Sunday, November 30, 2008

Like son, like father?

We at La Bloga receive so many books to review each year that we 're never able to cover them all. A year ago one snagged my interest, and I went out on a limb to suggest that Cibolero by Kermit Lopez deserved to win the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize. Apparently, the gente de Premio Aztlán paid no attention to me, but nevertheless I stand by my original post.

Six months later, following in his son's footsteps, Kermit's dad also got his novel Sirena published by IUniverse. I don't know who wrote his story first--the son or the dad--but I imagine a family dinner at this house could be worth listening in on. Do they debate which is better, more historically accurate, or more Chicano? Are there family feuds where half line up with the old man and the other half with his hijo before la comida starts flying? Or do they do a typical Chicano-family thing and never talk about that subject?

In any event, below is info on E. G. Lopez's Sirena, taken from the book itself and the publisher's website. If anyone out there has had the opportunity to read both, we'd welcome your comparative lit piece on the two. It's a sign of the current flowering in Chicano lit when two in the same family can become authors. Who knows?--maybe there's a female member of the Lopez family composing something that'll top them both.

Overview from back cover: Epic account of a New Mexico Hispanic family swept up in a clash of empires, one waning and the other ascendant. A tragic tale of parallel nations, peoples, and lovers converging nowhere this side of infinity, marching in lockstep towards disaster.

The twins see it coming. Ron and Jake Valdez, prophets without honor, hamstrung by their own demons, powerless before the juggernaut. After Guantanamo, it was easy, first baby steps, later giant steps.

Homeland Security, Patriot Act, private armies, and concentration camps. In the name of freedom, they destroyed freedom, the bright shining star imploding, devouring itself.

About the author: E. G. Lopez was born in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. He is a Navy Veteran and graduate of the Milwaukee School of Engineering, BSEE, and the University of Pittsburgh, MBA, and a retired investigator for the National Labor Relations Board. In Sirena, he focuses his experience and a 300-year New Mexico oral heritage on an issue as old as humanity that threatens the integrity and the very viability of our great nation today.

N.B.: To my recollection, neither son nor dad tend to use the word Chicano in describing themselves or their work; the use of Chicano is purely my own perspective. - RudyChG

Friday, November 28, 2008

Este y Eso

I hope you all had a peaceful and meaningful holiday. For the day after Thanksgiving, I present brief notices skimmed from the headlines that feature a few books and many people deserving our gratitude.

Junot Díaz says that Martín Solares' grim noir novel, Los minutos negros (Debosillo), translated as The Black Minutes, (Grove Press), is one of the best of 2008. Díaz is quoted in the London Times Online: "A breathless, marvelous first novel that begins with the murder of a journalist in a mid-sized Mexican city but that quickly propels the investigator-protagonist, Maceton, into a darker mystery: the savage unsolved murders of a series of young girls. This is Latin American fiction at its pulpy phantasmagorical finest, this is a literary masterpiece masquerading as a police procedural and nothing else I’ve read this year comes close."

Sounds like I should read this book. Anyone out there already done that?

Bless Me, Ultima has again been blacklisted by a school district. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Newman-Crows Landing Unified School District (California) Superintendent Rick Fauss decided the book is not suitable for teenagers and banned it for the rest of the school year. The American Library Association says that Rudolfo Anaya's book is one of the most challenged in the country. "I think there's room for exposing students to other experiences, but do we have to sacrifice the values of our families and our community to do that?" asked Fauss, a former high school English teacher. He hasn't read the entire book but said he's "read enough." Despite widespread community knowledge of his decision, Fauss said he hasn't received any complaints except from four teachers. Fauss said that proves he made the right decision, one that "reflects the values of the community." The article in the Mercury News quotes one of the complaining teachers: "This is Hispanic literature. Sixty-five percent of our enrollment consists of the Hispanic population. They can identify with this book culturally. ... The book talks about things these kids are growing up hearing. And for the non-Hispanic kids, this is something different."

Mr. Fauss should finish the book. Then he ought to check out what Dana Gioia, Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts says about Bless Me, Ultima, one of the books in the NEA's Big Read program:
"there was something magical about Anaya's coming-of-age story in post-World War II New Mexico. Full of dreams, legends, prayers, and folkways, it presents a world where everyday life is still enchanted. ... A great book combines enlightenment with enchantment. It awakens our imagination and enlarges our humanity. It can even offer harrowing insights that somehow console and comfort us." Have no fear, Mr. Strauss, and read on.

Paco Ignacio Taibo I died in Mexico City on November 13. He was 84. Taibo was exiled from Spain in 1950 for his socialist activism. He began his writing career as a cycling reporter and eventually wrote more than 50 novels. He won numerous awards during his lifetime including the Great Cross of the Order of Civil Merit presented by the Spanish government, one for his contribution to cultural journalism at the 2004 Guadalajara International Book Fair, and Mexico's National Journalism Prize last May. One of his sons, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, is well-known in the U.S. for his crime and political fiction, and his sponsorship of the annual literary festival in Gijón, Spain, Semana Negra ( featured here on La Bloga last summer with reporting from Thania Muñoz.) Our condolences to the Taibo family.

The Rocky Mountain News continues its celebration of 150 years of Denver history with a list of 150 unsung heroes. Of course, such a list will never include everyone who should be included, but I think it's worth acknowledging the Latinos and Latinas who are listed. I won't name them all, but on the list you will find people such as: Rosalinda Aguirre (co-owner of Rosalinda's Mexican Café, in Northwest Denver for more than 25 years; co-chair of Padres Unidos a parent organization serving Northwest Denver); Stella Cordova (owner and creator of world-famous Chubby's); Ray Espinoza (teacher, artist and one of the original founders of the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council [CHAC]); Nita Gonzales (a lifelong activist who oversees Escuela Tlatelolco, a school founded in 1969 by her late father, Corky Gonzales); Stevon Lucero (noted artist and another CHAC founder); José Mercado (actor and teacher, founder of the Labyrinth Arts Academy, a nonprofit that offers education in theater and media arts for public schools and at-risk youth) and several other very worthy "unsung heroes." You can find the entire list here.

Meanwhile, over at The Latest Word, a blog from Westword, a weekly news and arts magazine, Susan Froyd posted her own list of "Denver treasures" in the arts. Froyd says her list is of " a few folks – everyday people who’ve carved out their thriving niches – whom I’ve been lucky enough to find along the way."

Under the heading of The Denver Chicano Arts Community, Froyd says, "I thought I could name just one person, Carlos Fresquez (a personal favorite as an artist) [pictured at right]. But I soon realized that Carlos is a community member who shares with his artist compadres and comadres a certain number of traits: a 500-year-old regional history, a recognition for the bedrock importance of la familia, a politicized sensibility rooted in the populist rise of La Raza in the ´60s and ´70s, and a kind of identifiable humbleness (and the easy sense of humor that goes along with it), to name a few. And they are many, both living and departed. Along with Carlos, there are Daniel and Maruca Salazar, Tony Ortega and Sylvia Montero, santeros Carlos Santistevan and Jerry Vigil, Su Teatro director Tony Garcia, muralist Emanuel Martinez, the poets Lalo Delgado and Corky Gonzales, author Manuel Ramos and broadcaster Flo Hernandez Ramos, actor and filmmaker Gwylym Cano, literally everyone at the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council and so many more -- some elder statesmen and others on the rise. The word rich doesn’t even begin to describe this league." That's quite a list; thanks for the mention, Susan.

