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1176. Interview With Author/ Illustrator Adalucía Quan

Congratulations Adalucía on your beautiful books. Tell us a little bit about them.

I have published three educational books for children and young adults. The titles are The Magic of Clay, La chica de Mendiburo and The Song of the Coconut. The Magic of Clay, written in English, is a book that could be very useful to anyone that wants to start working with clay. It explains complex concepts and definitions in a fun and simple way. The colorful illustrations are done in collage. This book is sold in museums, art galleries, bookstores and ceramic wholesale suppliers where clay artists and instructors buy their supplies. This book is only 32 pages long but it is very thorough. It took the knowledge and experience of 15 years of working with clay to write this book. For more information about this book, please visit www.themagicofclay.com.

La chica de Mendiburo is a novel for young adults and readers of all ages. This 272 page book was written in Spanish. The book interior has more than 80 black and white illustrations. This book is also an introduction to Spanish and Latin American literature, disguised as a fiction novel. Through the eyes of Marifer (the main character) you will get to know Mendiburo, an imaginary place that can exist in any Latin country. "La chica" is a different love story. The little girl loves her family, her servants, her ocean, her garden, her grandparents and her friends. The reader laughs and cries as he enters inside Marifer's sincere and simple world. It's like an open window to life in a Latin American country. La chica de Mendiburo won 4 awards at the 2007 International Latino Book Awards. First place as Best Fiction Book in Spanish for Young Adults. For more information about this book you can visit www.lachicademendiburo.com.

The Song of the Coconut is a 32-page book for children. It has many big, bright illustrations done in collage. It's written in English, sprinkled with some Spanish. It tells the story of a young coconut who gets into trouble. But thanks to his dad's teachings and his grandpa's memories, the story ends in a happy way. Also, children will be able to learn some important facts about palm trees and coconuts. This book has just won three awards at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards. First place: Best Educational Book in English for Children. Second place: Best Cover Illustration. Second place: Best Interior Book Design. We are working on the web page for this book.

Where do you get your inspiration to write your books?

I believe my inspiration comes from everything that has happened in my life. In my books you will find what I experienced as a child, as a young adult. Also, inspiration comes from what my own children have experienced. My family has always been of utmost importance to me. This is why you will always find family values in all of my books. I have four grown children and I have raised my grandson who is now twelve-years old. I have always been surrounded by children and this is why it is easy for me to write for them. I also love to teach. For example, I came up with the idea to write the ceramics book because I wanted to teach my grandson all about working with clay. I couldn't find an appropriate and easy book for his age. So I wrote the book for him, to explain difficult terminology and concepts in a more comprehensive way. A child, as well as a beginner, of any age, can now benefit from this book.

Being a writer as well as an illustrator, what is the process you go through with your children's stories? What comes first the image or the story?

The process is very long and a bit complex. Almost always the words come first, but many times the whole process happens at once. All of a sudden, I get an idea for an image and then the words come about as I am working on the illustration. Other times, I think of several images at once and I jot down my ideas. Then I start working on the text. But it doesn't really matter how the process takes place. Still all the details have to be thoroughly planned, truly to perfection, to be able to come up with a good product.

I know that you publish your own books. How is the publishing process?

My husband is the one in charge of all the administrative work and the publishing process. We have been working with a company in New York City, justbookz.com. This company helps small publishers, like ourselves, go through the publishing process. We have found this company very helpful and have enjoyed working with them.

Your effort has been recognized with several awards. How do you feel knowing that your work has had this type of recognition?

This is something that I still cannot believe could ever happen with my books. It is when you receive these awards when you feel that it was really worth the effort. All those long nights, and waking up at 5 in the morning to try to find some time to write and illustrate seem worth while, now. To top it all, because of these awards, Santillana, S. A. got interested in La chica de Mendiburo. This educational giant bought the rights for La chica in four languages. They are going to publish and distribute the book in Latin America and also Spain and Portugal. The Latin American edition is ready and will soon be available to the public.

What advice will you give to aspiring authors?

To follow their dreams. To keep on drawing, painting, writing and not to let anybody tell them that they cannot follow a dream. Even if that dream seems impossible, at times. I always wanted to be a writer but, for many years, this dream was forgotten. I have been writing little poems and songs since I was twelve. In my ceramic pieces I would inscribe words, lines. Now that I am a writer, all of this is very useful to me. Because, in my books, I can even include some poems that I wrote as an adolescent child.

Adalucía Quan was born in beautiful Miraflores, a neighborhood in Lima, Peru. She is the author and illustrator of The Magic of Clay (2003), an educational book about ceramics for readers of all ages. Her new educational picture book, The Song of the Coconut (2008), is written in English sprinkled with Spanish. Adalucía studied Art, Spanish Literature and Modern Languages at Barry University and Florida International University, Miami, Florida. Her latest accomplishment is her Master's Degree in Art Education from The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives with her family in Santa Fe, New Mexico and she is a Spanish instructor at Santa Fe Community College. Adalucía is a true artist: she paints, draws and enjoys creating sculptures and utilitarian clay pieces where she inscribes her poems.

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1177. Review: Reyna Grande. Dancing With Butterflies.

Reyna Grande. Dancing With Butterflies. NY: Washington Square Press, 2009.
ISBN-10: 1439109060
ISBN-13: 9781439109069

Michael Sedano

Every now and again, one of “those novels” comes along that catches fire and finds itself on everyone’s must-read list. Put Dancing With Butterflies at the top of your list because Reyna Grande has one of “those novels” in her new release, Dancing With Butterflies. The novel combines excellent writing, compelling characters, and acute sense of place to make its 390 pages pass too swiftly.

Readers of “Los Angeles” novels will notice right away how Grande weaves in geographical details from throughout the region, from Highland Park to Boyle Heights, from Downtown to Pasadena. And her characters sometimes ride the bus, or walk. Street level gente, in other words.

Grande brings four women’s lives into acute focus. Middle aged Yesenia lives to dance. But age and arthritis make painful facts Yesenia’s mind refuses to acknowledge. Adriana harbors resentment at older sister Elena’s escape to college leaving young sister to abusive grandparents. Worse, there’s a dangerous second personality in Adriana who now and again runs wild. Elena is 36 weeks pregnant when she feels the baby die. Mourning leads to disaster for her marriage, made so much worse when she seduces a 17 year old boy. Finally comes Soledad. An undocumented worker, Sol’s costuming mastery sets Alegría dance company apart from competitors. Attempting her return from Mexico, Sol’s coyote abandons her in the Arizona desert.

Each character steps forthrightly onto her time on stage, to stand under Grande’s baleful gaze, but given voice by a skilled writer of conversation. Grande’s writing appears effortless, a tribute to the author’s control of her medium because there is so much one could heap on these women to get themselves right, but instead the characters do their own talking leaving the reader to make sense of the muck-ups and damn shames.

Yesenia steals dance troupe money to buy cosmetic surgery. Just as Yesenia’s TJ bargain tummy tuck goes bad, the dancers of Alegría revolt and the troupe breaks up. Much as Yesenia loves dance and this troupe, thinking her bad behavior the cause of this failure tortures but doesn’t defeat the determined dancer.

Adriana remains in an abusive relationship. She wants to sing, not dance, but because her mother danced, Adriana feels it’s a daughter’s duty to dance. And there’s The Other Adriana, some lurid, ugly tragedy looming ever closer.

Elena’s depression at losing the baby is made all the worse when she feels the opprobrium from family and friends because she has bedded the student. She is stunned when one calls her another Mary Kay Letourneau. Maybe she is? But what’s in it for Elena?

Soledad is about to get her own business going when her partner abruptly changes his plans, crushing her dream into yet one more frustration in her undocumented life. Left to be arrested in the desert, Sol is rescued by a hermit. When immigrants fleeing pursuing ICE agents pound on the door for succor, Sol sees the likelihood of capture if she offers an open door. The choice will haunt the remainder of her life, but she survives to return to L.A.

What’s OK? Can desperation mitigate foul selfishness? Where does the balance tip between reaching out to help others and holding on to help oneself? And when the fulcrum tilts in our favor, unfavorably for others, how does one define the outcome? These are tough questions you don’t have to ask, but are there in the text for the taking. Dancing With Butterflies isn’t going to hit someone over the head with an author’s message. The things these characters go through create ample reason to read, digest, and ask one’s own questions. Then recommend the book to a friend. Dancing With Butterflies is one of “those novels” you’ll enjoy so much you’ll want your friends to enjoy with you.

There's September's final Tuesday. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.


La Bloga welcomes your comments and observations on today's or any day's columns. Simply click the comments counter below to share your views. When you have a column of your own, a book review, a report on an arts or cultural event, remember La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. Clickhere to discuss your invitation to be our guest.

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1178. Latinos in Lotusland reading and book signing at Tía Chucha's Café Cultural

Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press) brings to life Latino denizens of Los Angeles and the city's surrounding communities. The stories describe complex, diverse characters: young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor. Meet a Cuban-American screenwriter trying to pitch the "real" story behind the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a Mexican woman who believes she's seen a miracle, youths trying to avoid gang life while others embrace it, and many others. This anthology brings together 60 years of Los Angeles fiction by 34 Latino/a authors.

In my role as editor of the anthology, I will be moderating a reading and group discussion with six of the authors from this groundbreaking collection. They are: Estella González, Álvaro Huerta, Melinda Palacio, Alejandro Morales, Victorio Barragán, Conrad Romo.

DATE: Saturday, October 3rd

TIME: 1:00 - 3:30 p.m.

PLACE: Tía Chucha's Café Cultural, 13197-A Gladstone Ave., Sylmar, CA 91342 (phone: 818-528-4511)

If you haven’t attended one of these wonderful Latinos in Lotusland group readings during the last year and a half, you should try to make this one. We will have one more group reading at the Latino Book and Family Festival on October 10 (more on the two-day festival later).

◙ The debut collection by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, Marielitos, Balseros and Other Exiles (Ig Publishing), is receiving nothing but raves. Here is one:

Publishers Weekly: “In her debut collection, Milanés tells varied, often heartbreaking tales of Cuban-American exiles. With young Carmen, Milanés introduces readers to the community's exodus, the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when Castro reluctantly let 10,000 Cubans leave the country. Carmen's simple but eye-opening story features a radio broadcast cataloguing the difficulties those marielitos have since faced in the U.S. In this emotional tour through the semiconnected lives of these immigrants, and the rafters who came after (the balseros), hardworking dishwasher Juan loses the job he loves, becomes homeless and discovers unexpected opportunity; his abrupt fate turns up in a later story about José Vidal, a dangerous marielito who's lost his mind. For her family, Damarys has clawed her way to freedom and success by whatever means necessary; in his own story, her brother Fito refuses to take part in his beloved sister's illegitimate schemes. Complex and woeful, Milanés's rich ensemble act may remind readers of Junot Diaz's Drown and Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son.”

Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés is a professor of Latino/a literature and writing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Her short fiction has been anthologized in Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction (HarperCollins), Did My Mama Like to Dance? and Other Stories about Mothers and Daughters (Avon) and in New World: Young Latino Writers (Bantam).

◙ One of my favorite writers (who also happens to be a contributor to Latinos in Lotusland) is Reyna Grande whose new novel, Dancing with Butterflies (Washington Square Press), will be published in October. Publishers Weekly says it’s a “lyrical and sensual follow-up to her stunning Across a Hundred Mountains (2006) [and] is well worth the wait.” There will be a combination publication party and a fundraiser for Homeboy Industries.

WHEN: Saturday, October 3rd

TIME: 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. (Author Book Reading & Signing); 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. (Faith & Hope: Beyond Prison Walls Art Exhibit)

WHO: Reyna Grande, author; Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder, Homeboy Industries; Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company

WHERE: Homeboy Industries, 130 W. Bruno St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

◙ NEW NOVEL SERIES FROM KATHY CANO-MURILLO: Kathy Cano-Murillo’s new novel series debuts in March 2010 with Waking Up in the Land of Glitter (Grand Central Publishing). She is a writer and artist and has sold her handmade "Chicano Pop Art" crafts to hundreds of retailers including Bloomingdales, Target, and Hallmark. Cano-Murillo wrote a weekly syndicated Arizona Republic newspaper column for eight years, and has authored seven books including Crafty Chica's Art de la Soul and Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing. She is the founder of CraftyChica.com, a popular website to inspire women to brighten their lives with clever craft ideas. Cano-Murillo has a podcast series on iTunes, a web series on LifetimeTV.com, has been profiled in the New York Times, USA Today and NPR, and now has a Crafty Chica product line. Cano-Murillo lives in Phoenix, AZ, with her husband, two kids and five Chihuahuas.

◙ PUENTE ALUMNUS ALEX ESPINOZA TO READ FROM DEBUT NOVEL: On Thursday, October 1, at 6 p.m., in the Nordic Lounge, the Long Beach City College Puente Program will host author and Puente alumnus Alex Espinoza. The public is invited to this free event. Espinoza will read excerpts from his debut novel, Still Water Saints. The story follows the lives of Perla, the owner of a botánica in Agua Mansa, a fictional town in the Inland Empire, and the locals who visit her store.

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Espinoza is the youngest of eleven children. He grew up in La Puente. In 1991, he moved to the Inland Empire and attended San Bernardino Valley College where he participated in the Puente Program. He earned a BA in Creative Writing at UC Riverside and an MFA at UC Irvine. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of English at California State University, Fresno.

Puente is a two-semester program designed to increase the number of Latino and other educationally underrepresented students who successfully transfer to a four-year colleges and universities, complete their degrees, and to return to the community as mentors and leaders of future generations. Puente is open to all students.

This event is supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant received from The James Irvine Foundation.

Light refreshments will be served.

Parking is available for $1 in lot J at Clark Avenue and Carson Street Map.

◙ LOS ANGELES SOUTHWEST COLLEGE CELEBRATES HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: Come join LASC in a full month of wonderful events. In particular, La Bloga notes the Latino Author Series held at LASC’s Library Art Gallery, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.:

Thursday, October 1: Alex Espinoza, Author, Still Water Saints

Thursday, October 8: Reyna Grande, Author, Dancing with Butterflies

For the full calendar of events, visit LASC’s official website.

◙ 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!

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1179. Sunday Sundries

Most faithful La Bloga readers know Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15th-October 15th. I, for one celebrate Hispanic Heritage from October 15th-September 15th and celebrate other heritages the month that everyone else celebrates Hispanic Heritage.
But for those of you who do not not follow my calendar and thanks to Hachette Book Group , La Bloga is hosting a Hispanic Heritage Month Book Giveaway Contest, HHMBGC for short. One lucky winner will be chosen to receive a set of five brand new books!

The five books are:

Rules governing the HHMBGC

The lucky winner will be the first person who e-mails me at vivalizvega@gmail.com and answers the following five questions, three of them from this past week's columns :

1) Who translated into Spanish Junot Diaz's pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

2) Which of these comics came first, La Cucaracha , Love and Rockets series, or Love and Rockets Volume 2?

3) Name one text that the Department of Education in Puerto Rico has banned from the 11th grade public high school curriculum on the basis of "coarse and vulgar" language?

4) What is your full name?

5) What is the address to which Hachette Book Group should send you the set of five books?

Again, I repeat, the first person to contact me via e-mail at vivalizvega@gmail.com and answer the questions correctly will be selected as the winner of the HHMBGC.
Now for something completely different but still about books....

Happening this week, Sept.28-Oct.3, 2009, is the 4th Annual San Diego City College Int'l Book Fair.
For a detailed schedule of the weeks events, workshops, and signings visit the fair's website.

The bookfair will feature Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly and the nationally syndicated column, "Ask a Mexican!", and among authors like Ana Castillo, and poet Marilyn Chin, La Bloga's very own Olga García Echeverría will be reading from Lavanderia.

Softcover 334 pgs 5 1/2 X 8ISBN #9780981602066

LAVANDERIA: A MIXED LOAD OF WOMEN, WASH, AND WORD Published By: San Diego City Works Press. Edited By: Donna J. Watson, Michelle Sierra, and Lucia Gbaya-Kanga

This anthology initiates us into one of the most sacred domestic rituals of our mundane world—the purging of physical and psychic stains, or the art and work of doing laundry. The writers' voices rise above the sounds of washing machines, non-televised daytime dramas, and laughter. Removing the clothespins from their mouths, these women reveal their secrets, fears, loves, and regrets in poem and story form. As finely detailed as the vintage sleeve of a rummage sale find, the work in "Lavanderia" brings the circle closer to home as you find yourself nodding and remembering and thanking every woman who ever sat next to you in a laundromat and made conversation.


For those of you in the L.A./O.C. area that missed the National Free Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian yesterday then mark your calendars for next weekend when 24 Los Angeles and Orange County Museums participate in the fifth annual "Museums Free-For-All" Saturday-Sunday, October 3 and 4, 2009.

