrants incarcerated in the immigrant detention centers of Passaic and Monmouth Counties in New Jersey, who are held in “administrative detention” a provision of a 1996 law which deprives them of the right to legal representation. For the first installment of this series, click here.
Archive of the Detained
Over the many months Jean Blum worked directly with the immigrant detainees, she kept files of their letters and their complaints, as well as background materials as news of detainee abuse began to make headlines. Her archive, which she made available to me over the course of our ten-day interview, includes documents from the Department of Homeland Security, official “incident” reports, complaint forms filed with the Passaic County Jail administration, and letters written to her and to others by detainees, some attesting to conditions still now unimagined and unknown to most Americans. The sampling below only begins to describe the kind of conditions the detainees were enduring then and that more than 400,000 of them are still now forced to endure.
Infrastructure at Passaic County Jail during the time Jean Blum was intervening on behalf of immigrant detainees being held there is described in a 12 December 2005 affidavit filed by Shayana Kadidal, esq., of the Center for Constitutional Rights who refers to it as “an aging, decrepit facility with very poor conditions…. The roof in the main immigration detention ward was leaking, causing a greenish growth and black mold to cover the entire ceiling, which would then drip and fall into detainees’ beds [and] food.”
[text from event websites]
An evening of poetry, music, and dance.
April 23, 8:30 p.m.
Casa Zapata Dining Hall (Stern) - Stanford University
Enjoy the talents of students, staff, faculty and Bay Area performers who are committed to uplifting our community through arte y cultura. Featuring Poetry by Francisco X. Alarcón.
Francisco X. Alarcón is an acclaimed poet and educator, author of ten volumes of poetry. Alarcón is the recipient of 1993 American Book Award, the 1993 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award, and the 1984 Chicano Literary Prize. In April 2002 he received the Fred Cody Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association (BABRA). He was one of the three finalists nominated for the state poet laureate of California. Alarcón was also awarded the 1997 Pura Belpré Honor Award by the American Library Association and the National Parenting Publications Gold Medal. He also received 2002 Pura Belpré Honor Award, Danforth and Fulbright fellowships, 1998 Carlos Pellicer-Robert Frost Poetry Honor Award by the Third Binational Border Poetry Contest, Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua.
April 27 - 7:00 p.m.
A very special night is at hand as two amazing poets, one new to Elliott Bay audiences, and the other, familiar but always, in the vital sense, new, give this reading of their work together. We'll go with reverse alphabetical order here, or let the visiting poet be introduced before our longtime friend and neighbor.
Up from Arizona, Sherwin Bitsui is Diné of the Tódích'ii'nii (Bitter Water Clan), an extraordinary new poetic voice, the author of a fine first collection, Shapeshift, and now a compelling new book, Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press). This is major work. "Sherwin Bitsui sees violent beauty in the American landscape. There are junipers, black ants, axes, and cities dragging their bridges. I can hear Whitman's drums in these poems and I see Ginsberg's supermarkets. But above all else, there is an indigenous eccentricity, a 'cornfield at the bottom of a sandstone canyon,' that you will not find anywhere else." – Sherman Alexie.
With Sherman Alexie, originally from the Spokane Reservation, but coming here now from just over the hill, there is a poetic authenticity and urgency in his poems and all other work approached by relatively few working today. Since his first book of poems and stories,Display Comments Add a Comment
Of the many treasures I discovered at Denver's AWP conference, Mapuche poet, Jaime Luis Huenun's, Port Trakl, has been the most intriguing; a slim volume of 59 pages published in 2008 by Action Books. While its structure on paper assumes that of a long poem, it's arrangement reads more like a Rulfo short story of sorts. Obviously influenced by Austrian poet Georg Trakl as the title connotes, it is of no surprise that the current of Port Trakl gives way to abandonment, pain, and sacrifice. A familiar collection of symptoms responsible for Trakl's very own tragic suicide at the young age of twenty-seven.
"I cross this forest of tortured firs. / Falling stars sweeten / distant birch." writes Huenun. "Silently, a woman appears in the mist / and illuminates my path. / Her lantern has no light." And it is in this sense of obscurity and wandering that the characters of Port Trakl survive. They linger in the spaces between worlds, the space Gloria E. Anzaldua once addressed as nepantla or la tierra desconocida.