One of the people on Westword's list, Florence Hernandez-Ramos, published an article entitled The Revolution May Not Be Televised, But It Will Be On Radio, a think piece for Grow The Audience, a segment of Station Resource Group Online. The article was written on behalf of the Latino Public Radio Consortium and explores the future and challenges of Latino involvement and influence in public radio. Check it out.

Al fin, Happy Birthday to Daniel, Michael, René, Lisa, Ann, Rudy, and yours truly - today La Bloga is four years old- finally learning how to walk. Thanks to our contributors, all the writers who continue to write, and all of you readers who insist on reading books that matter, that entertain, that teach, that make you cry in the night or laugh in the morning; books that leave you wanting more. Here's to another year of La Bloga.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

A few Thanks, for 2008

Thanks, Obama, for being around to try to help end some of the least democratic and most shameful times in our history, and for raising a lot of hope, at least for now.

Thanks to my seventeen second-graders for improving my Spanish and making me happy to be a teacher, at least for now.

Thanks that the Recession is not yet a Depression, at least for most of us.

Thank the gods I somehow moved away from consumerism and found myself more in the realm of reusing and conserving.

Thanks to groups like TODOS

I received the following E-mail since I'm a member of TODOS: Math for ALL:

At a workshop of the Equity in Mathematics Education Leadership Institute, discussing the history of standardized testing, a participant recounted the following:

Because her nephew, who is Chicano, was not doing well in school, they tested him and found that his I.Q. was about "normal", maybe a little bit below. His father went to the school psychologist for an explanation.

At one point the father asked to take the test. His score was normal. The psychologist said, "Well, you've got normal I.Q. What do you do for a living?" The father said he was an oncologist [cancer specialist]. The psychologist said, "I am surprised you ever got through medical school."

(Download an Education Week article on this subject "The SAT: Public-Spirited or Preserving Privilege?" Education Week.)

This story reminds me of my first literary conference a few years ago, where I did a reading to a packed room. It was well received and when I was done, the first question I was asked was, "Did you write that?" Later, another person asked me the same question.

While the two anecdotes are not dead-on the same situation, they are representative of attitudes that do not go away, no matter who our President is.

[The mission of TODOS: Mathematics for ALL
"is to advocate for an equitable and high quality mathematics education for all students—in particular, Hispanic/Latino students—by increasing the equity awareness of educators and their ability to foster students' proficiency in rigorous and coherent mathematics."]

I've been a TODOS member since attending one of their workshops. Getting great anecdotal material like the one above is nothing compared to loads of other great educational material I've received as a member. I'd recommend them to anyone involved in educating the non-English speaking, math, or pedagogy in general. Anyway, thanks TODOS for a great organization and a good laugh.

Thanks to the Spaniards, of all people

My wife Carmen gave me this bookmark she picked up at a conference. I tracked down the producers who turned out to be the Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade (ICEX) and the Spanish Association of Publishers Guilds (FGEE). They "have developed the campaign America Reads Spanish, aimed to increase the use and reading of our language through the thousands of libraries, schools and book stores of the U.S."

I don't know if this was in response to the myopic attitude toward Spanish by the English-Only crowd, but I liked it so much I got them to send me a few bookmarks and have had fun handing them out to both bilinguals and monolinguals. The usual reaction is one of surprise and/or confusion. I can see their minds going: "We read Spanish?" or even, "We don't read Spanish!"

Of course, the slogan refers to the New World, which all together is called America, and overwhelmingly does read Spanish, literally 2 to 1. Thank goodness the Spaniards were sophisticated enough not to use the wording, "America Reads ONLY Spanish."

Thanks to Mom

I managed to get to San Antonio this month for my mother's 80th. It was a quick trip, but we got to spend a few days where the weather was just like Denver, only humid.

My brother set up this outrageous dinner at a touristy restaurant on the San Antonio Riverwalk, and those of the family who could make it gave Mom a time she won't soon forget.

Most of the women on my mother's side outlive the males; consequently, I have no uncles or grandfather and am the oldest surviving male. You can see from this photo that my Mom (2nd from L.) is old, but still going apparently as well as her younger sister, to her left. (The balloon is for my brother who didn't show--it's tradition to always fill his empty spot.)

Anyway, I guess this is thanks for that trip, thanks for a mother who keeps on truckin', no matter the foibles of her progeny. Next, I'll have to give thanks for her staying around until her 90th, which I'm in charge of setting up, assuming . . .

Lastly, THANKS y un gran salud to René, Lisa, Ann, Manuel, Michael, and Dan Olivas. It's largely been their effort and dedication over the past years that made La Bloga into a distinctive literary site and something I'm proud to be associated with. Perhaps it's more than just coincidence that this great bunch of gente came together to build La Bloga, at least for now.

Rudy Ch. Garcia

Bountiful Thanksgiving To All

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Highlights-Updated Wish List

Highlights editors compile a list of their current needs to share with prospective authors. Below, you will find a detailed description of the types of stories, articles, and activities Highlights editors are currently seeking. You may also find these updates at

Thank you for your interest in Highlights. Happy writing!

The Highlights Editors

Current Needs
Winter 2008-2009

Nonfiction for Younger Readers (Ages 4 to 8) up to 500 words, Joëlle Dujardin, Associate Editor
All articles should have a clear focus and relevance to young kids.

* First-person accounts of fieldwork
* Photo essays
* Arts stories
* Ancient history
* High-interest animals
* Details from urban life (workers, transportation, etc.)
* Nature

Science, 800 words (two-page features), 400 words (one-page features), 50 words (activities) Andy Boyles, Science Editor

* Features about kids involved in science
* Scientists studying high-interest animals in their natural habitats
* Short, quick, easy, fun science activities

History/World Cultures, up to 800 words, Carolyn Yoder, Senior Editor

* Fun, humorous, kid-friendly articles
* Presidential (NOT Washington and Lincoln) and patriotic pieces
* Need anecdotal articles, rather than broad interviews
* American holidays, specifically Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and little-known holidays
* World-cultures pieces. ALL COUNTRIES. We want intimate snapshots of life in another country.

One-page Activities of all kinds, up to 300 words, Linda Rose, Assistant Editor

* Indoor and outdoor games that involve exercise, creativity, and/or humor
* Activities and games that kids can do whether they're on their own or with others
* Projects that will result in a new hobby or skill and/or a quality finished product
* Magic tricks

We prefer activities that require neither parental supervision nor materials kids aren't likely to have handy.

Short Puzzles, Games, Recipes, and Activities, Manuscript Submissions

* Art activities
* World-cultures activities
* History and geography puzzles
* Logic puzzles
* Math puzzles
* Codes

Any activities that easily lend themselves to strong visuals are a huge plus!

