Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What boys read. Women and War. On-Line Floricanto

Review: Raul Ramos y Sanchez. House Divided. NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2011. Isbn: 9780446507769

Michael Sedano

A recent column in the Washington Post calls attention to the challenge of finding books for boys. Sarah Pekkanen writes, “when it comes to children’s and young adult novels, many publishers are scrambling to capture the attention of the elusive, picky boy readers”.

Since publishers compete with toys and movies for the boy buck, a quick look there may parallel what would work in a book for boy readers: G.I. Joe action figures and Battle of Los Angeles. Bang Bang shoot ‘em up heroic fantasies pull in the spending.

US publisher Hachette Books may be ahead of the curve in some ways, with its House Divided. Author Raul Ramos y Sanchez may have hit a good formula that could draw boys to reading this book: an action thriller replete with an ethnic angle; teenagers, boy meets girl, romeo & Juliet, the first time; savage war; good guys win in the end. For sure, the book has its share of hurdles to overcome--or overlook--all other things being equal. Sadly, some hurdles loom insurmountably. First, however, the novel’s the thing wherein to capture the imagination of the boy.

The ethnic angle pits “Hispanics” against the rest of the country, brown v. black&white together. Herded by the US military into urban cultural sinks, latinos lose the resultant war sapping the spirits of the Los Angeles insurgency. The central male character is a formerly loyal U.S. soldier who now leads the Hispanic freedom fighters. A schism between the Hispanic Republic of America and the Latino Liberation Front threatens to bring the final defeat of all chicana chicano latina latino resistance. The “vatos” of the LLF are a Texas-born organization with followers among pachucos on the eastside of LA. The HRA’s home base is LA.

The plot makes no effort to tie the novel’s neighborhood to anyplace specific. There’s an ambush on Whittier Boulevard, but otherwise this hellhole can be anywhere from Pacoima to Pomona. Geographic ambiguity keeps the plot in drive mode.

Boy meets girl might hold interest for some kids. Pedro, a teenage Latino gangster, accidentally kidnaps the 15-year old blonde svelte daughter of a top honcho for the CIA. Boy and Girl fall in lust. They are patient and gentle. He's a rebellious son. She’s more a cipher, just a pretty girl handcuffed to a pipe. But Ramos y Sanchez gives her the best line in the dystopia:

Barry, my parents taught me not to be prejudiced. Most people I know—most Americans—they’re not your enemy. They just think Hispanics have turned against this country, that they won’t do things our way and don’t want to learn English.

Pedro. Barry. It’s an Obama joke. Ni modo. Here’s where the war comes in: The CIA guy’s espionage against the Hispanics and their warrior leader, Mano Suarez, becomes a father’s desperate campaign to rescue his daughter. Pedro who's grown impatient with Hispanic caution in the war against the tea baggers, splits his father’s home and becomes a Latino gangbanger warrior. Doesn’t get jumped in or nothing but he rises to the top right away. “Pedro do what mero say. Pedro vato.” Angel, el mero, the cold-blooded local LLF warrior chief, doesn’t speak much English, sabes.

The CIA guy has a warrior buddy with burning desire to kill Suarez. Fuller and Mano clash twice. Their second confrontation has them bond in mutual admiration. They free the girl and affirm the good intentions of the Hispanic movement to the vengeful US President Nixon. (He’s a great sobrino or somesuch to the other Nixon so Julie and Tricia are off the hook.)

As the novel ends, Nixon is about to send three combat-hardened divisions into the barrios to punish everyone for being brown and noble. Decent fictive gente are about to be wiped out by a rampaging army because of the actions of a few assholes who already got theirs, and whom all decent gente repudiate. But the novel ends without a suggestion of a deux ex machina that will stop the invasion.