Although Huenun's, Port Trakl, is reminiscent of works authored by writer's before him, it legitimately merits accolades of its own. There is a certain authenticity weaved within the poem unrelated to his admitted influences of Melville, and Trakl. Jaime Luis Huenun has somehow realized a sense of peace en la tierra desconocida.
Huenun, Jaime Luis. Port Trakl. Action Books, 2008.
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WHEN: Sunday April 25, 2010 11am-3pm
WHERE: Broadway, between Broadway and Spring on First Street, Los Angeles, CA (Booth 428 &429).
BACKGROUND: Arbitron Inc. (NYSE: ARB) brings its Children's Reading Corner to Fiesta Broadway, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebration in the world. For the second year, Arbitron is proud to bring award winning authors to sign and distribute copies of their books to local children.
The Arbitron Children's Reading Corner reinforces community values and the importance of connecting children with cultural heritage through reading and offers Arbitron the opportunity to reach out to the local community at a grassroots level.
"It is important that we bring our Children's Reading Corner to the largest Hispanic event in the largest Hispanic market in the US," according to Stacie de Armas, Director, Multicultural Marketing at Arbitron. "This program was designed to reach out to families and talk about the importance of audience measurement in their communities, and let them know that they can truly have a voice by participating in research when called upon "
Since its inception in 2009, approximately 1,000 children have visited the Arbitron Children's Reading Corner and have received free books and educational games at various events throughout the country. Display Comments Add a Comment
Foto review: Daniel A. Olivas. Anywhere But L.A. Tempe: Bilingual Press/ Editorial Bilingüe, 2009.
Metropolis Books spans maybe 20 feet across and 50 feet deep into the entrañas of a low-rise building in the heart of Los Angeles’ urban renewal movement. Well ahead of the hipness curve, Metropolis has been in its location now three years, evidence of the swelling spread of loft-dwellers into the heart of downtown Los Angeles. Metropolis’ shelves pack a lot of wallop for the space. During the Q&A, for example, Daniel remarked that his work runs fewer pages than a magnum opus like War and Peace. I looked at the shelf at Dan’s right elbow and there was War and Peace, one shelf over from the poetry section. Taste, that’s what Metropolis Books’ inventory reflects.
Olivas selects three monologues from his involving collection Anywhere But L.A., adding a fourth when late-arrivals take seats: “Blue,” a ten-paragraph horror story of a child’s drowning that Olivas based on the 10 tracks of a Joni Mitchell vinyl. You can read “Blue” at this La Bloga post. “Let Me Tell You a Story,” filled with understated rage at lethally irresponsible drug addled parenting. The enchanting “Painting,” spoken from the perspective of a nude woman in her portrait, a beautiful evocation of Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn," or Sandra C. Muñoz' "Free Metal Woman." “Gordon,” another point of view piece, this one a dog’s.
To read Olivas is to experience a master of the short form. Olivas illustrates how character development doesn’t require pages of dialog and extensive tell-then-show. In Olivas' hand, a word or two is enough show. “Gordon,” for example, speaks volumes about the nature of this dog when the Setter avers his preference for the ideal bone, “a femur.” Absence of, suggestion of, detail is among Olivas’ most effective techniques. In “Blue,” for example, the speaker has been hollowed out by the life path she’s chosen surrounding giving birth at fifteen. Olivas fully conveys her emptiness by withholding details of events and people, facts hinted, alluded, never spoken, as if the story's events, as is her life, are unspeakable.
Writers-as-readers will profit from observing Dan's technique. Metropolis Books provides a table and chair, but Dan works for effect. He stands away from the table to commit his entire person to the reading. Readers who sit, or hide behind a lectern, not only d Display Comments Add a Comment
DANIEL OLIVAS: If you were to describe your new book in a few sentences, what would you say?
SUSANA CHÁVEZ-SILVERMAN: There are many ways I could describe my book but, hoy por hoy, I’m going to go with a term used by Argentine writer and scholar Walter Mignolo: bi-language love. This book, possibly even more than my last one, is strongly about emotional connection: using a language that is in (at least) two places at once. I use Spanish and English together—as well as their in-between!—to connect with memories, with a sense of wonder and yearning, and with a bunch of important people in my life. Also, to connect with other spaces, in a geographical and temporal sense. Of course, I wanted use this language, these musings and adventures (some of them everyday, some of them more unusual) to connect with the reader, too.