Crafts, Manuscript Submissions

* World-cultures crafts (general or holiday-specific)
* Crafts that encourage play (musical instruments, costumes, etc.)
* Games
* Gifts
* Crafts for all holidays except Valentine's Day

Please send a photo or sample of the craft.

Send magazine submissions to
Highlights for Children
803 Church Street
Honesdale, PA 18431


Puzzlemania, our puzzle book club for children ages 6—10, is in need of word puzzles—crosswords, word searches, logic puzzles, word scrambles, and codes. For detailed submissions guidelines, visit Go to About Us/Contributor Guidelines/Puzzles. Send puzzle submissions to

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

La Palabra Poets

Michael Sedano

"4th Sunday of Every Month," the email taunts me. Taunts, because invariably my good intentions of attending a La Palabra Monthly poetry event run afoul of some other commitment. I have subscription seats to Sunday concerts for LA Phil at Disney Hall and Coleman Chamber Music Association at Cal Tech. Often our tickets fall on a fourth Sunday. 
Or sometimes I start an early morning project that grows like topsy into the afternoon, and 2:00 p.m. comes and I'm covered in dirt or chicken poop and would make a poor seat mate to some hapless poetry lover.

And poetry lovers are whom one meets at La Palabra's monthly poetry celebration. At any rate, that's how it turned out for me when I was able to get cleaned up early enough on Sunday the 23d of November (tempus fugit!), to arrive unfashionably late.

I'm so late that I don't get a program and can show only the portraits of the gente reading their well-crafted work. I cannot tell you the names of these poets.

La Palabra evidently holds Open Mic readings to launch the afternoon, followed by scheduled poets. The Emcee pictured here with a close-up of her Open Mic sign-up board is most likely the Co-Host of La Palabra, Laura Longoria.

Despite the sign-ups of three men and a woman, one of the poets either did not perform, or, owing to my tardiness, she read before my arrival, and I missed her work.

So I am treated to readings by the three Open Mic men. It's an intimate setting, a white-walled space with twenty or so plastic chairs arranged three rows deep. Being a photographer, I zig and zag myself through the chairs to take an empty seat in the front row. The space is small enough that every word would likely be audible from the back row. This adds to the enjoyment of the verse, not straining to make out the words.

One gentleman, weara a "Poetry Daily" t-shirt publicizing the website of the same name.

Another reader announces he's just written the piece he'll read. He reads his work off the back of the program. 

Dog gone it, I wish I could tell you the name of the Cubana who reads several pieces about her cultura and growing up in Habana with Orishas and Yemeya and Babalaos. She weaves an entertaining narrative between her formal pieces, playing a vinyl disc and a CD that illustrate her work. Fabulously entertaining, she doesn't, or cannot, stay at the lectern but moves about. At one point she dances to the infectious beat of island drumming.

Next up is Don Newton. I can tell you his name because he's one of the sponsors of La Palabra, and Don's and Emcee Laura's name is on the publicity posted at Avenue 50 Studio's homepage, the host of the event. Don shares some autobiographical work recounting events growing up in New Jersey, Mexico, and Brazil.

It's clear that Don and la Cubana are close friends. I'm sure their bonds aren't the sole reason they read today. Obviously both enjoy the process of reading and performing their poetry.

I am relieved I finally had the opportunity of a free fourth Sunday. Here all this time I'd been castigating myself thinking I was missing a grand experience. And I was right, La Palabra is a grand experience, not to be passed by under ordinary circumstances.

Now if the Phil or Coleman would just cooperate and not schedule competing events, I'd have no conflicts and could happily attend every La Palabra. Who knows, maybe next time I have a conflict, I'll give away my concert tickets and sign up for the Open Mic.

Flor Y Canto Progress Report

I spent last week at the University of California, Riverside Tomás Rivera Library Media Center, digitizing the library's collection of U-matic video cassettes. This is a time-consuming process that is 25% completed. Next week I'll post a few snippets of work, for example, Omar Salinas, whose readings would have been the ideal accompaniment to Karen Harlow McClintock's touching eulogy of her friendship with the poet.

I am happy--make that overjoyed--to report that USC, as the Copyright owner, has granted me permission to make these copies and share them with La Bloga and Read! Raza visitors.  Rest assured I'm no Digital Millenium Act scofflaw.

I'll be conducting  a workshop in "reading your stuff" at next year's National Latino Writers Conference, and am integrating selections from some of these 1973 Festival de Flor Y Canto readings as part of my lesson plan.

With the creation of DVDs of these historic performances, planning for the 2010 Festival de Flor Y Canto is making great progress. Click here for the Call for Writers to that event. If you're an alumna alumnus of that 1973 Festival, please contact me for an invitation to the 2010 reunion!

That's the final Tuesday of November 2008. It's the week for tofu turkey loaf, if you're so inclined, or real roasted bird. My grandmother, Emilia Macias, was the best poultry dresser of the Inland Empire. People used to drive from all over southern California to DeYoung's Poultry in Redlands to get a bird prepared by my grandmother. Granma, you wouldn't recognize what they do to coconos nowadays.

Happy Thanksgiving, whether you're having tamales or turkey or tofu. See you next week, December 2, with some of those 1973 readers.

Ate, les wachamos,

La Bloga welcomes your comments on any column. Simple click the Comments counter below to share your views. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. When you have an extended response to something you've read here, or when you'd like to do your own book or cultural events review, please, be our guest. To get started on your first--or next--visit as our guest, click here.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The Mexican and the O.C.

Acerbic columnist gives paradise a different spin

Orange County: A Personal History (I've Been Taking Notes) by Gustavo Arellano (Scribner, $24 hardcover)

Book review by Daniel Olivas

Riding the crest of his wildly successful -- and controversial -- syndicated column "¡Ask a Mexican!" (and a best-selling book of the same name), Gustavo Arellano brings us a memoir, Orange County: A Personal History (I've Been Taking Notes) (Scribner, $24 hardcover).

If you were to ask a person on the street what Orange County stands for, you likely would hear such things as Disneyland, John Wayne, idyllic suburbia and expansive shopping opportunities.

If you ask Arellano, you would get a decidedly different answer. In fact, as a lifetime resident of Orange County, he felt that there was a need for a book that told the truth about his hometown. When I chatted with him recently, I asked which O.C. myth he most wanted to dispel with his memoir.

"That Orange County is Eden," he said. "It's not. I wouldn't want to live anywhere else on earth, but I acknowledge the corruption, the Mexican-bashing, the iron grasp developers have on county residents, the class warfare across O.C."

Not to worry. Despite this rather serious goal, Orange County is crammed with Arellano's mordant wit mixed with a healthy dose of personal and cultural history. The result is an often-funny, sometimes-moving tale that stands in stark contrast with the mythology of Orange County. The O.C. will never be the same.

Interestingly, Arellano relies heavily on his experiences growing up in an immigrant neighborhood that suffered from tough economic circumstances but which maintained family strong ties with Mexico. He touches upon his adolescent awkwardness, his father's drinking problems and other familial imperfections.

