Friday, January 04, 2013

No Guac for Haters in NOLA and Hola 2013

Melinda Palacio

Alvin Jackson, Melinda Palacio, Jose Torres-Tama in Torres-Tama's studio in New Orleans

I finally had the opportunity to see one of Jose Torres-Tama's exhibits in the Big Easy. He has come to my book signings and has helped promote my events. Each time I'm in New Orleans, I've missed his one man shows and have seen the acclaimed reviews in the local paper only to find out I was a day or a week late for theatre productions such as "Aliens, Immigrants, and Other Evil Doers" at the Shadowbox Theatre. When I saw that his new exhibit is not a theatre piece, but a photography exhibit entitled, "Photo Retablos: Immigrants in Chocolate City," I surprised Jose at ArteFuturo Studio, 1329 Saint Roch. There I met Alvin Jackson of the Historic Treme Collection and I had fun speaking Spanish with Jackson who explained the rich history of his abuelita who taught him Spanish. "Si quieres comer, tienes que hablar español," was a saying Jackson's grandmother often said. Both Jackson and Torres-Tama have painted portraits of New Orleans Free People Of Color. Jackson for the Historic Treme Exhibit and Torres-Tama for the Ogden Museum. The next open studio for Torres-Tama's exhibit is January 12. I'm looking forward to seeing Torres-Tama perform his shows one day. In the meantime, I might have to settle for obtaining one of his t-shirts with the line, NO GUACAMOLE for Immigrant Haters! from ALIENS, IMMIGRANTS & OTHER EVILDOERS. Torres-Tama explains, "the NO GUAC motto is the name of my satirical 2013 Mandate since the Latino electorate has flexed its muscle in the 2012 election."

Photo Retablos: Immigrants in Chocolate City by Jose Torres-Tama

Jose Torres-Tama uses his dramatic, artistic, and photographic skills to document El Congreso de Jornaleros and honor Latino immigrants who have rebuilt post-Katrina New Orleans. His retablos repurpose found dresser drawers. Jose takes photos and sometimes creates original portraits, based on his photographs. Some of his more powerful pieces have a ticking clock over the photographs. Last Summer I stood in protest with the Southern 32, a group of day laborers in New Orleans.

Jose Torres-Tama in his studio

Melinda Palacio, Evelyn Rodriguez, Jose Torres-Tama, Lucrecia Guerrero
 The past few weeks have been wonderfully busy. Upon arriving in New Orleans, I was interviewed by Susan Larson on WWNO's The Reading Life. I had my first book signing for How Fire Is a Story, Waiting at Octavia Books, followed by a joint reading with Lucrecia Guerrero at Maple Street Books, Healing Center, and a final reading at the Maple Leaf Bar on Oak Street last Sunday, December 30. Both events were well attended thanks to spot on the Reading Life and in the Times-Picayune. Some highlights include one woman who heard me read a poem on WWNO and came to the Maple Leaf Bar and bought five books for her friends because she enjoyed How Fire Is a Story, Waiting. Another wonderful moment was when fellow Bloguera Lydia Gill walked in the door to hear our reading at the Healing Center. Lucrecia and I had fun ringing in the New Year. The reading at the Maple Leaf Bar was special because I took advantage of the reading grants from Poets and Writers and the funding came through despite PW having to temporarily close their offices due to Hurricane Sandy.

La Bloga in Nueva Orleans with Melinda Palacio and Lydia Gil 
December 2012, Melinda Palacio and Daniel Olivas at the PEN Oakland Awards
I will miss 2012. It was a good year for me. It ended with more than a bang. Ocotillo Dreams won the PEN Oakland Award (that makes three awards for my first novel; two ILBA awards the Mariposa Award for Best First Book and Honorable mention in the Historical Fiction category at the International Latino Book Awards at the Instituto Cervantes in Manhattan last Summer). How Fire Is a Story, Waiting is making its own heat. Hello 2013!

January is shaping up nicely. Later in the month, I have a book signing at Bank of Books in Ventura, January 19 at 1pm.

Yesterday, I recorded an interview with Words on a Wire. The show with Daniel Chacon and Benjamin Alire Saenz will air January 20.

Next stop: Berkeley. Francisco X. Alarcon and I will read with Poetry Flash at Moe's in Berkeley, January 24.

Reyna Grande and I will read at Reader's Books in Sonoma, CA January 28, Monday, 6pm.

Speaking of Reyna Grande, whose new memoir, The Distance Between Us, is proving to be a global favorite. Reyna will be teaching Intro to Fiction at UCLA's Extension, downtown campus this quarter.

On Tuesday, January 29, I will give a lunchtime presentation at UC Merced, noon to 1:15, COB 113.

This ends my first post of 2013. Happy New Year! I am so blessed to be part of La Bloga's familia. Thank you to everyone who reads La Bloga. I hope to meet more of you in 2013. Check to see if I will be in a city near you. If you want a signed copy of Folsom Lockdown, Ocotillo Dreams, or How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, please send me an email. I am happy to sign a book or name plate for you. Gracias, Gracias.


Karin Finell said...

teMelinda wows again with her schedule, her talent not only for the word, but promotion as well. The accolades are well deserved Melinda. The readers gain are our-- your friend's--loss for we hardly see you any more.

Love, Karin and Martin

Diana M. Raab said...


Congratulations on all your accomplishments.

Your mom would have been real proud!

You go girl!


Thelma T. Reyna said...

Melinda, another outstanding post! I'm so glad to hear about all your literary appearances/readings/tours. So much well-deserved recognition! May 2013 be another highly successful and productive year for you! Adelante.

Anonymous said...

Keep kicking butt, Melinda.
Proud to know you,