Friday, March 31, 2006

César Estrada Chávez


March 31, 1927–April 23, 1993

From One Poet Laureate To Another

Manuel Ramos


When Abelardo Lalo Delgado passed away in 2004, Mayor John Hickenlooper announced that he was creating the post of Denver Poet Laureate and that Lalo was the first poet to be so honored, albeit posthumously. It was a nice gesture appreciated by Lalo's family, friends, and fans.

Lalo's successor as poet laureate, Chris Ransick, recently was treated to a public reception at the Denver Public Library where he was warmly greeted by his own fans as well as the family, friends and fans of Lalo.

The highlight of that evening was Ransick's reading of his tribute to Lalo, a poem he entitled Lalo's Notebooks. One of the people who heard that reading described it as "truly special. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room."

Chris has given me permission to reprint his poem on La Bloga, and so here it is.



Lalo’s Notebooks
Chris Ransick

all rights reserved


She handed me the blue canvas bag, said
These are from his family; it weighed as much
as a life lived, a big soul full of roses and the
other blooms, the unnamed ones,
laid on the graves of broken workers and
women who would feed their children more
if there were more to eat. How could I
open such a bag. I carried it down the street
and my hands ached, not with pain
but with love for the poet I’d never met
and the words that were really flames
of ancient fires, hot enough still to give light
in this dark time. I took those notebooks
home and when I opened them el gallo
crowed and woke the babies sleeping in
our future, the old men and women
resting from long labors, and the young man
in the photograph, standing atop a toolbox
amid defiant faces, bright sun & hard shadows,
pointing in outrage at the lie and naming it.
I found Lalo on every page, filled
by his own hands with fruits he pulled
from the stems of witnessing. And there were
bawdy poems, fingers dipped in love,
the grandfather’s caress, the wise fool
who sees what others can’t and dances
and wears bright feathers, his motley made
from the parrot and the jaguar’s pelt.

And Lalo said,

Launch your attack with love
and do battle as if
all about you was water
and your soul was on fire.

All morning I wandered in Lalo’s notebooks,
walked arm and arm with a brother poet,
whose voice was soft but impossible to ignore,
singing out over the path to Aztlan,
and we crossed through migrant camps
and were offered coffee and bread, a seat
by the campfire, and we crossed through a tenement
at Oregon and Fifth, El Paso, where children
burned and the people wailed, and we crossed
through the field where César Chávez stood
and raised his voice in truth, and raised us all.
I walked with Lalo and learned, I walked
and went to a place from which I will never
return. So I say here, in his words,

I call on
my brothers and sisters
to do battle in the name of love.

________________________________________

I'll be absent from La Bloga next week - look for a something special from one of the other bloguistas, or not.

Later.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Half Million Immigrant Readers, Voters, Mass in LA

Photos ©2006 Michael Sedano

Saturday, March 25, 2006, I joined 499,999--heck, maybe there were a million of us-- other gente in the area around Los Angeles' City Hall. Our massive reaffirmation of the US Constitution was one of many such manifestations of community, and concern that the nation's growing repression of people like us requires critical attention.

From Milwaukee to Chicago to Phoenix to LA, one peaceful protest followed another. Friday afternoon, I happened across a high school walkout in Huntington Park, which was a warm-up for the next day's elation. Undoubtedly, you've seen the images in the papers; I hope you'll enjoy these two QuickTime movies I made of the HP and LA gatherings.

How many Chicana Chicano novels address immigration, per se? Not many, to the best of my recollection, and I'm not having another bout of CNS Syndrome. I think. Not many novels, if any, can say, like Gregory Nava's wonderful 1984 film El Norte, "this is a work about immigration and immigrants". So many writers choose not to deal with roots in the first place. In a preponderance of Chicana Chicano novels, Mexico may loom in the background of a plot--or not at all.

Several works make the act of immigrating part of the plot. For instance, there's Richard Vasquez' Chicano, a family saga that begins in the Mexican desert then plots its way through California's rural farmworker colonias, culminating in tragedy and despair in 1950s East Los Angeles (reviewed by both Daniel Olivas and me, shortly after the novel was reissued after a 30 year absence).

Then there's Victor Villaseñor's family saga that spreads across Rain of Gold and Wild Steps of Heaven, relating less to immigration than the family's motivations to come North. Immigration is a crucial fact of the characters in Demetria Martinez' Mother Tongue, and Hector Tobar's The Tattooed Soldier. But for the most part--and I hope La Bloga readers will expand on this notion--Chicanas and Chicanos write about immigrants' lives and deaths after they've immigrated and are learning to deal with what they have, here, al este lado. For example, Helen Viramontes' Under the Feet of Jesus recounts the lives--and one boy's miserable death from pesticides--of migrant farmworkers. More often, a novelist who ventures into familial history just plops down gente in the US after a few chapters depicting their former lives, and uses that past to illuminate the present. For example, Graciela Limon's The Day of the Moon, where the characters' Mexican and Rarámuri past helps a woman unravel a family secret.

Somewhere in this perplex may lie the germ of an answer to that most enduring of questions, "What is Chicana Chicano Literature"? However one approaches the answer, why should immigration play any role at all? I, for example, am the third generation of my family in this country, a son of US-born parents (and one grandmother born in this country back in the 19th century). Then again, I remember being asked time after time, "What are you?" American. "No, I mean, where are you from?" Here. "No, I mean, where was your father from?" Here. "You know what I mean!" Or, the time my primos (also 3d generation) and I were cavorting home from a movie in San Bernardino when a white Chrysler Imperial pulled to the gutter, the window rolled down, and an Anglo woman leaned over to scream at us, "You filthy little Mexicans!" Then she drove away, leaving us squealing in laughter and delight. Of course we were!

Abelardo Delgado, from 25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind. n.p., n.p., n.d.

EL INMIGRANTE

golondrinas cortando betabel,
americanos de papel,
este Mexico-Americano
o nomás mejicano
que migra con toy familia
a los campos de colorado,
illinois, califa, y michigan
se me hace que no es más que puro gitano.
salmones en el desaije
con un ojo a las colonias
a las cuales muy pronto volverán,
no les voy
a decir porqué lo hacen
porque la verdad ni ellos saben,
quizá el cariño a la tierra
mamado de una chichi prieta,
quizá el corazón libre
que dicta la jornada,
aunque el carro esté muy viejo
y la gasolina cara.
turistas sin un centavo
de vacaciones en nebraska,
aun alabama
es un descanso de tejas.
bumerangas que la mano de dios
por este mundo tiró,
gente buena,
gente honesta,
gente víctima de su necesidad de migrar,
la lechuga o la justicia es lo que van a sembrar.


Saben que, that's Tuesday, March 28, a day like any other day, except, you
are here.

Hay les wachamos, or, as we filthy little Mexicans say, Read!
Raza.


mvs

Monday, March 27, 2006

CON TINTA CELEBRATION A HUGE SUCCESS!

Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

From our friend, Richard Yañez, comes this report (with photos taken by Emmy Pérez):

On March 9, over 100 people packed Dona Emilia's in Austin, TX. They were there to embrace Con Tinta as an organization working for Chicano/Latino writer-activists.

The evening featured award presentations to two of our veterano writers, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and raúlrsalinas; The Quetzal Quill Reading Series featured Diana Marie Delgado, Brenda Cardenas, and Paul Martinez Pompa; and Richard Yañez and Rigoberto Gonzalez were the co-hosts for the evening. (Lorna Dee Cervantes was unable to read during this event, but she did read from an amazing essay the next afternoon.)

Those in attendance included a who's who of Chicana&Chicano letters: Kathleen Alcala, Norma Cantu, Oscar Casares, Eduardo Corral, Lisa D. Chavez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Christine Granados, Dagoberto Gilb, Maria Melendez, Carolina Monsivais, Manuel Munoz, Michelle Otero, Emmy Perez, David Rice, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Rene Saldana, Trinidad Sanchez, Jose Skinner, Sergio Troncoso, and Helena Maria Viramontes.