I wondered why Arellano decided to combine a cultural history with a memoir.

"The two books I always wanted to write were a history of Orange County and another telling the mass exodus of the ranchos of my mami y papi to Anaheim and points beyond," he explained.

"My agent was excited about the Orange County angle, but he was more enthralled by the tales of my family's four generations in Anaheim."

Arellano agreed to the double focus, but it took some work: "Guided by my editor Brant Rumble, I was able to accomplish the tricky feat of the hybrid that both told a serious history of a much-stereotyped region but also wove in the modern story of Mexican migration to los Estados Unidos."

Arellano sprinkles his book with little boxes that offer pithy descriptions of O.C. communities such as Buena Park ("One of our many cities with a stupid Spanglish name"), Newport Beach ("No ghettos here, but a lot of recovering-addict homes"), and Costa Mesa ("The city that wished it were like neighboring Newport Beach").

And because Arellano has been a food critic for the OC Weekly for the past four years, he includes food recommendations for each community, such as Abel's Bakery in Lake Forest -- which, he informs us, was once a Jewish bakery but is now run by a Mexican Mormon. Whether he's writing about Mexican, Greek, Korean, Cuban or Persian cuisine (to name a few), your mouth will water as Arellano describes local delicacies.

Arellano said he's finalizing details to publish another book for Scribner. The tentative title: "Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America (And Soon, the World)."

He asked me: "Did you know that tacos are all the rage in Sweden, except their tacos make Taco Bell look like the masterwork of a lonchera?""

I didn't know that. But I always learn something new from Gustavo Arellano.

[This review first appeared in the El Paso Times.]

Rigoberto González, an award-winning writer living in New York City, reviews in the El Paso Times Tato Laviera's new book of poetry, Mixturao and Other Poems (Arte Público Press, $12.95 paperback), a book "that celebrates the varied linguistic forms of expression of U.S. Latinos..." He observes that this new collection "is a wonderful, forward-looking book, and Laviera is an important poet for all people." Read the complete review here.

◙ That’s all for this week...a bit abbreviated because of the holidays. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Awards, New Books, Events, and Bolaño

In today's La Bloga:



Los Angeles-based United States Artists has announced the recipients of fifty USA Fellowships totaling $2.5 million.

Now in its third year, the fellowship program honors artists from all disciplines who demonstrate artistic excellence, unique vision, and significant contributions to their fields with unrestricted grants of $50,000. Past recipients include Su Teatro (Denver) artistic Director Anthony J. Garcia (click here for an interview with Mr. Garcia.)

Hailing from twenty-one states and ranging in age from 31 to 82, this year's fellows include five working in architecture and design, four in crafts and traditional arts, five in dance, nine in literature (fiction, nonfiction, and poetry), six in media (film and video), six in music, five in theater arts, and ten in visual arts.

Rosalba Rolón is the Artistic Director for El Teatro Pregones from the Bronx New York; she has directed her company at El Centro Su Teatro in the productions of El Bolero Fue Mi Ruina and El Apagon, and will return in 2010 with their acclaimed production of Immigrantes/Migrants. She is also the former Chair of the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture.

The USA website says this about Rolón:

Actor, director, writer, and dramaturge Rosalba Rolón is the founder and artistic director of Pregones Theater in the South Bronx. Since 1979 she has shared responsibility for building a distinct Latino musical theater repertory with more than 50 premier works. Pregones has taken its work around the world, with performances in Spain, Portugal, Russia, Mexico, Nicaragua, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, the Slovak Republic, and Puerto Rico. Rolón is an active teacher and advocate for young artists. She has received numerous awards for her work in the Latino community and was recently named the El Diario/La Prensa Outstanding Woman of the Year.

The 2008 USA Fellows include free-jazz pioneer Muhal Richard Abrams, conceptual artist Michael Asher, musician and Chinese pipa virtuoso Wu Man, playwright and hip-hop theater performer Will Power, pioneer artistic director Bill Rauch, installation artist Kara Walker, experimental architect Douglas Garofalo, traditional sweetgrass basket weaver Mary Jackson, legendary tap dancer Dianne Walker, Faulkner Award-winning novelist and short story writer Barry Hannah, and independent filmmaker William Greaves.

Artists drive our nation's cultural life and give voice to who we are and where we're headed, said Susan V. Berresford, United States Artists board chair and former president of the Ford Foundation, which helped to establish USA in 2006. Many of this country's two million artists struggle to make ends meet and, particularly in this challenging economic climate, it is essential to invest in our nation's finest creative voices.

Lisa Alvarado provided all the details for these awards in her post yesterday. I want to add my congratulations to the winners, and give a big tip of the sombrero to:

187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971—2007 (Poetry & Short Stories) by Juan Felipe Herrera (City Lights)

The Stillness of Love and Exile (Fiction) by Rosa Martha Villarreal (Tertulia Press)

2666 by Roberto Bolaño
Farrar, Straus and Giroux; November, 2008

La Bloga has discussed Roberto Bolaño a few times. In my reviews, I praised Distant Star (New Directions, 2004) and a collection of stories, Last Evenings on Earth (New Directions, 2007). My comrade Michael Sedano reviewed The Savage Detectives, (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007) - suffice to say that Señor Sedano did not jump aboard the Bolaño bandwagon. I'm about halfway through Savage Detectives and I admit that I am feeling overwhelmed by the book. However, as a critic observed, many people who like Bolaño cannot tell you why. They disagree about why they like this writer and book; why they think he is important; and what his lasting influence may be. They agree only that they admire the writing. Put me in that camp. Reading Bolaño has become my guility pleasure, but I'm not sure why I should feel guilty.

The Savage Detectives is a wild tale centered on an unorganized group of young anti-establishment poets who think they have created a poetry movement that could dramatically change Spanish-language literature. Along the way they have to confront their own failures, tragedies, and disappointments - the defeat of their generation. Bolaño's disillusionment with the revolutionary fervor and eventual ineptitude of Latin American youth is one of the themes he returns to periodically in his books.

Now, in English, here comes Bolaño's opus - 912 pages translated by Natasha Wimmer. The publisher says:

Composed in the last years of Roberto Bolaño’s life, 2666 was greeted across Europe and Latin America as his highest achievement, surpassing even his previous work in its strangeness, beauty, and scope. Its throng of unforgettable characters includes academics and convicts, an American sportswriter, an elusive German novelist, and a teenage student and her widowed, mentally unstable father. Their lives intersect in the urban sprawl of Santa Teresa—a fictional Juárez—on the U.S.-Mexico border, where hundreds of young factory workers, in the novel as in life, have disappeared.

