Friday, December 30, 2005


Manuel Ramos

Reviews by Rojas
We got a note from Raymundo Elí Rojas that he has two book reviews over on Newspaper Tree. Ray reviews Psst…I Have Something to Tell You, Mi Amor: Two Plays by Ana Castillo (Wings Press, 2005) and My Sweet Unconditional by Ariel Robello (Tia Chucha Press, 2005). Castillo's plays tell the story of Dianna Ortiz, an American nun kidnapped in Guatemala, imprisoned and tortured, most likely with CIA or U.S. military involvement. Rojas says, "Castillo’s displays of emotion and experience are legitimately heavy with truthfulness. It jolts readers with a blast of reality. Other books written on Ortiz’ story were not the best put-together works. Her story is a good one and she found a writer who can best tell it in Castillo." And of Robello's work he says, "Though survival is embedded in Robello’s work, it is not a 'pull-yourself up by your bootstraps' tale or 'I suffered this and look where I am now' book. Instead, Robello is sincere and persevering, more realistic than most poets lately. She finds sweetness in every part of life. Robello’s book is a wonderful read and its last set of poems will thrill even the most poetryphobic."

A Poem
Speaking of poetry: End of the year means time to reflect on what has been, what might be. Here's something from way back. I'm no poet, don't have a poet's sensibilities, but I have engaged in poetic exercises. Thanks for indulging me.


In reply to your recent inquiry,
Yes, I remember the kids we once were.
Back then,
The trip down Highway 50 from Florence to Pueblo
Was a dry, hot hour in my father's blue Plymouth.
It seemed like days.
I watched for the white water tower,
The sign the journey was nearly finished,
Before we toured the dying center of
The Steel City
The streets crowded with sweaty gente.
My father insisted we eat at El Sombrero
How strange to order hamburguesa
From the girl with obsidian eyes and a pony tail
While the old man slurped menudo
My mother stared
At what the other women wore.

I traveled on that highway
To places far beyond Pueblo
In the shelter of our house near the river.
Years later, when I passed the tower for a final time
And my feet stepped where my mind had been
I searched, vainly, for El Sombrero.

You and others drift by now, from those times
When the headlines were filled with our exploits,
And they made movies about us
Or so we thought.
You sense the loss I see from inside, then turn away
Or comment on
The grayness,
The baldness,
The sagging flesh,
And laugh, for you see yourself in a few
Last week.

Remember that sunrise
After that night we had to live,
We could not say we had not been warned.

And the minutes rain down on us from the corner
Where we stored them.
They drown us in showers
That wash away the steam on mirrors we don't use.

Oye, cabrón! Lighten up!
It's only your birthday.

Originally published in Saguaro (University of Arizona), 1988 (the year I turned 40.)


Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Digo Paz, a algunos gringos

I'm glad to say I've known (and known of) a lot of gringos who lived and acted as citizens, who empathized and accepted responsibility for their country's history and actions; who held onto their convictions even when their neighbors, family, co-workers, and friends ridiculed those beliefs; and who mobilized to meet that responsibility.

Such Americans keep me going, believing that with enough of them, things will change. And some things do.

Despite America's complacency about apartheid, Anglo college students forced their colleges to pull funds out of U.S. corporations that profited from apartheid, eventually forcing their gov't to vote for UN sanctions.

Despite American gullibility about Vietnam, opposition in the U.S. to the war eventually coincided with the military victories of the Viet Cong, sending the U.S. running.

Despite early, sheepish following of Bush's Iraq conquest, that too can possibly be ended sooner than expected.

Someone said it is not the responsibility of the minority peoples to convince the majority people. In real life, the majority finds it advantageous to ignore the minority; they have a more difficult time dealing with arguments from their own.

I don't envy Anglo Americans their task; I prefer only having to convince my own. (At least I have the advantage of linking Iraq's invasion to the 1845 war, for example.)

When one's economy, colleges, cities were built largely on stolen land, when its original residents were herded into camps to be stripped of everything called Indian; when similar policies were inflicted on Southwest mexicanos, African slaves, Chinese immigrants, cubanos, puertoriqueños, Vietnamese, Palestinian, Iraqi, and a lot of other "colored" peoples and their lands, one would think it not so hard to discuss the obvious with your own--those who at one time enjoyed the highest standard of living, precisely because of that history. But it is.

The inequities, exploitation, suppressions, and invasions made this an inharmonious world. The Bin Ladens, of course, embrace that as much as the Bushes; it is their shared dream of endless, international conflict.

Opposing such warmongers, in the heart of the American Empire, thrives a different passion, a fire with sometimes few guardians, but one that nevertheless envisions the world differently.

During this celebratory season, my message of Paz goes to Anglo Americans who preserve that world view, who strive for awareness and knowledge amongst their own, and understanding between the Anglo and the non-Anglo--an outlook that consequently nurtures Peace. I'm happy to have known you who understand so well.


Monday, December 26, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

María Helena Viramontes is the author of the acclaimed and widely studied The Moths and Other Stories (Arte Público Press), as well as Under the Feet of Jesus (Plume Books). Viramontes was born in East Los Angeles in 1954. Her parents met while working the fields as farm workers. Later, her father became a construction worker and her mother was a housewife. Viramontes was one of nine children, she had five sisters and three brothers. Viramontes graduated from Garfield High School and then worked part-time while attending Immaculate Heart College. She earned her B.A. as one of only five Chicanas in her class in 1975. Viramontes attended the graduate program in creative writing at the University of California, Irvine, but she left in 1981. She later completed the program and was awarded an MFA in 1994. Viramontes is an associate professor of English at Cornell University. [Many thanks to Wikipedia for much of the background information.]

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Judith Ortiz Cofer’s latest collection, A Love Story Beginning in Spanish (University of Georgia Press). González says that “Judith Ortiz Cofer is a rarity among writers, consistently accomplished in both prose and poetry." González is an award-winning writer and associate professor of English and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

COMPRAS: Tu Ciudad Magazine makes this holiday book suggestion:

Heaven, Earth, Tequila: Un Viaje al Corazon de Mexico (Waterside) by Douglas Menuez. Says Tu Ciudad: “The perfect coffee-table book for the sophisticated lush in your life, Tequila is the photographic journal of author Menuez’s trip through Mexico’s tequila-making regions. The eye-opening book (Did you know workers strip naked in order to prime the tequila?) also features an introduction by Burro Genius author Victor Villaseñor."

