Friday, May 27, 2016

Arte Público Fall Catalog

Yes, summer hasn't officially begun yet - I know, I know.  But here's the Fall Catalog from one of our favorite publishers (it's at the top of my list.) Never too soon to think about holiday gifts, is it? Or those cold, stormy nights huddled around a cup of hot tea or Mexican chocolate, shared with a warm book?  Whatever, the good people at Arte Público Press have assembled an eclectic array of impressive literature for their end-of-year offerings. I'm only too happy to preview the catalog here on La Bloga.

From classic short fiction by a Chicano Lit pioneer to recovering the lost work of a border journalist of the early 20th century to Spanish tongue twisters, there is something for every type of reader in this catalog.  The featured titles include bilingual picture books with important life lessons; a retrospective collection of Puerto Rican poetry; best practices to help keep Latino youth out of the criminal justice system; and a look at an urban big city neighborhood from a child's point of view. 

And then there's my latest ...

[all content from Arte Público Press]


My Bad:  A Mile High Noir
Manuel Ramos
September 30, 2016

A gripping crime novel that brings together an ex-con and his attorney in a case that questions who's really the bad guy.

Ex-con Gus Corral is fresh out of jail and intent on keeping his nose clean. He’s living in his sister’s basement, which he shares with a cat or two, Corrine’s CDs and their father’s record collection. The blues music in particular strikes a chord, matching the way he feels about his current state.

Things start to look up when Gus gets a job working as an investigator for his attorney, Luis Móntez. An activist in the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Móntez is slowing down and getting close to retirement, and he figures the felon can do the legwork on his cases. So when María Contreras comes to see the lawyer about her dead husband’s “business partner”—someone she has never heard of who’s demanding his share of the profits of a business she knew nothing about—Móntez has Gus look into the situation.

Narrating the story in alternating chapters, Gus and Luis recount their run-ins with suspicious characters as they learn that there’s more to the case than meets the eye. The widow’s husband owned and operated a local bar, not a Mexican folk art import company called Aztlán Treasures. And word on the street is that he was murdered on his boat in the Sea of Cortez. Soon, the dead bodies are piling up and the pair is surrounded by shadowy figures that point to money laundering, drug smuggling and even Mexican crime cartels.

The follow-up to Desperado, Ramos’ first novel featuring Gus Corral, My Bad races to a walloping conclusion in a Rocky Mountain blizzard, leaving fans of crime novels—and Chicano literature—eagerly awaiting the next installment in his mile-high noir.

Manuel Ramos is the author of numerous books, including Desperado: A Mile High Noir (Arte Público Press, 2013), The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories (Arte Público Press, 2015) and Brown-on- Brown: A Luis Móntez Mystery (University of New Mexico, 2003). He lives in Denver, Colorado.


The Wetback and Other Stories
Ron Arias
September 30, 2016

This collection brings together the short fiction of an acclaimed journalist and Chicano literature pioneer.

In the title story, Mrs. Rentería shouts, “David is mine!” as she and her neighbors gather around the dead but handsome young man found in the dry riverbed next to their homes in a Los Angeles barrio. “Since when is his name David?” someone asks, and soon everyone is arguing about the mysterious corpse’s name, throwing out suggestions: Luis, Roberto, Antonio, Henry, Enrique, Miguel, Roy, Rafael. 

Many of the pieces in this collection take place in a Los Angeles neighborhood that used to be called Frog Town, now known as Elysian Valley. Ron Arias reveals the lives of his Mexican-American community: there’s Eddie Vera, who goes from school yard enforcer to jail bird and finally commando fighting in Central America; a boy named Tom, who chews his nails so incessantly that it leads to painful jalapeño chili treatments, banishment from the neighborhood school and ultimately incarceration in a school for emotionally disturbed kids; and Luisa, a young girl who can’t resist an illicit visit to Don Noriega, an old man the kids call El Mago who is known as a curandero in their neighborhood.

Most of the 14 stories included in this volume were originally published in journals that no longer exist, including El Grito, Caracol and Revista Chicano-Riqueña. Arias was one of the first to use magic realism and connect U.S. Hispanic literature to its more popular, Latin American cousin. This collection finally gathers together and makes available the short fiction of a pioneer in Mexican-American literature. 

