Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Secrets of Old Blood Sizzles. Mailbag. July's Fifth On-line Floricanto

Review:  Sandra Ramos O'Briant. The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood. Los Angeles: La Gente Press, 2012. ISBN-13: 9780615615103

Michael Sedano

There’s a reason folks keep “to-be-read” stacks of books. Prioritizing time, one reads, first, time-certain books--book group selections, impending public library due date. Next in line are serendipitous titles picked up here or there, perhaps a gift or a recovered treasure. Over time, priorities change and a book gets added to the good intentions stack.

Every now and again, time allows one to slide the top volume off the nearest “to-be-read” stack. For me, recently, this happened to be Sandra Ramos O’Briant’s historical novel The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood.

Back in September 2012, I attended a fiestas patrias month reading at the Autry Center that featured Daniel Olivas’ landmark anthology, Latinos in Lotusland. It was an opportunity to photograph authors Sandra Ramos O’Briant, Estella Gonzalez, Lisa Alvarez, Melinda Palacio, and Michael Jaime-Becerra.

O’Briant had copies of the novel there, so I bought my copy intending to get right to it. Eventually, The Sandoval Sisters found itself on the stack. Now I regret not getting to this delightful historical romp sooner.

Historians might quibble here and there, I’m not one so I have no idea about the history. O’Briant doesn’t make a big deal out of the massive historical research that the author conducted. Her labor pays off in a text rich in fact and implied knowledge that lends authenticity to crucial events. Readers shouldn't notice the effort, and in that sense, the history works in this novel.

Set in New Mexico in the decades leading to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the story of four women comes ready-made with cultural references and a literary heritage. Most notably, as a uniquely New Mexico story with plot lines filled with miracles and mystical prescience, O’Briant fits into literary space created by Rudolfo Anaya’s timeless Bless Me, Ultima.

O’Briant’s story of the Sandoval sister married into a slave-owning Texas family has a counterpart in Arturo Madrid’s In the Country of Empty Crosses. Set in New Mexico beginning fifty years after the Sandoval Sisters stories, Madrid’s depiction of ever-present tensions between Catholic and Protesant gente, raza and anglo, reflects the creative history O’Briant thrusts upon the indomitable Alma.

Historicity sets a background and defines cultural rules that constrains an author’s work. Eroticism has fewer boundaries, and here Sandra Ramos O’Briant gives herself an almost free hand. There’s the soltera sister, the keeper of familia knowledge. There’s the consolation prize bride, Pilar, a 14-year old. Her middle-aged husband looks forward to training her body. Alma, the intended bride, runs off to Texas with a nice cowboy. First impressions are killers, Alma learns. Still, Bill gives her shivers when she lets herself go. Then she meets the doctor.

Lusty as the reading gets in places, O’Briant constrains herself. Women have clefts, men have members. Putting aside small details, the author enjoys placing characters into sexual situations just because she can. But that’s why it’s a romp of a novel, lots of passion. "What if?" that's why authors create novels out of historical material: the rape victim whose sex slavery teaches her to return home a worldly-wise business woman; the woman who prefers to face the world as a male finds love with a woman; are magic and miracle the result of knowledge and literacy, not belief and intent?

Historical fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but ni modo. This one is a treat and deserves a trip to your local independent bookseller.

When I took The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood off my “to-be-read” stack it was none too soon and about time. What a treat to enjoy the joys of sly smiles and breathless intervals between racist attacks, yanqui invasions, local color, gender ambiguity, jealous lovers, patient lovers, huge cultural paradigm shifts.

And the next one on the stack now is “Accordion Crimes.” Vamos a ver.

Melinda Palacio, Estella González, Lisa Alvarez, Sandra Ramos O'Briant, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Daniel Olivas



Mailbag
Mystery Arises From Arte Publico Email

La Bloga readers already on Arte Público Press' email list recently saw Arte Público spotlighting La Bloga co-founder and alternating-Friday columnist, Manuel Ramos, in the publisher's July email.

Manuel's critically-acclaimed Desperado is on the radio in an interview with KUHF radio host Eric Ladau.

In more news, television watchers will want to expand their enjoyment of The Bridge, according to Arte Público, by reading Alicia Gaspar de Alba's unforgettable novel about the Juarez murders, Desert Blood. The publisher has it in English or Spanish language editions.





On-line Floricanto in July Farewell
Francisco X. Alarcon, Andrea Mauk, Sherry Carbajal, Bulfrano Mendoza, Irma Guadarrama

August horizons today as La Bloga's On-line Floricanto wraps July with five distinctive voices selected by the Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070 Poetry of Resistance.