And here's one review (typical of the praise this book is getting):

Bolaño’s masterwork . . . An often shockingly raunchy and violent tour de force (though the phrase seems hardly adequate to describe the novel’s narrative velocity, polyphonic range, inventiveness, and bravery) based in part on the still unsolved murders of hundreds of women in Ciudad Juárez, in the Sonora desert near the Texas border. Francisco Goldman, The New York Review of Books

The Paris Enigma by Pablo De Santis
Harper; November 11, 2008

It is 1889, and the world anticipates the Paris World’s Fair and the opening of Monsieur Eiffel’s iconic tower. The Twelve Detectives—a society of the twelve most famous detectives from around the world—have been asked to discuss the secrets of their trade as part of the fair’s lineup of events. The Twelve travel to Paris to convene as a single body for the first time. But one detective is conspicuously absent: the legendary founding member of The Twelve, Renato Craig. In his place he sends his novice assistant, Sigmundo Salvatrio—son of a shoemaker, a lifelong detective-arts devotee, and the only remaining student of Craig’s famed Academy for Detectives in Buenos Aires. Salvatrio arrives in Paris, carrying a secret message meant only for Craig’s best friend and cofounder of The Twelve, the brilliant, brooding, and fiercely competitive Viktor Arzaky. De Santis won the inaugural Premio Planeta-Casa de América de Narrativa prize for best Latin American novel for The Paris Enigma.

From the Denver Woman's Press Club:

Celebrate a pre-Thanksgiving feast of multicultural stories, food and arts with Denver Woman Press Club members Reneé Fajardo and Anita Jepson-Gilbert.

Reneé is author of four books of true stories with recipes from all over the world. They are Holy Mole, Guacamole; Chili Today, Hot Tamale; Ole Posole; and Pinch a Lotta Enchiladas. Anita is the author of a bilingual book entitled Maria and The Stars of Nazca, about the mysterious Nazca line drawings in Peru and the woman who revealed them to the world.

Bring your own stories to share. Young readers are welcome as well. Free and open to all.

Where: Denver Woman's Press Club 1325 Logan St. Denver. Park in the lot north of the clubhouse. November 23 2-5 PM Contact: Bonnie McCune


Several of the authors who contributed to the Dozen on Denver literary project sponsored by the Rocky Mountain News will gather at the Tattered Cover Book Store (Colfax Avenue store) in Denver on November 22 at 2:00 PM. The writers will discuss the project and their individual stories, and sign their books, which the book store will have available. I hope you can make it.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Juan Felipe Hererra -- Más y Más

Gente: This has been a year of accolades (deservedly so) for the titan, Juan Felipe Hererra. I could rave about his lyricism, his knife edge commentary, the way his poems seep into sus huesos y sus sueños, his lifetime of building Chicano community. What I will do is refer you back to our review of the PEN/WEST award-winning book, 187 Reasons Why Mexicans Can't Cross the Border and our interview with JFH below.

BTW -- El New York Times calls him "wildly inventive." Better still, just call him el mero mero.......Some more skinny about Hererra:

Juan Felipe Herrera's writings are charged with theatrical and athletic energies. A hybrid collection of texts written and performed on the road, gathered from more than thirty-five years of work in various genres, these "undocuments" are the record of an epic journey across many different borders: boundaries of nations, state lines, city limits, edges of farmland, crossings and mixtures of languages and literary forms.

From Mexico City to San Francisco, from Central America to central California, Herrera remembers everything and gives back to his native places and to the family, friends and compañeros of his Mexican/American/Chicano odyssey a scrapbook, a logbook, a journal, a multiform confession of proud hybridity and indigenous optimism. A sustained manifesto of resistance and affirmation, these rants, manifestos, newspaper cut-ups, bits of street theatre, anti-lectures, love poems and riffs tell the story of what it's like to live outlaw and brown in the United States.

"Papers? Permits? Documents? Identification? Open this book anywhere and find the authorization to keep on, permission to be who you are in your own skin, license to cultivate your inner guerrilla, angelic visas of transcendent transit. This book is the passport to a country under construction." — from the Introduction by Stephen Kessler

"¡Por fin! A manifesto you can dance to. Juan Felipe Herrera's searing laments and soulful riffs don't just electrify. They Mexify."—Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana

"I've been reading Juan Felipe Herrera since he was little baby poet in the 1970s, and this volume, which collects published and unpublished community pieces from the last three decades, gives me an almost painful pleasure. He is the eternal teen poet, the timeless Beat, the premodern postmodern. He is Walt Whitman, Ezekiel, Pablo Neruda, Langston Hughes, Scheherazade, Carlos Fuentes, Allen Ginsberg, Frida Kahlo, Groucho and Karl Marx, Emily Dickinson, Santana, Lao Tzu, and Octavio Paz rolled up and squeezed through dreams of Aztlan and justice and jazz. He is Floricanto. And 187 Reasons, more than anything he has written, is his autobiography."—Tom Lutz, author of Doing Nothing, Crying, and Cosmopolitan Vistas

"Juan Felipe Herrera has written a giant verbal mural bursting with the inventiveness, rhythmic colorings, social engagement and humor — in forms of poetry, litany, and autobiography — that reveal not only the greatness but the absolute necessity of Chicano culture. This is a major generational work by a brilliant practitioner of the art of living the word."—Jack Hirschman, poet laureate of the City of San Francisco

"There are at least 187 reasons why you should read Herrera's 187 Reasons Mexicanos Can’t Cross the Border. A very abbreviated list would include: Because it is some of the strongest poetry, memoir, satire, and theater that you will find in one book- Because within it are over forty years of artfully recorded passion, anger, engagement, humor and love- Because it will carry you across, over and through languages, borders, and cultures revealing truths, asking hard questions, and insisting we see the power not only on of writer as witness, and the power of writer as memory, but the power of writer as conscious revolutionary striving towards a more just and humane world- Because it is a pleasure that will awaken and engage all of your senses as it touches and does not let go of your heart."– devorah major author of Brown Glass Windows, Open Weave, street smarts and Where River Meets Ocean.

"Aware, phosphorescent and immediate, this is language brilliantly engaged. Juan Felipe Herrera is simultaneous lighthouse and lightning, the flash that carries the warning and the live wire. For three decades now Herrera’s hot-colored Surrealism has transmitted one of the strongest border radio signals of alt-poetics from the Mission District to St. Mark’s Poetry Project, from the Taos Poetry Circus to Bisbee, from the first Floricantos of the Bay Area or cross-border exchanges in Tijuana and D.F., Chiapas and Yucatan to San Diego, L. A., Austin and beyond. This poetics makes a practice of making a difference. Here available together for the first time are wide-ranging selections from dozens of Herrera’s outstanding 'experimental’ mixed-genre books, many of which had eccentric or limited original distribution. Contextualized with photos, historical notes and chronology, 187 Reasons serves up both continental panorama and meta-document in the practice of a poetics that comes alive with startling vitality---across borders of political silence and censorship of the Other, semiotic deserts and actual killing fields."– Sesshu Foster author of Atomik Aztex and American Loneliness: Selected Poems


PEN Oakland & The Oakland Public Library Announce the Winners of the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles 18th Annual National Literary Awards & 12th Annual PEN Oakland Censorship Award Saturday, December 6th, 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM in Oakland Free To The Public

On Saturday, December 6th, come celebrate well-known and emerging Bay Area and international authors who will be honored for excellence in multicultural literature at the 18th Annual PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles National Literary Awards.

