[Daniel Olivas will return soon enough.]
La Bloga regularly covers many Latino, and other, authors, but not as many journalists as other genre writers. Below are excerpts of a sudamericano's vivid, realistic writing style that makes Hunter Thompson's gonzo journalism seem like baño graffiti.
"A native of Uruguay who was forced into exile under the country's military regime during the 1970s, Galeano has always identified with the losing side. His Open Veins of Latin America, published in Mexico, 1971, employed captivating, elegiac prose to chronicle five centuries of plunder and imperialism in Latin America. Radically different in style, Open Veinsquickly became a canonical text in radical circles, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the Southern Hemisphere. In a period of social upheaval, guerrilla warfare, and dictatorship, the book, composed in three months of intense labor, Open Veins was banned by the Pinochet regime."
Although Galeano recently "disavowed" some of his style, credentials and phraseology used in Open Veins, his legacy can't be derailed, even should he become more conservative in his later years. Elsewhere, he's been described this way: "Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano is among the greats of our time. His writing has it -- that indefinable quality you can’t describe but know as soon as you read it. He’s created a style that combines the best of journalism, history, and fiction and a form for his books that may have no name but involves short bursts of almost lyrical reportage, often about events long past."
His most recent book, Mirrors(publisher, Nation Books), is called "one of the great books of this century, a history of humanity in 366 episodes, from our first myths to late last night."
Photograph: Saddest Eye in the World
Princeton, New Jersey, May 1947.
Photographer Philippe Halsman asks him: “Do you think there will be peace?”
And while the shutter clicks, Albert Einstein says, or rather mutters: “No.”
People believe that Einstein got the Nobel Prize for his theory of relativity, that he was the originator of the saying “Everything is relative,” and that he was the inventor of the atom bomb.
The truth is they did not give him a Nobel for his theory of relativity and he never uttered those words. Neither did he invent the bomb, although Hiroshima and Nagasaki would not have been possible if he had not discovered what he did.
He knew all too well that his findings, born of a celebration of life, had been used to annihilate it.
His enemies say he was an uncrowned king who confused unity with unanimity.
And in that his enemies are right.
His enemies say that if Napoleon had a newspaper like Granma, no Frenchman would have learned of the disaster at Waterloo.
And in that his enemies are right.
His enemies say that he exercised power by talking a lot and listening little, because he was more used to hearing echoes than voices.
And in that his enemies are right.
But some things his enemies do not say: it was not to pose for the history books that he bared his breast to the invaders’ bullets,
he faced hurricanes as an equal, hurricane to hurricane,
he survived 637 attempts on his life,
his contagious energy was decisive in making a country out of a colony,
and it was not by Lucifer’s curse or God’s miracle that the new country managed to outlive 10 U.S. presidents, their napkins spread in their laps, ready to eat it with knife and fork.
And his enemies never mention that Cuba is one rare country that does not compete for the World Doormat Cup.
And they do not say that the revolution, punished for the crime of dignity, is what it managed to be and not what it wished to become. Nor do they say that the wall separating desire from reality grew ever higher and wider thanks to the imperial blockade, which suffocated a Cuban-style democracy, militarized society, and gave the bureaucracy, always ready with a problem for every solution, the alibis it needed to justify and perpetuate itself.
And they do not say that in spite of all the sorrow, in spite of the external aggression and the internal high-handedness, this distressed and obstinate island has spawned the least unjust society in Latin America.
And his enemies do not say that this feat was the outcome of the sacrifice of its people, and also of the stubborn will and old-fashioned sense of honor of the knight who always fought on the side of the losers, like his famous colleague in the fields of Castile.
He was butterfly and bee. In the ring, he floated and stung.
In 1967, Muhammad Ali, born Cassius Clay, refused to put on a uniform.
“Got nothing against no Viet Cong,” he said. “Ain’t no Vietnamese ever called me nigger.”
They called him a traitor. They sentenced him to a five-year jail term, and barred him from boxing. They stripped him of his title as champion of the world.
The punishment became his trophy. By taking away his crown, they anointed him king.
Years later, a few college students asked him to recite something. And for them he improvised the shortest poem in world literature:
The Berlin Wall made the news every day. From morning till night we read, saw, heard: the Wall of Shame, the Wall of Infamy, the Iron Curtain...
In the end, a wall which deserved to fall fell. But other walls sprouted and continue sprouting across the world. Though they are much larger than the one in Berlin, we rarely hear of them.
Little is said about the wall the United States is building along the Mexican border, and less is said about the barbed-wire barriers surrounding the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the African coast.
Practically nothing is said about the West Bank Wall, which perpetuates the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands and will be 15 times longer than the Berlin Wall. And nothing, nothing at all, is said about the Morocco Wall, which perpetuates the seizure of the Saharan homeland by the kingdom of Morocco, and is 60 times the length of the Berlin Wall.
Why are some walls so loud and others mute?
Advertising campaigns, marketing schemes. The target is public opinion. Wars are sold the same way cars are, by lying.
In August 1964, President Lyndon Johnson accused the Vietnamese of attacking two U.S. warships in the Tonkin Gulf.
Then the president invaded Vietnam, sending planes and troops. He was acclaimed by journalists and by politicians, and his popularity skyrocketed. The Democrats in power and the Republicans out of power became a single party united against Communist aggression.
After the war had slaughtered Vietnamese in vast numbers, most of them women and children, Johnson’s secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, confessed that the Tonkin Gulf attack had never occurred.
The dead did not revive.
In March 2003, President George W. Bush accused Iraq of being on the verge of destroying the world with its weapons of mass destruction, “the most lethal weapons ever devised.”
Then the president invaded Iraq, sending planes and troops. He was acclaimed by journalists and by politicians, and his popularity skyrocketed. The Republicans in power and the Democrats out of power became a single party united against terrorist aggression.
After the war had slaughtered Iraqis in vast numbers, most of them women and children, Bush confessed that the weapons of mass destruction never existed. “The most lethal weapons ever devised” were his own speeches.
In the following elections, he won a second term.
In my childhood, my mother used to tell me that a lie has no feet. She was misinformed.
Lost and Found
The twentieth century, which was born proclaiming peace and justice, died bathed in blood. It passed on a world much more unjust than the one it inherited.
The twenty-first century, which also arrived heralding peace and justice, is following in its predecessor’s footsteps.
In my childhood, I was convinced that everything that went astray on earth ended up on the moon.
But the astronauts found no sign of dangerous dreams or broken promises or hopes betrayed.
If not on the moon, where might they be? Perhaps they were never misplaced.
Perhaps they are in hiding here on earth. Waiting.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
NOTE: The end of August will mark the 44th anniversary of the murder of the Mexican-American journalist Rubén Salazar during East L.A.'s National Chicano Moratorium against the Vietnam War, 1970. He was killed by an L.A. deputy, much as Michael Brown was by policeman Darren Wilson in Ferguson this month. The after-quake by enforcement officers has made Ferguson our Gaza, for the moment.
Hands up, don't shoot,
“…that year I had risen out of the ranks of the “D-group” students the ones bound for prison and/or a life lived and terminated before the age of thirty the ones who spoke the Spanish of their grandparents with accents thick and soft and musky as the upturned earth rolling off their grandfather's horse drawn plows” excerpt, High School English
Levi Romero Sows Crops
This is Dixon, N.M. – Levi’shome. It was his home as a small child living with abuelos y tíos. It was his home as a lowriding teenager, even when he lived in Albuquerque attending Menaul School. It was still his home when he studied at UNM, or now, when he teaches there. You can go home again, he’ll say, but it can be a hard road. Levi earned architecture degrees at UNM – a bachelor’s in 1994 and master’s in 2000. Funded by UNM Center for Regional Studies, he is now a visiting research scholar in the UNM School of Architecture and Planning. Designing buildings isn’t much a part of his life any more. He’s more interested in the structure of stories, the building blocks of memory and preserving the cultural landscape through people in New Mexico. Levi’s family has been in the Embudo River Valley since the 1600s. “My grandparents never had to wonder about identity. They never asked, ‘Are we Hispanos? Chicanos? Mexicanos?’ Nobody asked them if they were from here. Everyone was from here until the 1960s,” Levi said. The longstanding families who raised corn, chile, radishes, onions, carrots and peas, soon found a crop of newcomers – trust fund babies who had their eyes on the land. The etiquette on the narrow road has always been for one car or the other to pull to the side to let the other pass, depending upon which had a better place to pull off. “Now the young people are in a hurry. They aren’t polite. They don’t acknowledge when someone pulls over to let them pass,” he said. They don’t want just to get by. They want to get away.
Young people have moved away and fields abandoned. “I always came back to work the land except when I was in grad school. Then the Chinese elms took over the fields. There were never weeds when my grandfather Don Silviares lived here,” he said. Don Silviares was legendary for his trade route and his produce – everything from apples to chile – that he hauled along his route from Embudo to Ratón and Cimarron to Dawson. Levi wrote a story about his grandfather, El Verdolero, the vegetable vendor.
There’s No Place like Home
Levi talks about the two-room adobe and plaster home his grandfather built. “They brought the vigas in from the sierras. In the ‘40s he pitched the roof with corrugated metal. It’s the last, continuously inhabited house in the area without plumbing,” Levi said.
The kitchen features a wood burning stove. “It’s not the original, but it’s similar to the one my grandmother had,” Levi said. The room also sports a more modern 1950’s stove and refrigerator. The kitchen cabinets are old trasteros; one features a flour bin from which many a tortilla had its start. On the wall is a mirror with the silvering wearing off. “Imagine the many souls reflected in that mirror,” Levi said, asking me to look into it, afterwards adding that mine is now among them. The walls were crude, Levi said, and the kitchen was pink, and the other room green. “I wondered about a pink kitchen, but then my aunt told me that at one time she had the stove moved from one room to the other, completely changing the function of each room. That’s interesting to me architecturally – how the spaces were used and how their function could be changed so efficiently,” he said. Levi points to windows that offer up potted geraniums to the sun. “From the windowsills you can see that the walls are 23 inches thick and that the windows have tapered openings to maximize the sunlight streaming in,” he said. “My grandmother always had geraniums in coffee cans in the window. I have memories of them. It’s where the story starts. I reach back and recall family, community and place,” he said. One room blooms with floral wallpaper. He thought about taking it off and restoring the walls. “If I take it down, my memories go with it. So many memories – names of people and things that happened – are triggered by looking at those walls,” he said. Writing in Spanish, he said, helps preserve the memories, too.
He debated with his wife about whether or not to install electricity or plumbing. Ultimately, they decided to install electricity, but they incurred a much greater cost by running the wiring underground so that electrical lines wouldn’t be visible.
