Saturday, July 30, 2005

Guest book review by Raymundo Eli Rojas

Hey folks, this just ran in the Pueblo Chieftan's magazine "Caminos" - It's not online, so I thought I'd send it out.

Identity crises in New Mexico
‘Blood purity’ spurs debate over heritage
by Raymundo Elí Rojas


In a movie by Mexican comedian Mario Moreno “Cantinflas,” he meets a Mexican man who, though brown and looking very much Mexican, tells Cantinflas that his family line is “pure Spanish blood.” Cantinflas answers with his usually comedic response ridiculing those who say their descendants never interbred with indigenous people.

However, for those growing up in the United States, there is often a response by some Hispanics that their family has never mixed with indigenous races.

Such is the focus of John M. Nieto-Phillips book The Language of Blood: The Making of Spanish-American Identity in New Mexico, 1880s-1930s (University of New Mexico Press). He focuses on the myth of “blood purity,” and how and why generations of New Mexicans insisted that they were descendants from the first Spanish explorers and settlers of the region. However, rather than ridicule this belief with a Cantinflian responded, Nieto-Phillips explores how this belief came about and its relation with New Mexico gaining its statehood.

In an exquisite exploration of race, color, politics, anti-Mexican sentiment, and white studies, Nieto-Phillips molds the myth into an interesting study of a populations' response to racism.

Before Hawaii, no other state when it was admitted to the union, had a non-white majority. New Mexico having more indigenous and people of Mexican decent served as a tremendous burden to gaining statehood. The U.S. Congress of the late 1800s and early 1900s saw this racial mixture a sign of being to close to the enemy, in this case Mexico, and as a sign that the citizens could not be “trusted to govern themselves.” Furthermore, the fact that most of the state spoke Spanish did not help the New Mexico’s statehood dreams.

As a response to this, some New Mexican, especially the elite nuevomexicanos took to denying any indigenous “blood” in themselves and
attesting they were of “pure Spanish blood.” Nieto-Phillips shows how the roots of this belief can be traced to Medieval times in Spain where any hint of Jewish or Moorish blood automatically expelled you from the “sangre pura” category.

This was relayed to the New World. The author shows how nuevomexicano census takers, writing reports back to Spain, would exaggerate the numbers of Blacks, indigenous, and meztizos as low, but would exaggerate the numbers of “pure Spaniards” as high.

Nieto-Phillips includes chapter on how state histories, tourism, and even the white establishment took part in promoting this myth.

Looking at documents from the Santa Fe Railroad’s advertisement for New Mexico to history written by anthropologists and state historians, Language of Blood shows the hispanophilia that ran through the nation at the time. They promoted New Mexico, and other parts of the Southwest, as Spanish, hardly ever Mexican, and certainly not indigenous. Looking through Congressional records and legislation, Nieto-Phillips shows
the racism of the time. Senator Calhoun states:

[W]e have never dreamt of incorporating into our Union any but the Caucasian race — the free white race. To incorporate Mexico would be the first instance of the kin do incorporating an Indian race…Ours, sir is the Government of a white race. The greatest misfortunes of Spanish-America are to be traced on an equality with the white race. That error destroyed the social arrangement which formed the basis of society.

Language of Blood shows for all the exaggeration of their Spanish decent, the ploy did not work with U.S. society because of its own racism toward the Spanish and the belief of the “Black Legend” that held “Spanish exploits in the New World were particularly atrocious when compared to those of other colonial powers.”

Language of Blood is an excellent study into the intersectionality of race, color, and language that so shaped an identity in New Mexico.

© Raymundo Elí Rojas 2005

Friday, July 29, 2005

Publishers, Again, Real Women and Dr. Loco

Manuel Ramos

My post last week listed a few publishers who specialize in Latino or Chicano literature. This week I mention publishers who, although not devoted to ChicLit, have provided special opportunities for raza writers and readers.

Akashic Books - This independent NY press is committed to the "reverse-gentrification of the literary world." It has published some intriguing books including several crime fiction and noir titles, as well as short story anthologies like The Cocaine Chronicles. La Bloga readers should be aware of Akashic's Cuban Noir series, publications of dark fiction written by writers while they were living in Cuba. So far this series includes Cold Havana Ground and Spy's Fate by Arnaldo Correa; Adios Muchachos and The Eye of Cybele by Daniel Chavarrí­a; and Outcast by José Latour.

Alexander Street Press - I reported two weeks ago about this press's Latino Literature Collection, a database of dozens of Latino writers and their works available to universities, students, subscribers, etc. The collection contains approximately 299 plays and over 51,000 pages of prose (200 novels) and poetry by Chicano, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Dominican and other Latino writers working in the United States. The list of included authors is very impressive.

Northwestern University Press - NWUP features a Latino Voices series. Here you will find Kathleen Alcalá's Treasures in Heaven; Manuel Muñoz's Zigzagger; Bernardo and the Virgin by Silvio Sirias; Ilan Stavans' Bandido; Sergio Troncoso's The Nature of Truth; and my first four books in the Luis Móntez series.

Rayo (HarperCollins) - According to the HarperCollins website, this imprint "will publish books that embody the diversity within the Latino community, in both English and Spanish-language editions, connecting culture with thought, and invigorating tradition with spirit." Rayo's list of authors includes Yxta Maya Murray, Jorge Ramos, Luis J. Rodriguez, Victor Villaseñor and Alberto Fuguet.

Atria Books (Simon & Schuster) - S&S announced in January, 2005, that its imprint, Atria Books, was launching a "Hispanic and Latino publishing program" and that Johanna Castillo, a "leading Latina literary agent" had been selected as Senior Editor of Atria Books. Ms. Castillo was expected to specialize in acquiring titles for the "Hispanic-Latino and Spanish language market." The list will debut in Spring, 2006, and "will include fiction, non-fiction and lifestyle titles, some of which will simultaneously be published in English and Spanish."

University of New Mexico Press - UNM Press has long published works by and about Chicanos. Included in the more than 60 titles that relate to Chicanas/os are Rudolfo Anaya with three new titles in 2005; Caní­cula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera by Norma Elia Cantú; Heroes and Saints and Other Plays: Giving Up the Ghost, Shadow of a Man, Heroes and Saints by Cherrí­e L. Moraga; La Mollie and the King of Tears by Arturo Islas; and Curandero: A Life in Mexican Folk Healing by Eliseo "Cheo" Torres. UNM Press also is the publisher of Brown-on-Brown and Moony's Road to Hell.


The Latina Safehouse Initiative (Denver) is"proud to announce the Latinas Honoring Latinas 2005 event to honor Josefina Lopez, author of Real Women Have Curves. Award winning actress, screenwriter, filmmaker, playwright, activist and poet, Josefina Lopez has devoted her life to empowering women. She co-wrote the screenplay for the critically-acclaimed film Real Women Have Curves, based on her play, which won the Audience Award and a Special Jury Award for Acting at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival. One of the country's preeminent Latina artists, she also teaches playwriting and screenwriting to local youth and Latino adults. The event will also honor local survivors of violence."