PEN Oakland, A Bay Area Chapter of the International Organization of Poets, Essayists, and Novelists, was founded in 1989 to address multicultural issues, and educate the public as to the nature of multicultural work. These award-winning authors address the diversity and uniqueness of American culture, and represent the new voices of American literature. The late Josephine Miles, in whose honor the awards are presented, was a highly regarded poet, critic, and professor of English at the University of California in Berkeley.

On May 15th, PEN Oakland Vice President Reginald Lockett died. In his honor, PEN Oakland has named its Lifetime Achievement Award, the Reginald Lockett Lifetime Achievement Award. This year's winners are poet Diane di Prima, and playwright Adrienne Kennedy. Allen Ginsberg said of Diane, “A great woman poet in second half of American century, she broke barriers of race-class identity, delivered a major body of verse brilliant in its particularity.”

Adrienne Kennedy was a key figure in the Blacks Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. She is best known for her first major play “Funnyhouse of a Negro,” winner of the 1964 Obie Award for most distinguished play. In 1995, critic Michael Feingold of the Village Voice declared that "with Beckett gone, Adrienne Kennedy is probably the boldest artist now writing for the theater."

The PEN Oakland Censorship Award will be given to Project Censored, for its ongoing research on national news stories ignored, misrepresented or censored by the U.S. corporate media, in particular important stories about the nationwide move to impeach President George W. Bush and the fact that over one million Iraqis have lost their lives since the 2003 invasion, with more than 50% of those deaths attributable to U.S. troops and their allies. Based on the premise that an uninformed or misinformed public cannot make valid policy decisions via the ballot box, PEN Oakland honors this organization for their efforts to bring facts to light that are willfully buried by many mainstream media outlets.

A reception will be held after the awards where the public will have an opportunity to meet the authors, and purchase signed copies of their award winning books. During the program, winners will be presented with a plaque and asked to read selections from their work.

For more information, please call (510) 681-5652.

2008 Josephine Miles National Literary Awards winners are:

Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics (Essays) by Rebecca Solnit (University of California Press)

187 Reasons Mexicanos Can't Cross the Border: Undocuments 1971—2007 (Poetry & Short Stories) by Juan Felipe Herrera (City Lights)

Sleeping with the Moon (Poetry) by Colleen J. McElroy (Illinois Poetry Series)

The Stillness of Love and Exile (Fiction) by Rosa Martha Villarreal (Tertulia Press)

Dude, Where's My Black Studies Department? The Disappearance of Black Americans from U.S. Universities (Non-Fiction) by Cecil Brown (North Atlantic Books)

Apex Hides the Hurt: A Novel (Fiction) by Colson Whitehead (Anchor)

About Now: Collected Poems (Poetry) by Joanne Kyger (National Poetry Foundation)

National in scope, the PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Awards represent a new perception of multicultural literature that does not seek validation from the literary establishment, but creates its own standards and models of literature.

Past award-winners include: Elmaz Abinader, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Juvenal Acosta, Opal Palmer Adisa, Francisco X. Alarcon, Alfred Arteaga, Marsha Lee Berkman, Eleanor Taylor Bland, Phyllis Burke, Jeffrey Paul Chan, Marilyn Chin, Allen Cohen, Lucha Corpi, Kamau Daaood, Mike Davis, Chitra Divakaruni, Wendy Doniger, Nathan Englander, Ibrahim Fawal, Paul Flores, Ruth Forman, Maketa Groves, Sam Hamill, Peter J. Harris, Joy Harjo, Jack Hirschman, Ghada Karmi, Sylvia Lopez-Medina, Michael McClure, David Meltzer, E. Ethelbert Miller, John Mulligan, Aldon Lynn Nielsen, Louis Owens, Robert Parry, Jewel Parker Rhodes, Brenda Lane Richardson, Luis Rodriguez, Jerome Rothenberg, Suhayl Saadi, Elaine Marcus Starkman, Clyde R. Taylor, Clifford E. Trafzer, Gail Tsukiyama, Jose Garcia Villa, Alma Luz Villanueva, Gerald Vizenor, Sylvia Watanabe, Derek Walcott, Gary Webb, Darryl Babe Wilson, Koon Woon, Andy Ross, and Clive Matson. (partial list)

Co-sponsored by the Oakland Public Library and PEN USA

Contact: Kim McMillon
(510) 681-5652/



Photo Credit: Johnny Knight From L to R: Dana Cruz (Alicia) and Miranda Gonzalez (Cat)

Buy your tickets online today- Check out ticket specials and reviews below!

"delightful ...a light comedy with weight... the cast of this Teatro Luna production kicks ass."
--Chicago Reader

"deliciously funny... it all smacks of the truth... the perfect vehicle for a quintet of actresses to exploit their brains, beauty and bilingual capabilities." -- NewCity

"the cast for this Teatro Luna production walks the line between sitcom farce and sororal soap with the agility of angels dancing on pins." --Windy City

Don't be the last to catch the show everybody is whispering about: full of tricks and secrets about getting the most out of love and life. Do YOU know what to do?

Ticket Information

Nov 6 - Dec 14 2008 at Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave
Thursdays - Saturdays at 7:30 pm | Sundays at 6:00 pm
General tickets are $15.00 | This Sunday get $3.00 off!

Use the code (that includes online purchase too!): honeyjarsunday

Purchase tickets online,
For more information, or for group rates, please email

Lisa Alvarado

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


A Great Book for Navidad

Written and illustrated by Xavier Garza

Santa needs help! Abracadabra!
A cowboy and his nephew become Charro Claus and the Tejas Kid!

Product Details
10-digit ISBN 1-933693-24-X
13-digit ISBN 978-1-933693-24-8
Format Hardback
Language Bilingual - English & Spanish
Page Count 40
Product Dimensions 8.5" x 11" x .25"
Publication Date November 1, 2008

Let’s welcome Santa’s newest helper: his cousin Pancho, a farmer living down in South Texas who is so smart he speaks Spanish and English. Back in the day, Pancho was a mariachi singer with a whole lot of style and a fancy sombrero. But as the years passed, Pancho got, well, a little older and a little wider all around. Then one night his primo Santa Claus showed up. Santa needed some help! Pancho volunteered. And then, poof, Santa transformed Pancho into the resplendent Charro Claus with his incredibly Flying Burritos. And Charro Claus, it turns out, even had his own surprise elf—his nephew Vincente!

All Christmas Eve, Vincente and Pancho deliver toys to the boys and girls on the border. Neither rain, cloudy skies, wire fences nor concrete walls keep them from covering every inch of their newly assigned territory. And they don’t forget a single town or city. How could they? The border is their home.

A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Xavier Garza is an enthusiastic author, artist, teacher and storyteller whose work is a lively documentation of life, dreams, superstitions, and heroes in the bigger-than-life world of South Texas. Garza has exhibited his art and performed his stories in venues throughout Texas, Arizona and the state of Washington. He lives with his wife and son in San Antonio, Texas, and is the author of five books. Lucha Libre: The Man in the Silver Mask was an honor book for the Américas Award.