Levi the Poet
Levi’s first collection of poetry, “In the Gathering of Silence,” West End Press, published in 1996 features, “Woodstove of My Childhood,” an epic poem based on personal and communal histories. His latest collection, “A Poetry of Remembrance: New and Rejected Works,” with UNM Press in Dec. 2008, sold out within a month of its official publication, which is unheard of in regional Chicano poetry.
Levi drinks from the memory well the house in Dixon serves. He recalls his grandmother playing harmonica while hummingbirds poked their beaks into hollyhocks. Although he was always at home in Dixon, he didn’t always live there. As was common in Northern New Mexico, many families sent their children to Menaul School in Albuquerque. “The Presbyterians were a big influence in places like Dixon, Mora, Holman. It was a tradition for many families to send their children to school there, until the school no longer offered a sliding scale for tuition,” Levi said. Levi was a successful student at Menaul and he was offered a scholarship to any New Mexico college. “I hated school and told them to give it to someone who wants to go,” he recalled. “No one modeled college for me. My cousins hadn’t gone to college – they’d worked trades or in the mines,” he said. Also, his father died when he was 14 and his mother bedridden with rheumatoid arthritis. “I felt like I had to stay close to home. I wanted to come back to Dixon,” he said. He’d seen the trust funders living as artists, sculptors and musicians while raising some crops. He thought he’d like to become an artist and then live off the land as his grandfather did. He learned that designer Bryan Waldrip needed some drafting help. Levi had no experience, but Waldrip took him on. “It took more time to train me than he had time for so he suggested I enroll in the community college drafting program in Española. At the end of the first term I went back to work for him. He was also a painter, an artist. We drew and drafted all day and all night,” Levi said. Levi’s job was to go into the studio early and fire up the wood stove. “He invited me with him to Taos each week where he attended figure drawing courses, which mostly means drawing naked women. My lowrider friends thought that was pretty cool, but it really was all about drawing the forms, the same as if I were drawing this bottle,” he said. He also realized that he had grown through the world of art and architecture, being surrounded by Waldrip’s labor and library. He told Waldrip he was leaving for San Diego, but since he’d threatened to move many times, Waldrip didn’t believe him. He learned that Waldrip told others that Levi would be fine because “he could get a job as a draftsman anywhere.”
Building a Future
In 1983, Levi’s plan was to go to Albuquerque and save enough money to go to San Diego. He laughs. “It’s 2009 and I’m still not there. Nobody goes to Albuquerque to save money. You make just enough to get by,” he said.
The architectural firms in Albuquerque didn’t have shelves lined with art books, cats in the window and the work wasn’t in beautiful passive solar design as it had been with Waldrip. A few years later he decided, if he wanted to get back to that, he had to go to college. The UNM architecture program was difficult and demanding. Poetry writing, an outlet in his youth, continued to be a passion. “I’d been writing poetry, but there was no poetry scene yet. Until Jimmy Santiago Baca came along, poetry by young Chicanos had no audience,” he said. Poetry and writing, activities that had always been a sideline to architecture, began to grow in prominence in his life. Soon, following undergraduate school, and a couple of classes short of a minor in Creative Writing, he wasn’t just writing, but teaching workshops for literary organizations, detention centers and youth mentoring programs.” He’s also taught in the UNM creative writing program in the English Department. As part of his class, Writers in the Community/Schools, his students have also taken their teaching on the road facilitating semester long workshops at detention centers, charter schools, homeless shelters, senior nursing homes and in the Albuquerque Public Schools. “I am able to get past the veils and obstacles put up by students who don’t feel comfortable in an academic setting because I used to feel like them,” he said. He also developed a spoken word class where the students delved into Native American storytelling, cuentos, dichos and slam poetry. Following his time in the English Department he came home again – to the School of Architecture and Planning – where he is a visiting research scholar. He also assists in the Design Planning Assistance Center studio and has worked on various New Mexico community studio design projects, including a design for a field studio and community center based in the old Sala Filantropica dancehall in Dixon/Embudo. This spring, Levi worked with students on a MainStreet project in Deming, N.M. His role was to elicit the dreams and ideas from the town’s Hispanic community since they were unlikely to attend the charrettes to share their thoughts and memories. Those stories were then shared with the students who incorporated those ideas in the designs for everything from streetscapes, youth community centers, to skate parks in the town of the legendary Duck Races. He is currently exploring the histories and stories of the people in northern New Mexico along the high road to Taos and beyond. He looks at acequias, salas, molinos and gardens, nuestra gente and all that represents the life and people of the region. “I’m doing some cultural cruisin’. It’s not about kicking back, but about the important work that needs to be done. If we don’t gather these stories now, they will be gone forever. “Places, stories and history will be recognized as invaluable informants to architecture study in the future. It will, ultimately, become part of the curriculum,” he said. He’s laying some new groundwork on well-travelled roads.
Story by Carolyn Gonzales
Levi Romero’s work focuses on cultural landscapes studies and sustainable building methodologies of northern New Mexico, including centuries-old traditions of acequia systems, molinos, salas and other agrarian and cultural contexts related to the upper Rio Grande watershed. His documentary work is often presented through an interdisciplinary studies format that includes lecture, video/audio, and literary presentation. Romero’s latest book publication, Sagrado: APhotopoetics Across the Chicano Homeland, (co-authored with Spencer Herrera and Robert Kaiser) has just been published by UNM Press. His two collections of poetry are A Poetry of Remembrance: Newand Rejected Works and In the Gathering of Silence. He was awarded the post of New Mexico Centennial Poet Laureate in 2012. He teaches in the Chicana/o Studies and Community and Regional Planning programs at the University of New Mexico. Wheels
the ride of a lowered Chevy en una silleta coja y desplumada recordando aquellas amanecidas cuando nos fuimos grandes y altos en aquel tiempo que nos encontrabanos cuando la vida pa nosotros apenas comienzaba y la tarea era larga y llena de curiosidades un traguito para celebrar la vida y otro para disponer la muerte de los gavilanes que vuelavan y aquella travesura sin fin illuminando estas madrugadas solitarias que a veces nos encuentran medios norteados tirando el ojo por el cerrito de La Cuerda así también seguiremos rodeando, carnal en memoria de un gavilan: Rudy “Sunny” Sanchez
and strumming broom guitars with our transistor radios blankets in the dewy breath headed for the ditchbanks the sweet and bitter taste of wisdom’s tears trickling
0 Comments on Poet in New Mexico, Levi Romero as of 8/11/2014 5:06:00 AM
Olga García Echeverría
The first time I remember reading poetry was in the 7th grade. "The Raven," "Stopping By Woods," and "The Road Not Taken." I cannot say that I completely understood these poems or that I connected with them very much, but I felt something lurking beneath the words. What was that evocative algo that intrigued and tugged? Emoción? Energía? A duende? Or perhaps it was the magic of word play--how words can come together to paint pictures that linger in the imagination long after the poem has been read. It's been 30 years since I read those first poems in junior high and yet, when I think of them, I still see in my mind's eye a dying father, a horse in the snow, a man at a crossroads.
Joe Jiménez' latest collection of poems, The Possibilities of Mud (Korima Press, 2014) took me back to that memory in junior high. On the surface, the Gulf Coast of South Texas is the landscape of these poems. Jiménez writes:Pero no se vayan just yet. We are honored to have Joe Jiménez with us at La Bloga today. This past week, I asked him a few questions and here are his responses.
...my words in my own hidden pouch, dancing
among the mudflats, the sea flies, the ghost crab...And his words do dance among all of these things. There are gulls, deer, coyote, pelicans, redfish, shrimp boats, fire and plenty of mud in these poems. Yet beyond the landscape, there are strong emotional undercurrents that run through the marshlands of Jiménez' collection: Loss, healing, love. The Gulf is a wildnessI want to know.And isn't this my fall?Peligro: que me guardaDanger.The heart as red as a moan...Having lived, loved men, and survived violence, Jiménez opens himself wide in the Gulf. He does not shy away from revealing:
Is it only me? Or ever do you tire
of having to be good? And isn't it sacred?
How each of us walks the world
holding parts of other men
like diamonds we've swallowed, or balloons,
I've been carrying around The Possibilities of Mud for about three weeks now, and much like when I read Adonis or Hafiz, I have gone back repeatedly to ponder lines, meaning, images. "Coyote Stretched Over the Fence Post" comes to mind because it is a poem with many layers. On the surface, the poem is about the author coming across a dead coyote. But on a deeper level, it about how the sight of this creature's tortured death, "...stretched/ like a kill/ over the red-brown/ barbs..." forces the poet to pause his car, silence his dogs, momentarily go to that vulnerable place where he sheds "the shell [he] wears/ like a coat in the cruelest/ sweltering days of summer." In just a few stanzas, this murdered coyote becomes a mirror of the world we live in and it questions all of our humanity. Jiménez writes:
I won't say I saw myself
in the body of this animal.
I won't say I saw
in his hide the lives
of men I've loved.
But there is some terror
in the humanity
that says I don't want you
here or there.
I don't want you alive.
Yes, it was a coyote.
Yes, this is Texas.
Yes, these things happen
to humans. All over the world,
it happens. Every hour
of every year of every day.
I could go on about Jimé
nez' poetry. About how many of his images linger, glimmer like redfish, long after they've been read. Like the picture in my mind that I am still holding of his abuela taking chicken bones and tying them to long tails of yarn and then throwing them out into the water to catch crabs. How beautiful. Check it out for yourself:
Do you remember writing your first poem?
I don’t remember ever writing a ﬁrst poem. I do remember writing the ﬁrst poem that really mattered to me, “El Abuelo,” a poem about learning to iron by watching other men do it—my grandfather, an old lover. It was the ﬁrst time I can say I felt it, the subconscious beat that told me from some other place what should make this poem, the images and sounds and rhythms.
Can you share how The Possibilities of Mud took form? Did you set out to write about one region in particular or were the poems born more organically?
The poems in The Possibilities of Mud were born on the Gulf Coast of South Texas. A few of them, really, at ﬁrst, before I thought this could become a collection, just scraps of information written on papelitos as I walked the beaches near my mother’s house. Sometimes, after running, I would sit at the shore and just watch. I learned by watching the birds, learning their names and witnessing some of their behaviors. One bird, in particular, caught my eye: the little blue heron, how patient he was, how he was designed to sit and wait and know, somewhere in his bones, that the sun would rise, the waters would recede, a ﬁsh would come. This was important to me at this time in life, because I had recently lost so much. I was living with my mother after having left San Antonio after my former lover tried to kill me. He held a knife to my throat, strangled one of my dogs, and said if I didn’t leave, he couldn’t promise me I would be alive the next day. I left. I already had essentials and a small bag of clothes stashed in my trunk, as I had been advised to do by a counselor at the National Domestic Violence Hotline, so at that moment, I decided I would not die, and I took my two small dogs, and I left. Later, I discovered that this guy had forged my name on a document to take over my house, and a court actually believed this forgery, along with the testimony of his daughter and best friend, that I’d given him this house. Consequently, I was an angry man, and I needed to ﬁnd peace, so I spent time at the Gulf and wrote these poems. I survived because I found my place in the great order of things—Nature, history—I wasn’t the ﬁrst Chicano to have land stolen from him based on false witness and fraud and intimidation. But like others who survived injustice, I, too, came out of it.