Allies in attendance included Joy Harjo, representatives from Kundiman, Nuestra Palabra, Resistencia Bookstore, BorderSenses, Momotombo Press, the University of Arizona Press, Arte Publico Press, and Wings Press.

Con Tinta’s first-ever event coincided with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference. Next year’s annual conference will take place on February 28-March 3 in Atlanta, Georgia. Deadline for presentation proposals is May 1, 2006.

A very special thanks to Emmy Pérez for documenting the evening in photographs and to Zoë Samora from the Institute of Latino Studies for designing our beautiful program. (If you would like to receive a copy of the program, send your name and snail mail address to the email address below.)

Con Tinta’s mission is to create awareness through the cultivation of emerging talent, through the promotion and presentation of artistic expression, and through the collective voice of support to our members, our communities, and our allies. If you would like more information, please contact Richard Yañez, Con Tinta Advisory Circle member, at theclica@hotmail.com or at 915-830-2630.

(Pictured in top photo: panelists Rigoberto Gonzalez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Benjamin Alire Saez, Lorna Dee Cervantes and Helena Maria Viramontes; middle photo: Liana Lopez, Eduardo Corral, Francisco Aragon and Manuel Muñoz; bottom photo: raulsalinas and Diana Marie Delgado.)

PUBLICATION ALERT: This week, Frederick Luis Aldama’s Spilling the Beans in Chicanolandia: Conversations with Writers and Artists, will be released by the University of Texas Press. The featured writers and artists are: Francisco X. Alarcón, Alfred Arteaga, Ricardo Bracho, Denise Chávez, Lucha Corpi, Dagoberto Gilb, Jaime Hernandez (of Los Bros Hernandez), Juan Felipe Herrera, Richard Montoya (of Culture Clash), Pat Mora, Cherríe Moraga, Alejandro Morales, Michael Nava, Daniel Olivas, Cecile Pineda, Lourdes Portillo, Luis J. Rodríguez, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Luis Alberto Urrea, Alfredo Véa Jr. and Alma Luz Villanueva.

And Monday, April 3, sees the release of the paperback edition of Luis Alberto Urrea’s magnificent novel of last year, The Hummingbird’s Daughter. La Bloga reviewed it recently and I reviewed it for The Elegant Variation last year followed by my interview of Urrea.

A TINY TOOT OF MY HORN: My story, "Hit" (which first appeared in Outsider Ink), is a finalist for the storySouth's Million Writers Award Notable Stories of 2005. Go here for a complete list of finalists. Dan Wickett's Emerging Writers Network is doing an analysis of some of the finalists. Wickett's treatment of my story is here.

OPPOSITION TO H.R. 4437: The following is a petition opposing an attempt to criminalize undocumented immigrants. If you agree with it and wish to sign, go to this website and sign. Here is the petition:

To: The U.S. Senate

We The Undersigned urge to oppose the Act of Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, introduced by the representative James Sensebrenner (R_WI) and approved by the House of representatives. This project of the law H.R.4437 seeks to criminalize over 11 million of undocumented immigrants that live in the United States of America and punish U.S. Citizens and Permanent Residents that are in contact with them. I request that you VOTE NO to the H.R.4437.

Those who are in favor or against the immigration repeatedly say that the immigration system is broken. Now the radical anti-immigrant group of the House of Representatives has approved the bill H.R.4437 by incarcerating, detaining, deporting, and criminalizing a whole generation of immigrants under the pretext of national security. The H.R.4437 of Sensenbrenner only seeks to make the laws more “enforce”, militarizing the borders, treating the undocumented immigrants as aggravated felons, and creating more judicial restrictions against them.

The past two decades repress against the people that enter in the United States illegally have failed. From 1986 to 2002, the border patrol budget has increased from 151 million to 6.1 billion dollars and the hours agents spent patrolling the border has increased eightfold. Yet the number of undocumented immigrants has doubled from 4.5 million to 9.3 million from 1993 to 2004. More importantly these anti-immigrant politicians have forgotten that the undocumented are NOT CRIMINALS, they are immigrants that work hard, they pay taxes and contribute immeasurably to the grown and prosperity of our nation.

Our current system of immigration is failing all of us. A real immigration reform requires a comprehensive solution that will broaden the legal channels for immigrants to enter the country to work, reunite with their families, and contribute to our society. Comprehensive immigration reform will bring immigrants out of their shadows and contribute to our nation’s prosperity.

California is proud for her great number of immigrants. No doubt it has been immigrants that has sustained and enriched this state. We seek that our leaders defeat this negative shortsighted, and draconian bill, that you consider to reform our immigration laws. I urge that you oppose H.R.4437.

Sincerely,

The Undersigned

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

Friday, March 24, 2006

Pedazos

Manuel Ramos

ANA CASTILLO AND THE AVON WALK FOR BREAST CANCER, CHICAGO
June 2-4, 2006 - Ana Castillo has committed herself to walk the full 39.3 miles. To donate a pledge in her name, please click here to visit her personal walk page . You can use a credit card or debit card, donate a one time gift or make a pledge over time. You can also send a check to:
Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, P.O. Box 408680, Chicago, IL 60640

Castillo currently (March 23 - 25) is participating in the International Writers Conference at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of El Otro Lado: A Celebration of Work by Contemporary Latina and Chicana Writers. Other writers in this program include Alvina Quintana, Helena Viramontes, and Loida Maritza Perez.

LORNA DEE'S LIST
What does a poet/blogger do when she's not writing poetry/blogging? Read other poetic bloggers, of course. Lorna Dee Cervantes recently compiled her List of Top 30 Excellent Po' Bloggers Discovered This Year. Here's a fix for you poetry junkies - thirty times over. Lorna Dee explains that her list does not include "old po' pals", poets whose work she is already familiar with, or former students. Gracias, Lorna Dee.

MEXICAN COPS READ TO SUCCEED
Some time back I posted about an initiative in the Mexican town of Ciudad Nezahualcoyotl ("Neza") that required the city's cops to read at least one book a month. Angel Gurria-Quintana in an article posted at the Financial Times website, Words On The Street, gives more detail about this project.

Here are some quotes from the article:
"To begin with, a list of 'suggested books' was circulated. It included Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century classic, Don Quixote de la Mancha, as well as 20th-century Mexican novels such as Juan Rulfo’s unsurpassable Pedro Paramo and Carlos Fuentes’ gothic novella, Aura; it listed such highbrow texts as Nobel laureate Octavio Paz’s essay on Mexican culture, The Labyrinth of Solitude, alongside modern classics including One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Colombian Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Among other 'recommended authors' were Edgar Allan Poe, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and Mexican detective fiction writer Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

In April, Neza’s municipal government published a volume of short stories to be distributed for free among its police officers. The stories, selected by Neza-born writer Juan Hernandez Luna, revolve around the topic of justice. They include two American authors, Howard Fast and Raymond Carver; Brazilian ex-policeman Ruben Fonseca; Germany’s Bertolt Brecht; and three Mexican writers - Edmundo Valades, Juan Villoro and Eduardo Antonio Parra.

The volume is the first of six to be published specifically for Neza’s police force (the next will be a short novel by pulp author Jim Thompson). To complement their readings, officers are encouraged to join fortnightly workshops where they discuss the stories with a specialist. Attendance is not compulsory, but is taken into account when considering promotions. So far, the program has met with apparent success."

That's quite a reading list. If we had a similar project in the U.S., which books and authors would you suggest for a "must-read" list for policemen?

