Friday, April 29, 2005

Some books make you stop reading. and that's good.

Friday: April 29, 2005

I stopped reading Eric Garcia’s Matchstick Men. I could not develop sustained interest in his criminals and their weirdnesses. I thought perhaps it was Mexico City that set me into a mental funk, and when I got back to Pasadena, the book was reading OK. Then it hit me, why bother? Back to the library it goes tomorrow, unfinished.

On the other hand, I stopped reading Alicia Gaspar de Alba's Desert Blood for a while, not owing to low quality, but because the first chapter left me gasping for breath, it was so stunningly powerful. The writer hit me right between the eyes and I hope you'll pick it up and see why.

The author of Sor Juana’s Second Dream has done it again, given us a piece that deserves to be a blockbuster. But won’t. Subject matter of crucial interest. Superbly written. So why doesn’t it get ink from NY or LA Times book reviewers? Or your local paper? I wonder if ethnic labeling of literature--Desert Blood has the subtitle The Juarez Murders–sets off a counter in the editorial computers "Quota exceeded. No more ethnic literature this quarter. Review something British instead."

You may enjoy following Gaspar de Alba’s blog on the rollout of this outstanding novel.

Click on the link embedded in the title, or use this:


Friday, April 22, 2005


Manuel Ramos

Latino Books Month
Chicano Detective Fiction
Garden of Hope
Spring, 2004

May Is Latino Books Month
In its ongoing efforts to promote books by and for Latinos, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) has designated May 2005 as the second annual Latino Books Month. During the month-long celebration, booksellers, librarians, and others in the book industry will encourage people in their communities to read books by and for Latinos, in both English and Spanish. More information on the AAP website, including specifics about the Latino Books Month Resource Kit.

New Book - Chicano Detective Fiction
The following is from the Spring catalog of McFarland publishing.

Chicano Detective Fiction: A Critical Study of Five Novelists
Susan Baker Sotelo
$32 softcover
ISBN 0-7864-2¡85-¡
Notes, bibliography, index
June, 2005

In his 1985 novel Partners in Crime, writer Rolando Hinojosa introduced homicide investigator Rafe Buenrostro, the first Chicano protagonist in one of the most enduring genres of modern literature. Since that time, Chicano writers have embraced the detective novel, successfully diversifying and refining a traditional Anglo American and British genre.The 21 whodunits of Hinojosa, Rudolfo Anaya, Lucha Corpi, Michael Nava and Manuel Ramos are closely studied in this groundbreaking work. The models, both contemporary and Romantic, of this relatively new Chicano genre are first discussed. Next come detailed analysis and reviews of such novels as Shaman Winter, Partners in Crime, Cactus Blood and 18 others, focusing on how each writer departs from contemporary detective genre formula, uniquely rendering a particular regional or cultural variation of what it means to be Chicano. It is this departure from the norm that defines their writings and distinguishes them from the Anglo American and British whodunit. Interviews with the writers conclude the work. Currently working on a novel, Susan Baker Sotelo is a Spanish teacher in Tucson, Arizona.
More info about this upcoming book on this page.

Garden of Hope
April 30th
A Denver Latin tradition for the past twelve years, this year, Latin jazz artist and event organizer, Manuel Molina, along with his 15-piece international orchestra, play for the benefit of Garden of Hope. For one night, the finest Latin jazz musicians gather from all around the world to play the hottest Latin sounds from Central and South American and the Caribbean.
Where: Convention Center, Holiday Inn D.I.A., I-70 and Chambers.
Time: VIP Reception Begins 5:30 p.m.; Dancing begins 8:00 p.m.
Ticket Prices: $30 for Reserved Seating; $20 for General Admission

Garden of Hope is a national non-profit organization headquartered in Denver whose mission is to advocate on behalf of low-income individuals in need of life-saving medical treatment. Specifically, the mission of Garden of Hope is to develop a national network of professionals willing to donate services either at a reduced cost or at no cost at all. The professional services include those of doctors, lawyers, social workers and physical therapists, among others. The organization was created in response to the growing number of individuals in the United States who have been denied health care treatment due to their lack of health insurance or their legal status. Garden of Hope is the first organization of its kind to address the medical, financial and legal needs of a family in crisis.