REMINDER: Letras Latinas, the literary component of the Institute for Latino Studies atthe University of Notre Dame, would like to remind you that the deadline for the second edition of the Andres Montoya Poetry Prize is just around the corner: January 6, 2006. Named after the late Chicano poet, the prize carries a $1000 cash award, a book contract with University of Notre Dame Press for a first book of poetry, and an invitation to read, with the final judge, at the University of Notre Dame. There is no entrance fee. For complete guidelines, please visit:

Any further questions can be addressed to:

Francisco Aragon
Director, Letras Latinas
Institute for Latino Studies
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556
(574) 631-2882

LATINA IMPRINT: We might have mentioned this at one time or another, but it bears repeating. Warner Books has launched a new imprint: Solana. From Warner Books: “Solana will publish six English-language trade paperback novels a year that celebrate Latino life and feature characters of various Hispanic origins. Latinas are reading a broad range of commercial fiction, from romances to chick lit to more serious, edgier women's fiction, but there's little available that speaks to them directly as Hispanic women. Solana is committed to providing this large and growing audience with a unique reading experience: the opportunity to identify with characters and stories that reflect their own backgrounds and traditions.”

A LITTLE POETRY: I beat you folks up with my poetry last week. Well, just when you thought it was safe to go back on the's a little piece that first appeared on PULSE last year. As with my previous poem, inspiration for this one came from the headlines, literally:

Woman Gets Probation in Child Neglect Case

They found you,
alive, yes, but
nude, caked with
dried ketchup
and jelly, lying
in a baby’s tub
watching TV.

What did your
mind think of as
you wandered
the house alone
for almost three
weeks? As you
peed on the floor,
scavenged for
food, drank water
from the toilet,
did you know that
your mother was
in jail, that she
didn’t want to tell
the judge that she
had a daughter
who would need
care while she
served her time?

Did your mind
wander from
Sesame Street
to the dark
stillness of the
night to the
thirst you needed
to quench?

Will you remember
this time alone or
will your life be
filled with other

Your mother is
home now,
receiving only
probation instead
of the maximum
ten years. Your
mother is home
now, to fill
your life with
new memories.

Will I read about
you again as I
drink my morning
coffee? Will your
mother make
another headline
as my son sits
across from me
enjoying his
Pop-Tarts and
laughing at the
funnies? Will
I have to explain
again to him
why my eyes
have filled with

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

Friday, December 23, 2005

Texas to Mexico to Morocco

Manuel Ramos

Lunch With A Texas Writer

Rolando Hinojosa chugging a Big Red after enjoying brisket at the Kreuz Market

Recently I had the pleasure of sharing some time with Rolando Hinojosa, one of the deans of Chicano Literature. We met at Kreuz's, a joint that Rolando introduced me to a few years ago. The Kreuz Market is in Lockhart, not quite in the middle of the stretch between San Antonio and Austin. What a place. Long, horizontal brick fireplaces where the meats are smoked for hours, everything served on rust-colored butcher paper, your choice of bread or crackers, and if you don't like meat, stay away. There's a sign that says "Vegetarians This Way, Normal People That Way" (where the line forms). Another sign proclaims "No Barbecue Sauce - Nothing To Hide." Rolando had the brisket, which is absolutely one of the best pieces of meat ever served on paper or otherwise, a couple of Big Reds and a Shiner Bock to top it all off. I managed a bite or two of that brisket and also a pork chop - next time I stick with the brisket, although those sausage links looked mighty tasty.

We talked, ate, talked, ate, talked and ate a little bit more. Rolando has been busy: Arte Público Press released a new trade paperback bilingual edition of the classic Dear Rafe/Mi querido Rafa this year; he's published essays and short stories, here in the States and in international publications as well; and he's teaching at the University of Texas - when we finished eating he had to go back to grading papers. In addition he's excited about his newest novel, We Happy Few, due from Arte Público in April. Rolando describes this book as a comic novel with an academic setting.

He entertained us with tales of his recent month-long trip along the Chinese coast on board a freighter, the only passenger with a crew of 27, and his adventures dodging hurricanes - he was invited to a world literary conference in New Orleans that had to be cancelled because of Katrina, then he was invited to speak in Houston and that was kiboshed by the next hurricane. He's living the good life with his family, spread from Texas to the East Coast, writing and enjoying the world acclaim for his work, and deservedly so. This guy gets around. He seems to be constantly traveling from one spot to another, speaking at different universities, presenting at conferences. He said that most likely he will make it to the International Conference on Chicano Literature (May 22nd-25th, 2006), hosted by the Research Institute for North American Studies of the University of Alcalá. This year's conference will be held in Madrid and the theme is Interpreting the Nuevo Milenio.

Arte Público says this about the man:

"Hinojosa, the Ellen Clayton Garwood Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Austin, is the author of the Klail City Death Trip Series of novels, which examine relations between Mexican Americans and Anglo Americans in the fictional Rio Grande Valley town, Klail City, Texas. He is the recipient of numerous literary awards, including the most prestigious prize in Latin American fiction, Case de las Américas, for the best Spanish American novel in 1976. Several of his novels have been translated into German, and The New York Times Book Review has compared him to William Faulkner, saying: 'Although his sharp eye and accurate ear capture a place, its people and a time in a masterly way, his work goes far beyond regionalism. He is a writer for all readers.'"

I certainly agree with that assessment. If you have not read any of the Klail City series, get with it. Clean, sharp prose about a small corner of the universe inhabited by characters readers love and hate, but who are always believable.

New Reads

Northwestern University Press lists The Disapperance: A Novella and Stories by Ilan Stavans in its Spring/Summer 2006 catalog (July). Here's the catalog copy:

"The Disappearance: A Novella and Stories contains three small, masterful gems. The novella Morirse está en hebreo, is a thought-provoking meditation on continuity and tradition among Mexican Jews that takes place just as a decades-long one-party dictatorship is crumbling down. It is the basis for a critically-acclaimed Mexican feature film that will be released in the United States in late 2006. The volume also features Xerox Man, an intriguing story about a book thief with a bizarre theological obsession, which was commissioned and broadcast by the BBC and has been widely anthologized. The title story The Disappearance is the resonant tale of a Belgian actor who kidnaps himself in an attempt to respond to neo-Nazi groups."

I'm reading a farily recent book, Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami (Algonquin, 2005). I bring this up because of Daniel Olivas's strong poem on La Bloga earlier this week that hit on the issue of border crossings, immigrants, and the backlash generated by population movements. Lalami's book also is about such things. It's one of those that grabbed me from the first page and hasn't let go yet. It's only 195 pages so I should finish soon but I wanted to mention it this week in connection with Daniel's poem. The book tells the stories of four people from Morocco who try to find new lives in Spain. Their searches are filled with danger, conflict, despair, and hope, all played against the backdrop of racial and ethnic animosity, and issues of cultural hostility (sound familiar?) Lalami is the creator and editor of the litblog Moorishgirl, which is well worth putting on your list of blogs to look at frequently.

Finally, Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all readers, writers and other literary-minded folk, and best wishes of the season to my friends here on La Bloga. It's been a blast. PAZ.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Review: Lucha Corpi. Crimson Moon.

Michael Sedano

I went nearly to the end of 2005 before picking up Lucha Corpi’s 2004 detective novel, Crimson Moon. Having enjoyed Corpi’s Gloria Damasco series, Eulogy for a Brown Angel, Cactus Blood, Black Widow’s Wardrobe, and noting Crimson Moon’s subtitle, “A Brown Angel Mystery”, I was disappointed that this latest novel turns out not to be another Damasco yarn.