Ron Arias, a journalist who worked for People magazine for 22 years, is the author of five non-fiction books, including Five Against the Sea (Dutton, 1989), Healing from the Heart with Dr. Mehmet Oz (Dutton, 1998) and White’s Rules: Saving Our Youth One Kid at a Time with Paul D. White (Random House, 2007). He is the author of a foundational Chicano novel, The Road to Tamazunchale (Bilingual Review Press, 1975). He lives with his wife in Hermosa Beach, California.


Diaspora: Selected and New Poems
Frank Varela
September 30, 2016

Puerto Rican poet reflects on identity, life and death in this moving collection.

“Now that my past is longer than my future, / I feel a diminishment inside my body. / Like in an overcoat, my arms are lost in the vastness of its sleeves.” In “Remembrance,” Frank Varela poignantly writes about the longing for loved ones—Aunt Consuelo, Doña Simona, Don Benacio -- who are all spirits now. He hears them gossiping in the kitchen, sipping coffee and eating pastries. Their ghosts are a comfort, he writes, “So why then do their faces / blur in my memory?”

In this collection of 55 poems, Varela writes about growing up Puerto Rican in Brooklyn, noting that there are two types of Puerto Ricans: “those born on the island, / others like me, / the children of exiles.” Pondering the universal sentiment of immigrant children, he notes that he was considered a spic in the United States and a gringo in the land of his parent’s birth. “All I wanted was the impossible: / To be the who I am in a land / unafraid of the me I have become.”

Like his grandfather who cleared ten acres in Cibuco, Puerto Rico, “to wrench subsistence from red clay,” Varela loves the land and what it provides. “The land is rich with decay and past seasons. / On my best days, I can reach into the soil / and marry my soul with the green world— / tarragon, escarole, lemon balm, sage.” Expressing love and appreciation for his Puerto Rican family and culture, Varela’s poems reflect on the universal joys and pains of everyday life. This collection, which contains a mix of previously published and new poems, offers a survey of the poet’s work from 1988 to the present.
Frank Varlea is the author of Serpent Underfoot (March/Abrazo Press, 1993), Bitter Coffee (March/Abrazo Press, 2001) and Caleb’s Exile (Elf Creative Workshop, 2009). He lives and works in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

Overcoming Disparity:  Latino Young Men and Boys
Edited by Frank Acosta and Henry A.J. Ramos
September 30, 2016

Outlines the difficulties faced by Latino young men of color and provides strategies to increase their ability to lead successful lives.

Experts estimate that American taxpayers spend about $75 billion annually to support adult prisoners in detention, most of whom are men of color. Meanwhile, another generation of Latino young men and boys is at risk of being incarcerated.

This wide-ranging collection highlights the best practices developed and employed by community-based institutions to keep low income, at-risk Latino youth out of prison so they can lead productive lives. Focusing on the work of practitioners and organizations, most notably the non-profits Compadres National Network and La Plazita Institute, Overcoming Disparity shares strategies, tools and resources used to effectively deal with the challenges boys of color face because of poverty, injustice and discrimination.  

Based on the culturally grounded model called La Cultura Cura, the practices outlined emphasize Chicano/Latino history and use cultural expression and ritual to educate and create self-awareness, develop community programs and advance socially focused business ventures that encourage youth and community economic development.

The editors assert it is imperative that the nation’s fastest-growing community—including millions of impoverished Latino young men and boys—must be successful. Along with a curated sampling of leading tools, models and evaluations, Overcoming Disparity is a critically important text for policy makers, community builders, researchers, investors and
others concerned about American social policy and its impact on the economy and the lives of its citizens.

Frank de Jésus Acosta is the author of The History of Barrios Unidos (Arte Público Press, 2007). Henry A.J. Ramos is the author of The American GI Forum: In Pursuit of the Dream, 1948-1983 (Arte Público Press, 1998). They are the co-editors of Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice (Arte Público Press, 2016).


P. Galindo:  Obras (in)completas de José Díaz
Edited by Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez
November 30, 2016

This volume recovers the Spanish-language writings of a Mexican-American poet and journalist.

Born in 1898 on the southern side of the Río Grande River, José Díaz would go on to become a journalist and poet whose work now illuminates life along the Texas-Mexico border in the first half of the 20th century. His poetry and prose were published in numerous Spanish-language newspapers in Texas—much of it under the pseudonym P. Galindo —beginning in the 1920s.