DO: This is your second memoir, the first being Killer Crónicas. Is it difficult bearing your soul? Would it be easier on some level to fictionalize your life?
SCS: At first, I was hesitant to have my work characterized as memoir, because the genre is extremely popular, but also recently went through a big ol’ backlash, around truth-telling. Plus, I myself found the category too-closely associated with a kind of excessive soul-baring. Also, formally, my work somewhat resembles the diary, or correspondence, or even prose poetry, according to some readers. In other words, it doesn’t “look” like the standard-issue memoir. People often tell me I could “create such fantastic characters,” and ask me when I’m going to write a novel. But I’m not sure my voice would feel as authentic (to me) or sound as authentic (to readers) in fiction—never mind the whole bilingual issue! I’m currently beginning to work on a book about my time in South Africa, where I lived during the 80’s, during apartheid.
Initially I envisioned it as a novel, but in the end, although I believe it will be significantly different from my first two books (longer chapters, probably, moving back and forth between the period in South Africa and the present, for example), I’m fairly certain it won’t be fiction. That said, I think the notion that everything in a memoir is “the truth” is naïve, impossible. The act of writing—even when grounded in acts of remembering—always implies an art of composition ... and compromise: any writer chooses what to put in, and where, and as important, what to leave out. This book is more “soul baring” than Killer Crónicas Add a Comment
Olga García Echeverría
This past week I had the opportunity to talk with Luis Becerra about his current exhibit at Trópico de Nopal, Remembering Conscience. The show, curated by Domingo Rodriguez, is a unique and gripping collection of iron and steel masks that evoke historical and political themes. I highly recommend it. It runs through May 10th 2010. For more information on gallery hours, please visit http://www.tropicodenopal.com/. This coming Thursday, April 22, at 7PM, Trópico will also host Conversation with the Artist, where Mr. Becerra will answer questions and speak about his work as a political artist. Gallery address: 1665 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles CA 90026. 213-481-8112.
Although Luis is a well-celebrated, Los Angeles-based artist who has been doing his painting, murals, and sculptures for decades, I have to confess I knew close to zilch about him prior to Thursday. My visit with Luis this week was so rich and inspiring that I don’t even know where to begin. There isn’t enough time or space in this Bloga to capture everything I want to convey, so here are some snapshots of how Luis Becerra entered my psyche and heart via his current exhibit and the interview he granted me.
Morning Rush Hour:
It’s a gloomy Thursday morning. I’m stuck in snail-paced traffic on my way to work. It’s tax day. I hate tax day. My car is making a strange rattling noise that I’m sure I can’t afford. I turn up the radio to drown out the clatter. Arizona’s latest anti-immigrant legislation is on the news. The state has just passed a measure requiring police to investigate the immigration status of anyone suspected of being undocumented. Neo-Nazis are on their way to Los Angeles. Crazy Tea Party people are marching in West Los Angeles, carrying posters that equate Obama with Hitler. I want to shut it all off. It’s too much sometimes--the shit our government spews, the wars we’re still in, the xeno and homophobic pendejadas. I’m pissed. I honk for no apparent reason. I merge aggressively. The words “slavery” and “alienation” come to mind and I think of Kafka’s Gregor Samsa, the indentured salesman who woke up one day to find himself transformed into a roach. I feel Gregor so deeply today I want to scream. But how do roaches scream?
Noon: Aspiring to Be a Butterfly:
I have one hour to scurry from job one in Koreatown to job two in Highland Park. But there’s a buzz in my head and a tug in my creative soul. I want to check out Luis Becerra’s latest exhibit at Trópico de Nopal, Remembering Conscience. I'm hungering for art and rumor has it Luis can breathe life into bent and burnt iron. This I must see. Technically, there’s no time to visit the gallery. I feel like an oppressed roach as I zigzag towards work. Then I remember a postcard a good friend sent me years ago. It was a picture of a huge cucaracha with killer antennas. Superimposed on the image, my friend scribbled the words, I aspire to be a butterfly. Yes! It's the kind of message I need today. Thank you for reminding me. Always, one must aspire to be a butterfly. I detour an
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© Cecile Pineda 11 22 09
Cecile Pineda traveled to the East Coast to interview Jean Blum. Blum is a Holocaust survivor whose memories of being hidden from the Nazis and living her early years as a traumatically displaced person motivated her to start ALAFFA, an organization devoted to helping immigrants incarcerated in the immigrant detention centers of Passaic and Monmouth Counties in New Jersey, who are held in “administrative detention” a provision of a 1996 law which deprives them of the right to legal representation. Below begins the first segment of her report to appear each Saturday.
