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1. Review: The City of Palaces. New Books. Chicago Pics. A Random Thought.

 Review:  The City of Palaces by Michael Nava

The City of Palaces
Michael Nava

Terrace Books, University of Wisconsin Press, 2014

Michael Nava published his first novel, The Little Death, in 1986. That book marked the debut of Henry Rios, a gay Chicano lawyer/detective who has become an iconic character in the crime fiction genre. The seven books in the Rios series, hailed as groundbreaking, have won six Lambda Literary Awards. The books recently were reissued in the Kindle format. In recognition of the excellence and popularity of Nava’s writing, he was the recipient of the 2000 Bill Whitehead Lifetime Achievement Award in LGBT literature. That year also marked the publication of the last book in the series, Rag and Bone, along with Nava's announcement that he had retired as a mystery writer. Lucha Corpi, one of the cornerstones of Chicana/Chicano crime fiction and a person obviously qualified to judge, has noted that many consider Nava to be one of the “grandfathers” of the Chicano mystery genre (along with Rolando Hinojosa, who published Partners in Crime in 1984. See Lucha’s Confessions of a Book Burner, page 55.)

The City of Palaces
marks Nava’s return to book length fiction, much to the relief of his many, many readers. And what a grand return it is.

Nava’s explanation of how he came to write this novel is worth repeating. Here are a few paragraphs from the author’s website:

Beginning in 1995, Nava started researching a novel about the life of silent film star Ramon Novarro, a Mexican immigrant who came to Hollywood in 1915 after his family fled their homeland during the Mexican Revolution. Novarro was one of the first generation of internationally famous movie stars, like Rudolph Valentino, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin. Nava was drawn to Novarro not only because of their shared ethnic heritage but also because it was an open secret in Hollywood that Novarro was gay.

At the same time, he became interested in the Yaquis, an Indian tribe that inhabited the northwest state of Sonora along the border with Arizona. In the late nineteenth century, the Mexico government began to forcibly evict the Yaquis from their ancient homeland, a lush river valley at the edge of the Sonoran desert, to make way for Mexican settlers. But the Yaquis put up a fierce resistance and the Mexican government ultimately pursued a policy of extermination against the tribe that resulted in its virtual extinction. Nava’s great-grandparents were among the few Yaquis who had survived by escaping to Arizona where his grandfather, Ramón, was born in 1905.

Eventually, these interests converged and he began to write a novel that would tell the story of the Mexican Revolution, the near-genocide of the Yaquis, and the rise of silent film. Midway through his first draft, he recognized that this undertaking was too vast for a single book, so he conceived a series of novels called The Children of Eve, after the line in the Salve Regina addressed to Mary, the mother of Jesus: “To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.” The first novel in that series is The City of Palaces, which is set in Mexico City in the years before and at the beginning of the 1910 Mexican Revolution.

At its heart, The City of Palaces is the love story of Alicia Gavilán and Miguel Sarmiento. Alicia is wealthy, religious, saintly, and beautiful but scarred (from smallpox.) Miguel is an atheistic doctor with a long family history of involvement in Mexico’s political scene. Miguel feels something like love at first sight when he encounters Alicia, but he struggles against his “manly” aversion to her scars. Alicia, on the other hand, may be spiritual and otherworldly, but she is sensual and most pragmatic. The two star-crossed lovers overcome obstacles put in their way by their families, the social stratification of early twentieth century Mexico, and their own inhibitions, fears, and prejudices. Yes, love conquers all.

A sure sign of excellent writing is that we read the words but see the images created by the author. As I read this book, I saw not only the decay and corruption of Mexico City at the end of the Díaz dictatorship, but I also met the people – the poor and oppressed masses that struggled together in the colonias and slums of the city, the wealthy elite hanging on to their fantasies of Europeanization and ostentatious glitter as their world collapsed, the passionate and somewhat naive revolutionaries who courageously rallied around the doomed Francisco Madero. The images are clear enough, and the writing is so direct and on point, that it does not take much to imagine this story as an HBO miniseries.

The novel sweeps through sixteen years of Mexican history. Nava has done his research, so the details are perfect. He hits high notes with his descriptions of neighborhoods, cafes and churches, references to historical figures such as Huerta, Zapata, Orozco, and Madero, and the sense of tumultuous change that was inescapable no matter how hard some tried to ignore it.

At the end, the book has transitioned to include the story of Alicia’s and Miguel’s child, José, described as a beautiful, sensitive boy who steals away from the safety of his grand “palace” to feed his secret desire for the new moving pictures, shown in dark and dirty alleys where only the most common people enter. Although there is tragedy at the end, there also is hope. The story finishes with these thoughts from Miguel: “[T]here appeared in the desert darkness an archway lit up with electric lights. It spelled out a greeting so simple in its unintentional arrogance he did not know whether the tears that filled his eyes were tears of anger or gratitude, but he wept them all the same as he spoke the words aloud: ‘Welcome to America.’” How many times has that scene been repeated by our own families?

Michael Nava tells a timeless story, a literary jewel waiting for La Bloga’s readers. I can only patiently anticipate the second novel in this series.

For another review of this book, see Michael Sedano’s post on La Bloga at this link.


New Books
University of Texas Press - July, 2014

[from the the author's website]

I'm very proud of this collection of scholarly essays. You'll find pieces on Sor Juana, on la Malinche, on Chicana feminist artists and lesbian theorists, on the murdered girls and women of Juárez, as well as a rewriting of the Coyolxauhqui myth, and an opening letter to my paisana from the border, Gloria Anzaldúa, in gratitude for her lenguas de fuego. There are also 8 color plates and 37 black and white photos. Artwork includes different images by Alma Lopez, beginning with that fabulous cover she created for the occasion of the book's publication, as well as pieces by Ester Hernández, Yreina Cervantez, Liliana Wilson, Patssi Valdez, Laura Aguilar, Deliliah Montoya, Alma Gómez-Frith, Miguel Gandert, Alfonso Cano, the "Saint Jerome" of Leonardo da Vinci, the iconic "American Progress, 1872" by John Gast, and a painting of Juana Inés by my very own mother, Teyali Falcón that she created for the publication of Sor Juana's Second Dream.

Upcoming book talks/book signings for the author:
July 29, 6-8pm
Austin, TX, August 28, 7pm

Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times, Second Edition
Luis J. Rodriguez
7 Stories Press - July, 2014

[from the author]

Join us in celebrating the book release of Hearts & Hands: Creating Community in Violent Times, Second Edition this Saturday, July 26, 2014 from 5pm to 8pm.

Live art by Rah Azul and silent art auction fundraiser during reception beginning at 5pm followed by author reading at 6pm. The event is free to the public, donations welcome.

The event will begin with a reception that will include live art by Rah Azul, a self-taught painter, muralist and poet based in the San Fernando Valley. Rah Azul's work is featured on the cover of the new Hearts & Hands book. There will be limited prints available of the book cover artwork for sale. The silent art auction will feature a special edition by this featured artist.

"Hearts & Hands is a book that belongs in the hands of any person or organization wanting to understand and work with youth and community in a respectful, meaningful way."

-Trini Rodriguez, Co-Founder of Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore

Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural & Bookstore | 13197 Gladstone Ave., Unit A | Sylmar | CA | 91342

Chicago Pics

Many of you know that as part of La Bloga's 10th anniversary commemoration several bloquistas participated in a panel at the International Latina/o Studies Conference. See Amelia Montes's most recent post for more info about and photos of the event. The panel invigorated and inspired all of us, and many of our readers and friends gathered to talk about and help us celebrate La Bloga. Seven of our eleven contributors made it to the Windy City, and we had a great time together. We hope to do something similar again. No rhyme or reason, here are a few photos taken in Chicago. 

Toddlin' Town

Palmer House Stairwell

Millennium Park - Selfie

Millennium Park - Face

Millennium Park - Heads

Dessert at Zapatista - Free for La Bloga!

Long Live the Blues!

From the Galería Sin Fronteras Exhibit at the National Museum of Mexican Art

Wrapping Up the Panel


Random Thought While Jogging Around Sloan's Lake

One of the regrettable things that has happened to Denver’s North Side, where I've lived for more than thirty years, is the rise and victory of the “suburban aesthetic”: boxy, boring housing lined up in rows; a uniform “non-conformist” style from clothes to music; restaurants that are destinations rather than good places to grab a bite to eat; an obsession about “making it,” a flaccid, common denominator cultural perspective. A great neighborhood has to be more than that.


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2. Chicanonautica: The Sun Still Also Rises

Stuck in Phoenix for another sizzling July, I’m glad I can retreat into the air-conditioning and get on SanFermin.com for vicarious enjoyment the Fiesta de San Fermín (better know as the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, thanks to Ernest Hemingway). But more goes on at the fiesta than bull running and fighting. It is a religious and cultural event. And controversy spills out of the crowded streets into the rest of the world.

As usual, it started with a protest from PETA that has become the unofficial opening ceremony. Why not? Start by acknowledging opposing veiwpoints. Unfortunately, these productions have gone from making Pamplona look like the set of a surrealistic spaghetti western littered with nude human bodies and splattered with fake blood to timid displays that look like zombies celebrating Día de los Muertos.

In advance, Kate Laycy, a runner up in PETA-UK’s World Sexiest Vegan pagent, announced that,  “I'll gladly bare my skin if it will expose the cruelty of the Running of the Bulls and bullfighting.” When the protest finally happened, there was a fully-clothed woman who looked like her, but I couldn’t tell from the one video I could track down. Maybe it was because she wasn’t wearing makeup. Maybe that’s what she meant by baring her skin.

Or maybe she was honoring the city of Pamplona’s official ban on the public showing of breasts. This transplant from New Orleans’ Mardi Gras has taken root in San Fermín. There have also been rapes, so the city has cracked down.

Last year they came out against fountain jumping -- in which people dive off fountains to be (hopefully) caught by the crowd. Though, fountain jumping and breast showing still go on.

A ritual has evolved where a woman rides a man’s shoulders (like a bullfighter being honored) and men crowd around to touch her breasts. This is every bit as brave as running with the bulls or bullfighting. Women who do this deserve to be protected. 

Men should be caballeros and protect women from attack at the fiesta.

Or better yet, women should be caballeras, and protect each other.

Maybe in the future, Amazonesque caballeras will patrol the streets, ready to use martial arts and light weaponry to prevent rapes.

Those who offer their bodies to the bulls, are another story.

There were a record number of injuries and gorings in the encierros this year. It was the Revenge of  the Bulls. Among those gored was American writer Bill Hillmann

Hillmann has just released a book, Fiesta: How to Survive the Bulls of Pamplona, that he had written with Alexander Fiske-Harrison and John Hemingway (Ernest’s grandson). Headline writers had fun pointing out the irony. Later, he wrote a first-person account “I Got Gored in Pamplona. But I Will Run With the Bulls Again.” for The Washington Post. And now, no one can deny that he is an expert on the subject.

And of course, there was bullfighting. Juan José Padilla, Borja Jiménez and El Juli wowed the crowds. And despite what the protesters say, everyone know that the bulls die -- it’s done in public, in broad daylight, the press is there, and you can watch videos on the interwebs.

Some people are predicting the end of bullfighting in this century, with the “anti” movements in various countries. But the pendulum swings. 

Spain has declared it an Intangible Cultural Heritage, and is petitioning UNESCO to add it to the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritiage of Humanity.

And even if it’s banned in Spain and Mexico, there are so many other countries. 

Did you know that bullfighting is legal in France? They do it in ancient Roman arenas in Nîmes and Arles.

I wonder if it would ever be legal in the U.S.A, or at least, once again, Aztlán? Not far from were I live is the University of Phoenix Stadium -- it’s been used as many other things, so why not a bull ring? And we could set up a corridor for the encierros in the parking lots . . .

Ernest Hogan moved this year’s report on San Fermín to La Bloga to connect Latino culture with the rest of the planet. !Viva la Raza Cosmica!

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3. Macondo Public Reading

Please join us this Friday, July 25, from 7:00-9:00pm, at the historic Guadalupe theater in San Antonio Texas for a FREE PUBLIC READING by notable "MACONDISTAS" (a group of socially engaged professional writers and participants of this year's Summer Macondo Workshop) 

Confirmed readers include: San Antonio poet laureate, Laurie Ann Guerrero, former San Antonio poet laureate Carmen Tafolla, Gabriela Lemmons, Joe Jimenez, Jose B. Gonzalez, Ben Olguin, Rene Colato Lainez and more talented writers.

About The Macondo Workshops: 
The Macondo workshops started in 1995 at the kitchen table of the poet and writer Sandra Cisneros in San Antonio. These yearly workshops aimed to bring together a community of poets, novelists, journalists, performance artists, and creative writers of all genres whose work is socially engaged. Their work and talents are part of a larger task of community-building and non-violent social change. What united them was a commitment to work for under-served communities through their writing. 

With the blessing of its founder and the board of the Macondo Foundation, the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center administers the summer Macondo workshops.

This unique environment is unlike any other literary initiative in the United States. It is premised in Cisneros’ vision to create a homeland for writers who are working in underserved communities. Macondo has fostered a vibrant and growing community of writers who view their writing as way of giving back to the community and changing lives by fostering literacy.