Spring, 2004

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Escamoles, gusanos, and crema de chile pasilla

Or, from the inedible to the sublime in Mexico City.


Mexico City has to be one of the more daunting places in the world for me. Not that I've been all over the world, but where I've been, I've eaten and enjoyed the food. Chunchon and Seoul, Korea: loved the food. Tokyo: wonderful. London and Paris: saved by museum soup. Madrid: good food but no chile.

I don't like the taste of Mexican food in Mexico. Not Monterrey, except the carne seca, not Guadalajara, especially not Mexico City. Don't know exactly what it is, but I call my recent visit my Mexico City Diet. I go down there for four days and don't eat. Today, I put on an old belt and it fit. Thanks to four days en el D.F.

Except my wife read about Patricia Quintana's cooking at the chef's Polanco restaurant, Izote. Sanborn's serves a tasty coffee shop crema de chile pasilla soup, and enchiladas suizas are darn good eating. So now I can say I've dined in Mexico City and won't go hungry again.

Uau. What a meal. The on-the-house appetizers come with the menus. Fluffy, delicate gordititas filled with luscious, airy, queso fresco. Carrot soup comes in ample measure, garnished with a toasted pasilla filled with more of that soft queso. The waiter recommends I cut it apart to flavor each spoonful of creamy zanahoria.

The chicken breast swims in a light pesto made with puro butter and basil. A sweet garnish, this black paste, has the nostalgic flavor of tuna. I ask one of the attendants si era tuna and he says no, tuna is red. Obviously a city boy, doesn't know his tunas. This is black Sapote. Sapote is white, I tell him. No, that's the bad one, the good one is the black Sapote, he wants me to know. The waiter shows up a short while later, regretting the kitchen doesn't have a fresh black Sapote to show me. One of the pleasures of eating fin refin is stealing the recipes. I steal the recipe for a jamaica margarita.

On our way back to la Zona Rosa, I chat with our driver. "They wanted to serve me gusanos and hormiga," I tell him to get a reaction. "Escamoles!" he exclaims. You fry them lightly with a little onion and garlic and serve with a nice guacamole. Some other time, he can take me to the market where escamol mongers will let me have a quarto or more for a few bucks. Good deal. Good driver.

After turista hours, I started Eric Garcia's novel, The Matchstick Men, but couldn't bear the con games. Turned instead to George Harrar's The Spinning Man. A mystery. That worked better. Garcia improves when read in the EUA.

click the link under the title for a few pix of a demonstration we happened upon ...


Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Benjamin and The Word

Manuel Ramos

Danny Olivas sends word that crabby, hard-to-please Kirkus has given his children's book a pretty good review. The book is Benjamin and The Word/Benjamin y la palabra (Piñata Books/Arte Público; pub. date 4/30/05).

Here's the review:
"When Benjamin defeats his friend James in a game at school, James calls him a name, the 'word' of the title. While the name itself is never mentioned, Benjamin's talk with his father about his hurt feelings makes it clear that James has insulted Benjamin because his heritage is mixed: half-Russian Jew, half-Mexican. The father-son relationship and their discussions - coming only as Benjamin is ready to talk - are warm and open, and Benjamin's conclusion that he still wants James to be his friend is encouraging and believable. Dyen's illustrations feature background washes, small and large, overlain with penciled details and outlines, creating an expressive realism. A quiet look at prejudice, forgiveness and friendship. (Picture book. 6-8)"

Congrats to Mr. Olivas. He's doing some good things with his talent and passion for writing - this children's book sounds like a great project. I've already written about his call for submissions (March 14, 2005) for short stories for a planned anthology using Los Angeles as the theme and here on La Bloga you can find his essay Cuentos de Fantasma as well as a review of Daniel's current short story collection Devil Talk. ¡Ajua!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Three Self-Delusions of Writers

by RudyG

Based on over 100 rejection letters from publishers, editors and agents, I can say there's at least three self-delusions writers have to get over:

1. "My words are beautiful and wonderful, just like they come out of my head."

2. "Everybody wants to hear them and will love them just as much as I do."

3. "Good writing isn't that hard; I do it all the time."