Canto Hondo/Deep Song by Francisco X. Alarcon
Don’t Call Me White Girl (The Backlash) by Andrea Mauk
Trying to Understand by Sherry Carbajal
Sacrificio by Bulfrano Mendoza
Water (The River of Life in a Desert of Hell) by Irma Guadarrama


Canto Hondo/Deep Song
Francisco X. Alarcon







Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, is author of twelve volumes of poetry,
including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992) His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California in two occasions. He teaches at the University of California, Davis.

Francisco recently participated in the First Children’s Poetry Festival in El Salvador (Nov. 8-10, 2010) and was able to visit Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero’s tomb beneath the metropolitan cathedral of San Salvador. Monseñor Romero was killed saying mass in 1980 marking one of the most violent periods of the civil war in El Salvador.
He created a new Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 that is getting lots of poetry submissions and comments. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Poets-Responding-to-SB-1070/117494558268757?ref=ts




Don't Call Me White Girl (The Backlash) 
Andrea Mauk

Don't stop me in the U-Scan of the grocery store
to tell me that I am a white girl,
to erase my mother's heritage,
to judge me only skin deep,
to tell me I don't know how it is
to be misunderstood,
or that you're angry -
more angry
than I could ever be -
and violence
stops violence.
Don't tell me that
it's my fault.
Just don't.

Don't ask me if I've heard about the protests
on Crenshaw and Vernon
when I live at Western and Vernon
and I hear the helicopters circling
all night long.
Just stop assuming.

Don't tell me that the conquest
of your people
was worse
or larger
or more important
or more brutal
than the conquest of my people.
My ancestors all but disappeared,
their demise blamed
on kind smiles and generosity,
and now you only see them
in the turn-up of my eyes.
Don't think you're the only one
who lost a piece of your identity.
After all, in a flick of your tongue,
you just stripped me of half of mine.
Can I have it back now, please?

Don't throw Arizona in my face,
say I'm afraid to teach
the other side.
I am the other side,
I lived my life,
my education,
in the great
Grand Canyon State,
but you couldn't see that
I was thrown against a police car
on my 15th birthday
repeatedly
because the Phoenix P.D.
couldn't believe that
my father's German name
really belonged to me.
You couldn't understand that
because you were too busy
calling me white girl.
Just shut your mouth
and do something constructive
with your anger
instead of taking it out
on me.

And I do understand,
at first glance,
I look like a white girl.



Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul.
She currently calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction,
poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won
awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality. She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written
online extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry.





Trying to Understand 
Sherry Carbajal

I will never understand racism,
prejudice of any kind,
or the bullying of others.

Even if people don't believe
in a Higher Being,
what happened to common courtesy
and good will to others?

Life can be difficult,
and even more so
for those who are unique
and different from the majority.

Is it fear, jealousy,
or plain evil that forces
people to hate?

We owe it to our children
to love one another
or at the very least
to accept or simply leave

those alone who we
don't understand,
and to stand up for and protect
those being abused or bullied.

For if we do nothing,
what kind of world
are we creating for our children
and grandchildren?



Sherry Trujillo Carbajal has been a culinary arts teacher at Morenci High School since 2000.
 After graduating first in her class at Morenci High School in 1984, she attended Arizona State University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A.E. in Secondary Education. She later earned a Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a Reading endorsement from Northern Arizona University. In 2002-2003, she was named the ASBA (Arizona School Board Association) Greenlee County Teacher of the Year. She resides in Morenci, Arizona, with her husband of 25 years, Arnold, her daughter, Ashley, and her younger son, James. Her older son, Christopher, is a 4th generation copper miner who also resides in Morenci with his fiancée, Michelle, and children, little Christopher and Adriana.






Sacrificio
Bulfrano Mendoza

I took my sacred eagle feathers
and all of my Medicina
to an ancient place
in a steamy jungle village
near Quintanaroo.
A place where the physical
and the spirit world are one.
To begin a prayer that I
knew would have consequences.
Careful what you ask for....
Twenty five offerings of flesh
were cut from each arm
plus five..warrior style.
My blood flowed freely
from my offering.
A sign of respect for all
of the women that bleed
and for all their suffering.
I prayed so hard, Tlecuauhtlacupeuh
floated out of the Sun and
danced right through me.
But, with this blessing I was granted,
a message was whispered in my
spirit that opened the eyes of my heart.
Careful what you ask for....
For my prayer had moved
the Moon and Stars
but had no effect
on you.
Careful what you ask for....

Sacrificio



Rick " Bulfrano " Mendoza, is a Pamaque Indian descendant, born and raised in the barrios of San Antonio, Texas.

The Pamaque were one of the tribes from South Tejas, that were taken into the mission system by the Spanish Catholics, before the Americans came here, to populate the Spanish Colonial Missions.










Water (The River of Life in a Desert of Hell)
Irma Guadarrama

Water droplet on scorched tongue,
like a fragile twig almost dead,
too precious, too little, so wrong,
only a surreal existence lingers.
Fingers reaching the empty
plastic jug that feels like brittle
bones, aching feet, useless appendages
that burden every slight stride
now slow and heavy;
life pleading with merciless sunrays
determined to kill.