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4. Noelle’s Treasure Tale

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

While exploring the amazing Children’s Literature Department at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles,  a book caught my attention. Noelle’s Treasure Tale is written by the first Hispanic woman to be named BMI songwriter of the year Gloria Estefan and splendidly illustrated by Michael Garland.

Noelle is a lovely and smart brown bulldog with a playful spirit. Noelle’s determination is crucial in order to search for the treasure that will change her life for good. Estefan’s brilliant and melodic verses engage children page by page for an awesome journey. Vivid illustrations, peculiar characters, and energizing rhythms welcome you in Noelle’s world to discover the Queen’s gold crown.

Noelle’s magical and mysterious adventure has an exclusive CD single inside “See With Your Heart” heavenly interpreted by Gloria Estefan for an unforgettable reading experience.

Visit your local library for more incredible stories. Reading gives you wings! Hasta pronto!

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5. Get Out of Line

Michael Sedano

Get out of line. Go back.

I couldn’t hear the others—if they said anything at all. I struggled to make out forms and faces in the dim light that peopled the blackness now with row upon row of assembled figures whose numbers built crowds filling the blackness with a finite infinity of spirits. I wasn’t sure I could see them at all. They were ignoring me.

Except for that message. Go back. I did not know the voice.

I knew them, however. The ancestors. I’d seen them before, that day they’d gathered in the shadows of my mother’s hospital room. Her shallow breaths and motionless form filling my awareness with a different pain. That day the antepasados told me take her home with me, give her a final year of respite and peace.

Today I could not escape the pain burning through me, sending me past the edge of awareness out of the light and into that blackness so total I did not know was I crawling, flying, standing still? But I knew They were out there, and whether I was in a tunnel, a cloud, a concrete nothingness, I persisted toward them.

I expected to see my Dad and my Mom, and groups of gente I didn’t know but instantly recognized as familia. Dimly, the figures began to emerge from blackness. I glimpsed seated and standing souls where there had been none. Groups of little kids played silently around family circles. I ached to hang in the Mora branches and listen to that group of adults telling stories. A face smiled in laughter, a palm slapped a lap as the group shared their favorite jokes.

There wasn’t enough light. I pulled and pushed and clawed my way toward them but made no advance. I began to thirst for light.

My fingers lifted a heavy drape and the ancestors disappeared. The sounds of my distraught familia now gathered around me in the ICU emerged from blackness and cried for illumination. I wanted my family in this world to hear the message I brought.

I had no voice. I was crying for light.

One of the men recognized what my fingers were doing. “He’s spelling Morse Code! From the Army a long time ago. Look!”

I tapped three times. “S” he said. I held up a finger, that’s right it was screaming. I tapped short and long, but no one recognized ‘A’. Dah-dah-dit. Dit.

One of the women said, “is he dyslexic? He’s making letters in the air backwards!” They read the letters together:


I wanted to scream what the ancestors told me on the other side. We would have to begin again.

“Sage,” I whispered and after a few seconds they heard it.

I’d been told to get out of line and return to my people in this world. My people in this room in Huntington hospital, my precious grandchildren in their beds who did not know they’d almost lost grampa. Now we will come together and start again, and I will tell them.

I had died but been turned away by the ancestors.

I’ve been hospitalized for 12 days now, and will remain here another week. When I finally get back home, we will gather outside and I will tell them. We buried Pete and Helen with sage; as my grandmother would have said they were the last of our tribe.

We begin again. We will gather, burn sage, and tell stories. In my ears I’ll remember the voice, “mi’jo, go back.”

FYI: Two weeks ago I went to the ER with a perforated gut that got cut out. Three days after that my spleen exploded.

Now an extended recuperation begins. I'll read a lot, write a lot, remember all this.

Western medicine is a marvel. Not just the technology and medicines, the people. Wondrously caring gente attending to sickness throughout the night. Incredibly smart, all the top students in their classes showing how their teachers were right: these are top notch scientists and care-givers, the best our modern culture creates. So many immigrants.

Still, el cucui--the spirit world--looms large in gente with traditional experiences and values. Without the antepasados to keep me here with their powerful medicine, I wouldn't be able to tell you more.

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6. Three questions for Sheryl Luna regarding her poetry collection, “Seven”


Sheryl Lunaearned a PhD in contemporary literature from the University of North Texas and an MFA from University of Texas, El Paso. Her first collection, Pity the Drowned Horses, received the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2005. Luna’s poems have appeared in Georgia Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Notre Dame Review, Puerto del Sol, and other magazines. She has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the Ragdale Foundation, CantoMundo, and the Anderson Center.  In 2008, Luna received the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation Award from Sandra Cisneros.

Luna’s second collection, Seven, was published by 3: A Taos Press in 2013, and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. It is an exhilarating poetic expression, one that both disturbs and centers the reader, sometimes with the same piece. Sheryl Luna kindly agreed to sit down with La Bloga to discuss this latest effort.

DANIEL OLIVAS:Seven is your second collection of poetry after Pity the Drowned Horseswhich won the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize.  What differences, if any, were there between the writing of your first book as compared with the second?

SHERYL LUNA: Writing Seven was more difficult because I was dealing with more intense personal issues including recovery from trauma and PTSD. The book was a long process of facing my own demons and hoping to share that recovery is possible. I was more aware of language and linguistic play and the poems are more playful and surprising. Pity the Drowned Horses dealt with place and home where Seven deals more with psychological space and topics such as homelessness and cultural trauma. Both books take a feminist stance and both took years to write.

DO: You divide your collection into seven sections (hence the collection’s title). Why did you decide to do this and how does this structure affect the rhythm and meaning of the collection as a whole?  

SL: The seven sections are based on the seven sins, as well as the seven charities: lust, chastity, gluttony, temperance, greed, charity, diligence, sloth, patience, wrath, kindness, envy, humility, and pride. I tried to blur the sins with the virtues as sometimes a sin can actually be a virtue and vice versa. Each section explores what is deemed good and what is deemed bad and how that can sometimes be blurred. Also, themes such as abuse and violation are examined through language that I hope is compelling. 

DO: “La Chingada” is one of my favorite poems inSeven which begins: “She collected branches for her burning, limping / on a once broken ankle. Cortez advised we cook / in the stillness before sunrise….”  One of the elements I enjoy about it is your conflation of historical figures of the conquest (Cortez and La Malinche) with contemporary imagery and vernacular. Could you talk a little about this particular device and what it allows you to do within a poem?

SL: I think the historical is always related to the present. Human nature has not changed much over the centuries. We are still torn by our complex instincts and emotional responses. By exploring La Malinche I could examine both personal trauma, as well as cultural trauma. Utilizing a historical figure allows me to criticize the historical and the consequences that has for the present. The present is connected to the future as well. Looking through the lens at the past is tied to the present in that we can hopefully change the future for the better, whether that is personal or cultural.

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7. La Bloga "in person" in Chicago: Celebrating 10 years and over 1 million Readers

Our La Bloga "PREZI" digital presentation for the audience
(Thank you to Mitch Christopher Hobza for creating the PREZI)
La Bloga writers presented in Chicago this past week (July 18th) at "Imagining Latina/Latino Studies: An International Latina/o Studies Conference." The conference, at The Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, marked a major stride in working toward the formation of a Latina/Latino Studies Association.  Kudos go to a large community of professors, students, and staff who made this happen.  (CLICK HERE for more information.

Business Meeting to vote to establish a Latina/Latino Studies Association
Latina y Latino Studies:  vibrant and strong!
Maria Hinojosa, Award winning journalist, anchor & producer of Latino USA on National Public Radio
Maria Hinojosa was the plenary moderator for "Perspectives on the State of Latina/Latino Studies"
It also marked the first time that the majority of La Bloga writers came together to speak about "La Bloga" and to celebrate our ten year anniversary in person.  Many of us write our La Bloga posts in solitude and communicate with our La Bloga members through e-mail, texting, Facebook, and Twitter.  What a thrill it was to finally meet in person.  It was also exciting to meet some of our readers and to hear what they had to say about our blog site which reaches over 1 million readers within and outside the United States.  Here is a pictorial of some of the highlights: 

La Bloga writers (left to right): Daniel Olivas, Olga Echeverria, Amelia Montes, Xanath Caraza,
Manuel Ramos, Lydia Gil, Rene Colato

Audience "paparazzi" taking photos of us
The picture above occurred right after the La Bloga writers presented. These audience members had stayed after we finished our panel.  They simultaneously took out their phones and began to photograph us.  I suppose this is what it feels like to have paparazzi approaching you all at once for a photo.  So we decided to make it interactive and we took photos of them taking photos of us!  

A note on those taking photos of us:  many of them were archivists and librarians, telling us (reminding us!) that our work is an important record of Latina and Latino culture, art, music, literature, health, and personal commentary.  It was quite a revelation to hear how audience members work in libraries and classrooms, consulting our La Bloga book reviews for literature to list in their course curriculum, to include in their book, film, and music purchases.  They also include our posts in their classroom lectures and presentations. They also gave us quite an overwhelming task to consider:   to archive ten years of work!  

Dear La Bloga Reader: Thank you for your support these ten years. The beauty of La Bloga is that we bring a diversity of perspectives to you regarding contemporary (and past) fiction, film, art, music, culture, food, topics on politics, health, and the latest national and international events.  Because we bring our individual perspectives, we illustrate the diversity within Latinidad.  

We hope to reunite again in the future.  Here's hoping we see you next time!

La Bloga celebrates at Zapatista Restaurant in Chicago.  (Left to Right: Daniel Olivas, Rene Colato, Olga Echeverria, Manuel Ramos, Xanath Caraza, Amelia Montes)
Celebratory dinner at Zapatista Restaurant:  La Bloga and friends!
There was also a bit of time to have a look at Chicago's beauty:

Gorgeous echinacea (pale purple cornflower) growing in one of Chicago's botanical gardens
Echinacea (pale purple cornflower)
culver's root (midwestern native perennial plant)

Flo Ramos made these beautiful cards for the audience!  Thank you, Flo!

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8. Puños de Gaza and mestizo children on our border.


I am in Taos for the weekend, for the Fiestas de Taos, surrounded by histories of peoples going back tens of thousands of years. I'm eating well, staying in the great Casa Taos facility, anticipating sitting down with one of America's greatest writers, advocate of Chicanismo--and I should be primed to do a worthy posting today.

I'm not.

My head buzzes with bits and scenes, descriptions and words about 50,000 children attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, niños you've read and heard about for weeks. Children that certain heartless Americans don't want here, don't want to take in, not considered good enough to be taken care of, like adults are supposed to treat children. Hatred, racist epithets and the basest behavior of my species featured on headlines and newscasts, every day.

I could say or write thousands of things about that, but I can only manage a few.

Because, also buzzing in my head is the running casualty list coming out of Israel. A number that's passing 200. 200, including children, Palestinians who are being attacked by technologically superior armed forces led by Israeli generals, directed by the Israeli government and supported apparently by the majority of Israeli citizens who do have civil rights. And paid for by my taxes.

My gov't says we support "the right of the Israelis to defend themselves." [Last I heard, at least one Israeli had been killed during the time that the 200 Palestinians were slaughtered.]

The Israeli's actions remind me of a conversation I once had with a Jewish woman. She said she agreed with the Chicanos' Aztlán, the lost location of the Aztec's original homeland in the U.S. Southwest. That for Chicanos to gain their civil rights, their rightful place in this country, retaking Aztlán was an honorable goal. And that that's all the Israeli's were doing in Palestine.

If the Chicanos were to retake Aztlán like the Israeli's are disenfranchising Palestinians, like they are dismembering the Palestinian homelands, like they are dislocating families, like they are strafing kids on beaches, with missiles, then the Chicanos would be guilty of crimes against humanity, of genocide, of neo-apartheid. Yet, somehow my President says, the Israeli's "have a right to defend themselves." I agree with him no more than I agreed with that blinded Jewish woman.

What the Israelis, particularly the Zionists, have done and continue to do in Palestine is not about being Jewish. The "Jews" are not the problem; the Zionist apartheid is. I've noticed some Chicanos getting sloppy in the heat of their anger and disgust about this crisis. Don't get sloppy. All Anglos do not support the mistreatment of the border mestizos. Nor are all Jews responsible for what goes on within Israel. Many within both countries actively oppose their governments' inhumanitarian actions.

There's so much more to say, but my head's too buzzed.

I'm in no mood to review a book, post some of my fiction, share pics of my trip to Taos. Because there are children on opposite sides of the world--around the U.S. southern border and behind concrete walls and barbed wire in Gaza--children who are an embarrassment to my government, forming two humanitarian crises that the American people, as a whole, are not buzzed about.

Two humanitarian crises that make it difficult for me to enjoy myself in Taos.

I believe, that's how it should be.

Not just for me.


Go to Border Angels if you can aid the Border children. Do what you feel you can about the children in Gaza.