Here's some info about Ms. Lopez that I pulled from her website:

"Having had over 80 professional productions of her plays throughout the United States, Josefina Lopez is one of today's preeminent Chicana writers. She has written such plays as Simply Maria, Or the American Dream, Confessions of Women From East L.A., Boyle Heights, Lola Goes To Roma, Food For The Dead, Unconquered Spirits, and Real Women Have Curves. ... Josefina has a screenplay at HBO titled Loteria for Juarez about the mysterious murders of women in Juarez. ... Josefina has won several awards including a Gabriel Garcia Marquez award from the L.A. Mayor in 2003. ... She has an MFA in screenwriting from the prestigious UCLA Film and Television school. Josefina was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico ... and lives in Paris."

Tickets are $50.00 per person and include entrance to the Botanic Gardens for the day, buffet, and beverage. All proceeds from this event will benefit the Latina Safehouse Initiative.

Friday, July 29, 2005
5:30pm - 8:00pm
Denver Botanic Gardens
1005 York Street
Contact Ana Soler at 720-913-9260 if you would like to receive more information or to purchase your tickets.


August 3 - 7, 2005

Summer Pachanga. Dr. Loco And The Rockin' Jalapeño Band. Great Chicano music, Colorado style. Mariachi Tardeada. Art Auction. Inductions into the Chicano Music Hall of Fame including the posthumous honoring of our friend Chico Martinez. Go to El Centro Su Teatro for complete schedule.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

RIZE - street art of L.A. dance

by RudyG

I'm not real black--except at the end of summer--but maybe there's something ex-slave in my bloodline because I just have to encourage you to see the documentary Rize (David LaChapelle, director, 2005). I just did in Denver, so maybe it's still around your town.

No, it's not a Chicano thing, but then, not everything is. But if you're into the aesthetic and more meaningful aspects of rap--in this case, counter-gangsta--you'll enjoy the soundtrack, and you'll awe at the dance. Plus, you'll ponder subjects the film doesn't speak to, like, are there no Chicano Crumpers in South Central L.A.?

Rize opens with the blurb: "This film was not speeded up." It's appropriate because you'll wonder how anyone can move as fast as people in these dances; hell, you may wonder why kids aren't breaking their necks and spines, even.

While LaChapelle is no Ken Burns (who's too nicely liberal for me, anyway), and only one of the cast is close to a Wynton Marsalis (that dude made Jazz), there's enough on-camera of Clowner and Crumper dancers to sometimes cross the line from documentary into feature. And there's an only-in-America story here.

So, if you enjoy, study or just tend to get a thrill out of dance and music arts, or need to listen to people coping with life down in the ghetto, check this out before it leaves your area. It's a unique view of one of the Other Americas, told from their side.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

I've included plot info below from the Internet Movie Database:

"Plot Outline: Reveals a groundbreaking dance phenomenon that's exploding on the streets of South Central, Los Angeles. Taking advantage of unprecedented access, this documentary film bring to first light a revolutionary form of artistic expression borne from oppression. The aggressive and visually stunning dance modernizes moves indigenous to African tribal rituals and features mind-blowing, athletic movement sped up to impossible speeds.

"We meet Tommy Johnson (Tommy the Clown), who first created the style as a response to the 1992 Rodney King riots and named it Clowning, as well as the kids who developed the movement into what they now call Krumping. The kids use dance as an alternative to gangs and hustling: they form their own troupe and paint their faces like warriors, meeting to outperform rival gangs of dancers or just to hone their skills. For the dancers, Krumping becomes a way of life--and, because it's authentic expression (in complete opposition to the bling-bling hip-hop culture), the dance becomes a vital part of who they are.

"Documentary film that chronicles the practice of "Clowning" and "Krumping", radical, energetic, and vividly extreme dance forms that have taken on enormous importance for black communities in south-central Los Angeles on many levels: as serious forms of spiritual and artistic expression, as alternatives to gang participation, as a means for knitting social fabric. Various personalities within the dance movements are profiled."

# # #

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


Posted by Daniel Olivas…

Ah! The balmy winds of summer beckon. In other words, it’s time to ask: What shall I read as I sit on the beach and wiggle my toes in the hot sand? Well, I’ve been reviewing books like crazy this last year and want to offer a small sampling of wonderful libros by Latinos/as that will make your summer that much better. I’ve got some poetry, two epic novels, short-story collections, a dissertation on Spanglish and even a critical biography of an important name in Chicano literature. Longer versions of some of these reviews first appeared here and at other fine sites such as The Elegant Variation, LatinoLA and Moorishgirl not to mention that New Mexican glossy, Southwest BookViews. ¡Lea un libro!

The People of Paper (McSweeney’s Books)
by Salvador Plascencia

Salvador Plascencia’s debut novel is a wonderfully strange, hallucinogenic and hypertextual blending of fiction and autobiography. The Prologue’s first sentences thrust us into an almost familiar yet purely mythical world while introducing Plascencia’s sly brand of humor: “She was made after the time of ribs and mud. By papal decree there were to be no more people born of the ground or from the marrow of bones. All would be created from the propulsions and mounts performed underneath bedsheets—rare exceptions granted for immaculate conceptions.” What an astonishing, strange and deeply moving novel this is. In all his playfulness, Plascencia nonetheless grapples with troubling issues of free will, religious fidelity, ethnic identity, failed love and the creative process which he melds into a dreamscape that is impossible to forget. Plascencia—the God of his paper people—has given us a startling work of fiction that stretches not only the norms of storytelling, but also the bounds of our imagination.


Furia: Poems (Milkweed Editions)
by Orlando Ricardo Menes

Orlando Ricardo Menes brings a multicultural palette to this his third collection of poems: born to Cuban parents, raised in both Peru and Miami, with one family line traced back to China. But if one were expecting Furia (Milkweed Editions) to be a wistful, balmy paean to culture and place, one would be shocked starting with the first poem of this three-part collection. This collection packs an emotional wallop drawn as it is from coarse yet colorful threads of divergent cultures. But Menes, through sharp, unsparing and rich language weaves these threads to produce an unforgettable, cohesive and utterly fulfilling poetic narrative.


Pity the Drowned Horses (University of Notre Dame Press)
by Sheryl Luna

In one of the last poems of Pity the Drowned Horses, Sheryl Luna's richly textured debut collection, the narrator in "Las Alas" asks: "Can one return to a desolate / past, before one knew one was poor, / before the luxurious perfume?" This desperate query-which is never answered-is the fantasma that haunts every line of this book. Various identities grapple with each other seeking superiority and control: poor vs. middle class, Spanish vs. English, borderland vs. big city, atheist vs. believer, brown vs. white. In "Bullfight," this battle is a bewildering "river / that divides me, crosses me daily like the forgotten / history of my grandmother." The narrator has lost much of her ability to speak Spanish and "[e]ven the people I longed for, / la raza, forgot my face." Yet she knows that her mother, who is half Jewish, suffers this same rupture of identity: "Her own lost / heritage buried in a cemetery plot." But in "Learning to Speak," she admits that something must be done despite likely cultural humiliation: "I spoke / Spanish broken, tongue-heavy. I was once too proud / to speak Spanish in the barrio.... Quiero / aprender español, I whisper." And her would-be teacher responds without words: "He smiles." The risk is taken, and a reward received. Luna's poems have graced the pages of some of the most prestigious literary journals published today: Prairie Schooner, The Georgia Review, Puerto del Sol, Kalliope, and many others. A native of El Paso who now teaches in Denver, she was a finalist for the National Poetry Series book awards and the Perugia Press Intro Award for women poets. With this collection, Luna won the first Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize sponsored by the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame; she has set the bar high, indeed, for future prize candidates.


