The second-toughest challenge for a critic comes in form of the anthology collected from a host of writers.
My process, normally, is to approach anthologies with an eye on the editor’s strategy of recency and primacy. What piece appears first to set the tone; what appears as the closing piece for a final lasting impression? And, in the middle, what gems lurk in the flow of words and titles from contributor to contributor?
Rebeldes, A Proyecto Latina Anthology, defies this review process. Not because it doesn’t have a first and last piece with lots of wondrous work in between, but, owing to the showcase motive, the anthology features a rich mix of writers new to me, plus multiple genres including chisme, poetry, prose, graphic art, drama, and personal essay. Each of those segments has its first, middle, last structure, too. So many strong exemplars.
This reviewer, then, is unapologetically guilty he cannot single out each of the 26 contributors for analysis and examination, and owing to a faulty memory, will for sure forget to mention something valued highly at an earlier reading, like the closing piece by a woman my age. Así es, mil disculpas.
Quality is not an issue for the reader; one can begin in any random section or start at the beginning. Every piece comes with intrinsic value, beyond being one of more than 300 writers—established and emergent--who’ve contributed over the seven years Proyecto Latina has showcased writers in its Chicagoland reading series. This history alone merits buying the collection, if only to support the ideals of the project and founders Irasema Gonzales and Coya Paz. Rebeldes reflects an effective dedication to art and community. It has impact.
Each genre section launches with a page of epigrammatic chismes that range from funny to erotic to trenchant to ironic, and sometimes all-in-one. Like the chismosa who complains that the kids downstairs throw long and loud parties that remind her how old she’s growing, or la chismosa rebelde who complains about being propositioned for sex when a date would have been nicer.
The poetry and prose sections offer keen reflections of what Proyecto Latina is about. The poems divide clearly between two poles, the sophisticated poetry of a mature writer and the debut poet proclaiming her discovery of the world as if she were the first to notice.
In the mature work of lead-off writer Claudia Rosa Silva-Hernandez, a mother warns a daughter off elevator conversations with Felipe because Mexicanos think a woman wants him just because she chats him up. “No les des alas” she warns. Hija apostrophizes an apology to the hapless man, that she gave him the wrong idea. The sly woman, however, has set her sights and tells her Felipe to hold still while she clips his wings. Brilliantly crafted and insightful, Silva-Hernandez reminds us women have ideas, too; it’s not just about a man’s desires, and she’s in charge.
The second poet, Awilda González, reflects the emerging sensibility of dawning independence, a voice learning to expose dogging domestic abuse. “While children are dying to violence, we stand silent / Too busy taking up more important causes” she complains, adding, “Daddy’s too busy playing house in someone else’s home / Forgetting he has one of his own”.
Gonzalez’ tools are not simply the poet’s bludgeon, but she makes a reader wait for the final line to disclose her sharp stick to the eye, “Your memories are so few that you never knew what it was like to be called / Daddy.”
The third poet, bloguera Xánath Caraza, reaches for the sublime in her Spanish-language poems, particularly the lead-off piece of her three-poem quota. “Alcanza la niebla” begins in stone before rising into obscuring mists, “Con palabras rojas / Y la luna tatuada en el pecho / La mujer de senos llenos / Y canciones suaves / Alcanza la niebla.”
The prose section suffers from a paucity of pages. A taste of Mónica Teresa Ortiz, an appetizer from Diana Pando, an amuse bouche from Desiree T. Castro, followed with an extended serving from Stephanie Diaz Reppen.
Castro’s seven paragraphs of “Broken Language” compress time, looking backward and forward, in an abbreviated coming of age posture. An older sister counsels 13-year old cholas to knock off the eyebrow painting and mascara, to concentrate on studies, master bilinguality. “Your Spanish is so broken, I mean think of a gold fish swimming in an ocean with a broken fin, that’s how you struggle with your Spanish, you should be embarrassed.” The college girl pulls no punches on the peewees.