On the other hand, that’s good news, too. Crimson Moon marks a new development in the novelist’s career. Corpi uses Damasco’s absence to introduce the Brown Angel Detective Agency, and develop two characters, Justin Escobar and Dora Saldaña.

Crimson Moon continues Corpi’s clever mixing of Chicanismo with her mystery plots. Eulogy for a Brown Angel sprang from the Chicano Moratorium. Cactus Blood from farmworker labor organizing. Black Widow’s Wardrobe found la Llorona in San Francisco and a Mexican tunnel.

In Crimson Moon, 1960s movimiento activism provides the backdrop for a story involving FBI moles, rape, a dying child, a mysterious voice on the telephone, and an obstructive client who is Justin’s former lover. All these threads hold together with an intricate interpersonal tension that is the hallmark of Corpi's fiction. Not all the threads get played out, in exchange for a fast-moving story.

Corpi pulls off a neat trick. When clues lead from Oakland to Denver, Dora hooks up with Luis Montez from Manuel Ramos’ detective series. Constrained by a female author, the randy Denver dick doesn’t fall into bed with the beguiling Dora, to their mutual regret. It will be interesting to watch how Corpi and Ramos continue this detective story syncretism.

Crimson Moon is a Dora Saldaña novel. And a good move on Corpi’s part. The Gloria Damasco series has been engaging, but, as we saw in Black Widow’s Wardrobe, age is catching up to Gloria Damasco. She’s still recovering from her meeting with la Llorona, and Gloria needs some time off. Throw herself a cinquentañera, maybe.

A long layoff did V.I. Warshawsky a lot of good. Let Damasco fare as well. Dora Saldaña will be keeping Corpi’s material contemporary, if the writer elects to carry the characters through a new mystery series. Then there's the Luis Montez conecta. Dora’s all right. And now that we’re past the introductions, readers can look forward to the next time Dora catches a case.


Monday, December 19, 2005

Crossing the Border

by Daniel Olivas

It is now a sport, great fun,
a diversion from your
work-a-day grind.

Hunt the mojados – “wetbacks” just
doesn’t sound humane, now does it?
– as they run across the border from
Mexico to the great state of Texas.

Help the border patrol
(though they deny wanting help,
poor overworked bastards) by lining up
your pick-ups and jeeps (American-made,
of course) and shining your headlights bright and
revealing towards the scrub, towards
our neighbors to the south.

Share a nice little Jack Daniel’s with
your buddy and keep a lookout for a
family or two, crouching, lurking,
hoping for a better life.

Cock your rifles, but never aim at ‘em,
just blast a few warning shots
up into the star-filled,
moonlit night.

It is a beautiful evening,
redolent with desert life,
just waiting for them to
cross the border.

[first appeared in Poetry Super Highway (March 2004)

Friday, December 16, 2005


Manuel Ramos

There's been a semi-theme on La Bloga this week about Chicana/o, Mexicana/o youth, hassles inflicted on youth, problems with the schools and education systems, etc. I started to think about several books that also deal with these issues and eventually decided that I would limit this post to a survey of the books of Gloria Velásquez.

One of her publishers, Arte Público, says about Gloria:

"Gloria Velásquez is an award-winning writer of poetry and fiction who graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a PH.D. in Latin American and Chicano Literatures. She is the author of the Roosevelt High School series of books for young adults, which features a multiracial group of teenaged students who must individually face social and cultural issues (such as violence, sexuality, prejudice and inter-racial dating) inescapable among young adults today. The books in the series are: Juanita Fights the School Board(Piñata Books, 1994); Maya's Divided World, (Piñata Books, 1995); Tommy Stands Alone(Piñata Books, 1995); Rina's Family Secret(Piñata Books, 1998); Ankiza (Piñata Books, 2000); and Teen Angel (Piñata Books, 2003). She is also the author of a collection of poetry, I Used to Be a Superwoman (Arte Público Press, 1997).

Velásquez has received various awards for her poetry and fiction. In 1985, she was the recipient of the 11th Chicano Literary Prize in the Short Story from the University of California at Irvine; and in 1979, Velásquez was awarded the Premier and Deuxieme Prix in poetry from the Department of French & Italian at Stanford University. Velásquez became the first Chicana to be inducted into the University of Northern Colorado's Hall of Fame for her achievements in creative writing in 1989.

Her poetry and short stories have been published in numerous journals and anthologies such as: Chicanos y Chicanas en Diálogo (Quarry West Magazine, 1989); Best New Chicano Literature (Bilingual Review Press, 1989); Neueste Chicano Lyrik (Bamberg, Germany, 1994). Velásquez was featured in Latino Voices in Literature, 1997. ...

Gloria Velásquez is currently a Professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where she resides with her family."

Gloria recently was named Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo for 2006. An article at mentions that she had more than 100 poems published by the time she was 35, and that Tommy Stands Alone was banned from a middle school in Longmont, CO for its story of a gay high school student.

Here’s what a few reviewers have said about some of the books in the Roosevelt High School Series -

Maya’s Divided World: This book deals with divorce and the antisocial reaction of the daughter to her parents’ separation. Booklist said, “there are few young adult books available in which Chicano characters and family life are central, and the author does a nice job of giving readers a window into the culture and providing some positive role models.”

Rina’s Family Secret: A violent, abusive and alcoholic father, a passive mother, and a teenager who must take control of the situation are at the heart of this book. “Velasquez offers a believable portrait of a multiethnic high-school community and realistically captures the emotions and actions (from drunken beach parties to tender moments between caring friends) of the teenagers who are part of it. The Spanish phrases scattered throughout the story ... are easily understood in context and lend further verisimilitude. Although this is the fourth book in the Roosevelt High School Series, it is both strong and complete enough to stand on its own.” Booklist.

Ankiza: "In this fifth book in the series, Ankiza, who is black, starts dating Hunter,who is white. Her friends, parents, his parents, and other students ... do not approve. At first the teen is shocked, and then hurt, confused, and angered by their reactions. It is only when Ankiza gets a nasty, anonymous letter that her friends and family rally around her. The characters are a diverse group and are true to the age group they represent. The author tackles a powerful social issue with compassion and honesty. A good discussion starter with a satisfying ending.” School Library Journal.

Another publisher, Chusma House, says this about her latest collection of poetry, Xicana On The Run:

"In Xicana on the Run, Velásquez reconstructs a Chicana consciousness that addresses issues of politics, love, war, solitude, poverty and feminism. Velásquez's poetry reveals a variety of political perspectives and themes that are both universal and personal. In paying homage to her humble barrio roots, Velasquez includes vintage photographs from her childhood, which illustrate her desire to further immortalize her parents, Juan and Francisca, and her only brother, Fini, who was killed in Vietnam. A foremost Chicana Chingona literary activist, Velásquez succeeds in empowering La Raza, young adults, women, and many other diverse ethnic groups in this powerful and compelling collection of poetry."


