Monday, December 27, 2004

Why Chicanos Write [views]

In his post "Not a Christmas Story" (12/23), author Manuel Ramos posed 2 questions:
1. Why do you write?
2. If you're Chicana/o and you write Chicana/o Lit, why do you write Chicana/o Lit?

He also said, "Answers you don't have to make include: I am obsessed; I would die if I didn't write; my characters make me do it; I'm trying to preserve the culture; to make money." (Maybe he wants something more original or soul-searching.)

In Comments below you can answer Ramos's questions. Although you can post anonymously if you choose, you might let us know if you're published or unpublished. (If you want to submit a long piece, contact La Bloga to post it as an article.

Ramos might consider baring his own soul, primero, to show us the way.

Who's first?

12 comments:

Manuel Ramos said...

WHY WRITE?

RudyG makes a call for answers to the questions I posed last week to writers. The essential thing about blogs is their ephemeral nature. Bloggers who hesitate are lost, and blog posts that don’t get immediate comments become part of the archives. In our Attention Deficit Disordered society “archive” means ancient history. However, since we are new at this blog thing, and with the hope of spurring on some end-of-the year discussion, I’ll answer my own questions, to a limited degree.

First, my first question is a bit broader than RudyG states. “Why do you write” was addressed to any writer, Chicana/o or not. I’m curious about the different motivations for taking up the pen (well, computer cursor, usually), with the intent of expressing something that is expected to be read and reacted to by someone else. Especially when so many writers describe themselves as introverts or social cripples or just shy. Why subject oneself to the possibility of criticism, rejection, and, shudder, editing?

For me, it goes back to the day I discovered that I could read and read well. I devoured books, I was always way ahead in my elementary school reading assignments, and where other boys were bigger, faster, meaner, better dressed, or somehow more knowledgeable than I about the ways of the school yard world, I was the chingon when it came to reading and, later, writing. So, off I went into the literary world, ATM. I had my niche and I liked it. And then, when I discovered the power and magic of books, there was no holding back that urge to create something just as powerful and magical, in my own way. So, I started to write. I’m still starting. One day, I’ll actually get it going the way I want.

The second question is for raza ‘riters. Why write Chicano/a lit? Yeah, I know. This opens up a whole can of gusanos. I suggest you keep it simple. No polemics about what is or is not Chicano/o Lit. If you think you write such a thing, okay. But why? I’m not saying anyone has to or even should. Again, this is just my curiosity about motivation.

Manuel Ramos
www.manuelramos.com

msedano said...

Reading I’ve enjoyed since the day in kindergarten the teacher handed out our first Dick and Jane book. Only the pictures made sense, these two little white kids with a dog. Then Petey Arth said he could read a word. “Cat.” Except he pronounced it “kay-at” and that burned my ass. First off, Petey can read and I can’t! Then, sheesh, he should speak English. “Cat” is “cat” damnit.

Writing, you name it, I write it on the job: essays, instructional stuff, p.r. pieces, memos, all sorts of stuff. In newsgroups and my website, I write bookreviews and rhetorical criticism of chicana and chicano writing, a personal reminiscence. But writing fiction is not something I’ve engaged myself in, until lately. I am getting old, looking to a day in the not-so-distance that I won’t be reporting to the office and will finally have the time I want for myself. So I’m getting my fingers in practice.

Nontheless, whatever I write is chicano writing. It’s like cooking. A fellow asked me one day, “do you eat a lot of Mexican food at home?” So I ‘splained it to him. When I make a baloney sandwich, it’s Mexican food; macaroni and cheese, Mexican food. The point being, all food whatever the recipe’s origins, is Mexican food when cooked by a Mexican. So yes, I write chicano literature, because I am chicano. M’explico?

Manuel Ramos said...

Dude, I think you got it. Someone once asked, so if a Chicano makes the tacos at Taco Bell, is Taco Bell serving Chicano food?

msedano said...

In my area, Taco Bell serves cute Salvadoran food.

Of course, there's food--eat to live--then there's food--live to eat.

Just like chicano literature. I give you-- though you're likely to reject the offer-- Jalamanta by R. Anaya. It's the taco bell of chicano fiction.

mvs

Manuel Ramos said...