Sis knows what she’s talking about, giving pause to the cholitas whose make-up is camouflage to look tough so no one will want to pick fights. “We sat there at the table just listening…Melissa was a real badass in the neighborhood, known to fight like a guy, so we weren’t trying to talk back and test her.” But Melissa owns a new perspective, she’s fighting to save these kids, and it probably works. “you understand? We nodded. We kinda did, but not really…not yet anyway.”
Given the scope of this anthology, and the editors’ program of offering a writer more than one time at the plate to show her stuff, the prose abridgements and excerpts fail to satisfy, like an expensive entrée at a minimalist restaurant. Except Rebeldes is so completely affordable, at only $15.00, that readers should buy multiple copies to share with friends who enjoy a taste of fresh sensibilities and appreciate keen literary reminders of where we have been, where we might grow.
For sure, these writers shall grow and one day a reader will close the covers of a darn good book or poetry collection, and remember this initial exposure to the author’s immense talent in Rebeldes A Proyecto Latina Anthology.
Order directly from Proyecto Latina (click here), or have your local independent bookseller order your copies in time for trick or treat--it's a treat--or xmas--what a wondrous gift--or just be good to yourself and your friends and share your discovery of Rebeldes A Proyecto Latina Anthology.
University of La Verne Hosts LEAD Conference and Latina Latino Author Summit
Bel Hernandez’ head recoils in shocked recognition when she hears the speaker Bel’s just introduced pronounce the three syllables of the university president’s name, “Devorah.” “Debra,” Bel has just called her. It is one of those moments that catches one short. Some emcees might shine it on and hope no one notices.
Not Bel. Next time Hernandez takes the microphone, Bel acknowledges and apologizes for the mispronunciation. Devorah Lieberman shrugs it off and sails through the remainder of the opening program. There's too much inspirational content coming that's vitally important.
That’s the only glitch in the otherwise inspirational and exceedingly well-organized Latino Education Access and Development Conference that brings area high school kids and teachers to University of La Verne on a Saturday morning for the LEAD Conference.
|Middle-schooler, captivated by astronaut Hernandez' speech returned multiple times to film the speed.|
Note the brown-and-white-together logo on the projection screen.
Idealism has nothing to do with University of La Verne’s sponsorship of today’s events. There’s a steady vision guiding the effort to inspire and instill in attending youth the ganas to go out and get some of the pie, like today’s role models prove can be accomplished.
Clearly these kids have ganas but they need orientation. The boy sitting next to me, for example, is considering La Verne, Caltech, and Cal Poly Pomona for his first science degree. "Buenos días," I saludar his mother.
|Dr. Devorah A. Lieberman commits her campus to a todo dar |
efforts to serve the community and raza students.
The keynote speaker offers a genuinely heroic role model, astronaut José M. Hernández. A migrant farmworker born on this side, Hernández describes his fruitpicker upbringing crawling through mud so that the siblings enjoy taking off their Levi's so stiff from mud they stand on their own. Born here, during picking season, the future astronaut's siblings were born in Mexico, during the winter.
Hernandez' speech is puro chicano mezcla. Wacha:
You can take the boy out of the fields but you can't take la cultura out of the boy. Hernández' speech is a classic example of mezcla, or code-switching expression. His polished presentation identifies José M. Hernández as a perfect candidate for any school looking for bilingual role models for kids with their own ad astra per aspera dreams. Hernández' biography sells out in English from La Verne's bookstore, only a few Spanish-language copies remain.
In the Latina Empowerment Workshop, three powerful women share life stories that, like these kids, began in the humblest straits but through NGU and college, they've achieved high positions. Julie Mendoza, Director of Research and Evaluation for ARCHES, the Alliance for Regional Collaboration to Heighten Educational Success. Mendoza recounts the high school counselor who interrupts when she tells him her dream to attend UCLA: "Oh, no way, not you."
A second empowerment latina, Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, recently appointed to be LA Mayor Garcetti's Education Aide, prior was Superintendent of Schools for Santa Ana Unified, the largest Orange County system and sixth-largest in Califas.