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Denigrating a mexicanita, American-style

by RudyG

"Don't call me teacher! My name's Mr. Kay!" boomed the P.E. substitute.

His demanding this of six/seven year olds resembles attempting to train them to stand at attention for fifteen seconds: you might eventually accomplish it, but was it worth the cost? The potential destructiveness of his words wouldn't occur to me until it was too late.

After five consecutive days of teaching first grade mexicanitos in my first teaching year, my mental faculties had become dulled. I need to be more attentive.

Mr. Kay--the size of an NFL linebacker--apparently didn't know enough Spanish to manage my class of native speakers; and apparently didn't have much experience with six/seven year olds, or he would have known shouting in a not-understood tongue works as well as baying at the moon to stop its shining.

Towering over them in the gym, he possibly forgot U.S. history--that he acted as a representative of the gov't that stole half of Mexico from my class's ancestors, and that his behavior ("mal," as the entire class later evaluated him) perpetuated stereotypes about "los pinche gringos."

Mr. Kay might never have studied child psychology to know that even inadvertent brutality from someone in a position-in-trust can scar the mind of a six year old as permanently as his skin stays white.

As a newcomer, he never knew the child he screamed at the loudest--when she failed to understand his English instructions--was one of the highest readers, strongest mathematicians, most prolific writers, and a model student.

This snow-covered mountain of a man couldn't have predicted that his futile scolding of a girl at 2:30 would grate on her immature mind for at least two more hours, such that she wouldn't want to participate in our after-school program.

This guy-unknown-to-me might not have guessed that his onerous scathing had torn the child's self-confidence enough for her to plead to be pulled from that after-school program. (I worried she wouldn't come the next day.)

And he probably would have been surprised that this little girl would finally agree to stay in the program, only because if she didn't, her mother would have to quit work and her family would "stay poor", i.e., she would show tons more responsibility with her small act than he had with his spontaneous blaring.

No matter what was or wasn't true, when I discovered what he'd done, I clenched my fists, nearly broke down, felt 150 years of abuse of my own ancestors; I wanted to stomp into the gym and beat the fokk out of the idiot. I wanted to hit him until he sobbed like she had; I wanted to kick him until he pleaded as she had; I wished him to loose as much blood as she had lost self-esteem.

But I didn't. Not because it's uncivilized or unprofessional or inappropriate to do so. He just outweighed me in general, I was sapped by one of those colds the kids had gifted me and exhausted from five straight days of trying to reach kids' minds, to find the paths to touch their learning souls, where I could offer them the wonders of knowledge. Something Mr. Kay made more difficult that day.

So instead, I reported Mr. Big to the administration.

I don't know if/how he was reprimanded, since in America, even an Anglo child's anguish is not as valued as an adult's "integrity" (though behavior like this would have not have gone unpunished in Denver's posh Cherry Creek district). I know he can't be required to attend professional, sensitivity training, since Colorado education systems don't hold the nurturing of a mexicanita to be a cost-effective priority, like new roads. And I assume it would be considered outlandish for him to apologize to her, since that might insult his adult "professional standing."

The mission statement of our school describes it as "a bilingual community." One would wish that meant treasuring the Spanish speaker as equal to the English speaker, that no child would be badgered into submission because she had yet to learn the dominant language.

Some Americans continue the ignobility of 1845, even if out of ignorance. For instance you can got to go to to see how Manifest Destiny still sprouts on the Kansas prairie.

When the U.S. gov't and citizenry invaded and conquered the Southwest, they swore they advanced civilization in expropriating that land from an inferior people who spoke an inferior language.

Today's consensus is that Spanish is something immigrants should discard, get past, leave behind as soon as possible. As Americans, they should instead covet the English language, only. Spanish literacy should only serve the ASAP learning of English. It's unAmerican to speak too well with a two-forked tongue, and a waste of tax money. We don't know how to act, feel comfortable in a world that's not all-English.

However, a valued bilingualism would mean encouraging mexicano children to aspire to one day write great literature in two languages. To become great debaters in two languages. To argue cases in international courts, in two languages. (One would wish our school's mission statement wouldn't have to be modified to read: "a respected bilingual community, by order of the Court.")

Anyway, I avoided getting fired or beat up by writing this instead. And this also gave me reason to teach my class a new, survival phrase: "I don't understand enough English yet; it's futile to pontificate or yell at me." Unfortunately, even if Mr. Kay never shows his face around again, they may need to rely on it too often.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

N.B.: (I found out later Mr. Kay had also made an older girl break down when he joked that her short haircut made her look "like a boy," so his lack of "social tact" might one day also reward him a gender-issue lawsuit in a wealthier Denver neighborhood. Not that I'm wishing any bad on him.)

Review: Martin Limón, The Door to Bitterness

Michael Sedano

I am ordinarily a patient person. I waited thirteen months, back in 1969, for August 1970 to arrive, counting days to the moment I could board a plane out of Kimpo Airport for the United States and home. It's been a fitful time waiting for the next Martin Limón Korea crime novel featuring Chicano Sgt. George Sueño and his Anglo partner Ernie Bascom, to show up. It has been worthwhile waiting. Open The Door to Bitterness for a sweet roller coaster ride and a doozy of a story.

Sgt. Sueño comes to in an Itaewon alley. He's been drugged, conked on the head, and robbed of his CID identification and his Army-issue .45 pistol. It's a court-martial offense, but what more concerns the knuckle-headed East LA native is the possibility someone will use the weapon to commit murder.

A spectacular murder sends Sueño and Bascom traipsing all over Korea, from its larger cities to the deep, deep boonies. The crooks resemble Sueño and Bascom, but then, all miguk look alike to Koreans, and the Korean police are deeply resentful of GIs, and almost completely uncooperative.

Ingenuity, and Sueño's fluency in Hangul, doggedness and inspired detective work, finds clue after clue. Closer and closer come the detectives to the Smiling Woman who beguiled Agent Sueño into that dark alley, closer to the Anglo-looking crook, closer to what must have been a Korean native sired by a long-absent GI inseminator.

Excitement and edge of your seat story-telling are two hallmarks of Martin Limón's work. Earlier titles, Slicky Boys, Buddha's Money, and Jade Lady Burning, tiptoe around the periphery of the moral poverty that leaves half caste children castaway in their own world. The Door to Bitterness places the topic in the crosshairs of the plot.

Sueño and Bascom are ville rats, not a speck of nobility to their quotidian performance. Bascom's a desperate alcoholic and ladies man, Sueño's alcoholism is outweighed by his less discriminate taste in whores. Thinking with his penis gets him into deep kimchi, his razorsharp inductive skills gradually pull him out. And, in seeming contradiction, a high sense of morality derived in part from his Chicano youth motivates the detective's drive to close the book on the crime.