Díaz wrote with humor about social and political issues, frequently using the “décima,” a type of poetry popular in previous generations. He chronicled the lives of his people, writing about everything from the start of the school year to the effect of the Cold War on the local economy. Of particular interest are his observations on the racism experienced by Mexican Americans during that time
. In addition to poetry and journalistic writings,P. Galindo: Obras (in)completas de José Díaz contains riddles, letters and telegrams. 

Scholar and editor Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez writes in his introduction that Díaz’s work is notable because he wrote for a literate, Spanish-speaking working class. Published as part of the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project, this book introduces students and scholars to the work of an important writer who documented life in South Texas from the Great Depression to the Chicano Civil Rights Movement. This is fascinating reading for those interested in the history of the Texas-Mexico border region, Spanish-language newspapers in the United States and their role in the community.

Manuel M. Martín-Rodríguez, a full professor and founding faculty member at the University of California, Merced, has written and edited numerous scholarly books and articles on Chicano literature, including The Textual Outlaw: Reading John Rechy in the 21st Century, co-edited with Beth Hernandez-Jason (Universidad de Alcalá de Henares, 2015), and With a Book in Their Hands: Chicano/a Readers and Readerships Across the Centuries (University of New Mexico Press, 2014).

Rooster Joe and the Bully/El Gallo Joe y el abusón
Xavier Garza
October 31, 2016

Acclaimed kids' book author returns with an exciting bilingual novel about middle school life.

Joe López is in seventh grade, and he dreams of being an artist as good and successful as his grandfather. He’s thrilled when the new art teacher compliments him on his pencil drawings of roosters and offers to teach him how to paint with oils. She even suggests that he might want to enter his piece in the county fair!

Still thinking about the possibility of painting with oils and not just kids’ tempera paint, Joe and his best friend Gary see Luis, a chubby sixth grader, running down the hall. Soon they see why he’s running: Martin Corona, the school’s biggest bully, is in hot pursuit. They watch as he slams Luis against the lockers and demands money. Much to his surprise, Joe finds
himself defending Luis. Luckily, the vice principal shows up just in time to rescue both Luis and Joe.

Reluctant to be a tattletale, Joe tries to avoid Martin and his gang. Even though he knows it’s just a matter of time before Martin exacts his revenge, fear doesn’t keep him from going to football games and trying to impress the girl he likes. And when he meets Martin Corona under the bleachers after school one day, it’s a conversation with his Grandpa Jessie about la lucha—or everyone’s individual fight—that helps Joe and his friends not only survive the encounter, but put the bully in his place.

This bilingual “flip” book for intermediate readers also includes Garza’s black and white sketches depicting bullies, heroes and the roosters that Joe loves to draw. Award-winning author and illustrator Xavier Garza once again writes an action-packed novel that will appeal to all young teens.

Xavier Garza is a prolific author, artist and storyteller. His work includes Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel (Cinco Puntos Press, 2011), a Pura Belpré Honor Book; Kid Cyclone Fights the Devil and Other Stories / Kid Ciclón se enfrenta a El Diablo y otras historias (Piñata Books, 2010); and The Donkey Lady Fights La Llorona and Other Stories /La señora Asno se enfrenta a la Llorona y otros cuentos (Piñata Books, 2015). He lives with his family in San Antonio, Texas.


El torneo de trabalenguas/The Tongue Twister Tournament
Nicolás Kanellos - Illustrations by Anne Vega
October 31, 2016

This bilingual picture book features tongue twisters in English and Spanish

“Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, doggies, kitties and mousies: Welcome to the grand Tongue Twister Tournament!” And so begins this championship in which the best tongue torturer will win the tongue twister trophy.

The competitors include a variety of quirky characters, including Lengua de Lagarto, or Lizard Tongue, whose tongue is tied “just so.” There’s Grumpy Granny, who raps about a raggedy cat, and El Chupacabras, who loves to eat critters, “even insects are for me / cows and cats and doggies too /chupa chupa chupa cabras, BOO!”

Many of the tongue twisters included in this picture book will be familiar to Spanish-speaking children—and their parents too! But the book also includes tried-and-true tongue twisters familiar to English speakers, like “Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.” With colorful illustrations depicting the unique contestants, this bilingual collection of phrases that are difficult to say quickly will challenge children to excel in both English and Spanish.