Caged in an inferno of hell,
let death be the victor,
let death be the heaven that
brings peace, peace, peace;
and stops the agony.

Water for the thirsty, water for the dead.



Irma Guadarrama recently retired after a 44-year career of teaching and research. She started out as a bilingual teacher and finished a professor at various universities, including University of Houston and South Texas’ University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.

I begin writing poetry and songs in my twenties but I wasn’t interested in performing or publishing until 2009 when I became involved with the Writer’s Forum group in South Texas. Living on the border was such a unique, inspirational experience, and my literary interests broadened and deepened. I have a collection of poems and songs that I’m still refining and eventually will publish a chapbook, and perhaps, record my songs. My poetry and song lyrics have been published in literary anthologies and magazines such as the Interstice literary journal from South Texas College, the Boundless 2011 anthology of the RGV international poetry festival, and Voices from the Chicho anthology (Narciso Martínez Cultural Center’s Writer’s Forum Group). I also published two bilingual chapbooks of children’s original fables while a professor at the University of Houston: Cuéntame una fábula and Cuéntame mas fábulas.

I received a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Master’s degree from the University of Texas in San Antonio, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. My area of study was education with an emphasis in reading and language and culture.

I was born in Cd. Juárez, México, but grew up in Central and North Texas areas. My home is currently Houston, TX where I live with my two children.

Presently, I work as a writer/researcher for a couple of blogs, which I recently developed: Bilingual Frontera (http://bilingualfrontera.blogspot.com) deals with themes related to social and political issues in the borderlands, and Mujeres, Fronteras y Sus Historias/Women, Borders and Their Stories (http://mujeresfronteras.wordpress.com), that focuses on the plight of immigrant women in the United States. In the former project, I’m collaborating with colleagues from Matamoros, Tamaulipas.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Two Poems for Monday


By Daniel A. Olivas

"Letters to Norco"

My letters to Norco
kept you sane you said.

Three years there for
selling meth.  But I
wrote to you so you
wouldn't forget me.

And you wrote back.
Beautiful and sad letters.
Strong letters.  But the
third one scared me
and then made me mad.
You told me that you
rented my letters
to your homies for a
quarter so they could
beat off to my sex-filled
longings where I told
you what my mouth could
do to your body and what
I wanted you to do to me.

But then I wasn't so mad.
And the thought of your
friends getting off from
my words made me smile.
So I made each new letter
even better, hotter than
the last.  And when you
wrote back and told me
your homies loved my
words and that you could
charge thirty-five cents
now, I laughed at my
power.

And on your release day
as we stood in the August
heat outside the tall fence,
you held me and whispered
into my hair that we should
get married as soon as we
could and have lots of babies.
And you said my letters kept
you sane.  And I said, me too,
mi amor.  Me too.

***

"Woman Gets Probation in Child Neglect Case"


They found you,
alive, yes, but
nude, caked with
dried ketchup
and jelly, lying
in a baby's tub
watching TV.

What did your
two-year-old
mind think of as
you wandered
the house alone
for almost three
weeks?  As you
peed on the floor,
scavenged for
food, drank water
from the toilet,
did you know that
your mother was
in jail, that she
didn't want to tell
the judge that she
had a daughter
who would need
care while she
served her time?

Did your mind
wander from
Sesame Street
to the dark
stillness of the
night to the
thirst you needed
to quench?

Will you remember
this time alone or
will your life be
filled with other
memories?

Your mother is
home now,
receiving only
probation instead
of the maximum
ten years.  Your
mother is home
now, to fill
your life with
new memories.

Will I read about
you again as I
drink my morning
coffee?  Will your
mother make
another headline
as my son sits
across from me
enjoying his
Pop-Tarts and
laughing at the
funnies?  Will
I have to explain
again to him
why my eyes
have filled with
tears?

["Letters to Norco" first appeared in Indiana English.  "Woman Gets Probation in Child Neglect Case" first appeared in PULSE.  Both poems are featured in the unpublished collection, Crossing the Border.]

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dancing with the Mermaid of Yesteryear


Olga García Echeverría
 
"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance." --Kahlil Gibran
 
 
 
Last year, the doctors deemed her a dead end, but tatiana de la tierra, who believed in the power of metaphors, created an alternative reality for herself. The cancer cells blooming wildly inside her were not evidence of imminent death; they were proof of a metamorphosis.

tatiana would not “pass away” into heaven or hell. Instead, she would shed flesh and blood and swim back to her divine beginnings, the Cosmic Ocean. During the final months of her life, tatiana of the earth renamed herself Suerte Sirena, blessing her journey with luck because who doesn’t need a little luck when leaving the human body and traveling into the depths of the Magical Unknown.