What would you do if you won the lottery? It's not idle speculation, given the third woman panelist is Jacki Cisneros. When she and husband Gilbert won the California Mega Millions Lottery they set up the Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros foundation. The couple decided to spend their millions to improve educational access for Latina Latino kids.
Jacki's no suddenly wealthy person. A two-time Emmy winner as a broadcaster. One story the journalist covered reports that a local man bought a $266 million dollar ticket. She learns he is her husband. Now that she's rich, she intends to give away as much money as possible to kids like these.
There's also a Latino Empowerment Workshop and a Parent Empowerment Workshop. Following empowerment come workshops in STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and Financial Aid and Scholarship Access, and closing speech from Richard Montanez, PepsiCo's marketing guru on the West Coast.
The campus in La Verne hosts the latest iteration of the Latino Book and Family Festival, appearing this year as the Author Summit. The event and an ambitious awards program come from the efforts of Latino Literacy Now.
Out on the quad, under tents, a handful of writers greet passers-by and shar their work. I asked each what their goal was, and to a man and woman, it is to inspire kids to write, and, only one author acknowledges, to sell their book.
|Army veteran, holder of the Combat Infantryman Badge and un montón de medals (typical chicano warrior) earned in Bosnia and Iraq, Mexicali-born Juan Carlos Mercado is a San Diego sheriff's deputy and author, in Spanish, of Fe Americana. The Villegas sisters, Maria and Ana, from San Diego, join him.|
Jeaninne Escallier Kato's children's picture book, Manuel's Murals, seeks to awaken a child's love for art generally, and particularly the work of Diego Rivera Manuel discovers on a visit to Mexico City.
Sandra C. Lopez has been included or featured in La Bloga. A YA author, López was raised only a few miles from the tent she occupies as an author.
YA author Yolanda Espinosa Espinoza wants to be tight-lipped about the surprises in her father's life story recounted in El Caracol. She grows increasingly animated as she recounts the story and eventually shares one of the key secrets to the story. A librarian gives the young boy Don Quixote and infects him with a love of reading.
Graphic novelist Javier Hernandez has a good marketing strategy for Los Comex Codex, with low-cost trinkets that serve as his "silent sales force." A kid spends a dollar for a cool button and every time the kid walks about wearing the button, he's advertising Hernadez' titles.
Composer-author Roma Calatayud-Stocks' book is perfect bound and includes a CD of her compositions. A Song in My Heart begins in Minneapolis, a far-flung outpost of cultura not often considered as part of the Latina Latino homeland. One browser is so surprised he lingers at Roma's display throwing questions of opinions in an effort to work out the surprising fact of chicanas existing in Minnesota. Not only that, one chicana writes books about it.
Several other authors work the crowd, and the Author Summit prize announcements are upcoming, but my granddaughter has a soccer game, and familia comes first. So we split the scene at La Verne. I miss chatting up the other writers, but don't regret my departure. Charlotte scores The Golden Gorillas' first three goals.
Visit Read! Raza for more on these marketing powerhouses.
Late-breaking News from the Author Summit
La Bloga enjoys this opportunity to announce a significant award to Frida bloguero Manuel Ramos and his Luis Montez novel, Blues for the Buffalo. See below for the full list of Books into Movies winners.
|fotos courtesy René Colato Laínez|
There is little truth to the uncomfirmed chisme that the Zeta role will be played by bloguero and former Director of Teatro a la Brava, Michael Sedano.
2013 Latino Author Summit Winners
from the LLN announcement
The events, organized by Latino Literacy Now in conjunction with the University of La Verne, were held in eastern Los Angeles county. Our film industry professionals who presented the Awards were award winning actor Mike Gomez, award winning screenwriter and producer Rick Najera, and Nosotros President Emeritus Jerry Velasco. It was a very enjoyable ceremony and everyone loved Rick Najera’s jokes.
Latino Literacy Now was co-founded by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler in 1996. Since then the organization has produced 52 Latino Book & Family Festivals with just under 900,000 in total attendees and 15 International Latino Book Awards that have honored over 1,400 authors and publishers.