ANAYA'S SHORT STORIES
I just got my copy of The Man Who Could Fly (University of Oklahoma Press), the collected short stories of Rudolfo Anaya. I've whipped through the first two stories and should finish this book this weekend. So far, great. The two stories I have read, The Road to Platero and Children of the Desert, are quirky, very close to supernatural. As always, the landscape and place are crucial to the stories but, above all, the wounded humanity of the characters is striking.

DA VINCI
With the success and hype of The Da Vinci Code, it comes as no surprise that a Spanish author, Javier Sierra, has written an "historical thriller" with Leonardo Da Vinci as a main character. The Secret Supper (Atria) was published in the U.S. in March.

MORE WRITERS DOING GOOD THINGS
I just received this message, which I will pass on verbatim.

Denver SCORES, a literacy through poetry program for kids in urban neighborhoods will be hosting a really exciting event on April 27th at the Paramount Theatre in Denver.

After a three year absence, The Rock Bottom Remainders will be returning to Denver. This entertaining and amusing event features a group of famous authors including Dave Barry, Scott Turow, Amy Tan and many others making a go at being "Rock-Stars". Their tour stops in only three cities this spring and Denver is one of them; it's sure to be a fun-filled evening! Mayor Hickenlooper will even be playing a few numbers with the band.

VIP tickets are available for $200 which includes a reception with the band and there are also general admission tickets available for $29.00 which includes parking. Tickets can be purchased through our office 303-832-5879, on our website denverscores.org, through ticketmaster or the Paramount box office.

COLORADO SPRING

Ice And Snow, Molly French photographer

Later.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

El Guajito

By Gina MarySol Ruiz

Once upon a time, in ancient Mexico, there was a small village where everything grew and life was wonderful. Flowers were brighter and sweeter-smelling than in any other village, the hunting was good, and animals grew fat and fed the people who lived there. The river ran clear, and the village was green.

Watching over the village was a tall mountain from which a cool waterfall fed the river. No one had ever been to the top of the mountain, but it was said the gods lived there. The people in the village were a little afraid of the top of the mountain, and many frightening stories were told of the terrible gods who lived there.

Every spring, the children would gather flowers and dance. They would dress in their special trajes, and wear the brightest, most beautiful bird feathers on their heads. Conchas would blow, flutes would play, and the musicians would play the butterfly cocoons, teponaztlis, huehuetl drums and rattles. The most delectable and perfect foods would be served. All would celebrate the spring, the new life that came to their village. More babies were born during this time than at any other. But, no one ever thanked the mountain that fed their river. No one ever thought to climb to the top and invite the spirits that lived there to their celebration of spring.

One year the waterfall dried up. The people were afraid, and they wondered what would happen to them. They took it as a bad omen. They had never seen such an event. They ran to the village elders, but no one could remember hearing any stories of such a thing. Day by day went by with no rain and no waterfall. The river line fell lower and lower. Flowers died, animals grew thin, and the people grew skinny, for they were starving. The birds stopped singing and left the village for a land far away that could feed them and quench their thirst. No one danced. No one sang. They were hungry and thirsty. The people were dying. The sun shone brighter and brighter, and still, no water came.

One day a little boy, whom the people called El Guajito because he always carried a little guaje on his belt, asked a village elder, “Why doesn’t someone climb to the top of the mountain and ask the spirits that live there why they have stopped the waterfall?”

The elders and the people were shocked! Go to the top of the evil mountain? Who was strong enough? The people were weak and hungry. Who was brave enough? No one dared to try. Finally, Guajito said, “I will go to the mountaintop and speak with the spirits. I will beg them for water to save us. I am not afraid.”

The people laughed. El Guajito was a very small boy. They did not believe that he was not afraid.

Guajito slipped away and began his climb up the mountain, carrying his little guaje. It was a very steep mountain and very tall, especially for such a small boy. As he climbed, he began to hum the sound of the huehuetl drum to pass the time. Pa dah dum dum pah da dum dum pad da dum dum dum! Over and over he heard the sound of the drum in his head, and it helped to strengthen him on his way to the top of the mountain. It kept him from thinking of how tired he was, how hungry, and how scared. The drumbeat in his head strengthened his heart. El Guajito didn’t know that the spirits that lived at the top of the mountain were watching him climbing steadily and humming a drumbeat. They didn’t quite know what to make of him.

Morning turned to sunset and still El Guajito climbed as the stars rose and the moon came out to play in the darkness of the night. Finally El Guajito reached the top of the mountain. He looked around expecting to see the terrible beings that he had heard about all of his short life, but no one was there. El Guajito knelt and prayed. He said, “O great guardians of the mountain, why have you stopped the waterfall? Why will you let my people die?” El Guajito cried and prayed and called to the spirits all through the night and on into the morning, but no one answered. The mountain remained still and quiet. Finally El Guajito stood and shouted at the top of his little lungs, “Great spirits of the mountain, please help me to save my people. I love them so much I will do anything, make any sacrifice to save them. Let me save my people. Please help me to save them. Listen to me! I will stay here
on your mountain shouting at you forever if you do not listen to me!“ El Guajito began to cry, and the great spirits on the mountain were moved to look down on the tired, tiny, brave, little boy with such a strong heart. They were impressed by his devotion and by his love.

“Guajito,” came a deep, rumbling voice from the mountain face, “Guajito.”

“Yes,” stammered Guajito, who was trembling in fear.

“Guajito, is it true you love your people and wish to save them?”

“Yes! I love them, and I would save them at any cost!” yelled Guajito.

“We do not believe that is true, Guajito. We have been here for many centuries, and every year we send the water to the selfish people, and never once have they invited us to their ceremonies of celebration. We are never prayed to or loved or sung to. No one dances for us, Guajito. We do not believe there exists an unselfish person in this village. For that reason, we have stopped the water.”

“I will save them!" shouted Guajito. "I will save them. I must. If I can save them, then I will make sure that they are grateful, that they include you in the celebrations, that they give you honor and love, and that they dance for you. We will make a special dance just for you, great spirits of the mountain. This I promise on my honor. Please let me save my people," the boy cried.

“Very well, Guajito, if it is true that you are unselfish and will sacrifice to save your people, then this is what you must do." At that moment the ground began to bubble and up came a beautiful spring of the coldest, sweetest water in all the world. “You must fill your guaje with this water and carry it down to the people. It is magic water and will soon fill the river.

Once the river is full, the waterfall will begin again, and the rain will
fall. It will take you many, many trips up here to fill the river, but you cannot stop. If you stop, the river will cease to fill and no rain or waterfall will come. You may only stop once the river is full and your task is complete.

Do you agree to this, Guajito?”

“I agree,” said El Guajito. “I will take the water to the people. “

And so El Guajito filled his guaje, and he carried it down the mountain to the river and his beloved people. He poured water into the river and began his way back up the mountain, all the time humming his Guajito drumbeat song.

Many times, day and night, he made his trips up and down the mountain. The river began to fill with water, and the people were revived. They came out of their homes and ran to the river, never noticing Guajito. They bathed in the cool water of the river, they splashed, and they played. They scooped water in their hands and poured it over their heads. They sang the drum beat of the dance, "Guadalajara", for that was the name of the village. Meanwhile,
Guajito climbed up and down and up and down the mountain. Hungry and weary, he never stopped humming his drumbeat or climbing up and down to fill the river.

Finally, he reached the river with his last guaje full, and, as he poured it, the rain began to fall, and the waterfall began its rumbling roar, and the people were amazed. They ran to Guajito, who had fallen by the river, but they could not save him. The days and nights of climbing up and down the mountain had taken Guajito’s strength. He lay dying by the river, and he remembered to say to the people, “You must honor the spirits of the mountain who have given you new life. You must invite them to the spring ceremonies and dance for them. You must feed them, give them honor and love, for they have saved this village.” With that, little Guajito died.