But before she left us, there was much to do. Among the most critical things was the need to move tatiana from her old Long Beach apartment to a new, quieter home. It was becoming increasing difficult for tatiana to walk up and down the flight of stairs at her old apartment. There was also drama in the building. Cancer is dramatic enough, and a birthing mermaid needs a place of respite, so a group of us volunteered to help transplant tatiana and all her belongings from her old apartment to her new home.

Her new home, spacious, lovely, and full of light, was less than a mile away. Yet to move tatiana was a monumental feat. She had been an archivist at heart for most of her life, and she loved to collect things—pictures, books, vinyl records, muñecas, crystals and rocks, statues of virgenes, Frida paraphernalia, ceramic cunts (to name just a few of her many obsessions). Her home was always a colorful museum housing all the beautiful and bizarre things that she had gathered throughout her life. Piña mirrors to peer into. Giant conch shells to press against the ear. Beaded curtains to walk through.

“I’m going to get rid of a lot of this shit,” tatiana told me one day as we took baby steps through her old apartment. She wasn’t strong enough to move things herself, so she was doing an inventory and giving me a quick low-down of what she wanted to see happen. In the following weeks, she would be instructing us, her family and friends, on what to get rid of and what to keep.
 
“I want my new home to be very Zen.” She sounded serious, almost committed, and I was relieved. She had so many possessions that “the move” was taking forever. She, her bed, and some bare essentials had been taken to her new residence, and as a result the new place did actually look and feel very Zen. In contrast, the old apartment looked like it had been hit by a tornado. Drawers, closets, and cabinets had been emptied. Walls stripped naked of their frames, mirrors, and maps. Bookshelves gutted. Every room was cluttered with cardboard boxes and messy mounds of unpacked stuff. There was some order to the chaos, but it was still complete chaos.

Perhaps all of us who were lugging boxes and furniture from point A to point B had some degree of Zen fantasies (oh, to rid ourselves of everything, wouldn’t that be wonderful?) but the purging of material things never really happened in that move. tatiana gave away a few things, but in the end she couldn’t part con sus cosas tan queridas. Every time we texted or called her about a particular item, she’d sigh or laugh and get terribly nostalgic, telling us the story of the object’s origins. “Eso lo necesito,” she’d say in her firm voice. “Traígamelo.” And we did. Until everything she had in her old home ended up in her new one.

By the time we finished moving and unpacking, it was July. It was in that month that tatiana’s human body really began to wither, but on a spiritual plane, she grew glittery scales. When her lungs began to wheeze, she sprouted gills. When her legs clung together, waddling and then flapping instead of walking, those of us around her knew that her metamorphosis from earth-grounded woman to free-flowing mermaid was nearly complete. She swam out of her body on July 31st, 2012.

There are so many intimate stories about those final weeks with tatiana. Poor Sirena, she never really got her respite. Her new home in Long Beach was always bustling with people and activity. Her mother, Fabiola, her tías Gladys y LuLu, her primos, her lover, her healers, her friends—we all gathered around her like a tribe because it takes a village to help someone crossover from este mundo to el otro.

Despite the cancer that loomed over all of us like a hideous cloud, we braced ourselves and did whatever needed to get done during that time. We swept away the dust each day, we sorted through boxes, we fretted over the Lucky Mermaid. We drove around running errands, we cleaned, we talked, we cried, we laughed, we fought, we loved, we carried as many loads as we could. It was the least we could do; tatiana of the earth was leaving our world and she was already carrying so much stuff--precious rocks, antique lamps, lupus, Buddha statues, failing kidneys, singing bowls, a fistula, gold bling, Chibcha charms, malignant tumors, handmade tambores, flautas and rattles, and the weight of each and every one of our heaving hearts.

Happy one year anniversary, Suerte Sirena. You are much missed and forever loved.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Chicano series. Chicano arte. Insane cuts to all the arts.


East Los High, groundbreaking new series

Evangeline Ordaz puts the 'East Los' In East Los High as lead writer/producer for the groundbreaking new series just out on Hulu.

East Los High is not your typical high school. Dance, sex, romance, and mystery are at the heart of this inner city school in East LA where two teenage cousins—Jessie, a 16-year-old virgin and Maya, a troubled runaway with a violent past —fall in love with Jacob, a popular football player. From this forbidden love triangle, Maya, Jessie and Jacob, along with their close friends must face true-to-life decisions during a single dramatic and breath-taking year that will mark their lives forever.

Los Angeles, California (June 21, 2013) - As producer and head writer for the groundbreaking series East Los High, Evangeline Ordaz makes it her priority to put as much of her native East Los Angeles into the series as possible. This isn't always easy, given pressure to keep the show glamorous and the characters gorgeous to attract a broad audience. "After all," says Ordaz, "we're in Hollywood writing about East L.A., but I feel a responsibility to do justice to my experiences and to the experiences of the kids I know in East L.A."

