Tuesday, December 07, 2010

YA Review: Of Dreams and Drums. Aztec Days Coloring Book. On-Line Floricanto Dec 7 Arizona

Michael Sedano

Araby Patch. Of Dreams and Drums. Medusa Publisher. Manhattan Beach CA: 2010.

A kid doesn’t have to be a punk asshole like Julio, the main character in Araby Patch’s Young Adult novel, Of Dreams and Drums, to enjoy this novel. Any reader will enjoy Patch’s story of violence and redemption--how nice a world it would be if the Julios of the world were all to come to a good end, of sorts. I suspect young readers will, unlike critical adults, be little troubled by the novel’s horrible proofreading, nor its requirement for a generous suspension of disbelief, and instead enjoy the unfolding story.

Julio, an 18 year old schoolboy, has few redeeming qualities at so young an age; guilt, perhaps, or a willing risk-taker. Julio's a bully, prideful, behaves as if he respects no one, not his adoptive family, not people around him. Julio will do anything for money; not only sell drugs but fake drugs. Although he's a risk-taker he's a poor decision-maker, mercurial and lethal.

The novel opens with Julio spending $250 on brand new sneakers, in a spark of guilt, thinking to hide their purchase from his struggling aunt. Julio figures wearing the newest model tennis shoe makes him el mero mero down on the block in his section of Manhattan, in the hundredtwenties near the Harlem River, but wearing the sneakers at home will provoke a screaming match with his dead mother's sister.

It’s an incredibly tough neighborhood. After a female classmate arranges a severe beating for Julio and they destroy his shoes, all Julio’s pretensions fall apart, he hits bottom--and his aunt. Fearing for her own safety, the aunt throws Julio out of her home. At the same time, Julio unwittingly becomes pawn in a gang power struggle and he runs for his life from evil assassins.

An old man takes Julio under his wing. The old man is just a drummer at the subway entrance for spare change, to Julio’s eyes. Rafas, it turns out, is powerful medicine. His drumming can create miracles; Julio will be the ultimate miracle. First, Julio has to descend to the depths, confront evil, then be saved despite himself.

Patch has lots of fun laying down his story, playing to the audience of young readers who likely appreciate the novel's heavily dramatic style. The book is heavy with atmosphere, generous with colorful adjective and description. For example, Julio crafts his own drum from raw lumber. He sands it in a few hours to Rafas’ drumming work song that evokes “rhythms of his ancestors, tracking back the Puerto Ricans who were at one time Africans and Spaniards who carried their rhythms with them along side their souls, and back still further before them to the Arawak Indians with their drums and spirit worlds living out their simple lives under care of the Caribbean sun. Without knowing, Julio had been given full and varied exposure to the history of rhythm of his people.”

Some of the most enjoyable sections are when the writer lets loose in his descriptions of Rafas' drumming. As Julio confronts the bad guys, Rafas is literally drumming himself to death beating out rhythms in such intensity that neighbors fill the park, anxiously pulling Rafas' arms away from the drums, but still he plays, with an intensity "like the flames of a giant out of control fire."

I want to be generous to an ambitious writer like this, but after too-frequent distraction at misspelled words, generosity finds its limits and the matter becomes disrespect for readers. Books for young readers not only must be edifying and exciting in significant ways, the text must set an example for precision and the writer’s craft. Sloppiness in editing is always unacceptable, whatever the editorial budget.

Of Dreams and Drums is fit for its purpose. It will hold attention among a swath of reading abilities, maturities, and tastes. The novel’s heavy handed message will challenge the patience of some readers while nonetheless offering substance for vigorous classroom discussion about metaphor, turning points, values, self-reliance, mentors, familia. Perhaps advanced readers can be assigned to proof and correct a copy of the book.

Patch happily kicks off the discussion by clearly enumerating the flaws that lead Julio astray: pride; revenge; rage; hate; need. The author similarly spells out his own ascription for deviating from the path that lured Julio toward a bad end: live in the moment, for the moment. Don’t analyze but sit back and allow your sensibilities to guide you. Above all, reach out to others, to elders, you aren't alone, kid: “He had failed to uphold his promise to his mother and above that had felt again the greed and desire more powerful than anything he could control. He knew that if it hadn’t been for Rafa, he would have been killed”.

The most potent point for discussion with the YA reader comes after the book ends. Julio is not troubled at the ridicule heaped on him from former classmates. He is, in their eyes, today a bum playing drums on the sidewalk for spare change, replacing the old man who used to drum and beg on this spot. In a couple of weeks.

So it goes. Is this enough, or is his present all Julio can expect, after his 18 years? Lots of room for energizing discussion in Medusa's, a "boutique" publishing company's, initial offering. For the adult reader looking for a fast hour, an airplane ride or a traffic jam on the Westside, Of Dreams and Drums is just for you.