The people were sad. They cried for Guajito so hard that the spirits of the mountain came down to see. They took pity on the people who loved this brave, little boy. They told the people that El Guajito would never die. They took his spirit and made it a bright shiny constellation in the sky to watch over the people. They made El Guajito into a spirit like themselves and called him Xipe Totec, the new life, the spring.

Every year the danzantes dance for Xipe Totec. Every year there is a ceremony in his honor. They even have a special danza called Xipe. It is fast and beautiful and honors little Guajito.

Three danzas are usually done in a sequence, the danza Guajito, the danza Guadalajara, and the danza Xipe. Guajito still lives on in our danzas, as promised by the great spirits.

Fin

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The Penelopiad and an American Dream

Review: The Penelopiad.

First glimpse: American Dream

Michael Sedano



Review: Margaret Atwood. The Penelopiad. NY: Canongate, 2005. ISBN 1-84195-717-8.


Devotees of the great writers of American literature may find it unseemly to say someone "stumbled across" a Margaret Atwood title, but that's what I did recently when I picked up the north-of-the-border novelist's The Penelopiad.

Atwood nearly always leaves me reeling in delight, as she did in The Handmaid's Tale and The Robber Bride. But because I had not much enjoyed Oryx and Crake–found it obscure and a small deviation from the writer's usual quality–I wasn't looking for another title of hers when my eyes caught the thin (198 pages) spine's almost illegible title, then noted the writer's name.

What a grand idea, telling Penelope's story! For thousands of years, people have celebrated Odysseus. The Iliad's nine years fighting the Trojan war, then the trickster's own story of the long sail home, only to find his household in thrall to treasure-seekers.

Penelope's is the backstory. Crafty Odysseus' equally crafty spouse spinning a cloak during the day, then unravelling it during the night as a strategem to hold off the greedy suitors' demands. Atwood will have none of this backstory stuff, starting the tale with the 15 year old girl on her wedding day wondering which of the contestants would win her, then fleshing out the story of a lonely girl in a foreign city, an uncaring suegra, a bossy handmaiden and a chorus of the hanged.

Homer's story winds to a close with Odysseus and Telemachus wreaking revenge on the suitors. After the slaughter, twelve slave girls, identified as collaborators, are assigned to clean up the blood and gore, then taken outside and hanged. But the story of the hanged slaves intrigues Atwood and she builds the tale around them. As the writer observes in her foreward: "the maids form a chanting and singing Chorus which focuses on two questions that must pose themselves after any close reading of The Odyssey: what led to the hanging of the maids, and what was Penelope really up to? The story as told in The Odyssey doesn't hold water: there are too many inconsistencies. I've always been haunted by the hanged maids; and, in The Penelopiad, so is Penelope herself." (xv)

The heuristic of building a novel from a cherished myth is the idea behind the publisher's myth series. In addition to Atwood's work, Canongate recruited Chinua Achebe, AS Byatt, and others to delve into old stories in new ways.

Atwood relishes the retelling. There's Penelope in Hades, remembering various heroes trekking in search of answers, blooding a beast into a trench, then, "Once the right number of words had been handed over to the hero we'd all be allowed to drink from the trench, and I can't say much in praise of the table manners on such occasions." Pity the reader devoid the classics, they'll miss so much fun: "Odysseus had been in a fight with a giant one-eyed Cyclops, said some; no, it was only a one-eyed tavern keeper, said another, and the fight was over non-payment of the bill."

The story of the twelve--thirteen, actually, according to Atwood--hanged slavegirls, along with Penelope's satisfaction hearing that Helen looked old during a visit by Telemachus to Meneleus' court, shows the fun a writer can enjoy when imagination runs freely through classic texts, plots, and characters.




Artemio Rodriguez. American Dream.


I have just received a beautiful collection of Artemio Rodriguez' linocuts, assembled in a volume the artist calls American Dream. Rodriguez' work has appeared in Dagoberto Gilb's collection of stories, Woodcuts of Women, as well as several other volumes. An emerging master in the tradition of Jose Guadlupe Posada, Rodriguez' work is beautiful and so completely affordable that it makes a notably memorable gift for exceptional recipients--I gave my daughter Rodriguez' La Gran Boda as her wedding gift, for example.


What busy, busy months winter brought. I'm so glad it's Spring. Let's get ready for the cruellest month by celebrating "Give a Friend a Book Month." Hopefully you've heard about that giveaway month. If so, please post details at La Bloga--who's getting what!


Uau, that's it for another week. Already past middle March. Pues, hasta entonces, hay les wachamos,
mvs

Monday, March 20, 2006

FOREWORD BOOK OF THE YEAR AWARD FINALISTS ANNOUNCED

Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

From ForeWord’s Website:

Over the years ForeWord has had the distinct honor of acknowledging and recognizing excellence in publishing from independent presses. This year, the seventh annual, was no exception. From 1,540 book submissions to be considered for the 2005 Book of the Year Awards, an editorial team of judges narrowed the field to 604 finalists in 55 categories. Winners for Gold, Silver and Bronze will be determined by our readership of booksellers and librarians. ForeWord’s BOTYA program was designed specifically for them to share in the process of discovering distinctive books across a number of genres with judgments based on their own authority in each category and on their patron/customer interests. The winners as well as Editor’s Choice Prizes for Fiction and Nonfiction ($1500 each) will be announced at a special program at BookExpo America at the Washington Convention Center in Washington DC Friday, May 19th, 2006 from 3 - 4:30 p.m. in room 147A. The program will also feature presentations from keynote speakers and refreshments. Everyone is welcome.

So, why is this of importance to La Bloga? Well, as the poet Francisco Aragón informs us, of the 22 finalists for poetry, four are Latino/a and in fiction, one Latina:

Judith Ortiz Cofer
for A LOVE STORY BEGINNING IN SPANISH
(University of Georgia Press)

Orlando Ricardo Menes
for FURIA
(Milkweed Editions)

Luis J. Rodriguez
for MY NAME IS HUNGER
(Curbstone Press)

Rane Arroyo
for THE PORTABLE FAMINE
In fiction:

Sylvia Torti
for THE SCORPIAN'S TAIL
(Curbstone Press)

Show your support for these wonderful works of literature! ¡Felicidades a todos!

BOOK READINGS AND SIGNINGS:

David Hernandez reads from his new collection, Always Danger, Winner of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry. March 2 3, 7:00 p.m., Barnes & Noble, 6326 East Pacific Coast Hwy, Long Beach, CA 90803. Phone: 562-431-2253.

◘ A book signing will be held for Professor Tara Yosso’s new publication, Critical Race Counterstories Along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline. The event will be held on Friday, March 24, 2006, at 5:30 p.m. at the UCLA Faculty Center, Hacienda Room. For more information, email the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: From one of my favorite online literary journals, Tattoo Highway, I received this:

The editors and staff of Tattoo Highway, an online journal of poetry, prose and art, are now reading for TH/13: "Luck, Chance & (mis)Fortune." (Interpret this theme literally or figuratively, as you wish.) DEADLINE: June 1, 2006. Submission Guidelines: Our tastes are eclectic. We like fresh, vivid language, and we like stories and poems that are actually about something — that acknowledge a world beyond the writer's own psyche. If they have an edge, if they provoke us to think or make us laugh, so much the better. We strongly suggest reading a previous issue or two before submitting. Submissions may be of any length. However, we particularly welcomepoetry and very short prose or cross-genre pieces (1000 words or fewer), since they are "screen-reader friendly." However, we do occasionally publish short fiction of 2500+ words. We encourage hypertext and new media (Flash .swf) submissions, also photographs and original graphics. All readings are "blind" (authors' names and other identifiers removed). Submit up to 5 poems, prosepoems or flash fictions (500 words max), or 2 longer prose pieces. Artists and photographers should send no more than 5 images; if we'd like to see more we'll ask. While we prefer to receive work that has not been previously published, we do consider work that has appeared in small-circulation print journals. Simultaneous submissions are fine, but please let us know promptly if you place your piece elsewhere. As always, we're featuring our contest: "A Picture Worth 500 Words." How to submit to Tattoo Highway: Email submissions to submissions@tattoohighway.org as a Rich Text Format (RTF) attachment or as plain text in the body of your message, and with TH13 in the subject line. For hypertext and Flashsubmissions, provide us with an URL where we may view the work online. Send graphics in .gif or .jpg format. We reserve the right to resize large images.