The following museums - presenting art, cultural heritage, natural history, and science - will open their doors wide and invite visitors free of charge.*
Participating Museums:
Armory Center for the Arts - Both Days
The Autry National Center - Sunday, October 4th ONLY
Bowers Museum - Sunday, October 4th Only
California African American Museum - Both Days
California Heritage Museum - Saturday, October 3rd Only
California Science Center - Both Days
Craft and Folk Art Museum - Both Days
Fowler Museum at UCLA - Both Days
The Getty Center - Both Days
The Getty Villa**- Both Days
The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live - Sunday, October 4th Only
Hammer Museum at UCLA - Sunday, October 4th Only
Japanese American National Museum - Saturday, October 3rd Only
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial - Saturday, October 3rd
The Museum of Contemporary Art,Los Angeles (MOCA) - Sunday, October 4th Only
Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) - Both Days
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - Sunday October 4th Only
Norton Simon Museum - Sunday, October 4th Only
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art - Both Days
Orange County Museum of Art - Both Days
The Paley Center for Media - Both Days
Santa Monica Museum of Art - Saturday, October 3rd Only
Skirball Cultural Center - Sunday, October 4th Only
The Studio for Southern California History - Both Days
*Regular parking fees apply. General museum admission only. May not apply to ticketed exhibitions.**Timed tickets are required. Visit www.getty.edu.
Museums Free for All

Y porque es Domingo y Aún Hay Más and I know the palabras of La Bloga reverberate far and wide...from the West to the East, here's something for those of you in the NYC area. Mark your calendars and check out From the Page to the Stage: Poetas and Writers--A no holds barred celebration of Queer Latin@ poets and writers who experiment with style and breathe life into their words including Janis Astor Delvalle, Devon Gallegos, Rigoberto González, Karen Jaime, Mariposa, Ignacio Rivera, Roberto Santiago and Charlie Vázquez.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
8:00pm - 10:00pm
Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance
841 Barretto Street
Bronx, NY



Al rato,

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1180. Review of Lida's First Stop; plus, Denver's youth answer Disney's High School Musical

David Lida's First Stop in the New World
book review by Beatrice Chernikoff

Ever motivated by his affection for Mexico City, David Lida presents his book First Stop in the New World, about the people and places that have shaped his own conclusion on what it means to live in the labyrinth that is el Distrito Federal.

First Stop is written in the style you would expect from someone with years of experience in journalism, with a witty and authentic voice that can inform us about Mexico City like any lifelong capitalino, and still remain refreshingly apolitical. He is not afraid of clarifying the truth behind the "Walmart next door to the Pyramids" rumor, or the exaggeration of the frequency of kidnappings. Want to know the truth behind these two sensational stories? Then read this book.

Lida's literary style comes through his investigative narrative, (and evokes his other career as a short story writer), filled with characters that are fodder for stories in their own right, as he admits. He recounts details as varied as Mexico City herself--how the culture drives the sexuality of the inhabitants; how the city inspires ingenious ways for people to become entrepreneurs; and how the urban landscape even affects what and how people eat.

Lida is clearly in love with the city he calls home, and like a passionate lover, the City can sometimes hurt the one who loves her: readers will be jarred by Lida's composed, calm testimony about his ordeal as a victim of an "express kidnapping." It would have been easy for anyone to write about this with certain bitterness, but Lida did not let this experience keep him away from el D.F.

As a chilangophile myself, I am happy to find that as joyously overwhelming as Mexico City is, Lida's book is not improvised like the very lives and urban sprawl he writes about; it is carefully composed with ringside accounts of someone who has been there and stayed to tell the stories, without the insular judgment of an infrequent tourist "surviving among the natives." The book reads less like generic publications on Mexico and closer to literary journalism, which makes First Stop in the New World a book worth reading multiple times, both for its smooth prose and the startling metropolis it chronicles.

David Lida will be talking about Mexico City at college campuses and bookstores in the US. All events are free and open to the public:

09/23/09 Los Angeles, CA
Loyola Marymount University
Time: 4:30pm
Location: University Hall, Ahmanson 1000, 1 LMU Dr.

09/24/09 Los Angeles, CA
USC at Los Angeles
Time: 2:00pm
Address: Social Sciences Building B-1, 3520 Trousdale Parkway

09/25/09 Santa Ana, CA
Centro Cultural de México
Time: 7:00pm
Location: 310 West 5th St. (5th & Broadway)

09/26/09 Pasadena, CA
Vroman’s Bookstore
Time: 1:00 pm
Location: 695 East Colorado Blvd.

09/28/09 Palo Alto, CA
Stanford University
Time: 12:00pm
Location: 582 Alvarado Row

09/29/09 San Francisco, CA
Get Lost Books
Time: 7:00pm
Location: 1825 Market St.

10/1/09 Chicago, IL
Loyola University, Crown Center Auditorium at Lake Shore Campus
Time: 4 pm
Location: 6525 North Sheridan Rd.

10/1/09 Chicago, IL
Stop Smiling Book Events
Time 7 pm
Location: 1371 North Milwaukee Ave.

10/2/09 Chicago, IL
University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies, Kelly Hall 117
Time: 12 pm
Location: 5848 South University Ave.

10/06/09 Philadelphia, PA
Temple University
Time: 12:30pm

David Lida is a native New Yorker who has lived in Mexico City for more than 15 years, is an author of two previous books (one in Spanish) and a journalist for more than 20 years. Continuing his earlier spring presentations, he is currently presenting a series of lectures on Mexico City in California, Chicago and Philadelphia.

For more info go to www.davidlida.com

Denver high school youth on stage

From Jose Mercado at CU Denver comes the following:

"I encourage you to attend this show written by high school youth in ArtLab (a collaborative effort of PlatteForum & Labyrinth) and performed by ArtLab with students from CU Denver's College of Arts & Media. This show is a realistic, raw and entertaining examination of life in high school with music. A "High School Musical" it is not!"

The University of Colorado Denver's Department of Theatre, Film and Video presents the world premier of I.Am.Here. As a response to Disney's High School Musical and other Hollywood high school melodramas, I.Am.Here. provides the audience with a raw taste of what it takes to survive a day in today’s urban high school. The students offer an insightful, poignant and honest examination of today's complex teenage life.

The play follows the teens though a day at school, full of hall sweeps, hanging out, and humorous discussions about the truth of the opposite sex. They present an honest face to urban teenage struggle that includes teenage pregnancy, alcoholism at home, interracial dating, economic hardship, and violence.

I.Am.Here. dives into race issues that shape the lives of students’ choices and beliefs. The youth draw you into their sometimes raw, sometimes touching...and always-truthful portrayal of high school life.

I.Am.Here. fuses the efforts of high school and higher learning. Performed by the culturally diverse group of high school youth that created the stories, "I.Am.Here." is also an autobiographical look at their own struggles and triumphs as high school students in Denver.

The show is directed by Assistant Professor Jose Mercado and scripted by Associate Professor Craig Volk, both in the UC Denver’s Department of Theatre, Film & Video Production.

Remaining performances are Saturday Sept. 26; and Wednesday-Saturday Sept. 30-Oct. 3. Curtain is 7:30pm.

Tickets available at www.ahec.edu/kingcenter or at http://ahec.interticket.com/search.php

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1181. Bits and Pieces

So much happening ...

Literature ... Cuban-American journalist Achy Obejas will speak at IU Bloomington September 30 during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Her lecture, titled Navigating Multiple Identities, will take place from 7-8:30 p.m. at the Helene G. Simon Hillel Center (730 E. Third St.) and will address the issue of the interwoven facets of identity -- race, culture, sexual orientation, gender and religion -- that make us who we are. ... Obejas, an author and teacher, grew up in Indiana and attended IU from 1977 to 1979 (she eventually received a Master of Fine Arts from Warren Wilson College in 1993). She later moved to Chicago and wrote about culture for the Chicago Tribune, where in 2001 she was awarded a team Pulitzer Prize in the category of explanatory reporting. As a Cuban-lesbian-Jewish woman, Achy can speak from multiple perspectives, said Lillian Casillas, director of La Casa. Her visit will be an excellent opportunity to engage with students and the community and have a meaningful dialogue about these issues. In 2008, Obejas translated Junot Díaz's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao into Spanish. Her most recent book, Ruins, (March 2009), has met with international acclaim. Said Junot Díaz of the book: Daring, tough and deeply compassionate, Achy Obejas's Ruins is a breathtaker. Obejas writes like an angel, which is to say: gloriously . . . one of Cuba's most important writers. More info here.

Richard T. Rodriguez will discuss his new book, Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics, on Thursday, October 8 at 4:00 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Bookstore in Coffman Memorial Union, 300 Washington Ave. S.E., Minneapolis.

The family has been the heart of Chicano/a cultural politics since the Mexican American civil rights movements emerged in the late 1960s. Rodriguez explores the competing notions of la familia found in movement-inspired literature, film, video, music, painting and other forms of cultural studies and feminist and queer theory. Next of Kin examines representations of the family that reflect and support a patriarchal, heteronormative nationalism as well as those that reconfigure kinship to encompass alternative forms of belonging.

Rodriguez will sign copies of his book following the discussion. This event is free and open to the public. For more information, or to order a signed copy visit this website.

FuentesRenowned Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes will speak on Friday, October 30, at 6 p.m. in the University of New Mexico Student Union Building Ballroom, Albuquerque, NM. Fuentes will speak on Mexico in a Nutshell featuring a panoramic vision of Mexican history and culture from the pre-Hispanic epoch to the present.

Fuentes’ talk is the final of a three-part series hosted by the UNM Provost’s Office with a theme of Mexican relations and immigration. The lecture is free and open to the public. Media Contact: Karen Wentworth, (505) 277-5627; e-mail: kwent2@unm.edu

Fuentes also is scheduled to appear in El Paso, Texas. The acclaimed author will talk about the book Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories at 2 p.m. October 31 at the Plaza Theatre, 125 Pioneer Plaza. Free tickets available at El Paso Public Library. 543-5480.

Lucha Corpi informed La Bloga that her latest Gloria Damasco novel, Death at Solstice, will be available after October 15. Booklist says the multilayered plot full of California history and Latin American lore will interest a wide variety of mystery readers.

Music and Movies ... Chicano music is getting more recognition as a unique genre of American music. Several books and movies about the music have appeared recently, and I've read how one branch of Chicano music, Conjunto, is immensely more popular than Salsa, although you might not know it based on mainstream media attention. In case you didn't know, Chicano music is made up of diverse musicians and styles such as Ritchie Valens, Carlos Santana, Los Lobos and Los Tigres del Norte. Recent movie releases include the terrific Chicano Rock! The Sounds of East L.A., which followed ground-breaking movies such as Chulas Fronteras and Lalo Guerrero: The Original Chicano. Now comes word of La Onda Chicana, a documentary that figures to provide more attention to the music some of us grew up with and still listen to. Here's the intro to an article about La Onda Chicana by Ramon Renteria in the El Paso Times:

New York filmmaker John J. Valadez describes "La Onda Chicana," not as another boring documentary, but as "Mexican-American Music 101, full of surprises."

"We don't pull any punches. It's about people's real life experiences," Valadez said in a phone interview. "The obstacles that these artists have overcome were enormous."...

The film ... will be shown October 19 on "Latin Music USA," a four-part documentary series airing on PBS stations across the United States. Jump to this link.

The Latin Recording Academy and McDonald's will host Latin GRAMMY In The Schools programs in New York, Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, and Dallas. This educational program is an initiative of The Latin Academy to provide students who are interested in pursuing careers in the music industry the opportunity to learn from musicians, songwriters, producers, record label executives and other members of the recording industry about the various career choices within the music business. McDonald's will serve as presenting sponsor of the program for the second year... The Latin Recording Academy is thrilled to once again offer students this exciting education initiative and highlight the various career choices within the music industry, said Gabriel Abaroa, President of The Latin Recording Academy. This is one of the initiatives that The Latin Academy is most proud of as we connect successful musicians and business people with future musicians and executives. We thank McDonald's for their continued support and we look forward to another grade A+ Latin GRAMMY In The Schools program.

The Latin GRAMMY In The Schools program is scheduled to visit Celia Cruz Bronx School of Music in Bronx, N.Y on September 25; Benito Juarez Community Academy in Chicago on October 2; Coral Park Senior High School in Miami on October 9; the GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles on October 16; and Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts in Dallas on October 23. Additional program taking place in Las Vegas will be announced shortly. Additionally, making stops at each of the programs will be the Fiesta­ Tour McDonald's Music Experience — a traveling music exhibit that features memorabilia from more than 50 Latino artists who have contributed to the advancement of music, culture and education. The music exhibit is housed in a 70-plus foot vehicle and includes a walk-through display of artifacts and memorabilia and great moments in Latin music history. Organized by decades, from the 1950s to the present, the exhibit includes items from Celia Cruz, Thalía, Ricky Martin, Daddy Yankee, Alejandro Sanz, Pepe Aguilar, Beto Cuevas, Maná, and Ivy Queen just to name a few.

Theater ... El Teatro Campesino, the groundbreaking Chicano theater founded during the United Farm Workers' grape strike in 1965, visits Arizona State University to reprise a classic play about the lives of Mexican migrants.

First performed in 1974, La Carpa de los Rasquachis - or The Tent of the Underdogs - is a bilingual piece that sets a migrant worker's American journey against a mythic backdrop peopled by figures from folklore. The story is accompanied by musical performances of folk ballads, or corridos. Read the rest of the article by Kerry Lengel of the Arizona Republic at this link.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 25 and 26.

Where: Galvin Playhouse, Arizona State University, 51 E. 10th St., Tempe, AZ

Admission: $7.

Details: 480-965-6447, herbergerinstitute.asu.edu/calendar.

Meanwhile ... Denver's Su Teatro announces the statewide tour of its production of Luis Valdez’s La Carpa de los Rasquachis, directed by Anthony J. Garcia. Beginning Wednesday, October 7 in Fort Collins, Su Teatro will tour the Carpa along the Front Range, down to the San Luis Valley, and possibly to the Western Slope. For more information, please contact John Kuebler, media coordinator, at john@suteatro.org or 303.296.0219.

Here’s the schedule so far:

Saturday, October 3, 2009: Special sneak preview (location TBA)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009: Colorado State University in Fort Collins

Thursday, October 22, 2009: Regis University in Denver

Friday, October 23, 2009: Adams State University in Alamosa

Tuesday, October 27, 2009: Denver University

Photography ... The photographic exhibit Baja California runs to January 3 at the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park.

In addition to photographs by Ralph Lee Hopkins, outstanding images by American and Mexican photographers will also be shown. On view will be photographs of Baja California by Octavio Aburto, Pilar Artola, Miguel Angel de la Cueva, Jack Dykinga, Patricio Robles Gil, Flip Nicklin, Abe Ordover, and Julio Rodríguez Ramos.

These images bear witness to the great natural diversity in the 800-mile-long peninsula, says Annaliese Cassarino, curator and director of the museum's Ordover Gallery, where the exhibit will be housed.

Many people aren't aware of the immense diversity of the flora and fauna in Baja California, she says.

And that's because the peninsula is much more than the tourist destinations of Tijuana, Ensenada and Los Cabos.

There's the San Ignacio Lagoon, a sanctuary for whales that migrate from the Arctic Ocean every winter. There's the Sea of Cortez, considered to be the world's aquarium. And there are the deserts, brimming over with cactuses.

Tijuana's Rodríguez is participating in the exhibit with photographs of the vineyards and the wine culture of the Guadalupe Valley.

I tried to capture the grandeur of Baja California,” he says. “These photographs are proof that the peninsula is much more than just a region with rocks and thorns. Learn more here.

Read to succeed.


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1182. Martín Espada in Spanish

Spain's El Gaviero Ediciones recently published Soldados en el jardín, a thematic anthology of Martín Espada's poetry in Spanish translation. The text includes poems from 1989-2009 organized not chronologically, but thematically into seven areas, showcasing the major themes in Espada's oeuvre over the past two decades.

The translations were done in teams, some reworking earlier translations of his poetry into Spanish. Sometimes the result is a text so polished that, while accurate in content and form, aesthetically it seems to lack airiness and colloquiality. Other times, the translations are glorious, suggesting possibilities of interpretation not as evident in the original.