The Hummingbird's Daughter: A Novel (Little, Brown)
by Luis Alberto Urrea

In the harsh yet thriving landscape of Mexico, circa 1880, the poor, illiterate and unmarried Yaqui woman (known by her tribe as The Hummingbird), gave birth to Teresita with the help of the town's healer, the curandera called Huila. Huila-one of Urrea's most remarkable creations-is as cantankerous as she is powerful. So powerful in fact that she lives in a room behind the kitchen of the great hacienda owned by the wealthy Don Tomás Urrea. Don Tomás does not care much for religion but he knows that Huila is an asset and puts up with her magic as much as Huila puts up with her patrón's habit of spreading his seed despite having a beautiful, attentive wife and several children who populate the hacienda. Teresita eventually-and literally-wanders into Don Tomás's life and is subsequently taken under Huila's wing. Huila notices two things about this unusual girl: she resembles the Urrea family and she possesses the power to heal. Don Tomás ultimately owns up to paternity and is determined to make a lady out of this barefooted urchin. But as Teresita matures, her powers grow until all know that she is the curandera women should go to when they are about to give birth or when a child becomes ill. Then one day, when Teresita goes out to the fields, she is raped, beaten and eventually dies. But on the third day, at the end of burial preparations, in the midst of five mourning women, Teresita awakes. The town is abuzz with news of this miracle. With her resurrection comes greater healing powers and, of course, fame. The Yaquis, as well as other native tribes, mestizos, and even Americans, make pilgrimages to the Urrea hacienda. The Catholic Church views this "saint" as a heretic, the vicious and corrupt government of Porfirio Díaz considers the girl a threat, and revolutionaries want to insinuate themselves into her sphere of influence for their own political cause. The climax brilliantly mirrors the immigrant's experience of seeking safe passage to a foreign land while relying on loved ones as well as fate. Urrea, who is the award-winning author of ten books-fiction, non-fiction and poetry-tells us in an author's note that Teresa Urrea "was a real person"-his aunt. The Hummingbird's Daughter is his fictionalization of family lore based on twenty years of intense research and interviews. The result resonates with such passion and beauty that it doesn't matter whether Teresita's legend is based more on a people's wishful thinking than truth. The Hummingbird's Daughter is a sumptuous, dazzling novel to which no review can do justice; one simply must read it.


Chicano Sketches (University of Arizona Press)
by Mario Suarez

In their introduction to Chicano Sketches, the editors assert that the late short-story writer Mario Suárez "represents a unique case of an early Chicano author who remained faithful to his original purpose of creating a distinctively Chicano literary space." How early? The first eight of the 19 stories included in this collection were first published by the Arizona Quarterly between 1947 and 1950. The "distinctively Chicano literary space" Suárez created was grounded in the harsh realities of a barrio in Tucson called El Hoyo (literally "The Hole") which the editors term "an urban wasteland." Suárez, who was also a journalist, social activist and educator who relocated his family to Southern California in 1958, possessed a sharp eye for quotidian human experience. He populated his "sketches" (his term) with preening pachucos, avuncular barbers, unrepentant womanizers, chisme-loving comadres, clever swindlers and many other examples of humanity. Suárez did not romanticize the Chicano experience; indeed, he acknowledged such social dysfunctions as alcohol abuse ("Cuco Goes to a Party" and "Loco-Chu"), indolence ("Kid Zopilote") and economic struggle ("The Migrant" and "Los Coyotes") while celebrating the beauty of Chicano culture ("Mexican Heaven"), human kindness ("Doña Clara" and "Señor Garza") and the work ethic ("Something Useful, Even Tailoring"). Quite often, Suárez relied on biting irony and comedic juxtapositions to illustrate his characters' vices and virtues. No collection of Chicano literature will be complete without this volume.


Dancing With Ghosts: A Critical Biography of Arturo Islas (University of California Press)
by Frederick Luis Aldama

Frederick Luis Aldama notes that he could have written a hagiography because of Arturo Islas' "sensational and melodramatic 'up-from-the-bootstraps' story and its tragic dénouement." But that would have been dishonest. Despite his talents as a writer, Islas was plagued with self-hate and was often moody, manipulative, narcissistic and unpredictable. Yet he could be brilliant, gentle, soft-spoken and, above all, generous. Aldama succeeds in synthesizing the disparate elements of Arturo Islas to produce what doubtless will become a seminal biographical study of an important figure in Chicano letters.


Puerta del Sol (Bilingual Press)
by Francisco Aragon

Francisco Aragón's verse has graced the pages of several chapbooks and innumerable literary journals not to mention anthologies published by W.W. Norton, Heyday Books and Soft Skull Press. Aragón is also the founding editor and publisher of Momotombo Press which promotes emerging Latino writers and is housed at the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame where Aragón is a Visiting Fellow. His talents at translation have been utilized for a half dozen books including those by the great Spanish poet Federico García Lorca. Aragón's honors include an Academy of American Poets Prize and an AWP Intro Journals Project Award. With Puerta del Sol, Aragón offers us his first full-length book of poetry. And it is about time. Whether confronting terrorism on Spanish soil, memories of his late mother, or lamenting love lost, Aragón allows his images to travel from one continent to another, between English and Spanish, from hard, present tense reality to amorphous, malleable memory. Aragón's poems are stunning little mirrors that reveal the shimmering complexity of our lives and dreams. This is an eloquent collection that deserves attention.


Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language (HarperCollins/Rayo)
by Ilan Stavans

Ilan Stavans has produced a treat for all language fans in his excellent book Spanglish: The Making Of A New American Language. The book contains both Stavans' excellent opening essay - La Jerga Loca - and the lexicon of Spanglish words and phrases that he has compiled over the last decade or so. As a bonus, Stavans includes his Spanglish translation of the first chapter of Don Quixote De La Mancha in the appendix. The lexicon alone makes the book worth owning, but the essay is the frosting on this treat. Although referred to as the introduction, the opening essay is preface, introduction, acknowledgments, and much more all rolled into one. Towards the end of the essay, Stavans addresses concerns over shining a spotlight on Spanglish, which some consider a destruction of Spanish or a come down for people who should be learning English. He correctly notes that their shouldn't be a problem with studying a phenomenon - Stavans is a professor of Latino and Latin American culture! - especially if it helps people learn more about themselves as a culture. I teach students for who English is a second language and I always encourage them to improve their English, but I'm also fascinated by the conversations in English, Spanish, and Spanglish that swirl around me every day. Spanglish by Ilan Stavans should appeal to all those interested in language, especially the evolution of language, and Latino culture. I found it to be an excellent book and highly recommend it.