GOOD BOOKS, GOOD KARMA: And I received this from a blogger friend, Debra Hamel:

Hello again! I'm writing to remind folks that the April 2006 Buy a Friend a Book Week is nearly upon us. I've updated the BAFAB site -- http://www.buyafriendabook.com/ -- so that it now includes recommendations from our latest guest reviewer, John Shors (author of Beneath a Marble Sky). The recommended books for April's BAFAB week are:

Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father

James Clavell, Tai-Pan

Larry McMurtry, Lonesome Dove

Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Edward Falco, Wolf Point

James Lileks, Mommy Knows Worst

BAFAB, which began life in the middle of 2005, urges visitors to celebrate four Buy a Friend a Book (BAFAB) weeks per year, in the first weeks of January, April, July, and October. The idea is simple: buy a book (from any source, used or new) and give it to an unsuspecting friend. Good karma, good books. The idea, which is catching on in the blogosphere, is meant to promote reading and to encourage people to read books they might not normally select.


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

Saturday, March 18, 2006

READING ALERT!

From Daniel Olivas...

David Hernandez reads from his new collection, Always Danger, Winner of the Crab Orchard Award Series in Poetry. This Sunday, March 19, at 7:00 p.m., Skylight Books, 1818 N. Vermont Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90027. Phone: 323-660-1175.

Here is Hernandez’s poem, “Chess Match Ends in Fight” which first appeared in Ploughshares:

As one opponent calling out checkmate
an hour past midnight could crack a man

already broken and bring allegations
from his tongue, violence to his veins,

bring him to rise and hip-knock the table
so the legs screech, so the pieces quiver

and topple, the bishop a salt shaker
kissed by an elbow, bring him to blows,

to blows, to blows, to grasp the winner
and propel him through plate glass

as if a baptism in geometric water,
so the glass rains and dazzles the floor,

so he emerges from the window stunned,
lacerated, to bring blood and the lilac

breath of night, men with stars pinned
to their chests, handcuffs jiggling,

so one’s booked, the other’s stitched,
the coarse thread lacing up the lesions,

as and so and to bring this to this,
we will be there with our brooms.

Friday, March 17, 2006

¿Qué Pasa, Raza?

Manuel Ramos

Our Lady of the Lake
Guillermo Arriaga
Vicente Cabrera Funes
Anna in the Tropics
Call For Submissions



OUR LADY OF THE LAKE LITERARY FESTIVAL
From San Antonio comes this announcement:

"Sandra Cisneros, Robert Coover, John Phillip Santos and Demetria Martínez will headline Our Lady of the Lake University’s (OLLU) first city-wide literary festival. Scheduled for March 28 to April 2, Heart Without Borders/Corazón Sin Fronteras will bring nationally recognized authors to the Alamo City.

Cisneros will launch the festival with a special reading of her works with a book signing to follow. Martínez will also read from her newly-released Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana (University of Oklahoma Press), a collection of essays that gives voice to a tongue-tied generation through the author’s deeply personal views on religion and culture. Santos, the first Latino Rhodes Scholar, will lead the Open Mic session as well as give readings throughout the festival.

All events are free unless otherwise noted. Click here for a complete list of events or call 210-434-6711, ext. 2091."

GUILLERMO ARRIAGA


Last Week I saw The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. Excellent, written by Guillermo Arriaga, who also scripted 21 Grams and Amores Perros. I recommend the movie at all levels - the story is a brilliant commentary on friendship, racism, responsibility and salvation. And the acting and direction are outstanding. Tommy Lee Jones delivers his best performance in years, the rest of the cast is as good as it gets, on a par with the ensemble in Crash - Julio Cedillo, Barry Pepper, Dwight Yoakum, Levon Helm, Melissa Leo and January Jones. Arriaga is on an incredible role. He and director Alejandro González Iñárritu are finishing their planned trilogy of movies (Amores Perros, 21 Grams, Babel) that deal with mortality and death.

Arriaga also is a novelist and short story writer. His latest novel, The Night Buffalo (Atria), hits the streets in May. The publisher describes this book in this way: "Luminous writing characterizes this novel of love and friendship, passion and betrayal, lunacy and mental illness. The Night Buffalo is set in Mexico City, revolving around the mysterious suicide of Gregorio, a charismatic but troubled young man who was betrayed by the two people he trusted most. The beautifully rendered narrative is driven by what is concealed and what is revealed. The sum leads finally to the truth of how Gregorio ended up 'on his mother's lap, stretched out on the back seat of the car his father feverishly drove to the hospital' and the aftermath of his demise."

VICENTE CABRERA FUNES
The University of Minnesota, Morris News reports the following:

"University of Minnesota, Morris Professor of Spanish and Ecuadorian novelist Vicente Cabrera Funes will read from his fourth novel, Los malditos amantes de Carolina (Lebresa), at 2 p.m., April 3, at the University of Minnesota Bookstore, located in Coffman Memorial Union on the University's Minneapolis campus. Also reading from portions of the book that they translated into English will be Stacey Parker Aronson, Tom Turner and James Wojtaszek, all UMM Spanish faculty.

Los malditos amantes de Carolina is a series of chronicles kept by different characters in a book concerning a particularly fascinating and captivating woman. The chroniclers start out with Federico Solis Ampudio, but after much trouble and internal conflict, he passes the writings along to his intimate friend, Carmelo. But not even Carmelo can cope with the stories and, after he disappears, they are found and continued by Carmelo’s daughter, Eugenia. In the end the publisher is confused as to whether or not he should allow new additions to the already published chronicles, because so many people have meddled with them.

Cabrera will also present a reading in the Fargo-Moorhead area on April 22 and in October 2006 at the Chicano Latino Writer’s Festival, to be held at the public library in St. Paul. To find out more about Vicente Cabrera’s books, consult Cabrera. His books are available at the University of Minnesota Bookstore, the Resource Center of the Americas, 3019 Minnehaha Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406 and The Latin American Bookstore, 204 North Geneva St., Ithaca, N.Y. 14850."

ANNA IN THE TROPICS
By Nilo Cruz
Directed by Amy Gonzalez
Winner of the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Drama
Northern California Premiere
March 8 - April 2, 2006
Lucie Stern Theatre, Palo Alto
The Theatre Works website says: "Passionate and shimmeringly poetic, this prize-winning drama ignites in the steamy heat of Tampa in the Prohibition era. There, Cuban-American factory workers still roll coronas by hand, and a dashing young storyteller is employed to entertain them with the entrancing readings of the classics. Soon he and his seductive stories are intertwined in the emotional lives of his listeners, inflaming loves, dreams, and jealousies once only imagined. For mature audiences."

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS
I pass this on without knowing anything about this magazine or the person asking for submissions:

"Palabra Magazine A Magazine of Chicano/Latino Literary Art
Invites submissions of Short Fiction, Poetry, Creative Nonfiction, and short plays, that bend rules, cross boundaries and explore new territory in Chicano & Latino literature, lenguaje y pensamiento....

Las Guidelines/Reglas: Fiction & creative non-fiction up to 3500 words, poems 3-5 with a max of 50 lines each, plays up to ten pages. Sorry, no genre work. Unpublished work only, including work published online in any manner.