Martín Espada Fall Readings:

September 24: Reading & Discussion, 4:30 PM
The Big Read (Mexican Short Stories)
Phillips Autograph Library
West Chester University
West Chester, PA
Contact: Mame Purce, mpurce@wcupa.edu

September 24: Reading, 7:30 PM
Main Hall Auditorium
West Chester University
West Chester, PA
Contact: Michael Peich, mpeich@wcupa.edu

October 15: Seminar, 3:00 PM
Intellectual Life at Moments of Crisis
Humanities Institute
University of Texas
Austin, TX
Contact: Pauline Strong, strong@humanitiesinstitute.utexas.edu

October 15: Reading, 7:30 PM
Quadrangle Room
Texas Union
University of Texas
Austin, TX
Contact: César Salgado, cslgd@mail.utexas.edu

October 16: Reading, 12:00 PM
Hispanic Heritage Luncheon
Hispanic Bar Association of Austin
Austin, TX
Contact: Paul Ruiz, psr@ctw.com

October 23: Reading, 7:30 PM
Benaroya Recital Hall
Seattle Arts & Lectures
Seattle, WA
Contact: Rebecca Hoogs, rhoogs@lectures.org

October 24: Workshop, 1 PM
Richard Hugo House
Seattle, WA
Contact: Alix Wilber, alixwilber@hugohouse.org

October 27: Reading, 5:30 PM
Bunker Hill Community College
Charlestown, MA
Contact: Luke Salisbury, lukesalisbury3@comcast.net

INCREIBLE! Ban on Public High School Books in Puerto Rico

The Department of Education in Puerto Rico has banned a series of books from the 11th grade public high school curriculum on the basis of "coarse and vulgar" language. These texts include El entierro de Cortijo» by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá; «Aura», by Carlos Fuentes; the anthology «Reunión de Espejos»; «Mejor te lo cuento» by Juan Antonio Ramos; and “Antología personal” by José Luis González. Mairym Cruz Bernal, president of the PEN Club of Puerto Rico, has issued a statement, signed by numerous Puerto Rican writers and educators, denouncing the initiative as puritan and old-fashioned and demanding an explanation from the governor, Luis Fortuño. Check out the letter here.

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1183. René's Website

My character René has his own website! Discover more about my new book René Has Two Last Names and I Am René, the Boy. René talks about his looks, his favorites, his parents and grandparents. Also, René offers great ideas for teachers. Take a look at www.renesbooks.com. René is waiting and eager to meet you.

Here are two great reviews of René Has Two Last Names. The book is coming out this October 31.

René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos. illus. by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. unpaged. Arte Publico. Nov. 2009. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-1-55885-530-4. LC 2009004864.

K-Gr 3–René, a new student from El Salvador, doesn’t understand why his second last name is missing from his desk’s name label. Adding it results in a name so long that his classmates make fun of it by comparing it to that of a dinosaur. He discusses the problem with his parents, but they don’t have an answer. That night he dreams of a world without a mother and maternal grandparents who dance, make chocolate, and fix his bike. Half of his world is missing and he is not about to let that happen. When his teacher assigns the students the project of creating a family tree, René is determined to show his classmates and teacher why he has two last names and the importance of his dos apellidos. Colato Laínez introduces readers to a significant Hispanic cultural tradition and the sentiments of many immigrants. The illustrations are simple but beautifully embellish the text. A wonderful bilingual selection for storytime and for units on families.–Diana Borrego Martínez, Salinas, CA- School Library Journal/ Críticas

* * *

Colato Laínez, René


Illus. by Fabiola Graullera Ramirez

On the first day in his new school, René’s teacher gives everyone a nametag with their first and last names. Though René’s last name, like many Salvadorans’, has two parts, “Colato Laínez,” his tag reads only “René Colato.” Maybe the teacher ran out of ink? Adding “Laínez” on his own, René is teased about having an unusually “long dinosaur name” but uses the opportunity of a family-tree assignment to instruct everyone, including the teacher, about why both names together represent his full Italian and Spanish heritage. René’s full name proudly reminds him that he is a product of both his father and mother’s family histories, both rich in talent and hard work. Drawing from his personal immigrant experience, the author tells his story in a bilingual narration, his sincere, earnest voice augmented by Graullera Ramírez’s softly colored cartoon-style watercolor scenes of family and classmates. The significance of this Hispanic tradition respecting both sides of a child’s parentage is well explained in this easily understood example of cultural differences. (Picture book. 5-8)- Kirkus Reviews

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1184. Review: La Ranfla & Other New Mexico Stories.

Martha Egan. La Ranfla & Other New Mexico Stories. Santa Fe, NM. Papalote Press, 2009.
ISBN-13: 9780975588147

Michael Sedano

Martha Egan and Papalote Press have put together a seven-story collection of enjoyable, readable short fiction. Two of the stories feature automobiles, hence the “ranfla” title, and all take place in the state of New Mexico, hence the “New Mexico stories” subtitle. But for the latter add a subtle flavor of insider-outsider seasoning that I find curious. This doesn't diminish the pleasure of reading the collection, it adds an unsettling dimension that, perhaps, is another New Mexico element.

The title story, “La ranfla,” begins in late 1960s Berkeley, when a law student, fed up with law school pettiness and male chauvinism, storms out of lecture and huffs off with a handful of joints to move in with her hippie lover living in New Mexico. Her wheels start to show signs of conking out as she arrives in the state. A gas station attendant admires her “ranfla”, to her mystification. Gradually, the blonde Mary Kowalski and boyfriend Oso, begin fitting in. A kindly neighbor warns her about Pito, the crooked reverend and mechanic. But Oso and Starshine—her New Mexico name—already know Pito from the night Oso catches Pito stealing Oso’s marijuana crop. The story ends in a “cada cochino le llega su Sabado” irony, when the hippies conspire with an itinterant Mexican to pull a sting on the crooked local.

“Green eyes” delves into convoluted family histories. A lovestruck teenager wants to hook up with Teddy Gonzalez. Grandma Guenther tells Stephanie a tale about great grandmother Seferina and her husband, hubby Wilhelm. Seferina rides into the night to a remote home where she widwifes a sickly neonate. Fearing for the infant’s survival, and the hardship on the already large family, Seferina puts the child in her apron and rides back home. Fast forward to to the kitchen. That baby is Stephanie’s grandfather. Teddy comes from the family that consigned the preemie grandpa to the widwife’s apron. Cousins can’t hook up, and Stephanie learns a life lesson.

Egan’s third story, “Carnales,” makes the insider-outsider theme more explicit. A group of locals in the village of Ojo Claro, held at gunpoint by another local, feel unsure when the first deputy to arrive is an outsider—Procopio “Porky” Lucero. Porky’s wife is a local, but he’s from Española so the locals aren’t sure where Porky’s loyalties lie. The dispute grows from a greedy land grabber, in one view, protecting his property rights, the other view. It’s a spare story that hints rather than explains the complications of ejido lands held in common versus the fence ‘em off values of the outside economy. The dispute ends with gusto for the locals when they get the upper hand.

Two dog stories, “Mutt” and “Guapo” are strong pieces. In “Mutt” a transplanted local artisan is two-timed by a traveling salesman. “Guapo” offers a charming love story of two locals, a veterinarian and a rancher widower whose love story revolves around a singing, suicidal, dog. The story’s tragic ending both tugs at the heartstrings and leads me to wonder why locals cannot have happiness in an Egan story?

At least one outsider gets his come-uppance, in “Time Circles.” A philandering psychiatry profe at UNM, toys with blonde Anna, a woman 25 years his junior. The story treks out to “the rez” for a Navajo curing ceremony. Anna develops a kinship while helping Bernarda, a high school principal with a doctorate, pick her corn. Bernarda presents Anna with choice blue cobs and the truth about her lover. Shades of Tony Hillerman, the blonde records clerk finds a precious arrow point that she presents to their host, Dan Tom. Anna thinks Dan planted it as a cultural test. He didn’t and, unknown to Anna, her gift become a family treasure. It’s a moment of cultural and romantic truth for the woman. She dumps the profe and starts her own business in an Alburque adobe. Comes the flood when some pendejo runs a car over a fire hydrant and Anna’s gift craft antique shop fills with mud. The accident attracts a local snooty blond teevee news woman. It’s a “cute meet” as the tall indio camera operator is smitten with the damsel in distress and the rest, as someone says, is love at first sight.

“Granny” closes this excellent collection. A surfer dude, an east coast footloose grad traveling to California to find the perfect wave, has a car break down outside a dusty trailer park town on the edge of nowhere. Penniless, and ripped off during the night for his stereo and cool hubcaps—dastardly locals, no doubt—the fellow hangs around to teach middle school. It’s his lucky day when two precocious students help their grandmother escape from a jail on the other side. The dude can’t believe the outlandish story, but when he goes to find the truth, the kids and their dad have taken it on the lam. Eventually, they return to their trailer. The dad is the mechanic who’s promised to fix that broken down ranfla. Granny comes to the door and she is one hot mamasota. End of story but obviously the beginning of an affair to remember as the outsider hooks up with the local.

I think the vestiges of cultural nationalism infect my own experience of these seven stories. On their own, divorced of cultural baggage, they tell about a cultural patchwork and the melding of cultures and genetics overlaid upon the New Mexico landscape where we meet some decent gente and a variety of crummy people: drunks, thugs, crooks, exploiters, philanderers. Other than the philandering psychiatrist, all the lowlifes and losers are locals. But then, the star-crossed lovers are locals. The trump card for me is Egan’s persona , an outsider looking in with that sense of curiosity and apartness that allows the writer to express a subtle contempt for the local losers. Don’t think like that and you’ll enjoy the heck out of the occasionally bumpy ride in Egan’s ranfla suave.

I'm a bit late today, but nonetheless, here, on the penultimate Tuesday of the 9th month of 2009, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.

te watcho.

La Bloga welcomes your comments and observations on today's or any day's columns. Simply click the comments counter below to share your views. When you have a column of your own, a book review, a report on an arts or cultural event, remember La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. Click here to discuss your invitation to be our guest.

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1185. 826LA event: COMICS!

Tuesday, September 22
7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
826LA East
1714 W. Sunset Blvd.
Echo Park, CA 90026
Tickets are $25.

Join 826LA for a panel discussion featuring some of the most groundbreaking and innovative cartoonists working today. Guests will discuss ink and pixels, pigments and politics, and how the love of comics mixes with the sticky waters of the business. Panelists will also answer your thought and question bubbles.

The panelists:

Lalo Alcaraz (pictured) is a Los Angeles-based cartoonist and creator of the first nationally syndicated Latino-themed political daily comic strip, La Cucaracha. Lalo drew editorial cartoons for the LA Weekly from 1992 to 2009. Lalo illustrated Latino USA: A Cartoon History (text by Ilan Stavans), and produced the books La Cucaracha (the first collection from his daily comic strip) and Migra Mouse, a collection of his editorial cartoons on immigration. He is also a screenwriter and a popular speaker on the college circuit. His award-winning artwork has appeared across the US and the planet. Lalo also hosts the popular radio program The Pocho Hour of Power Fridays at 4:00 p.m. on KPFK 90.7 FM.

Jaime Hernandez is the co-creator of the beloved Love and Rockets series, one of the pioneering alternative comics of the 1980s. Love and Rockets, initially a self-published single comic, was picked up by Fantagraphics Books and produced 50 issues before the series went dormant in 1996. In 2001, the run was revived as Love and Rockets Volume 2. In the interim, Jaime’s solo projects included Whoa, Nellie!, Penny Century, and Maggie and Hopey Color Fun. Jaime has also worked for The New Yorker, Spin, and Hustler, and has done album covers for Michelle Shocked, 7 Year Bitch, The Indigo Girls, and Los Lobos. In 2006, he produced a 20-part strip in The New York Times Magazine titled La Maggie La Loca. Jaime was born in Oxnard, California, and now lives in Pasadena with his wife and daughter.

Keith Knight is a cartoonist, rapper, and media activist. His two weekly comic strips, The K Chronicles and (Th)ink, appear in various publications throughout the nation and have been collected into six books. His art has appeared in Salon.com, ESPN the Magazine, LA Weekly, MAD Magazine, The Funny Times, and World War 3 Illustrated. Keith is the recipient of the 2006 & 2007 Glyph Awards for Best Comic Strip, and three of his comix were the basis of an award-winning, live-action German short film, Jetzt Kommt Ein Karton. His comic art has appeared in museums and galleries from San Francisco (CA) to Angoulême (France).

Marv Wolfman is a forty-year veteran in the field of comic book writing. After lengthy runs working for Marvel Comics in the 1970s on such titles as Amazing Spiderman and Dr. Strange (and creating the character of Nova), Wolfman moved to competitor DC Comics where he has mostly remained since. There, with penciller George Perez, Wolfman co-created The New Teen Titans, which has seen life beyond the comics page as a Cartoon Network series and whose characters have appeared in the television program Smallville. Also with Perez, Wolfman is responsible for the groundbreaking mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. He has won numerous awards for his writing and helped pioneer the receiving of writing credits for for-hire work.

Moderator Salvador Plascencia was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in El Monte, California. His debut novel, The People of Paper, was named a best book of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, and has been translated into ten languages. A chapter from his novel appears in the anthology, Latinos in Lotusland. He is the recipient of the Bard Fiction Prize and the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Salvador is a Visiting Professor at UC Davis.

◙ INTRODUCING THE PREMIER ISSUE OF THE HUMMINGBIRD REVIEW: The Hummingbird Review promotes fine writing by publishing both new writers and fully established literary figures. The review is committed to portraying the beauty and challenges of life—the full human experience—through literature and art, and promotes cross-cultural writing in all forms. The first issue is now available. As the publisher, Charlie Redner, notes: “Our name was lifted straight from the title of the 2005 book, The Hummingbird’s Daughter written by Luis Alberto Urrea, a valued contributor and the inspiration for this review’s emergence.” Check it out and submit!

◙ From the editor of LatinoLA: This week, the CNN anchor Lou Dobbs broadcast his radio show from the conference of anti-immigrant hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Founded by a white nationalist, FAIR was linked earlier in 2009 to vigilantes in Arizona who brutally murdered 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father in their home. The appearance at FAIR is just the latest example of Dobbs using his status as a CNN anchor to spread fear about Latinos and immigrants. It's time we said ¡Basta! Enough is enough. Please join LatinoLA.com, Presente.org and a coalition of groups from across the country to demand that CNN drop Dobbs from its network. Add your voice at http://bastadobbs.com/action. Read more at: Latinos to CNN: Dump Dobbs Now by Roberto Lovato.

◙ In spring 2010, Denver-based Ghost Road Press will publish my first poetry collection, Crossing the Border. (Here is a sneak peek of the very cool cover photo which was taken by my son, Ben, based on my rather strange concept.) The collection brings together eight years of poems where I explore the concept of “border crossings” both literally and figuratively. The title poem was first published in Poetry Super Highway which I’d like to reprint here since it fits rather nicely with the above post regarding Lou Dobbs. Here it is:

“Crossing the Border”

It is now a sport, great fun,
a diversion from your
work-a-day grind.

Hunt the mojados – “wetbacks” just
doesn’t sound humane, now does it?
– as they run across the border from
Mexico to the great state of Texas.

Help the border patrol
(though they deny wanting help,
poor overworked bastards) by lining up
your pick-ups and jeeps (American-made,
of course) and shining your headlights bright and
revealing towards the scrub, towards
our neighbors to the south.

Share a nice little Jack Daniel’s with
your buddy and keep a lookout for a
family or two, crouching, lurking,
hoping for a better life.

Cock your rifles, but never aim at ‘em,
just blast a few warning shots
up into the star-filled,
moonlit night.

It is a beautiful evening,
redolent with desert life,
just waiting for them to
cross the border.

◙ And now, a special announcement from Lizz Huerta: I'm part of amazing show of performance artists and poets sharing their humorous and thoughtful take on sexuality, eroticism and the centrifugal force of their clítoris next week at Highways in Santa Monica, September 25 and 26 at 8:30 p.m. Here is the link.

◙ 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! And L’Shana Tova to all who are celebrating the new year!