Aztec Calendar Coloring Book

From the publisher of Alurista's new collection, Tuna Luna, Aztlán Libre Press, a collection of outline glyphs for the 20 day symbols of the Aztec calendar with their names in Nahuatl, Español, and English.

Here is one of those inexpensive holiday gifts that is both a consumable and a lasting memory, for adults or kids.

Even if you paint, hang, then toss the pages, chances are you or your child learned some, if not all, the names of the glyphs on the “Stone of Axayacatl”, which the introduction says, is one of the names of the commonly-called Aztec Calendar.

San Antonio’s Aztlán Libre Press designs the book with single-sided pages. You can color and hang your 20 days one at a time and never have to sacrifice “the one on the back” because there is no back back there. Most useful, Aztlán Libre.

Priced at $10, the unpaginated saddle-stapled coloring book in 8.5” x 11” format, is a grand stocking stuffer, or the main gift if you’re poor and the thought’s what counts. Order publisher-direct.

On-Line Floricanto

1. “I'm Going to the Yonque” by Christopher Carmona

2. "The Sacred Stone" by Hedy Garcia Treviño

3. "Haiku Poems for Social Justice" by Joe Navarro

4. "On Being Human" by Joe Ramsey

5. "En las cuatro esquinas / In the four corners” by Esme Bernal

Going To The Yonque
by Christopher Carmona

I’m going to the yonque
to buy me a satellite
Gonna pay the man five dollars.

He says he wants Incan gold
I tell him I’m not Incan
He says fine I’ll take Mayan silver
I tell him I’m not Mayan
He says fine I’ll take whatever you got
I hand him a note that says I owe you five dollars
He says, this ain’t worth nothing
It’s just a piece of paper.
I say he has my word that the paper is worth five dollars.
He says do you have anything of value
He says it’s for collateral
I say that note is my collateral
It’s my word
He’s says, no guey
Your word isn’t good enough,
I say what if I give you some of my land?
He asks me for the deed
I give him another note that says I am giving him some land
He says, this ain’t no deed
this is just a piece of paper
I say sure it is
I point to the top of the paper
I clearly spelled it right “D-E-E-D”
He says that ain’t official
I say, why not?
He says, well, because it ain’t typed.
I pull out another sheet and this one’s typed
He says, this ain’t no deed either.
I say why not, it’s typed out
He tells me that it is a poem
I say that is my deed to my land
He says, you can’t buy nothin’ with a poem
I say, but it’s typed
He says, it don’t matter
it’s just words
I tell him that this poem was written by my great-great-great-grandmother’s brother
and it’s worth more than
Incan gold
Mayan silver
or five dollars.
Was he famous?, he asks.
His name is long forgotten
but his words live on like a tune
you can’t get out of your head
it whistles in the wind
and splashes on the shore
it bakes in the sun and crackles
to a rhythm that thumps in my chest.
He says, What do you want with that satellite anyway?
I’m going to fix that old piece of junk
and launch it back into space
loaded with this poem
so that the world will hear it from cell phone tower to cell phone tower
all over the world.
He says, Fine, but I won’t sell you that satellite
I’m gonna give it to you but you got to promise
that you send that five dollars
up in that satellite with that there poem,
so that the whole world knows, this poem ain’t for sale.

The Sacred Stone

by Hedy Treviño

I went tonight in search
of sacred space.

I placed the final stone
beneath the moon
of falling leaves.

I heard the cry of our people
in the distance
I saw the cloud storm
gather near
I see the smoke rising.

But the river song
calmed my heart.

The sunset star
called forward the moon
and lit the pathway
to rainbow mountain
where the blanket of life
will embrace us.
And gather us from the storm.

Our journey will not end like
feathers in the wind
or like songs of sorrow.

The ancient ones will
guide us though the fire.

When morning dawns
the sun
will call our name
and the hills will sing in celebration.

The sacred circle
will bring us home again
like sacred herbs in bloom.

We will arrive in Springtime once again
disguised as hummingbirds and butterflies.

The ancient routes are imprinted like star dust
in our dreams.

In full flight we will celebrate the light
and feast upon the blossoms of our labor.


by Joe Navarro


social justice wept

with sorrow song lágrimas

in arizona

winds of social change

swept over arizona

shedding some light

left over garbage

from annexation era

filled arizona

darkness fell upon

backs of hard working people

crushing their spirits

even cops said no

when they heard the news about

stopping mexicans

hope is tomorrow

when yesterday has been lost

a fresh start coming

oppression dies when

people cry with tears of hope

for social justice


is not jan brewer, of course

which leaves room for hope

arizona is

america, don't you see?

we've got work to do

travel and work laws.

unfair immigration laws.

open borders now!