How do you know when a poem is finished?
Keats once described the sound as a “clicking,” like the lid on a box ﬁtting just right. I think a poem I have made is ready when I hear it do that, click. For me, there is usually an image or a couple of images that center the poem, and then, an observation or a question, a comment, about living, and for me, that is the soul of a poem, what it says about humanness. And that humanness can take so many marvelous forms, what the poem tells us or stirs us to wonder about masculinity, about motherhood, about struggle, about Love, about loss, about hunger, injustice, lust, joy, youth, betrayal. Many forms!
Is there a poem in the collection that came out effortlessly? You know, those rare magical pieces that birth themselves?
When I wrote “A Full and Tiny Fire,” I had just read Robert Bly’s A Little Book of the Human Shadow. I was engaged in my last semester of grad school, and a mentor, Jenny Factor, had guided me to recognize the subconscious power of poems, how the images that come out of us are not random, not accidental. I wanted to write a poem, then, about how some images or sound sequences are born—full of desire and fear and hunger, a hankering rife with want and darkness and musicalities that may or may not make sense. As I wrote this poem, I remember thinking of Lorca’s speech on El Duende, and I made myself barefoot, then, accordingly, to walk along the Gulf’s shore and to hear my own want in the hot salt.
In contrast, is there a poem that you couldn't stop editing?
The triptych “Light.” I couldn’t stop editing that one. In its original forms, before it came together, it stood as separate pedacitos, and so, for some time, I thought, Perhaps this is going to be a collage poem. But I couldn’t stitch the pieces together well enough, not like I wanted, not like I felt the sigh of my gut say that they needed to. The pieces weren’t saying anything, really, not as a collage, and a poem that doesn’t say what it needs to say isn’t ready, in my eyes. So, I went back to the revising techniques I learned in school—reordering the pieces, drawing from old notes I’d taken on what to do when poems aren’t working, from reforming the shapes of the lines, the breaks and the beats, to cutting the poem in half and omitting unnecessary images and words. I discovered I liked the sound and feel of the triptych.
Okay, I have to ask--did you ever eat mud as a child?
I never ate mud. I do recall that while doing yard work, a task I greatly enjoy, I’ve taken mud in the mouth more than a few times. I’ve worked as a landscaper previously, and from tilling soil to digging, soil has made itself into me. Is this the same as eating? Perhaps not. But perhaps.
Another muddy question: If you could make a mud sculpture of anybody in the literary world (vivo o muerto), who would it be and why?
In terms of a mud sculpture, I’d manifest the Skin Horse from Margery Williams’s The Velveteen Rabbit. It was a story that made me cry both as a boy and as a man. As a boy, I cried because it was sad. As a man, I cried because it was true. The Skin Horse tells the Rabbit, “Real isn’t how you are made. It’s a thing that happens to you…Sometimes, when you are real you don’t mind being hurt…It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” Yes, I would sculpt that, or at least become myself while trying to make him.
In The Possibilities of Mud, place functions as Muse. Where are you now and what is currently fueling your poetic fire?
I’ve just reached a point with my second collection, entitled The Goat-Eaters and Other Poems, where I’m comfortable with sending it out. In this new collection, I played with sound and form, especially enjoying the double-headed spondee as a device for making poems cut and jump and halt and jar. There are poems about Chipita Rodriguez, the ﬁrst woman sentenced to death in Texas, and poems about falling in love with a Chupacabra. There are also poems about deep South Texas, hog-hunting and cabrito and what it means to be a boy in a world where killing things and inﬂicting harm is encouraged in you. Finally, I’ve polished up a Chicano crown about La Llorona, which I started to believe in again, after hearing another Chicana crown, a great one entitled “A Crown for Gumecindo” by Laurie Ann Guerrero. While I agree with Audre Lorde’s wisdom that “The master’s tools will not dismantle the master’s house,” I do believe we can redesign some of those tools, take them and repurpose them and make statements about humanity and community, Love and cultura with them.
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Given the less-than-raving responses, from some of our audience, to my "review" of a book a couple of weeks ago, today I only provide information that comes from others.
But I'll be back with more, soon.
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
Let’s help the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA) work for you.
For the next two years, I’ll be part of the TCA Touring Roster—an elite selection of Texas artists who are available to work statewide for non-profits, state and local government organizations, schools, colleges, universities, and libraries. Your organization, if qualified, may recoup up to 50% of the total cost to have me appear for a half day or full day to work with audience/students on creative writing skills.
All the best,
BRP accepting submissions
Barking Rain Press is an imprint of the BRP Publishing Group, a US-based, non-profit publisher of books and eBooks that is registered in Washington State. We publish novels and novellas in a variety of genres, including General Literature, Speculative Fiction (Fantasy, Horror, and Science Fiction), Mystery/Crime, Romance, Suspense/Thrillers, Westerns and YA/Young Adult.
We seek emerging and mid-career authors. Many of our authors have published in magazines, ezines, anthologies or other publications (a resume including a list of prior publications can strengthen your submission). Although prior publications are important, they are not a requirement; part of our mission is to present promising new authors alongside previously published writers.
BRP publishes complete novels or novellas of at least 20,000 words to sell through the BRP website and other partner sites in print and eBook formats. We also consider Short story collections with a strong central theme, written by a single author; and reprints of previously published works that are out-of-print, so long as the author owns BOTH worldwide electronic and print rights. While we are open to a variety of literary genres, we are NOT open to submissions containing certain subject matter. See our website for more info. To have your work considered for publication, please use our Submissions Contact Form to request the appropriate email address to send us your submission. Please DO NOT include your query letter or other information in this request. We are accepting submissions from August 1-31 this year. You can join our Submissions eMail List to be notified in advance of open submissions periods, and to receive information about submitting your manuscript during an open submission period. Barking Rain Press produces 12-14 titles each year, and our books reflect the individual tastes of our small staff. BR looks for writing that inspires and/or entertains the reader with a unique voice. Go here for the complete information.
Poet Laueate Thelma T. Reyna
The Latina Book Club is proud to welcome back author Thelma T. Reyna, newly named Poet Laureate of the Altadena Library District. We’d also like to congratulate Thelma on her new poetry collection. We want to hear all about its debut in Italy. Read about it all here.
Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Contest
August 1–October 22, 2014 Judge: Kate Bernheimer
The winner of the annual Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Chapbook Competition wins a $1,000 prize, publication of the chapbook with a full color cover by Omnidawn, 100 free copies of the winning book, and extensive display advertising and publicity, including prominent display ads in Poets & Writers Magazine, Rain Taxi Review of Books and other publications.
For this contest, Fabulist Fiction includes magic realism and literary forms of fantasy, science fiction, horror, fable and myth. Stories can be primarily realistic, with elements of non-realism, or primarily, or entirely non-realistic. Open to all writers. Story submissions must be original, in English, and previously unpublished. 5,000 to 12,000 words, consisting of one or multiple stories. Postal and online submissions accepted. All Omnidawn poetry competitions are blind. Online entries must be received and postal entries must be postmarked between August 1 and October 22, 2014 at midnight PDT. Reading fee is $18. For $2 extra to cover shipping cost, entrants may choose to receive a copy of the winning chapbook or any Omnidawn fiction title, including our highly acclaimed ParaSheres anthology of fabulist and new wave fabulist fiction. Poetry chapbook contests winner will be announced to our email list and on this web page in May, 2015, and we expect to publish the winning chapbook in August, 2015. Go here for all the information.
Es todo, hoy, de mí,
By: Manuel Ramos,
Blog: La Bloga
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The International Latino Book Award
s were announced in Las Vegas, NV, on June 28. At first glance the choice of Sin City for a literary event seems, uh, awkward? But the ILBA folks piggy-backed their awards night onto the American Library Association’s annual conference so maybe it made sense. Imagine, thousands of book people gathered in the neon desert to celebrate the great institution of book-lending, not to mention the other great institutions found in Vegas like slot machines, strip shows, gaudy excess, and covered walkways between massive casinos so no one ever has to breathe natural air or bask in natural light.
Late on a Thursday night and with some trepidation, Flo and I flew to the land of blast-furnace heat. We carried the hope that because my novel, Desperado,
was a finalist in the Mystery
category we might bring back a trophy (actually a plaque.)
|Typical Las Vegas Hotel|
The event itself could have been an episode in The Twilight Zone.
First, it took place in a town that has immense references, without irony, to ancient Egypt, New York City, Paris, and Venice waterways. But we were at the Clark County Library, miles from Paris or Egypt and the ALA conference, which was going gangbusters over at the Vegas Convention Center. (The ALA had hundreds of vendors, panels, demonstrations, free food and booze. Several of the ILBA writers prowled the ILBA booth during the day to sign books and talk to our readers, of which a few actually showed up.)
I’m sure there were “unattached” spectators in the audience, but easily ninety percent were relatives, friends, or business associates of the nominated writers.
One of the first things we were told was that all the authors should use the “honorific title of AWA” after our names. I’ll quote from the event publicity: “You have earned the title by being a Finalist in the Int’l Latino Book Awards. Since many people do not yet know what AWA stands for it is a great conversation starter – and will lead you to talk about your Award Winning Book and about the awards in general. Here’s how it would look: José Avalos, AWA.” It may be just me, but I don’t anticipate that idea catching on. We’ll see.
The night’s festivities started with a “pinning” -- each of the nominees was called up on the stage to receive an Award Winning Author (AWA) pin. The line snaked off the stage and into the audience as we dutifully thrust out our chests so we could get pinned (does this mean I am now going steady with the ILBA?) Then we hung around the stage for a group photo. Several such photos were taken but I don’t appear in any of them. There was no coordination, no group photo leader. I ended up at the back of the crowd and being that I am of typical Chicano height (5’7” or less), as far as I know there is no photographic evidence that I received my pin and spent several minutes on the library’s stage with the other nominees.