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1186. biblio-comentario: spirit matters

tatiana de la tierra

it was early in november of last year when a woman walked into my office at work in the library asking about a book by victoria avalon, an author i'd never heard of. “it's about my sister ramona, a clairvoyant,” she said, “and it's the story of my life.” the book was brand new, though she didn't know the title. i quickly searched catalogs while emilia, the patron, rambled on with details that included tidbits about incest, speaking with the dead, healing, and paranormal sightings in mexico. she was on a first-name basis with the author. “vicky” had already published two books, she said, and this one was ramona's biography.

i had some doubts about the veracity of the whole account; emilia carried her library card along with crumpled bills and tiny pieces of paper in a ziploc bag. she spoke in crazy patchworks of words that i had to decipher. but i promised to look for the book at the guadalajara international book fair, where i was headed in a few weeks. when she started to weep, the feeling in my gut told me it was real, all of it. she gave me contact numbers for herself in los angeles and for vicky and ramona in guadalajara, and i promised to bring her back a copy of the book if i could swing it.

i found an old blog posting by victoria avalon and e-mailed her in advance, hoping to get concrete information about her book, such as the title and publisher. as it turned out, out she was having a book launch for el sendero de una vidente (ediciones b) on the day i was leaving. for some strange reason, i dutifully extended my visit in guadalajara so that i could attend the event. and i decided that, in addition to getting the book, i would meet with vicky and ramona while i was in town.

and so it is that i led a double life while attending the renowned book fair. by day i trotted up and down the isles of books, took e-mail breaks in the professional center, and downed convention center food. but by night, i had a mission-i was in search of other worlds.

i had dinner with vicky on the first evening of the book fair. an inquisitive gemini, she's a journalist with a special interest in the paranormal. she met ramona a few years prior while doing research for an article about healers and they had developed a close friendship. the next day i met with another of her friends, josé, an astrologer. he brought his laptop when he came to the hotel to read my chart; he felt very familiar to me. and while it was hard to hook up with her because she was a busy lady, i eventually met ramona, an unassuming centered being with a spark of mischief in her eyes. she touched my wrist and immediately did a psychic tour inside my body; she gave me offbeat prescriptions, such as soak white onions in alcohol and place them on your belly button fifteen minutes before going to bed.

but best of all, ramona accompanied me to el foco tonal, an outdoor temple in poncitlan, jalisco. people come from all over to this place in nature where energy springs from the earth and connects to the cosmos. i stood in the precise point of the current of energy, spoke my name and heard it resonate and amplify. i saw a kaleidoscope of colors and felt a tremendous internal whoosh as ramona officiated with cosmic agents on my behalf. i got high off the energy and, afterwards, i glowed.

spirit matters.

always, never knowing why, i've been drawn to spiritual representations. i've studied paganism, dianic witchcraft, santeria, eastern religions, anything mystical. i collect virgins and goddesses of all kinds. i've stayed away from organized religions, though i have some holy rollers in my family (thankfully, none of them are racist right wing immigrant-hating homophobic bigots). i believe in karma, consciousness, past lives, ascended masters, destiny, higher purpose, and pendulums. yet there's a part of me that's wondered if this is all white-talk, hippie dippie doo doo leftover from the sixties. as a south american without catholic guilt or male gods, am i a defective latina?

well, all the new age mexicans who packed the hall at the book launch of el sendero de una vidente put my doubts to rest.
they testified about energy healings, angels, and vibrations. the book, which i started reading on my flight on the way back to los angeles the next morning, is rife with stories about crystals, trapped souls, pyramids, extra terrestrials, chakras, and psychic surgery. just like emilia said, it is about ramona's life and her evolution as a clairvoyant, and it is about so much more.

back in the library, i wonder about the meaning of it all. how a patron in search of a book led me to a journalist, an astrologer, a psychic, and an amazing experience with energy. all because i said “yes” to some little voice inside. we have opportunities to say “yes” to the unknown all the time, to follow instinct, to see where it takes us. i'm fortunate, or a fool, depending on how you look at it, that i have an army of angels cheering me on to do all sorts of bizarre things, some which yield better results than others.

in this cosmic world of mine, there is a lot of talk about “light”-about shining from the inside out and spreading it around. librarians are perfectly positioned to be light spreaders. on a good day, i do just that, and people respond to the energy that i put out. it's a back and forth, a show of lights, happening right @ your library. check it out.

31 de agosto de 2008, long beach, califas.

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1187. A week as a U.S. teacher

(10-word ultra-flash fiction)


Teaching bubbly children to read, watching bureaucracies crush their avidness.

Three hours on my ass; consultants lecture, leech away life.


Kids create their own behavior guide; their fairness merits immortality!

One-hour writing, one of math: conformity stinking, formulaic repression.


NO child left behind(!) where exclusion would let her blossom.

Creating scary stories after school with seven giggling Bram Stokers.


Our contract again renegotiated, our professional self-esteem slavishly recheapened.

Assessment day: standardized scoring and tracking of beautifully unique children.


Berated for arriving late, humiliated, like teachers deliberately invented entropy.

FAC arrives, flooding our empty arteries with inebriating, deceptive palliatives!


Twelve hours, six days, teachers' sangre, lágrimas stained many blackboards.

Grade homework, prepare lessons, parent letters, Monday-lecture vaccine, etc.


5 Comments on A week as a U.S. teacher, last added: 10/15/2009
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1188. Bellwether and Novel Ideas


The Bellwether Prize committee will begin accepting submissions on September 1, 2009, through the deadline of October 2, 2009, for next year’s award. The literary prize, established by Barbara Kingsolver, has been awarded in even-numbered years for the past decade.

“My hope is that the Bellwether prize will encourage serious writers, who are early in their careers, to use the craft as a tool for examining the social and political realities of our time,” said Kingsolver, whose thirteen books of fiction and non-fiction include The Bean Trees,The Poisonwood Bible and Animal, Vegetable and Miracle. “I also hope it may offer incentive to publishers to increase their commitment to politically engaged literature.”

The Bellwether Prize supports the writing and publication of serious literary fiction addressing issues of social justice in culture and human relations, underlining the political power of literature. No other North American endowment or prize specifically supports a literature of social responsibility.

“Fiction has a unique capacity to bring difficult issues to a broad readership on a personal level, creating empathy in a reader’s heart for the theoretical stranger,” said Kingsolver. “Artists can be the bellwethers of social and moral progress. Think of Nadine Gordimer writing about race and power in South Africa, or Pablo Neruda writing with sarcastic, visionary wit about corporate imperialism in Chile. So many important novelists have written beautifully constructed social critique. We have that tradition in the U.S. as well, with John Steinbeck and The Grapes of Wrath or Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. These are literary novels that argue eloquently for greater consciousness of human justice, and are also spectacular, enduring literature. But in the modern era, writers with this kind of vision do not find a lot of advocacy in our publishing industry.”

In addition to the $25,000 cash prize, the award guarantees publication of the winning novel by a major U.S. publishing house. The participating publisher maintains an editorial position on the panel of judges and, after the winner is chosen, will enter with the author into a separate contract for royalty payment and publication rights. The publishing partner for the 2009-2010 prize cycle is Algonquin.

The values of the Bellwether Prize are evident in the published first novels of five previous winners:
Kissing the Virgin’s Mouth by Donna Gershten; The Book of Dead Birds by Gayle Brandeis; Correcting the Landscape by Marjorie Kowalski Kole; Mudbound by Hillary Jordan; and most recently,The Girl Who Fell from the Sky by Heidi W. Durrow. All have generated warm reader response and have launched their authors’ careers. Jordan’s novel Mudbound, the 2006 prizewinner, has 100,000 copies in print and was called by Publisher’s Weekly a “superbly rendered depiction of the fury and terror wrought by racism.” Algonquin editor Kathy Pories said, “Being able to publish a manuscript that was a prize winner, before publication, gave us a leg-up. The Bellwether Prize really encouraged booksellers, reviewers and readers to pay attention to Mudbound. And we’ve seen the significance of the prize in the amount of buzz that is already happening with the next Bellwether winner.” Durrow’s The Girl Who Fell from the Sky will be published by Algonquin this February.

“We always hope for a winner that perfectly embodies the standards and hopes of this endeavor, The Bellwether Novel: strong writing, a compelling voice, and clear moral vision,” said Kingsolver. “And with each cycle of the prize, we find that. By putting out a call to writers of conscience, we hope to find some of the best new authors of our time, waiting to break the surface.”

Writers submitting original, unpublished novel manuscripts for consideration must have some previous publication record (articles or short fiction) but not a book that has been widely reviewed or sold more than 10,000 copies, as the prize is intended to help launch writers at the beginning of their careers. For an application form, visitwww.bellwetherprize.org or send a SASE to National Writers Union, Bellwether Prize, 113 University Place, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003-4527.

Manuscripts are judged blind (without authors’ names) by a panel of distinguished literary authors whose work exemplifies the category of fiction endorsed by the Bellwether Prize. Previous judges include Russell Banks, Maxine Hong Kinston, Ursula K. Le Guin, Barry Lopez, Toni Morrison,
Grace Paley, Anna Quindlen, Ernest Hebert and John Nichols. The identity of judges for each prize cycle remain confidential until after the winner is announced.

The winning manuscript and author will be announced May 2010.

Katharine Walton Represents
Katharine Walton 919.563.1353 or 919.357.4400

Continuing with writing about writing (see Myths, Fairy Tales and Other Lies About Writing in an earlier Bloga post), here are some suggestions for books whose time has come. Aspiring writers take note – these ideas are begging for development. Go for it – and you are welcome.

The Last Chicano
Josh "Pepe" Ortega, heir to the fabulous canned green chile fortune, yearns for the truth about his heritage and culture, and wonders why he is the only one in the family with blue eyes. He takes a job at Taco Bell, is punched silly by Chuy, the Mexican dishwasher, who eventually becomes his best friend and drug connection, and falls in love with the beautiful but dangerous Chelo - sweetheart of La Charreada de San Eligio. Will Josh uncover the truth about his origins, or slip away forgotten by history? Will he find happiness with voluptuous Chelo, or another güey riding his horse? Is Josh the last Chicano?

Star Trick
Diana "The Huntress" Olvera, tough-as-nails detective first-class in the Interplanetary Cosmic Enforcers (ICE), is dispatched to Kukui, a planet long thought to be dead and deserted, because strange sounds are radiating from the cloud-shrouded orb eternally in the shadow of Mars. The distracting and mind-boggling noise interferes with deep space commerce and tourism. Olvera's partner, Madison "Mad Dog" Obama, the only space cop who can trace his family back to the legendary Barack Obama, founder of ICE (and first black president of the old U.S., a fact often overlooked), warns that it can't be good that Chalino Sánchez's Reto a la Muerte is bouncing off Kukui. "It's got to mean something," Mad Dog screams as the two intrepid astrodicks blast off for their meeting with destiny, death, and desebrada on the "Illegal Planet of the Illegals."

Blood and Sangre
This epic saga tells the multi-generational story of the Montana family: heirs to the throne of Moctezuma, witnesses to every important event in the history of Mexico and the Southwest U.S. from the Conquest to the Alamo to the Zoot Suit Riots to Cheech and Chong. The final chapters deal with Chico Montana, just an average 16-year-old, bicultural, bilingual, honor student, hospital volunteer, high-school football hero trying to survive in tough recessionary times when a guy can't even afford to take a date to Shorty's kegger. Did I mention that the Montanas are a family of chupacabras and that Chico doesn't realize the full magnitude of his goat-sucking powers?

Sweet Bitter River of My Youth
Clarissa wanders lost in the desert until Francisco saves her by giving her water he cut from a cactus. Thus begins a love story for the ages -- the young poet worships the famous bullfighter from afar, yet she is always there to patch his wounds from the latest savage bull; to caress his feverish brow as he recovers from another bout of malaria (contracted in a doomed trek through the Yucatan jungle in search of the mythical Golden Tortilla); to listen to his torment as another Hollywood starlet or Vogue model breaks his heart. Until the day that Tony, Golden Gloves boxer and lead singer for Ricky and his Retro Rockers, arrives on the scene - has the bullfighter finally met the toro that will stop him cold? Will the poet pick a midnight ride on Francisco's jet to Las Vegas and the fabulous MGM Grand, or one more wedding dance where Tony will melt her heart as he croons "Daddy's Home" to a rockabilly beat? The answer is in her tear-stained haiku entitled "What a Choice" -- reprinted in full in the last chapter.

Beisbol Been Good To Me
Based on a true story, Beisbol Been Good To Me reveals the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of Emmanuel "Manny" Mascarenas, the first cross-dressing professional baseball player to "come out". Who can forget Manny's sensational grand slam in the All-Star game, followed by his triumphant appearance at the All Star banquet dressed in the latest Carolina Herrera creation - a sharp off-the-shoulder little black thing? Or his unassisted triple play in the World Series while wearing unauthorized culottes? For the first time in paperback, all the glory, grief, and glamor of the man we know and love as "the Bimbo of Baseball."

I think that's enough.


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1189. Guest Columnist: Jesse Tijerina

As a second year assitant principal, Jesse Tijerina spends his waking days and seemingly endless nights with children; 377 which attend Maplewood Middle School and 2 beautiful children of his own; his son Nicholas and daughter Sophia, both of them still in diapers. And through all of the changes from literature teacher to adminstrator, Jesse has been able to sustain his love for palabras fuertes, el amor of powerful words. Whether he is reading or doing a little writing of his own, it is a sure thing that you will find Tijerina with a book in hand.

Something Old

Published in 1975, “Chicano Poems: for the Barrio,” is the first of only a handful of books by Angela De Hoyos. While reading “Chicano Poems,” the voice and image of the late great Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado reverberated and appeared throughout my mind. The coraje, mañas, costumbres, y callejeras of her barrrios de San Anto mirrored Lalo’s El Paso and Lalo’s Denver.

In, “Who Killed Brown Love?” De Hoyos responds, “I did/ - dijo el hombre blanco -/ with my little knife/ cuchillito de palo/ slowly but surely/ magullando. My personal favorite is the simply titled, “Chicano:” “How to paint/ on this page/ the enigma/ that furrows/ your sensitive/ brown face/ - a sadness,” writes De Hoyos. “Porque te llamas/ Juan, y no John/ as the laws/ of assimilation/ dictate.

When reading De Hoyos you will find that her every poem is a barrio in itself, populated with rage, habits, customs, and troubled streets. Que Viva De Hoyos!

Chicano Poems: for the Barrio. By Angela De Hoyos. M&A Editions, 1975

Something New

Not that it matters, but my vote for Latino Lit’s freshest prospect is the young Boricua from San Juan, Puerto Rico. Kevin A. Gonzalez’s, “The Night Tito Trindad KO’ed Ricardo Mayorga,” is a knockout of a first book. Cono, each poem hit me like Tito’s legendary left hook. No doubt the accolades for this young poeta are well deserved.

What Gonzalez does best is what I love the most about Latino writers, they write what they know by infusing culture. “…you wrote about the kioskos/ in Luquillo, Puerto Rico,” writes Gonzalez in his poem titled “Cultural Sellout.” The fritoleras’ hands scarred/ by the bursting pounce of oil, / coconuts like green bowling balls on ice.” And later in the verse, his beloved Neruda makes an appearance, “Gold wounds/ & reigns over the wounded, / & can you borrow that Neruda line/ & still call this your poem?”

Of all the reasons I believe Gonzalez is a champ in the making, it is the manner in which he vicariously exposes himself through his influences. With the awe and embarrassment of a child, he finds himself exchanging punches with Tito Trinidad, playing catch with Roberto Clemente, and having a café con leche with Neruda. Gonzalez Bumaye!

The Night Tito Trinidad KO’ed Ricardo Mayorga. By Kevin A Gonzalez. Momotombo Press, 2007.

Something Borrowed y tambien Blue

The following poem was written five years ago by a student in my creative writing class during his freshman year in high school. Anthony Dominguez is now married and a soldier in Iraq.

Only 4 years old

I was in 7th hour of my 8th grade year
I heard my name over the speaker
They said it was an emergency
My heart dropped as I ran through the hall
When I get to the car, they say it is your brother
He’s hurt
We don’t know much
But he’s at Arvada hospital now
As we rush to the hospital
I think sad thoughts
How I was mean and yelled at him
I sat there thinking
How was he
Was he hurt, sad, lonely?
How was he feeling?
I saw my mom and Chuy outside his room
The father from church and other family too
They didn’t want me to see him
But I pushed my way through
I saw little Adam
He was attached with tubes
And wires and things
My heart fell slowly
A part of me died
I lost all the love and the feelings inside
I didn’t think I’d ever see them again
I lost it
Outside the room
The cops asked me questions
I answered none
Father Fox said please stop son
They wanna help
But I left in a fury
Cops right behind
I run outside
While I’m burning inside
Feels like fire runs through my veins
The doctor says we’ll air lift him, we don’t have the medical attention he needs
When I get in the car
I feel the pain
As if I was there with him
But I don’t now if he’s hurt dead or alive
Why and how did this happen
I don’t understand
I pray to the lord please help
Take me instead
I asked why you let him
Why didn’t you protect him?
Then I run up to his room
I see my critical brother
He is lying in the bed
He is limp
Not moving
Hooked up to machines
I feel his heartbeat slow
The anger towards life begins to grow
Then I swallow my tongue
Try not to cry
I need emotion to get out
I just wanna die
I go to my family
They see I wanna cry
They try and try to comfort me
Then without notice
I leave in a fury
I can’t slow down
I wanna stop but I can’t
But I feel in control
With tears streaming down my face
I hit the wall
I smash the picture and frames
Glass on my fists
The pain starts to ease
When I see the blood flow
I know I’m in control
I see the puto Chuy
Who sits there alone
Guilt on his face
I ask him if he did it
He says no, “te lo curo”
I say, ok, I believe you
Then shake his hand
But in my heart
I don’t believe him
Then the doctor comes in
Cops right by his side
Tell Chuy you’re comin’ with us
Let’s go for a ride
My mother asks, why
The doctor says, Adam has trauma to
To the back of the head
Impact equivalent to a 4 story drop
They take Chuy away
All I feel is hurt
How he lied to me
My best friend
Hurting Adam
My blood
I see him, no movement
I tell him, I’m sorry
For not being there to help
I want him to be ok
My life has fell down
On top of my head
I pray and pray to Jesus
But he gives me no response
The doctor says he is brain dead
He has no chance at life
I close my eyes and see his soul float up to the light
Doctor says we have to pull the plug
Then we all begin to cry
They gather us in a little room
To get the damn thing done
As we wait for the doctor to come in
He breaks down, starts balling in the hall
He doesn’t’ want to do it
Then he is finally able to overcome
When he comes to the room
He pulls the tube from his throat
My hand on his chest
His heart beats fast
And then becomes very slow
As I feel the last beat
I kiss him goodbye
I feel he is free up in the sky
When I left the room
I left part of my heart
I am closed like a safe without a key
Nothing goes in, nothing goes out
My mom tells me funeral’s Monday
Time seems to stop
As for Chuy, he’s doing 38 years
Child abuse resulting in death
I don’t think he’ll get out
I think he’ll go mad
But I got no feelings for a killing man
Adam only 4 years old, barely started his life
His life died. I love him.
Why’d Chuy got to take his life?