Copies of these winning books will be presented to key motion picture studios, producers, and other key entertainment industry insiders. It’s Latino Literacy Now’s goal through these awards to help foster the creation and production of more movies about and by Latinas Latinos. For too long, Latinas Latinos have been underrepresented within the industry and appropriate scripts is one of the weaker links.
Entries are now being accepted for the 2014 International Latino Book Awards, the largest Latino cultural awards in the USA. Entries for the 2014 Latino Books into Movies Awards will begin in October 2013.
For more information on this and other Latino Literacy Now activities go to www.LBFF.us.
Action & Adventure
First Place, Walking for Peace: An Inner Journey, Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso, Booklocker.com, Inc.
Second Place, The Encounter (El encuentro), Rita Wirkala, Pearson Educacion
First Place, LightKeepers to the Rescue!, Marisa de Jesús Paolicelli, A Caribbean Experience Con Amor
First Place, El Caracol: The Story of Alfonso, Labor Camp Child, Yolanda Espinosa Espinoza, Mill City Press, Inc.
Second Place, Maidin Iron, Ana Padilla, Author House
First Place, Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes, Kathleen Alcalá, Chronicle Books
First Place, The Witch Narratives Reincarnation, Belinda Vasquez Garcia, Magic Prose
First Place, A Song in My Heart, Roma Calatayud-Stocks, Beaver’s Pond Press
Sci-Fi or Fantasy
First Place, Mortal Flesh: The Last Hero of Pompeii, Ana Costa Alongi, Sigillum Publishers
Suspense or Mystery
First Place, Blues for the Buffalo, Manuel Ramos, Northwestern University Press
SoCal Stanford Alumni Read Chicana Chicano Literature
The Book Club of the Chicano/Latino Stanford University Alumni Association of Southern California looks forward to hosting renowned crime writer and bloguero Manuel Ramos to its Sunday, November 17 meeting in Long Beach Califas.
Blues for the Buffalo is the 2013 winner of Latino Literacy Now's Books into Movies Award. Story above.
The Book Club welcomes Stanford alumni who enjoy Ramos' work, or enjoy a good book discussion. Click here for details.
Is Anybody Going to San Antone...
La Bloga friend, musicologist and independent publisher Juan Tejeda moderates an important public discussion on the 51st state of the USA, the State of Xicana Xicano Studies, this Friday, September 27, 2013.
The “State of Xicana/o Studies” panel discussion is part of Palo Alto College’s Hispanic Heritage Month activities that is co-sponsored by the Student Activities Fee, the Office of Student Engagement and Retention, and Center for Mexican-American Studies.
For the complete schedule of Palo Alto College’s Hispanic Heritage Month events, visit www.alamo.edu/pac/HHM or for more information, call 210.486.3125.
Teatro a la Brava was performing in Calexico. Poetry gigante Ricardo Sánchez was at the border festival, too. At the big social event featuring dancing, one of the actors, una tejana, egged me on. "Corpus Krispies," she said, "ask him if he's from Corpus Krispies." Just to get his goat. Los de Corpus hate that, Maggie told me. Why should I antagonize the vato, I wondered, but altered states of reality got the better of me.
Ricardo was on the other side of the room, wallflowering with Alurista. When he headed over toward the refreshments, I pushed off my wall and intercepted him. "Orale, Ricardo," I said. He stopped in the middle of the floor and we stood face to face, me looking up at the massive poet. "I hear you're from Corpus Krispies."
Sánchez' mouth gaped open and he looked down his nose at me with a frown. "Oh crap," I thought, "this vato is going to want to fight."
The stone-faced poet replied, "No mas dimos 'Corpus.'" When I let that sink in a moment, Sánchez opened his arms and gave me a big abrazote and we were fine. We didn't fire up, or go outside to share a bottle or nothing, but we were OK, krispies or no krispies.
Anent Corpus Christi, the following email comes from Corpus public radio. The program is recorded in San Antonio.