Sueño's ethos gets sorely tested the more convoluted the plot grows. Children--physically disabled--sold into slavery found servicing GIs in no-man's land. The Status of Forces Yobo laws that define concubinage as a recognized profession. Oppressive health laws that quarantine STD-carrying prostitutes, and in this case, that seize a woman's children when she contracts TB. Guilt drills itself into Sueño's awareness as the mystery takes him deeper into this maze of laws, custom, and culture.

It's a dark and stormy night as the story comes to a close. But Limón makes it work. In the end, the culprits get what's coming to them, and the murderers attain the justice that Sueño's ethos forces upon the story. Totally satisfying.

I spent my 13 months in the Korean backwoods, way way out in the middle of nowhere. I wasn't a ville rat. Honestly. But some of my best friends were. And the few times I got down to Seoul, I had a chance to stroll into Itaewon, and strolled right back again, all shook up, as the song goes. Sueño and Bascom are most comfortable when they are hanging out in Itaewon. There's a certain logic to that.

Limón does superb work catching the netherworld where GI culture meets that part of Korean culture that tolerates contact with Unitedstatesians. The pidgin I grew so fond of, Limón has chosen to avoid, in favor of more exact Hangul, and anglicized spelling. No matter. Dialog has an uncanny authenticity to it that makes me almost homesick for my youthful year. If you have family in the military, and one of your kids is lucky enough to draw the 8th Army in the Land of the Morning Calm, be sure to give The Door to Bitterness, or all of Limón's novels, to their mother.

She'll never forgive you. Pero sabes que? If she's a fan of great detective stories, and she hasn't yet discovered Martin Limón's work, she'll instantly forgive you.



Monday, December 12, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Hired as a full professor in the Department of English of Ohio State University, Frederick Luis Aldama (Ph.D., Stanford University) specializes in Latino/a Studies, with additional expertise in sexuality studies, postcolonial theory, and ethnic studies. He has published three books, including a critical biography of the Chicano writer Arturo Islas (2004), and Brown on Brown: Queer Representations in Chicano/a Literature and Film, which has just been published by the University of Texas Press. In spring 2006, University of Texas Press will publish Aldama’s Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia: Conversations with Chicano/a Writers and Artists. Also in production is Meditations and Remediations: Humanities, Politics, and Society in the 21st Century. Aldama is currently working on a monograph that will provide new approaches to teaching Latino/a literature.

NOTICIAS: Though this does not have much to do with literature, it was sent in by our friend, Richard Yañez, author of El Paso del Norte: Stories on the Border (University of Nevada Press). Headline: SPANISH AT SCHOOL TRANSLATES TO SUSPENSION. Synopsis of article: The tension in Kansas City over a teenager's suspension from school for speaking Spanish on campus reflects a broader national debate over the language Americans should speak amid a wave of Hispanic immigration. Here’s an excerpt:

Most of the time, 16-year-old Zach Rubio converses in clear, unaccented American teen-speak, a form of English in which the three most common words are "like," "whatever" and "totally." But Zach is also fluent in his dad's native language, Spanish -- and that's what got him suspended from school.

"It was, like, totally not in the classroom," the high school junior said, recalling the infraction. "We were in the, like, hall or whatever, on restroom break. This kid I know, he's like, 'Me prestas un dolar?' ['Will you lend me a dollar?'] Well, he asked in Spanish; it just seemed natural to answer that way. So I'm like, 'No problema.' "

But that conversation turned out to be a big problem for the staff at the Endeavor Alternative School, a small public high school in an ethnically mixed blue-collar neighborhood. A teacher who overheard the two boys sent Zach to the office, where Principal Jennifer Watts ordered him to call his father and leave the school.

Watts, whom students describe as a disciplinarian, said she can't discuss the case. But in a written "discipline referral" explaining her decision to suspend Zach for 1 1/2 days, she noted: "This is not the first time we have [asked] Zach and others to not speak Spanish at school."

Since then, the suspension of Zach Rubio has become the talk of the town in both English and Spanish newspapers and radio shows. The school district has officially rescinded his punishment and said that speaking a foreign language is not grounds for suspension. Meanwhile, the Rubio family has retained a lawyer, who says a civil rights lawsuit may be in the offing….

Read the full story.

REVIEWS: For the online book magazine, Boldtype, Larissa N. Dooley reviews Salvador Plascencia’s People of Paper (McSweeney’s): “A dervish of magic realism, historical nonfiction, and barefaced autobiography, Salvador Plascencia's debut novel refuses to stand still.”

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Reading and book signing from Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul: Celebrating La Comunidad Latina by contributors Maya Alvarez-Galvan, Zulmara Cline, Alejandro Diaz, Maria Ercilla, Salvador Gonzalez Padilla and Jennifer Ramon-Dover. These stories explore culture and identity, celebrate families, spirituality, living in two languages, crossing borders, overcoming life's challenges, and the uniqueness of the Latino experience and tradition. December 14th, 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at Libreria Martinez, 11221 Long Beach Blvd., Suite 102, Lynwood, 90262.

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

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Guest Review: The Kite Runner.

The Kite Runner. NY:Penguin. ISBN 1594480001.

Guest Reviewer La Bloga's friend, Sandra Ramos O'Briant

“Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.” — David Copperfield*

“I became what I am today at the age of twelve, on a frigid overcast day in the winter of 1975.” — The Kite Runner

All the novels I’ve read this year had merit, but only one left me with a lingering feeling of nostalgia, of living through a life not my own. Only a story with sharply drawn characterizations and telling moral dilemmas can get under my skin like that. If it’s told by a youthful narrator, the spell has been cast. Yes, I’m a sucker for coming-of-age stories.

In The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, a childhood betrayal shadows the narrator, Amir, into adulthood. Born into the ruling Pashtun society (Sunni), Amir’s family has long been served by a Hazara (Shia) father and son. Hassan, the son, is Amir’s primary playmate, but he also prepares his friend’s breakfast and irons his school uniform. Hassan does not attend school, nor can he read, but most of Amir’s childhood memories revolve around their play — kite flying competitions, American cowboy movies, and Amir’s reading of stories to Hassan. The setting for class and ethnic conflict is present, but Hassan’s extreme loyalty makes Amir’s betrayal all the more bitter.

The Russians enter Afghanistan, and Amir and his father lose everything in their escape to America. Only when Amir returns to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan to rescue Hassan’s son, does he redeem himself in his own eyes. An old way of life is disappearing, but before it does the cruel and self-righteous will rule. Beset by demons — primarily his own cowardice — Amir confronts the half-Afghani, half-German Assef. No typical neighborhood bully, Assef’s childhood idiosyncracies included idolizing Hitler, and despising ethnic minorities like the Hazaras. Referring to Hassan he asked Amir: “How can you call him your ‘friend’?” It’s not surprising that Assef grows into a drug-addicted, hypocritical, Koran-quoting sadist and local head of the Taliban.

Oh, and he’s a pederast.