Nicolás Kanellos is the Brown Foundation Professor of Hispanic Studies at the University of Houston and founder-director of Arte Público Press. He is the author of numerous books on U.S. Hispanic literature and theatre for adults, including Hispanic Immigrant Literature: El Sueño del Retorno (University of Texas Press, 2011). He practiced these tongue twisters while growing up in New York and Puerto Rico. He lives with his family in Houston, Texas.
Anne Vega is the illustrator of Magda’s Tortillas / Las tortillas de Magda (Piñata Books, 2000) and Magda’s Piñata Magic / Magda y la piñata mágica (Piñata Books, 2001). She lives and works in Columbus, Ohio.


A Surprise for Teresita/Una sorpresa para Teresita
Virginia Sánchez-Korrol - Illustrations by Carolyn Dee Flores
November 30, 2016

This bilingual picture book lovingly celebrates family relationships while depicting a Puerto Rican community in New York City.

When Teresita opens her eyes that morning, she knows it’s a special day. It’s her birthday, and now she’s a big girl. She’s seven! And her Tío Ramón has promised her a surprise. She can’t wait to find out what it is!

“Is it time for Tío Ramón to come to our block?” she asks her mamá excitedly as she sits down for breakfast. But it’s too early. Her uncle has to take his snow cone cart to the other blocks before he comes to theirs. All day, Teresita watches for the green and white cart. She listens for Tío Ramón calling, “Snow cones, cold snow cones. ¡Piraguas! ¡Piraguas frías!”

While she waits for her uncle, she jumps rope, plays games with her friends and watches the goings-on in her neighborhood. Mothers hold their young children’s hands as they walk to the corner bodega to buy groceries. Boys ride bikes and play stickball. Older people sit at windows and enjoy the sights and sounds of their community. And coming from far up the block, where water sprays from an open fire hydrant, Teresita finally hears the sound of her uncle’s voice. What will her surprise be?!?

Set in a Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City, this bilingual picture book for children ages 4–8 captures both the daily life of an urban community and a child’s excitement about her birthday surprise. Children will be inspired to look at—and maybe even write about—their own neighborhoods with new eyes.

Virginia Sánchez-Korrol, professor emerita at Brooklyn College of the City University of New York, is the author of several books, including Feminist and Abolitionist: The Story of Emilia Casanova (Piñata Books, 2013). She lives in Piermont, New York. 

Carolyn Dee Flores is the illustrator of Dale, dale, dale: Una fiesta de números / Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers (Piñata Books, 2014) and Canta, Rana, canta / Sing, Froggie, Sing (Piñata Books, 2013), both of which were named to the Texas Library Association’s Tejas Star Reading List. She lives in San Antonio, Texas.



Manuel Ramos is the author of several novels, short stories, poems, and non-fiction books and articles.  His collection of short stories, The Skull of Pancho Villa and Other Stories, was a finalist for the 2016 Colorado Book AwardMy Bad: A Mile High Noir is scheduled for publication by Arte Público Press in September, 2016.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Chicanonautica: Aztlán is the Wild West

by Ernest Hogan

Oralé, buckaroos! Lost Trails 2: Forgotten Tales of theWeird West, edited by Cynthia Ward, with another story by me, plus a lot of other fantastic rip-snorters by some of the best damn writers around.

It's a follow-up to the first Lost Trails anthology, that included my story “Pancho Villa's Flying Circus,” an anti-steampunk romp that has gained a bit of a reputation.

You better grab them both if you want to stay on top of things.

This second volume features “Lupita's Hand,” an Aztláni western with gunplay and Aztec magic. It was inspired by the travels in Arizona and New Mexico, searching for my roots. Did I mention that I'm descended from Irish cowboys and Mexican curanderos? I'm as Wild West as huevos rancheros, another weird, rasquache product of Aztlán, as all Chicanos are.

It's an obsession with me. So much that I find visions of a sequel popping into my head. Maybe there's a whole world – or even a universe growing in there, while I gather research materials in the real west.

As a kid growing up in the fifties and sixties, I absorbed a lot of the Wild West through popular culture, though I do find Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour kind of dull. I prefer things like Jodorowsy's El Topo and Ishmael Reed's Yellow Back Radio Broke Down. I like my west weird as well as wild.