The categories were then called and the winners in each category were given thirty seconds to thank anyone and everyone. Not too many writers kept to the thirty second limit. Mystery was the second to last category and with more than 80 categories total I had no illusions about the event ending early for me. What struck me was that it appeared some of the writers knew they had won beforehand. Some of the missing winners, the “celebrity” types, had even prepared videos that expressed their gratitude. Obviously those winners had been contacted before the event. I thought this was a good idea to guarantee a respectable number of winners at the event. But since I had not been told that I should definitely be at the event, I quickly lost any anticipation of winning.
La Bloga friend and fellow Denver writer Mario Acevedo
and his writing partner, Richard Kilborn,
were finalists in the Best Novel – Adventure or Drama – English
category for their book Good Money Gone
. The experience was brand new for Richard – this was his first foray into literature and he was genuinely pumped about the nomination. Mario’s been around the block a few times so he was a little more low-key, but when it was announced that their book had won the category, he was as jubilant as Richard. It was a good night for them. Tim Hernandez
, also a friend of La Bloga, walked away with a first place in the Historical Fiction
category for his acclaimed novel, Mañana Means Heaven.
I was especially pleased to see that Rudolfo Anaya
, my friend and writing role model, won the Romance
category with his Old Man’s Love Story
, a book I reviewed here on La Bloga.
Finally, it was time for the Mystery
category. My hands were sweaty. I tapped my foot. I told myself I did not win, that in the big scheme of things it did not mean all that much, and yet I bent forward to hear the name.
The presenter announced the winner in the Best Novel -- Fantasy/Sci-Fi
category, the crowd applauded, and then the host started to close out the evening. I groaned, a few others murmured something about mystery, and the announcer caught himself. He hastily went back to his notes and found and then named the winner in the Mystery
Alas, first place for Desperado
was not meant to be. The novel received an honorable mention, which means that it made it to the finalist stage but no brass ring (actually, a plague.) I got a paper certificate acknowledging the mention, which is now stashed away with other honorable mentions (for King of the Chicanos
, back in 2011.) The first place winner was a writer with whom I am not familiar, which says more about me than her (Blanca Irene Arbeláez
– the word “Colombia” appears after her name in the official list of winners – “USA & México” appear after my name. I think that means I’m a Chicano writer.) My friend Linda Rodriguez
was awarded second place. I thought Linda would win this category and I would have bet on her if there had been a betting line on the awards at any of the casinos. Didn’t see anything like that and so I didn’t lose twenty bucks.
There’s a bit of a quandary, for me, when it comes to literary awards. I like winning awards, who doesn’t, eh? But then I have to rationalize when I don’t win. After all, I consider myself a pretty damn good writer, so what’s up with an honorable mention instead of first place? But if I deserve the awards I do win, then do I also deserve not to win those I don't? At those times I have to remind myself of another piece of lite literary wisdom: If you believe the good reviews then you also have to believe the bad reviews.
The evening ended on a high note. Richard Kilborn had arranged for a limo to pick up himself and his family after the event, and Flo and I were invited to cruise the Strip, along with Mario and Marina Tristan
from Arte Público Press.
And with nothing more than sliding across the leather seats of the stretch, we morphed from writer geeks to gangstas, from nerdy pencil pushers living our fantasies on the computer screen to flashy high rollers taking in all that debauched Las Vegas had to offer.
Well, not really. We headed for a liquor store, of course, where we sweltered in the Vegas summer night’s heat in the mall parking lot while Richard gathered assorted beverages and snacks. While we waited, the driver, Walter, had to turn off the limo because it had overheated, so we had no air conditioning and no drinks. The AC wouldn’t work although Walter assured us that the problem was temporary. He also acknowledged that the limo was a mess with dirty glasses, half-used booze bottles, and assorted detritus. He had been called for the job at the last minute, after he had already done a couple of shifts. He admitted he was “a little tired” and hadn’t had time to clean the transportation.
Flash forward to the next day when Flo and I are on the way to the airport. Our cab driver is a woman straight out of a Damon Runyon story – full of character, street wisdom and kitschy humor. She regales us with stories about limo accidents, “a slew of them in Vegas, don’t you know?” The problem, she tells us, is that cabbies are limited to twelve hour shifts, by law, but limo drivers don’t have such limits, so “they push it, every night. They’re dangerous.” She tells us about limo drivers who go for 24 and 36 hours before they take a break. Flo and I look at each other and think of Walter.
Back to Saturday night. Walter stuck his head in one of the back doors, and in the ghostly light of the parking lot he reminded me of Barnabas Collins
from the original Dark Shadows
. He proceeded to tell us that he was sorry but he had to let the limo sit for a while so it could cool off. Sure, whatever. He opened the doors as wide as they would go. The steamy Vegas night air swirled in and the interior temperature went up. We waited, sweated, and told ourselves that no one forced us to live the glam life of the writer.
Eventually, we cruised the midnight traffic of Las Vegas, which meant we didn’t go anywhere for a long time. Walter stayed awake and did a bang-up job. We spent some time in Richard’s suite at the MGM Grand, where he generously shared food from room service as he told us about life in Panama; we even walked with the Vegas herd as it moved, en masse, from one casino to another.
|Pedestrian Bridge Not At Midnight|
As we made our way over the pedestrian bridge that connects the MGM with New York-New York, I thought of the Vegas contradictions represented on that bridge. The dressed-up couples celebrating their youth with old and ancient traditions like inebriation and raunchy jokes; the beggars, addicts, and drunks, sleeping or passed out or weaving, the crowd and life not waiting for any of them; pimps and hustlers pimping and hustling the marks; groups of young women in stilettos, barely-there skirts and extreme make-up plotting their next moves in the long-odds game they played with thinly-veiled desperation; losers, crying as they stared from the bridge at the gridlocked cars below; red-eyed parents with sleeping and bawling kids, finally wondering if a Vegas vacation was really the right choice for Junior’s birthday party; a mother in a miniskirt laughing with her teenaged daughter, also in a miniskirt, who carried a sex doll apparently won at one of the games of chance; and an aging, out-of-place writer, honorable mention in hand, coming home a winner.
|Richard Kilborn and Gerry "D" from PBC Panama|
For a dose of reality after that strange trip above, check out this interview of ILBA winner Richard Kilborn
recently broadcast on PBC Panama
. Richard’s interview is at the 81-100 marks. Here's the link.
A while back, the subject of why there aren’t more Latino science fiction/speculative ficton/fantasy writers came up, and I don’t think we found a clear reason. It’s probably the same reason that we don’t see more Latino writers in general -- it’s usually not profitable, and we tend to end up doing other things just to survive. My father wrote, even published a few articles, but he had to work, keeping Flying Tiger Airlines’ planes flying to get the money to support his family. I imagine all Latino families have stories like that. Another reason is that being a writer is something you are doomed to, like bearing the Mark of the Beast. I disagree with the cottage industry that claims anyone can be a writer if you just take their classes, go to their seminars and workshops, follow their rules and instructions. I don’t think that everyone should be a writer any more than we should all be bullfighters or astronauts. You gotta have the right stuff, cabrónes!
My idea of mentoring an aspiring writer is to say, “Okay! You wanna be a writer? Be a writer! Go do it!” Some of them do. Others need more help from me. If you need more help from me, you don’t have it. I feel like an old junkie listing to young hipsters saying, “I really want to get hooked, but I keep forgetting to take my shots . . .”
Encouraging people to be become writers is like helping them to become drug addicts -- a sort of Twelve-Step program in reverse.
I ended up a writer because I couldn’t quit. At age thirteen, I published a few letters in comic books, and I was hooked. From my typewriter to the world! What a thrill!
Lately I realize that I’m one of the most successful Chicano writers of my generation. If we narrow it down to science fiction, I’m number one!
It’s a cheap thrill I chuckle at as I work at my day job.
If I hadn’t had that taste of publication, I probably would have just done my creative stuff in private, like most Latinos. I ain’t no humble campesino toiling away in dignified anonymity -- if too long goes by without my being published, I get really depressed. And without thinking about it, I’m scanning for opportunities.
And I feel bad about my unpublished novels and stories.
Like Frankenstein’s monster, my career has a life of its own. It does things out in the world without my supervision. And these days, I spend more time managing it than writing.
And to think, once I believed I was a failure, after not being published in Nueva York, and only getting into print a few times a year (and not making much dinero at it). I got a full time job and slowed down -- or at least thought I was slowing down. Turns out I kept on publishing at the same rate as when I was knocking myself out.
Also, it turned out that people actually read my novels and the weird, obscure magazines where my stories appeared. Some of them went on to become editors and publishers.
Now I’m working with a newfangled publisher in San Francisco, getting my novels ready for rerelease, and putting together a collection my short fiction.
All because I didn’t, and couldn’t, give up.
Still, I wish I was writing new stuff more of the time.
From LatinoStories YouTube Channel 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. Since 2006 The Macondo Foundation proceeded to organize the workshops, which continued to provide its participants with an oasis to concentrate on their writing and improve their skills in a demanding atmosphere of support and kinship. The Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center has taken over the administration of the Macondo workshops with the blessing of its founder and the board of the Macondo Foundation.
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. Many times writers work alone and feel isolated. 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. This reading featured: Gabriela Lemmons, Joe Jimenez, Jose B. Gonzalez, Miguel M. Morales, Rene Colato Lainez, B.V. Olguin, Carmen Tafolla, and Laurie Ann Guerrero.
Beyond Boundaries: Networking and Workshopping in Lake Como, Italy, Part II
Guest post by Thelma T. Reyna.
Here's a link to Part I of Thelma's Guest post on Melinda Palacio's Friday column. That column opens like this:
I was invited by one of my publishers to attend a national/international conference they co-sponsored at Lake Como last month. This “Abroad Writers Conference” (AWC) was designed as advanced learning for published authors from the U.S. Their “faculty” included 4 Pultizer Prize winners and 2 National Book Award recipients teaching intensive one-week workshops. Embracing this rare opportunity, I headed to Lake Como in my first overseas networking, workshopping, poetry reading experience. . . .
Debut Reading from My New Book
My poetry reading at Lake Como was a highlight for me. How often do we have the opportunity to “debut” a new book in Europe? Instead of reading poems from my two chapbooks (all the poetry readers read from their chapbooks), I chose my new full-length collection—Rising, Falling, All of Us. I also purposely selected poems that my workshop fellows had not seen. It was my way of breaking from the norm.
Comprised of published poets and other authors, it was a tough audience. Pulitzer Prize winning poet Rae Armantrout sat in the front row to my left. Next to her was Paul Harding, a Pulitzer novelist. The famed poet Nikky Finney sat farther back. One of the conference co-sponsors, editor and publisher of Kentucky’s Finishing Line Press, Leah Maines, sat in the front row to my right. For about 20-25 minutes, I shared my poems about famous and infamous people, real and make-believe, dead and alive: my “persona poems,” for this new book is a gallery of snapshots of people we know or wish we did, people we’ve read or heard about. My opening poem was appropriate for being in Italy, I told the audience: “Pope Francis.”