East Los High Executive Producer Katie Elmore has been pleased with the outcome: "Amazing writing by Evangeline Ordaz, who made these scripts accurate, entertaining, brilliantly funny, and with some good advice."

Before she became a writer, Ordaz was an attorney working at the East Los Angeles office of the Legal Aid Foundation. She often represented high school and middle school students in discipline and suspension hearings. Ordaz still volunteers for Legacy L.A., a youth development organization serving the at-risk community of the Ramona Gardens housing project.

Evangeline Ordaz
As the only member of the writing and production staffs who is from East L.A., Ordaz brings the voice that defines the series. "The characters of East Los High are me or people I know," she says. "Lines the characters say are often lines straight out of the mouths of the kids I work with at Legacy."

Ordaz also incorporated real kids from East L.A. into the series and worked with kids at Legacy to develop content for the show's website. Ordaz wrote the pregnancy vlogs of the character Ceci with a girl who had been a pregnant teen. She even got some real students of East Los Angeles High School to write articles for The Siren, the newspaper run by East Los High character Soli Gomez.

It looks as if all this work to keep the show real has paid off. The day it premiered, East Los High was the most watched show on Hulu, and its episodes continue to be in the "Most Watched" category. On Hulu and the East Los High websites, commenters debate over the authenticity of the series. Some say the show is right on; others feel it fails to accurately portray all sides of East L.A.

"I welcome the debate," says Ordaz. "I know this show does not capture everything about East L.A. and, in fact, even gets some things wrong. My hope is that these comments challenge other writers and producers of content about the Latino community to respect the community enough to do the research to capture the true essence of that community. After all we, the Latino community, are not a monolith. We hail from different countries and different cultures; we Latinos are often as different from each other as Australians are from Americans. That's what makes our community so exciting to portray."

Bio: Evangeline Ordaz was born in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of East Los to a Mexican immigrant father and Mexican-American mother. After earning a law degree from Berkeley, she returned to East LA to work for the Legal Aid Foundation providing free legal services to low-income clients. Ordaz has worked in the areas of criminal appeals, corporate espionage, and slum litigation and was a human rights attorney in Mexico and Nicaragua.

She wrote and produced the gritty teen soap East Los High. She was also an ABC/Disney Television Writing Fellow and staff writer on the ABC show Eyes starring Tim Daly.

The Center Theater Group (Mark Taper Forum/Kirk Douglas Theater/Ahmanson Theater) recently commissioned Ordaz to write a play about Los Angeles. Other plays by Ordaz have been produced by the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Tucson's Borderlands Theater, San Jose's Teatro Vision, and Los Angeles' Company of Angels Theater and Cornerstone Theater Company. Her play Visitor's Guide to Arivaca: Map Not to Scale was the cover story of American Theater Magazine in 2006.


           
Taking the heart out of the nation

The Interior Appropriations Subcommittee sent a bill for FY2014 funding to the Appropriations Committee that includes only $75 million for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), a drastic 49% budget cut to an agency already reduced by 19% since 2010. 56 state and territorial humanities councils receive significant funding from NEH.  A cut of this magnitude would be devastating for their programs.  In fact, any reduction of NEH funding would mean the elimination of one or more K-12, family literacy, and other programs serving Coloradans. 

Urge your Congressional representative to contact colleagues on the Appropriations Committee today and encourage them to oppose the steep cut to NEH funding. Let your representative know that these programs are vital to your community's families, students, teachers, libraries, museums, and others. 

Such programs and partnerships help strengthen communities, prepare children to succeed, and engage people in civic life. NEH funding is very important to our strength and stability as a nation. With it, local groups leverage at least an equal amount of private support every year.

The American Academy of Arts & Sciences' Commission on the Humanities and Social Sciences released a report, The Heart of the Matter: The Humanities and Social Sciences for a vibrant, competitive and secure nation. As one official put it, "Most of our wealth may come from technological advances over the past fifty or sixty years. But most of our character as a nation comes from the study and understanding of the humanities." You can watch this very moving seven-minute video that accompanies the report.

Please send a message today to support the humanities in the U.S.

{The link takes you to the advocacy page on the Federation of State Humanities Councils website. Fill out the form, which will automatically match your address information to your member of Congress. Review the message, which you may edit and bolster with talking points. Click on Preview to see the addressee and completed message.}




August 16, 11:00pm till August 17 at 8:00pm PDT

           
All Prints, Fine Art And Folk Art 30-60% Off! Two Days Only!           
Friday and Saturday, August 16 And 17, 2013, 11am-8pm
           
Local Art, Good Rolas and Fine Times Await!
Artists interested in participating please contact Mari@shopspanglish.com
           
2512 J Street, Sacramento, CA 916-436-6079
Hours: Mon-Sat 11am-8pm; Sun 11am-4pm

Es todo, hoy,
RudyG

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mario Acevedo - Happy Birthday, Rocky

Mario Acevedo's New Book, Good Money Gone


La Bloga friend Mario Acevedo writes the best-selling Felix Gomez detective-vampire series (five novels, so far.) Mario’s debut novel, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, was chosen by Barnes & Noble as one of the best Paranormal Fantasy Novels of the Decade. His vampire character is featured in the graphic novel Killing the Cobra from IDW Publishing. His short fiction is included in the anthologies, You Don’t Have A Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens and Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery from Arte Público Press, and in Exquisite Corpse and Modern Drunkard Magazine. 