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9. Open Letter to the International Latino Studies Conference in Chicago

Melinda Palacio

La Bloga represents at the International Latino Studies Conference in Chicago this week. Since my plans to join La Bloga's panel and reunion were squashed by my broken leg, Amelia asked me to write a short statement, one paragraph, she could read as mediator of our panel. My short statement turned into a long letter, which I decided to post today.  Everyone may read my contribution to La Bloga's panel, even if you are missing out on the conference.

July 18, 2014

First, I'd like to thank Dr. Amelia Montes and my fellow members of La Bloga for this opportunity. This conference, celebrating the past, present, and future of Latino Studies is very important. Had I not broken my leg, I would certainly be amongst you. I was looking forward to connecting with academics from my past and those who have recently hosted me in my present role as author, poet and speaker. Furthermore, in my role as teacher, I've had the privilege to teach Fiction through the online MFA program of theUniversity of Arkansas at Monticello. In my role as author, my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, has been included in a scholarly book by Dr. Cristina Herrera, Contemporary Chicana Literature: (Re) Writing theMaternal Script (Cambria Press 2014).  

Today, I am honored to discuss my work as a team member of La Bloga. I often cover the writing life. For this year's conference, I chose to present a past blog post from 2010 that documents my process as a "low-tech writer." Even though we, at La Bloga, take advantage of high-tech tools, such as our online web log or La Bloga you are used to reading everyday, some, such as myself, first sit down with pen and paper and draft what will become a dynamic non-fiction article or personal account, complete with links and photos for the world wide web archives. Writing for La Bloga has made keeping up my author website rather easy. I often add photos, events, and blog entries after they have been up on la bloga. In other words, I steal from myself. This open letter to the conference will be up on La Bloga today and later next week, on my author website. All of our La Bloga posts remain in the web archives for future perusal by our readers and study by professionals in the fields related to Chicano and Latino Studies.

            In documenting the writing life, I also feature other writers in forms of interviews, Q&As, and guest columns so that my blog posts represent a larger, mostly Latino, but global (or world wide) writing community. However, sometimes, I simply document events from my life, such as taking a stroll through Audubon Park in New Orleans, where I live part-time, or the events of my broken leg and subsequent operation (see my blog post from July 4). Today, if you didn't hear all of this letter, you can read it on La Bloga.

Gracias! I hope to see everyone next time. If you have specific questions for me that this open letter does not answer or if you wish to invite me to speak to your students, please email me at melindapalacio@gmail.com. You can also find me on twitter at LaMelinda or on Facebook or on my website.

Thank you, again,

Melinda Palacio
author of the novel Ocotillo Dreams(Bilingual Press) and the poetry collections Folsom Lockdown (Kulupi Press) and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting (Tia Chucha Press). 

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10. Carlos Contreras y su tiempo cumplido

El poeta Carlos Contreras explora las prisiones físicas, emocionales y espirituales en su reciente poemario "Time Served" (Tiempo cumplido).

Contreras, nacido en Albuquerque, comenzó a escribir poesía cuando tenía 17 años, descubriendo en el verso una manera de canalizar ansiedades y retos.

Desde entonces se ha destacado no solo en el verso escrito, sino también como declamador en el ámbito de la poesía slam.

Su experiencia como campeón de slam le infunde una cierta oralidad a la poesía de Contreras, destacando el carácter narrativo de sus textos sin sacrificar los elementos líricos.

Contreras despliega imágenes vívidas de la vida diaria y la cultura popular, escritas en un lenguaje escueto y coloquial, lo cual favorece la lectura dramática del texto.

La colección mezcla poemas en verso y pasajes narrativos que el poeta concibió con la representación en mente.

Tras su publicación en abril, Contreras ha representado el texto como monólogo poético en varios escenarios de su natal Albuquerque.

La primera parte del libro, titulada "Invencible", está dedicada a la experiencia de su padre como soldado durante la guerra de Vietnam.

Contreras se considera heredero directo del conflicto ya que, según afirma, el trastorno de estrés postraumático marcó su vida familiar durante su infancia y adolescencia.

"Debí haber sentido y heredado algunas de sus ansiedades, porque de vez en cuando siento un poco de mi padre dentro de mí", confiesa Contreras en el prólogo.

"Es como si algo dentro de mí provocara el mismo dolor", escribe. "El dolor mi padre, mi padre invencible".

Los poemas de esta primera parte entremezclan recuerdos de la infancia y adolescencia del poeta con los de su padre como soldado de 18 años tratando de sobrevivir el infierno de las selvas de Vietnam.

En el poema "Alone" (Solo) Contreras se remonta a un recuerdo de adolescencia: la advertencia de su padre de nunca dejar el auto sin gasolina porque si se quedaba a mitad de camino, su padre no lo iría a recoger.

El recuerdo se yuxtapone a uno ajeno, el de su padre, quien pasaría una noche solo con su arma en la selva, habiéndose quedado sin gasolina y bajo órdenes de nunca abandonar el vehículo.

La segunda parte del libro recoge la experiencia de poetas encarcelados. Durante cinco años, Contreras se desempeñó como maestro de inglés y de escritura para adultos detenidos en el penal metropolitano de Albuquerque.

Esa experiencia se traduce en versos que cuestionan los múltiples significados de la libertad y del tiempo y cómo transcurren dentro y fuera del presidio.

Los poemas de esta segunda parte son más escuetos en lenguaje y más desgarradores en contenido. La esperanza intenta colarse entre los versos, como la luz entre las rendijas de una celda.

El poema "Dream Deferred" (Sueño pospuesto) imagina la salida, cuando la luz de afuera parecería un "caleidoscopio de esperanzas".

Los 22 poemas de "Tiempo cumplido"  exploran cabalmente las múltiples interpretaciones del verbo "cumplir", sea por necesidad, deber o condena.

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11. 2014 Pura Belpré Medal Award Celebración

The Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a divison of the American Library Association, and REFORMA (the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate, ) hosted the Pura Belpré annual Celebración  to honor the 2014 medal and honor winners on Sunday, June 29, 2014 at Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 and honors Latino writers and illustrators whose works of art best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in a  book for children. It is named for the first Latina librarian who distinguished herself for her storytelling and outreach work with children and their families while working for the New York Public Library during the first decade of the twentieth century.

Los Ganadores

From left to right  Meg Medina, Matt de la Peña, Margarita Engle, Yuyi Morales, Rafael López and Angela Dominguez

Palabras from Meg Medina winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré award from the novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.

"Buenas tardes a todos. Good afternoon. I just love hearing you say the title. It’s funny how books come to be. Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass wasn’t supposed to be a novel. In fact, if it had been left up to me, the very idea for this book would have been left alone, dried out and harmless. It would have stayed one of those memories from childhood that was better left buried."

Palabras from Yuyi Morales winner of the 2014 Pura Belpré award from the picture book, Niño Wrestles the World. 

"I come from a great magnetic place of poetic beans, automatic cac- tuses, astral farmers, supersonic fire-eaters, cybernetic cowboy char- ros, and neon-colored serapes. It is actually called Mexico; I live there now. It is my great joy to come to my beloved country of work, from my beloved country of birth, to join this celebration of niños, niñas, reading, and books—this freedom to cross from one land to the other, I treasure in the name of all of those who don’t have it. And, yes, I would fly or walk or swim or cross a bridge to wherever a Pura Belpré celebration is happening, because what better company to have than you to celebrate not only this year’s awards, but also the 10th anniversary, diez años, of having received my first Pura Belpré Medal?"

You can find the complete 2014 Belpré Award acceptance speeches at http://www.ala.org/alsc/sites/ala.org.alsc/files/content/awardsgrants/bookmedia/belpre-14.pdf

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12. The Chicana Traveler Puts a Cork In It

Guest columnist
Xicana Travelougue: Week 1
Sarah Rafael García

Ireland was one of Papi’s travel tales. Although Papi himself never traveled beyond Mexico and the United States, he infused my mind with limitless opportunities to cross over different borders.

“Mira mija, you’re American, tu vas tener la oportunidad de conocer ese país. Imagínate, one day you’ll go there!” His ink-stained fingertips tapped on the newspaper page that told of some green countryside in Ireland. Papi worked in the print room of the OC Register for 10 years; along the stories printed he also shared the lives of the other immigrants who worked with him. Needless to say, Vietnam, Samoa and Colombia are also countries on my travel list and he is the reason I share my stories.

Finally, at the age of 40, here I am. Writing in Ireland. “Si Papi, I know, I know you were right. It’s more than I could’ve imagined back then.” But from this point on, I have to learn to live and write for myself. I have chosen to present a final piece to him in a country that struggles with preserving their identity—as many of us do.

I’m in Cork, Ireland on a study abroad experience through early August. I look forward to sharing this country with you in the weeks ahead.

Beyond Timoleague
For Papi

Thump, thump. Thump, thump.
The odor of musk resurrects the past.

I turn my head for an escape,
agony unearthing the stones at my feet.
Wish it away! Wish it away.

Find solace in the damp grass.
Inhale until the malady subsides,
fill all the crevices within.
It’s not even past!

The clucking of life,
Cacrack, cacrack.
Cwaw, cwaw.

Rising, quietly, misty view ahead.
Shiny mudflats adorned with winged spirits,
savoring sweetness of grassy hues.
The buzzing at my head,
the earth pressed in my palms.
In such stillness, life goes on.

Behind me,
silence echoes—swaying to and fro.
Buried crosses,
endless knots,
a whispered name.
Shhh…listen to it again.

Once a prayer, today a reminder.
Peace will never be.
Nor here, nor there,
the past is never dead.

Forever in my thoughts,
“May his soul be at God’s right hand,”
because I know I am not.

(A response to a visit to Timoleague. Inspired by "The past is never dead. It's not even past." -- William Faulkner & "Timoleague Reveries" by Steve Wilson.)

Sarah Rafael García is a writer, community educator and traveler. She has trekked the Great Wall of China sixteen times and backpacked Australia from Melbourne to the Daintree Rainforest. Since publishing her memoir Las Niñas in 2008, she continues to share her passion by founding Barrio Writers and hosting Wild Womyn Writers workshops.
Her writings have been featured in Connotation Press, Label Me Latina/o, Brooklyn & Boyle, LATINO Magazine, Santanero Zine and Flies, Cockroaches and Poets. Sarah Rafael is currently attending Texas State University’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. Her works promote community empowerment, cultural awareness and global sharing. www.sarahrafaelgarcia.com

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13. Images in Words

Images in Words:
Recreating la poesía by José María Hinojosa
Translated from the Spanish by Mark Statman

Reviewed by Xánath Caraza

BlackTulips: The Selected Poems of José María Hinojosa (UNO Press, 2012), “Foreword” by Willis Barnstone, accomplishes several tasks: an introduction to José María Hinojosa’s work and then translation and poetic recreation in English by Mark Statman. 

The lyric strength that José María Hinojosa expressly left in his poetry of pre-Civil War Spain, as part of the Generation of ‘27, creates a voyage through time through Mark Statman’s impeccable translation in 2012.  Through the prism of this treatise, the interpretive expertise proliferates; “A splinter of light pierces the black tulips”, being in the place of the other, becoming one with the phrases of the other, being of another context is the edge that Black Tulips asserts.   Statman revives a poet who was nearly forgotten.  For the delight of readers, Statman has recreated Hinojosa’s poetry in this translation.
Black Tulipsbrings to life an almost forgotten poet.  Due to Hinojosa’s right-wing conservative political convictions, different from mine, he became a persona non-grata among the rest of the Generation of ’27 in Spain.  In a role as literary detective, Statman understands the political context of pre-Civil War Spain and rediscovers Hinojosa.  However, Statman doesn’t conform with rediscovering Hinojosa; he recreates the lyrical strength of Hinojosa’s poetry in English, as the reader can see in “Relief”, where an innocent stroll along the sea shore portraits the mystical within the ordinary in the eyes of Hinojosa.  Statman’s translation of the first stanza is as follows:

I carry two lights at a time,
placed over my pupils
and I run without stopping
seeking on the shores
in vain,
the light that will fill my vision

 At first glance Black Tulips is a book that takes the reader’s breath away.  By re-reading Black Tulips, it is a book that celebrates each of the images from Hinojosa’s poetry as well as from the translations recreating what Statman carefully elaborated as in “Viento en el bosque”/”Wind in the Forest”.  For this poem, it is challenging to distinguish which one is the original text and which one is the translation.

Luz de fondo de mar
es la luz de los bosques.

Siempre es un tronco más
el cuerpo de algún hombre.

Luz de fondo de mar
y arriba el temporal.

Arrugado en la atmósfera,
olas de verde vienen,
olas de verde van.

The light at the bottom of the ocean
is the light of the forests.

The body of a man
is always one more trunk.

Light at the bottom of the ocean
and above the storm.

Wrinkling the atmosphere
green waves come,
green waves go.
There are five books of poetry by Hinojosa that Statman introduces in Black Tulips: Poem of the Country (1924), Poetry in Silhouette (1926), The Rose of the Winds (1926), Shores of Light (1927) y Blood in Freedom (1931). In Black Tulips, the reader may perceive Hinojosa’s evolution from the poetry of the land, el campo, to surrealist images until reaching the personal, love and courtship.  Among the poems that reflect the passion for el campo, the land, “Harvest” is one of my favorite poems that Statman delicately recreates. Personally, I can hear the song of summer and feel the silence of air.