On Being Human
by Joseph G. Ramsey

Right now
South of here
Someone is breaking the law:
Sneaking out into the desert
–trespassing private property
cutting through government wire
ingeniously avoiding ICE agents
and National Guard units
who stand spitting tobacco juice and
cradling sub-machine guns —
travelling unnoticed
without proper papers
for miles and miles
delivering jugs of water
to discreet locations
where the North-bound
--“border crossers”--
–“ illegal aliens”–
may find them
crack them open
and drink their fill,
and thereby not become
so dehydrated
so overheated
as to die
in the dust
(nor so desperate
as to lose faith
in humanity

Beside the bottles
these bearers of water plant
small red flags in the sand,
knee-high markers that can only be seen
By those who are thirsty
and know where to look.

If you would ask these water-bearers to stop
If you would make them stop
If you would give aid to those who would stop them
If you are the kind of person who would force these guardians
to disown their adopted cousins
and let them die,
clasping cacti thorns in the skeleton desert
Then I say it’s you
Who must be stopped.

Perhaps it is you who should be cast out
Into the desert.
Perhaps it is you who are the Alien
In our human midst.

What human being can feel safe
With the likes of you around?

en las cuatro esquinas/ in the four corners

by Esme Bernal

out of the four corners
the raza begins
uno por uno
one by one
out of sipapu
el primer llanto de vida
turns the wheel of life
the prayer starts
the journey begins
where raza steps
petroglyphs bloom
ancient rocks mark
the exodus south

on the return north
twisted wires of hate
aim bullets into
the flesh of
ancient memory
but who can vanquish
the immortal migration
of the eagle returning
to its nest to await
the dawn of the sexto sol


1. “I'm Going to the Yonque” by Christopher CarmonaChristopher Carmona hails from the Rio Grande Valley in Deep South Texas. He is a beat poet following in the tradition of beat poets like Jack Kerouac, Bob Kaufman, and Raul Salinas. His work also explores the intersections of Native Americans and Latinos. He believes in practicing poetry as a form of social resistance. Much of his work works to redefine what it means to be ‘beat’ as a poet and scholar. He is currently pursuing his PhD at Texas A&M University. He has been published in The Writers’ Block, Beatlick Art & News, World Audience Literary Journal, and Tecolote. He has published a chap book called My (Mex)quite Beat Refried Revolution by Slough Press. His first book of poetry entitled beat is due out in 2011, also by Slough Press. Currently he is editing an anthology of Beat Texas writings for UT Press with Chuck Taylor and Rob Johnson. He has been part of the Savory Perks Reading Series, the Narcisco Martinez Cultral Arts Poetry Reading Circle, the reading series for Wordspace in Dallas, the Prairie View A&M University Reading Series, and the Lunada: Aullidos a La Madre Luna at the Café Citlali in San Antonio.

2. "The Sacred Stone" by Hedy Garcia TreviñoHedy M. Garcia Treviño. Has written poetry since the age of eight. Her first poem came as a result of being punished for speaking Spanish in school. Her poetry has been published in numerous journal's and other publications. She has performed her poetry at numerous cultural events. She continues to write poetry, and inspires others to use the written word as a form of self discovery and personal healing.

3. "Haiku Poems for Social Justice" by Joe NavarroJoe Navarro is a Literary Vato Loco, poet, creative writer, educator, community activist, husband, parent and grandparent who currently lives in Hollister, CA. You can visit his website at http://joenavarro.weebly.com

4. "On Being Human" by Joe Ramsey
Joseph G. Ramsey is a professor of U.S. literature and culture, a poet, and a social justice activist, living in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He is co-editor of the online journal Cultural Logic, www.clogic.eserver.org and a participant in the Kasama Project www.kasamaproject.org . Joe has published poems and articles in such venues as Counterpunch, Dissident Voice, Socialism and Democracy, and Minnesota Review, and would be happy to hear from you via email: jgramsey AT gmail.com . Additional poems he has written can be found atwww.ramseythewriter.wordpress.com .

5. "En las cuatro esquinas / In the four corners” by Esme BernalEsmeralda Bernal, currently resides in ground zero - Phoenix. Arizona. Considers herself to be a cultural worker who uses poetry as her medium.
"En las cuatro esquinas/ In the four corners was written in 2002 and is still valid today because conditions have barely changed. Laws written by fascist are being implemented in an extremely callous method. One fascist law after another is being designed that when put together create the ground for apartheid; a state of extreme exclusion. As humans we can not allow this to happen. As a country, who fought against fascism in WWII and defeated fascism, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder together to defeat fascism."

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