Mario is a past president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and was the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers 2009 Writer of the Year.

Mario's latest publishing venture is a thriller he co-wrote with a man who lived through many of the events that appear in the book. It's title is Good Money Gone.

This description is from the blurbs on the book's cover:

"Panama: a tropical paradise with an anything-goes attitude. Bring your wish list. It's a place to start. Or start over. Where the best of intentions are dazzled by the glitter of easy money. Steven McKay chases the quick bucks in offshore finance, playing fast and loose with his scruples until he discovers he's merely one cog in a vast Ponzi scheme. Even as his paranoid boss puts the screws to everyone inside the conspiracy, McKay races to save his clients -- and his skin -- before the rotten machine grinds to a halt under the weight of sleaze, greed, and criminal investigations. He realizes too late that his dream for wealth and fortune was nothing but Good Money Gone."

I asked Mario for a few words about how he came to be involved in this project - here's his response. Plus, he's offering a free download the first few days of August. Check it out.

___________________________________________________

Mario Acevedo:

I co-wrote this story with Richard Kilborn, and it's based on his experience working with an investment company in Panama. The company swindled millions in one of the biggest offshore Ponzi schemes in US history. (Look up the Firm of Mark M Harris.)

Richard flew me to Panama to get a flavor of the place and to interview some of his former co-workers. The opening chapter is pretty much what I experienced on arrival except that we didn't end up in a whorehouse. This was the first time I've ever been to another Latin American country besides Mexico. The differences and similarities were striking and overall, I was very impressed. I would live in Panama.

When I first started on the manuscript, my outline and draft were based on Richard's recollection and the documents he had forwarded. I suggested that we might add wiretaps and private detectives to heighten the drama but he said that didn't happen.

The interviews with his fellow salesmen weren't very productive. They didn't share much and even resented that Richard had reopened wounds about a painful time in their lives. But his other co-workers were much more forthcoming and the wildest episodes in the novel are based on their testimony (which shocked even Richard). Plus the chief of security did admit to bugging phones and shadowing people. (Do I know noir or what?) The atmosphere during the final days when the firm was sinking and the authorities closing in like sharks was rife with paranoia. And the head of the company was captured almost identically to the way the villain was in the story.

We're offering the ebook as a free download on Amazon, August 1-5.

Good Money Gone, when the road to riches becomes the road to ruin.

Hope you enjoy the book.


_____________________________________________________

Happy Birthday, Rocky Ruiz


Back in 1990 or so I finished a manuscript that I titled El Corrido de Rocky Ruiz. The story focused on Luis Móntez, a burned-out Chicano lawyer trying to stay afloat in Denver, struggling with non-paying clients, no social life, and a malaise of the soul that had him talking to himself. He battled the "old boys club" of lawyers and judges in the courtroom and in his professional life. In his personal life he battled his grouchy and stubborn father, Jesús, who always seemed to know what was best for Luis even if Luis couldn't see it. One of his ex-wives hounded him for money, while his sons gradually drifted away from him as they grew up. Into the middle of Luis's serious mid-life crisis walked Teresa Fuentes, the young Texas attorney who surprised Luis by showing an interest in him but who, as it turned out, had serious dark secrets of her own. Teresa stirred things up in the Mile High City, not the least of which was Luis's resurrected need to learn the truth about the death of his best friend in college, Rocky Ruiz. Luis's search for that truth was at the core of the novel and that meant that the Chicano Movement politics of Luis's youth, back in the 1960s, played an essential role in the story. I jumped with passion and drive into Luis's adventures tracking down the death of Rocky Ruiz and the real reason for Teresa's move to Denver, and when I finished I realized I had written a mystery novel.

This is how Luis describes his first meeting with Teresa:

"I looked at her face and, you know how it is, there are times when the people, atmosphere, and emotions all come together at the right instant and you swear life really is fine, after all. The four black musicians on the small, barely lighted stage kicked off their last set with a moody, bluesy jazz harmony that set exactly the right tone. The bourbon cruised my system, mellowing out the rough parts and tricking me into thinking that the city was the only way to go. And I stared into the most beautiful pair of eyes I had seen in years of chasing every manner and style of woman, tearing apart two marriages and who knows how many affairs, living through broken hearts and breaking a few, too. But those eyes turned me into a twenty-one-year-old loco, a dude on the prowl, and the world again was inhabited by beautiful, sensual women."