Over the top? Dickens wouldn’t have thought so. In Oliver Twist, Bill Sikes beats his woman and his dog. Our modern villains all too often are drawn in shades of gray. Hosseini’s bad guy has no such hue, and our narrator tells us so, “Assef’s blue eyes glinted with a light not entirely sane.” Not particularly beautiful or even innovative prose, but the archetype is clear . . . and chilling. Identifying with our narrator, we hate and fear Assef, and hope he will get his comeuppance. Hosseini doesn’t disappoint, but he rubs our nose in the Taliban muck before he allows our hero to escape, rescued by the child he came to save.

Some might consider this a plot contrivance, but I return again to Dickens, who wrote his serial novels to entertain. Even though his main characters are often sentimental types, his settings usually are not. This same technique works in The Kite Runner because it’s a simple story set against a complex background of Sunni and Shia, Russian invasions, Taliban takeovers, political refugees in America, and class structure in a distant, little understood region of the world.

The family loyalties epitomized between father and son, and master and servant; the internal struggle to rise above one’s own fears and petty jealousies and do the right thing; and the secular Moslems — people the average American never hears about — surrounded by superstition and a culture laden with tradition, personalize the story for us, in much the same way Dickens brought the plight of the poor and working class to readers in novels like Oliver Twist, David Copperfield and Great Expectations.

Yes, the story is sentimental, and some readers — those who sharpen their teeth only on the quirky and cutting-edge — may find it old-fashioned. But a good story persists. The one aspect missing is Dickens’ humor, unless you count the fake Taliban beard Amir wears on his return to Afghanistan. Done for protective coloration, I still couldn’t shake the image of a Marx brother, probably Harpo, running amok in Kabul.

The Kite Runner was published in Summer 2003. It received good reviews upon arrival, and its popularity continues to grow, reader-to-reader, according to Hosseini’s publisher, Riverhead Books. Although Afghanistan has quieted down, we read and hear about the Sunni and Shia every day in Iraq. According to a USA Today report, some colleges have put the book on the summer reading list for incoming freshmen.

With our continued involvement in the Middle East, and our struggle to understand the people there, the author’s description of Afghan family life and values is fascinating, and introduced me to a group of people I’d like to know better.

*David Copperfield

Read my Syriana Cheat Sheet at

Sandra Ramos O'Briant

A note on this week's guest La Bloga bloguera:

Ms. O’Briant is the daughter of a Spanish Catholic and a Texan Baptist, and was introduced to both the self-flagellating Penitentes of New Mexico and the tent show holy-rollers of East Texas. In addition, her hometown of Santa Fe, the city of Holy Faith, is host to state politics and the attendant corruption, artists and their hangers-on, and a thriving homosexual community.

All of this went into her first book, The Secret of Old Blood: The Sandoval Sisters. Set in the 19th and early decades of the 20th century, the issues confronted by three sisters are contemporary: racism, sexual and religious intolerance, the power of superstition, incest, reproductive freedom. Finally, it is a story of what constitutes a family, and the myths associated with the blood and bounds of loyalty.

For published credits, please visit her website.

La Bloga Blogmeister's note: La Bloga regulars happily welcome Ms. O'Briant as our guest. We welcome others with an eye and ear for literature to join us as our guest. We would love to share the pleasure of your company at La Bloga!

Friday, December 09, 2005


Manuel Ramos

The end of the year means lists of favorites and bests, as well as awards and other recognition. We here at La Bloga will do what we can to spread the word on such things when they include Chicana/o Lit. If we don't do it, who will?

In Denver, the Rocky Mountain News published a spread of several pages this past weekend on Favorite Books of 2005. Luis Alberto Urrea scored with The Hummingbird's Daughter, (Little, Brown) as he did with the L.A. Times, noted in Daniel Olivas' Bloga column earlier this week. With awkward praise, the RM News said: "In this sweeping fictional epic set in late 19th century Mexico, protagonist Teresita Urrea rises from a traumatic death to become a 'saint' and spokesperson for Mexico's native people. Urrea captures the everyday, dashing convention with sensuous prose and characters who are alive in both sunlight and the stink of everyday." Characters who live - that seems to be the key to the attraction of this book. The News also listed Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel García Márquez (Alfred A. Knopf) and Zorro by Isabel Allende (HarperCollins).

The Bloomsbury Review has been reviewing books, interviewing authors, and observing the publishing scene for twenty-five years. To celebrate the anniversary, TBR's November/December issue features selections by the editors and contributing editors of the "most outstanding writers and books they have read over the past quarter century." I think we might all agree that the TBR lists really mean something, given the periodical's reputation, longevity and diversity of literary interests reflected in its pages, as well as the distinguished list of contributing writers over the past two and a half decades.

La Bloga asks, "Where's la gente?" I read the various TBR articles to get the answer to that question, expecting that there would not be a repeat of anything like the recent Time Magazine fiasco and I was not disappointed.

Right off the bat, Jeff Biggers cited Alfredo Véa's La Maravilla (Dutton, 1993) as one of two "breathtaking books" that he gives as gifts more than any others. (The other one was The Songlines by Bruce Chatwin [Viking, 1987]). Alfredo Véa is one of my personal favorites, a vastly underappreciated author who dissapoints me only by not publishing a novel since his magnificent Gods Go Begging (Dutton) in 1999. Alfredo, where's the next book, man? Obviously, Biggers knows what he is talking about, so I kept reading his selections.

He mentioned a "handful of masters" that he recommends to all young writers. Included in this group are Cecile Pineda and the Chicanesque author John Nichols, whom Biggers calls "the indefatigable genius of Taos." So far, so good.

Biggers next listed "writers who have served as the conscience of the literary world and as reminders of the writer's role in the world as the poetic conscience of the nation." I can tell that Jeff Biggers took this assignment very seriously. Here we find names like Demetria Martínez and Martín Espada, whose poetry collection Imagine the Angels of Bread (Norton, 1996) "should be required reading." Martínez has been spotlighted on La Bloga - she definitely made an impression on us.

Finally, Biggers named those "younger masters whose works over the last decade or so have consistently placed them in the forefront of American writing, and whose books we will be reading over the next 25 years." Véa, again. As well as Luis Alberto Urrea, Benjamin Sáenz, Luis Rodriguez, and Cristina García. Francisco Goldman and Sherman Alexie are also in this group.

Good job, Jeff.

I moved on through TBR. Kathleen Cain mentioned Isabel Allende as one of the fiction writers who held her attention over the last twenty-five years. She also praised Gabriel García Márquez and Linda Hogan. She explained that the poet Gabriela Mistral helped see her through the darkest years of her life and she said that she treasured books that help in the deeper explorations of life, such as Clarissa Pinkola Estés' Women Who Run With the Wolves (Ballantine, 1992).

The next contributor, Janet Coleman, repeated García Marquez and Alexie but added Jaime Manrique, a member of her writing group, and focused on his memoir, Eminent Maricones: Arenas, Lorca, Puig and Me (University of Wisconsin, 1999).