Mexicans and Indians help. Spaghetti westerns – my favorite is A Bullet for the General -- especially when they are bizarre and don't know it, are great. Just don't let it get all whitebread on you. For me Aztlán is the Wild West.

You see, the Wild West isn't history, it's myth, violent dreams spawned by the struggle to build a life in land snatched through generations of bloody conflict. Who are we? What are we becoming? Who are we shooting today?

Of course Hollywood and its corporate masters want to make it all suitable for Chinese videogame addicts and American tract-housing dwellers, but there's something about this land and its myths. They want to be wild. They have issues. And the real history is there: fermenting under the volcanic landscapes, mongrel ghosts with mythotecnic agendas that go way back, and reach into the future . . .

It's time to take back the Wild West, Aztlán, and let it be as weird as it needs to be.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Surviving Santiago

By Lyn Miller-Lachmann
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Running Press Kids (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762456337
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762456338

Returning to her homeland of Santiago, Chile, is the last thing that Tina Aguilar wants to do during the summer of her sixteenth birthday. It has taken eight years for her to feel comfort and security in America with her mother and her new husband. And it has been eight years since she has last seen her father.

Despite insisting on the visit, Tina’s father spends all his time focused on politics and alcohol rather than connecting with Tina, making his betrayal from the past continue into the present. Tina attracts the attention of a mysterious stranger, but the hairpin turns he takes her on may push her over the edge of truth and discovery.

The tense, final months of the Pinochet regime in 1989 provide the backdrop for author Lyn Miller-Lachmann’s suspenseful tale of the survival and redemption of the Aguilar family, first introduced in the critically acclaimed Gringolandia.


"Smooth dialogue, a quick pace, and palpable suspense combine to make a compelling read. . . . A riveting story of love and acceptance amid a tumultuous political landscape."
—Kirkus Reviews

"[F]or collections in need of literature with Hispanic protagonists and historical time periods not often covered in schools."
—School Library Journal

"[I]ntriguingly multilayered."

"While Surviving Santiago is a companion novel to Gringolandia (Curbstone, 2009), it can be read as a standalone. The setting in Chile creates a tense atmosphere for this historical fiction novel."


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Dance to the Music, If You Know It.

Review: Gregg Barrios. I-DJ. East Brunswick NJ: Hansen Publishing Group, 2016.
ISBN: 978-1-60182- 328-1
ISIN: B01958Z1GU

Michael Sedano

Gregg Barrios’ I-DJ requires a lot more information than I can muster, leaving me a clueless reader unless I do a lot of homework to flesh out the playscript. However, even for a high-information reader, I-DJ is the kind of play that must be experienced on a live stage, not on the page. It would be an impressionistic multimedia tour de force, on stage.

Not that reading I-DJ isn’t a rare pleasure; it is.

Barrios weaves a compelling story across two acts of two scenes each. Chicanidad blends with Hollywood glitter blends with gay lifestyles entangling Warren, the central character in Shakespeare and Shakesqueer, porn, murder, AIDS, the street, rape, sex shows, drugs, hip-hop, disco balls, laser beam light shows, and looking back not with anger but a survivor’s relief.

Reading I-DJ makes me grateful for Google music because, although it’s a lot of work to find it, the music is an essential element to the drama. As Warren announces early in the first scene, “A&M Records –was—IS the fucking soundtrack of my LIFE!”

And the play’s the thing wherein to capture the tenor of Warren’s extended monologues reflecting on his career as actor, artist, and joto, while informing one’s appreciation, or training one’s ear, to the discography of a record label.

Unless the editor missed a typo twice, the play’s second character, DJ, opens the play signing—not singing—a variation on a lyric in the song “God Is A DJ.” DJ plays much of the time in silhouetted miming synchronized with Warren’s speeches. DJ cues vinyl on turntables, flashes album covers, does assorted business. DJ comes into voice now and again speaking counterpoint to Warren’s moods, and as a third character, DJ Mutant. Essentially, I-DJ is a one-man tour de force.

The drama opens with 40 year-old Warren Peace, born Amado Guerrero Paz, reminiscing, celebrating the pinnacle of his life’s journey: landing a role in Ham-a-lot, a gay version of Hamlet. It’s a triumphant moment after a lifetime of some very hard knocks.