Every Night Is Ladies' Night : Stories
by Michael Jaime-Becerra

One of the truths revealed by Los Angeles fiction is that it includes, by necessity, tales from those small cities that adhere to the ragged edges of Los Angeles proper. In Michael Jaime-Becerra's subtle and beautiful debut collection, "Every Night is Ladies' Night," we are introduced to one such city: El Monte. Jaime-Becerra spins ten interlocking stories around the hub of El Monte, a working-class community of just over 100,000 people, the vast majority of whom are Latino. The stories bounce back-and-forth from 1984 to 1989 with one leaping thirty years further into the past. The protagonists reappear all tied to streets like Valley and Live Oak, businesses such as Road Runner Liquor, Pick-A-Part, Tortillerilla Bienvenida and the ubiquitous McDonald's. People scrape together livelihoods as mechanics, fast food managers, tattoo artists, truck drivers and musicians. We see how children, teens, parents and grandparents try desperately to fit in, keep their dreams alive, fall in love. Most of the characters we meet are members of the Cruz family. Jaime-Becerra knows that not all life experiences lead to grand epiphanies or dramatic personal growth. With great skill, he shows us that we often battle just to stay in place. This is a beautiful, accomplished debut.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Kathleen Alcalá is a Chicana writer whose trilogy on nineteenth century Mexico was published by Chronicle Books (all now available in paperback editions). Her work has received the Western States Book Award, the Governor's Writers Award, a Pacific Northwest Bookseller's Award, and a Washington State Book Award. A co-founder and contributing editor to the literary journal, The Raven Chronicles, Kathleen was recently a visiting lecturer at the University of New Mexico. Her nonfiction has been produced for public radio, and she co-wrote, with director Olga Sanchez, a play based on her novel, Spirits of the Ordinary that was produced by The Miracle Theatre of Portland, Oregon. She has work in recent or forthcoming issues of Creative Nonfiction, The Raven Chronicles, Re-Markings, and The Pacific Northwest Writers Association Anthology. Kathleen was born in Compton, California and grew up in San Bernardino. Her parents are from San Julian, Jalisco, and Durango, Durango, Mexico. Her work is based, in part, on family stories. She is interested in writing the counter-narratives to official history, and encouraging others to do the same.

Sonnets and Salsa
By Carmen Tafolla
(Wings Press, San Antonio, TX.
ISBN 0-916727-10-6, paperback,
113 pp., $16.00, 2004)

In this the revised and expanded edition of Sonnets and Salsa, Carmen Tafolla offers us a delectable feast of poetry spiced with musical rhythms of Latino culture, experience and language.

Tafolla divides her book into two parts. The first, “Selected Salsas,” contains fourteen poems (plus two English translations of pieces written primarily in Spanish) that focus on the struggles, philosophies and “otherness” (female/ male; Aztec/Spanish; mestizo/white). In “The Storykeeper: instructions from an historian,” the narrator explains what one should look for to understand Latinos: “In the jarros [pitchers or pots], she says, / Look in the jarros. / The ones forgotten or shoved aside, / with a broken clay lip and color dulled by years / of hard use / and unmeditated abuse.” The poem leads us through an examination of experiences that normally would be ignored by those who write history but that, in the end, define Latinos better than the famous battles, the signed treaties.

Tafolla is particularly adept at singing the praises of the Latinas who work hard to maintain their identity both as individuals and as dignified supporters of their families. Tafolla does this without falling into overly sentimental portraits. Often she relies on the unadorned but descriptive language of average women such as in the poem “La Gloria”: “’Don’t have much to show for it / but wha’s mine is mine.”

The second half of the book is called “Sonnets to Human Beings,” and consists of thirty-two poems with one English translation of a Spanish poem. One of the most disturbing and potent pieces is “Sweet Remember” where Tafolla uses documented incidents of torture and rape of women and young girls to remonstrate against parents teaching their girls to be “sweet, / sit neat, / cry easy, / and be oh so pretty on a shelf.” And there are eloquent poems about the plight of undocumented immigrants (“Statue of”), the eclectic glory of bilingualism and Mexican style (“Right in one language”), a maimed carpenter’s optimistic philosophy (“Poquito allá”).

Throughout this beautiful, slim volume, Tafolla slips easily between Spanish and English with language that captivates, illuminates and even educates. It is not difficult to understand why she is known as one of the madrinas of contemporary Chicana literature. [This review first appeared in Southwest BookViews.]

COVERING CHIC LIT: Well, I finally got my first issue of Tu Ciudad, the magazine that, according to the editors, “will look at Los Angeles through a Latino prism, exploring the duality of bicultural life in a city that morphs into something different on a daily basis.” I must admit, it is beautifully rendered: slick, excellent layout, easy to read format with great artwork and photography. On the downside, the breathtakingly beautiful Patricia López adorns the cover. Downside? Look, I appreciate beauty as much as the next vato, but our new Chicano Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, who is covered (page 58) in an insightful piece by editor Oscar Garza, really should have gotten that spot. I mean, there’s already a plethora of People-like magazines that can put beauties on covers. With this historic election, Villaraigosa really should have been front and center. In terms of covering Chicano literature (Chic Lit, as I like to say), Salvador Plascencia, author of The People of Paper (McSweeney’s), gets kudos (page 28) and is labeled a “post-magic realist” (interesting). In a section called, Hit Hot Now, we’re treated to twenty-five “creative Angelenos shaking up the City’s cultural scene.” Included are the novelist and law professor Yxta Maya Murray, author most recently of The Queen Jade (HarperCollins/Rayo), and a McSweeney’s editor Pilar Perez who currently runs Dave Eggers’ literacy program, 826LA, housed in Venice, CA. It is my hope that Tu Ciudad will start running full-length book reviews and longer stories on the vibrant and varied Latino/a literary scene in LA. But overall, I’m delighted by this magazine and I wish the editors much luck in keeping their enterprise alive.

FINALMENTE: My first piece for the Jewish Journal appeared recently.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Publishers to Poets

Manuel Ramos

In previous La Bloga posts we have mentioned several publishers who specialize in Chicana/o writers. Here's a short list that is open to additions. These outfits help spread the word. Support them.

Arte Público Press
Bills itself as "the nation's largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Its imprint for children and young adults, Piñata Books, is dedicated to the realistic and authentic portrayal of the themes, languages, characters, and customs of Hispanic culture in the United States. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts, history, and politics."

Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe
This press's website says that "Bilingual Review Press publishes literary works, scholarship, and art books by or about U.S. Hispanics under the name Bilingual Press/Editorial Bilingüe. We also produce the literary/scholarly journal Bilingual Review, distribute more than 1,000 titles by other presses, and are the exclusive distributor of books by Latin American Literary Review Press.

Since its founding in 1973, Bilingual Review Press has been committed to publishing high-quality writing by both established and emerging writers. With more than 150 titles in our backlist, we publish books in English, Spanish, and bilingual format, although most of our books are written in English. In addition, classics of Chicana and Chicano literature are being kept alive and available through the Press's Clásicos Chicanos/Chicano Classics imprint."

Calaca Press
Calaca Press is a "Chicano family-owned small publishing house dedicated to publishing and producing unknown, emerging, and established progressive Chicano and Latino voices. With a commitment to social justice and human rights Calaca Press strives to bring about change through the literary arts. From poetry and the spoken word to fiction and creative non-fiction Calaca Press is determined to showcase authors from a community that has been marginalized and pushed to the side in literary circles, and in the real world, for far too long. Recognizing the need for more publishers of Chicano and Latino literature Calaca Press also actively encourages and assists individuals to self publish and/or start their own presses. Understanding the need for historical continuation Calaca Press is committed to continuing the tradition of the Chicano and Latino presses and publishing houses of the 1960's and 1970's that flourished due to community support and the need to have our stories told. ¡Calacadelante!"