Super Xicanas on the loose and broadcasting! Taking to the airwaves - the message of firme mujeres who have made an impact in our community. It's a hybrid format featuring live music, enlivened interviews with Super Xicana Dignitaries, and the uncensored opinions on contemporary issues from Mari Chingas (Marisela Barrera) and Sweet Jane (Jane Madrigal).
An ol' skool, new skool -- nuevo cool performance BROAD-CAST! “The Super Xicana Power Hour” will be broadcast once a week on Corpus Christi Community Radio, a media outlet pursuing social justice and advocating for a better Corpus Christi. CCComRadio provides space for art, music, perspectives, and information that are either not present in or ignored by mainstream media. Broadcasts can be heard on http://www.cccomradio.com.
DDLM Poetry Contest: Calaveras Literarias
Día de los Muertos celebrations in the United States parallel those of Mexico in many dimensions. One missing element from US-based DDLM observations is the poetic tradition of light verse calaveritas literarias. Often quatrains--but no formal requirement--the calavera takes a satiric poke at the living in the context of eulogy, or simply expresses actitud about death, dying, and burial.
To the House of Representatives
Posturing politicians be aware:
Someone will be patting you in the face
With a shovel.
But you won't know it.
So It Goes
Enjoy the parade, Congresscritter.
There's seven going out,
and six coming back.
Ahí viene la calaca vestida de morado para todos los enamorados
Estaba Mari comiendo elote
vino la calavera y le echó un pedote.
El profe Raúl
Estaba el profe Raúl comiendo meloncito
llega la calaca y dice vámonos a lo oscurito.
Estaba la maestra Madi bailando reggaetón
Cuando llegó la Catrina y le bajó el pantalón.
Ha transcurrido ya un año,
Que el Sub me felicitó
Por aquella calavera,
Que a él tanto le gustó.
Hoy nuevamente le escribo
Pues la muerte me mandó,
No ha logrado su objetivo
Y su tiempo se acabó.
Mucha tristeza me da,
Que la muerte se lo lleve
Pero la mera verdad,
Con los profes no se puede.
Canas verdes le sacamos,
¡Nunca nos hizo cambiar!
Ahora mismo lo enterramos,
Sin su objetivo lograr.
De luto todos estamos,
El Sub jamás volverá
De corazón le deseamos,
Que ahora sí descanse en paz.
Place your calaveras literarias in the body of an email (no files, please) and be sure to include your name and mail address in event your work wins one of the fabulous TBA prizes. Click here for the address, which is firstname.lastname@example.org.
On-line Floricanto: Edward Vidaurre
A critic's most challenging assignment is reviewing poetry. A poem can carry the weight and value of a novel, entirely compressed within the tight constraints of the verse form. Puro daunting, the thought of making sense of fifty or a hundred poemas and poemitas.
This week, en vez de una review of south Texas poet Edward Vidaurre's collection, I Took My Barrio On A Road Trip, La Bloga elects to let the poems speak for themselves. That's the ultimate point of any review, to get a reader into the book.
Here then, are five gems selected by Mr. Vidaurre for this occasion, from his current collection, I Took My Barrio on a Road Trip.
Born in East L.A., CA in 1973, Edward Vidaurre writes poetry about his upbringing and experiences of living in the barrio. Raised in Boyle Heights in the projects of Aliso Village, his poetry takes you through his memory of La Lucha.
Known to his friends as Barrio Poet, Vidaurre says:” Sometimes the barrio claims us, holds us by our feet like roots in its field of chalk outlines closed off by the screaming yellow tape being pulled from its soul.”
Vidaurre is the founder of Pasta, Poetry & Vino and Barrio Poet Productions. He has been nominated for a pushcart prize for his poem, "Lorca in the Barrio" and also is co-editing an anthology called Twenty for Newtown, CT through El Zarape Press with Daniel Garcia Ordaz, Katie Hoerth, and Jose Chapa V.
Ask your local independent booksellter to order Edward's book I Took My Barrio On A Road Trip. College Station TX: Slough Press, 2013. ISBN 9780941720137 0941720136. You can also find it on leading internet bookseller catalogs.