Include: Name, address, phone number and email on each submission.

Simultaneous submissions oK. No multiple submissions. Response time 2-3 months. Snail mail submissions only. Include SASE for response only. Submissions accepted year-round. Manuscripts not accepted for publication wil be shredded and recycled.

PALABRA acquires first worldwide serial rights, nonexclusive electronic rights and nonexclusive anthology rights. Some pay. Copyright revert to author upon publication.

Mail submissions to:

PALABRA
P.O. Box 86146
Los Angeles, CA 90086-0146

For additional INFORMATION ONLY, email: palabralit@earthlink.net "

END NOTE
A reminder that Mario Acevedo reads from and signs his debut novel, Nymphos of Rocky Flats (Rayo) on March 23 at 7:30 P.M. at the Tattered Cover, Denver.

Later.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The wrong to write.

Driving down Los Angeles' Soto Street a few weeks ago, I was overjoyed to see the corner of Cesar Chavez Blvd. with a restored "Corrido De Boyle Heights". I couldn't stop that day, nor any day until recently, when I could grab a few tacos at the King Taco across the street, and shoot the mural. Above is a "stitched" image. Too late. Taggers had already hit the panel behind the bus bench. But all in all, I should be grateful for small pleasures. Here's what part of the mural looked like until a few weeks ago:

That broke my heart, seeing the piece all tagged and mucked up. These pendejos couldn't take the joy out of the work, but dang, did they have to do that? And over a couple years, it grew worse and uglier. For years, years, and years, the mural stood untouched by most pendejos. 2004 its debasement began.

Recently, I posted the restored image at aztlanarte.net, a Yahoo group, eliciting a conversation I thought La Bloga visitors might enjoy. The post is "sanitized" for email addresses, otherwise unedited.

Writers alert: see blurb below the arte dialog.


First of all to give the term "Graffiti Artist" to these morons is a slap in the face to real graffiti artist. These guys are vandals and defacers. Today in the news was a story about some poor guy that was taking down a license plate number of some criminals with spray cans and was shot and killed. Some of the same medicine turned on them would be cool.....Serg

Hiroko Falkenstein wrote:

Victor, how do we get people to stop defacing the murals, it would be great if there was a solution, my only idea would be if we could have areas like the LA and San Diego River to use the sides of as big canvases where graffiti/murals could be painted by anyone interested, it might elevate some of the destruction to existing murals, it might give the people who feel excluded, a place where they could be included in a positive way. The people who deface the murals just to be bastards, will be hard to reach, I don�t get it, do they think they are putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa?, Maybe if there is a big fine along with the felony, and the money used to restore the damage done maybe a partial solution, the saddest thing about the defacement of Chicano Murals is its probably not being done by a bunch of white racist skinheads, its being done by people in our own neighborhoods as gang tags and territory marking. I agree the murals are like open history books of knowledge, unfortunately to many people want to drop out of school............2GS

-----Original Message-----
From: vochoa

MR...MFA CANDIDATE....you know what sucks... is that you are temporary... and if i saw you graffing public art (i think you would be more temporary).... im into restoration of chicano art... you know juat i mean????...i have been painting chicano murals for almost cuarenta anios.... and i do graff tambien...i started permission walls here in dago and tijuas...look at writerzblok.com ...

just like they still dont teach us about our culture... the chicano murals are like open books to knowledge..and ISSUES OF OUR SITUATION HERE IN AZTLAN... art is not only beauty ...like a flower that blooms..essssseee..... give me a break and respect us OLD SCHOOL.... I respect graffiti artists...especially if they do more than their PLACAZO... or name PIECE OR TAG.... i have been working with james prigoff for over 3 decades on the documenting graff all over the world, last year in

cuba...

look up nathan zakheim and read about temporary...man...

que viva el arte publico!!!! por vida...pa siempre... !!!! y que.

victor ochoa.... or look at chicanozauruz.com

ps... even in electronika medium... we are trying to archive images man.... look at the caridad collections in the library in santa barbara... chicano archives y electronika... man... think of the future ese.

-------------- Original message from Armando Somoza
That's too bad. As a graffiti artist, I always get angry when my work gets written over. But this is also part of the beauty of public art, everything is temporary. This means it allows for space to do something new and beautiful.
Now, with all art theory aside, that does SUCK!! :)~

Armando B. Somoza
MFA Candidate in Electronic Media Art and Design
University of Denver
Denver, CO

On Mar 12, 2006, at 9:20 AM, michael sedano wrote:

i carry my camera with me but at that hour i would've gotten a nice atmosphere shot and little else. otoh, i fantacized stopping, snapping off a few frames, then having a big fistfight with the vato where he ends up with a spray can up the fundio and i emerge without a scratch.Serg Hernandez wrote:

I hate that shit those morons have no respect for anything or anyone....I know it probably wasn't possible but it would have been nice to get this morons license plate number......Serg

michael sedano wrote:
> I was driving to work before dawn this a.m. and saw a car parked next to the big wall on the 110 S, the soccer mural. As I slowed to see if there was a problem I saw a tall person spraying a placa. Pendejo. On the other hand, a few months back, I posted a photo of "El Corrido de Boyle Heights" on the corner of Soto and CC. The other day, I drove past and saw it had been all cleaned up. The disfiguring placazos had been replaced by the whole image. I couldn't take a picture. So today on the way home I was too late. Some pendejos had already tagged the mural. Still, it's good to see the piece whole again, que no?



Read! Raza Announces Public Writer's Pages

Email flash fiction, up to 1000 words, to readraza@readraza.com and your work will be considered for publication at Read! Raza's Community Pages, a free-for-most link to independent chicana chicano and others artwork.


Until next time, nos vemos. And let's hear it for short work.

mvs

SPOTLIGHT ON REUBEN MUÑOZ


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Reuben Muñoz is an artist living in Long Beach, California. Until May 2004, when he underwent a quintuple bypass procedure, he worked as an art director/illustrator for the Los Angeles Times. While recovering, he began painting, creating this body of work. This newfound artistic endeavor took a pivotal turn when local gallery, Icaro, invited him to show five pieces as part of a group show, ultimately selling all but one. Several other gallery shows have followed. Muñoz has also completed several commissions and is available for consultation on others. For a sampling of his work, visit his website.

BOOK SIGNING: A book signing will be held for UCLA Professor Tara Yosso’s new book, Critical Race Counterstories Along the Chicana/Chicano Educational Pipeline (Routledge). The event will be held on Friday, March 24, 2006, at 5:30 p.m. at the UCLA Faculty Center, Hacienda Room. For more information, email the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center.

AMAZON SHORTS: Sergio Troncoso’s second essay, The Father is in the Details, is now available on Amazon Shorts. Of this piece, he says:

I wrote this essay to give a glimpse into the day-to-day life of a father on New York's Upper Westside, and to argue for a focus on details, in parenting and in life. With this focus, I have been able to change my character, to improve myself as a parent to my children.

Troncoso, a native of Ysleta, is the award-winning author. You may visit his website, or send him an e-mail.

SCANDALIZZ: Lizz Huerta's poem, "love like a dirty, dirty switchblade," appears in the new issue of ZYZZYVA, one of the best literary journals around (founded and published by Howard Junker).

