Sunday, July 29, 2007

La Bloga is unlike other sites

Spending much time checking out the Internet, sifting through all the chaff could make you senile. So, when we started La Bloga we intended it not only to focus on Chicano literary themes, but also to strive for higher standards than a typical blog, by our "passionate" (see Laínez's post from yesterday) understanding of cultural distinctions. As example of the type of site we didn't want, one recently came to our attention and warrants comment, given its topic.

On 12/15/06 Manuel Ramos's post introduced Rudolfo Anaya's The First Tortilla: A Bilingual Story. The blurb quoted publisher UNM Press: "She [Jade] has made the first tortilla." It also mentions a Mountain Spirit and talking hummingbirds. Sounds like a fantasy, folktale or leyenda, right?

In our 7/18/07 review of The First Tortilla, Bloguista Gina MarySol Ruiz wrote: "Rudolfo Anaya has written a magical and lovely folktale about the origins of that favorite of us mexicanos/Chicanos, the delicious tortilla." Note her use of "folktale" and "the origins of the tortilla."

When the editors of Guanabee read our review, they remarked: "Finally, a role model for young Mexican girls that doesn’t ask them to sell out so damn hard… but make tortillas instead?" While their first remark may or may not be commendable, it is the "make tortillas instead" that begs literary interpretation.

That anyone, Latino-oriented or otherwise, could misconstrue a folktale about the first tortilla as somehow advocating that contemporary, young Mexican girls should make tortillas instead of aspiring to other (unnamed) activities, indicates either a low level of vocabulary or deliberate misinterpretation.

Using Guanabee logic, we'd expect their editors to review Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat and vilify its author(s) for advocating that young females take up bread making instead of other (unnamed) activities. Or perhaps they think the authors of another old story, about Adam and Eve, didn't want 21st century females eating apples.

A folktale about the distant past or a fantasy world, with talking hummingbirds or hens (or serpents), should not be interpreted as providing lessons or role models, solely based on the plot. Guanabee editors seemed to understand part of that. It's the part they didn't that separates Guanabee from La Bloga.

If we read further into the post: "Bless Me, Ultima, the novel that taught us Mexicans/vomiting can be literary motifs", one wonders what they consider to be rational critique. Characterizing Anaya's recognized classic in this fashion seems like a shallow way to artificially create controversy. In their own words, "Guanabee is commentary on media, pop culture and entertainment, spicy coverage for the Latino in you."

Now, I don't know about you, but the Latino in me prefers that spicy coverage not approach the abyss of Fox-TV standards of verity. Guanabee is a commercially supported site, filled with "ads by Google" and other business interests, including Fox (by chance?), so perhaps the "spicy" in Guanabee is simply intended to generate more hits-per-month to support their bottom line. That it generated my hit, indicates outrageous deviations from common sense can make money. This is another aspect where La Bloga separates from other Internet sites in that we deliberately avoid commercial interests.

Comments to the Guanabee post likewise reflect more grasping at straw men and low-level bursts of supposedly smart remarks like, "The highly-anticipated sequel to [The First Tortilla] will have Jade pushing Qdoba burritos in central Los Angeles. . ." That my post may generate more Guanabee hits is only unfortunate in that at times you need to know what a bad tortilla tastes like to better appreciate homemade ones. While we know La Bloga's "cooking" doesn't always reach what we strive for, be assured we won't go commercial on you and forsake the literary for the North American corporate dollar.

* * *

Due to popular demand I decided to pull the second part of this post until I read The Confessional. I will leave the Comments, though.

As I said in that part, "I've had to eat my words before." In this case readers let me know they felt I do need to to set the table and gorge on some of my own masa. I'm going for the masa.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

6 comments:

Susan said...

As a regular reader of both La Bloga and Seven Impossible Things, which focuses on children's (including YA) books, I can tell you that the standards at Seven Impossible Things are uniformly high. The reviewers are thoughtful and intelligent and apply a lot of time and effort to their work. (Jules is a woman, by the way.)

I can't speak to the novel "The Confessional" because I have not read it, but I did want to speak up on behalf of the other blog.

Anonymous said...

It is ugly when two blogs are brought to task by the big angry "browner -than -you'll- ever -be" La Bloga.

I am ashamed that La Bloga has seen fit to lash out at other blogs that are talking about books - especially books intended for students.

First of all, you guys haven't read the Confessional so why not read the book and see if the reviewer is correct?

Instead, you seem to have modeled your reaction much like Bill O'Reilley and CNN's Lou Dobbs by sensationalizing and taking quotes out of context.

In addition, your unabashed disgust for Bush is both diatribe and propaganda. It has no place in commentary about two YA books. Also. it is a little too late.

Grow up and stop your macho strutting. It makes us all look bad.

PS Schools in El Paso and throughout Texas serve breakfast burritos and tacos. Also most USA cities have burritos at Taco Bell, etc. That's a reality. Besides, the character may not necessarily be Latino or may be "acculturated" and prefer burritos to tacos.

But you guys wouldn't know, you haven't read the book.

Anonymous said...

As a native of El Paso, I would also urge you to read THE CONFESSIONAL first before you judge it. The major point of the book is to question the dichotomy between "us" and "them" that exists on the border between different groups; it suggests that divisions that occur based on national boundaries are pointless and bad policy. Also, if you READ the book, you'll realize that it is not the Mexican students who look bad; instead, MacKenzie is the one who is portrayed as the racist.

ras_c said...

First and foremost, it is completely irresponsible of anyone to criticize literature you HAVE NOT EVEN READ!!!! As another native El Pasoan, your response sounds liek someone who has never been to my city. Burritos are ALL OVER El Paso, so you demonstrate your ignorance of the city with that misguided comment. Second, and most importantly, I have read the novel and do not see how ANY reasonable person can claim that the novel is (1) racist or (2) that it resembles a Bush/Cheney ideology. I might have been interested in reading other posts by this blogger UNTIL such an irresposible and ignorant post was made about a book the blogger didn't even have the common sense to READ!!!! I suggest that you do not further demonstrate your ignorance and read the material you criticize BEFORE writing a blog on the material. Oh, and by they way, you should also avoid contradicting yourself as you claim to not make a critique based on a critique. From all of those who know what El Chuco really is, please withhold your comments about anything related to our experience until you have really lived and experienced the city and READ the book you are dissing.

Anonymous said...

Well, get out the masa and start eating. This site is too good for a post to violate the very basic rule of reviewing: read a given work in its entirety before you say anything about it. Latino books suffer from this kind of "reviewing" all the time. We need to show we set a very high bar when it comes to literary critique.

Caro said...

To paraphrase the popular expression about publicity, there's no such thing as a bad link. Traffic is traffic. Guanabee and La Bloga have different functions. They poke fun at stuff, you review books. In the end, people will stick around and read your blog again if they like what they see. The blogosphere is plenty big enough for both, and more.