With much relief, I can say that the audience was engaged, kind, and receptive.
Reading in the lovely, architraved room of the Villa Galliata.
Looking to the Future…for All of Us
|My Poetry Workshop colleagues, |
with Rae (in black jacket) in the center.
The next AWC is scheduled for Spain (http://abroadwritersconference.com/
). Though I had never heard of these AWC’s, I learned that Como was the tenth. Others were held in France, Ireland, Thailand, and other exotic places. Sometimes some of the same top authors (“faculty”) teach the 15 intensive hours of each workshop. There is, thus, a cyclical consistency, with faculty and attendees making repeat appearances.
Regardless of where other AWC’s are held, I hope there will be greater ethnic diversity in attendees as well as faculty. At Como, Nikky Finney, a divine African-American poet and National Book Award winner, taught a workshop. Of approximately 50 attendees, I met 3 African-Americans and the 2 Asian-Americans in my poetry group. As stated before, I never saw other Latinos.
A colleague of mine believes that more ethnic minority authors are not involved in international venues such as AWC primarily for economic reasons. This may be so. AWC presenters, however, are subsidized; and this is where diversity can be injected into AWC as a jumpstart. Imagine if our Latino heavyweights, especially our Pulitzer Prize winners (See http://hispanicreader.com/2012/04/15/latinos-and-the-pulitzer-prize/
) were included as faculty. Or if Asian-Americans, such as Amy Tan, taught workshops along with African-American authors. The more diversity, the better.
There are those who’ll say, “If Latinos are not in attendance, interest in them would be moot.” Perhaps. But if it is beneficial for all authors to have visibility in international settings, to build national networks for learning, collegiality, and visibility purposes, then a means must be found for Latino authors to do this. Perhaps this is a discussion for La Bloga or other literary forums. How can authors of color obtain necessary resources for enhancing our work, our careers on a broader stage? Can there be “common pots” of financial support, for example, that are identified, created, and nurtured? Or do these exist already? How can awareness of these be expanded and leveraged?
I know that, personally, going to Lake Como was worth my investment of time, money, and effort. I believe that, for months if not years to come, my experiences there will impact my work somehow. For example, I am still in email contact with several friends I met there, and at least two book projects in which I’ll be involved are under consideration.
Writing—as is true of any other complex, serious undertaking—requires ongoing economic sustenance. True, all authors, except the big names, struggle to an extent. And AWC is not a be-all, end-all resource. But we can see what is and work toward what can be…for greater benefits for greater numbers.
* * *
Thelma T. Reyna,
|Photo by Jesus Treviño|
Ph.D., is the author of four books, including Rising, Falling, All of Us—issued in summer 2014. Reyna’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, literary journals, textbooks, blogs, and regional print media off and on for over 30 years. Visit www.ThelmaReyna.com
Ten On the Fifth of the Eighth: August On-line Floricanto
Mark Lipman, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Devreaux Baker, Ralph Haskins Elizondo, David Romero, Antonio Arenas, Iris De Anda, Josefa Molina, Gerardo Pacheco Matus, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo
Four years ago when La Bloga and the Facebook group, née Poets Responding to SB1070,
launched this ongoing series of On-line Floricanto readings, energies and passions drove hundreds of poets to fashion thousands of poems, giving them an audience via postings on Poets Responding to SB1070: Poetry of Resistance
, the group's current identity. From those, the Moderators nominated five poems to appear in On-line Floricanto.
Moderators of the internet group, founded by Francisco X. Alarcón, nowadays name five exemplary works for monthly publication in La Bloga's On-line Floricanto. The volume of work entering the literary churn had been so ample that On-line Floricanto went weekly.
In recent days, poets' voices rise again. Sparked by world events and increasingly empowered racism at home, a deluge of poetry floods the Moderators. Reflecting the upswell of expression, this month the Poets Responding
Moderators advance ten voices, several of them familiar from those heard in poetry's initial throes of disgust at Arizona's state-sponsored hate.
"The Border Crossed Us" By Mark Lipman
"Collecting Thoughts from the Universe" By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Ten Aspects of The World Without War" By Devreaux Baker
"Murrieta’s Morning Sun" by Ralph Haskins Elizondo
"The Ladder - Anastasio Hernandez-Rojas" By David Romero
"Sin Fronteras" By Antonio Arenas
"Here" By Iris De Anda
"La Llorona" By Josefa Molina
"The Children of La Frontera" By Gerardo Pacheco Matus
"The Boys of Summer" By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo
The Border Crossed Us
By Mark Lipman
I step onto land
where my ancestors
planted our family tree
over 1,000 years ago.
I have known no other sand
between my toes
under my feet
this is my only home.
One day though
a stranger arrived
sat down at our table
drank our wine
ate our bread
raped our women
burnt our village
then declared me illegal.
The color of my skin
the language on my tongue
the god that I chose to believe in
demonized in order to justify their cruelty.
The freedom that I enjoyed
my right to self-determination
gone, victim to yet another
simply a broken olive branch
cut from the tree they tore down.
rubble, beneath the tracks
of their bulldozers.
All I have ever had
all that I’ve ever known
all, taken from me.
turned into their gold.
broken from generations
of lies and betrayals.
If you cut me, do I not bleed?
Crushed, beneath the boot of technology
by persons with no soul or body to touch
with no heart to feel
eyes, blinded by hatred
ears, closed to any reason
mouths, shut out of fear
comfortably tucked away in their beds
while human beings die in the streets
under the batons and artillery shells
of a militarized police state
Wrapping oneself in a flag
worse yet, a religion
while making excuses for genocide
sanctioning the murder of children.
News actors continue to blame the victims
force feeding us lies, calling us terrorists
because we were born onto the land that they coveted.
Who is the real enemy,
the one who believes in something different than you,
or the one uses what you believe in to change who you are?
There is no escaping the soul staring back in the mirror
regardless of the shifting lines on some map
human rights have no borders.
Collecting Thoughts from the Universe
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
What do the stars say
about children dying
or is it their spirits
big smiles on their faces
there's no suffering there
At the border
people act less than human
frighten traumatized children
in yellow school buses
their small faces pressed
against the windows
the gnashing of teeth
hear shouts of rage.
What kind of war
is being waged here
these children fleeing war
looking for a place to dream
or looking for what's left
of their family
that's already flown away
for fear or promise
We wage wars
heads of State
the false war on drugs kind
the raining down bombs
on innocents kind
the scaring of innocent children
riding on yellow school buses kind.
And who do we help
does all this war make life better
who is the real enemy
in a land
where one percent of people
owns more wealth
than the rest of us put together and
can we be put together again
Ten Aspects of the World without War
By Devreaux Baker
This is the morning soldiers dismantle guns
And abandoned tanks become nesting grounds
For cranes and starlings
This is the morning that trees are planted in the ruins
Of village streets and bunkers become seed exchange
Stations for non-gmo farmers
This is the morning that prayer flags fly
From the highest buildings in cities
That ring the world with chants or songs
This is the morning that snipers learn
The ancient recipes for baking bread
And distribute their loaves for free
This is the morning long tables are set
In the middle of rubble strewn fields
And musicians gather to welcome everyone
This is the night where stars are recognized
In the deepest recesses of space
As a saving grace
And men, women and children
Drift into sleep where there are no longer
The faces of war…but only the sound of wind
In trees, or water forming waves
Against some forgotten
Murrieta’s Morning Sun
By Ralph Haskins Elizondo
Murrieta’s morning sun had beamed
with hope for hospitality and shelter.
Greyhound buses filled with teddy bears
and dolls drove into town today.
Little eyes peered out from tinted windows
searching for their welcome party.
Instead the darkened crowds had gathered
blocking out all rays of hope.
Their signs and chants eclipsed
the chance for children.
Buses stopped and turned around,
every child a delicate piñata
filled with fear, ready to be broken
with the stick of hatred.
And as the day wore down
the heavens blushed in shame.
Sickened by the hateful scene below,
the mourning sun plunged off the western sky,
it spilled its darkest red upon the land
and died. There are no children left
to mourn Murrieta’s morning sun.
The Ladder – Anastasio Hernández-Rojas
By David Romero
This poem was written during a session of Last Words: Giving Victims a Voice.
Is a ladder
Is a ladder
My name is Anastasio
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
They tell me
Coyotes or police
I will fall off
In screams and shadow
In bones and blood
You’ll only fall
If you look down
Will only look down
If you’re too afraid
I’ve never been afraid
I know all about climbing ladders
I’m a painter
This life is a ladder
Tijuana is a ladder
The desert is a rung
Parched lips are a rung
Dry throat is a rung
Blistered feet are a rung
Hours waiting for work are a rung
The bosses are a rung
Cheap pay is a rung
But between the cold steel
Is a view
Than the one before
My kids go to college
They find work
In the shade
Never have to spend a day
Climbing ladders in the sun
I buy my wife a car
One that doesn’t immediately break down
She puts her feet to the pedal to visit her cousin
A new washing machine
For the first time
Under one roof
This freshly painted house
Shines like the afternoon
It rests at the top of the ladder
I can see it
I can breathe it
I can taste it
Like when I rise from my work
And rest on my haunches
Look out over a roof
See the tiles
Like a glass jar of money
I can see it
I feel it
The border is a ladder
And I am getting closer
With each job
Even at night
I will climb
My hands will grasp each rung
Because I have to
Because I am almost there
My hands reach out
The ladder is gone
On the desert floor
More than a dozen
Illuminated by the glow of tasers
Striking like rattlesnakes
They sting and bite
I cringe and cry
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
Each kick is a rung
Each baton is a rung
So many, many rungs
Bones and blood
Somewhere far in the distance
I see San Diego
Has the ladder gone?
By Antonio Arenas
Sin fronteras caminamos por el mundo,
Gritando a los cuatro vientos,
Que viva la paz entre hermanos,
Y liberando nuestros sentimientos.
Libertad de pensamientos,
Libertad de expresión,
Libertad de correr bien fuerte,
Por la emoción,
Como vuelan libres las aves,
Cantando un estribillo,
De paz y amor,
Y Teniendo de coro a un pueblo,
Que canta con el corazón,
Queremos paz en la tierra,
Sin fronteras en ninguna región,
Sin discriminación de razas,
Ni convicción política, ni religión.
Sin fronteras jugamos al fútbol,
Sin fronteras nos inventamos los juegos,
Sin fronteras escuchamos la música,
Que viva el idioma de los pueblos.