Chusma House Publications
Charley Trujillo's enterprise describes itself this way: "Chusma House Publications has been publishing the works of Chicano and Chicana writers for over a decade. From its inception, Chusma House has decided to eschew commercial and mainstream literature, and instead concentrate on works of worth and significance. We are committed to the publication of high-quality writing by both established and emerging writers. Chusma House has also begun to publish select multi-cultural literature.

Chusma House was started in 1990 by Charley Trujillo with his first, groundbreaking narrative, Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam. Due to the book's unprecedented success, Charley forewent his college teaching career to devote full attention to publishing and writing."

Wings Press
This is Bryce Milligan's baby. The website simply says: "Welcome to Wings Press, Texas' oldest small press. We currently offer over 50 titles published between 1977 and next month. Come on inside to discover the real corazón of American small press publishing." Here you will find many fine authors and books.

The following is from Denver's official website

Related Links
Denver Poet Laureate Web Site
Denver Office of Cultural Affairs
News Archive: Mayor Names Denver's Poet Laureate

JULY 07, 2005 -- The Denver Office of Cultural Affairs is currently seeking applicants for the honorary post of Denver Poet Laureate. This post was established in September 2004 with Mayor John Hickenlooper’s posthumous appointment of Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado as Denver’s first Poet Laureate. Delgado’s special appointment was made for a period of one year with a new Poet Laureate to be named in the fall of 2005.

Abelardo Lalo Delgado

The honorary post of Denver Poet Laureate is meant to increase the general awareness and appreciation of poetry in Denver and to provide support to the fields of poetry and literature. In addition to other activities that the Poet Laureate may choose to undertake, he or she may occasionally be called upon to read from his or her body of work at official city functions.

To be eligible, applicants must (1) be a legal resident of Colorado and have lived in the Denver metropolitan area for at least seven of the last ten years, (2) have authored at least one published volume of poetry of 48 pages or more (non self- or vanity-publication), or published at least three poetry volumes of 16 pages or more (non self- or vanity-publications) in the last ten years and (3) be recognized by peers in the literary community as having made a significant contribution to that community.

The basic term of the Denver Poet Laureate is two years, renewable for a maximum of eight years in the post. The Poet Laureate serves at the pleasure of the current mayor.

A Poet Laureate Selection Committee has been set up to review all applications and will submit up to three candidates to the mayor for consideration. The Selection Committee is composed of representatives from Denver’s literary community, poetry organizations, related businesses, local colleges and universities and other individuals interested in the field of poetry, and is chaired by a member of the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs.

The complete guidelines and application form may be obtained from the Denver Poet Laureate website at, or by calling 303-640-6952.

The deadline for applications is August 31, 2005.

Posted by Betsy Kimak, Internet Site Administrator, Customer Information Services.
Source: Denver Office of Cultural Affairs

One thing the above announcement does not say: An annual honorarium of $2,000 is provided by the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Rolo Diez. Tequila Blue. (Mato y voy)

Rolo Diez. Tequila Blue. Trans. Nick Caistor. London, Bitter Lemon Press, 2004. ISBN 1-904738-04-4
Michael Sedano

Some of the ugliest stereotypes of Mexican culture revolve around corruption and Mexican cops. “Don't get in trouble in Mexico,” goes the theory, because a Mexican cop will threaten you, solicit a bribe, rob you, sexually abuse you, administer a good ass kicking, or shoot you.

Rolo Diez' novel, Tequila Blue, shows the stereotype untrue. Sgt. Carlos Hernandez of the DO, an elite Mexico City investigative squad, doesn't kick anyone's ass in this first person narrative. Instead, setting out with a pair of henchmen to rob an exclusive whore house, Carlos gets a good ass-kicking when he drives the trio of Mexican cops into an ambush, where Carlos' car gets destroyed by a hand grenade and the detective suffers a gunshot to the neck and a concussion.

Stuck in the middle of nowhere, the able-bodied accomplices kidnap a hapless woman, steal her car, and leave her in the middle of nowhere.

Talk about hard boiled! Carlos tenderly recalls how he lent a hand to a sweetly simple country girl, a household servant. Sets her up in her own business, with her two younger sisters. “Las Tres Marias,” he calls them. And, when Carlos is tired and horny, he calls in the threesome for a “lick me all over” party.

When las tres aren't servicing Carlos--or his friends, his boss, or the policeman's acquaintances-they earn a good enough living to pay Carlos several thousand pesos in protection money, their “insurance policy,” the Sgt calls it. This is not to say Sgt. Hernandez is a pimp. He's considerate of his friends, that's all.

In the course of a relatively convoluted murder investigation, the detective's wife walks out on him and two teenagers, frustrated that her husband isn't providing enough money to live a comfortable lifestyle.

A reader might understand finances can be constrained under the pressures of a wife, two kids, a mistress and her kid, and the social obligations that arise from having to cut his boss, the Commander, in for a rich share of the loot.

Hector Belascoaran Shayne is still my favorite Mexican detective, but if Diez' work finds more English language outlets, he's going to give Shayne a run for his money. At any rate, I hope so. Tequila Blue was published in Mexico City in 1992 as Mato y Voy, so I imagine there's a body of work out there.

Más, I hope someone from este lado inks the contract. To a reader of US English, the Brit spellings and lexical issues can be a bit of a sticky wicket. The bag of “crisps” a fellow munches on, chicharrones? Or, “Get dressed and bring your ID,” I said, seeing Cruz was wearing pyjama trousers and a filthy T-shirt.”

The publisher, Bitter Lemon Press out of London UK, has a number of titles in the genre, billing itself as bringing to market “The best literary crime and romans noirs from Europe, Africa and Latin America.” For more information, visit Bitter Lemon's site at

Monday, July 18, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Lizz Huerta is first generation of Mexican and Puerto Rican descent; she calls herself a Mexirican or Chican-riqua. Lizz was born and raised a few miles from the border where she has continued to live, physically and metaphorically most her life. She is the author of three chapbooks, The Wings of Every Crow, Hostage of Gravity and The Papered Seed Inside of the Stone. Lizz has backpacked most of Mexico, lived in Guanajuato and Switzerland and is currently back in San Diego where she is working on new poems and hopes to publish soon. Saturday night, I had the pleasure of doing a reading with Lizz at the latest Vermin on the Mount reading series held in Chinatown. She is a dynamic, powerful performer whose poems should be read by all. To purchase any of her chapbooks, send Lizz an e-mail at Here is a sample from her chapbook, Hostage of Gravity:

“To Know”

Our fathers were working
men whose nails were
never clean, whose
bodies were leather, the
slick scent of oil, of metal.
Men who came home worn,
creased at the edges, tired
dollar bills.

Men who’s calloused hands
coaxed ballads out of
cracked guitars, coaxed laughter
out of their dusty sons
and dangerous daughters,
Our fathers were men who
would have loved to pluck
the mistakes out of our lives
like feathers from their tongues.
Men who killed suffering cats, not
given to sentiment. Men whose
souls aged overnight.