Warren relates how he, a Whittier native, finds a niche in glitter Hollywood, how he settles into a career as a personality, an actor whose “day job” is midnight shift disc jockey at the Pair-a-Dice Ballroom, a Hollywood dance club.

The putative hiatus to play the Ham-a-lot role leads Warren to find a replacement DJ. This is the twentysomething character, DJ Silence. Warren challenges DJ to spin music only from the A&M catalog to accompany Warren’s memories; if so, DJ will get a big break, fill-in DJ during Warren’s absence to play Shakesqueer.

The Ham-a-lot role is an elaborate set-up to the history Warren rolls out, from little boy, muy joto his familia says, and loved by a mother and father, and mentored by a colorful aunt, to child actor, to teen hustler, to committed partner, to entrepreneur, to bereaved lover, to top-notch DJ and narrator of his story.

Barrios drops a lot of names, from Terrence McNally to Peter Frampton to a one-and-a-two aging teevee bandleader, to Veronica Lake, as well as performers like Chris Montez, the Carpenters, Cat Stevens. Herb Alpert makes a cameo when the young Warren explains his fascination with A&M music begins when the boy mistakes the Armenian musician for a Mexican hunk pressing his first albums in Warren’s tío’s garage. The error nonetheless gives the young Chicano a sense of hope and identity.

Readers who know the music will find I-DJ a fulfilling read. Folks like me, ignorant of most of the music except hits like “Lonely Bull” or the “Whipped Cream” album from the 60s, will have to do a lot of work to keep up with the fast-paced developments and constantly cued-up sounds.

The two-actor drama requires strong actors to fill the roles. Warren dominates the talking roles, the play is one extended monolog after another. For the DJ role, a patient young man content to play against a dominant central actor.

While the playscript has a 2016 copyright, the play has been produced at least twice. In San Antonio in 2012, Rick Sanchez played DJ Warren Peace and Dominique J. Tijerina DJ Silence / DJ Mutant. In 2014, the play was part of a NY festival, with Sanchez reprising the DJ role and Hunter Wulff carrying the subordinate roles. In April, Barrios and I-DJ were featured at the San Antonio Book Festival.

In an email from Gregg Barrios, he mentions a possible California production this Fall. With the play’s visual effects, pop soundtrack, sympathetic character, I-DJ is too large and too big for a 99-seat house, though it has the feel of an intimate small performance space. Given the Hollywood setting and out-of-town production history favored by the Center Theatre Group, I-DJ would look great on the Mark Taper Main Stage, where the related “Angels In America” played an extended run to adoring audiences. A ver.

I-DJ is both a paperback and e-book available through mail-order organs. Ask your local independent bookseller to bring your copy to the shelves. I-DJ is a fast read initially, then readily re-read and re-read to capture the details and assemble the soundtrack to this modern musical treat.

On the Schedule

La Bloga-Tuesday has a rich line-up of reviews and poetry upcoming in the next weeks. A pair of On-line Floricantos will vie for attention in June with reviews extending through July, including The Mexican Flyboy, Black Dove, Escape from Planet Pleasure, Pariahs-Writing Outside the Margins, Maria's Purgatorio, The Sorrows of Young Alfonso, Breaking Ground Anthology of Puerto Rican Women Writers.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Once Ashamed of My Mexican Immigrant Parents, But Not Anymore