Regresan las aves a sus nidos,
Porque no podemos regresar a nuestra tierra,
Si es una tierra de hombres libres,
Un manantial de paz y belleza,
Donde se respira un aire puro,
Que no tiene fronteras.
By Iris De Anda
here we are
wings & wire
flutter over under
hope in heart
future in fingertips
truth in tongue
I AM dreaming
this here now
this you I
this us them
we are all together
there was no time
only jade spirals
rises morning sun
roja, amarillo, naranja
deep ocean waves
daughters of desert
Mother Earth drum
lagrimas lapis lazuli
here we are
La LLorona/ CihuacoatlBy Josefa Molina
Let me drop the withered bodies of my young
at your doorstep, children eaten
by the Beast or left to die in deserts
next to bone dry water tanks shot full
of holes by local cowboys with
delusions they were sheriff.
Let me drop my dying children at your feet,
praying for refuge from the coyotes that follow,
that you've fed, that salivate
over the fear-filled scent of frightened children.
Coyotes call, promising home, then slit
small, smooth, brown throats and devour their prey.
Let me drop my ghost children at your border,
hoping for compassion in a land where full~ bellied,
ranting "Patriots" want to send them back
to the slaughter they've risked life and limb to escape.
"Patriots" cursing and spitting out jagged shards
of hate that dismember with a familiar terror.
I howl with anguished cries as I mourn
my sons and daughters. If only I could feed them
with my withered breast and let them drink salty tears,
I might save them. Instead, I'm left to wail
each dread full night, as I gather up the remnants
of their souls and softly call them each by precious name.
Josefa Molina, PhD
All rights reserved.
The Children of La FronteraBy Gerardo Pacheco Matus
we are the children of la frontera
left to live, to rot and to dream en el desierto
day and night, we follow the old coyote’s shadow
through this dry world of cacti and rattlesnakes
en el desierto, the dead speak to us
disguised with our father and mother’s voices---
we listen to their feeble hearts
beat as soon as they tell us
the old coyote left them to die
alone and thirsty en el desierto
some dead children smile too glad to see us
others cry and shriek like crows
too fearful to see the old coyote
guide us through this wasteland
day and night, we follow the old coyote
through this labyrinth of bones and shadows
hoping we will live
free en el gabacho
we wear La Virgen de Guadalupe’s medal
so mother Death knows
we are the children of la frontera
day and night, we wait en el desierto
chewing and gnawing at dry cactus roots
until la migra breaks our spell…
day and night, we wait for la chansa
de cruzar la linea, no matter what…
as we are the children of la frontera;
The Boys of Summer
By Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo
In Carpinteria, California a preteen boy in red shorts
runs down a clouded over beach to play at junior lifeguard.
He is lost in a sea of boys and girls just like him
all smiling and learning lessons on how to be safe.
In Brooks County, Texas a boy with a note pinned to his shirt
addressed to an aunt in New Jersey
wrestles with his mother’s hopes pinned to this his shoulders.
Death pins his dehydrated and cramping leg muscles together.
On a beach in Gaza four cousins play soccer.
One calls Messi while another calls Neymar before the injury.
The score is tied. They set up penalty kicks on the edge
0 Comments on Beyond Boundaries Part II. Ten On the 5th of the 8th: On-line Floricanto as of 8/5/2014 3:40:00 AM
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On this side of the curtain
For the past three weeks my home has been a hospital bed in a room shut off by a blue-green curtain from the other rooms in the surgical ward. All day and through the night noises, sounds, voices penetrate and illuminate my imagination. Who’s flirting with the nurses? Why the sudden silence? Did the helicopter that landed earlier bring in the new admit?
Somewhere out there, a family gathers in one of the rooms. Laughter and desultory chatter begins to separate into meaningfulness. Someone’s daughter is going to start college to become a teacher. Someone’s daughter is starting second grade next month. A palm slaps a thigh and voices explode with laughter.
In a few moments, a quiet melody rises and silences the chatter. Paired voices softly singing. The voices carry the natural harmony of brothers speaking in the same voice yet their own. They sing “Las mañanitas” with a practiced lilt that has developed over years of serenades for an abuelo or a mother’s birthday. Tonight the voices blend with notes of sad farewell and bound together with love reserved for an elder. Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David,Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a tí, Despierta, mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció, Ya los pajarillos cantan, la luna ya se metió.
I can see them sharing a chair, arms around each other, neither vying for the lead but flowing sweetly from el mero Corazon. This is what familia sounds like. This is what love sounds like.Que linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte,
Venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte,
El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
En la pila del bautismo, cantaron los ruiseñores
Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio,
Levántate de mañana, mira que ya amaneció.
When the lyric ends they segue easily into English, the soft even vowels of Spanish giving the words a special tenderness that reflects this familia’s straddling of two worlds.Happy birthday to you , Happy birthday to you, appy birthday mi vida, happy birthday to you.
I fall into contented deep sleep. The moment of pure beauty a reminder of many things, foremost the privilege of living in a bicultural world where we sing from our hearts not divided but united in our shared languages.A Chicano Reporter Gets His Feet Wet
La Bloga friend and journalist extraordinaire, Ron Arias, sends a link
to his story relating how a young Chicano writer fumbles to get started. It's Buenos Aires in the 60s and part of a collection--My Life As A Pencil.
Red Bird Chapbooks will publish a selection early next year.From the link:
About that time I also started my first full-time job as a reporter, working at the Buenos Aires Herald, which is where I learned to turn life into stories on a daily basis. But at first it was physically very painful.
Staffed mostly by journalists from the U.K., the Herald was the country's only English-language daily. On one of my first assignments, I hit the ground running, then falling, then running again. I'd been sent to cover a military coup in the streets but because a tank blocked my way and a cloud of tear-gas swept over me, my watery, stinging eyes lost focus and I kept tripping. Military takeovers, I later learned, were then almost a monthly occurrence and usually covered by the youngest legs on staff.
Review by Ariadna Sánchez
The Bogeyman is one of the most iconic figures in the Latin culture. In addition, La Llorona (The Weeping Woman) and El Chupacabras are folkloric characters that seduce old and new generations into a mysterious and magical world. The legends, myths, and folk stories about these unique figures gave birth to a legacy that will last forever in Mexico’s villages and cities as well as the rest of Latin America.
¡El Cucuy! A Bogeyman Cuento in English and Spanish as told by Joe Hayes and phenomenally illustrated by Honorio Robledo is a must read during the summer break.
In Oaxaca, México El Cucuy is best known as el Coco. Hayes description of El Cucuy matches the one my abuelita used to tell me “a gigantic old man with a humped back and a large, red left ear that can hear everything. And he comes to town for lazy and disobedient girls and boys.”
The tale gives young readers a bittersweet experience as the two girls are carried by El Cucuy towards the mountain. The two sisters are afraid and sorry for their behavior with their father and younger sister. One day, a boy losses one of his goats. The goat starts to bleat louder and louder right above El Cucuy’s cave. The girls plea the boy for help. He takes his jacket and uses it as a rope to rescue the girls. The girls climb up. Once free and safe the three children walk to the valley. At last, the girls reunite with their father and sister. Since that day, the two sisters are the most helpful and polite girls in town. The good news is that El Cucuy never appears again.
Joe Hayes adds at the end of the book a special note to readers and storytellers about ¡El Cucuy! Visit your local library for more amazing stories. Reading gives you wings. Hasta Pronto
Joe Hayes Narrates El Cucuy! - YouTube
By: Lydia Gil,
Blog: La Bloga
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Los árboles me pasan de largo
brazos alargados diciendo adiós
amiga, regresa pronto
Corre un lago sereno sin derramar
una gota de su carga
Pasan vacas lecheras
dejándoles de regalo
sus manchas negras a las ovejas
La cabaña de troncos se desliza
muda, sin perturbar la rutina
mutiladora de deseos
Todo pasa sobre esta acera
rodante del recuerdo
alejándome del presente
de cifras, sueños y rascacielos
News from Arte Público Press:
The Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project, led by Nicolás Kanellos and Carolina Villarroel at the University of Houston, is a 2014 recipient of the Diversity Award given by the Society of American Archivists (SAA). The award will be presented at a ceremony during the Joint Annual Meeting of the Council of State Archivists, the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators, and SAA in Washington, DC, August 10-16, 2014. The award recognizes an individual, group, or institution for outstanding contributions in advancing diversity within the archives profession, SAA, or the archival record.
The Recovery Project is being honored for its outstanding achievement in accessioning important Latino archives, organizing and describing them, and making them available broadly to educational institutions and communities via publication and electronic delivery. The project has accessioned, organized, and described such important collections like that of Leonor Villegas de Magnón, a Laredo activist who in the early twentieth century recruited Anglo Texan, Mexican American, and Mexican women for a nursing corps to tend the wounded and fallen on the battlefields of the Mexican Revolution. As an early feminist, she documented the role of women in her writings. The Recovery Project has also assembled the world's largest collection of microfilmed Hispanic newspapers published in the United States from 1808 to 1960.
"[This program] has made these records accessible to increasingly larger numbers of researchers who have in turn significantly impacted the development of Latino Studies," one supporter wrote. "This has become obvious in scholarly conferences that I have attended and noticed increasing numbers of scholars acknowledging the use of digitized records made available by the program."
The Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage Project joins Jennifer O'Neal, university historian and archivist at the University of Oregon Libraries, as the 2014 recipients of the Diversity Award.
Founded in 1936, the Society of American Archivists is North America's oldest and largest national archives professional association. SAA's mission is to serve the educational and informational needs of more than 6,000 individual and institutional members and to provide leadership to ensure the identification, preservation, and use of records of historical value.
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CHAC GALLERY in Denver presents:
Seven artist with diverse backgrounds and mediums fuse together to produce one great Art Show. August 1st - August 29th at CHAC.
Christy Mundy ~ Christy is working with intricate embroidery on fine fabrics – including scarves and clothing. She will also be showing hand-beaded, multi-media jewelry pieces.
Steve Rozic ~ Steve’s artwork is inspired by nature. Working in acrylic allows Steve to express his illustrative painting in bright bold colors. Little Bleu Egg is a company started by Steve to highlight and sell his Natural Soaps, Hand Scrubs, Bath Salts and Sugar Scrubs.
Leann Stelzer ~ Leann continues her devotion to fabric art, choosing projects that depict nature's beauty and diversity.
Janis Adams ~ Janis has been making things all her life and in the last few years, she has discovered new mediums in glass and in fiber. Janis will be showing fused glass jewelry and other glass creations, as well as hand painted silk scarves and felted scarves. She is always drawn to color and texture, especially in nature. She is inspired by her wonderful circle of fellow artists, who encourage and challenge her.