But today, our fathers
are aged men with bitter
bodies and livers swollen
to the size of their fears.
But we forgive them, a
thousand times a day.
Oh fathers, we beg to know-
how much of Abraham
you have within you?

What have you
sacrificed? What would
you offer if this tired
life was God’s altar
on Mount Moriah?
We, your Issacs, beg
to know, we beg
to know.

AMIGOS: At the very same performance where I met Lizz Huerta, Salvador Plascencia, author of the remarkable novel, The People of Paper (McSweeney’s Books), was in attendance and introduced himself. My review of his novel appeared recently on The Elegant Variation edited by the hardest working man in the blog-o-sphere, Mark Sarvas (who also was in attendance).

REVIEW: The prolific Rigoberto González (who has a birthday today!) offers a review of Sheryl Luna’s Pity the Drowned Horses (University of Notre Dame Press). Read more of Rigoberto’s El Paso Times reviews here.

FINALMENTE: The indefatigable Raymundo Eli Rojas has entered the blog-o-sphere with La Pluma Fronteriza. This is the blog counterpart of "Pluma Fronteriza" which was founded in 1999 and has become one of the most widely distributed publications in the history of Chicana(o) literature. Drop by and say hola.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Alexander Street to Calle Madero

Manuel Ramos

Latino Literature Project
Taibo and Mexico City
Steven Torres

I recently learned of the Latino Literature Collection that has been compiled by Alexander Street Press. This is a huge electronic database of Latino writing that is now available to universities, scholars, students, teachers and other subscribers.

The following is from Alexander Street Press:

"¿Cómo puede seguir uno viviendo con dos lenguas, dos casas, dos nostalgias, dos tentaciones, dos melancolías? -- Heberto Padilla

Latino literature draws from three major sources: the world of Aztlán, the mythical homeland of the Aztecs prior to Cortez; the Spanish heritage of the national homelands of the writers; and the intersection of these two with Anglo culture. These influences create persistent themes, the most common of which are social protest and exploitation; the migratory experience; self-exploration or self-definition, including the exploration of myths and legends; and life in the barrio (the traditional Latino district of the city). Alongside these broad, shared themes, Latino literature also reflects the distinct immigration experiences of discrete groups.

Latinos are a microcosm: a sum of heterogeneous parts that form a whole. The term 'Latino' (as we use it) encompasses all citizens of the United States whose heritage is Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central American, and South American, as well as descendents of those who became U.S. citizens when Mexico reluctantly gave up fifty per cent of its territories at the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

The majority of [the Latino Literature Collection] is in English, with selected works of particular importance (approximately 25% of the collection) presented in Spanish. The three major components deliver approximately 200 novels and many hundreds of short stories; 20,000 pages of poetry; and 400 plays. Authors such as Rudolfo Anaya, Cherrie Moraga, Carlos Morton, Alurista, Virgil Suarez, Judith Ortiz Cofer, Ivan Acosta, Oscar Zeta Acosta, Rolando Hinojosa, Tato Laviera, Lucha Corpi, Luis Valdez are included, along with many others.

The collection begins with the works of those in the Southwest who became citizens of the United States in 1850, covering the body of early Chicano writers who began to create a distinctive literature in the early 19th century, such as Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton, Maria Cristina Mena, Josefina Niggli and Daniel Venegas. Much of this work has long been out of print and unavailable. The collection includes major writers from the Chicano Renaissance and current writers as well. The works of some Teatros created in the late '60s and early '70s are targeted for inclusion, such as El Teatro Campesino (The Farm Workers Theater) and El Teatro de la Esperanza."

The current issue of Américas includes Walking With Mexico City's Private Eye, by Joyce Gregory Wyels.

"Following the footsteps of his famous detective character, writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II leads our author on an exploration of this capital's intriguing icons. ...

'Man, I love this city,' says Héctor Belascoarán Shayne, independent detective.

'Yeah, me too," echoes his creator, Paco Ignacio Taibo II. 'It's a relation of love and hate, like every good relation -- full of passion, and ethical.' Mexico's most celebrated mystery writer takes a long drag from a cigarette, then muses, 'I've had this love-hate relationship from the sixties up to now. Forty years loving and hating Mexico City. Not bad.'"

The rest of the article is a tour of the city through the eyes of Taibo and his character, and nice photographs by Larry Luxner. It's a good article with an insider's view of one of the most intriguing cities in the world.

Speaking of crime fiction written by Latinos - how about Steven Torres?

Torres writes police procedurals. He's published three novels plus several short stories, and he also does interviews, articles, etc. His Luis Gonzalo series includes Precinct Puerto Rico, Death in Precinct Puerto Rico, and Burning Precinct Puerto Rico. You can find out a lot more about Steven and his books over on his website.

Kirkus, well-known for tough reviews, said this about Precinct Puerto Rico:"A top-notch police procedural whose engrossing details create an authentic feel. Terse, deadpan prose, believable characters, and an offbeat setting add up to a promising series kickoff." --Kirkus Reviews (starred)

Steven recently started up his own blog - the Crime Time Cafe. In the cafe he reviews books and short stories, provides news from the world of crime fiction, and also offers his stories for sale on what he calls the Menu of Doom.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Jemez Spring Anaya's Latest Sonny Baca Tale

Jemez Spring. Rudolfo Anaya. Alburquerque: UNM Press, 2005.
isbn 0-8263-3684-1

Michael Sedano

One day in the life of Sonny Baca makes for a harrowing tale that mixes the stark raving fear of post-9/11 nuclear terror, a murdered governor cooking slowly in a hot spring, the detective dangling out of an airborne helicopter—among other adventures-- with Sonny’s obsessive bereavement over Rita’s unborn, who were killed in the third Baca - Raven mystery, Shaman Winter.

Jemez Spring brings the Sonny Baca epic full circle, from Sonny’s introduction in Alburquerque, through the four seasons tetralogy that begins in Zia Summer and continues to Rio Grande Fall. Novelist Rudolfo Anaya brings his Sonny character ever deeper into spiritism as Sonny stumbles through the Evil that swirls around Sonny and his dog, Chica. Watching Sonny grow across the series from the good samaritan who patches up a writer in a bar to a powerful hero of the Spirit world has been rewarding. That history makes Jemez Spring a rewarding novel worth a close reading. Yet, the novel is as well suited to a puro fun summer read.

Anaya reaches deep into a vast storehouse of literary tradition, as if he realized in writing an obvious capstone piece, the writer could tie up loose ends, have some fun, and leave a reader wanting another chapter in the life of this Chicano detective and would-be high school teacher, his Penelope, Rita, Chica the dog, and Don Eliseo, the cucuy who connects Sonny’s dream world to the dangers of the wakeful world.

Do dogs dream? The story opens on this silly question, which initially seems merely a touch of local color inserted to liven up a slow buildup. A few guys in a bar take up the question in a bar-friendly way. The discussion takes on life of its own, sweeping out of the barrio into the city in waves of controversy that leads to fist fights, grudges, and university conferences. Without giving away anything, the answer, yes, dogs dream, figures in the story’s fateful moment of crisis in a haunted bosque of the Rio Grande.