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1190. Last Night I Sang to the Monster

Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press
10-digit ISBN 1-933693-58-4
13-digit ISBN 978-1-933693-58-3
Format Hardback
Language English
Page Count 304
Product Dimensions 6" W x 9" H
Publication Date September 1, 2009

Some people have dogs. Not me.
I have a therapist. His name is Adam.
I'd rather have a dog.

Ever since Benjamin Sáenz published his first book for young adults, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, his fans have been waiting eagerly for new YA titles. And now the wait is over! Here is Ben's newest addition, Last Night I Sang to the Monster.

Zach is eighteen. He is bright and articulate. He’s also an alcoholic, and he's in rehab instead of high school, but he doesn’t remember how he got there. He’s not sure he wants to remember. Something bad must have happened. Something really, really bad. Remembering sucks and being alive well- what’s up with that?

I have it in my head that when we’re born, God writes things down on our hearts. See, on some people’s hearts he writes Happy and on some people’s hearts he writes Sad and on some people’s hearts he writes Crazy on some people’s hearts he writes Genius and on some people’s hearts he writes Angry and on some people’s hearts he writes Winner and on some people’s hearts he writes Loser. It’s all like a game to him. Him. God. And it’s all pretty much random. He takes out his pen and starts writing on our blank hearts. When it came to my turn, he wrote Sad. I don’t like God very much. Apparently he doesn’t like me very much either.

Benjamin Alire Saenz is a prolific novelist, poet and author of children’s books. Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood, his first novel for young adults, was a finalist for the LA Times Prize and a YALSA Top Ten Books for Young Adults pick in 2005.

Benjamin Alire Saenz reads from the first chapter of
Last Night I Sang to the Monster.

The Invisible Mountain- Excerpts

Meet the three protagonists of this excellent novel: Pajarita, Eva and Salomé.

Pajarita: VOCES

Eva: La Bloga

Salomé: Little Pink Book PR

Read an interview with the author, Carolina De Robertis, on VOCES.

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1191. Oscar Castillo Photography Show. Latino Book Fest.

Michael Sedano

Oscar Castillo is posing for a photographer’s lens. “Look right here into the lens,” the photog calls. Oscar can’t resist. He pulls up his own digital and fires off a frame. It’s the latest in a career of moments in chicano culture Castillo’s captured. And it’s a lesson in photography every photographer should practice: carry your camera everywhere and be liberally decisive with your shutter.

The lesson is highly explanatory for why a hundred heated bodies fill the sultry sotano gallery of the Latino Museum of History, Art & Culture housed at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. They’ve come to witness themselves and honor Oscar Castillo in a major retrospective exhibit, El Movimiento: Chicano Identity and Beyond Through the Lens of Oscar Castillo, curated by Gregorio Luke.

Castillo’s photographic work documents critical moments in United States history and Chicano culture. From Castillo's files, Luke assembles a wide selection. From the 1960s farmworker movimiento continuing into the 1970s as the urban movimiento hit the streets. From the earliest big-time gallery show of Chicano paintings to musician and folk portraits—many in color—illustrating the quiescent post-movimiento era.

Images of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta engender mute respect. These require no comment. “Hey, that’s my prima!” a visitor calls out, pointing to an anti-Vietnam war photo. “I’m right behind that guy with the sign,” exclaims another voice. “Hey, I’m holding the sign!” Well-executed photographs bring thrilling moments of recognition like these, or, moments of serious reflection looking into the eyes of a giant.

When the frame is properly exposed. And there’s another lesson about photography coming forth as a subtext for visitors: as well as exercise a keen eye and decisive finger, know your equipment and be in the right place at the right time. As evidenced by the walls of The Latino Museum, that is Oscar Castillo’s story.

The ritual speeches begin with The Latino Museum officials taking the floor. When Jaime Rodriguez, aide to a California State Senator, takes the floor to make a Sentate Presentation recognizing Oscar's work, Oscar interrupts Jaime to bring his wife to the stage with him. It is a touching moment of well-deserved recognition. Being in the right place at the right time also means being away from home a lot, or locked away in the darkroom.

Castillo’s foto of Los Four--Gilbert Magu Lujan, Carlos Almaraz, Frank Romero, Beto de la Rocha-- documents the first Chicano artists to make the walls of the previously all-Westside all-New York Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Tonight, Magu and Beto happily pose in front of the image of their younger selves. Almaraz died long ago. Romero is probably painting in his Frogtown studio. We missed him.

Ni modo. A cross-section of Los Angeles has assembled, including a who’s who of artists. Patssi Valdez. Barbara Carrasco. Mario Trillo. Guillermo Bejarano. Ron Arias. Chuy Treviño. Joe Rodriguez from the old Mechicano Art Center. Armando Baeza. Sergio Hernandez and Diane. Several of these, along with numerous visitors, begin to join the artists for a yesterday-today portrait.

Beto’s son Zack comes in. Then Magu’s son Naiche joins the fun. Oscar makes his way over for one of those one-in-a-lifetime shots of photographer, subjects, and notable foto.

Even Beto's son comes in for foto fun. Zack, a popular musician, enjoys a moment with a happy visitor. I should have practiced my piano more diligently, I think.

I failed to get her name and email, so if anyone recognizes the woman above, please advise her to email me for a souvenir print.

Dozens of people carry cameras, from Chuy Treviño’s professional video camera to point-and-shoot digital devices. Time, place, eye and finger have as much to do with a great image as top notch technology, but there’s a lot to be said for top notch technology. Fortunately, Castillo used a twin-lens reflex 2.25” film camera before switching to the precision optics of a 35mm Nikon. Large, and high quality negatives allow the Latino Museum to create the generous prints hanging the gallery this evening. Extraordinary images require archival reproduction; do that and a print will survive 100 years with proper conservation. Which has me thinking I need to get a copy of Oscar’s shot of me. A century from now my great great grandkidlet will point to a 3-D holograph and say, “that’s a genuine Castillo and that’s my bis- bis-abuelo Michael. Have you ever seen a camera before?”

El Movimiento: Chicano Identity and Beyond Through the Lens of Oscar Castillo, is currently at The Latino Museum of History, Art and Culture 
514 S. Spring Street 
Los Angeles, California 90013

News from the Latino Book Festival at Cal State Los Angeles (Press Release)

Click here for a PDF of the Saturday and Sunday events schedule for this outstanding literary and family festival. Click the link to the organization's website at the bottom of the press release for a message from festival founder and Zoot Suit's El Pachuco Edward James Olmos.

History in the Making: The 12th Annual

Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival will feature 70 Latino Authors

Los Angeles, September 2009—The upcoming Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival, to be held at California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) on the weekend of October 10-11, will feature an outstanding lineup of 70 Latino authors, including Victor Villaseñor, Pat Mora, Luis J. Rodríguez, Josefina López, Helena María Viramontes, Reyna Grande, María Amparo Escandón, Graciela Limón, Gustavo Arellano, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Rigoberto González, Daniel Olivas, Ana Nogales, Marisela Norte, Montserrat Fontes, Margo Candela, Patricia Santana, Ligiah Villalobos, Julio Martínez, Héctor Tobar, Rubén Martínez, Eliud Martínez, Eduardo Santiago, Lucha Corpi, Evelina Fernández and Mary Castillo, among many others.

Special events taking place at this year’s festival include 24 sessions, such as Chicas, Chicanas & Latinas, a panel featuring some of the most promising Latina authors in the country, Latino LA: The City of Angels through Fiction, Poetry and Journalism; Barrio Stories; Chicano/Latino Thought & Art; Border Stories, Writing Books For Children, two Mariachi sessions, an editors/agents panel, and a screenwriters panel featuring up-and-coming Latina screenwriters such as Ligiah Villalobos (Under the Same Moon) and Josefina López (Real Women Have Curves). In addition, Helena María Viramontes will do a one hour creative writing workshop on the novel; Victor Villaseñor, Pat Mora, and filmmaker Robert Young will each do individual presentations. There will also be 12 Spanish workshops held throughout the day.

This year the festival will have a children’s area and stage dedicated to renowned Latina author Pat Mora’s literacy initiative “Día de Los Niños/Día de los Libros,” which she founded in 1996 to promote literacy and celebrate books among Spanish-speaking communities. The children’s stage will feature several children’s book authors and celebrities for story-time, including a 20 minute reading by Ms. Mora. In addition, The Los Angeles Theater Academy (LATA), founded by Alejandra Flores, is proud to present a play called "A Turtle Story" created by the Solano Elementary School students based on a legend from the Tongva (Gabrielino) Tribe. LATA students who participated in their after school and weekend program will also perform two songs from Crí-Crí (Francisco Gabilondo Soler). The Main Stage will feature Folklórico dance performances, singers, plays, poetry jams, and much more.

Edward James Olmos, actor and community activist, is the Co-Producer of the Latino Book & Family Festival, a weekend event that promotes literacy, culture and education in a fun environment for the whole family. Launched in 1997 in Los Angeles and organized by the non-profit organization Latino Literacy Now, the LBFF has provided people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to celebrate the beauty and diversity of the multicultural communities of the United States. “We are proud to be presenting so many wonderful authors at this year’s Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival,” said Olmos. “In our twelve year history of putting on some 45 Festivals around the country, this is the largest gathering of authors we’ve ever had. Truly, something for everyone.”

New in this year’s festival include:

  • More Chicana/Latino authors – five times as many!
  • A stronger partnership with California State University, Los Angeles – more support, more volunteers, more attendees!
  • Support from other organizations such as Raise Literacy Campaign, Latina Leadership Network, RCOE Early Reading First
  • More quality vendors/exhibitors

This year the Festival will be promoted by a strong list of media partners headed up by Telemundo and La Opinión. CVS Pharmacy will once again provide health screenings for all attendees. New sponsor Amway Global will have beauty and nutritional experts on hand for consultations (and to hand out samples).

To exhibit at this year’s festival, sponsor, volunteer or donate raffle prizes or children’s books, visit the festival’s website at www.LBFF.us For more information call 760-434-4484.

That's the middle Tuesday of the year's ninth month, a September Tuesday like any other September Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.


La Bloga welcomes your comments and observations on today's or any day's columns. Simply click the comments counter below to share your views. When you have a column of your own, a book review, a report on an arts or cultural event, remember La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. Click here to discuss your invitation to be our guest.

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1192. Biting Into the Holy Enchilada

Olga Garía Echeverría

Last month, while attending an art show at the Chim Maya Gallery in East Los Angeles, I met and got to chat with one of the featured artists, El Moisés. Born in Cuervos, Baja California and raised in Phoenix, Arizona, Moisés has been doodling since he was a child.

I was initially drawn to Moises’ art because of his vivid use of color. I also appreciate the warped movement that many of Moises’ curved lines and shapes create. Are those flames on the canvas swerving or did I just have one too many glasses of red wine?

Another thing that caught my eye was Moisés' religious motifs. I have to confess that religious images both entice and repel me. I'm easily seduced by cute chubby cherubs, but any rendition of a suffering Jesus with his eyes rolling up into his head is sure to send me running the other way.

There are many motifs that prevail in Moisés' work, barrio vatos, crowing roosters, lucha libres, Chicanas in lowriders. However, it was Moisés’ religious pieces that made me the most curious. Why is that bald man praying over blazing enchiladas? What's with all the virgins? What's the story behind that bota Guadalupana? Here's what Moisés shared about a few of his pieces.

Las Enchiladas Pasqual, shown above, is a tribute to the patron saint of the kitchen, San Pasqual. Confession: Prior to my talk with Moisés I didn't even know there was a patron saint of the kitchen, and I was even more surprised to learn that the saint of the kitchen is male. I very much like this detail and I can't wait to use it to convince my nephews to cook for me more often. ¡Que viva San Pasqual y pónganse a cocinar muchachos!

Historically, San Pasqual has been represented as a traditional woodcut figure in religiuos robes. He's serious and very godly. Moises states about his painting, “I wanted to take San Pasqual out of his rigid wood carved shape and make him more of a real person, sitting at a table with his plate of spicy enchiladas, his cuchara, and his vino.” When asked why recasting San Pasqual in a different light was important to him, Moisés' recalls attending church and being surrounded by religious statues and icons that appeared dark, dull, and at times even morbid. "I want to take these same religious figures and make them accessible and fun. That's what I'm playing with." As one of his influences, Moisés mentions El Greco, the 16th century Spanish painter who was well-known and often criticized for his strange shapes and fantastic colors. “At the time of his life,” Moisés notes, “religious art had to be precise and it wasn’t supposed to distract in any way from the worshipping of God. If the colors were too bright or the wings too big or too beautiful it could be cause for controversy or persecution. El Greco broke many of these rule and it's what made his art interesting.”

Moisés readily admits his art work isn't meant to challenge religion as much as expand the perimeters of how religious icons are artistically portrayed and viewed. He is also tapping into collective memory. Take for example, MoisésCalendario de Mi Barrio, which is a depiction of the ubiquitous calendar given to customers at tienditas, bakeries, and mercados.

Whether these calendars feature religious or cultural icons, they are familiar to many of us who grew up in Latino working-class communities. As Moisés points out, “We didn’t have any fancy portraits hanging on the walls. These calendars were our artworks.”

The barrio calendar was one of my favorite pieces in Moisés' show. As I stood before it I was momentarily transported to my mother’s living room, which throughout the years has showcased endless barrio calendars, most of them religious. I also experienced an Alice in Wonderland moment—I felt smaller. This, I later learned, was Moisés’ intention. The painting is 3 X 5 feet and is hung in such a way that it looms over the viewer. Moisés states, “As a child, you experience things from a very different perspective. Everything appears larger than it actually is. Even a churro in a child’s hand and imagination can seem to be as big as a broomstick. The calendars and pictures on our walls always seemed larger than life when we were kids. Later as adults, what we remember as big seems smaller. In this painting I was playing with this childhood memory of perspective and proportion.”

And then there's Moisés’ Guadalupe bota. A unique feature of this painting (perhaps unnoticeable in the picture) is that the canvas is actually shaped like a boot, creating a very cool 3-D effect. When I asked Moises about this piece, he shared, “Boots have always been part of my upbringing and aesthetic. Here in the U.S. I very much enjoy the rockabilly culture. Growing up, I also spent many of my summers in Cuervos, visiting my grandmother and relatives who are mostly farm workers. I recall my uncles always wearing boots when they took me out to the grape, lettuce or watermelon fields. There’s a lot of deep mud in fields and snakes too, so boots are ideal for farmers. As a young boy, I was jealous of my uncle’s boots. They were so cool; I wanted some too.”

At the gallery, when I first spotted the Guadalupe boot on the wall, I immediately went over to where it was hanging. I’m not anti-virgin or anything, but I have to admit that at times I feel bombarded with and even oppressed by the limited female representations in Chican@ culture and art. Although I find Moisés' boot quite beautiful, a part of me wants to shout, “Ay, alright already with the virgins!”

It's a schizophrenic reaction. A part of me is thinking, "No more virgins" and another is simultaneously wishing I could afford to buy the art piece. At the core of my conflicting emotions is what I can only describe as paint-envy. How come Frida, Guadalupe, virgins, and homegirls in lowriders get all the paint? They have become classic female representation in Chican@/Latin@ culture and art. And of course they are an important part of our history and cultural production, but I also wonder where the other barrio women are--the community organizer, the Chicana lawyer who eats tortillas in court, the librarian in a lucha libre struggle with red tape. Or the poet who's also a teacher driving down some congested freeway, not in a cool lowrider, but in a banged up silver Hyundai with a No on Prop 8 sticker on her dented bumper. Moisés, no seas gacho, píntanos a nosotras también.