These ears of grain
the song of summer

A silence of air
makes silent
the fields.

Reaper of songs
place your scythe
in these fields
and cut in their time
the song of the oceans.

            Complementing Statman’s poetic talent in this translation, I would also like to mention the artistic talent of Katherine Koch’s elegant painting which celebrates “Sueños”/ “Dreams” on the cover of Black Tulips.

Smear your body
with darkness
and silence
and you may raise
the cup of dreams.

Mark Statman is the author of A Map of the Wind (Lavander Ink, 2013), Tourist at a Miracle (Hanging Loose, 2010) and, with Pablo Medina, Federico García Lorca’s Poet in New York(Grove, 2008).  Other books include Listener in the Snow: The Practice and Teaching of Poetry (Teachers & Writers, 2000) and The Alphabet of the Trees: A Guide to Nature Writing (Teachers & Writers, 2000).  His work has been published in numerous publications and anthologies.  He is Associate Professor of Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for the Liberal Arts. Statman enjoys dancing ritmos cubanos and cooking Cuban food, la comida de su niñez.
tchung Books, Watchung, NJ
Sometime late February--New Orleans!!!!
At AWP Boston, early March, look for signings and readings

Black Tulipsis available on Amazon and for more information on the translator and poet go to markstatman.com http://markstatman.com/.  

Poet, Mark Statman enjoys dancing ritmos cubanos and cooking Cuban food, la comida de su niñez.

Mark Statman’s recent books are two of poetry, A Map of the Winds (Lavender Ink, 2013) and Tourist at a Miracle (Hanging Loose, 2010), and two of translation, Black Tulips: The Selected Poems of José María Hinojosa (University of New Orleans, 2012) and, with Pablo Medina, Federico García Lorca's Poet in New York (Grove 2008). An Associate Professor of Literary Studies at Eugene Lang College, The New School for Liberal Arts, his work has been nominated for numerous prizes, including the Pushcart Prize and the National Translation Award, appears in nine anthologies, and such publications as Tin House, South Dakota Review, Hanging Loose, and APR. A recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Writers Project, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and a Joseph Murphy Scholar (Columbia), in September 2013, he signed a three book contract with Lavender Ink, two for original poems, one for translation. The first of these, That Train Again (poems), will appear in early 2015.

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14. Sonia Gutiérrez: Spider Webs in the Wind

Olga García Echeverría

The mountain trembles,
and tippy toed
            I release my spider's web
to the wind.

La montaña se estremece,
y de puntitas
            suelto mi telaraña
al viento.

--Sonia Guitiérrez
excerpt from "Spider in the Tangle"

Since she was a chiquilla, Sonia had a knack for weaving words and stories. A lizard who grew back a severed tail could, in Sonia's eyes, easily be compared to a resurrected Jesus. When asked one evening by her sister if she could rap, Sonia seized the challenge and busted out a bold impromptu sing-song-palabra-something. Words were hers to play with, words were hers to mold. And although her parents were without degrees and “without letters,” they were everyday wordsmiths, their language rich with wit, dichos, and inventiveness.

When she was 25, Sonia says that poetry came looking for her. Guitiérrez took the arrival of the Muse seriously and started weaving poema tras poema. Sometimes the silvery threads she spewed were in Engish. A veces le salian en español. Many times they came beautifully entangled, los hilos of both languages shimmering.

In 2013, Sonia's first book of poems, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, was published by Olmeca Press. The collection, Sonia writes, “evolved over endless spin cycles that spanned over twelve years,” and its release into the world was much like releasing a spider's web to the wind.
This past week, I had the opportunity to catch up with Sonia and ask her a few questions about her current musings and about the journey since the release of Spider Woman: La Mujer Araña.

Bienvendia, Sonia. We are happy to have you here again at La Bloga. Spider Woman: La Mujer Araña came out in 2013. If you had to choose eight words (in honor of the spider's 8 legs) to describe your journey post the publication of your book what would they be?
Freedom, lazos-de consciencia, love, cariño, responsibility, amor again.
What has been the most gratifying part of releasing your creative work to the wind, al mundo?
Sharing Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña in Spanish, a language I did not learn in a K-12 setting, has been the most gratifying experience. The publication opened many doors in México, from Tijuana’s the Centro Cultural Tijuana to the Instituto de Cultura de Baja California. At the end of my reading in Hermosillo, Sonora, for Horas de Junio, a woman in the audience rose to her feet and said, “Your poetry opened my consciousness and made my stomach churn. I want your book.” I was so moved by her words I wanted to cry.
And here in the US, what has the response to your work been?
In the US, I have shared my work in both English and Spanish. Last fall, Dr. Manuel Martín-Rodríguez extended an invitation to both Ángel Sandoval and me to UC Merced’s Chicano/a Literature Series. Professor Francisco J. Bustos also invited Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña to South Western College’s Guest Writers Series. Francisco X. Alarcón, poet, role model and mentor, invited me to the Congreso Universal de Poetas Hispanoamericanos (CUPHI III) held in Los Angeles, California. At the event, Dr. Luis Alberto Ambroggio, introduced Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña; acclaimed poets from Latin America attended the event—and the audience embraced my poetry.
This fall Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña will be a part of California State University San Marcos’s California Arts & Lectures Series, and I will also be joining a panel at City College’s International Book Fair. I look forward to seeing where Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña is going next.
What has been the most challenging part of the journey thus far?
Incorporating movement in my life has been the greatest challenge. Writing is a sedentary life style, and that is not good. I do my best to walk and work out at least fifteen minutes a day. Another challenge has been changing my favorite time to write. I used to stay up and write until two o’clock or three o’clock in the morning when everything was so quiet, and I could only hear my thoughts. Not anymore. My body deserves a healthy lifestyle and sleep.
So how do you balance it all--motherhood, teaching, writing, health and rest? How does Spider Woman navigate the different realms and keep producing poesía despite all the responsibilities and the everydayness of todo?

I told a friend, who asked me a similar question a few months ago, “Parenting drains me, teaching energizes me, and writing is my Zen.” In order for me to be happy—all my passions must be in perfect alignment. I cannot sacrifice my children for my writing; I cannot sacrifice my writing for my children; I cannot sacrifice my teaching for writing . . . To be happy, I must do what makes me happy—all of the above. Sometimes I clean, write, grade, teach, and cook all in one day, and then other days I simply cannot. And it’s okay! My partner is also a professor and supports what I do. It wasn’t always like that.

What advice would you give to other mujeres out there who are creating literatura (or trying to) in the midst of so many other responsibilities and roles?

People may criticize you for writing, including your own mother . . . , but never let go of you because writing is central to your existence.

What is your writing process like in regards to creating poems in two languages? Do your poems tend to originate in one language more than the other?
I love writing poetry in both languages! If I do not translate a poem, my work feels incomplete. In Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, some poems were born in English; others were born in Spanish. As I was finalizing the collection, my writing process changed though. If, for instance, a poem had been born in Spanish and the English translation was not poetic sounding, I would go back to the original poem (I still do) and recrafted the original version until the translation felt solid. Now I even find myself writing a poem and its respective translation at the same time. If I will be submitting a poem to a Spanish-written publication, such as The San Diego Poetry Annual, I impose on my creative writing process and force the poem to be born in Spanish—that’s how “Memografía” was born. My novel, on the other hand, was born in English.
Do you have a piece in the collection that you frequently read aloud at readings or events? Something that seems to speak to live audiences?

When I have a public reading, I have to feel the room. I ask myself: What poems must the audience listen to? From the Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña, “Memografía”/”Memography,” “The Calculated World of Monsters”/“El mundo calculado de los monstrous” and “Mi bandera”/“My Flag” are three poems that speak to all audiences.
Do you have a favorite "quiet" piece in the collection? I am thinking, for example, of poems that are not often read aloud, but that speak to you personally/intimately for some reason or another.
Oh yes. I cried at my first public reading in Oakland, California at the Intertribal Friendship House. I didn’t know I was going to cry. When I read “Brown Child,” a poem about miscarriage and the desire to procreate, I learned I could only read that poem to myself. The womyn in the audience were very understanding. “Brown Child” is my quiet poem.
And "The Passing/El viaje"? That poem is a beautiful tribute to your mother. It tugs at the heart.
“The Passing”/”El viaje,” a poem about my mother teaching me how to cook mole and the persistence of memory, should be a quiet poem. However, even though it hurts me to read it aloud, I share “The Passing” to keep the memory of my mother and her spirit alive.
What is Spider Woman currently weaving?
I am crafting Legacy/Herencia, a bilingual poetry collection. I hope to be done by the end of year—and if I am not—I wouldn’t be disappointed. Revisiting Kissing Dreams from a Distance has crossed my mind. (I am waiting to hear from a university press.) Starting another novel has also crossed my mind—the main character is taking form.

Muchisimas gracias, Sonia, for taking time from your busy schedule to share some of your insights with our readers. We wish you much success and look forward to more and more of your spider's webs being released into the wind. Nos despedimos with Sonia's poem, "The Passing," which is dedicated her mother, Estela Gutiérrez.

The Passing


Before the passing, you recite
your recipes to me. I want to write
ingredients and measurements--trap
them with letters and numbers.

You say, "No--taste. Look--
remember," as your frail hands
sift through powdered sesame seeds
heavy with timeless recuerdos.

The taste buds of your fingertips
reside with ancient memories
of the moon's umbilical cord--

Your kitchen emanates the work
of molenderas of times past,
grinding almonds, stirring warmth,
tasting chocolatl.


Today, I make mole in your honor.
The sesame seeds on the comal
turn a cinnamon brown.
The sweet scented entrails
of chiles pasilla dig
into adobe huts
and pyramids. Your griot hands
have become mine.

Mother, you are not gone; you live
on the tip of my tongue and fingers,
craving the memory of you.

Sonia with the book she is currently reading

Sonia Gutiérrez is a poet professor, who promotes social justice and human dignity. She teaches English Composition and Critical Thinking and Writing at Palomar College. Her poetry has appeared in La Jornada Semanal, Magee Park Poets Anthology, Fringe Magazine, Revista Ombligo, and contratiempo, among others. 

La Bloga is home to her Poets Responding SB 1070 poems, including “Best Poems 2011” and “Best Poems 2012.”

Her bilingual collection, Spider Woman/La Mujer Araña (Olmeca Press, 2013), is her debut poetry publication. Kissing Dreams from a Distance, a novel written in the Tomás Rivera and Sandra Cisneros literary tradition, is seeking publication. She is at work on Legacy/Herencia, a poetry collection. Recently, Sonia was invited to join Poets Responding to SB 1070 as a moderator. To learn more about Poets Responding to SB 1070, visit Facebook. To learn more about Sonia, visit: SoniaGuitierrez.com

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15. Your Great American Novel - free ideas to use

Chicano author Ernest Hogan
This post follows what Ernest Hogan's Thursday post, Chicanonautica: What If a Chicano Wrote the Great American Novel?, and Manuel Ramos's, yesterday, The Great American Novel, Continued.

About Ramos's ideas, Adriancommented, "Just write your heart and what happens, happens. Only time and history will tell, if anyone ever gave a rat's tuchas." Since some of you might give a rat's ruchas right now and want to write that GAN---Chicano or otherwise--here are ideas you can incorporate into your manuscript.

Author Manuel Ramos
Ramos already described one set: "A novel that beautifully captures the pain and joy and mystery of living in 21st century America, that honestly deals with race and gender and sexual orientation and immigration and militarism and climate change and love and death, with a fresh but obviously American perspective.”

My proposal for a GAN isn't to conflict with or improve on what Ramos described; it's just another one, taken somewhat from different angles.

The Plot - Aggression. To encompass all that's truly American, a GAN's plot should follow the "plot" of American (U.S.) history. In the first half, include the Three Great Desecrations--as someone termed them--of the theft and attempted genocide of the American Natives. Follow that with the enslavement, dehumanization and exploitation of Afro-Americans. Then, the invasion and theft of the Southwest from the Mexican people, and the subsequent lynchings and denial of civil rights and full citizenship.

The plot should include most of the wars begun by the U.S., especially bringing your setting into the future. From the Vietnam War on, there's plenty of material for plenty of wars of aggression chapters. (You'll have to exclude WWII, the war against the more-fascists.) Since you're writing fiction, not history, you'll need to put the setting in the background and link it to your characters' lives, decisions and personalities.

Antagonist - Bad Guys galore. You'll have a problem limiting the number of antagonists, given the hundreds that history has provided us. Pick only the richest cabrones and the cruelest políticos who kept them in power. White people, in general, and simpleminded, pendejo racists don't make for well-developed antagonists. Cheney of course will live long in infamy, but a satanic bad guy who's totally off the deep end of abomination might bore some readers.

Transformers are not heroes
Protagonists - heroes for our times. In the spirit of what Ramos suggested, do not go the route of a lone hero, even just a lone Chicana heroine. Or giant robots, either. Instead, create your own Justice League that includes several nationalities and races, both sexes, etc. Something like Tolkien's Fellowship of the Rings, without whitish guys hogging the glory. Yes, it should include a couple of progressive or revolutionary-minded Anglos, for diversity's sake.