Readers should be on the lookout for gems like Anaya’s disquisition on dreaming dogs on page 94:
Taylor interrupted. “But dreaming dogs don’t appear in contemporary Chicano literature. Why? Because it’s a recent story. I believe dreaming dogs are related to the Chupacabra mystery. Upon the deconstruction of the Chupacabra, that is, on the deconstruction of a folkloric creature with roots in the archetypal imagination whose only raison d’etre was the collective shadow, i.e., fear of the lumpen, fear of the Anglo-American hegemony, and as those shadow fears imploded, they lost their hold over the collective memory and entered the Anglo world, i.e., the Chicano’s desire to become more like his Anglo counterpart. Thus the appearance of the dog dream argument, a transference—“

Wacha! The silly paragraph hides a dramatic irony, an allusion to Raven’s power and a tool Sonny leverages in the climactic final battle. Anaya’s text sparkles with allusion after allusion that keep a reader busy organizing clues and delving into personal resources from world culture, history, religion, myth, and epic. Polyphemus’ eye morphs into the Zia symbol. Zia represents the four corners of the map, the symbol forms a mystic quincunx, which is mirrored in Don Eliseo’s powerful God’s Eye whose magic swallowed Raven to save Sonny’s life last winter.

If the novel has an Achilles heel, it would be the author’s tendency to go overboard in his mystic musings. This meandering through empty territory is one of the complaints that relegates Anaya’s Jalamanta: A Message From the Desert to low readership. Jemez Spring has too much going for it to allow the occasional authorial excess to keep from turning the page. Not that the writer isn’t aware of the potential for aspersion. As Sonny’s winding up his incredibly bad incredibly good day, he starts organizing lessons learned, arriving at a conclusion that may strike a reader as an authorial pre-emptive strike:

Ah, so many questions left unanswered in one day’s story. Many would be disappointed, perhaps want their money back, for a private investigator was supposed to solve hard-core crimes, answer all the questions, not indulge in speculation of life’s journey. Such questions are for philosophers, or the idle, or the inocentes of the world. Had one day in the life of a PI been twisted too far? Was this for simpler minds, therefore, unacceptable? Who, out in that wide flat world that stretched only as far as his front yard, would be satisfied?
Sonny thought. Yes, the fifth season might prove even more phantasmagorical than today’s adventure. Best leave it at that. 282

Will Anaya leave the Sonny Odyssey at that? Spring, being a time of regeneration, fulfills its promise with things of the past put in order, and a warm sense of the future:

They would name the cabroncitos after the food they ate. Girls would be Maize and Natillas, boys would be Menudo and Carnitas. The strong boy would be Tortillon, the gay child Sopaipilla.
Happiness is what mattered. (283)

Might be a raison d’etre for reading all five Sonny Baca novels as a summer project, que no? As a final note, Jemez Spring is the most “Chicano” of the Sonny books, with dozens of references to Sonny and other neighbors being Chicanas and Chicanos. But it’s also a New Mexican book. What the heck is a “natilla”?


Monday, July 11, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Salvador Plascencia was born in 1976 in Guadalajara, Mexico. Plascencia’s mother was a seamstress, his father a factory worker who moved frequently between California and their home in Jalisco. Growing up at his grandparents’ farm, his extended family passed along a wealth of stories, some of which formed the inspiration for his debut novel, The People of Paper (McSweeney’s). His family eventually settled east of Los Angeles in the city of El Monte when Plascencia was eight years old. At the time, he spoke no English. Salvador Plascencia holds a BA in English from Whittier College and an MFA in fiction from Syracuse University. He received a National Foundation for Advancement of the Arts Award in Fiction in 1996 and the Peter Nagoe Prize for Fiction in 2000. In 2001 he was awarded the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans, the first fellow in fiction. His first published fiction appeared in McSweeney’s No. 12.

I note that Plascencia is still getting kudos for The People of Paper. Jason Alden Williams, a bookseller and blogger from Tempe, AZ, gives the novel a rave review, calling it

“a perfect mesh of memoir and fiction, is the best new book I've read in the last three years. It's a once-in-a-long-while type book, a book of immediate consequence, considered right away for canonization, a book that makes other ways of writing look amateurish and dated - a book that seems to do everything right: it is experimental and beautiful; it is intellectual and easy. It marks the end of one great era (Postmodernism) and the beginning of what looks to be another (Aestheticism?). At any rate, it is the early new standard of writing for the next generation of authors and readers. Read it, love it. It may be awhile before you read another book this inventive and magical and true.”

But read the whole review for yourself and post a note on Jason’s blog letting him know you’ve come by. I also note that Jane Ganahl of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote an interesting profile of Plascencia describing one of his unusual book readings.

And this just in…The New York Times yesterday did a joint review of Plascencia’s novel with Luis J. Rodríguez’s Music of the Mill (HarperCollins/Rayo). Nathaniel Rich gives a bit of a mixed review but, in the end, he appreciates these books noting: “Both novels, different though their approaches are, portray Los Angeles's Mexican-American communities with a grandeur and dignity that conventional accounts of the region's history often deny them.”

POESÍA: As I mentioned a few posts back, I recently purchased Ariel Robello’s debut collection, My Sweet Unconditional: Poems (Tía Chucha Press, 2005). Ariel received a PEN West Rosenthal Emerging Voices Fellowship in 2002. She teaches poetry in Los Angeles public high schools and English in the garment district. I finally have had some time to dip in and enjoy her beautiful, powerful words. Here’s one of the poems which is entitled “The Runaway”:

Hailey’s comet tears down La Cienega Blvd.
splitting the car wash
open like a hooker’s thighs

blisters rise on Randy’s giant doughnut
sweet confections and garbage men
scramble for their lives

the unfortunate driver
stuck at the eternal red light
glass cut palms
a lifetime of gripping the wheel
too tight

the misunderstood sky
a field of bloody salutations
waving hello


PALABRAS: At La Librería para Niños it’s storytime every Saturday at 1:00 p.m. Location: 1200 N. Main St., #100, Santa Ana, CA 92701. It’s right next door to Librería Martínez Books & Art. More information can be found at their Web page. As you know, both stores were founded by the inexhaustible Rueben Martínez. And he just opened a new one in Lynwood!

REVIEW: The always insightful Rigoberto González offers a review of Daniel Alarcón's War by Candlelight: Stories (HarperCollins) in this Sunday’s El Paso Times. Read more of González’s El Paso Times reviews here.

DÉME UN BESO: I recently learned that my collection, Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press), is being taught by Frederick Luis Aldama this fall at Ohio State University as part of the coursework for the Sexuality Studies Minor. The class is entitled, “Greed, Vengeance, and Love in Ethnic Technicolor: La Vida Loca in London and L.A.” ¡Ay!

FINALMENTE: This Tuesday, 4:30 to 6:00 p.m., I will be the guest DJ on the truly stupendous Pinky's Paperhaus, the most literate music show on Kill Radio (or anywhere else for that matter). I will be interviewed by the lovely Pinky, play some tunes and read a bit from my short stories. Listen live on the Web! And then on Saturday, July 16, at 8:00 p.m., I will be a guest author at the Vermin on the Mount reading with other fine folks put together by the brilliant Jim Ruland. Where: The Mountain Bar, 473 Gin Ling Way in Chinatown. I’d love to meet the fine gente who read La Bloga so come on by, drink some cerveza or one of those fancy-ass martinis, enjoy some literature and say “hola.”