CABE Presents Vigésima Jornada Pedagógica
Loyola Marymount University
Saturday, December 6 2008

Best-selling author goes on tour to promote his memoir,

Thursday November 20, 2008
6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

El Museo del Barrio
1230 Fifth Ave, at 104th Street
El Barrio, NY 10029
Room: El Taller - 3rd Floor

Come hear best selling author VICTOR VILLASEÑOR talk about his new book, CRAZY LOCO LOVE at El Museo del Barrio.

This will be your only opportunity to have a copy of CRAZY LOCO LOVE signed by Victor Villaseñor in New York City.

Can't make it?

If you'd like an autographed book please call (646) 413-5251 or email us and we'll have one or more copies signed and reserved for you. Signed books make great gifts!


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Confluences, Coincidences, Conferences

Michael Sedano

Ex Mex. Jorge G. Castañeda. NY: The New Press, 2007.
ISBN: 978-1-59558-163-1

Mexican Enough. Stephanie Elizondo Griest. NY: Washington Square Press, 2008.
ISBN-10: 1-4165-4017-2 ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-4017-5

In one of those serendipitous events that I wish on everyone, I am browsing the nonfiction new books shelves at the main branch of the Pasadena Public Library when Jorge Castañeda's name jumps out at me. Ex Mex, the spine proclaims. "Has Castañeda moved to the EUA?" I wonder. I'd read a number of useful Castañeda Op-Ed pieces in the LA Times, and know him as a Mexicano diplomat. The subtitle on the cover offers an explanation, From Migrants to Immigrants. Ah. A Mexicano perspective on U.S. immigration issues. Bién, bién, let's see what the former Mexican foreign minister contributes to our national dialog.
As I stride away toward the check-out desk, another spine catches my eye. Xican Enough. "Oddly nationalistic--in a good way--" I think, but pulling it down, I see the actual title reads Mexican Enough, My Life Between the Borderlines. The library has stuck a "NEW" label on the spine covering the "Me" in "Mexican." Which is ironic, given that Stephanie Elizondo Griest's early pages confess to her abandonment of her Mexicritude in high school, until she learns she'll qualify for college scholarships and numerouse ethnic-centered bennies by admitting her mother's heritage.

As one might expect, although the two titles weigh about one pound, Castañeda's is the heavier work. On the other hand, Griest's travelogue is more fun. The foreign minister builds upon statistical and scholarly reports while Griest builds upon her first-hand experience gleaned from a year in Guanajuato learning Spanish and getting in touch with her other cultura. The two make excellent companion pieces. When the Mexican's analysis begins to slow, a quick detour with the Mexican Unitedstatesian to the lucha libre gym provides a nice breather and the warm touch of human interest absent from the heavier work.

Castañeda's overview holds that U.S. politics, less than a growing Mexican economy, influenced the changes he sees in the Mexicano diaspora. Prior to Clinton's launching the TLC--NAFTA--Mexican immigration followed a circularity pattern. Agricultural workers, for example, followed the crops from Spring to Summer to Fall, and when the picking and weeding slowed, the workers would go back home for Winter. Next year, they're back, "bumerangas que la mano de diós por este mundo tiró" writes Abelardo.

Come NAFTA and the tightening of the border, circularity becomes more problematic. U.S. immigration law, historically more a breach than observance phenomenon, becomes more severe. Immigrants have a disincentive to flow in the tightening gyre of circularity--they can't come back--so large numbers settle down in the states and send for their families instead.

Griest is fascinated with emigration, too. Whole neighborhoods stand empty of men. In a domino effect, when one neighbor heads north and starts sending money back, others follow. The newer homes, the shiny pickup trucks, the stepladder kids, evince a year or two up north. Castañeda evokes a once-common view among Mexicans that only the weak and afraid left la Republica for el norte. That resentment is far from what Griest experiences.

The scholarly Castañeda starts spinning his conclusion, noting "Nothing on the immigration front ever is devoid of costs, pain, and tough decisions, and nothing ever happens quickly....Mexican migration's multicausal, multifactor origins and persistence suggest that caution and skepticism are in order. The sum of elements that have driven migration for more than a century cannot be boiled down to one single, economic consideration."

Tourist Griest experiences a different reality, at the grass roots, free from footnotes and bibliography. In a visit to an elementary school, the teacher quizzes the kids. Hands shoot up when she asks who wants to be a doctor? ¡Me! ¡me! A teacher? ¡Me! ¡me! Who wants to be this, that. ¡Me! ¡me! "'So none of you want to go to El Norte?' 'I DO, I DO!' they scream....But if you go to El Norte, you won't be a doctor or a teacher...You won't be anything. You'll just be a mojado. Too late: they are brimming with plans. One kid says he wants to go to Los Estados Unidos to buy a truck so he can drive it home and be a chauffeur. Another wants to go so he can build Mamá a house because Papá never will. Alma looks at me and shrugs. My stomach shrivels."

Castañeda deserves the last word. "Unauthorized worker." OK, two words. Some gente, Castañeda names these "American" and "conservative," like to call immigrants "illegal alien" to emphasize the law issue. Mexicans, Castañeda avers (and Chicanas Chicanos, he could have added), use "undocumented worker" to highlight the immigrants' limbo of being neither legal nor illegal. A term used by U.S. liberals and Mexican realists, he claims, "seeks to incorporate both the fact there is an issue of legality, but not only of legality." Given the ambiguity of migrant status against history's ever-shifting enforcement or not, the term--it'll never catch on--is "unauthorized worker."

A final confluence and coincidence. Like so many Mexicans, Castañeda gives up on the continent-not-a-country debate and refers to Unitedstatesians as "Americans." That is probably a global malapropism people like me will one day come to tolerate. The usage has pretty well permeated my consciousness, I noticed Sunday, when I looked at my program for the L.A. Philharmonic's Disney Hall concert. A British composer-conductor named Thomas Adès was performing his millenium piece, "America: A Prophecy." Melodies from Charles Ives, maybe Gershwin, or something spiritually jazzy, I was thinking. Nope. It's the Maya. The prophecy of the beginning of European migration to America--the original Unauthorized Residents, if you will. A most interesting piece. As the program notes declare, One of the ironies of the piece is that there is no real Maya music to be quoted – not only because the Spanish did everything they could to obliterate everything Mayan but because there was no musical notation before they came. Words, though, did survive, passed down and copied through the centuries, and these, from the books of the chilam balam (jaguar seers), provide Adès with the text for his mezzo-soprano’s prophecy-lament.

I recommend finding Adès' piece and giving it a spin. Ditto these two interestingly contrapuntal works on Mexico and Mexicans in America. All of it.

News from the National Hispanic Cultural Center
Spring lies ready to pounce upon us sooner than we might expect. And Springtime--May, in fact--brings the National Latino Writers Conference. This intensive workshop event brings writers and writing teachers from across the nation together for half a week to explore literary skill, hear the views of accomplished writers, and share in the camaraderie of our literary culture.

Applications to attend the Conference are now open. Send an inquiry to the Director, Carlos Vásquez, or visit the Center's website for details.