Themes - Individualism or ? Avoid the temptation of appealing to Americanized audiences with an Ayn Randish, individualistic, it's-all-about-me, Wild West, lone-heroes-ride-in-to-save-the-day theme. In our times, individualistic heroism is Death, of the species. On the other hand, communal values (without organized religions' prejudices), tribal identity (without empire-building mentality), and self-development minus the competition gene--all that can be drawn on from our common, humane, genetic make-up. You'll just have to nurture it because it won't happen naturally.

Post-apocalyptic SnowPiercer
Setting - Apocalyptic or Post? TV, cable and Hollywood have pushed the Bad-Times-to-Come idea over a cliff. So, what do you do? Try a different perspective. Instead of vampires, frozen Earth, devastating plagues or Mean Militias America, make your setting more realistic. What would you and others actually do?

If it's truly the End of Times, courtesy of our political parties, fossil-fuel industries and the 1%, from the beginning of your novel, focus on la familia learning to cope. Friends who learn to help each other. Neighbors who join to defend themselves and keep all the good guys happy. Multinational cooperatives that band together, not just to survive, but to create a new way of life. Maybe one that greatly resembles some old ways of life.

Climax - how good can you make it? I don't want to spoil the ending, so I leave that to your imagination. If you've read Octavia E. Butler's Parable of The Sower series, you will see some of my ideas are influenced by her. Influence, acknowledged. Go find yours.

Now that your GAN is finished, you're not done. You'll have to sign copies--many--and figure out which groups and peoples to donate the money to. If you were to keep it all, you might wind up turning into one of your antagonists.

Buena suerte with your writing,
RudyG(not known as a GANovelist, yet.)

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16. The Great American Novel, Continued

Ernest Hogan’s post on yesterday’s La Bloga, What If a Chicano Wrote the Great American Novel?, was, as usual for Hogan, provocative. With me, it provoked thoughts along the lines of “What IS a Great American Novel (GAN)?”

Typically, this question is answered with titles of books written by, as Hogan describes them, “heroic, white, male alcoholics on manual typewriters.” Although I don’t know if all these guys were alcoholics, here are ten books that often are referred to as “great American novels."

The search for the GAN, or, is the whale really white?
Moby Dick - Herman Melville
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - Mark Twain
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
The Sound and the Fury - William Faulkner
Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
Rabbit, Run - John Updike
On The Road - Jack Kerouac
The Adventures of Augie March - Saul Bellow

The ultimate question for those who ask such things is: Which of these is THE Great American Novel?

But this list could just as easily include Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, Beloved by Toni Morrison, My Antonio by Willa Cather, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. Could it include a Chicano or Chicana? Would Bless Me, Ultima suffice? How about any of Rolando Hinojosa’s Klail City Death Trip Series? The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros? Revolt of the Cockroach People by Oscar Acosta?

And so for me (and Ernest Hogan) the question eventually becomes: Could I, a Chicano writer, write The Great American Novel?  (The question assumes I am capable of writing a great novel.)

Digging into this question requires a bit of context. So, here’s a tiny bit of history.

One place to start is an essay on Slate (2012) entitledThe Great American Novel: We’ve Been Looking for One Since the 1860s. Why?” written by Maria Konnikova. Konnikova asks the question from the perspective of a U.S. writer of Russian heritage. She first contends that GAN is a bizarre concept. The idea of looking for a great novel is certainly an admirable search, but why attach a nationality to literature? Good point. Makes me ask, “Do Mexican critics, academics, and writers fret about who has written the Great Mexican Novel?”

This acknowledgment of the weirdness of the idea of a GAN raises the old question about whether Chicano/a writers are served better if their writing is defined as (U.S.) American Lit or Ethnic Lit or maybe just plain old Lit. One Chicano writer I know, in fact a man whose books could certainly compete in the great GANs contest, told me that he worried about “narrowing his audience” if too many labels were attached to his work. That is a fear I can relate to. In the more than twenty-one years that I have been publishing fiction, my work has been labeled, at various times, as mystery, ethnic detective, Chicano mystery, crime fiction, Chicano Lit, noir, hard-boiled, and so on. I have to wonder if those kinds of categorizations simply serve to keep readers away who might not identify with the particular label.

Konnikova goes on to summarize the flexible definition of the GAN, surmising that it has changed depending on various crises, problems, and social movements. However, it does appear that there has been one aspect that has remained consistent. Here’s a quote from the Slate article:

“In an 1868 The Nation essay, Civil War veteran John William DeForest—himself an aspiring GAN-ist—described the GAN as 'the picture of the ordinary emotions and manners of American existence,' a work that painted 'the American soul.' And what, precisely, did that soul entail? There was but one real—though unquestionably daunting—requirement: it had to be supremely national in breadth and scope.”

So we might be looking for books that portray the “American soul.” Books that are national in scope. DeForest excluded The Scarlet Letter from consideration as a GAN because it lacked “national” scope. But no one denies that The Scarlett Letter is a great book, right? Thus, great writing, a great story, and great characters do not necessarily equal a GAN, but I would add that every GAN must have great writing, a great story, and great characters. I tend to agree that if we must have a definition for the GAN, it appears appropriate that it should say something about the national character, something about the “American” existence at the time of the writing of the book. But, of course, a well-written story can do that even if it is about a small community, or only a few individuals. The scope does not have to be coast-to-coast.The writing has to be world class.

Konnikova notes that the characteristic of writing in a national vein almost immediately produced dialog and rebellion. Writers complained that writing about “Americanism” was a trap. One example --  “In 1926, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in an essay on Hemingway, lashed out against the inherent parochialism of the 'American' epithet. In his estimation, it not only had no place in great writing as such, but hampered novelists who were trying to achieve anything of distinction. The 'necessity for an American background' caused writers to be 'stupid-got with worry.' Even those of talent had 'botched their books by the insincere compulsion to write "significantly" about America.'"

After reading some of the commentary about the GAN and what it has meant to literature, I can’t help but worry that the search for the GAN is another example of our (United Statesians) never-ending attempt to define ourselves on the world stage as “The Greatest.” With typical North American arrogance, when we say Great American Novel we really mean Great World Novel. On the other hand, defining (or writing about) a national identity is not an easy job. Good luck to any writer who attempts to tackle that task.

At the end of the day, here’s what I think. Sometime in the not too distant future, a Latino (could be a Chicana, Puerto Rican, Dominican, whatever - could be Anaya, Cisneros, Diaz, Vea, Gilb, or someone has yet unnamed – could be living in East Los, the Bronx, San Antonio, Miami, or wherever) will write a book that will amaze and frighten and move to tears. The critics will exclaim in surprise and unity that “it took a (fill in the blank) from (fill in the blank) to write The Great American Novel of today. A novel that beautifully captures the pain and joy and mystery of living in 21st century America, that honestly deals with race and gender and sexual orientation and immigration and militarism and climate change and love and death with a fresh but obviously American perspective.”

And several writers I know will look at one another, smirk, and say, what else would we write about? And a few will add, shit, you should read my book.


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17. Chicanonautica: What If a Chicano Wrote the Great American Novel?

While going over my notes from my latest road trip with my wife, I felt good. Damn, I almost said aloud, I’m really good at Americana.

But then, when I do it, and put it out for the world to see, it becomes Chicanonautica. Even when readers don’t now anything about me, my point of view comes through loud and clear. I can’t help it.

In a motel in Flagstaff, I channel surfed through an alarming number of TV news stories about racism. An election is coming, and The Border is becoming an issue again. Rumors of cannibalism, human sacrifice, and Aztlán secessionistas are being dusted off, and thrown into the hysteria mills. As one of the anti-immigration protestors in Murrieta, California said, “We want to be safe.”

I’ve seen it happen in Arizona . . . a few Spanish words, some brown skin, and --  PANIC ATTACK!

And with the gradual militarization of The Border, who knows what kind of back up would be called?

So I shouldn’t be surprised when someone finds it odd that I’d write about America as an American, even though I was born in East L.A., but I’ve always resented it when someone decided that I didn’t look “American” enough for them.

I had mixed feelings when I saw Oscar Zeta Acosta in an anthology of “Latin American” writers. It was nice to see him with all those classy foreigners, but doesn’t he get to be considered an American writer? 

Do I get to be considered an American writer?

Acosta had to sue Hunter S. Thompson to get his books published. It’s still not easy for a Chicano to break into the white man’s publishing industry.

What would happen if a Chicano wrote the Great American Novel? Our families have incredible stories of the American Dream.

Hmm . . . Could the Great American Novel be about an illegal alien? Because, aren’t we all illegal aliens under the skin, kemosabe?

Naw, better let it drop. New York wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole. Another one of those brilliant ideas that “they” don’t know how to market.

Or are they just afraid?

Or maybe it’s just nostalgia for when American literature was hammered out by heroic, white, male alcoholics on manual typewriters, and U.S. immigration policies inspired the Nazis.

People wonder why I stick to surreal, pulpy sci-fi instead of going for proper literature . . .

Meanwhile, it’s time to check out the online coverage of La Fiesta de San Fermín AKA “The Running of the Bulls” in Pamplona. Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises doesn’t do justice to what the Fiesta has evolved into. I’ve really got to get back to work on my futuristic bullfighting novel.

Ernest Hogan wishes a rapid and successful recovery to Bill Hillman, the American writer who was gored in Pamplona this week.

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18. La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco

Review by Ariadna Sánchez
Tacos are consider the most emblematic Mexican dish around the world. Tacos also contribute to the creation of the Mexican identity in every single bite.

La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco is the result of an exhausted research by Alejandro Escalante and Editors Déborah Holtz and Juan Carlos Mena. This book gives the readers an amazing journey through history and one-of-a-kind taquerias in Mexico City.  Taquerias serve a variety of options giving the customer a rainbow of succulent alternatives to enjoy.  La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco is written only in Spanish and has already printed their second edition. So if you want to practice your Spanish this summer here is a great opportunity while preparing some tacos, molotes, quesadillas, and tlayudas.  Mmmmmmmmm

The book contains mouthwatering recipes and stunning photographs that will make your senses go wild. Run to the local library and check out La Tacopedia. Enciclopedia del Taco for more interesting facts. Reading gives you wings ¡Qué ricos son los tacos!


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19. International Latino Book Awards 2014 winners

¡Felicidades!  Congratulations!

To to see the complete list of winners visit, https://m.app.box.com/view_shared/n5jar49ckpbzltfv2umc


By Estela Bernal

On Amanda’s thirteenth birthday, her father is killed by a drunk driver while on the way to pick up her birthday present. She’s stunned when she overhears her mother blaming her: “If she hadn’t insisted on that stupid watch for her birthday, he would still be alive.” Her mom retreats into extra shifts at work, leaving Mandy with her grandmother and making her feel as if she has lost both parents.
To make matters worse, she’s the butt of cruel pranks at school. One day, some girls even glue her skirt to the chair! But things take a turn for the better when she befriends Paloma, an unusual new student at Central Middle School, who introduces her to yoga and meditation. And she reluctantly becomes friends with Rogelio, a fat boy who is bullied even more than she is by their classmates.
Mandy’s new friends, a dog named Lobo and an interesting school project help to ease the pain of her father’s death and her mother’s absence. She maintains a connection to her father by writing letters to him each night. But will she always be invisible to her mother?
Estela Bernal’s debut novel, a fast-paced and entertaining read for middle school teens, explores tough issues—including death and bullying—with sensitivity and humor.

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20. Kweli & Lalo

Kweli Journal
3rd Annual Writer's Conference

Monday, July 7th at 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Readings and craft talk with Jennine Capó Crucet at La Casa Azul. Hear the backstory behind her novel, Magic City Relic, and story collection, How to Leave Hialeah. With this award winning writer and former sketch comedienne, we are in for a treat!

Tuesday, July 8th at 6:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. Readings by and conversations with Jeffery Renard Allen, author of Song of the Shank and Morowa Yejidé, author of Time of the Locust. Allen's novel tells the story of "one of the 19th century’s most famous entertainers, the blind piano prodigy and autistic savant Thomas Wiggins" (Mitchell Jackson, New York Times book review). Yejidé's novel "is a fearless rendering of a family’s struggle to cope with single motherhood, fatherlessness, and a child’s autism" (Jonny Temple, publisher and editor in chief of Akashic Books). A. Naomi Jackson will moderate the discussion. Jackson is the 2013-2014 ArtsEdge resident at the University of Pennsylania's Kelly Writers House. She studied fiction at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, where she was awarded the Maytag Fellowship for Excellence in Fiction to complete her first novel, Who Don't Hear Will Feel. 

Wednesday, July 9th at 6:30 p.m. 9:30 p.m.

Participating Agents / Editors at Dumbo Sky 

Malaika Adero, Vice President and Senior Editor, Atria Publishing, Simon & Schuster

Seeking Fiction: African American, International, Literary, Commercial, Women's, Speculative, Historical, Erotic Nonfiction: Autobiography, Biography, Popular History, Mind/Body/Spirit, Inspiration, Popular Culture, Current Affairs, Fashion/Beauty, Health, Personal Finance

Dawn Davis, Vice President and Publisher, 37 Ink

Seeking a variety of genres including literary fiction, narrative non-fiction, history, memoir and pop culture

Cheryl Klein, Executive Editor at Arthur A. Levine Books, an imprint of Scholastic, Inc.