None of these are true. Here's what is:

1. Somewhere in the world there might be that 1% of writers who don't need to edit their first or second or third, etc., drafts. I'm not one of them. You're probably not either. Grow up. Accept self-editing
as a career if you want to become a good, serious writer. If it's just a hobby, you don't need to read further.

2. Nobody wants to read or hear your words yet, except your mom and maybe your Significant Other. Maybe. Everybody else you'll have to convince with the first line of your every story. And then the second one and the third, and it doesn't stop until you get them to the part that says: El Fin. You've got to love your own words, of course. Just stop patting yourself on the back. To get others to love them, you've got to make them, loveable. They're not intrinsically born that way.

3. Writing is easy, editing is hard, rewriting is harder, more editing is harder still, good writing is really, really hard. Get over it. If you just want to see some of your words on a piece of paper, that's easy. If you want to make people cry, laugh, ponder, jump up and down and want to know when they can read more of your stuff, you're going to have to work--hard and harder.

You know a lot about some of your writing weaknesses--the things that confuse people when they read your stuff, the punctuation you just kind of learned, lousy dialogue, the passive voice or high style you tend to start new stories with, etc. It's not nano-interstellar-robotics-science you need to learn, although it's not like arithmetic, either. But you can learn most, if not all of it.

--you've got the drive and the passion and are willing to stop deluding yourself. Now get to work and make me glad I wrote this. And edited it. And re-edited it. Etc.

© Rudy Ch. Garcia

Friday, April 15, 2005

Memorial Celebration for Corky Gonzales

Escuela Tlatelolco has posted the details for the Rodolfo Corky Gonzales Memorial Marcha and Celebration. April 17, 11:00 A.M., the march begins at the Escuela (29th and Federal, Denver) and ends up at Mestizo/Curtis Park (32nd and Champa). The celebration starts at 1:00 P.M. at the park. Info: 303/964-8993.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Nymphos to Neruda

Manuel Ramos

Nymphos of Rocky Flats
Esteban's Blog
Stories on Stage

Nymphos of Rocky Flats
A shout out to Mario Acevedo and his recent contract with Rayo. Always great to hear about another Latino, especially from the neighborhood, who cracks the publishing puzzle. And this book sounds like something that just might catch on. ¡Felicidades! Here's the press release.

Scott Hoffman of PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc. is pleased to announce the sale of world rights to Mario Acevedo's debut novel, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, and two other novels to Diana Gill for Harper Collins' Rayo imprint.

Felix Gomez doesn't like what war has done to him. He went to Iraq a soldier, and came back a vampire. Now he's a private detective, hired by a trusted friend to penetrate the murderous conspiracy cloaking an outbreak of nymphomania at the U.S. Department of Energy's Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. As he unravels the mystery surrounding one of the darkest secrets of modern times, Felix realizes that he must resolve issues from his human past if he is to defeat government assassins and fanatical vampire hunters from Transylvania. Sexual myths, conspiracy fables, and bureaucratic paranoia are skewered in this novel about American pop culture.

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats deconstructs vampire lore and presents the bizarre world of the undead with a humorous slant and a fresh Latino twist. A 66,000-word fantasy-thriller set in present day Denver, Nymphos is the first (and only) vampire novel reviewed and declassified by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Mario Acevedo is a community activist currently living in Denver, Colorado. His resume includes military helicopter pilot, engineer, and art teacher to prisoners. This is his first book.He is currently working on the next Felix Gomez book, X-Rated Bloodsuckers. For more information, contact Scott Hoffman, PMA Literary & Film Management, Inc. at 212.929.1222.

Esteban's Blog
Esteban Martinez is gettin' it on over on his blog. He set up at, where he's posting poetry, stories, "whatever else we want to call writing." This guy can be dark as hell, but then he writes some clever love poems that invoke Neruda. Check him out.