Paul Potts ~ Paul is deep in his fixation with steampunk, which means this show will have more of his owls, foxes, gears, and queens. He is a storyteller with his art. Many of his paintings include humorous twists that he hopes no one has seen before – an octopus waving a wrench, owls at Marti Gras, a gentleman owl enjoying a good cigar and a deer experiencing a close encounter to name a few.
Rene Horton ~ In Rene’s words “I went to a Saturday market once with a friend. She saw a chair she liked, and I made the comment that I could make the chair, so why buy it? She said prove it. So I did.” Rene creates wire and beaded jewelry.
Suzanne Sigona ~ Suzanne has created vibrant oil paintings to add to her works in watercolors and acrylics.
Guest post by Thelma T. Reyna
I was invited by one of my publishers to attend a national/international conference they co-sponsored at Lake Como last month. This “Abroad Writers Conference” (AWC) was designed as advanced learning for published authors from the U.S. Their “faculty” included 4 Pultizer Prize winners and 2 National Book Award recipients teaching intensive one-week workshops. Embracing this rare opportunity, I headed to Lake Como in my first overseas networking, workshopping, poetry reading experience.
Renaissance-era Como, resort hometown of George Clooney, is famously gorgeous. The event was in an 18th century villa, where we sat in one or two personalized workshops with the Pulitzer winners of our choice, or with other top national award winners. In the evenings, some of us conducted formal readings of our published work before the whole assemblage of about 50 author participants and 10 faculty, sharing the stage with America’s top writers in poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
Villa La Galleata, where we stayed and learned. Iconic Lake Como is surrounded by lovely small towns, with Como being the most prominent.
Learning and Re-Learning Poetry
My poetry workshop was with Rae Armantrout, whose book, Versed, won the Pulitzer in 2009. She had a reputation for being the most “cerebral” of the AWC poets; but, as a teacher, she blended sharp insights with down-to-earth critiques in a soft voice and unassuming demeanor. She pushed us to think harder.
There were 7 of us in this cohort. We met on a serene balcony entwined in wisteria and facing the lake, or in a formal parlor off the villa’s ballroom. We hailed from across America, and our group had a Korean-American and a Chinese-American. I was the lone Latina in the entire conference.
The camaraderie we established in one week belied our short time together. We opened our egos and ids to one another in the 10 poems each had provided for the workshop. Rae, my fellow poets, and I slashed one another’s lines, dissected phrases, questioned purpose and voice, yet affirmed one another’s work. When several of us in our group took appointed turns onstage in the evenings to read from our publications, my workshop fellows in the audience were the loudest applauders with the broadest smiles of approval. Their support was genuine.
Jane Smiley’s novel—A Thousand Acres, a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s King Lear—won the Pulitzer in 1992. Sometimes using colorful, edgy language, Jane shared her experiences as a writer; asked us endless analytical questions about our submitted fiction; and sprinkled her advice with examples from her favorite 100 novels. The writing skills of this workshop’s authors were quite high. All had completed novel manuscripts or short story collections.
One of Jane’s main tips: The climax of your novel comes around the 90% point of your narrative. Is it what you’d meant it to be? If not, go back and adjust. With a calculator, she took our fiction, identified where 90% of each manuscript ended, and analyzed if that was indeed our climax. Sometimes it wasn’t. By the end of the week, we each had to return to the proverbial drawing board. Pieces we thought were “final” were not. Directions we’d thought our writing needed to take turned out to be wrong turns. None of us escaped unscathed. We all emerged as stronger writers, though. This is why we paid the big bucks, I suppose: to hear what we may not have wanted to hear from the folks who know most about these things.
Our Fiction Workshop: Jane Smiley at the head of the table; Thelma is second from left, foreground.
* * *
Stay Tuned for Part II on Tuesday: The second installment of this guest blog describes my poetry reading at Lake Como, where I debuted my new book. I will also briefly discuss the need for cultural diversity in international literary events. Thanks for stopping by.
* * *
|Photo by Jesus Treviño|
Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D., is the author of four books, with the, a full-length collection of her selected and new poetry—Rising,Falling, All of Us—issued in summer 2014. Reyna’s short fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in anthologies, literary journals, textbooks, blogs and regional print media off and on for over 30 years.She resides in Pasadena, California.
Last week, I covered a new, children's book, Boy Zorro and the Bully (El Niño Zorro y el Peleón), by Kat Aragon. My post opened with "U.S. readers definitely need more and more diverse books. Especially for children, both Anglo and the marginalized children of color. A bilingual book by Kat Aragon, published last month, relates to that need, as well as to the U.S. sickness of bullying."
I closed with, "Our First Voice books should aspire to be superior to others being written. If expecting books to meet such a standard offends someone, I prefer that to my saying nothing about our literature needing improvement. And when mine are published, I'll ask help holding them to similar standards. To help publicize Zorro, I'll give the author, publisher, and illustrator, for that matter, space here if they would like to explain more about the book."
The author and the publisher sent responses to my post and as promised, I include them below, as well as some others. Reading the original post will likely help you understand what's said below.
Reviews of any book are inherently done from personal perspectives; it's simply part of human frailty. Which is why authors sometimes disagree with their reviewers. Based on what follows, I displeased some people, got confused or maybe even don't understand certain things. I do sometimes do that. Although my review can't be considered thorough, it was my best attempt.
Normally, Anglo reviewers don't necessarily go "light" on Anglo writers, except insofar as they go "heavy" on ethnic writers or lit that's not part of the Anglo world. I believe Chicanos, Latinos, all People of Color also need to be as insightful and honest about "their" literature and writers. Maybe, more so.
Back in the 60s-70s, we Chicanos tended to hide our differences, not criticize ourselves in front of Anglos and generally looked with disdain on any Raza who dared to find fault in the Chicano Movimiento, its leaders or its politics. I tried not to be one of those. I continue to try to practice honesty in my writing and in assessing that of others. According to the author and publisher of Zorro, at least, I didn't do that in their case. You decide.
1. Rudy. Rudy. Rudy. You practically missed the book altogether. Starting with the misclassification of it as “A Latino Book”. This is a book about “Bullying”. You made it a book about Latinos and then used the book as a platform to go off into different tangents about race, skin color, lack of female representation, and injecting the word “punishment” -implying a negative connotation, as though it is related to the injustice of the system – which is indeed a problem, but not in this book.
A children’s book about a bully, that happens to be inclusive of Latinos, particularly Mr. Ramos the principal, and the iconic Mexican character Zorro, should be commended, not torn apart for not addressing every single issue regarding race. Are you helping or hurting those who actually do something in the world to provide quality education in today’s world with our Latino families?
The fact that I selected a publisher (and there aren’t too many), that focuses on bilingual books as a way to be inclusive of Spanish-speaking immigrant parents, and provides a practical solution to include Spanish-speaking parents in the discussion at schools, with language, reading and educational opportunities to improve our society, should be commended not slighted. - Kat A. - Author [of Zorro], Educator
2. I am the publisher at Lectura Books and I would love to clarify the intent of this special book – Boy Zorro and The Bully. The book is quite timely and is intended for the support of very young elementary kids, as a way to have discussions about the topic of bullying and what to do if they experience it, or witness it.
The Boy Zorro character, Benny, is very young, and the Zorro outfit was a creative expression of his young imagination, and perhaps his fascination with superheroes.
Boy Zorro does the right thing by having an adult handle the bully. And, doing the right thing, at the risk of being called a name like “snitch,” takes true courage.
Bullying is a serious topic today, and goes beyond teasing and snitching. Actual bullying happens over and over and creates ongoing fear in the victim – which is the case with the Big Ricky character in the book. Mr. Ramos, the principal, does the right thing, stays strong, and all outcomes are favorable – no matter their skin color or race.
As you can see from the text, Boy Zorro doesn’t “make a difference” simply by going to the principal. He ultimately makes a difference by taking it to the right person (instead of trying to fight the bully), who will bring it to the school community for discussion, accountability and policy.
As a child development expert, I love how this book spells out the consequences so that kids, parents, and teachers know what to expect. It’s also important that the offender, Big Ricky, had an opportunity to see that his actions were unacceptable and would not be tolerated in their community, and yes, there are real world consequences. Consequences should be spelled out clearly and followed through, as in every good parenting and leadership situation.
It’s true, this is a complex time in our society, which is reflected in our schools and I don’t think anyone has an easy fix for bullying. But, I do know that having ongoing discussions, about what is acceptable and what are the consequences, is a terrific model for parents, kids, teachers, and administrators. The book also has an age-appropriate play for young school kids to perform in front of their school community, which invites further opportunity to open up the lines of communication.
If you’d like more bilingual books with girls, boys, people of different colors, histories, traditions, and socioeconomic diversity, visit our website at: www.LecturaBooks.com - Katherine Del Monte, Publisher
3. I like the main character Boy Zorro and his fighting against Bullying. Putting aside the issue of light v. dark skin, the illustrations are great. Hopefully, Zorrito will appear in follow-up books fighting other problems. - Author Giora
4. I like the thoughtfulness and thoroughness of your review. I also like how you offer space to those who created the book for their comments. I remember some awful moments in school, some more terrifying than others. If I had told my Father everything, I feel certain he would've had me transferred -- I was a kid, and valued being with friends more than safety. I think it's great to teach kids how to deal and I also like adult awareness. I also agree that bullies won't teach themselves how and why to stop. Great post, Rudy! - Sylvia Riojas, Independent Writing and Editing Professional
5. Very good review, Rudy. You've really covered all of the pros and cons. Bullying happens both within and outside of cultures and needs to be always in our minds to protect children and show them how to work with and survive it. This book is a good start. - L. M. (Linda) Quinn, Marketing/Technical Writer Living and Writing in L.A.
6. Rudy, as always, you are honest, straightforward, and insightful in your comments. I, for one, appreciate this. No book is perfect. You pointed out plenty of good points about this book, so the author, illustrator, and publisher should feel good. Re: the cons, every book has some. Hearing honest reviews helps us authors keep pushing the envelope toward higher and higher quality. Thanks for not insulting us by expecting less. - Thelma T. Reyna, author
Final aviso: This post is not intended as a literary boxing ring. In my mind, there are no sides. There are opinions, and that's all they are. Anyone who chooses to comment to this post should keep in mind that only "constructive" criticism will improve "our" literature, assuming you include yourself in the "our."