BILINGUAL POETRY: Palabra Pura is a new poetry series in Chicago which promotes literary expression in more than one tongue through a monthly bilingual reading featuring Chicano and Latino artists. With an aim to foster dialogue through literature in Chicago and beyond, each evening pairs a local poet with a visiting writer along with an open mic to engage the interaction of diverse voices, ideas and aesthetics. The only series of its kind in Chicago – which is home to the third largest Latino population in the United States – Palabra Pura is held the third Wednesday of every month. The curatorial team has placed special emphasis on writers who have recently published books or recently received literary awards. The inaugural reading featuring Paul Martinez Pompa, Jorge Frisancho and music by Global Warming welcomed more than 65 people – a clear sign that there is a hunger for a place where poets and audiences who write and read in Spanish and English may gather.On March 15, 2006, Orlando Ricardo Menes will read with Beatriz Badikian-Gartler at California Clipper, 1002 N. Augusta, Chicago. Doors open at 8:00 p.m. Open mic begins at 8:30 p.m. Admission is free.Palabra Pura is a collaborative endeavor sponsored by the Guild Complex, Letras Latinas of the Institute for Latino Studies at the University of Notre Dame, and the Rafael Cintrón-Ortiz Latino Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

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

Friday, March 10, 2006

Cuentos

Manuel Ramos

Writing Stories and a Few Samples
Storyteller's Conference
Los Dichos Moms
Contest



WRITING SHORT
I decided a while back to focus on short-story writing for a stretch, as opposed to concentrating on trying to finish another novel. Although I haven’t set the short fiction world on fire, I managed to publish a couple of stories last year and I anticipate a few more this year. Eventually, I would like to have a deep, representative collection of shorts that can sit on the shelf with my other books.

The thing about a short story is that the obvious is true but that doesn’t make it easier. A short story has to get to the point quickly and effortlessly. The best advice I ever heard about writing a short story is "start late, leave early." Easier said than done. What writer doesn’t want to indulge the details? To eschew subtlety for in-depth development? To expose the back story and the epilog, to wrap everything up in a neat, tidy package of setting, conflict, climax, resolution? The best short stories, in my opinion, rebel against these tendencies and snapshot the human condition in one quick frame, not an entire reel. In this type of fiction, the role of the reader is essential - fill in the gaps, put the pieces together, jump to the writer’s conclusion. However you want to say it.

Of course, what I am saying applies to how I write or how I want to write. We all know that the only rule in writing is that there are no rules (well, except for the one that says you can’t call your fiction a memoir even if Oprah likes your book.)

My short story, Bad Haircut Day, appeared in CrimeSpree Magazine (#9). I’ve put it up on the web in case you want to read it and haven’t found a copy of the magazine. You can read it here. Even though this story was published, I can see that it does not satisfy my vision. Oh, I think it’s a good story, don’t get me wrong. I have confidence in my writing, every writer has to, at least in public. But now that Bad Haircut Day has "cooled off" and I can look at it with some dispassion, I can see that it didn’t start late enough, and I might have been able to leave a bit earlier. Please keep in mind that, for me, writing is never finished. There is no such thing as a "final draft." One of the most difficult exercises for me is to read through one of my earlier books. That can be excruciating for a guy who is never comfortable with his finished work.


A story that I think is closer to what I wanted to write is Dancing At The Lido, which was published back in 2001 in a slightly different version. If you care to, you can read that one here at this link. In all honesty, I think this story ended up very close to achieving the concept I had in my mind when I started to write it. My latest stab at short fiction (working title: No Hablo Inglés) also "feels" good to me, in terms of realization of my vision. That story isn't published yet, so I haven't posted it anywhere.

Speaking of cuentos, I heard from Jerry Rodriguez that his story, Under A Puerto Rican Sky, is up over at the online Nat Creole literary magazine. Jerry’s story is here. Meanwhile, Steven Torres has a story at Coffee Cramp Magazine entitled Chaos, 2099. Steven’s story is here. By the way, Steven has a different take on writing short stories, which you can read on his blog, the Crime Time Cafe, in his recent post entitled Short Story Composition - A Myth. Steven is the author of the Precinct Puerto Rican series, the newest one (Missing in Precinct Puerto Rico) is due this fall. Jerry’s first novel will be published in 2007. And, to further quench the short story jones, my blogging partner Daniel Olivas has The Plumed Serpent of Los Angeles/La Serpiente emplumada de Los Angeles in a bilingual format at The Southern Cross Review. Daniel's story is at this link.

There are probably a gazillion websites that feature short fiction - Thrilling Detective and Hardluck Stories come to mind, but that's just me and my appreciation for well-written crime fiction. Anyone know of sites that specialize or feature Chicano short stories?

TALKING SHORT
The 31st Rocky Mountain Storytellers Conference is set for April 28 and 29 at the Broomfield Auditorium in Broomfield, CO. The website is www.rmstory.org.

This year's conference will have a Storytellers Showcase on April 28 from 7:30 - 9:30 PM. The featured storytellers are Pam Faro and Zarco Guerrero. Here's part of the blurb from the email announcement:

"Pam's warmth, humor, and energy will bring everyone into the storytelling circle. Telling professionally since 1988, her multicultural folktales, bilingual Spanish-English cuentos and stories with guitar bring delight, create community, and grow imaginations.

Come and listen to Zarco's musical stories of the legendary Lalo Guerrero, Mexican-American singer, song writer, and Grammy winner. In an intriguing and provoking way learn about the culture of Mexico in these bilingual parodies. www.zarkmask.com."

This Showcase is free, open to the public.

SHORTS FOR SHORTIES
I came across an article about Los Dichos Moms, a group of about 80 moms who read weekly at elementary schools in the San Jose, CA area. According to the Mercury News, Los Dichos de la Casa is a storytelling program where "the main activity is reading from books that reflect life in Latin America or immigrants' experiences in America. Hearing these stories in Spanish reinforces for the children that their heritage is important, the moms say. Hearing the stories read by real moms only enhances the experience." The article mentioned two books by Carmen Lomas Garza as examples of what stories are read to the kids: Cuadros de Familia (Family Pictures) and Making Magic Windows (an explanation of the craft of papel picado). This project not only enhances the educational process for the students but it gets the parents more involved in the schools, so much so that there is now consideration that the nickname might have to change since dads have expressed an interest in doing some reading. Sounds good.

A FINAL SHORT BIT
The aforementioned Steven Torres is running a contest where the winner gets a critique and editing recommendations on a work in progress. Steven explains his contest like this on his blog: "Did I forget to mention a writing contest on my website? Just go to the homepage and the very first item, no scrolling, will lead you to the contest. Essentially, you send in the first page or so of your manuscript for me to judge. If you win, I'll contact you, and you can send forty-nine more pages, and I will provide you an in-depth critique. To win, all you need to do is make me want to read more. Simple." More detail on Steven's website including the entry form - deadline is March 31.

Later.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Detective Fired For Writing Novel


Review: Autumn of the Phantoms. Yasmina Khadra. Translated from French by Aubrey Botsford. New Milford CT: Toby Press, 2005. Paperback: ISBN: 1 59264 143 1 8

Michael Sedano

"Do you seriously take yourself for a novelist, Llob?"
With the tip of his carefully manicured finger, he pushes my work away from him as though it were a piece of garbage: "This grotesque pamphlet is unequalled except by the lowness of its author. In striving to ridicule your society, you've only managed to reduce the scant respect I thought I had for you."

Critics, it seems, are where you find them. For the detective novelist Brahim Llob, the speaker is his Boss. After a few minutes added vitriol, the writer-detective is "retired" and the reader is launched into Llob's story as his career winds its way fitfully to its first-person finis.

Autumn of the Phantoms follows the aftermath of Algerian writer Yasmina Khadra's first novel, Morituri, also featuring detective Llob. That Llob's troubles in Phantoms arise from Khadra's first book not only adds to the enjoyment of this second novel, a conscientious reader will feel compelled to find the first of this pair of Llob stories published by Toby Crime.

Translated work comes with its own set of issues. One conclusion I hold is I'm not reading the original author but the work of the translator. Not that the original doesn't set the framework, but one has to be mindful of the two writers at work in appreciating the uses of language that mark a writer's skill.