Immigrant detention centers, now over 300, are located throughout the United States--federally run jails, county facilities, some run by private operator Corrections Corporation of America and Wackenhut, doing business under the sanitized name the Geo Group. They house more than 400,000 persons, almost all immigrants, and with few exceptions, people of color.
Her photograph, taken against a backdrop of the Monmouth County Correctional Institution in an article dated April 3, 2009, by Nina Bernstein of the New York Times, shows a forlorn looking woman, a woman identified as a Holocaust survivor, founder of an immigrant detainee advocacy organization American Liberty and Freedom for All, or ALAFFA.
On a first viewing, I wondered who she was. What drove her to engage for many months in such discouraging and thankless work? Was it her memories of her World War II experiences as a displaced person? Had those memories been put aside as she lived an early life described in the article as closely modeled on the American Dream? Did love have anything to do with it?
“When I was maybe six years old, my mother warned me, ‘you have to go away for a while, but you must never forget that you are a Jewish child. You must remember not to tell anyone, because if you do, terrible things will happen to you and to your parents.’” Jean Blum pauses to unravel the tangling red scarf before continuing with our interview.
“The next day my teacher—one of the unsung heroes of the French Resistance—spirited me away to a convent where I lived with other girls whom I discovered much later were also Jewish.” When Blum’s mother came to take her back, although Blum failed to recognize her--“I never thought I would ever see her again,” she explains--the gravity of her mother’s admonition never left her.
This news is special for me. Flo, the light that shines on my road, receives an honor this weekend. Flo is unique, many of you know that. She's received awards in the past - this latest one is notable because it's named in honor of a woman Flo and I have admired for years. Flo deserves the award because she is an activist, a cultural warrior, a humorist, successful businesswoman, and a pretty good grandmother. The event this weekend highlights her long-running involvement (25 years!) with Cancion Mexicana, one of the most popular radio programs anywhere, regularly broadcast on Sundays, from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on KUVO radio (www.kuvo.org.)
Flo will be given the Lena L. Archuleta Community Service Award. The notice of the award explains that the recipient must be a Colorado resident of Latino descent who has taken an active role in the community, above and beyond paid employment. The recipient will have made an impact on the cultural life of the community through his or her involvement with the Denver Public Library or another civic institution.
Here's the official announcement from the DPL:
Denver Public Library Latino Award Winners -- April 17
DENVER -- On Saturday, April 17, the Denver Public Library Commission and Latino Leadership Committee will present the ninth annual Lena L. Archuleta Community Service Award and induct new members to the César E. Chávez Leadership Hall of Fame. 2010 winners include: Florence “Flo” Hernández-Ramos, winner of the Lena L. Archuleta Community Service Award and the 2010 César E. Chávez Leadership Hall of Fame inductees Denise Maes and Bernard “Bernie” Valdez.
The community event begins at 10 a.m., and will be held at Denver’s newly renovated Woodbury Branch Library located at 3265 Federal Blvd. This event is free and open to the public.
Florence “Flo” Hernández-Ramos
A Colorado native, Florence “Flo” Hernández-Ramos is active in the community and host of jazz89 KUVO’s “Cancion Mexicana.” Recently dubbed “the spiciest show on radio” she expertly blends her knowledge of Colorado with New Mexico and Tejano music to present a well-balanced radio program that is accessible to a dynamic audience of listeners.
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I'm writing this early in the week as I also prepare for the AWP Conference. I'm sure I won't have any time Thursday night to deal with my usual obligations like La Bloga -- that's the night of the Con Tinta pachanga, which grows each day in terms of expectations and legendary status. I will be there and so will several (a hundred?) other Latina/o writers including comrades from La Bloga. But that was last night.
It's weird the way things work out. I received copies of my new book, King of the Chicanos, a few days ago. Hot off the press, literally. Much too new to be sold at AWP but I will do my damndest to get the word out. Quite a high to see a new book with my name on it. A trip. My head could explode. That old chingon feeling returned.
So around the same time that the books showed up, literally almost as I was cutting open the box, my water line busted and my basement flooded.