One thing I learned about Moisés and his artwork this past week is that there's much more than what initially meets the eye. Moises, for example, has multiple talents and aspirations. Besides being a full-time artist, he loves the kitchen. He's been cooking since he was a boy and he claims to make a killer chile con carne and a pretty unique green salsa with hatch chile and nopales. He’s a fan of such shows as Anthony Bourdain, the Cooking Channel, and Project Runway. In fact, fashion design is another one of his passions. Recently, he teamed up with Unbearable Apparel and he's in the process of launching a high-end, couture clothing line. The upcoming clothes line also extends to skateboards and skate gear. He's also currently painting a custom Dia de Los Muertos bike for world-renowned custom bike builder, Paul Yaffe.

To find out more about Moisés and his art: http://www.artedemoises.com/
To find out more about Moisés' clothesline: http://unbareable.com/t-moisesSS.aspx?skinid=2

4 Comments on Biting Into the Holy Enchilada, last added: 9/13/2009
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An announcement from Kulupi Press:

We were very impressed by the immense variety in subject and tone of the 112 entries, and by the high quality of the submissions overall. Narrowing the field to one winner was difficult indeed. The work was well crafted, thoughtful, and inspiring to us as publishers, editors, writers, and readers.

We're pleased to announce the winner, selected along with three finalists and four honorable mentions in a blind judging by the editors of Kulupi Press:

Melinda Palacio of Santa Barbara, California: Folsom Lockdown

The finalists, in alphabetical order by author:

Yahya Frederickson of Moorhead, Minnesota: The Yemen Gate

Jonna Laster of Juneau, Alaska: The Place Between

Kristin Stoner of Des Moines, Iowa: Tales from a Nowhere Place

Receiving honorable mention were Isabel de la Rosa of Wichita Falls, Texas for Life on Interior Plains; Phyllis Meshulam of Sebastopol, California for Temple of the Sun; Bart Schneider of Sonoma, California for Sonoma Spring; and Diana Woodcock of Midlothian, Virginia for In the Shade of the Sidra Tree.

After much deliberation, Arthur Dawson and the editors at Kulupi Press chose Folsom Lockdown for its high poetic quality, courageous and consistent voice, the way it developed a sense of place through the poet's family experiences and relationships, and the depth of feeling and strong sense of the person behind the words. Publication is scheduled for spring 2010 and the book will be available on Kulupi's website. Email kulupi@vom.com to pre-order your copy. Signed copies will also be available.

◙ ANTHOLOGY CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Editors seeking essays for the upcoming anthology, And Then It Shifted: Women Open Up About Leaving Men for Women (Seal Press, 2010). They want a diversity of voices, and welcome submissions from a variety of perspectives. Deadline: December 1. For more information, visit here.

◙ CREATIVE WRITING POSITION AT POMONA COLLEGE: Roy Edward Disney Professorship in Creative Writing. The Department of English at Pomona College seeks a distinguished writer of fiction for appointment to the Roy Edward Disney '51 Professorship in Creative Writing. Responsibility to teach creative writing & literature courses of one's own choosing; load negotiable. The Roy E. Disney Chair is a senior appointment; salary commensurate with rank & accomplishment. Pomona College, the founding member of the Claremont Colleges, is a highly selective liberal arts college, located 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles, attracting a diverse, national student body. To be assured full consideration, please send a resume & letter of interest to: Kevin J. H. Dettmar, Chair, Department of English, Pomona College, 140 West Sixth Street, Claremont, California 91711, USA, by September 15, 2009 (so hurry!). EOE.

◙ THE CHOOSING AMERICA PROJECT: We are looking for authentic dramatic anecdotes, short stories (1500-4000 words) that epitomize your experience as immigrants who CHOSE to live in America. Think of something that has happened to you as an immigrant - We are looking for those special moments, encounters, surprises, experiences, disappointments, which vividly convey what it's like to be an immigrant in America. The good, the bad, the sad, the miraculous, the joyful— every anecdote is welcome as long as it's authentic and well told. Send your story to: stories@choosingamerica.com. For more details go to: http://www.choosingamerica.com/.


Next of Kin: The Family in Chicano/a Cultural Politics (Duke University Press; available in hard cover and paperback). From the publisher:

As both an idea and an institution, the family has been at the heart of Chicano/a cultural politics since the Mexican American civil rights movement emerged in the late 1960s. In Next of Kin, Richard T. Rodríguez explores the competing notions of la familia found in movement-inspired literature, film, video, music, painting, and other forms of cultural expression created by Chicano men. Drawing on cultural studies and feminist and queer theory, he examines representations of the family that reflect and support a patriarchal, heteronormative nationalism as well as those that reconfigure kinship to encompass alternative forms of belonging. Describing how la familia came to be adopted as an organizing strategy for communitarian politics, Rodríguez looks at foundational texts including Rodolfo Gonzales's well-known poem "I Am Joaquín," the Chicano Liberation Youth Conference's manifesto El Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, and José Armas's La Familia de La Raza. Rodríguez analyzes representations of the family in the films I Am Joaquín, Yo Soy Chicano, and Chicana; the Los Angeles public affairs television series ¡Ahora!; the experimental videos of the artist-activist Harry Gamboa Jr.; and the work of hip-hop artists such as Kid Frost and Chicano Brotherhood. He reflects on homophobia in Chicano nationalist thought, and examines how Chicano gay men have responded to it in works including Al Lujan's video S&M in the Hood, the paintings of Eugene Rodríguez, and a poem by the late activist Rodrigo Reyes. Next of Kin is both a wide-ranging assessment of la familia's symbolic power and a hopeful call for a more inclusive cultural politics.

◙ 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!

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1194. Mayra Santos-Febres and Our Lady of the Night

Our Lady of the Night by Mayra Santos-Febres
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Pub. Date: August 2009
9780061731303 368pp

Liz Vega

As I become wiser in the ways of the world, I find myself being

drawn more and more to irreverent poets, those that do not put brakes to the velocity and intensity of feelings that their words create. A fierce poet I admire and whose words I love to hear aloud is Mayra Santos-Febres. Let me here introduce La Bloga readers who are not familiar with this woman to one of the most vibrant voices among contemporary Caribbean, Latin American writers.
I met Santos-Febres when she was a visiting professor at Cornell and I bought her poetry book, Anamú y Manigua. Mayra, as you can see from the picture, is stunning, or as they say in Spanish, una mujer despampanante. She is the image that Caribbean music conjures up and when she walks into a room you want to know who she is. I will confess that I first bought her poetry book simply because I was drawn to her but I fell in love with her writing from the first stanza,

Sale a darle clemencia al universo
a su lado
se coagula toda bruma
en paralela negritud:
mi abuela
reordena el caos nómada
de todas las mañanas
cuando todavía no bullen
sus deliberadas tetas opíparas
de querer atrapar el escándalo
y volverlo hojas secas para barrer

She goes out to give mercy to the universe
at her side
the mist is all around
in parallel negritude:
my grandmother
reorders the nomadic chaos
of every morning
when her puposeful ample breasts
still do not seethe from wanting to trap the scandal
and turn it like dried leaves for sweeping up

This particular verse is just a small snippet, the entire book is about women in the life of Santos-Febres. She is a writer that venerates and loves her African roots and talks about the inherent problems of Puerto Rican society that denies or doesn't give its proper place to that part of its history.

Those first words that captivated me were written in 1990. Since then Santos-Febres has gone on to become a Guggenheim fellow and recipient of a number of literary awards. She has penned many short stories and novels, her latest is Nuestra Señora de la Noche (2006). It has just been translated into English as, Our Lady of the Night, and is available through Harper Perennial. I read this book in Spanish and while I have never read her in translation I peeked at some of the English excerpts and I am sure it will not disappoint.

Our Lady of the Night, is the story of Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer, better known as Isabel, La Negra, an important figure in Puerto Rican folklore and mythology. In a raw, sensual, prose Mayra Santos-Febres tells us the story of Doña Isabel, a black woman who through her brothel became one of the most powerful, respected and feared women in her town. A feat made even more impressive by the fact that she came out of nothing, was abandoned as a little girl and had to work as a maid, seamstress, even a liquor bootlegger. Mayra Santos-Febres uses multiple voices to depict a 1940's Puerto Rican society that is fragmented by race, class and socio-economic status. She gives us an accurate reflection of the social composition of the times, the hypocritical morality of the upper classes and the struggle of the poor to overcome their circumstances. By the end of the book, the reader has a complete story, that encompasses the different point of views of different characters and different times.

In a sociological context, Our Lady of the Night is a case study of the collision that happens when the primal urges of the tropical Caribbean come in contact with the materialistic American way of life. In another context, to use a frame of reference with which I am all too familiar, it is a kick-ass novela love story with an atypical heroine, fiercer even than Rubí, a telenovela protagonist who also gives up and denies herself the love of a man for the ambition of power.

One of the voices in the narration of Our Lady of the Night, sounded at times, like a prayer or like a Plena, the genre of music that like the Mexican corrido tell the stories of occurences that touch the imaginations of the people in a political, religious, social tone. Incidentally, Plena also has its originis in the same part of Ponce where Isabel La Negra lived. I was fascinated by Isabel's story much like I was fascinated by Arturo Perez-Reverte's La Reina Del Sur, which also became a corrido by Los Tigres Del Norte. Both of these women are characters feared and admired who are able to move in male-dominated spheres, like prostitution and drug-trafficking.

Isabel Luberza's story is one that has captivated other writers like Rosario Ferré. In 1974, Ferré wrote a short story*about two women, Isabel Luberza and Isabel La Negra, one white and one black, one the wife and one the mistress. In this story like in Buñuel's That Obscure Object of Desire, two different women are part of the whole. Ferré's story is an exploration of the duality of woman and the juxtaposition of the whore and the lady, carnal love and divine love, and the bonding that occurs so that one eventually becomes the other.

Ultimately, what I realized in reading Our lady of the Night is that Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer's story is the story of Puerto Rico and its relationship as a colony, a commonwealth to the U.S. and I can't help but quote Mayra Santos-Febres in an interview on her blog:
"Además, tengo ganas de decirte una cosa terrible, decirte "en todas las historias de las naciones hay una puta fundadora". Pienso en Evita Perón, en las madres fundadoras de la nación norteamericana, la mayoría putas. Pienso en La Malinche , mujer vendida como cosa a Cortés. Me gusta pensar en la historia desde esa perspectiva, no desde la del "padre" legítimo de la patria,o desde la Madre sufrida que pare al pueblo legítimo y soberano; sino desde ese rincón oculto de la Puta escondida que puja a la nación bastarda."

I searched for an accurate translation of this quote and was unable to find one, so here's my best rendition:

Besides, I want to tell you a terrible thing, tell you " in all of the histories of nations there is a founding whore". I'm thinking about Evita Peron, about the founding mothers of the northamerican nation, the majority were whores. I'm thinking about la Malinche, woman that was sold like a thing to Cortes. I like to think of history from that perspective, not from that of the legitimate "father" of the country or from the suffering mother that births the legitimate and sovereign people; but from that occult corner of the hidden whore that pushes out a bastard nation.

To learn more about Mayra Santos-Febres

*Ferré, Rosario. "Cuando las mujeres quieren a los hombres." In Papeles de Pandora, 23-38. Mexico: Joaquín Mortiz, 1976. ISBN 9682701066

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Without Camels: A Caravan of Latino Writing

Quercus Review is putting together a special section of Latina and Latino imaginative writing—“Without Camels: A Caravan of Latino Writing”—for its 10th anniversary edition. The writer Fred Arroyo will help edit this section.

From the editor: Jorge Luis Borges once suggested a caravan of imaginative writing that existed outside or without labels like “Latino.” Borges considered that what is authentic in literature cannot be limited by cultural, ethnic, or nationalistic markers. Borges tells us, “the first thing a falsifier, a tourist, an Arab Nationalist would do [in writing and trying to emphasize an “authentic” reality] is have a surfeit of camels, caravans of camels, on every page” (“The Argentine Writer and Tradition”). Latino writing springs from a rich tradition, and in its continuity and change there is a company of writers who are traveling together. This caravan is populated by diverse visions, aesthetics, experiences, and feelings that move outside and beyond labels. We want to capture this movement, this energia. And we want to see and hear and feel it in imaginative writings “without camels.” Caravan is also evoked to echo the song of the same name, which was written by the outstanding trombonist Juan Tizol (Puerto Rico, 1900-1984). Not actually a first, however, since the composition borrows or responds to Middle Eastern traditions. Those rhythms—that borrowing, mixing, and response—are also the caravan of imaginative writings by Latinos we want to share with a larger audience.

Poetry: Send 2-3 previously unpublished poems with cover letter and SASE. We do not accept simultaneous or electronic submissions of poetry. Please include a brief bio in your cover letter. We prefer poems that do not exceed 40 lines, though we will consider longer work.

Fiction: Send previously unpublished stories with cover letter and SASE. Simultaneous submissions okay with notification upon acceptance elsewhere. Please include a brief bio in your cover letter. We consider fiction up to 7000 words. All work must be double-spaced, paginated, with your name included on each page.

Please send submissions to

Fred Arroyo
Department of English
2505 University Avenue
Drake University
Des Moines, IA 50311


Quercus Review
ATTN: Sam Pierstorff, Editor
Modesto Junior College
Department of English
435 College Ave.
Modesto, CA 95350

Please note: We will not read manuscripts that do not include an SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope). Please submit separately for each genre. Also, please include an email address and/or phone number in your cover letter.

◙ UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center books receive awards: Three CSRC Press titles received awards at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards. The Art of Healing Latinos: Firsthand Accounts from Physicians and Other Health Advocates, edited by David Hayes-Bautista, UCLA professor and CSRC affiliate, and Roberto Chiprut, was awarded first place in the Nonfiction–Health Book in English category. Receiving second place in the Nonfiction–Biography in English category was Paths to Discovery: Autobiographies from Chicanas with Careers in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering, edited by Norma E. Cantú. Karen Mary Davalos’s Yolanda M. López, volume 2 in the A Ver: Revisioning Art History series, was awarded honorable mention in the Nonfiction–Arts Book in English category. The awards were presented during BookExpo America on May 28. More information about these award-winning books is available on the CSRC Press webpage.

◙ WRITERS WHO BLOG: Al Martinez, ever the wordsmith and cautious optimist, offers a new installment on his blog as he contemplates his 60th wedding anniversay. And author Sergio Troncoso also is blogging away over at ChicoLingo. Last but not least, Joe Loya launched his blog on the 13th anniversary of his release from prison.

NEW YA TITLE REVIEWED: Rigoberto González, an award-winning writer living in New York City, reviews Alex Sanchez’s new young adult novel, Bait (Simon & Schuster, $16.99 hardcover), which González calls “a heart-wrenching tale about a young man coping with the trauma of sexual molestation.”


TOP Ten Signs Your Cat May Be Latina by Al Carlos Hernandez, Contributing Editor

News from the Brown Side of Town, 9.3.09 by Frankie Firme, Conributing Editor

RIP: Tierra's Isaac Avila by Manny Saucedo

Deported Veterans by Hector G. Lopez

Saving High School's Music Program Through Music

10,000 Latinos Learning to Read by 2010

A Brief History of East LA Revue.com Internet Radio, Part 1 by Steven Chavez

◙ LITERARY NEWS: Jennine Capó Crucet was born to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami. Her writing has appeared in Ploughshares, the Southern Review, the Northwest Review, and other magazines. She is the recipient of a Bread Loaf Scholarship and has been a finalist for the Missouri Review Editors’ Prize and the University of California, Irvine, Chicano/Latino Literary Prize. A graduate of Cornell University, she currently lives and writes in Los Angeles.

Crucet’s debut collection, How to Leave Hialeah, has just been released by the University of Iowa Press. Publishers Weekly says:

In this engrossing collection—sometimes intense, at other times darkly humorous—debut author Crucet portrays the daily challenges, heartbreak and family ties that penetrate Hialeah, a working-class Cuban-American neighborhood in Miami. In “El Destino Hauling,” a young girl pays witness to a night-long family funeral for a father who was run over by his son, perhaps by intent. “The Next Move” follows a grandfather left to struggle through the day without his wife while she's visiting family in Cuba. In “Men Who Punched Me in the Face,” a woman repeatedly drawn to abusive men convinces herself she enjoys being hit. A story set in the Cuban countryside finds a young woman struggling to make ends meet with just three prized possessions: a rooster, a bar of soap and Kotex maxi pads. Crucet details vividly the daily struggle that leads Cubans to prize their heritage above much else, but also illuminates a powerful need to escape the past.

◙ 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!

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1196. Review: Solitude at the Los Angeles Theatre Center

Michael Sedano


Written By | Evelina Fernandez
Directed by |José Luis Valenzuela
Choreographed by | Urbanie Lucero
Original Music by | Semyon Kobialka
Produced by | Latino Theater Company

Robert Beltran (Star Trek, Voyager, Big Love), Evelina Fernandez (Luminarias, American Me), Fidel Gomez (Walk Out, Luminarias, 7th Heaven), Sal Lopez (Luminarias, American Me, Dementia), Geoffrey Rivas (Luminarias, CSI), Lucy Rodriguez (Dementia, ER), Semyon Kobialka on Cello

In Solitude, playwright Evelina Fernandez has crafted a complex delight that fills the stage with music, dance, and drama that invites the audience to feel and think beyond the limits of the play, a chicana’s version of the play’s the thing wherein to capture the conscience of the audience. Featuring excellent acting, effective staging, aural diversity, the performance leaves people thinking and talking about important questions. It’s the best kind of theatre, in other words.