I remember it as a greenish,
flaky, semi powdery substance.
like fish food
My strolls down the uneven
sidewalks of Santa Ana
were making memories in my mind
as a child sent away to
El Salvador as soon as school went on break
I looked forward
to walking these streets
that through the years
caused hardship on my grandmother’s
hips as she went from vendor to vendor
in the mercado collecting interest on loans
I smiled when they had no money,
just plenty of excuses
because that would make them pay
hand made sandals, sorbete, gaseosas in plastic baggies,
pupusitas de frijolitos, or my favorite:
manguitos con alguashte
La Puerta del Diablo
held stories of bodies forgotten
and crouching guerilla soldiers
waiting for word that the war was over.
But it never was.
Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana
continues to hold on to her sad look
as her children paint the streets red
i always thought she was sad
because she could not eat
hazel eyes, like honey dripping from
a wooden spoon she used to mix postres
como seda, her skin
I don’t know how old she is
I don’t want to know
Her voice thunderous
Pero cuando le grito al perro
que no me muerda
Her name is Concepcion
but they call her Conchita
she fits the part of an old lady
keeps up with eye exams
and a holiness about her
she likes her cafecito, black
and eats frijolitos by scooping
them up with a warm tortilla
Her maiden name is Henriquez
you can see the legacy in my hijitas
when she flares them up
everytime she gets angry
my childhood pics prove it
as I smile for a Polaroid snap
Her mother took her life
and her aunt became mommy
Her married name is de Aviles
She took it from a man
He comes to me in
Dreams every now and again
He still wears the same suit in heaven
And has a distinct old man smell
Armpits and Musk deodorant
Straight hair combed and
Parted on one side
Con poquitas canas
The Salvadorean Clark Gable
And she was his Scarlet
With a dusty dress
And brown lips
Cholo Stroll (He may not make it)
I'm writing a story
about this cholo, I’ll call him Travieso
he wakes up in the morning
and lights up a cigarette
checks his phone
and grabs a white t-shirt
and a pair of brown Dickie pants
first the shirt,
the burro is unfolded
and the iron is hot enough
his mom is at work
and little brother in school
my cholo decided to skip school
and I'm afraid he may not make it
he looks through the
blinds of his apartment
before setting foot outside
no one's creeping
the tres flores
trails behind him
keeping his shadow company
as he walks towards the barrio
slow with a limp
to meet up with his homies
and I’m afraid he won’t make it, Travieso
a chicano mess
a mother's pain
as the distant cries
are just that
at the neighborhood
like he's a hero of sorts
with his limp
and I'm afraid he may not make it
the brothers G.
are already glossy-eyed
and swerving each time
a breeze blows by
the ink is drying on La Teardrop's neck,
y las oldies sound
different this morning
like an anthem of death
and I'm afraid he may not make it
is trying to make it
to the end of his story
and I'm afraid he may not make it.
Child Left Behind
Before your choice
takes his life
- his opportunities
-his ability to run against the wind
before your choice
stops his little heart
-singing and dancing
and asking questions
before you lay
on that steel bed
in that dreadful clinic
enter your womb
and cuddle with him
let me share embryonic
fluids and chat with
him in dim waters
let me see
tiny fingers and toes
let me cradle him
and sing him a lullaby
written with the blood
of your intestines
and cold heart
let me whisper
I love you
and tickle him
while I touch his
bald little head
before you open your legs
and let the murder weapon
enter by permission
let me wrap the umbilical cord
around my neck
from your useless
as I watch my
"Mommy, is that you?"
I took my barrio on a road trip
for three days
everywhere i went
there it was
there were times i had
to put it in my pocket
but out it came
from my lips
i took my barrio
on a road trip
side by side
we ate, drank,
where i tried
telling my barrio
it followed me
and giving me advice
get a hold of yourself
it would tell me
"you can do this ese!"
-tu eres el meromero
-no te rajes!
i took my barrio on a road trip
and from now on
i will take it with me
en mi corazon.