Among the highlights of the National Latino Writers Conference is the presentation of El Premio Aztlán Literary Award. Here's the preliminary news release. Presses and individuals may nominate candidates for consideration.

Premio Aztlán Literary Award

The Premio Aztlán Literary Award is a national literary award, established to encourage and reward emerging Chicana and Chicano authors. Renowned author, Rudolfo Anaya and his wife, Patricia, founded Premio Aztlán in 1993. This year’s award and lecture will be given at the National Latino Writers Conference, May 21-23, 09.

• Literary prize is for a work of fiction (novels and collections of short stories) published within the calendar year.
• Authors must have published not more than two books.
• Entries must be the work of living authors.
• Edited works, self-published books or manuscripts in process are not accepted.

• No poetry, children or young adult literature will be considered.

• Recipient must be present to receive the award and is expected to give a lecture.

• Deadline for submission is January 30, 2009.

Past prize recipients include:
Veronica Gonzalez
Reyna Grande
Gene Guerín
Mary Helen Lagasse
Sergio Troncoso
Ronald Ruíz
Wendell Mayo
Norma Cantú
Alicia Gaspar de Alba

Photo courtesy NHCC: Los Anaya celebrate Reyna Grande's Premio Aztlán.

That's the penultimate Tuesday of the year's penultimate month. Can you believe how tempus fugit? Thanksgiving just around the corner. Helpful Indians. Starving Pilgrims (the original illegals). Turkey. Stuffiing. Desserts, just or just dessert.

La Bloga welcomes your comments or observations on today's column, or any column. Click the Comments Counter below to share your views. If you have a new topic to develop, a book or cultural event to review, an extended response to something you've read here at La Bloga, be our guest. La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. To learn about your invitation, click here.

Hasta next week. Les wachamos.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Luis Omar Salinas: Some Notes About My Friend

A Personal Remembrance by Karen (Harlow) McClintock

--Fresno, California, October 2008

I first met the poet Luis Omar Salinas around 2001, when he was a customer in my gift shop and gallery in Fresno, California. I had no idea who he was. He bought English note cards with poetry on them. He was an elderly man who walked very slowly with a cane. He had wavy gray hair and a mustache. He spoke with a Spanish accent in short, clipped sentences. Sometimes one had to strain to hear him. He began visiting me at my store about once a week when he drove to Fresno from Sanger for his physical therapy sessions.

Later, when he suffered a debilitating stroke, I began to take him to breakfast on Sunday mornings throughout the next couple years. Many times I took him to Fresno to have breakfast, visit bookstores, enjoy parks, poetry readings, and have coffee at Starbuck's. During this time, I was also able to take his picture on numerous occasions, including author pictures of him for books and events. To my knowledge, I took the only professional photos of him in the last years of his life.

He was ill the entire time I knew him. He was often hospitalized, and since he had few visitors, I visited him regularly, usually daily, and did what I could to see to some of his needs (like writing paper, glasses, pens, radios, warm clothing, and other simple items to make his life more comfortable). He would sit in the lobby at the front window of the hospital waiting for me to arrive each night after work. I was tired, but didn't want to disappoint him. He told me a lot about his life during these visits, which I found really interesting. He told me once, "I was supposed to pick avocados, I chose to be a poet."

How was he to be around? Well, he was unique to say the least. He bore his illnesses (diabetes, heart disease, respiratory illnesses) with stoic dignity and rarely complained. However, he was very vocal about people he knew, and was often cantankerous and difficult, though he seemed to be calmer around me than with others.

Omar was also capable of great thoughtfulness and grand gestures upon occasion. He suffered from bipolar disorder, for which he took regular medication. He was very lonely, often feeling alienated from the rest of the world. He lost his birth mother at an early age, and his real father never acknowledged him as his son. He was adopted by his uncle and aunt, who loved him dearly and were good parents. Omar lived at home most of his life.

He preferred the country to the city, and the ocean most of all. He often wrote about the sea in his poems. He loved nature and music, and classic movies like old John Wayne flicks.

He liked to show his poems to me, and I was the subject of some of them, though I told him I would accept them "on behalf of all women" and not personally. I felt any reason for him to write poetry was good and positive for him, and for the world. I became a big fan of Omar's poetry, and learned something about the subject by reading his work and talking about it with him. I have so many stories. He would always ask me which of his poems I liked, and why. He once bought me a book by Elizabeth Browning and made me read it! He gave me many books over the years, some from the best Hispanic authors and poets in the nation, including books from his personal collection that he'd been given by friends and writers.

He hadn't been able to write much the last year before he died. It was amazing he wrote his last book, Elegy for Desire, while he was so ill.

Omar passed away early this summer, 2008. I finished this charcoal drawing I started long ago, as a memorial to him. It is based on two pictures I saw of him when he was a young man in his late twenties at Fresno State University. In it, you can see the gypsy he was, and the visionary he came to be.
A Poem by Karen (Harlow) McClintock

It was Sunday, Starbucks, dutch.
Omar was looking a bit like Anthony Quinn.

"Tell me about your life" I asked.
Omar said nothing.

Instead he got out a pack of cigarettes
and slowly lit one, taking a long deep drag.

The smoke still coming out his lips,
He looked straight at me and said,

"I was born a disaster."

New Grant Opportunity: Cultural Exchange International Pilot Program

The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA) is accepting grant applications for the Cultural Exchange International (CEI) Pilot Program, a two-year grants program intended to celebrate the arts and culture of our City's lively and thriving communities. Its intent is also to build bridges around the world and contribute to the cultural capital of the region. With generous funding support from the Durfee Foundation, DCA will award between three to seven grants, generally ranging from $5,000 to $20,000, in each of the four (4), six-month grants cycles from Fall of 2008 until 2010.

The CEI Pilot Program will allow DCA to bring international arts professionals (artists, arts administrators, arts/cultural educators and scholars, creative entrepreneurs, and cultural experts) to Los Angeles to exhibit, present, perform, conduct research, and enter into collaborative relationships with arts organizations and artists. LA audiences will be treated to concerts, visual arts exhibitions, film screenings, panel discussions, master classes, and a whole host of activities that will allow them to experience the arts and culture of peoples from around the world. Similarly, LA arts professionals who want to share LA's multicultural riches will be able to represent this world-class city and, upon their return, share experiences with LA audiences through workshops, panel discussions, exhibitions, and performances.

The grant guidelines can be viewed here. For more information, please contact Joe Smoke, DCA's Cultural Grant Program Director, at:

◙ OUT Magazine announces the 100 men and women who made 2008 year to remember. And guess which FOLB (Friend of La Bloga) made the exclusive list of the four writers? Rigoberto González! This is what OUT says about Rigoberto:

One of today's most incisive literary voices, writer-critic Rigoberto González (second from left) won the American Book Award for his 2006 coming-of-age memoir, Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa. Its follow-up, the new short story collection Men Without Bliss, exposes the debilitating effects of Latino machismo culture. This recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts grant will have his young adult novel, The Mariposa Club, published by Alyson Books in 2009.

Read the entire article here. ¡Bravo!

◙ That’s all for this week. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!