Before Rocky I had written another piece that I called a "book"  -- it wasn't. That manuscript has never been read by anyone other than my wife. Bits and pieces of it have been rolled into other stories and novels, and ideas from the early story have found their way into more recent writing, so it was something I had to do. But when I finished El Corrido de Rocky Ruiz I knew I had written a book worth showing to someone other than my biggest fan. I submitted it to a few agents and publishers. Eventually an agent took an interest in the book. I later learned that he was almost as new to the business as I was, but in those days that didn't seem to matter.

I took a chance and entered the manuscript in the Chicano/Latino Literary Award contest sponsored by the University of California at Irvine, administered by the respected and well-known literary critic Juan Bruce-Novoa. I still remember the phone call from Juan when he told me that El Corrido de Rocky Ruiz had won the award and could I come to California for the award ceremony?

Thus began my continuing saga with Rocky Ruiz. My agent sent me copies of rejection letters until the day came that he happily informed me that St. Martin's Press was interested. The award included publication of the book but Juan Bruce-Novoa was okay with St. Martin's as long the award was mentioned on the cover. That's why the following is found on the jacket of the hardcover edition of The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz:

"Winner of the 1991 University of California at Irvine Chicano/Latino Literary Contest."

The editing process included changing the title to The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz: Death of a Martyr (some early reviews have that as the title - Death of a Martyr appeared on the ARCs but not in the final version.) My editor, Reagan Arthur (now publisher at Little, Brown with her own imprint) was encouraging and helpful, and I was the recipient of some honest-to-goodness copy editing from one of Reagan's copy editors. The cover art was sufficiently dark, ambiguous, and mysterious, and it included the line A Mystery by Manuel Ramos right at the top of the front cover. Cool. The jacket copy proclaimed that the book was an "exciting debut novel." I loved that book. The year was 1993. The month was July.

Then the reviews started coming in and, if I say so myself, they were great.

"Ramos fashions Luis into a likeable sleuth ... with hangdog charisma."  Publishers Weekly

"An auspicious debut ... The first-person narrative of Montez is perfect, and a sense of dreamlike fatalism hovers over the action."  San Francisco Examiner and Chronicle

"A thickly atmospheric first novel with just enough mystery to hold together a powerfully elegiac memoir of the heady early days of Chicano activism." Kirkus Reviews

"Keenly enjoyable ... Succeeds as both thriller and soul-searching lamentation for the demise of the 1960s Chicano movement." Booklist

The book won a Colorado Book Award and was a finalist for an Edgar Award for best first novel from the Mystery Writers of America. St. Martin's re-released it as a mass market paperback.  This edition featured a classy cover even though it had an image that probably was Luis Móntez. I always thought Luis's face should have been left to the reader's imagination.

St. Martin's eventually published four Móntez novels. The string with the New York publisher stopped in 1997 with Blues for the Buffalo, around the same time that Reagan Arthur left St. Martin's. I finished the lawyer series in 2003 with Brown-on-Brown, published by the University of New Mexico Press. I had said all I could think of about Luis Móntez and for me his saga was done. The five books covered about a decade in Luis's life. The story arc began with his mid-life edginess in the Ballad of Rocky Ruiz and ended with a quiet acceptance of life's vagaries at the end of Brown-on-Brown, although some things don't change and he still had a regret about a woman who slipped away.

"I thought again about quitting. The cranking furnace heat and the greasy lunch made me drowsy. I could hear the snow falling on the sidewalk outside my office. I could feel the branches of the tree near the front door bend under the weight of ice. My eyes were blinded by the white light of winter. My heart thumped crazily in my chest. I thought of Alicia.

Rosa's voice cracked through my daze. 'You okay, Luis? You don't look so good.'

I said, 'Never better, Rosa. Never better.'"

But Rocky wasn't finished. In the early 2000s I was approached by Ilan Stavans about the possibility of reissuing the Móntez books as part of the Latino Voices series that Stavans was editing for Northwestern University Press. I jumped at the chance. Not only did the books get a new life, they had new covers, a major introduction by Stavans that stretched across the first four books, and forewords for each of the books by authors of my choosing. The new editions were released in 2004. The cover art again was excellent. The artist used the huelga eagle stretching across a southwestern vista. Maybe it didn't have all that much to do with the story, but it sure looked good.

Gary Phillips, one of my favorite crime fiction writers, wrote the foreword. Gary's very nice words included this observation:

"The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz offers no shopworn sentimentality. It is a tale about past sins and how Montez must wrestle with his part in all that to see clearly in the present. It is a mystery of the human condition and our need to heal old wounds. We, like Montez, learn over again that cynicism and regret plague our psyches. But to give in totally is to give up, and that's not the answer to either when the smoke clears.  Always forward, Rocky would say, ese, because it ain't no big thing."