Salomón Chavez Huerta and Carmen Mejía Huerta. Mexico, 1954

By guest blogger Alvaro Huerta, Ph.D.
When I first applied to UCLA, I wrote in my personal essay that I didn’t have any positive role models in my violent neighborhood.
Having grown up in East Los Angeles’ Ramona Gardens housing project, I wrote that most of the adults represented gang members, drug dealers, thieves, tecatos (heroin addicts), alcoholics, felons and high school dropouts (or push-outs). I also wrote about my disdain for housing authority officials and government workers for behaving like prison wardens and guards toward us: project residents who depended on government aid or welfare.
Moreover, I decried the police abuse that I had witnessed and experienced, like the time when a cop pointed a gun at me. My crime: being a 15-year-old making a rolling stop while learning how to drive.
Lastly, as the product of low-performing public schools, I highlighted the low expectations most teachers and counselors had for their poor Chicano students. Fortunately for me, I excelled in mathematics.
While I was eventually accepted to UCLA, I should have been more truthful in my essay. In fact, I did have positive role models: my Mexican immigrant parents.
But why didn’t I give them credit? Did they represent drug dealers, criminals or rapists, as some buffoons want to us to believe? No. They never committed a crime or received a parking ticket. It’s difficult to get a ticket when you can’t afford a vehicle.
Did they migrate to this country to take jobs from American workers? No. My father, Salomón Chavez Huerta, first arrived in this country as a farmworker in the Bracero program – a U.S.-Mexico guest worker program from 1942 to 1964. He also worked as a janitor and day laborer.
My mother, Carmen Mejía Huerta, worked for more than 40 years as a domestic worker, cleaning the homes and taking care of the children of white, middle-class families. Like millions of Mexican immigrants, my late parents took jobs that most American workers reject due to dismal pay, lack of upward mobility and low social status or stigma, i.e., immigrant jobs.
In retrospect, I should have written about their remarkable stories of hard work, sacrifice and resilience in a hostile society. It’s amazing how two Spanish-speaking parents with only a couple of years of education in a small rancho raised eight children, sending four of them to elite universities. This includes raising the most accomplished Latino artist, Salomón Huerta, in the United States.
Instead of being proud of my Mexican parents, I was ashamed of their low social status.
Actually, since I grew up in segregated neighborhood where all of the residents received government aid, like most of my childhood friends, I never thought of myself as Mexican or poor. As a kid, I assumed that all parents spoke only Spanish and kids wore hand-me-downs. I also considered food stamps to be the common currency for all Americans when purchasing food.
It wasn’t until being bused to a white-majority junior high school, Mt. Gleason Jr. High, in the suburbs that I first experienced overt racism and realized that I was poor. For the first time, I was different than most people. Not only was I different, but also labeled as inferior by my white classmates. It was the first time in my life that I was called a “wetback,” “beaner” and “low-rider.”
This idea of being different or inferior followed me to college. I will never forget my first summer class at UCLA, for instance, when the professor asked us to share about our parents. While we had other racialized minorities in the class, I was the only Chicano student from the mean streets of East Los Angeles.
“Both of my parents are UCLA alums, and they’re both attorneys,” an African American student said with pride.
“My mom is a doctor, and father is an engineer,” a Latina student boasted.
“I’m a foreign exchange student from Latin America, and my father is a diplomat,” another student said with delight.
I panicked. What should I say, I thought to myself? Should I say that my mother cleans homes and father sweeps floors in a factory?
Not being able to compete with my privileged classmates with their professionally accomplished parents, I uttered something general like, “My parents are workers in the U.S.”
While I will never forgive myself for not giving my parents credit for motivating me to pursue higher education, growing up in a society where brown people are scapegoats for America’s failures, it makes sense that I would feel embarrassed about my Mexican roots and working-class background.
While Mexicans in el norte have become convenient targets for American politicians like Donald Trump, there’s a long tradition of Mexican-bashing in the United States. Since the military defeat of Mexico in 1848, American leaders and public figures have treated Mexicans in this country as second-class citizens and social burdens or threats.
For example, as an influential public figure, the late Harvard professor Samuel P. Huntington famously argued in his 2009 article “The Hispanic Challenge” that Mexicans and other Latinos represented a threat to the U.S. Where was the public outcry over his racist thesis?
As the largest ethnic group, accounting for more than 55 million U.S. residents, Latinas and Latinos in this country deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.
As a Chicano scholar with degrees from UCLA and UC Berkeley who, as a teen, internalized the pejorative narratives against brown people and the working class in this country, I have a clear message to Latinas and Latinos, especially young people: Don’t allow a bully like Trump or other American leaders to make you feel inferior due to your ethnic heritage or ashamed of your social status.

Dr. Huerta (Ph.D., UC Berkeley) is an assistant professor of urban and regional planning
and ethnic and women’s studies at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.
published by San Diego State University Press (2013).

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Gerald Padilla, Latino Book Review, and A Mythical Mexican Salamander Called Axolotl

Olga García Echeverría

So you've done the difficult work of writing a book and getting it published. Now it's time for a book review. If you're already an established literary rock star, having your work reviewed by a magazine, newspaper, or online journal probably isn't too difficult. But for many writers, seeking out a review may be challenging and even intimidating.