Es todo, hoy,
By: Amelia ML Montes,
Blog: La Bloga
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Her reply was immediate. “It’s like pulling teeth sometimes,” Diabetes educator, Celia Chu-Diep said. I had just asked her how difficult it is for Diabetes patients to follow everything the Diabetes educator suggests: to initially receive Diabetes education; to attend support group meetings; to become committed to seeking and eating very different kinds of meals. “It’s not easy for them.” It wasn’t easy for me, when I was first diagnosed. Even that day, walking up Madison Avenue on Manhattan’s upper east side to Mt. Sinai, there were many temptations. A string of restaurants and fast-food shops line the streets on either side of the hospital.
|Busy day at Mount Sinai Hospital|Luckily, on that day, there was a mini farmer’s market across the street from the main entrance to Mt. Sinai. I stopped to have a hand-picked bean salad and a handful of raspberries from a local farm. Of course it was difficult to avoid the apple crisp bowls being sold at the next table. I told myself if I wanted more “sweetness” just to eat more raspberries. Raspberries are high in fiber and low in carbohydrates, which makes them a low glycemic index food, (meaning it is absorbed slowly in the body so you don’t have a sudden jerky sugar high). Had I eaten the apple crisp, I would have experienced a quick “high” and then a sudden low.
|Information outside of Celia's office at Mount Sinai|This adventure – visiting Mt. Sinai – took place a little over a week ago. I visited Celia at Mount Sinai Hospital because I’d been wanting to get a glimpse of Diabetes education in various parts of the country. And in Celia’s work, she observes that her Mexican, Puerto Rican, African American, Asian patients all have a hard time avoiding the cultural pressure of eating foods like pan dulce, polvorones, coconut cakes, fried bananas in addition to fatty meats. And even when they do, one visit to a restaurant may ruin any attempt to eat “healthier” because of all the hidden sugars they use to prepare food. And again, I could relate to what she was saying. This past year, due to the pressures of my work, which demanded an unusual amount of restaurant dinner and lunch meetings, I succumbed to losing what I thought was a sure footing in healthy eating. Instead, the hidden sugars in restaurant food had me craving more and more unhealthy foods – a chemically induced rabbit hole that was very difficult to escape.
|A1C tracker |This is why I always first tell friends who ask me questions about Diabetes and what to eat: Be kind to yourself. As Celia pointed out: “It’s not easy,” mainly because you have a huge “food industrial complex” (a goliath) always there hoping you’ll devour it and get sucked back into the vortex. Take one step at a time and see eating healthy as an adventure—not something continually restrictive.
In Barbara Kingsolver’s book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life, she writes how the food industry “made piles of corn and soybeans into high-fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and thousands of other starch- or oil-based chemicals. Cattle and chickens were brought in off the pasture into intensely crowded and mechanized CAFOS (concentrated animal feeding operations) where corn – which is no part of a cow’s natural diet, by the way – could be turned cheaply and quickly into animal flesh. All these different products, in turn, rolled on down the new industrial food pipeline to be processed into the soft drinks, burgers, and other cheap foods on which our nation now largely runs—or sits on its bottom, as the case may be . . .
Certainly, we still have regional specialties, but the Carolina barbecue will almost certainly have California tomatoes in its sauce (maybe also Nebraska-fattened feedlot hogs), and the Louisiana gumbo is just as likely to contain Indonesian farmed shrimp. If either of these shows up on a fast-food menu with lots of added fats or HFCS, we seem unable either to discern or resist the corruption. We have yet to come up with a strong set of generalized norms, passed down through families, for savoring and sensibly consuming what our land and climate give us. We have, instead, a string of fad diets convulsing our bookstores and bellies, one after another, at the scale of the national bestseller. Nine out of ten nutritionists (unofficial survey) view this as evidence that we have entirely lost our marbles. A more optimistic view might be this: these sets of mandates captivate us because we’re looking hard for a food culture of our own. A profit driven food industry has exploded and nutritionally bankrupted our caloric supply . . . Can we find or make up a set of rituals, recipes, ethics, and buying habits that will let us love our food and eat it too? Some signs point to “yes.” Better food—more local, more healthy, more sensible—is a powerful new topic . . . It reaches from the epicurean quarters of Slow Food convivial to the matter-of-fact Surgeon General’s Office; from Farm Aid concerts to school lunch programs. From the rural routes to the inner cities, we are staring at our plates and wondering where that’s been. For the first time since our nation’s food was ubiquitously local, the point of origin now matters again to some consumers. We’re increasingly wary of an industry that puts stuff in our dinner we can’t identify as animal, vegetable, mineral, or what. (13 – 17) For the past few years, I’ve grown vegetables (chard, kale, tomatoes, chiles, broccoli) in my backyard and have had great luck in harvesting/freezing and also cooking and freezing dishes so my garden serves me year-round.
But in the past two months, I’ve gone a step further. I’m on, what I call, a “food adventure”—avoiding all meats, dairy (it was difficult to say “no” to greek yogurt and many kinds of cheese), and grains (but I was already gluten free). You may be thinking: well, what is left to eat? And what is left has been indeed the amazing adventure. I’ve decided to follow what’s called a “whole foods plant-based diet.” I eat a lot of beans, lentils, vegetables, soy, fruits (mainly berries).
|pinto frijoles|My glucose numbers have remained stable and I’m feeling good! I also feel like a Xicana radical food activist, my own healing agent, using food to improve my well being. Some of the research I’ve read explains that such a diet improves cardiovascular well being. And that is important to me because cardiovascular complications are most common with those of us who have Diabetes. Most individuals with Diabetes die from stroke, hardening of the arteries, heart attacks. My experiment is to follow this “whole foods plant based diet” adventure for about six months and then go to my doctor to check and see if and how it’s affected my cardiovascular system. I’ll definitely keep you posted. As well, there are other Xicanas having exciting food adventures.
Two other Xicana food activists who are also professors: Catriona R. Esquibel and Luz Calvo, have a cooking club you can join.
|Professors Luz Calvo and Catriona R. Esquibel|On their website, they write: “As U.S.-born Latinos/as, we have much to learn from the way our ancestors ate. Eating our ancestral foods can help us prevent and treat the diseases that result from adopting the Standard American Diet. The central tenet of our project is “La comida es medicina” [Food is medicine]. As Chicana professors, we have seen firsthand the effects of the Standard American Diet on our bodies and on the health of our family, our students, and our community. U.S.-born Latina/o communities are facing a health crisis, most notably with Diabetes but also with heart disease and many cancers. It is difficult to fight for our people and our culture if we are sick and sluggish. We believe that it is time to reclaim our cultural inheritance and wean our bodies from sugary drinks, fast food, and donuts. Cooking a pot of beans from scratch is a micro-revolutionary act that honors our ancestors and the generations to come.” Every so often, I’ll be posting recipes and updates. Here’s one below. Querida La Bloga reader: I am sending each and every one of you healing energies and good wishes that you may think about your own food adventures and what that might look like! This recipe is by Rachael Campbell: Title: Avocado Kale Chili Salad (Vegan and Gluten Free) Description: Kale is a from of cabbage. It is full of antioxidants, anti inflammatory nutrients and cancer preventive nutrients. It is very high in iron, vitamin C, B complex groups of vitamins, and calcium. Kale contains sulforaphane particularly when chopped or minced. It also has a chemical which boosts DNA repair to cells. Enjoy every bite of this healthy and nutritious salad: n 1 bunch kale (Tuscan kale or curly leafed scots kale) stems removed n ½ red onion small thinkly sliced n ½ cucumber thinly sliced n red chili sliced to taste --6 teaspoons lemon juice --1/4 teaspoon mustard powder --1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper --salt and pepper to taste --flaked almonds (for Garnish) --red chili sliced (for Garnish)
- Remove stem from kale, wash and chop coarsely, place into mixing bowl
- Grind salt and pepper through kale and let sit for about 10 minutes to enhance flavor
- Add chopped avocado, red onion, cucumber, red chilies, and coriander. Toss gently through salad
- Place ingredients into a blender (or, if you have a vitamix machine) and blend on high speed for about a minute
- Toss dressing gently through salad
- Garnish with flaked almonds, red chili sliced, salt and pepper to taste
By: Daniel Olivas,
Blog: La Bloga
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If you’ve been wondering where I’ve been these last three years, let me just tell you right now that you can find me at Bar 107 in downtown on 4thStreet most nights with a sheaf of paper—my unfinished novel—red Sharpie in hand, a glass of Pabst Blue Ribbon by my side for inspiration.
I’ve been editing the same first chapter for, well, three years. I didn’t make tenure, something you’d know if you’ve been talking to Mónica which would kind of surprise me since she was the ostensible reason for us breaking up when she and I got very drunk—right here at Bar 107—and you caught us messing around in that booth over there. I still think you overreacted since we did not go beyond what you can do in a booth in plain view—of course!—but you did come close enough to see that I had my left hand up her short skirt and in her beautiful, little black panties. I haven’t seen her since that night. But I admit that when you moved out of my condo the next day, I texted her, tried to get that ball rolling, so to speak. I mean, Mónica is hot. You know that. Not as hot as you, but hot nonetheless. But she never responded which makes me suspect she chose you over me and probably begged to remain your best friend.
I like Bar 107 for a few reasons including the fact that it’s a short walk from the Pershing Square Station which is important ever since I lost my car—well, it was repossessed—and lost my job and had to downsize my life in many annoying ways including selling the condo and then renting a one-bedroom in Koreatown. I’m not on unemployment anymore since I’ve managed to patch together a living by taking on a few private students and teaching creative writing online extension courses through UCLA. I mean, I do have an award-winning short story collection to my name and have published in some of the better literary journals including Tin House, Ploughshares and ZYZZYVA, to name but a few (I am not bragging…I’m simply stating the truth). That little fiction collection kept me legit for five full years, but my drinking and my cockiness and my writer’s block all conspired to derail my pathway to tenure at the UNIVERSITY-THAT-SHALL-NOT-BE-NAMED. You’d think they’d never met an alcoholic writer for God’s sake. Though I do suspect that the second complaint lodged against me by that perky little sophomore (who also shall not be named) didn’t help. I mean, if she didn’t want to be around me and my hands why didn’t she just drop the class? Young people today, they have no sense of logic. If something bothers me, I walk away. That’s how it’s done. You don’t have to ask me twice before I exit, stage right.
Anyway, my meager living doesn’t keep me from Bar 107. I’ve actually made some great editing decisions right here. I think I’ve finally figured out how to begin this novel—writing the first chapter, getting it perfect is what I have to do because that will set the stage for the rest of it—and once I get these first pages just so, the other chapters will flow like, well, Pabst Blue Ribbon from the tap. But if you do come by Bar 107 and see me hunched over my pages, wait until I take a break before coming by to say hi. I don’t want anything to break the magic, not even you. You know how delicate the creative writing process is, right? I mean, you saw it up close and personal for long enough. Just be patient. I’ll look up from my writing eventually. Really. I promise.
[“Bar 107” first appeared in PRISM. It is included in a new, as-yet placed short-story collection.]