Monday, October 06, 2008

Men without Bliss: A new book by Rigoberto González

The University of Oklahoma Press announces Volume 6 in its Chicana and Chicano Visions of the Américas series, a short story collection by Rigoberto González entitled, Men without Bliss, which the press describes as stories that “assess the silent suffering of men.”

More from the press:

In cities and fields, Mexican American men are leading lives of quiet desperation. In this collection of thirteen startling stories, Rigoberto González weaves complex portraits of Latinos leading ordinary, practically invisible lives while navigating the dark waters of suppressed emotion—true-to-life characters who face emotional hurt, socioeconomic injustice, indignities in the workplace, or sexual repression. But because their culture expects men to symbolize power and control, they dare not risk succumbing to displays of weakness.

González shines an empathetic light into the shadows of Mexican culture to portray characters who suffer in silence—men both straight and gay who must come to terms with their grief, loneliness, and pain. By e
xploring the private moments of men trapped inside unforgiving stereotypes, he critiques long-held assumptions of Latino behavior. He shows us individuals who must break out of various closets to become fully realized adults, and makes us feel the emotional pain of men in a culture that recognizes only the pain and hardship of women.

Men without Bliss conveys the silent suffering of all men, not just Latinos. It will open readers’ eyes to unexpected facets of Latino culture, and perhaps of their own lives.

Rigoberto González is the author of seven books including Crossing Vines, winner of ForeWord Magazine’s 2003 Book of the Year Award. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, and the American Book Award, he is currently Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University–Newark.

Rigoberto kindly agreed to a mini-La Bloga interview about his new book:

OLIVAS: How different was it for you writing short stories rather than poems?

GONZÁLEZ: Even if I’m working on a single poem for years, there’s something deceptively more manageable about shaping and reshaping the same page or two of text. A short story doesn’t seem that short at all and challenges my attention span as well as my peripheral vision. And although I’m working with language and imagery in both genres, the act of inhabiting people and places in the sustained narrative of prose requires plenty of more patience. I realized how fickle poetry can be, moving on after a line. I’m not sure I have a second book of stories in me, though I’m currently writing my fourth book of poems. This doesn’t mean I’m abandoning prose, it just means poetry remains my first love. I’m now working on a series of YA novels—the first of that projected trilogy, The Mariposa Club—will be out next summer. I’m frequently asked what different energies I take with me when I’m writing one genre as opposed to another, or how do I know something is a story and not a poem. The truth is that when I sit down at the computer each time I decide first whether I’m going to dive into poetry or prose. I never know how long a one-stanza poem or a 200-page novel is going to take before it comes to fruition, but I do know that in both cases it’s going to take discipline and dedication to get there.

OLIVAS: Did you have a theme in mind when you started writing these stories or did you see the theme once you started to assemble the stories?

GONZÁLEZ: I knew from the beginning that I was going to write about men and that I wanted to explore masculinity and sexuality in the Chicano male, both gay and straight. I was already exploring these issues with my memoir Butterfly Boy and with my second book of poems Other Fugitives and Other Strangers, but I wanted to investigate it further through my lens as a gay writer. When I was devouring Chicano literature as a college student, I was disheartened at how little exploration was happening in our community around these issues. My options on the fiction shelf were limited to John Rechy and Arturo Islas—amazing writers, but certainly there could have been more. I believe that the responsibility of the next generation of writers is to produce that body of work that will give young readers a healthy and complex spectrum of gay protagonists in this troubled, contemporary world. Thankfully, we now have Manuel Muñoz and Alex Espinoza unraveling these extraordinary narratives, but we need more. I’m simply doing my small part.

◙ On Sunday, September 28, we put on a panel for Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press, 2008) at the West Hollywood Book Fair. I moderated the panel which included three of our thirty-four authors: Lisa Alvarez, Sandra Ramos O'Briant and Reyna Grande. Contributor Conrad Romo was in the audience showing his support. If you missed it, you could get a teeny-tiny sample on YouTube via Kevin Roderick’s fine reporting on LAObserved by clicking here. The book signing afterwards was great fun as we met old friends and made new ones. The signing was sponsored by the wonderful Imix Books. Also, the anthology just received another great review, this time on PoeticDiversity which you may read here. I hope to get a report on last Saturday’s Latinos in Lotusland panel at the Third Annual City Book Fair, San Diego City College, where the following authors were scheduled to speak: Helena Viramontes, Reyna Grande, Melinda Palacio and Jennifer Silva Redmond.

◙ The 106th online issue of Somos Primos, edited by Mimi Lozano, is now live. In this issue, there is information about Sgt. Rafael Peralta, nominated for a Medal of Honor, but who instead received the Navy Cross; the neglect once again by Ken Burns of our contributions to the nation in leaving Dr. Hector P. Garcia out of a documentary on Ted Kennedy; the murder of a young Mexican, Luis Ramirez, by teenagers in Pennsylvania. Resources and information have been gathered to assist in reacting to these injustices, a separate page has been set up for Sgt. Rafael Peralta.

◙ Daniel Alarcón, author most recently of the novel, Lost City Radio (HarperCollins), has a story in the October 6th issue of the New Yorker called "The Idiot President." Also, he has a novella called "The Bridge" in the next Granta (Issue #103). And, finally, an “old” story of his called "The Visitor" has been reprinted in the current issue of The Big Ugly Review.

◙ A word from Gregg Barrios:
I hope that all of you interested in the history of San Antonio's Chicano heritage will make plans to attend these following events during Hispanic Heritage Month at the Central Library. National Book Award finalist, Pen Faulkner Award finalist, and PEN Hemingway Award honoree Dagoberto Gilb will read from his work including The Magic of Blood. I am privileged to be part of the literary panel that precedes Gilb. Hope to see you there.

El quetzal speaks/El quetzal habla - A discussion of important Chicano literary works, inspired by the anthology El Quetzal Emplumece:

Rafael Castillo, Ph.D., Moderator. Panel: Gregg Barrios, Carmen Tafolla, Nephtalí de León and Vangie Vigil-Piñón

WHERE AND WHEN: Central Library Auditorium, October 11, 1:00 p.m.

Dagoberto Gilb, editor of Hecho en Tejas, a widely praised anthology of Texas Mexican literature, will provide a reading of his critically acclaimed work, The Flowers. Author books will be available for purchase courtesy of the Twig Book Shop.

WHERE AND WHEN: Central Library Auditorium, October 11, 3:30 p.m.

◙ Speaking of Gregg Barrios, his play, Rancho Pancho, continues to be well-received as shown by this report from the San Antonio Express-News. has a new look…check it out!

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

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