I saw the initial preview performance Friday night. It had a few kinks, but that’s why professional companies like Latino Theater Company mount previews. I’m sure by the time Solitude opens on September 9, continuing through October 4, all the rough edges will be gone and audiences will thrill to Director Jose Luis Valenzuela’s masterful staging of a sure-to-be theatrical treasure.

Playwright Fernandez frames the drama with several quotations from Octavio Paz’ landmark work, Labyrinth of Solitude, none more arresting than this opening excerpt from Paz that foreshadows the action. Here’s the play in a nutshell:

Death and birth are solitary experiences. We are born alone and we die alone. When we are expelled from the maternal womb, we begin the painful struggle that finally ends in death. Does death mean a return to the life that precedes life? …. although we do not know, our whole being strives to escape the opposites that torment us. Everything -- self-awareness, time, reason, customs, habits -- tends to make us exiles from life, but at the same time everything impels us to return, to descend to the creative womb from which we were cast out. What we ask of love (which, being desire, is a hunger for communion, a will to fall and to die as well as to be reborn) is that it give us a bit of true life, of true death. We do not ask it for happiness or repose, but simply for an instant of that full life in which opposites vanish, in which life and death, time and eternity are united.

Mourners gather at the memorial service for Gabriel’s mother. Gabriel—Geoffrey Rivas-- left the block and his single-parent mother’s home more than twenty years ago. Gabriel went off to become his own opposite, to college, career, and is a rich man today. He’s back with his best friends for the first time since he went into exile. The friends still love him, though they acknowledge back on the block people consider Gabriel an asshole.

Johnny—Sal López-- and Ramona—played to a “T” by playwright Fernandez—never left the neighborhood and are poor as always. They attend the services to honor their life-long neighbor and for the opportunity to touch their long-absent friend, to catch up and pick up where they left off, share the love they never gave away.

Angel—Fidel Gomez--single-parent Ramona’s son, has come at his mother’s insistence. He’s at loose ends. Recently graduated Stanford with an M.A. in literature, he has intellectual skills but none of the smarts his mother and Johnny developed out of a lifetime on the block. Angel has no idea what he’s to become.

Sonia—Lucy Rodríguez--Gabriel’s wife, plays reluctant hostess in the couple’s penthouse digs to people she doesn’t know, nor does Gabriel, not any more. She can’t figure out why Gabriel’s invited them, and is at wit’s end since Juana the maid has defied her employers’ last-minute demands to cook food for the mourners. Never-seen Juana, by the way, is a funny side-bit and running gag.

Johnny and Mona love Gabriel’s memory and step back into Gabriel’s life hungry for communion with the exile. Not that they are not curious to learn if their friend truly is the asshole chisme holds him to be. Their inquiry will shape the evening’s conversation.

Fernandez writes-in a bizarre supernumerary character, Robert Beltran’s The Man, leaving it to the audience to figure out why he’s here at all. The character embodies the voice of Octavio Paz, but he’s not part of the reunion. The Man is the limo driver, who’s insinuated himself into the mourning ritual by dint of having to wait around until the passengers are ready to leave. The driver jokes that his role is to bring along his primo Chelo the Cello player in the limo. The Man is an oddball presence, not wacky, oddly absurd in a semi-good way. The Man consoles the nerdish Angel, offers him consejos on women and love-making (although it’s been a while, he confesses); makes a semi-successful pass at Sonia; provides comic relief when needed. The character occupies a parallel space to the central action, leaving me wondering if The Man is here as foil to the male typologies represented by the loyal husband and father Johnny, the unhappily married disaffected exile Gabriel, the confused young man Angel, whose future depends on making fateful choices. Or is The Man merely the playwright’s indulgence? For sure, The Man offers director Valenzuela his greatest challenge in making the Wednesday premiere a tighter paced, more direct assault on the play’s important themes.

In keeping with Paz’ dictum of exile, Fernandez doesn’t paint Gabriel as a vendido, despite his abandonment of his friends, neighborhood, and mother. The playwright instead paints Gabriel’s sorrowful regret as an echo of Paz’ insight, expelled and impelled back. For Gabriel, the evening offers a chance of rebirth. The characterization encourages but doesn’t make the point that Gabriel is vencido, not vendido. Provided he doesn’t come to blows with Johnny or Mona after they’ve all drunk too much. “Americans drink to forget” Octavio Paz says, “Mexicans drink to confess” the playwright reminds.

Mona’s son Angel, and childless Gabriel, counterbalance one another. Angel is one confused young man. He faces the same choices Gabriel long ago made. Maybe Angel will get it right, if Gabriel didn’t. Angel, like Gabriel, left the neighborhood to better himself. Unlike Gabriel, Angel now has returned to his mother’s home, as witnessed by his presence here, to act the dutiful son. The tangible tension between the two characters feeds on a question Johnny asks Mona. Will Mona tell Gabriel Angel is Gabriel’s son? “He is my son!” insists Mona, dismissing the question altogether. The question hangs over the characters as the first act closes.

Opening night audiences will get to see how the preview helps director and playwright work out some of the kinks that stood out in the Friday try-out performance.

Kink one, the set. Designer François-Pierre Couture lays out the split-level stage floor in stark black and white. Skewed picture frames surround the stage, making a silently apt visual reference for the action. One key scene—the “you gonna tell him?” scene between Johnny and Mona—takes place in the far left back corner. Otherwise the rear part of the stage is curiously underutilized. Up front, I find it disconcerting when characters step off the white landscape onto the black border, as if they are stepping out of bounds, off the stage where the action belongs.

Kink two, the music by Semyon Kobialka. Playing a luscious cello reminiscent of Bach, Kobialka is always on stage in the character of Chelo, whose only role is to be on stage playing cello. It’s a beautifully outrageous theatrical trick, but regretfully detracts from the action by occupying more time than necessary. Another musical trick, rumbling recorded mambos and silhouetted dancers transition from scene to scene. Delicious eye candy but too loud for the loudspeakers, and again, overly long. After the first extended dance number, continuity would benefit from abbreviated transitions. In the second act, Sal López’ Johnny sings his guts out in a wondrous drinking song—uncredited in the program—that could be abbreviated in the interest of cutting the two hour and forty minute performance down to manageable duration. Hence, kink two-and-a-half. Beautiful as the auditorium is, the seats are exceedingly hard on the nalgas.

Kink three is the most problematic, a preachy “author’s message” ending. Solitude has been a tour de force to this final scene, then, it’s as if Fernandez and Valenzuela do not trust their audience to process complexity and make sense of all they’ve experienced. I saw some of this mistrust as the first act ended. Valenzuela stood from his center row seat, looked around the milling house and announced, “It’s an intermission.” The playbill could have mentioned there’d be two acts. Small but telling point for that first act close. Second act, cut that “message” scene, trust the audience to figure out what they’ve just witnessed.

Solitude opens Wednesday, September 9 at the superb Los Angeles Theater Center, on Spring Street in the true heart of the city. Covered, secure parking next door offers a five dollar bargain. The Latino Theater Company runs a four play season. Tickets at twenty-five dollars a seat, add another twenty dollars for a season’s parking, there’s a season total of one hundred twenty dollars. Compare this to the Mark Taper’s nine bucks to park ($23 for valet), thirty-five dollar seats (plus handling charge), predictably ponderous programming, and there’s no better bargain in Los Angeles theatre than the Latino Theater Company. Go for it, gente.

News & Notes

U.S. Latino & Latina WWII Oral History Project 10th Anniversary Dinner And Korean and Vietnam War-Era Symposium October 2-3, 2009.

Jim Estrada and Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez are organizing a dinner and symposium celebrating the accomplishments of the U.S. Latino & Latino WWII Oral History Project coming out of the University of Texas-Austin.

A $50 dinner ticket gains admission to the Saturday symposia on Korea and Vietnam.

Speakers for Korea:
Silvia Alvarez Curbelo, University of Puerto Rico-- "War, Modernity and Remembrance: The Borinqueneers in the Korean War (1950-1953)"

Allan R. Millett, University of New Orleans--"The U.S. 8th Army, Korea, 1950-1953: Making a One Culture Army from Soldiers of Many Cultures"

Carlos Vélez-Ibañez, Arizona State University-- "Korea and Latinos:
The Invisible Minority in a Forgotten War"

Speakers for Vietnam:
Mark A. Lawrence, University of Texas--"Rewriting the History of the Vietnam War: Political and Diplomatic Dimensions"

Kyle Longley, Arizona State University--"Grunts: The American Combat Soldier in Vietnam"

Jorge Mariscal, University of California at San Diego-- "The Vietnam War is Boring: Young People and Historical Amnesia"

That's September's second Tuesday. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except We Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.


La Bloga welcomes your comments or inquiries on this or any daily column. Click the comments counter below to open a discussion. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. When you have a review of a book, arts, or cultural event, or something of interest to writers from your writer's notebook, click here to learn about being our guest, or joining us as a regular, as noted in the following.

Interested in Joining La Bloga?

You may have noticed our mug shot banner has changed. The recent retirements of dear friends Ann Hagman Cardinal and Lisa Alvarado have created an opportunity for a new teammate to join the La Bloga regulars. If you write on Chicana Chicano Latina Latino literature, arts, and culture, and maybe considered becoming a bloguera or bloguero, but found the pressure of everyday or weekly deadlines daunting, La Bloga may be right up your alley. We're looking for someone to write alternate Thursdays, sharing that day with Lydia Gil. Click here to discuss your interest.

1 Comments on Review: Solitude at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, last added: 9/8/2009
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1197. Interview With Author Diana Lopez

Diana thanks for this interview for La Bloga. How would you present the book to the audience? Tell us about it.

In Confetti Girl, Apolonia Flores (or Lina), is a sock-loving, volleyball player with a major crush on a boy named Luís. She’s going through a hard time. Her mother died a year ago, and she has figuratively lost her father, too, because all he does is read books. Lina reacts by sabotaging her English grade, which introduces even more problems. Meanwhile, her best friend, Vanessa, struggles with a recently-divorced mom who now hates all men and who cooks eggs for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (even Thanksgiving), so she can save the eggshells for her cascarones, the only activity that seems to give her peace of mind. So how are these girls going to rescue their parents, and themselves, from the consequences of anger and grief?

You begin each chapter with a popular dicho. Who was source of inspiration? Did you grow up with dichos?

My parents’ favorite sayings were actually in English. “If you start something, finish it,” “If you’re going to do something, do it right,” and “If you make a mistake, fix it.” I heard those quotes when cleaning, sewing, or doing homework, and even now, they run through my head nearly every day. They’re good mantras for a writer, for everything, if you think about it.
But occasionally, I heard dichos like the ones in the book, usually from an uncle, a teacher, or lady at church, always someone who was an elder, who was trying to guide me somehow. So including them in the book, as something a father would say to his child, felt natural. I started asking around, collecting dichos from relatives and friends, from the internet, from dicho dictionaries (they’re out there!). I’m still amazed by how many there are.

Your novel revolves around cascarones. The titles of your chapters refer to eggs or eggshells. Where did you get your idea to include that imagery in the book?

I had just finished describing Lina’s house, all those books, and in the second chapter, she visits Vanessa, her friend across the street. I really enjoyed writing about a house full of books, and I wanted something visual for her friend’s house too. So I was brainstorming as I drove home from work one day, and that’s when I saw one of my neighbors. She was in a rocking chair with cartons of eggs all around and a “cascarones for sale” sign. There are people in San Antonio who save eggshells all year round, so they can sell cascarones during Easter and Fiesta. “That’s it!” I thought. “Vanessa’s house is full of cascarones!”

But I had a problem. The scene was happening in fall, and cascarones are for spring. That’s when I realized that Vanessa’s mom has a cascarones-making obsession. This detail really sharpened the character for me. Why is she making cascarones? I wondered. And then her whole story spilled out.

I had different chapter titles originally, but when I realized that the cascarones were functioning as a symbol in the book, I decided to highlight the egg imagery. I have to admit that one of my favorite experiences has been introducing cascarones to people who have never heard of them. I took four dozen to the ALA conference in Chicago, and we made a wonderful, joyful mess.

Lina, your protagonist, loves socks and to play volleyball. How much of you can we find in Lina? What do you like to do?

Like Lina, I experienced that embarrassing sense of awkwardness. Tween bodies don’t stretch out proportionally, and for a while, I had these ridiculously long legs. I didn’t know what to do with them, how to move without tripping over myself. Plus, I was too tall to hide, and as a shy girl, all I wanted to do was hide. The only time I felt comfortable, (more than that, I felt powerful, free, even beautiful) was in track. I could run. I ran faster than all the girls and most of the guys. That’s what people remember about me. So I’m very aware of how an activity like volleyball (or band or student council) can rescue a young person from those horribly insecure years.

I still run, only today, I run slower than all of the guys and most of the girls. It doesn’t matter. Running is how I meditate and problem-solve. And if I don’t run, I lift weights with my husband or walk a big circle around the neighborhood. I also like to play European board games like Settlers of Catan, Notre Dame, or Princes of Florence. Collectively, my friends and I have a wonderful library of games.

You are dealing with two serious issues: the divorce of parents and the loss of a mother. There are many students in middle schools dealing with similar situations. What is your message for these children?

I wanted to explore how people grieve. Some, like Lina’s father, withdraw, while others, like Vanessa’s mom, blame the whole world. So how do you get past your sorrow or anger? And how do these emotions affect those you love, those you haven’t lost?

For me, stories start with questions, questions I don’t know the answers to. If I were wise, I wouldn’t need to write. If I were wise, I’d be a priest or counselor. But I’m a writer, one who believes Robert Frost when he says, “Poems should delight first, teach later.” So I hesitate to give a message because that’s something the reader needs to conclude for himself. But if I have to, the message would be something like this . . . look around. Who’s in your house? Who’s in your neighborhood? Who’s at your school, your church, or your job? When someone has gone, don’t forget that someone else has stayed.

Confetti Girl is your first middle grade novel. How was the switch from writing for adults to writing for children?

I got different reactions when I told people I was writing for middle-school readers. Some thought it was a great idea and others thought I was crazy. But I spent so many years teaching that age group, which means I’ve read thousands of pages written by them. They are all grown up now, but this book is still my gift to them, my thank you.

Saying that writing for children is easier than writing for adults is like saying short stories are easier than novels. If you've tried different genres, you know this isn’t true. Each has its own set of conventions, of challenges, but the things that make a good adult story (character, plot, language) are the things that make a good story for young people.

The toughest challenge for this genre is the point of view. You have to be a child again, which means resisting the urge to write retrospectively (the wise adult looking back on her innocent childhood). My solution was to be in the moment as much as possible. That’s why I chose to write the novel in present tense. It gave me the ability to write without hindsight.

I also want to add, if you are going to write for young people, you need to read young people’s books. You also have to spend time with them . . . listen and let them be your teachers . . . don’t ever underestimate how intelligent they are and how much they have to offer.

How was the process from manuscript to publication for Confetti Girl?

I had registered to go to the Latino Writers Conference in Albuquerque, and before I went, I researched the agents who would be there. That’s how I learned about Stefanie Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary. She represented children’s fiction and had a special interest in minority literature. At the time, I had two chapters of Confetti Girl. I gave them to Stefanie and she read them in her hotel room that night. She was very enthusiastic, and I could tell she understood my vision for the book. That’s what you want in an agent, someone who loves your work and trusts your vision. But, I have to add, Stefanie is also a good editor. She taught me a lot about writing for this age group.

I also learned a lot from Alvina Ling, my editor at Little Brown. I had read Firegirl and Year of the Dog, two books that Alvina edited and that I highly recommend. I knew I was in good hands. She had wonderful suggestions, but she was also respectful about changes I did not want to make. At some point in the process, your writing moves from a solitary endeavor to a partnership between the author, agent, and editor. I couldn’t have asked for a better team.

And, I just received more publishing news. Scholastic will release a paperback edition of Confetti Girl next spring!

What inspires you to write? What are you working on now?

I’ll give a short response but please know that this isn’t a complete answer. I have many, many inspirations.

I dedicated this book to my parents, so I want to give them credit for inspiring me. They weren’t avid readers or writers, but they were very project-oriented. My mother sewed, and my father designed and built things – a new bathroom, a jewelry box, bunk beds. They always had a project before them, and the same holds true today. Their example taught me about planning and perseverance. And it also made me ask, what is my talent? That’s what I thought about as I watched my parents make these beautiful things. And I concluded that if I’m going to have a meaningful life, I have to engage in some type of creative process. For me, that process is writing.