Seeking middle grade novels and young adult fiction

Julia A. Masnik, Literary Agent at Watkins / Loomis Agency, Inc.

Seeking literary fiction, biography, memoir, and political journalism 

Michael Mejias, Literary Scout at Writers House

Seeking Latino/ Latin American authors

Latoya Smith, Editor at Grand Central Publishing

Seeking short and long form mainstream romance and erotica, as well as African American fiction and nonfiction

Steve Woodward, Associate Editor at Graywolf Press 

Seeking literary fiction and nonfiction     

Manuscript consultations will be provided off-site by Sulay Hernandez, Owner of Unveiled Ink Book Consulting

Participating Authors

Jeffery Renard Allen, author of Song of the Shank
Mitchell S. Jackson, author of The Residue Years
Sergio Troncoso, author of Our Lost Border
Neela Vaswani, author of You Have Given Me a Country
Morowa Yejidé, author of Time of the Locust

The conversation will be moderated by Bridgett M. Davis. Her forthcoming novel, Into the Go-Slow, will be released on September 16, 2014.

Si no conocen la alquimia del compatriota Eduardo Lalo, aquí tienen una pequeña muestra:


(Y de paso les recomiendo "80 grados" que tiene como lema "Prensa sin prisa").

Aviso para los amigos que viven en Colorado:  Eduardo Lalo estará en Denver del 23-26 de octubre con motivo del Congreso de la Asociación de Estudios Puertorriqueños que se llevará a cabo en la Universidad de Denver.  Más detalles, pronto...

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21. Broken in New Orleans

Aligator at Avery Island

What started out as an outing to one of my favorite gatherings, the Women's National Book Association (WNBA), turned into an evening spent in the Emergency Room at Oschner Baptist in New Orleans, followed by surgery two days later.

Two weeks ago, after putting on a dress and summer shoes with no back strap, I simply tripped and fell down the stairs. I never made it to the WNBA potluck. There's no exciting story about twerking gone wrong or fancy foot stepping in a second line or a heroic jump into the swamp to rescue a child from the jaws of an alligator. Given the magnitude of my injuries, my story is mundane.

More Gators

I descended the green carpeted, angled, spiral stairs. My shoes went flying off, I tumbled down the last steps leaving me with a swollen and bruised left ankle, a broken right fibula,  a dislocated right ankle and my right foot twisted and turned in the wrong direction. One very painful misstep.
The Stairs
There was no doubt at all the fall was bad. Steve found me on my back, cradling my wrong-facing foot. He scooped me up, asked me if I could use my left swollen ankle, and put me in the back floor of our green Honda Element.

My Bird's Eye View

From the floor of the Element, I had a bird's eye view. I tried to focus on the beauty of seeing nothing but branches from leafy oak trees and the upper stories of shotgun houses. I did my best to visit a place beyond the pain of every little bump and pothole. The tiniest bounce from the car caused ripples of pain to radiate from my broken foot to every inch of my being.

When we finally arrived at the ER, I was taken aback by three things. First, I'm in a wheel chair, saturated in the most pain I've ever felt, and before any formalities, a nice hospital attendant puts a sheet over my lap to protect my modesty. My grandmother would be happy that I was wearing good underwear. Second, the faces and expressions on everyone at the hospital said it all. Each person winced, mouthed Ouch, some chimed in with the obvious, OOOh, That Must Hurt. And, third, the most irksome part of the situation, was the formality of having to fish out my ID and insurance card while I sat with my bent knee, leg pointed towards the sky, cradling my  broken leg and wrong-facing foot.

I panicked when I saw all the people in the ER's waiting room. I wondered if they would wheel me to the side and tell me to wait because I didn't have a life-threatening gun shot wound or something potentially fatal. Relief came when they wheeled me to a room, started a morphine drip, along with other powerful drugs that left me relaxed enough for them to relocate my ankle and contort my foot into place.

in the E.R., patched up, ready for a cast

The doctor, who shared a name with my sister Emily, told me I would be fitted with a hard cast the next day and that I would be sent home, after six hours of being in the ER, with a prescription for pain pills. All this information was acceptable to me. I was dejected, however, when the orthopedic surgeon, who was supposed to put a cast on my leg, apologized and said he had to operate immediately. Immediately, in medical bureaucracy speak, meant the next day.

I've had foot and ankle injuries all my life from years of ballet and modern dance. However, I have never broken anything, let alone had to have an operation with pins and plates inserted in my leg and Frankenstein stitches to hold the two halves of my leg skin together.

On Tuesday, July 7, the surgeon will remove the stitches. Next month, I will be able to put weight on the leg. After three months, I will be able to drive again.

Let the Healing Begin

My freak accident forced me to slow down. I didn't need all this pain to get the memo. But as many friends have pointed out, I have more time to write. I also realize how lucky I am to have so many people rooting for my speedy recovery, sending love and healing thoughts my way, and taking time to make life a little easier for me. I am blessed.

Have a safe July 4th

Melinda Palacio is the author of the novel, Ocotillo Dreams, and the poetry collections Folsom Lockdown and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting.

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22. Diversity in spec lit. Sci-fi and PoC. Calls for diversity submissions.

Lots of opportunities, to hear what People of Color are saying about the need for diversity in speculative lit, and place to submit your spec stories. From editors looking for diversity in different forms. Gente, read on.

Alternate Visions: Musings on Diversity in SF

Vandana Singh
Vandana Singh, born in New Delhi, India (now living near Boston), writes:
"The best speculative fiction, like travel, does that to you – it takes you to strange places, from which vantage point you can no longer take your home for granted. It renders the familiar strange, and the strange becomes, for the duration of the story, the norm. The reversal of the gaze, the journey in the shoes of the Other, is one of the great promises of speculative fiction.

"This is only one reason why we need diversity in speculative fiction. And by diversity I don’t just mean white writers including other places and races in their fiction – that has its importance, but I don’t consider it here. What I am really interested in is the fiction of authorsfrom different countries, cultures, races, genders, sexual orientations, physical abilities and experiences. The former is – emphatically — not a substitute for the latter.
Thoughts as to why some of us might write SF, and why diversity in SF is absolutely necessary: such as for writers from post-colonial nations to imagine their own futures, their own alternatives, is a deeply revolutionary, freeing act. We need new paradigms, new ways of relating to the non-human universe, if we are to survive the climate crisis. The postcolonial, so called ‘third world’ nations, and indigenous communities within the ‘first world’ are being/will be most deeply affected by climate change, despite having done the least to cause the problem.

"Let’s keep calling out instances of narrow bigotry, of suppression of marginalized voices. Let’s keep talking, being honest, owning what we write, owning up when we mess up. Let’s keep using words from our mother tongues, our other tongues, so that those unused to it can get at least a glimpse of the world from our various perspectives."

Read her entire article Alternate Visions: Some Musings on Diversity in SF.

Diverse writers on reviewing the Other

Another worthwhile read is Inclusive Reviewing: A Discussion by Samuel R. Delany, et al. Strange Horizons, a magazine of and about speculative fiction and related nonfiction, published the transcript of a round-table discussion of issues raised by Nisi Shawl in her essay, Reviewing the Other.

Excerpt: "Speaking as the Other myself, I marvel at the possibilities created by the linguistic gap. Say you are a Mexican, a Venezuelan, or a Brazilian; which reviewer, trying to write in English, will write the truest, honest-to-God English text? There is no right, accurate answer to this (it would be an unspoken expectation), but maybe the Mexican would have more knowledge of English due to geographical proximity to the US, while the Venezuelan and the Brazilian wouldn't have this advantage. But the Mexican and Venezuelan are Spanish speakers, while the Brazilian is a member of the only people in Latin America who doesn't speak Spanish, only Portuguese. For all three of them the conundrum is the same: every time they start writing in English, they will almost necessarily—at least in the first draft—add totally different cultural baggage. This might seem obvious but nobody seems to think that might generate an entirely different review and that's where the Other really enters the stage."

Junot Díaz in L.A.

Via Facebook, Junot Díaz sent this:
"Junot Díaz reads from This Is How You Lose Her. Finally, a Los Angeles appearance! I'll be doing an event Friday, Sept. 19 - Skylight Books @ 7:30pm, 1818 North Vermont Ave., L.A. Voy a Los Angeles el 19 de Septiembre! Libreria Skylight. Nos vemos ahí, sí?"

My advice is that you go hear and talk with Junot--he's an experience. Erudite, smooth, some say cute. And gente may think he thinks much of himself, but then, there is much to his work and his dynamic presentations. Muy recomendado.

Jim C. Hines edits E-book on sci-fi diversity

"13 essays on the importance of representation in science fiction and fantasy, with an introduction by author Alex Dally MacFarlane. Proceeds from the sale of this collection go to the Carl Brandon Society to support Con or Bust.

Description from Hines: These essays do a marvelous job of answering the question, Why does representation [diversity] matter? and of looking at different types of representation in spec genres. I’m a big believer in the importance and power of story. The contributors to Invisible showed me new aspects of that power, things I hadn’t necessarily considered before. [Includes bonus material from Gabriel Cuellar and Ithiliana.' On sale for $2.99.           

Learning to write about "us," the Other

Last week, K. T. Bradford posted: "I had the honor to teach at a week-long Writing the Other workshop and retreat. Writing about people and places outside of the cultural 'norm' or one's direct understanding is hard to do. It's called Writing the Other, and it's a skill that must be learned and often worked at diligently by people who want to be great writers." The workshop and writing retreat was held in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and included authors Mary Robinette Kowal, Nisi Shawl, Cynthia Ward and David Anthony Durham.

"They challenged 26 students to dive into dialect and dialogue, gender and sexuality, disability, writing the Other in history, and world-building. The workshop/retreat was an opportunity to hang out with the teachers, opportunities for one-on-one critiques -- plus the freedom and safety to ask questions and make mistakes. The leading question was: Why not just avoid writing characters who are a different race or gender or class or religion from you?"

Also check her listing of articles called Writingtheother's Public Library.

Even famous Anglo authors' works get whitewashed

white guy from the film

Ursula K. Le Guin, Americanauthor of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasyand science fiction, wrote about her Earthsea series in her article, How the Sci Fi Channel wrecked my books. Here's some excerpts:

"The Sci Fi Channel aired its final installment of Legend of Earthsea, the miniseries based—loosely, as it turns out—on my Earthsea books. The books, A Wizard of Earthsea and The Tombs of Atuan, which were published more than 30 years ago, are about two young people finding out what their power, their freedom, and their responsibilities are. I don't know what the film is about. It's full of scenes from the story, arranged differently, in an entirely different plot, so that they make no sense. My protagonist is Ged, a boy with red-brown skin. In the film, he's a petulant white kid.Readers wondering why I 'let them change the story' may find some answers here.

"Most of the characters in my fantasy and far-future science fiction books are not white. They're mixed; they're rainbow. In my first big science fiction novel, The Left Hand of Darkness, the only person from Earth is a black man, and everybody else in the book is Inuit (or Tibetan) brown. In the two fantasy novels the miniseries is 'based on,' everybody is brown or copper-red or black, except the Kargish people in the East and their descendants in the Archipelago, who are white, with fair or dark hair. The central character Tenar, a Karg, is a white brunette. Ged, an Archipelagan, is red-brown. His friend, Vetch, is black. In the miniseries, Tenar is played by Smallville's Kristin Kreuk, the only person in the miniseries who looks at all Asian. Ged and Vetch are white."

Le Guin is an Americanauthor of novels, children's books, and short stories, mainly in the genres of fantasyand science fiction.

Bryan Thomas Schmidt anthology of "non-Western writers"

Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Can People of Color who live in the U.S. be considered "non-Western?" Editor Schmidt will be dealing with that problem in his next anthology:

"People who are living or have lived in non-Western cultures, especially the ones they write about, will absolutely have a leg up, as authenticity is really important to me. I hope to publish more stories by non-Western writers than Western."

DESCRIPTION: "An anthology of the culture clash between aliens and people of Earth’s various cultures as they encounter each other on Earth or in the universe. Stories should not all be Western earthlings. I’d love to have as many stories, authors and cultures represented as possible. Of course I will take the best stories. People need to learn about cultures and perspectives and that has educational value. I want them to see the nuances and differences of peoples, worldviews and cultures but not necessarily in a threatening or overly controversial way.

"Seeking authenticity, I want a good balance in the cultures, stories, and locations recommended. Research any culture you choose. Do not write what you think they are. Do not write stereotypes. I am inviting a few Western writers whom I know have traveled and have strong cultural knowledge, sensitivity and passion for places they visited. I really do want something authentic. Not every Mexican is the same, for example, but please have it so your Mexicans are real enough my actual Mexican friends would tell me you got it right. (I do have friends around the world who will read for cultural authenticity before I make final selections, so I want authentic.) What are the odd little cultural quirks people exhibit which would strike outsiders as odd but insiders, as perfectly normal?"