Robert Franklin Gish praised Native writers Leslie Marmon Silko and Louise Erdrich, and added that without a doubt his favorite and most influential authors over the past twenty-five years are Ray Anthony Young Bear and Jimmy Santiago Baca (Martin and Meditations on the South Valley [New Directions, 1987, 2005], Working in the Dark: Reflections of a Poet of the Barrio [Red Crane, 1992]). Jimmy Santiago Baca certainly belongs on these lists. When I needed to be reminded of the power of written words, I read Martin and Meditations on the South Valley and I was reminded of the power of the writer.

Ray González is TBR's poetry editor. He made a straight-forward list of twenty-five favorite books from the past twenty-five years. Number 10 is Lorca's Poet in New York (Noonday, 1998) and number 11 is Mean Spirit by Linda Hogan (Ivy, 1990). He also listed The Book of Disquiet by the Portuguese writer Fernando Pessoa (Exact Change, 1991), and Altazor by Vicente Huidobro (Wesleyan University, 2003).

James R. Hepworth introduced his list by writing that compiling a "favorites" list could quickly become a fool's errand but, as Blake said, a fool who persists in his folly just might become wise. With that note of caution, he included Pablo Neruda's Selected Poems (Houghton Mifflin, 1990) and said, quite directly, that Neruda "surpasses all other poets, including Blake, Whitman and Yeats." An unusual selection here is Critical Race Theory: An Introduction by Richard Delgado and Jean Stefanic (New York University, 2001). I thought only radical law professors and leftist lawyers read this book but Hepworth is a professor of humanities. In any event, he said that the book served as his introduction to a field that he wished he had started to "cultivate and harvest" much earlier.

Reamy Jansen listed his all-time favorites, heavy on essayists and non-fiction, but he also compiled a 2005 list. Here I found Pablo Medin's The Cigar Roller (Grove, 2005), described as the story of a Cuban exile that is a "brilliant, moving display."

As might be expected, Cristian Salazar, a reporter for the Herald News in New Jersey, had several Latinas and Latinos on his eclectic list, his "hodgepdoge," as he called it. Battles in the Desert and Other Stories by José Emilio Pacheco (New Directions, 1981, 1987); Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez (Bantam, 1982); Tinísima: A Novel by Elena Poniatowska (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1996); The Magic of Blood, Dagoberto Gilb (University of New Mexico, 1993); Aloud: Voices From the Nuyorican Poets' Café, edited by Miguel Algarin, Bob Holman & Nicole Blackman (Holt, 1994); and Drown by Junot Díaz (Riverhead, 1996). Salazar also included The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie.

Whew, quite a number of books, and I singled out the Latino or Native authors and works. The entire group of articles highlights dozens of excellent, beautiful books, well worth any reader's attention and a great start on a holiday gift list. I can't say I've read all of these but it's a joy to know there are so many good books out there waiting to be read, or re-read, and that the writers are getting some of the attention they deserve.


Monday, December 05, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Kathy Cano Murillo, aka the Crafty Chica, vows to live the crafty life and so far is pulling it off. She is a syndicated crafts columnist for The Arizona Republic and Gannett News Wire which is carried by 40 papers across the country. She is a local and national TV personality, a professional artist specializing in handmade Latino accessories, entertainment journalist, public speaker and author of five art/craft books, the most recent is Crafty Chica's Art de La Soul: Glittery Ideas to Liven Up Your Life (HarperCollins/Rayo) due out February 2006. Kathy also hosts her own creativity and crafting Internet radio show "The Crafty Chica Podcast.” You can see more about her at

LOS ANGELES TIMES’ BEST FICTION LIST 2005: Luis Alberto Urrea and Salvador Plascencia are included in this yearly list which came out yesterday. This is what the Times said about each:

The People of Paper
Salvador Plascencia

Plascencia's first novel takes us to an unreal El Monte, a place where carnation pickers wage war against Saturn, people made of paper are tended by an origami surgeon and other characters rebel against the tyranny of their author. Such strategies recall Borges and García Márquez, while the book's design and typography would make Laurence Sterne proud. [My full review of Plascencia's novel appeared in The Elegant Variation.]

The Hummingbird's Daughter
Luis Alberto Urrea
Little, Brown

Urrea tells the story of his Great Aunt Teresita, who, it was said, could raise the dead with her healing powers and was acclaimed as a saint in 19th century Mexico. Although the power of curanderas has been evoked in Rudolfo Anaya's classic novel "Bless Me, Ultima," Urrea makes the magical quest to understand his wonder-working ancestor uniquely his own. [My full review of Urrea's novel appeared in The Elegant Variation; my interview with Urrea followed a couple of weeks later.]

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Pablo Medina’s new book of poems, Points of Balance / Puntos de Apoyo (Four Ways Books). González notes that because the poems move from English to Spanish and back again, “[w]hat results is a dynamic dialogue between two moods with each pairing, the mood shifting after every poem, and, true to the demand of the form, shifting within the poem itself.” He adds that “[t]his book is nothing short of linguistic mastery.” González is an award-winning writer and associate professor of English and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

THE TOMAS RIVERA AWARD IN CRITICAL WRITING: CRATE seeks essays that explore or examine emerging writers, Latino/a contemporary works, American landscapes, migrant issues that reflect global transformation, power and the arts.

Total prizes in $1000.00:

1st prize - $500 and publication in CRATE Journal and CRATE website

2nd prize - $250 and publication in CRATE Journal and CRATE website

Honorable Mentions - $125 and possible publication on CRATE website

Please limit your submissions to 3,000 words. All submissions must be postmarked by Dec. 15, 2005 to be considered.

CRATE only reads between Sept. 15 through Dec. 15. Winners to be announced Winter 2005. Visit CRATE’s guidelines for complete details and mailing address.

The deadline for submissions considered for this special issue of IR will be Postmark date: December 31, 2005.

Submission Guidelines: Indiana Review is proud to announce a call for work by Latino & Latina writers. We are seeking Poetry, Fiction, and Non-Fiction by Latino & Latina writers that that is well-crafted and lively, has an intelligent sense of form and language, assumes a degree of risk, and has consequence beyond the world of its speakers or narrators. We also welcome interviews with established writers. Content that addresses political, social, and cultural aspects of the Latino and Latina identity and community are welcome but not a pre-requisite for consideration. Our intent with this issue is to showcase the vibrant and diverse voices of new and established Latino and Latina Writers.

Stories: Send only one story per submission, up to 40 double-spaced pages. Translations are welcome.

Poems: Send up to four poems, no more than ten pages, per submission. Do not fold poems individually or staple poems together. Translations are welcome.

Nonfiction: Send only one essay per submission, up to 30 double-spaced pages.

Book Reviews: Reviews should be of recent fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and literary criticism (publication date within two years). Small press titles are preferred. Reviews must be 1,000 to 1,500 words, double-spaced, and include complete publication information (press, ISBN, price). Send a maximum of two reviews per submission.