Enter Latino Book Review (LBR), a new online space where authors, both established and emerging, can have their works featured and reviewed. Today, we welcome founder and editor of LBR, Gerald Padilla, who shares (entre otras cosas) information on why he started Latino Book Review, what to send, and how to submit.

Welcome to La Bloga, Gerald. What prompted you to start Latino Book Review? Are you doing this for the love of literatura or is there a specific need you are trying to address?

For the last couple of years I had felt the need of creating a literary space, not so much for the love of literatura itself, which I treasure greatly, but for the love of those who surround me whose stories have shaped who I am and whose stories I believe have the ability to impact others as well. I started Latino Book Review with the intention of creating a literary platform for Latino authors whose words, I feel, have the power to shape not only our perception, but also change the social and political atmosphere of the world we live in. It is a known fact that our Latino community has made great strides in the international art scene, yet there is much to be done in the U.S.

Do you accept third party reviews?

Currently we are not accepting third party reviews, only those made by LBR columnist. Those interested in becoming an LBR columnist can contact us through our website

How exactly do authors submit their works for review at LBR?

Writers interested in submitting can contact us through our website. We will respond to their message and ask them to mail a hard copy of their book with a brief description of the submitted work and a short bio. Once mailed, LBR columnists will have an ongoing opportunity to chose among the submitted titles for review.

Do you accept books in English? Spanish? Spanglish?

It is important to understand that our community expresses itself in a prolific array of linguistic forms, and therefore we accept books to review in English, Spanish and Spanglish.

How exactly are authors featured on your website?

Each writer whose work is reviewed on our website will have a picture of themselves and their book, a review of their book, a short author bio and a direct link to the author’s publishing press where the book can be purchased. This is to make sure our featured authors increase their book sales as much as possible. I would like to point out that it’s also a great opportunity for publishers to send their authors' books to be reviewed, since they too are stakeholders who will benefit through direct exposure of their press.

Are you exclusively featuring books written by Latino authors?

The focus of LBR is to serve as a platform for the Latino narrative in all its dimensions. We consider books by authors of Latin American heritage, as well as those whose themes show appreciation for our culture regardless of the author's ethnicity, while making sure the work is relevant to our Latino community.

Do you accept books across genres?
We do review books across genres for published books only. The books must be accessible through online purchase.
What about chapbooks?
We are currently not accepting chapbooks.

Do you accept author interviews?

We don’t accept author interviews at this moment, but it’s something we’ll definitely consider for the near future.

How do you envision the LBR site growing in the coming years?

With perseverance and dedication, we wish to establish ourselves as a respected platform for Latino authors and continue pushing the boundaries to showcase our community’s literature to a wider audience.
Gracias Gerald and felicidades on your site. We look forward to hearing more about LBR. You are still fairly new, but already you have featured works by Lucha Corpi, Norma Cantu, Pat Mora, Xánath Caraza, Leticia Sandoval, and a trilingual children's book authored by you and poet Rossy Evelin Lima. I have to say que ese mythical Mexican Salamander (that is in your trilingual children's book Animals of My Land) me fascina.  Before we say goodbye, can you tell us a little about it?

Mythical Mexican Salamander Saying "F" You Trump! Toma!
Of course! El Axolotl is an animal that has captivated our hearts. It is endemic to Lake Xochimilco but unfortunately is on the verge of extinction. When we were writing the book, trying to reflect on animals that represent our land, we decided to include the Axolotl even though very few people know about it. It is our wish to raise awareness and help prevent the further extinction of animal species, inviting readers to take care of all animals as our friends. The Axolotl is also one of my favorite animals in the book.

Gerald Aguilar Padilla (Los Angeles, CA) is a translator, educator and cultural promoter. He has worked closely with the low income community of the Rio Grande Valley in Texas to promote Latin American Culture and Mesoamerican Culture as a strategy to validate our past and reconcile our identity. He is co-founder of the Latin American Foundation for the Arts; association dedicated to the widening and promotion of Latin American arts and culture, and co-founder of FeIPoL (Festival Internacional de Poesía Latinoamericana) in McAllen, TX., which celebrates the ever-beautiful Latin American arts through spoken word.