Submissions Open: July 1, 2014 through September 15, 2014
Word Counts: 3000-7000 words; pay rate: $.06/word ("I would accept a really good story longer than 7k, but contact me, and it will be under much more scrutiny. 3-5k is my sweet spot, honestly. 5-7 is okay.")
Publication, Late Summer/Fall of 2015 (TBD)
Submit to: WorldEncounterssubs AT gmail.com
Submissions outside these dates and parameters may be rejected and possibly cannot be resubmitted. I reserve the right to close submissions at any time if the slush pile is too big and I have what I need. No money is promised or contracts offered until the Kickstarter funds. No simultaneous submissions.

[It's very advisable to read his entire submission guidelines.]

Bryan Thomas Schmidt is author/editor of adult and children’s speculative fiction. His short stories appeared in magazines, anthologies and online. He edited the anthologies Space Battles: Full Throttle Space Tales #6 for Flying Pen Press, Beyond The Sun for Fairwood Press, Raygun Chronicles: Space Opera For a New Age for Every Day, and Shattered Shields for Baen Books. His YA anthology Choiceswill be out from Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2015.

Editor looking for diverse protagonists

C.C. Finlay will edit two more issues ofThe Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction in 2015. Finlay has published half a dozen books and dozens of stories, been translated into sixteen languages, and nominated for some awards.

March/April 2015 issue of F&SF - Reading period: Aug. 1-15, 2014  
Sept./Oct. 2015 issue of F&SF - Reading period: Jan. 1-15, 2015
Stories can be submitted online at this link.

I E-mailed Finlay to ask if he'd considered tabulating PoC stats, like how many stories he received with non-Anglo protagonists or from authors who are black, latino, etc. He responded that he'd love to see that kind of data, but didn't know a way to estimate about authors without asking them to provide identifying information, which some might be reluctant to do.
La Bloga question:  If Finlay is open to the possibility, what about other editors of magazines and anthologies? Why shouldn't latinos and other PoC request (demand?) this from those who decide which stories are getting published? How could PoC collectively launch such an initiative?
Finlay did respond that he would again be looking for diverse protagonists in stories and, depending on submissions and time, might try to keep track of that. He thanked me for the suggestion. You can go to his Nectar for Rejectomancers post for a breakdown of past submissions he received for the July/August issue he edited. Something it would be good for writers to see from all editors and publishers.

For latinos with a spec "Punk" story

From Susan MacGregor, an On Spec magazine editor, comes this first Call for Submissions for On Spec's new Punk Theme issue, on all things 'punk'.

Steampunk, Cyberpunk, Biopunk, and many other types of ‘punk’ derivatives have become popular sub-genres of speculative fiction. What classifies them as ‘punk’ are a number of literary devices that include:
1). Setting: specific technologies associated with particular ‘ages’, ‘societies’ and/or time frames (both the past or future), e,g., the Victorian Age often defines Steampunk (but not always). Nanotech experiments of the future may define Biopunk, (but not always).
2). Tone: a sense of novelty, or being on the cutting edge of that particular technology, within its time frame.
3). Style: language and/or a narrative style specific to that particular technology, reflective of the time, and/or writers of that time.
4). Characterization: wide open. Characters can reflect their time and the concerns of their place in that time, or be transplants from another time and/or genre. 

Sub-genres include, but are not limited to: Atompunk, Biopunk, Clockpunk, Cyberpunk, Decopunk, Dieselpunk, Dreampunk, Mythpunk, Nanopunk, Stonepunk, and others. For further definitions, this Wikipedia link on Cyberpunk Derivatives may prove helpful.

From Sept. 1 to Oct. 15th, 2014, we will seek the best of each "punk" sub-genre, top stories that represent their particular punk sub-genre. We are looking not only for the best, but what is new, what hasn’t been ‘punked’ before. Originality is the name of the game. If you have a piece that explores the themes and technology of a new era and/or society, we want to see it. We’rll consider everything 'punk', from the serious to the ridiculous. Surprise, delight, and amaze us!

Word maximum: 6,000 words. Accompany your submission with ‘PUNK THEME ISSUE’ in the subject line. Estimated publishing/issue date: Spring, 2015. We will post about this on On Spec’s new and updated website shortly; check it for full submission guidelines. Hold off on sending manuscripts until the submission window; anything before Sept. 1 will be deleted. Read all the guidelines.

A mother answers why latinos should write latino spec lit

In Antariksh Yatra's article, above, she said, "I came across an essay by Norman Spinrad in Asimov’s magazine, in which he discoursed knowingly about why there was no third world science fiction. Because, he said, third world cultures have no conception of the future. One could write a thesis on all the things wrong with this."

Partially in answer to Norm, La Bloga received this comment to Ernesto Hogan's post, Chicanonautica: Who’s Afraid of Diversity?:

"My son is 12; he loves sci-fi, but I have noticed it does pander to specific demographics. Thanks to all of you for bravely going where your sci-fi spirits take you. I will definitely be inspired to have my son read your works. Gracias por inspirar a una nueva generación de aficionados del sci-fi latino! :) LaSirena

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG, aka Chicano spec lit author Rudy Ch. Garcia

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23. Up Close and Personal: What It Was Like When Verónica Reyes Heard She Won First Place

Verónica Reyes (center) and Laurie Ann Guerrero (right) holding their First Place award winning plaques,
at the International Latino Book Awards Ceremony in Las Vegas
A week ago, June 28th to be exact, poets Verónica Reyes and Laurie Ann Guerrero heard their names called as first place winners for the International Latino Book Award for poetry.  They both came up to the stage together, sharing the first place award.  Verónica Reyes won for her book of poetry, Chopper!  Chopper! Poetry From Bordered Lives, and Laurie Ann Guerrero won for her book of poetry, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying.

There were many winners that night which also included our own “La Bloga” writers, Xánath Caraza, who was awarded with an Honorable Mention for her book of fiction, What the Tide Brings/Lo Que Trae La Marea (which also won a 2nd place award for the translation). Our own Manuel Ramos also won Honorable Mention for his mystery novel, Desperado: A Mile High Noir.  The list of winners is long.  In his July 2nd “La Bloga” posting (CLICK HERE), René Colato Laínez added the list of winners to his post.  I am following René’s lead to send you the listing again (CLICK HERE).  Latino literature continues to grow! 

So what is it like to be inside the International Book Awards ceremony?  What is it like to hear your name and accept an award?  I asked Verónica Reyes to give us an up close and personal description and here’s a snapshot of her experience: 

Amelia Montes:  I learned that the event was in Las Vegas.  Tell us how you arrived and did you bring anyone with you? 

Verónica Reyes:  Yes, I traveled to Las Vegas via car with my family. My two sisters, Maria Elena (Lena) and Gloria (Lizzy), and niece, Sylvia (Lena's daughter) and nephew, Julio (Lizzy's son--he is 9). My niece is a teacher for the LA Unified.

Amelia Montes:  How wonderful to have so many family members there with you!  Was the award ceremony one event or were there other events to attend? 

Verónica Reyes:  The award ceremony was one evening, June 28. But it was held during the ALA Conference. Each writer, who signed up, had a booth.  We had an assigned hour to sell and sign books. It was more like half an hour.  The other half was supposed to be inviting in the folks for the writers who were sitting at the booth (a half hour for each). I was there Friday evening and Saturday morning. I met a really sweet MLS gay boy librarian to be. He was very nice. I sold a book and made a new friend.

Amelia Montes:  Who else did you meet or see that you knew?

Verónica Reyes:  Of course, I saw Laurie. We saw each other on stage when we got our pins. Afterwards, I saw René Colato Laínez. I heard there were others, but I did not cross paths with them.

Amelia Montes:  Very exciting.  What was the actual award ceremony like?

Verónica Reyes:  So the awards were announced via category (new mc for each category) and they had a screen, where the winners were announced, including first, second place and honorable mentions. Each first-place winner came up and had 20-30 seconds to give a speech.

Amelia Montes:  Wow—the pressure to speak for only 20-30 seconds!

Verónica Reyes:  For me I actually thought I would win for best cover design [Verónica did win 2ndplace for best cover design!]. After that, I did not think much. I thought Lorna Dee Cervantes would
Lorna Dee Cervantes won 2nd Place in Poetry for her book, Sueño
win or Laurie Ann Guerrero.  I had not prepared anything. So at the moment all this happened. I was giving my Julio, a Lifesaver candy, and was about to pop one in my mouth when I heard the Best Poetry in English category. I tossed my dulce back in my bag and listened. When I heard my book title, I just jumped out of my seat and skipped down the steps. This event was held in the auditorium at Clark County Library [in Las Vegas]. I saw Laurie and we walked on stage together, arms around waist. She said something to me and it was just a beautiful moment. She spoke first. I spoke second. From there, it was just all emotional. I dedicated the award to my mama and papa. You should know that my dad, Natividad Avalos Reyes, passed away mid- May.

Verónica Reyes
Amelia Montes:  Wow—very emotional indeed.  To be able to share an award is so wonderful and then to win this so soon after your dad, Natividad, passed away.  I’m sure he would have been so proud. 

Verónica Reyes:  My dad was 95 years old. So I welled up in tears. We took a photo and that was it. A little while afterwards, my family and I took off to get dinner. It was a whirlwind.  There is a beautiful plaque, and it is heavy. Wow, I'm still amazed.

Veronica Reyes' award for Chopper! Chopper!
Amelia Montes:  Thank you so much for sharing this very jubilant and emotional evening with “La Bloga” readers.  And dear “La Bloga” readers, if you haven’t read Verónica Reyes’ poetry book, Chopper! Chopper! Poetry from Bordered Lives, get it now, as well as Laurie Ann Guerrero’s book, A Tongue in the Mouth of the Dying. This past April, Ms. Magazine published one of Verónica Reyes' poems ("The Hawk").  You can read it here:  (CLICK HERE)
Laurie Ann Guerrero
I also want to mention Linda Rodriguez whose novel, Every Broken Trust won second place in the Best Novel, Mystery category. Felicidades, Linda!

Congratulations/Felicidades again to all the winners!

MY NEXT POSTING will be covering another Latino international event that will involve nine of our eleven “La Bloga” writers.  July 17-20 is the International Latino Conference in Chicago (at The Palmer House Hotel).  Nine of our “La Bloga” writers are on a panel talking about our “La Bloga” writing.  We look forward to meeting you in person, in Chicago!  Here’s the website link: CLICK HERE.  Hope to see you in Chicago.  I’ll be posting pictures and updates in two weeks. 

One more book that is recently out and deserves a mention; I’m sure it will be on next year’s International Latino Awards listing.  Maya Chinchilla just published her book of poetry:  The Cha Cha Files:  A Chapina Poética with Kórima Press.  Juan Felipe Herrera, the Poet Laureate of California, describes Maya Chinchilla's book this way:

“Here is a shifting memoir, a futurized holographic lexicon of multi-Guatemalas, a “rough” Now-edged literary explosión from the center of a  Chinchilla-Centro-América.  A refigured California, Borinquen, Caribe floating, flayed and frayed and fractal slivers of faces, bodies, intimacies, word flow encycloGuatepedia in volcanic rupture, out and “under the Huipil,” ripped and dressed up herstory—skirts, skin, skinless, that is, Latina, Queer, borderless Letters—Maya’s undulating “third eye.”  It is all a ferocious seeing motion—deep knowledge, open diary, activist journal, a burning vermillion life-scape over Kahlo’s bed, Anzaldúa’s unloosened workshop, María Sabina’s black splattered visions, a Golden Gate bridgeless.  A first of its kind—Brava, bravissima, GuateBrava power.  A game changer.

Stay tuned in August when I will be posting more (hopefully an interview) with Maya Chinchilla.  

Happy reading to you!  ¡Saludos! 

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24. Three questions for Manuel Luis Martinez regarding his novel, “Los Duros”

Manuel Luis Martinez is a writer and Professor of American and Chicano literature at The Ohio State University in Columbus.  He is the author of the novels Crossing(1998), Drift (2003), and Day of the Dead (2010). His most recent novel is Los Duros published by Floricanto Press. Martinez offers a tough, succinct, and honest depiction of the people who struggle through poverty and bigotry in this California desert community. This is an important book, one that required the talents of a writer such as Martinez to succeed as a work of literature. The author agreed to answer a few questions about his latest literary endeavor.

DANIEL OLIVAS:Could you talk a little about the community of Los Duros in the Mojave Desert and the reasons you set this novel there.

MANUEL LUIS MARTINEZ:A friend of mine from San Antonio, Felipe Vargas, a graduate student in education, began a program in Thermal, California about ten years ago. He asked me to come out and teach creative writing to a group of kids living in dire poverty in the colonias of the Mojave Desert. He told me that it would change the way I saw the world. I had worked with migrant populations before in Indiana and California. I grew up an impoverished kid in San Antonio. My grandparents were migrant workers. So I didn’t expect to see anything earth-shattering.

But my friend was right. Perhaps because Thermal, California is surrounded by such concentrated wealth, the juxtaposition of dire poverty and conspicuous affluence absolutely clarifies the effects of inequality in this country. Working with these kids in these communities humanizes the abstract debates about how this nation treats immigrants and its poor. It’s not just about material poverty. I witnessed the death of hope and aspiration.