And skill abounds in this novel, in small passages and in the whole sweep of the story. I enjoy such swipes as Llob's description of a corrupt banker, where he notes, We got to know each other during an interrogation he's not about to forgive me. Stunted as a milestone, sinister and nasty, he's more likely to take on a risky loan than smile at a stranger.

Readers, whose experience with French colonial literature like The Stranger gave them a sense of place, will enjoy revisiting the scenes of their youthful reading to see what has happened long after Merseault last set foot on that beach.

Who knows that Llob's Algiers doesn't represent our own future? Terrorism and insurgency are second-nature in the city. In one incident, Llob observes matter-of-factly that his trip across town was delayed twenty minutes because of a big shoot-out between police and terrorists. A social event hardly stops when a huge explosion across town raises a pillar of smoke seen from the fancy ballroom.



Ay 'sta 'til next week. Have a comment, or a title to recommend? Please, leave a comment.

Hay les wachamos until next week,

mvs

Monday, March 06, 2006

SPOTLIGHT ON SARA CAMPOS

Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Sara Campos is an MFA candidate at Mills College. An immigration lawyer for over 15 years, she weaves many immigration themes into her writing. She is a multi-genre writer whose fiction and poetry is either forthcoming or has been published in St. Ann's Review, LongStoryShort, PenWomanship and NewVersesNews. Her op-ed pieces have been published in the San Francisco Examiner, The San Francisco Daily Journal and The Recorder. She has also published book reviews in Water Bridge Review and BeyondChron. Her most recent short story is “Domingo” which appears in the winter 2006 issue of St. Ann’s Review. (Pictured: cover of new issue.)

NUEVO LIBRO: Rigoberto González reviews Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano's collection, Santo de la Pata Alzada: Poems from the Queer/Xicano/Positive Pen (Evelyn Street Press), where the “speaker” of these poems “traces the ache of familial rejection, the loss of faith, and the triumphs and failures of same-sex relationships.” González adds that this collection, “with its brazen title, risk-taking subject matter and colorful vocabulary, is in fact a touching book—a young poet's story of his exile from home and church, and his arrival to a family and faith in a community no less valuable or valid than the one he lost.”

CON TINTA CELEBRATION IN AUSTIN, TEJAS: Con Tinta, a coalition of Chicano/Latino cultural activists, poets and writers, is hosting a pachanga in Austin on Thursday, March 9, 2006, at Doña Emilia's South American Bar and Grill. The evening (6:00-8:30 p.m.) will feature award presentations to two of our veterano writers, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and raúlrsalinas. The Quetzal Quill Reading Series will feature Diana Marie Delgado, Brenda Cardenas, and Lorna Dee Cervantes. Admission is free. The Public is invited. Open buffet/Cash bar. (Donations are welcomed.) The first-time event will coincide with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference. This year’s conference will include over thirty panels and readings featuring a diverse community of Chicano/Latino voices: Francisco Aragon, Norma Cantu, Lisa D. Chavez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Blas Manuel de Luna, Christine Granados, Dagoberto Gilb, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Carolina Monsivais, Alberto Rios, and many others. This gathering in Austin is part of Con Tinta’s community outreach efforts. The collective’s mission is to create awareness through the cultivation of emerging talent, through the promotion and presentation of artistic expression, and through the collective voice of support to our members, our communities, and our allies. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Richard Yañez, Con Tinta Advisory Circle member, at theclica@hotmail.com.

NEW BLOGGER: Reyna Grande has just started her own blog. Grande’s first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, will be published this summer by Atria Books. Also, Grande will be one of the guest authors at the Chica Lit Club Festival in Miami on May 19 to 21, 2006. Visit the Festival's website for more information.

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

KEEP ON HUMMIN’: Luis Alberto Urrea’s magnificent novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter (Little, Brown), is a finalist in fiction for the Pacific Rim Voices Kiriyama Prize. It's the 10th annual award. The real news is that Urrea is the first author ever to be a finalist for the award in both fiction and nonfiction. You can read more at http://www.kiriyamaprize.org/.

MISSISSIPPI REVIEW (ONLINE) CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS:

Accepting submissions now
Theme: Mexico/Cortos (Short Films)
Edited by Peter Theis
Fiction, Maximum 1500 words
Format: Microsoft Word or RTF files
Submissions end: March 25, 2006
Issue publication: April 2, 2006
Submissions to Peter Theis

From the editor: “There are approximately 20 million Mexicans living in the United States and over 1 million U.S. Citizens living in Mexico, but how much do most of us know of life in Mexico? Vendors selling steaming lamb heads in the markets of Xochimilco. The town clown who rides his bicycle backwards and knows all the sexual adventures of everyone in the area, including nuns and priests. The ugly, short, charismatic man who made rain with a Volkswagen engine on mountain tops. The turtle reserve and the freshly baked chocolate nut bread on the beach in Mazunte. Major U.S. banks urging violent ‘elimination’ of the Zapatistas to benefit those in the ‘investment community.’ We want to see strong, clear, difficult, terrifying, strange, humorous, and unexpected stories featuring, set in, and/or about Mexico, preferably stories that might lend themselves to short film.” For more information, visit MR's guidelines.

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

Friday, March 03, 2006

El Chuco, Rio, Oxnard

Manuel Ramos


CHRISTINE GRANADOS
Christine Granados' Brides and Sinners in El Chuco (University of Arizona Press, 2006), has at least two guys (who should know) impressed:

“Christine Granados’ stories are sharp, evocative portraits of El Paso which deserve a wide readership. Her fiction does not flinch from hard truths or taboos. And her spare prose cuts to what is essential, what is hilarious, and what makes us who we are. A wonderful debut.” —Sergio Troncoso

“Defying what is expected of a Chicana writer, Granados is helping to re-orient Latino literature away from poignant, romanticized goody-goodyism, toward stark, complex storytelling that will remind the many of us who have grown up imperfectly what it is to be living on the embattled fronteras of Mexican and American.” —Dagoberto Gilb

The publisher says this about the book:
"In the border town of El Paso—better known to its Mexican American residents as El Chuco—dramas unfold in humdrum households every day as working-class men come home from their jobs and as their wives and children do their best to cope with life. Christine Granados now plumbs the heart of this community in fourteen startling stories, uncovering the dreams and secrets in which ordinary people sometimes lose themselves."

LUIZ ALFREDO GARCIA-ROZA
The current issue of January Magazine features an excerpt from Pursuit (Henry Holt, 2006), the latest Inspector Espinosa mystery from Luis Alfredo Garcia-Roza. January says this about Garcia-Roza:

"Luiz Alfredo Garcia-Roza is a bestselling novelist who lives in Rio de Janeiro. The Espinosa mysteries have been translated into six languages. Pursuit is the fifth book in the series. The previous four titles are available in paperback from Picador."

And here's what January says about the book:

"A hospital psychiatrist feels he's being stalked by a patient. For as long as possible, he convinces himself that the young man is harmless, but when the doctor's daughter disappears and the patient goes missing too, he calls on Espinosa for help. Soon after, the patient turns up dead."

Check out the excerpt.

LUIS LEAL LIBRARY
The Ventura County Star reported the opening of the Luis Leal Library at the Mexican Consulate in Oxnard (CA) on February 24. Leal is the well-respected former Chicano Studies professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

According to the Star, the library was named for Leal because of his contributions to Latin American, Mexican and Chicano literature. Leal also donated books.


Leal has published more than 40 books and 300 articles and has received numerous honors including the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor bestowed by the Mexican government on foreign citizens. Leal (98) taught at the university until two years ago, where he was the director of the Center for Chicano Studies.

The Star quotes María Herrera-Sobek, associate vice chair of diversity, equity ad academic policy at UCSB and the Luis Leal Endowed Chair in the university’s Chicano Studies Department: “He’s very warm, very humble, very generous with his students.”

Later.