Stories On Stage
The upcoming program for Stories on Stage features a definite Latino tint.
People Who Live In Imaginary Houses Shouldn't Go Home
Sunday, April 17th at 2:00 and 7:00 PM
Stage Theatre
Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Tosca by Isabel Allende read by Elizabeth Pena
City of Clowns by Daniel Alarcon read by Tony Plana
A Shocking Accident by Graham Greene read by David Ivers
The Hat of My Mother by Max Steele read by Jamie Horton
Tickets: $20. Call 303-494-0523.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Poets to Panthers

Manuel Ramos

I Am Joaquin - Stupid America
Old Addicts
Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word
Bobby Seale Speaks
Book and Lovers' Day

I Am Joaquin - Stupid America
Michael's essay on I Am Joaquin started me thinking about Chicano poetry - and as RudyG would say, "how serendipitous" because April is National Poetry Month.

First, there's no doubt about the influence of I Am Joaquin on at least my generation of Chicanas/os. The poem and then the film of the poem made by Teatro Campesino revved up the folks I hung out with back in the days when the poem and film first appeared. The words soon developed into the equivalent of Aztlán's pledge of allegiance. My question: which poem affected you more: I Am Joaquin or Stupid America by Lalo Delgado? I ask not in the popularity contest sense but because of the different ways I think about the poems. For me, Joaquin expressed the nationalistic, identity urges of Chicano youth, and Stupid America dealt more with a political demand for entrance into the American dream. One is not necessarily more important than the other, no?. Did either mean that to you or was it something else altogether?

Old Addicts
Esteban A. Martinez is a lawyer, teaches law students, and writes. (Man, where have I heard that before?) He has written a tough, unsentimental but very moving novel entitled In Memory Of Gods and Heroes, and you can learn about that book at his website: I recently found out that Esteban also is a poet. One of his poems was published in the latest edition of The Colorado Lawyer, the "official publication of the Colorado Bar Association." And what a poem it turned out to be - ask a lawyer/writer to get poetic about the practice of law and no telling what might happen. In Esteban's case it's a gut-wrenching spotlight on a wasted life. He graciously has allowed me to reprint his poem.

Old Addicts

on the other side
of the plastic window
an old addict - late fifties, yellowed
says "yeah, yeah - I told them it was mine"
he didn't know it was stolen
the .380 in a shoebox under his bed

I actually believe, maybe
it will get him 32 years
regardless of my lawyering
if the judge has no discretion
and ATF and JUSTICE use theirs
to hide him from our hopes and dreams
for the third and last time.

Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word
The Chicano Messengers of the Spoken Word appear in Fear of a Brown Planet at El Centro Su Teatro on April 3, 2005, 2:00 PM, $5, 4725 High Street, Denver. FMI: 303-296-0219.

And while you are at El Centro or browsing El Centro's website look for info on the 7th XicanIndie Film Festival, April 7-10, and Doña Rosita's Jalapeño Kitchen, featuring La Bloga's friends Debra Gallegos and Yolanda Ortega-Erickson - unfortunately, the play wraps up its very succesful run on April 2.

Bobby Seale Speaks
Black Panther Party co-founder and author Bobby Seale will appear at the University of Denver on Wednesday, April 6, 2005 at 7:00 p.m. for an evening lecture. He will speak at Sturm Auditorium, 2000 E. Asbury Street in Denver. The doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and the event is free. Donations will be accepted for a Speakers Fund.This event is sponsored by the Multicultural Social Justice Organization of the Graduate School of Social Work in collaboration with the Center for Multicultural Excellence, GSA of GSSW, Graduate Studies Iliff Social Action Committee, Partners in Learning, National Association of Pan African Students, Social Justice Living and Learning Community, and Students for Africa.Additional information, please e-mail Jaime at JRALL@DU.EDU

Book and Lovers' Day
From the Tattered Cover Newsletter I picked up the following:
"Book & Lovers' Day is a Spanish tradition begun in Barcelona, Spain in 1714. The celebration takes place in the Palacio de la Disputacion and throughout the city on Saint George's Day, which is also the anniversary of the death of Spanish writer Miguel de Cervantes (and the nearly simultaneous death of William Shakespeare). On this day in Spain, roses and books are exchanged as a gesture of 'a rose for love and a book forever!' The Tattered Cover is delighted to honor this lovely tradition. Complimentary roses and commemorative bookmarks will be available at all three stores on April 23, beginning at 9:00 am, with the purchase of any book; while supplies last."