So it's been twenty years. Publishing has changed as much as my hair has lost its glossy black sheen. My attitude about writing hasn't changed all that much, but now I think I understand the business better, and the essential need to appreciate the art rather than the trappings that come with the artistic product. The great reviews, accolades, and attention that I accepted as part of the writer's natural life back in 1993 now seem like a distant dream, not even a memory.  

The Ballad of Rocky Ruiz is still available from Northwestern, and any bookseller can order it if requested. That's something, I think. Contrary to what Rocky Ruiz might say, that's a big thing, ese. 

It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play ...


Later.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Guest Columnist: Sheryl Luna




In the introduction of Brazos, Carry Me (Kórima Press, 2013) by Pablo Miguel Martinez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba writes, “Pain is a constant in these poems, but so is wonder, rendered in sharp lines and simple images that startle in their clarity.” These poems indeed are largely about loss, persistence, place and culture.

Interestingly Martinez quotes Plato as the book opens, “You have shown me a strange image,” and here one cannot help but think of Plato’s allegory of the cave where one can see only shadows their whole lives without leaving the cave. Only those who leave the cave can return with stories which are often disbelieved by those who have never left. For Martinez, seeing clearly is of high importance, and these lovely poems find beauty despite hardship and peace despite turmoil. Martinez captures the Chicano experience in Texas that often goes unseen and unheard by Anglos. These poems also elicit sexual hunger and tension and celebrate the perseverance and brotherhood of Gay Latinos.

The first section of the collection is titled aptly after Plato, “The Wild Caves.” In “Departure” the speaker comments on his father’s death with elegant imagistic language:

                  My father is already hurtling toward infinity—
                  Going home, the priest said.
                  I am on a runway, the lights
                  Flashing: red, blue—
                  loud and lewd.

The poems in this collection often present stark images of poverty: a Mexican woman sobbing with gnarled hands, a thin Puertorriqueña whose name is stitched on a uniform. She has just returned from a sweatshop. In “Song,” Martinez writes,

                  The lines of the psalm follow
                  a starving mother across
                  the Sahel and another
                  and another…

And later,

                  No one will hear the lines
                  rumble in her belly.
                  No one will rescue the song
                  clinging to her brittle lips.

The poem which follows is where the title of the collection stems, and it is like many of the poems in this stellar collection as it  pays tribute to the speaker’s many ancestors and his people. It is titled “Baile de La Gloria/ Elegy for Manny.”

                  Brazos, carry me there,
                    To that place where every squeeze
                       of the accordion

                  is an urgent hymn to mi raza,
                    and la orquestra keeps time
                       to the beat of angel wings.

La Gloria was a building on San Antonio’s west side, and many of these poems celebrate San Antonio, Texas, nature, history and love. There are a number of poems that celebrate the beauty of nature with lush lovely language.
                  Martinez’s skill with metaphor, linguistic play and musicality is evident throughout the collection. He writes of an

                  Abluelo’s biceps—veiny, watery,
                  angled by a pack of Camels—
                  ripple: a cool river working

                  at the peel of an apple.

Overall, the collection expresses an elegance which is wild yet simultaneously controlled. Martinez writes,

                  Here I am dutiful, sure—as if the things that sting
                  had not yet set foot on this thorny, hard-plated earth,
                 
                  as if we’ve traveled back to a time before music was tamed,
                  before storms were measured, before ache had its name.

Brazos, Carry Me is a stellar debut with everything from a full moon rising over Juárez, to “people dancing mambo/to the music of Pérez Prado,” but always the poor and the nameless are unforgotten in these poems.
                  Gay men, ancestors, abuelos and abuelas, the poor and downtrodden all receive a welcome enunciation here. For example, in “Protocol” Martinez pens,

                  Down on Hudson Street two men scrub
                    Graffiti off a wall: “Die Fags,” it reads.
                  A constellation of swastikas swirls
                    Around the imperative.
                  Crazy, ain’t they, the fucks who did this,
                    One of the men says as I walk past.

                  Yeah, crazy.

The terse language and surprising turns in the collection show Martinez has studied his craft long and carefully. His word choice, imagery, musicality, rhythms and narratives make for a fulfilling read. They are a call to pay attention and to have empathy for the poor and marginalized, and they show what it means to leave home, in this case San Antonio and to return with new insights. Martinez is an avid storyteller and lyricist. Brazos, Carry Me is Pablo Miguel Martinez’s mark on the Chicano literary canon, and it is the mark of excellence.


Sheryl Luna’s first collection, Pity the Drowned Horses, received the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Notre Dame Press. It was a finalist for the National Poetry Series and the Colorado Book Award. Her second collection, Seven, was  just published by 3: A Taos Press. She is a Canto Mundo fellow.