Graphic Arts: Paintings, photographs, comics, and drawings are welcome. In lieu of originals, please send digital images of work. Slides cannot be accepted. DO NOT send only copy of work. Indiana artists are preferred. Send up to five pieces that are up to 6" x 9" in dimensions or may be later reduced to this size. Visual works must also be publishable in black and white, but, when funding allows, may be published in full color.

How to submit: There is no need to query editors about submitting work. Submission status may be queried by mail or email, but please allow 4 months before querying.

All submissions and correspondence MUST include a self-addressed stamped envelope. We cannot respond to submissions otherwise. Include additional postage if work is to be returned.
Simultaneous submissions are okay, but we must be promptly notified of acceptance elsewhere.

Clearly mark envelope to the appropriate genre editor's attention (e.g. "Fiction Editor").

Include cover letter listing work titles, previous publications and awards, and a brief bio. For receipt confirmation, please include email address. Explanations of manuscript's meaning, theme, or technique are not necessary.

No handwritten, faxed, emailed, or poorly copied/printed manuscripts will be considered. Further, IR cannot consider work (other than book reviews) from anyone currently or recently affiliated with Indiana University.

Contact Info: Send all correspondence to address below. Again, please note that we cannot accept email submissions.

Send manuscripts to:
Latino/Latina Writers Issue - Indiana Review
Ballantine Hall 465
1020 E. Kirkwood Ave.
Bloomington, IN 47405-7103


◘ Landmark Court Case the Topic for Guest Faculty Exchange: The CSRC will host Michael A. Olivas (no relation to me) for a lecture titled “Colored Men and Hombres Aqui: Hernández v. Texas and the Emergence of Mexican American Lawyering.” Olivas, the William B. Bates Distinguished Chair in Law and the director of the Institute for Higher Education Law and Governance at the University of Houston Law Center, is recognized for his writings on higher education law, immigration law and policy, and financial aid issues. The lecture will be Friday, January 13, 2006, at 12:00 noon in 179 Haines Hall. For questions or more information please e-mail the front office.

◘ This year has been an extremely active one for the CSRC Press. In addition to publishing two issues of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, we released the first book in our new Chicano Archive series, Self-Help Graphics & Art: Art in the Heart of East Los Angeles, last month. We launched this series to preserve and disseminate information about important Latino archival collections. Two new CSRC Research Reports were published in the spring: Identifying and Preserving the History of the Latino Visual Arts, an important resource for those seeking to preserve community archives, and Press Discourse on Minority Media: A Comparative Analysis, an exploration of the independent media’s treatment of ethnic film. Community College as a Pathway to Chicana/o Doctorate Production, the latest Latino Policy & Issues Brief, received national media attention following its publication in June. Look for many more exciting publications in 2006, including new DVDs and the first volume in CSRC Press’s newest series, A Ver: Revisioning Art History.

SOMOS PRIMOS: The December issue of Somos Primos is out. Edited by Mimi Lozano, Somos Primos is dedicated to “Hispanic Heritage and Diversity Issues.”

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

Friday, December 02, 2005

Bookstores to Chicano Blues

Manuel Ramos

Bookstore Haps

Over on The Coast, one of the great bookstores, Librería Martínez, has announced the "Grand Re-opening" of its Lynwood, CA branch. A weekend of events has been planned, beginning December 1 with a signing and reading by David E. Hayes-Bautista for his book La Nueva California: Latinos in the Golden State. December 2 at 4:00 PM is the Coffee House, an open mic afternoon featuring the students of Lynwood reading their original poetry and essays. December 3 will have interactive cartooning and storytelling with Martha Montoya, author of Los Kitos. The celebration wraps up on Sunday, December 4, 3:00 PM with a presentation and signing by María Amparo Escandón, reading from her new work, González & Daughter Trucking Co., which sounds like a book I have to pick up. The Lynwood store is at 11221 Long Beach Blvd., #102, Lynwood, CA 90262, 310-637-9484. The original Martínez Books and Art Gallery is at 1110 N. Main Street, Santa Ana, CA 92701, 714-973-7900.

Back in the heartland (well, Denver), Westside Books, 3434 W. 32nd Ave., Denver, 80211, 303-480-0220, welcomes a number of authors including Renne Fajardo and Arlette Lucero, as they present and read from Ole! Posole!, the collective work of the Rocky Mountain Storytellers' Conference. This is the fourth and last book in this series from the Storytellers. The event is set for December 6 at 7:00 PM.

The Third Annual Randy Garibay Legacy Fund Dance/Fundraiser

Down south, those of you in the San Antonio area can support some great projects by dancing your butts off this weekend. The Randy Garibay Legacy Fund Dance/Fundraiser takes place at the Blanco Ballroom, 3719 Blanco Rd., San Antonio on Sunday December 4 from 6 - 11 PM. Only $10. There is a list of more than two dozen musicians and entertainers who are helping out - sounds like a great night. For those of you not familiar with the name, Randy Garibay is a legendary and sorely missed Chicano blues man. His friends and family have carried on his name by helping to sponsor events that support worthwhile causes, sick musicians, and that good old San Anto West Side sound.

And speaking of Texas music - you all hip to Chip Taylor and Carrie Rodriguez? Rodriguez's soulful twang and finger-poppin' fiddle playin' are perfect for this duo's brand of back-porch music. She's the daughter of Austin's singer-songwriter David Rodriguez. FYI, Taylor, in a much earlier life, wrote Wild Thing and Angel of the Morning. Their latest CD, Red Dog Tracks, stopped me in my tracks. I dig this kind of stuff.

Looks like I ran out of things to say about books.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

El piñatero/ The Piñata Maker

Today is my birthday and to celebrate it with my companeros and readers at La Bloga, I thought I would share one of my favorite birthday memories as well as do my usual Thursday review.

I love piñatas! They hold a special place in my heart and memories. When I was seven years old, my grandfather brought back from Mexico a beautiful, traditional piñata called piñata de picos. It was gorgeous with tons of brightly colored paper and streaming tassles on each cone. I remember being so excited when it was time to break it. We sang the pinata song, dale dale dale... The best part of all was when one of my cousins broke it and we found it was made of clay. Each of us children kept a shard and I still have mine all these years later.

El piñatero/ The Piñata Maker is a fantastic little photo journal about a piñata maker. There are full color photos of the process of making piñatas. It is the story of Tio Rico, a traditional piñata maker. His pinatas are exquisite, especially the Swan which is elegant and feels almost alive. There are pages dedicated to my favorite, the pinata de picos, my birthday pinata. I was thrilled to find this amazing little book dedicated to an almost lost art. No Spongebob pinatas or tacky Ninja turtles made of cheap paper and plastic in this book. It's a treasure and I share it with you on my 44th birthday in the hopes of reviving the art so that our children can be as enchanted as I was on my seventh birthday.

Hasta pronto.

Gina MarySol Ruiz