We scurry to block water with ripped towels and rags. I call the water department - the person answering the phone says they will send someone to turn off the water by 2:30 PM (it's 10:00 AM!) I scream emergency, and let her know that the house could float away. She says she will do what she can. Then I call the plumber I have used much too often in the past few years. Sure, he says. He'll come by as soon as he can - half hour or so. More towels, more rags - panic starts to set in as we haul and shove boxes containing the remains of our early years out of the basement. The water flows.
The water guy shows up - he turns off the water but can't do much else. Flo tells me that the water continues to ripple and flow. She says goodbye to her stored copies of Liberty Meadows and La Perdida (Part One!) I say goodbye to our carpet.
Mike, my plumber pal, arrives with helpers and tools. He looks around and shakes his head. His assistant says "Oh shit," not something you want to hear from your plumber's assistant. Mike decides that he needs to get to the pipe under the floor - under the floor! Now we're saying goodbye and adios to thousands of dollars as the plumber jack-hammers the concrete. Fare thee well to hundreds more as he calls for help in the form of a loud, smoky, oil-dripping machine to dig up the front yard so he can make the connection to the main line. The machine coughs and belches in the street; the neighbors shake their heads and shut their curtains; and the wet clay turns to sloppy mud. The men can't find the main line - it's deeper than they expected. They break the sewer line looking for the water line. Then it starts to rain.
We are in hog heaven now - nothing but mud outside, and what used to be the grandkids' running, screaming and jumping space (the basement) is now a muddy mire of broken concrete and sloshy carpet. Santiago, one of the helpers, digs and shovels mud until it piles almost to the ceiling. The ground is so wet that the water sits in pools - they are having a very hard time replacing the pipe. My house is so old that there is no easy repair job, ever. But they promise that we will have a shower and toilet by that evening. The plumbers don't keep their promise. Goodbye new book high.
The next day Flo and I shower at my office. We use the toilets at my office. We drink water at my office. We try to avoid the house - it is a mess. But we have to return. The plumbers finish the job about midday. More digging by the monster, more digging by Santiago who now has brought his wife to "clean up." She's wearing a skirt and a blouse made for the dance floor. The basement frightens her
I'm hung-over, feet sting from hundreds of steps back and forth across the Colo. Convention Center and downtown Denver. Workshops, readings, panels, lit journal tables, accompanying literary tipos, Chicano and otherwise. Someone else can provide an organized report on AWP. These bits are what float my mind from the past two days:
Sudden Fiction Latino panel. Bloguero Daniel Olivas leads Lisa Alvarez, Stephen D. Gutierrez, Pedro Ponce, Alicita Rodriguez and Edmundo Paz Soldán. The readings are way too short; the authors and audience have come such a long way. I want to hear more, about Bisbee, climbing staircases, instructions on singing, the Chinese wall and more. I'll only get to do that from the book.
The panel moves fast to a fine discussion about Raymond Chandler's words:
I wonder if Chandler knew he was anticipating the New Latino 21st Century author. Or what all Chicanos have to be to live where we do?
Con Tinta Celebration honoring Alicia Gaspar de Alba, with a tribute to Lalo Delgado. Lalo's family fills half the room. A Chicano gathering of family, Chicanitos animados running the aisles, beer glasses tapping toasts. Not the best place for a reading. I'm remembering Lalo read Stupid America, decades ago; still seems apropos.
Today, platefuls of comida mexicana and hearing bloguero Jesse Tijerina tell of his daily dealings with cholos, gangs at the Colorado middle school where he works as principal. His kids clearly have an Advocate; Jes, a block, building our gente's future. So where's he find time to do La Bloga posts, I wonder?
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April 18 at Whittier Narrows Natural Area
The public is invited to enjoy the timeless combination of nature and poetry when the historic Whittier Narrows Natural Area plays host to a free Earth & Poetry Day event on Sunday, April 18, 2010.
The family-friendly celebration, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m., will include a docent-led nature walk at 11 a.m. followed by poetry performances and refreshments beginning at 12:30 p.m. Attendees are invited to bring a nature-themed poem to share.
The event will include performances by touring poet Jared Paul, of Providence, R.I., and Southern California poets Deborah P. Kolodji, Chris Wesley and Erika Ayón.
All activities will take place in or leave from the picnic area outside the nature center.The event marks both National Poetry Month and the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, which this year falls on Wednesday, April 22. The natural area, a wildlife sanctuary founded by the National Audubon Society, celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2009.