Hearing about, instead of seeing the action and suspense, looms as this novel’s major hurdle. Not that a boy would notice that stylistic absence, nor the heavy-handedness of the author’s point of view, and probably not the oft-plodding diction. Leave that discussion to a parent coaching a reluctant reader son or sobrino to open the book. Talk to the boy about fantasy, what-if questions; explore the kid’s attitude toward books all the other kids are reading—those Harry Potter books are behemoths and hard to miss.

The novel’s ominous portents make me wonder what “good guys win” actually looks like. That’s the tell-not-showness of the novel. What gives me pause in recommending the story to some boys I know is the absence of compelling ideas about racism, state sanctioned terrorism, elections, speaking Spanish or English. Instead, House Divided is about the capture and rescue of a pretty blonde teenager and the spiritual conversion of her worried father. The gente behind those walls? Suffer. Así es.

I am less tolerant of the novel’s right-of-mugwump moral stance. Opposing sides are broadly drawn to allow lots of ambiguity; anglo and black unitedstatesians on one side, brown / immigrant / Spanish-speaking / chicanesque gente on the other side. Ramos y Sanchez seems unaware of a popular sentiment—particularly in Califas--against acceptability of the word the author chooses for his good guys, “Hispanic.” Peor, he draws an ugly lexical line. The bad guys on the liberation side are “Latino”.

The top Latino turns out to be a backstabbing nihilist whose preference for chaos mirrors his army in the field. Back home, “el mero”, an undocumented Spanish-speaking thug, generals the local resistance fighters of the Latino Liberation Front. Think Pendleton and khakis carrying assault weapons—unthinking and ruthless. That’s Angel, a caricature of me-Tarzan you-Jane speeches, whose only redeeming quality is a sweet sister. Hispanics are noble and incredibly apt. This is the Suarez family. After Mano shoots Angel, they take in the newly-orphaned child.

For blood thirstiness, both sides commit atrocities. To its credit, there is no justifying the teabagger-run-wild United States. Top politicians and vocal haters are slime, punto final. Factotums with consciences save the day.

Initially, House Divided is about division: raza, defeat, heroism in desperate straits. Then the traitor pulls his kidnap movida. The dystopia peopled with gente fighting genocide, burning candles for light in bullet-riddled homes takes a back seat to a standard damsel-in-distress potboiler.

Heaping misery on distress, Ramos y Sanchez attempts to portray both sides equally responsible for their world’s misunderstandings and hatred. Yet, one barrio warrior’s resolve to kill “gabachos” grows from seeing his toddler crushed by a mechanized infantry vehicle in a callously evil hit-and-run. The author later slaps the chicano’s anger in the face, disclosing the driver did not see the child so did not know to stop; the baby’s death was an accident, not the evil intent the Latino makes of the killing. Should the guerrero stop killing GIs, or just enjoy it less?

Clearly writers can write any darn thing they want, the more outrageous and dystopic the better, for some publishers and tastes. But with imagination and publication come opportunity and responsibility, and in its current form, House Divided has yet to open the door nor find an effective métier. I will not recommend it to the boys I know, who love reading. If you look for it at a booksellers, you’ll recognize it; the one with the children walking single file in tall grass, waving a white flag.

Hidden Strengths – Hidden Wounds

La Bloga supports efforts like The Soldiers Project. Stated on the organization's website, We are a group of licensed mental health professionals who offer free psychological treatment to military service members (active duty, National Guard, Reserves and veterans) who have served or who expect to serve in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The conference costs up to $100; $30 for the opening reception and film. Details at the group's home page.

April 15-16, 2011
The Davidson Conference Center
University of Southern California
3415 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90089

Opening Reception: Friday, April 15, 6-9pm
7:30pm Screening of the Academy Award-nominated Documentary Short “POSTER GIRL”
followed by Q&A with Director Sara Nesson and Robynn Murray—the “Poster Girl”

Register online at: www.thesoldiersproject.org

On-Line Floricanto

March roared in like a lion and kept roaring through California's stormiest winter and Japan's double tragedies, and comes winding down with Libyans killing each other with help from this nation's current version of shock and awe.