Ouch. Ultima's gonna get you for that.

Manuel

Anonymous said...

No shit, ouch! I was hoping Anaya might submit something here one day.
RudyG

Anonymous said...

I don't go for the "a Chicano cook at Caca Bell means that's Chicano food" argument. (Caca Bell doesn't serve food; it serves fast food, a degradation of the concept.)

Ergo above, if a Chicano writes sonnets in Portuguese about his years in England, then that would be Chicano lit?

E.g., I don't know much about Rick Bayless ('cept that he lowered himself to doing a Caca Bell commercial), but I'd categorize his bookbooks as being--Mexican food. Not gringo food. No even gringoized Mexican food.

I don't know about Anaya's Jalamanta; ain't read it. Sedano has an opinion.

What's yours Ramos (or anyone else)? Or do we do the Chicano avoidance thing 'cause us Chicanos can't handle criticism?
R

msedano said...

si el vato esta tan delicado, pues, ultimamente, valgame dios!

on the other hand, the world knows a stinker when we sees one. glad he got it out of his system. Kinda like "Blue Light," that stinker from Walter Mosely. But that's a horse of a different color.

However, it seems as if we've hit on something peculiar to chicano literature. Are we not to speak ill of crap, just because it's chicana chicano lit?

mvs

Manuel Ramos said...

Geez, guys. I didn't see where anyone said there were any sacred cows. Why that assumption? As far as critical analysis of Chicano/a Lit goes, yes, by all means. A literature that has no room for critics, reviewers, and intellectual deconstruction is really not a literature. On the other hand, the criticism has to be honest, analytical, and with as little subjectivism as possible (there will always be some whenever one assumes the role of critic.) But, this discussion has strayed far from my original question, which was, why do you write? Sedano answered that. Anyone else?

Manuel

Anonymous said...

In my capacity as casi-moderator of La Bloga, I gotta agree with Ramos's take. There's nothing sacred (see Groundrules for myself), but the Art is better served with objective analysis than simplistic, blanket opinions.

And as c-moderator digo que "Taco Bell of Chiclit" and "stinker" don't qualify as analysis. Some might call 'em cheap shots.

I had a hand in getting this off-topic, so I take part blame. I forgot; what we might can do here--something constructive. Like, continuing with Ramos's "Why do you write?" Here's my 2 pesos on that:

I write 'cause I had an English teacher (Mex-Am) in jr. high and high school who shared, encouraged my love of literature, including first, juvenile attempts at poetry, prose. After I went off to Austin, then Colo., we continued corresponding, often weekly. 15(?) years later, she presented me "The Words Between Us," a typed, bound, self-published journal of those letters; she'd edited it, added narration, etc. Another example of how good teachers influence students.

But para mí, it felt like ... first-love. No matter that "The Words" was her creation, the book I held contained my writings. It ignited the creative passion in me. And an epiphany--I could relive the rapture of that moment with a publication of my own, one day.

There's other reasons I write, but this discussion is not all about me, por favor.
... 2 pesos,
RudyG

Anonymous said...

Ok, well, I am posting anon merely because I really did not feel like trying to pick a userID and all that. But for anyone who might care to know, my name is Ayone' (pronounced A-YO-NAY) . And if you have not guessed it, I am obviously not Chicana. I am "Other"...African-American, Caucasian, and Cherokee Indian. But I would like to comment anyway. I write because I want to. I write because to me, it is better than soul food (food that is cooked with all the love one feels in their heart-and it can be cooked by a person of any race, creed, or nationality, as long as it's from their soul). I write because it's better than sex. Because it can be done all throughout the day-with no end in sight. I write because it's not what you say, but how you say it that makes the difference. I write to show appreciation to all of my ancestors who believed that one day their children and children's children would be educated; would be emancipated; would be able to say whatever they wanted to say with no fear of retribution. I write because I can and I love it. I love words, I love the rhythm that they come with and the music that they make. I write because I love music and all people, no matter what their skin looks like have an inherant rhythm ingrained in everything they do and say.
I write because I believe in making the music that my drummer plays as I'm marching to his beat...LOL. Yea, baby, that's why I write.

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