The students I worked with lived in terrible conditions, in colonias without running water, electricity, without police protection, medical care, in the midst of toxins and pollution and sewage. Add to this, the reality of having to live in the shadows because of the fear of deportation. These are anxieties of which the vast majority of Americans have no experience. When you see the squalor and contempt with which these children have to live side by side with the immense luxury and entitlement of the area, there is no other conclusion to be drawn: this nation is guilty of human rights violations. We are exploiting the most vulnerable for their labor while throwing their children to the dogs. Politically, we hide behind terms like “illegal” and “border security” and “amnesty,” while ignoring the plight of the children caught up in a system predicated on the assault of hope. The system doesn’t just use these people, it crushes them. It’s designed to do this.
I wanted to write a book in which I depicted these conditions by foregrounding the Mojave and the Coachella area. It’s an unforgiving place. Water is scarce and the environment is brutal. To survive you have to be tough or rich. I wanted to depict the breaking point. By that I mean, the combination of poverty, ignorance, exclusion, racism, and invisibility that bring even the toughest of these kids to the brutal realization that there is no future for them. I saw it firsthand. Kids who were extremely bright and hard working, full of hope and determination, who came to the end of the road because there was no place for them left to go. College closed off, legitimate jobs closed off, citizenship closed off. The Salton Sea became the symbol for the plight of these children: a beautiful fresh water lake surrounded by desert being polluted by the runoff of toxins and pesticides until nothing can live in the water and the birds and fish die.

Los Duros, the colonia which is itself a kind of main character in this novel, is the equivalent of the Salton Sea. A fragile space of life and potential surrounded by hostile elements that ultimately choke off the life force. It’s tragic.

DO: Juan, the long-absent father, and Guillermo, the idealist teacher, create a taut wire of tension toward Juan’s son who is known as Banger. Why did you decide to create this triangle in the already difficult terrain of a community staggered by poverty and bigotry?

MLM: I wanted to present Banger with the illusion of alternatives. The father and the teacher are both trying to give Banger the benefit of their experience. They are both of them idealistic and world-worn, but they’ve learned different lessons. Each hopes that Banger will use their guidance to navigate the near-impossible terrain. Metaphorically speaking, they understand that the desert is the desert. It is dangerous and unforgiving. You aren’t going to change that environment. So there is only one way out and that is to cross it, to get through. The pessimistic side of me sees the political and social realities as near-impossible to change. So what’s left to do? This is Banger’s dilemma. I wanted to suggest that both of the men in Banger’s life have something to give him, something vital to his survival. But I also needed to show that neither man has any more of an idea as to what to do in the face of so much misery than do the kids caught up in the grinding system. If Banger is at the apex of a triangle of relationships and possible outcomes, we find that the triangle ultimately collapses. There is no triangle. There is only a line.

DO: The suffering of your characters is extreme. Was it difficult to use their lives as the core of your narrative?

MLM: Yes, it was very difficult. I didn’t know what to do when I came back from my first trip to Los Duros. I felt depressed about the overwhelming futility of their situation. But Molly, my wife, told me that I had to write about them. It was perhaps the only bit of influence that I might have. I thought about this for a long while before I began the project. I recognized that I was in a privileged position. I knew these kids and they trusted me with their stories. Our workshops were set up to give them a voice, to let them know that someone out there was listening. I convinced myself that I wasn’t going to write about them so much as that I was going to write through them. And if nothing else, they’d know that I heard them. The suffering is real. It’s out there right now, being experienced right now. Pain is never abstract. People should know the kind of real pain that their political decisions cause. This is the most unflinching work I’ve written. It’s not an easy thing to confront. I wrote Los Duros because I don’t want to give myself or any of my readers an easy way out. 

And now for some thanks…

Since the publication of my eighth book (and first of nonfiction), Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature Through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press), I’ve received wonderful words of support from La Blogareaders and many others. So far, we’ve had three lovely reviews published and I am told that a few more are coming down the pike. In case you missed the reviews, here they are: Los Angeles Review of Books by Carribean Fragoza, ZYZZYVAby Stefani Wright, and Somos en escrito by Felipe de Ortego y Gasca. And mil gracias to those college professors who will be using my book in the classroom. Finally, I think a special word of thanks should go to San Diego State University Press for publishing my manuscript and creating what is truly a handsome book, lovingly designed by Prof. William A. Nericcio with cover artwork by the great Perry VasquezDaniel Olivas

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25. Literary Diversity: Publish Your Own. Fútbol On-line Floricanto. Call for Poets.

Review: Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean. NY: Peekash Press (Akashic), 2014. ISBN: 9781617752711 e-ISBN: 9781617752834

Michael Sedano

Peekash Press started out to be not a role model for U.S. publishers but the antidote. “we acknowledged that writers based in the Caribbean are less likely to be published than those living in the British or North American diasporas.” In Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean,  the publisher does both. Clearly, one  answer to exclusion and lack of diversity is publish it yourself. Now readers need  to discover and prove there's a market.

The thirteen stories collected in Pepperpot come from six island nations, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Belize, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Bahamas. The editors chose for quality not token inclusiveness from Caribbean-region entries to the 2013 Commonwealth Short Story Prize.

Readers want consequential characters in diverse roles and authenticity of everyday life. Good writing that sets stories off with compelling plots and rewarding insights make or break any collection of short fiction, no matter how inclusive. Most stories in Pepperpot: Best New Stories From the Caribbean make it. Readers will enjoy the characters' interesting awareness of dialect and ways the writers use their Antillean setting.

Irony happens irrespective of location. So do coming out, murder, incest, redemption, perversity. In some ways, everyday sins and what they look like here. One character laments how completely a father can disappear on a small island. Another gets insulted for being called an up island snob. Anarchy arisen from gang-dominance makes up the daily fabric of some neighborhoods of walled-in homes.

Island food and smells play key roles in other stories. The soup of the title raza will recognize as cocido. What makes jam heavier coming out than the fruit going into the mass murder's neighborhood stove? Readers will be glad to see the perverts get their just desserts, like the creep who liked to suck soft fruits and his sleeping mother’s nipple,  who “was particular to fleshy, squishy fruits where juices dripped—sweetsops, custard apples, melons, hog plums, star apples, mangoes, and so on.”

In “A Good Friday”, beguiling aromas rising from a woman’s waist capture a man's attention. “She not so cool, after all. She not so cool." He could smell the fragrances of her, her skin, her breath, her hair—cinnamon, coconut, peppermint, vetiver, and oh, Y’boy KarlLee can’t tell which is which, only it warm and nice and sweet”

Readers new to Caribbean literature will find dialect among the most notable elements of the genre; nearly every story contains moments where characters, even narrators, relax into everyday speech.

Bilingual readers will appreciate the way these writers handle dialect and code-switching. For the most part they don’t. The writers adopt standard orthography and grammar, using dialectal variation and local knowledge to inform an ethos and otherwise make a tactical point.

Kimmisha Thomas’ characters use a code-alternating style during intimacy that reflects their relationship. Jackie yields to constraints of straight society while Berry looks to free her lover from being uptight:
“Is like I could feel you coming,” she said, squeezing me tightly.
“Okay, I’m happy to see you too. Don’t squeeze the life out of me.
“All right, man. You too soft and dainty.”
Once free, I looked around. Nobody was watching us. Maybe they were just pretending.
“Stop it,” Berry said, tapping my chin, “nobody nah pree we.”

I suppose a non-dialect reader like me doesn’t need to know for sure what that all means word for word. Jackie found Berry’s words reassuring, and that’s where it matters, and what it sounds like, in Jackie’s life.

Kevin Baldeosingh’s Sukiya is comparing her one-percenter world to a minimum-wage bank teller when a surprising error shakes her enough that years of dialect discipline nearly slip away. “Except, now, Sukiya was facing one of these very tellers and feeling a flutter in her stomach. She said, “What you mean—“ then stopped. She took a breath to make sure her voice was steady and, making sure to pronounce each word properly, said, “I don’t undertand what you mean. That cheque is for five million dollars.”

Sukiya will be among a reader's favorite characters in the collection. She’s an up-from-nowhere girl writing contracts and moving money around the world for oil and mineral exploration interests, contracts, bribes. A crook. Her boss intended the erroneous five million bucks to finger Sukiya for all the fraud and let him walk away rich and clean, while she rots in jail minding her accent.

For me, the best dialect usage is something not used--appositional translation. When a character uses a word like “rassclaat,” or “pickney,” the discourse flows along without accounting the language switch. It’s the nature of multicultural expression, text selects its readership. Tipos who resent being left out by diversity can Google the terms, join the audience.

“Bomborassclaat! Me dead to rass! Me’s the Queen of England, me’s royally and unmentionably verbed!”

Most often, context is sufficient to fill in the gaps, and after a few paragraphs sprinkled with dialect a reader catches the regularities of style and readily grasps the story, enriched by the lives and sounds of these characters and stories. The Caribbean ambiente adds its own unique pleasures that can be discovered for the first time only once. Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean will make a grand first impression, then lead into deeper exploration.

Readers seeking additional Caribbean writing will enjoy Akashic's Caribbean interest catalog and such noir collections as Trinidad Noir, Haiti Noir, Havana Noir, or Kingston Noir.

Order your copy of Pepperpot. Best New Stories From the Caribbean from an independent bookseller in your town and take Pepperpot along on vacation. It’s an ideal summer read and a loud promise from the publisher: If you want diversity and inclusion, keep buying it.

Fútbol On-line Floricanto • A Taco Shop Poet

©2013 michael v sedano
Continuing into the semi-finals, the world stops for 90 minutes hoping to hear the announcer's lusty scream, "¡gggooolll!" Lástima, for the US side, as today's Taco Shop Poet laments "we" lost in many more ways than on the Brazilian grass.

there are no winners tonight
By A Taco Shop Poet

our last hope of america,
the united states lost today.
it lost in more than one way.
it lost by points
but also, by way of a lost
love of america. it lost.
it lost its head, it lost its heart
it lost its word.
it lost its hope.

during the match,
the post from the child
says, “lo que me gusta
de la selección estadounidense
es que nunca se da por vencido”
the u.s. team never, ever
gives up. this, while i look
on and see the failure
of soccer moms. the failure
of status quo. the failure of
signs and of protest.
and truth be told,
there weren’t enough
brown and black faces.
there were not enough
poor faces. faces with legs
willing to run to another
country to win.

such are the days
we live in. we have
never seen war. we’ve
never seen drugs or la bestia.
we don’t know survival.
and we’ve pushed
the border so far south
that central america
is now the beginnings
of the fence.

when i was
thirteen, i recall seeing
a man at plaza bonita
one day. he asked me what direction
and how far los angeles was. see,
he’d just crossed. and i pointed.
north. he’d told me
he’d walked from
guerrero. guerrero.
to los angeles.
from san diego.
from my home.
didn’t seem like
a distance too far
if you’ve traveled.

and two weeks ago,
i didn’t even want
to ponder the depth
of the rabbit hole
children might have traveled.
such are the days
when i try my hardest
to understand a broken
system. it hurt just
to think of children
that have walked
from honduras,
from guatemala,
from el salvador.
and as a parent,
i couldn’t bear it.
the weight of so many
paces. alone.

today, we lost a match
we lost a game.
but life continues on.
the cruel cynicism
slaps me straight in the face.
it slaps me and tells me
i may not be “american”
enough. and yes, i feel anger.
i feel anger for the young
lives turned away.
i feel anger for having protested
and been treated like a criminal
while rights of others
are respected.

today, we lost a match.
there was no fire.
there was no next time.
there were only children.
children held in prisons.
children left alone.
children wondering
when they will see
their mothers again.
children with lives
like my children and
we couldn’t do so much
as offer shelter
or food.

what would’ve jesus
said? i can tell you jesús
believes in america.
in his posts. during the game,
he believes, we should love.
believes that we can
be both mexican and american
and american and mexican.
but he wonders if these are the values
we’ve shared?

the match was too long.
and we lost. we lost our perspective.
we called them wetbacks
we told them that they carry
has the story ever changed?

this, this is the jimi hendrix
star spangled banner
crashing. this is the
bald eagle that has died
from DDT. this, this is the
home for refugees
following an armed conflict.
but not one from a conflict
caused by our consumption.
policies. police. drugs.

this is the day that we lost.
we lost our heads.
we lost our hearts.
we lost the game.
we lost the love.
of what it means
to be

Jazz-Inspired Poetry Anthology: Call for Poets

Pick a jazz artist and write three poems. “Jazz” is a big word and that’s what bloguera emerita Lisa Alvarado and Tara Betts intend. Pick your jazz genre and write about 3 songs. As Lisa told La Bloga, the proposed anthology is “looking for the best words about the music.”

LOVE YOU MADLY will be edited by Lisa Alvarado and Tara Betts. They seek poetry for a new anthology - poets write jazz. Each poet picks one jazz artist and writes three poems based on 3 songs.

Here’s a link to the Facebook page that includes all the details and specifications.

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