The endless March, it seemed. Finally here comes the chronological finis to March’s travails. Over the long haul, we’re in for it.

Arizona appears to have infected quite a number of elected tipas tipos, too. April’s showers and May flowers, hurry up. There’s an election in 2012.

In the meantime, poetry.

Francisco Alarcón and the moderators of Poets Responding the SB 1070, a Facebook group, offer this week’s collection of five:

1. "Human" by Luis Ascencio Cortez
2. "Camouflage" by Joe Navarro
3. "Ilegales" por Charly Charly Vazquez
4. "At Night" by Iris De Anda
5. "Homily / Homilía" by Jorge Argueta

by Luis Ascencio-Cortez

We might talk with an accent,
A thick Spanish accent
You think we don’t understand
Because of the difficulty pronouncing words

But the truth is, we understand rudeness and cruelty
Because like you with your practiced speech
And material objects
WE are human

Does humanity leave you, because of the hardship,
Of speaking another language?
No sir,
It leaves you, when you feel better than another,
Because of the smallest reasons

So we who speak another language
Came from a different heritage,
And are labeled “illegal:
Because we look “illegal”
Is inhumane


No matter how many laws you pass
How many killings and threats, we will still consider ourselves human.
You say there is prejudice, but I consider whites like my brothers,
We are all children of the same earth, same species and same universal energy
Because just like you, who sailed the sea seeking for a better life,
We cross the desert for the same reason.

By: Luis Ascencio-Cortez

by Joe Navarro

My mother tried to camouflage me

in the shadows of benign indifference.

She sought to protect me from

the shadows of ignorance,

which conspired to evict me

past the margins of humanity.

She rearranged my diction

hoping to change my appearance,

concealing my essence in the

convoluted framework of verbs,

nouns and grammatical allusions

to support the illusion that my

aspirations crossed the Atlantic Ocean

on the Mayflower.

But it didn’t work.

They saw beyond the English façade…

as my own skin and surname

betrayed my mother’s efforts

to protect me.

por Charly Charly Vazquez

Cuervos yertos
besan a la nieve
que mira enamorada
la sobriedad del cactus.

Entre betas coloradas
abre Arizona su pecho
al abrazo de los siglos
que le cruzan, ilegales .

At Night
by Iris De Anda

at night the light blows out
what route have we embarked upon
the dawn stalked the voiceless
made them less
would we regress
to repeat the beat of the war drum
the hymn of peace
does not cease
thus does increase
to form release
that life should not be taken in vain
the stain explodes
the gun reloads
the mind numb soldier kills
behind the clouds of liberty
i'll make you free
fills the heavens with rain
wills the cycle of slaying
a tear the fear
mama hold me near
history unfolds
the sight
the flight
of people sold
for monetary gain
slain without mercy
by democracy
we will save your soil
but not your souls
your blood spilled for oil
the veil recoils
the hypocrisy
of this U.S.A.
you say
you will protect me
represent this sea
of masses
of different classes, colors, & creeds
instead i reject
that which you claim to be
massacring fellow beings
in my name
its this government i blame
it's you i shame
open your eyes
we are the same
under the rising sun
a day will come
america will weep
those numbed in sleep
will awake and plea
for mother earth to forgive thee
and then love will become one
all that i am
all that we are
all that we were
all that we will be
a light
at night

On March 24, 1980, our beloved priest Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, was cowardly assassinated. On the 31st anniversary of his death, I celebrate his life with this poem.

For Our Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
by Jorge Argueta

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
How beautiful your words
So wonderful
So humble
So full of courage
And truth

“In the name of these people
Who suffer so much, I ask you
I beg you
Stop the violence
Stop the repression!”