The Whittier Narrows Natural Area is located at:
1000 N. Durfee Ave.
South El Monte CA 91733
across from South El Monte High School
Parking is free
The event is sponsored by the nonprofit Whittier Narrows Nature Center Associates. For further event information, please contact Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo at (626) 484-0582.
Some info on one of the featured poets:
DATE: Saturday, April 17
TIME: 4:00 p.m.
WHERE: Metropolis Books, 440 S. Main St. L.A. 90013
MORE INFO: Click here
Praise for Anywhere But L.A.:
"Like the cities they describe, the stories in Anywhere But L.A. shift and slide and refuse to be pinned down. Daniel Olivas is an exciting writer, whose prose rings with humor, insight, and power." -- Daniel Alarcón, author of Lost City Radio and War by Candlelight
"Funny yet touching, these skillfully rendered characters remind us of our own vulnerability. Individually, the stories are punchy and sharp; collectively, the stories create a colorful mural of a thriving Latino community." -- Kathleen de Azevedo, author of Samba Dreamers
"Daniel Olivas has mastered the knack of telling intricate tales that are natural, never labored, and a genuine pleasure to read." -- Manuel Ramos, author of The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz
"Olivas is a writer who will take risks and surprise you. His stories delve into the topical themes of Latino and Chicano literature and beyond." -- Sergio Troncoso, El Paso Times (Read full review here)
"Anywhere But L.A. completes a satisfying California trilogy that observes, interacts and imagines the many dimensions of the American Southwest through an honest and genuine lens." -- Rigoberto Gonzalez, My Latino Voice (Read full review here)
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Gregory Desilet. 2010, ISBN: 1-4415-4683-9 (Trade Paperback 6x9).
I had drawn Quick Reaction Force duty that February day. QRF was among the Army's quaint oxymorons. After a full day's duty, QRF detailed soldiers were confined to quarters from 1700 until called upon for a quick reaction.
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By Spelile Rivas (Author)
Amira Plascencia (Spanish Translator)
Valeria Cervantes (Illustrator)
30 Apr 2010
An endearing story about a boy who tries
to avoid chores by blaming monsters
Roberto tells his mother he can’t clean his room because he’s afraid the Closet Monster might lock him away forever! “Maybe you should help me,” he tells his mother. “The Closet Monster is afraid of you.” But Mamá insists he clean his own room.
And when Mamá asks for Roberto’s help wiping the table and sweeping the kitchen floor, he again tries to wiggle out of cleaning because of his fear of monsters. “If I sweep the floor,” he says, “the Dust Monster might come and blow me away forever!”
Later, when Roberto is ready for his mother to read him a story, she turns the tables on him. “If I read you a story,” Mamá says, “the Work Monster might come and take me away forever.” So Roberto grabs a mop and willingly helps his mom finish the chores. Together, Roberto and his mother put an end to the cleaning and the monsters!
In this entertaining picture book about a boy’s creative attempts to avoid doing chores around the house, first-time children’s book author Spelile Rivas creates an amusing scenario to illustrate how working together to complete tasks can be productive and fun.
Abuelo vivía solo / Grandpa Used to Live Alone
Amy Costales (Author)
Esperanza Gama (Illustrator)
Published 30 Apr 2010
of a grandparent in a young girl’s life
And Grandpa’s house and garden weren’t as orderly either. Sometimes Grandpa had to pick his way through toys strewn across the floor. Other days he watched her pluck rose buds and beans from his plants. And some days his brick patio was decorated with brightly colored chalk.
While she was a little girl and her mother went to school late in the evening, Grandpa made rice pudding. She would play with the measuring cups and eat raisins while he prepared their bedtime snack and told her stories. Then he would carry her upstairs to her crib and tuck her in. He would rock in the chair by her crib until she went to sleep.
As the years pass, she grew and grew. Grandpa took down her crib and bought her a bed. He taught her how to make rice pudding and play catch. And while she was growing, Grandpa was grow Add a Comment
**Presentation in Spanish**
Dr. Omar Everleny Perez Villanueva
Universidad de la Habana
WHEN: Friday, April 16, 2010, 5:00 PM WHERE: The Graduate Center, Rooms C-202 365 Fifth Avenue (@ 34th Street) NOTE: Presentation in Spanish
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