What am I working on now? Another book for middle grade readers. It’s called Breath Sisters, and it’s about a girl named Windy who seeks popularity by betraying her best friend and playing the dangerous choking game.

Thanks Diana, what are your final words for our readers at La Bloga?

I just want to say thanks for reading my interview and for supporting Latino writers by visiting La Bloga. I’ve got a lot of events coming up. If I’m in your area, put on your wackiest socks and stop by. I love meeting new people and touching base with old friends.

Diana’s Upcoming Events

September 15, 2009
Reading and signing 5:00 to 7:00 at The Twig, San Antonio

September 19, 2009
reading at 1:00 p.m. Book People, Austin

September 25, 2009
Book signing at Region 20 in San Antonio

September 26, 2009
Hispanic Heritage Month Panel at Barnes & Noble San Pedro Crossing, San Antonio; 1:00 p.m.

If you shop at the Barnes & Noble at San Pedro Crossing on September 26th, please mention the Society of Hispanic and Latino Writers at the register. B&N is donating a percentage of its sales to this non-profit organization that supports local writers.

October 1, 2009
Writing Warriors; Reading and school visits, Victoria, Texas

October 9, 2009
A Quilt of Words: Creative Writing Workshop; Hispanic Mothers & Daughters Conference; St. Philip's College, Heritage Room, 6:00 to 7:00 PM

October 15, 2009
Reception and Book Signing at St. Philip's College; Heritage Room, 2:00 to 4:00 PM

October 30 - November 1, 2009
Texas Book Festival; Austin, Texas

November 14, 2009
Corpus Christi Libraries' Centenniel Celebration
Reading and Book Signing at Greenwood Library, 2:00 p.m.

November 15, 2009
Reading and Book Signing at Barnes & Noble in Corpus Christi at 1:00 PM

December 2, 2009
Lunch Bunchers Book Club in San Antonio

Diana López is the author of the adult novella, Sofia’s Saints, published by Bilingual Review Press in 2002, and the middle grade novel, Confetti Girl, published by Little Brown in 2009. She is also one of the featured authors in Hecho en Tejas, an anthology of writing by Texas-Mexicans (University of New Mexico Press, 2007). Her short stories have appeared in Chicago Quarterly Review, Sycamore Review, and New Texas Journal. She has been featured on NPR’s Latino USA and is the 2004 winner of the Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Award, sponsored by author Sandra Cisneros. Diana López lives in San Antonio, Texas where she teaches at St. Philip’s College.

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1198. Daniel Alarcón at Babylon Salon

Daniel Alarcón will read from his novel-in-progress this Saturday at the Babylon Salon event(Cantina SF) in San Francisco. His first novel, Lost City Radio, was published last year in Germany, and is now a finalist for the Internationaler Literaturpreis, an award for the best work of fiction translated into German. Congratulations!

This Saturday's Babylon Salon event at Cantina SF (7pm at 580 Sutter St, San Francisco) will feature fiction writer Daniel Alarcón, poet Pam Uschuk, Chicago Quarterly Review editor Elizabeth McKenzie introducing contributor Michela Martini, and up & coming writers Anthony Gonzales & K. G. Schneider.

Daniel Alarcon is the Associate Editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine published in his native Lima, Peru, and Visiting Scholar at the Center for Latin America Studies at UC Berkeley. He is the author of three works of fiction, including Lost City Radio (PEN USA Award 2008), and most recently El rey siempre está por encima del pueblo, a story collection published in Mexico.


Pam Uschuk will read from her work. Pamela is the prize-winning author of five books of poems including CRAZY LOVE. Her work has appeared worldwide in over two hundred and fifty publications. Her literary awards include the Struga International Poetry Prize, awards from the National League of American PEN Women, and a nomination for a Pulitzer prize. She is professor of creative writing and environmental literature at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

Featured Literary Publication

Elizabeth McKenzie, editor of Chicago Quarterly Review and 2010 NEA Fellow, will introduce Michela Martini, renowned Italian translator, who will read from her work.

Emerging Writers

Anthony Gonzales and K. G. Schneider will each read from their work. K. G. has had essays published in The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2009, White Crane, Nerve, Gastronomica, The Best Creative Nonfiction Volume 2, and Powder, an anthology of women's military writing from Kore Press.

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1199. Guest Review - Becky and Her Friends (and more)

by Virginia Alanis

Becky and Her Friends
Rolando Hinojosa

Arte Público Press, 1990

Born in Mercedes, Texas, Rolando Hinojosa knows the Texas-Mexican border and writes intimate accounts of its townspeople. In Becky and Her Friends, Becky Escobar, a prominent heiress, decides to divorce her politician husband and the reverberations from the fallout are felt by the entire community. Rolando Hinojosa uses the frame of a listener who travels through The Valley collecting information from witnesses and informants. The cumulative effect of his interviews gives him new insight into what it means to be human.

Becky and Her Friends goes into overdrive and spares no one; what ensues is a cacophony of monologues by well-meaning opinionated characters. Everyone has something to say in The Valley. The witnesses and informants take sides and make compelling cases regarding Becky’s decision. Becky is judged, not unlike Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, a fascinating woman who has captivated the public. This is a chronicle of a political marriage with a glance at the social life in The Valley.

Becky is, in effect, a local celebrity and the townspeople have inquiring minds and strong opinions. Take a listen to one of the opinion givers:

But like I said, Becky was just too much woman for Ira Escobar. And if they lasted as long as they did—I mean, if she put up with that jackass as long as she did, it was due to that eternal stupidity, that so-called tradition. And here’s another truth: Becky’s mother, yes, my cousin Elvira Navarrete, kept that marriage going.

Despite thirty-five-year-old Becky’s privileged upbringing and her many accomplishments as a mother and respected businesswoman, she faces many challenges within the society she lives in. At various points in her life Becky is criticized: (1) for going to college and wanting to make more of herself than just becoming a grade school teacher; (2) for becoming a working woman and wanting to earn a living; (3) for divorcing, a crime against the Catholic church, her husband, children, family, and the community; (4) for remarrying, and to add insult to injury, her second husband is considered a nobody compared to her first husband, a county commissioner; (5) for giving up the charitable clubs to earn a living, and therefore losing her social standing in The Valley.

Becky will not be deterred and she emerges as a modern woman who forges a life for herself despite the gossip. Most important of all, she ceases to care what society thinks and allows happiness to enter her life.

Rolando Hinojosa is one of America’s best kept secrets. Mr. Hinojosa made his literary debut in 1973 and has published over ten books in his thirty-six year writing career. His body of work includes: The Valley (1973, 1983), Klail City (1976, 1987), Fair Gentlemen of Belken County (1981), Rites and Witnesses (1982), Dear Rafe (1985), Partners in Crime (1985), Korean Love Songs (1987), Becky and Her Friends (1990), Useless Servants (1993).

If you’re looking for an illuminated literary road off the beaten path, be one of the first to discover Rolando Hinojosa’s world as he ventures into the domestic fiction territory of Henry James and Edith Wharton. Those who are in-the-know are already aware of him due to his critical acclaim but I think it is high time for the floodgates to open and for Mr. Hinojosa to breakthrough and enjoy wide readership.

Virginia Alanis is a contemporary American writer of Mexican descent, born in Allende, Nuevo Leon, Mexico and raised in Dallas, Texas since the age of five. She has spent most of her life in Dallas, Texas,
where she attended Southern Methodist University and majored in English Literature earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 2002 and a Master of Arts degree in 2004. She is at work on her first novel on the romanticizing of the American Dream from the perspective of Mexican-Americans who have lived in the U.S. for generations and Mexican immigrants who must navigate between the cultural values of their birthplace and their adopted home.



Each year, Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book, in affiliation with The Library of Congress, conducts River of Words (ROW), a free international poetry and art contest for youth on the theme of WATERSHEDS. The contest is designed to help youth explore the natural and cultural history of the place they live, and to express, through poetry and art, what they discover.

The contest is open to any child in the world, from 5-19 years of age. Older students must have not yet completed high school. There is no charge to enter.

Students may enter on their own, or as part of a group (classroom, Girl Scout troop, 4-H, etc.). All entrants receive acknowledgment in the form of a Watershed Explorer certificate. State-level judging is done by Colorado writers and artists, and winners are recognized each spring in Denver at our Student Literary Awards.

About 100 poems and artworks from both US and international entries are selected as finalists each year. Poetry submissions are judged by River of Words co-founders Robert Hass, who served as US Poet Laureate from 1995-1997, and writer Pamela Michael. Art entries are judged by children's book writer and illustrator, Thacher Hurd. All winners receive ribbons, books and/or art supplies, t-shirts and other prizes. Eight Grand Prize winners—four in poetry and four in art, in four different age categories—are chosen from the US entries.

Category I — Kindergarten-Grade 2
Category II — Grades 3-6
Category III — Grades 7-9
Category IV — Grades 10-12

Winners are announced each April at a gala event at the San Francisco Library. The Grand Prize and International winners win an all-expense paid trip to Washington, DC to attend the ROW Award Ceremony at The Library of Congress.

Contest entry deadline is December 1, 2009.

Click here for complete contest guidelines, entry forms and the free Poetry of Rivers curriculum authored by award-winning Colorado poet Kathryn Winograd.

Each year, Colorado Humanities & Center for the Book, in affiliation with the Library of Congress and in partnership with Target stores, presents Letters About Literature (LAL) a national reading and writing competition for readers in grades 4 through 12. To enter, readers write a personal letter to an author, living or dead, from any genre-- fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic, explaining how that author's work changed the student's way of thinking about the world or themselves.

There are three competition levels:
Level I - grades 4 through 6
Level II - grades 7 and 8
Level III - grades 9 - 12

Winners, announced in the spring of each year, receive cash awards at the national and state levels. State winners are recognized in Denver at a Student Literary Awards ceremony.

In addition to prizes for children, LAL is also awarding thousands of dollars in library grants as a way to promote literacy and reader response among all young readers. The national winners themselves help to select the libraries that will receive the grants.

Visit the website for guidelines and required entry coupon, plus take some time to explore the free lesson plans and winning letters from past years. Each year more than 55,000 young people from across the country enter LAL and what they write to authors is amazing!

Deadline for entry is December 12, 2009.

Click here for new guidelines and required entry coupon.


The sudden passing of Jeffrey Nickelson was a shock and a blow to Colorado's cultural life. The Board of Directors of El Centro Su Teatro released a statement that said, in part:

Su Teatro’s kinship with Shadow Theatre goes back many years, and includes performances of Sweet Corner Symphony at El Centro Su Teatro and Bless Me, Ultima at Shadow Theatre. We have appreciated our special relationship, knowing that the commonalities that we have as sister organizations gave us a bond that was deep and important. We always looked forward to interacting with Shadow’s audiences and knew that our audiences loved their work.

There are so many of our supporters that also attend Shadow Theatre, it is clear that Shadow serves the entire metropolitan community. The work that Jeffrey Nickelson did to cultivate and nurture an appetite for African American theater has made Shadow an artistic jewel.

We are deeply saddened by Shadow’s loss, and want you to know that we share in the loss. We want to publicly express that Jeffrey Nickelson’s death is a tragedy for the Latino community as well. His alliance with Su Teatro was based on his desire to bring our two communities closer together.

Click here to read more about this man. Here's the notice about his memorial services:

September 5, 2009, Jeffrey Nickelson passed away at the age of 53. Jeffrey was a devoted father, an extraordinary performer, an inspiring friend, and all around phenomenal man. He was the Founder of Shadow Theater Company and has affected thousands of people in the community. He will be greatly missed by his family and friends. It is requested that no one wears black and to dress in vibrant colors as we will be celebrating his life just as his wishes were. Floral tributes may be sent to his beautiful daughter ShaShauna Staton, 907 S. Yampa Street #201, Aurora, CO 80017. Donations can be made to the Jeffrey Nickelson Memorial Fund and sent to 18963 E. 58th Avenue, Denver, CO 80249.

The Shadow Theatre, 1468 Dayton Street, Aurora, CO Saturday, September 12, 2009 10:00am

Please contact Tim Johnson on behalf of The Jeffrey Nickelson Fund to make contributions or bring them to the memorial.


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1200. Thania's Chilean travelogue & a Denver journalism forum

(See Thania's previous posting here.)

Finishing off the summer in Santiago - Travelogue

After a few days of walking around Santiago’s plazas, streets, visiting old friends, eating sopaipillas, empanadas, and dancing, I’m exhausted, but with a big smile on my face. This second visit to the country of Nobel poets Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda was full of non-touristy stops.

This time I didn’t go to La Chascona (“the uncombed”), one of Neruda’s houses in Santiago, in honor of Matilde Urrutia, his lover until 1955 and later his third wife. But I had the opportunity to talk with a novel poet of Pablo Neruda’s foundation, Ignacio Elizalde, one of only ten poets chosen this year to be part of a poetry workshop sponsored by the foundation. He is a young poet who along with the other nine is taking advantage of this workshop to polish his craft. I met him the last time I was in Chile, back when he was already writing poetry and participating in recitals all around Santiago, so it was uplifting to find he is still writing and that his country values his talent.

I also attended a high school poetry workshop led by poet Agustín Hidalgo Johnson, who in 2007 was awarded an honorable mention for his participation in Chile’s national, concurso de creación literaria joven Roberto Bolaño (contest of young literary creation). I instantly become excited when I see teenagers reciting their poetry; they are making the world a better place, one verse at a time.

This time around I didn’t take any tours. I simply walked the streets every day to hear the Chilean accent, to admire the ancient architecture that melds with new apartment complexes and see on the horizon the enormous Andes completely covered with snow. Neither did I eat at fancy restaurants, which promised a taste of Chile’s cuisine; I bought delicious sweet treats or sopaipillas from street vendors, whose hands looked clean enough. It was exciting to be back and recognize idioms and streets, to know shortcuts and how to handle Chilean currency with mastery.

One thing I did repeat--in honor of my good friend Daniel Astorga, who now lives in the USA--was to go to bars and clubs. Each city has its particular party scene, and Santiago is no exception. Bellavista for example is a long street full of bars and clubs. Some have outside tables and offer drink specials, such as pisco sour, a cocktail made of lemon, egg whites, simple syrup and regional bitters or beer Escudo--both of them, emblematic Chilean drinks. Since the bars and clubs in Bellavista are next to each other, it's customary to simply go from bar to bar, or club to club, taking advantage of the specials or the wide variety of music. There you can catch up with new trends and idioms, which are always changing.

As I mentioned in my first travelogue, I was aware that during my second stay in Chile I wasn’t going to be as anxious and full of questions as on the first. I knew Santiago had a lot to offer me, but I wasn’t sure if it was going to live up to my expectations. What I didn’t mention was that I was scared of this becoming a reality.

I love this country and my first journey is an integral part of this love. In a way I feel like Isabel Allende in My invented country: a memoir: I “invented” my own Chile. My memoir can’t compare to Allende’s beautiful book, but I believe I understand how she created her own country, nostalgically pieced together from memories and old pictures.

Chile didn’t disappoint me this time, and not being anxious nor having as many questions, I comfortably submerged myself in its culture. I learned much more about the country because I didn’t approach people with an uncontrollable sense of awe and thirst; they were more willing to converse and talk as if they were talking to any of their friends because they knew they didn’t have to slow down or speak in a neutral accent to make sure the “foreigner” understood what they were saying.

I still cherish my first visit to Chile, and on this visit I discovered that my memories of this country won't be destroyed by a second or even a third visit. I was afraid of losing the dreamy, nostalgic tones of first experience, but being here has reminded me why I fell in love with this country and why I want to keep returning. I guess I just simply added another chapter to my Chilean memoir. Let’s hope it's not the last.

Thank you, La Bloga, for hosting my travelogues.

Thania Munoz


Journalism Town Hall in Denver

For too long, local citizens have been left out of the debate over the future of journalism. As Big Media get bigger, newsrooms are closing down and more and more journalists are losing their jobs. No one knows this better than people in Colorado. It’s time for us to stand up for the news we need.

Next week we will host a free community forum in Denver to bring together concerned citizens, journalists, lawmakers and community leaders to discuss the future of journalism.

Forum: Saving the News: Denver and the Future of Journalism Date: Sept.16, 2009, 6:30 - 9:30pm Location: Colorado History Museum, 1300 Broadway, Denver

The forum will be an interactive event, designed to amplify your voice and give you the chance to debate key issues in Denver’s media. Join community leaders and journalists like John Temple, Polly Baca, David Sirota, Wick Rowland, Laura Frank and others for this important community forum.

Our media have always been shaped by policy decisions made in Washington, D.C., and policy will help decide what's next for journalism. That means that each of us has a role to play in the fight to save journalism.

Now is the time for Colorado citizens to have their say.

For more information, to help spread the word, join our Facebook event page and download posters, visit www.SavetheNews.org/Denver.

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