Those who tried to silence you
Were screwed
From your cathedral in the heart
Of San Salvador
Your homily cannot be silenced

In the Salvadoran sunrise
A deep scent of rosemary
Rosemary for the poor
Rosemary of hope and justice

Rosemary for those who continue to pay a deaf ear
To the clamor of the people

Because of that
I beg you Monsignor
You who prays every Sunday
And every weekday
We need your homily now
Just as we needed in the war years

I want you to please come and pray for this country of yours,
As it continues to struggle

Come and pray for the majestic rivers and lakes
Not very majestic anymore

Pray for the all the gang members

And pray dear Monsignor
So that mothers could find once and for all
The unknown graves of their son and daughters

Finally my dear Monsignor

I want you to come and pray
For our indigenous people
For our girls and boys
For our leaders
For our workers
For our youth
Come and pray the way you know how to pray

I want all Salvadorans the world over to listen to your homily

Your words of wind, in the wind
Your words of water, in the water
Your words of light, in the light
Your words of justice, in justice
Your words of peace, in peace
Your words without hunger
Your words of beans and tortillas for all

Come dear Monsignor and pray for us
So there will be no more distant brothers
No more distant mothers
No more distant mothers
No more distant grandsons
No more distant grandfathers or grandmothers
No more
No more

I want to pray with you your homily
I want all Salvadorans to pray with you

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Those who tried to silence you have failed
From your cathedral in the heart of San Salvador
Your prayer for justice lives on

On March 24, 1980
The trees of fire shined brighter
And the crickets sang their rainsong

Monsignor Romero
I asked my mother why she loved you so much
And she simply answered,
“Because he always tells the truth -
Know what else “
My old mama said,
“He would say,
Those who live by the sword
Die by the sword
And look how his assassins died”

Those who live by the sword
Die by the sword
That’s what my mama said

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
I don’t want to pronounce
The names of those who killed you
Instead lets turn the volume on our radios all way up
And let us listen to your homily
And let your words enter the heart of the Salvadoran people
Like the deep smell of tortillas made from new corn

Jorge Argueta

El 24 de marzo de 1980, nuestro querido sacerdote, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, fue cobardemente asesinado, en el 31 aniversario de su muerte, celebro su vida con este poema.

A Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
por Jorge Argueta

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Qué bonitas tus palabras
Tan hermosas
Tan sencillas
Tan llenas de valor
Y verdad

“En nombre de este pueblo
Que sufre, les suplico, les ordeno
Cese la violencia
¡Alto a la represión!”

Se jodieron los que te quisieron silienciar
Desde tu catedral
En el centro de San Salvador
No calla tu homilía

En el amanecer salvadoreño
Hay para siempre un hermoso olor a romero
Romero para los pobres
Romero de esperanza y de justicia

También hay Romero

Para los que se siguen haciendo los majes
Y no quieren escuchan el clamor del pueblo

Por eso te suplico
Monseñor que oras los domingos
Y todos los días de la semana
Échate un rezo
Necesitamos hoy tu homilía
Así como la necesitábamos en los años de la guerra

Quiero que por favor vengas a rezar por este tu pueblo
Que sigue estando bien jodido

Échate un rezo por los ríos y los lagos
Que ya no son tan majestuosos

Échate un rezo por todos los mareros

Un rezo querido Monseñor
Para que de una vez por todos
Sepan las madres a donde están
Las tumbas de sus hijas y sus hijos

En fin Don Monsi
Quiero que vengas y reces
Por nuestro pueblo indígena
Por los niños
Y las niñas
Por nuestros líderes
Por los obreros
Por los jóvenes
Que vengas a rezar por tu patria como tú sabes rezar

Quiero que todos los salvadoreños escuchemos tu homilía

Tus palabras de viento en el viento
Tus palabras de agua en el agua
Tus palabras de luz en la luz
Tus palabras de justicia en la justicia
Tu palabras de paz en la paz
Tus palabras sin hambre
Tus palabras de tortillas y frijoles para todos