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Pluma Fronteriza Summer 2005 Edition

Los La Bloga Blogueros are happy to share the Summer 2005 edition of Pluma Fronteriza, an informative bulletin of literary news and views...heck, click on the link above. Let it load into your PDF viewer.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

Pedazos y Pedacitos

Manuel Ramos

Another Call For Latino Writers
Fall Books From Arte Público

What Do Latinos Know About Jazz?

Another Call For Latino Writers
There seem to be more of these lately. I picked up from LatinoLA that an outfit called Urbano Publishing is looking for "Urban Fiction with Chicano or Latino main characters written in English or Spanglish. Dramas, comedies, erotica, action, gay/lesbian, science fiction, true life stories and graphic novels, etc. are all welcome if they have an urban Chicano or Latino theme. Emotional roller coasters are a major plus. However, short stories, and poetry are not welcome." The rest of the announcement is on the LatinoLA site here. The named guy behind this venture is Jeff Rivera, who has a website at This sounds like a very new project without any track record - but it may be worth checking out.

Fall Books from Arte Público
Just received the new Fall 2005 Trade Catalog from Arte Público Press. Here are a few previews.

In September, the Press will publish a new novel from Graciela Limón, Left Alive, described as a "psychological thriller." The catalog blurb says, "Rafael lives under the dark shadow of a violent crime, and he also lives with the knowledge that his mother was accused and convicted of the murder of his three older siblings. But Rafael's a survivor and all his life he's been prepared to fight with his anger, his energy, and even his sanity to defend his family. ... Limón explores Rafael's mental anguish within the greater context of such myths as Medea and La Llorona (the Crying Woman). Her deft, humane touch alternates between the poetic and the dramatic, as Rafael recounts his search for the truth that defines his very existence."

The Skyscraper That Flew and Other Stories, by Jesús Salvador Treviño. "A whimsical collection of interrelated magically real stories by an acclaimed filmmaker." This is a sequel to Treviño's first short story collection, The Fabulous Sinkhole and Other Stories, and the setting is once again Arroyo Grande, Texas, "an ordinary town where unusual things sometimes happen." The author was Executive Producer of the PBS series Chicano! and Co-Executive Producer of Resurrection Boulevard.

The Press will reprint The Kill Price by José Yglesias, first published in 1976. "An unabashed skeptic and maverick in society, Yglesias explores the relationship of art and writing to commerce and politics in this savvy novel [that] ... still speaks poignantly to our times. Chock full of references to international politics, the arts scene, and intimate relationships, Yglesias dissects the end of a powerful relationship and the remaking of a man."

Arte Público also will publish several bilingual young adult and children's books such as My Parents: Heroes of the Harvest by Samuel Carabello, illustrated by Obed Gómez; Little Crow to the Rescue by Victor Villaseñor, illustrated by Felipe Ugalde Alcántara; and Pepita Packs Up by Ofelia Dumas Lachtman, illustrated by Alex Prado DeLange.

What Do Latinos Know About Jazz?
I have to mention that KUVO radio, 89.3 FM in Denver, was selected as the Major Market Jazz Station of the Year by Jazz Week magazine at the annual Jazz Week Summit, recently held in Syracuse, NY. This is a big deal in the radio industry and the folks at KUVO have every right to stand proud. The station is a public radio station, supported by the community, and this year the station celebrates its twentieth anniversary. The staff and volunteers are diverse and extremely knowledgeable about the music. Many of the on-air staff are volunteers. In addition to jazz the station plays a dynamite cultural mix on the weekends, including AlterNative Voices, La Nueva Voz, Cancion Mexicana, La Raza Rocks, Salsa Con Jazz, and the Brazilian Fantasy. These people are committed to the music and to presenting a refreshing sound in the Rocky Mountain region. Latinas/os play a central role in the management of this station - Florence Hernández Ramos is CEO and General Manager; Carlos Lando is the Program Director; Arturo Gómez is the Music Director (Arturo was selected by Jazz Week for the second year in a row as Major Market Music Director of the Year); Tina Cartagena is Director of Development; and Frank White is the Business Manager. Felicidades a todos.

Don't you like to have cool sounds in the background when you read, or write?

Monday, July 04, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Joe Loya is an essayist, playwright, and contributing editor at the Pacific News Service. His opinion pieces have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, the Washington Post, and other national newspapers. He frequently comments on politics, religion, criminal justice issues, and other cultural events. In 2000 he was the recipient of a Sundance Writing Fellowship and a Sun Valley Writer's Conference Fellowship. In 2002, he wrote and performed his monologue, The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell, at San Francisco's Thick Description Playhouse. His memoir, also titled The Man Who Outgrew His Prison Cell: Confessions of a Bank Robber, was published in 2004 by HarperCollins/Rayo. The paperback edition will be released this September.

PALABRAS: Rene Colato Lainez signs and reads his children's book, Playing Loteria / El Juego de la Loteria (Arte Público Press/Piñata Books), at Tía Chucha’s, Thursday, July 7 at 6 p.m. This is a charming story of a little boy who visits his grandmother in Mexico. With the help of la loteria he learns a new language and how special the bond between a boy and his grandmother can be. Tía Chucha's Café Cultural, 12737 Glenoaks Blvd., Sylmar, (818) 362-7060.

THE PLAY’S THE THING: East LA Rep proudly presents the Los Angeles premiere of 14 by Jose Casas. In May of 2001, thirty Mexican nationals were discovered in the southern portion of the Arizona desert, fourteen perished. 14 explores the issue of race as dealt by (or ignored) between the Latina/o community and the white majority culture in the US. The play is a fictionalized set of monologues extracted from true stories and interviews conducted throughout the state of Arizona by the playwright. 14 features Brenda Banda, Juan E. Carrillo, Rainey K. Taylor, Seph Wise and directed by Jesus A. Reyes. Performances: July 8 - 31, 2005, Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m., and Sundays at 2 p.m. (no performance July 22). Location: La Casa del Mexicano Theater, 2900 Calle Pedro Infante (Boyle Heights). Admission: $12 general or $8 seniors and students with i.d. $20 opening night gala fundraiser! RSVP at (323) 788-3880 or email,

CAPSULE REVIEW: Salvador Plascencia's debut novel, The People of Paper (McSweeney’s Books), is a wonderfully strange, hallucinogenic and hypertextual blending of fiction and autobiography. The Prologue's first sentences thrust us into an almost familiar yet purely mythical world while introducing Plascencia's sly brand of humor: "She was made after the time of ribs and mud. By papal decree there were to be no more people born of the ground or from the marrow of bones. All would be created from the propulsions and mounts performed underneath bedsheets-rare exceptions granted for immaculate conceptions." What an astonishing, strange and deeply moving novel this is. In all his playfulness, Plascencia nonetheless grapples with troubling issues of free will, religious fidelity, ethnic identity, failed love and the creative process which he melds into a dreamscape that is impossible to forget. Plascencia-the God of his paper people-has given us a startling work of fiction that stretches not only the norms of storytelling, but also the bounds of our imagination. [Read my full review of Plascencia’s novel in The Elegant Variation.]

FINALMENTE: I want to wish all of you Chicano/Latino lit lovers a happy Fourth of July. Latino LA will soon publish my recommended books for summer. Stay tuned.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!