Ven don Monsi y échate un rezo
Para que ya no hayan hermanos
Ni madres
Ni padres
Ni nietos
Ni abuelos o abuelas lejanos

Quiero rezar contigo tu homilía
Quiero que todos los salvadoreños puedan rezar contigo

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Se jodieron los que te quisieron silienciar
Desde tu catedral
En el centro de San Salvador
No calla tu homilía

Monseñor Romero
El 24 de marzo de 1980
Se encendieron más los árboles de fuego
Y las chicharas cantaron su canción de lluvia

Monseñor le pregunte a mi madre
Porque te quiere tanto
Y respondio
Que tu siempre decias la verdad
Además me explicó mi viejita
-Monseñor decía el que a hierro mata a hierro muere
Y mira como acabaron los que lo matron-

El que a hierro mata
A hierro muere
Así dice mi viejita

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
No quiero pronunciar ya más
El nombre de los que te mataron
Mejor subámole el volumen a la radio
Para escuchar tus homilía
Y que tus palabras entren el centro
Del corazón de todos los salvadoreños

Como un profundo olor a tortillas de maíz Nuevo

- - - -
1. "Human" by Luis Ascencio Cortez
2. "Camouflage" by Joe Navarro
3. "Ilegales" por Charly Charly Vazquez
4. "At Night" by Iris De Anda
5. "Homily / Homilía" by Jorge Argueta

Luis Ascencio Cortez
I'm fourteen years old, and in middle school. I mainly wrote this poem to express that we are all together. Spiritually bonded, since the birth of the planets. That we have somewhat split, but i write so that someday in the future.We will once more be brother and sister, in this land of "opportunity."
Luis Ascencio-Cortez

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

CARLOS VÁZQUEZ SEGURA “Charly” ( “charly charly Vazquez” en face book)
Escritor y poeta Mexicano en permanente búsqueda de esencias, imágenes y metáforas.
Aún cuando le ha resultado inevitable el amor como tema inspirador, ha tratado de cubrir otros aspectos de la realidad interior, natural y social en su obra.
Ha publicado dos libros:
SOPLOS Y PENSAVIENTOS, Ed. Nauta, 1999 ( ISBN:970-92388-0-9 ) libro de 200 aforismos filosófico-poéticos como:
“Quien hace amar sus fragmentos, termina teniéndoles celos”
“Ladrillo que no es muro, será pedrada”
“Se llega más lejos con los demás …que de ellos”
“me sumergí en la tristeza …y se me mojó el futuro” .
QUIJOTES Y LUCIÉRNAGAS ( Litaralia editores, Mex, 2008)
correo electrónico: charlivazquez@hotmail.com

Iris De AndaI am a woman of Mexican & Salvadorian descent born, raised, and currently living in Los Angeles, California. I am a revolutionary, mother, wife, writer, activist, practitioner of the healing arts, and co-founder of the company Las Adelitas: Moda, Cultura, Revolucion. I believe in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. I have been writing for most of my life and this is my ceremony, my offering, and my creation for a better world. Peace!

Jorge ArguetaJorge Tetl Argueta is a native Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian who spent much of his childhood in rural El Salvador. His bilingual children's books have received numerous awards. His poetry and short stories have appeared in acclaimed literary text books. Jorge Tetl's latest book for children's, Arroz con Leche/Un Poema Para Cocinar, Rice Pudding/A Cooking Poem, was selected one of 2010' s Best Children's Book by Kirkus Review. Jorge Tetl is currently the director of Talleres de Poesia, a literary organization that promotes children's literature in the United States and El Salvador.

1 comment:

max said...

Concerning books for boys, I hope you'll take a look at my action-adventures and mysteries for readers 8 - 13, especially boys. I grew up hating to read.

Thank you.

Books for Boys Blog http://booksandboys.blogspot.com
Author Web Site http://www.maxbooks.9k.com