Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Is detective fiction killing us? Gluten-free treats from a good Mexican girl. On-line Floricanto: ¡43 Presente!

Michael Sedano

On November 24 La Bloga-Tuesday published an advance review of “Skin In The Game” without acknowledging the previous day’s announcement in Ferguson, despite jarringly ugly disconnects between reality and fiction.

Sabrina Vourvoulias remarks in her blog, Following the lede, how she feared a pro-cop sci-fi story she wrote might do harm since it would be published a day after the cop who murdered Michael Brown exited stage right, unindicted.

“Skin In The Game” features chicana detective Jimena Villagran, who strides into the heart of Philadelphia’s most dangerous neighborhoods where something is killing people, ripping them open and eating their organs. “Skin’s” dystopic Philadelphia uncomfortably mirrors the city's neighborhoods. Vourvoulias' journalistic eye further enhances the verisimilitude, the kind that gives good sci-fi its unnerving metaphors.

Both author Vourvoulias and publisher Tor worried that glorifying a monster-fightiing cop hero could damage people already tortured by the failure of process. “Skin In The Game” was to be published on December 2, a week following the November 24th announcement in Ferguson.

Vourvoulias believes words take on a life of their own, that people invest stories with meaning beyond the writer’s influence. She didn’t want her story of a good cop fearlessly fighting for Order and the Good to give a punch in the face to a reader working to make sense of systemic perversions of Justice.

“Skin In The Game” published on schedule, December 2, 2014, because, the editor reasoned, there might never be a week free from news of “hideous injustice”. Was that prescience, or experience?

The day following Tor.com’s publication of "Skin In The Game", New York found no reason to indict the cop in the choke hold murder of Eric Garner. But then, that’s a standard Unitedstatesian value: one hundred fifty years ago, Congress declared the November 29 Sand Creek Massacre an atrocity but allowed the commander to walk away unindicted.

Vourvoulias and her publisher resolved their concerns and published despite the clear contradictions between the fiction and the world as we have it. Similarly, La Bloga’s critical response to this work of art limited itself to the self-contained universe of the fiction.

The open issue screams out loud. Cops are not heroes, why does literature glorify them? Is it harmful to a reader to be rooting for the “good” detective to win when every day news abounds with one dead reason after another to distrust cops?

Persuasion research shows that people are drawn toward favorability of dissonant messages when an admired person advocates for the other side. The latitudes of attitude move away from favorability to the source, but toward favoring the issue. That’s in ordinary persuasion, like politics. Fiction can be perniciously influential. Could it be detective fiction is poisoning the common sense and survivability of a person confronted by a trembling cop with a Glock?

Leave a Comment to share your views. You’ll find the Comments link at the bottom of today’s column.

The Gluten-free Chicano
What’s a Good Mexican Girl To Do?

The Gluten-free Chicano has a sweet tooth. Cookies, pies, birthday cakes, conchas, helotes, marranos, polvorones, are all off-limits to Celiacs and others afflicted by gluten intolerance.

Analogs look like edible food but only in one's imagination they're good. Now, poet reina alejandra prado has found what appears to be a productive way to indulge a  Celiac's sweet tooth. Prado is the Good Mexican Girl in the eponymous bakery.

Click the link to visit the Good Mexican Girl, an artisanal bakery specializing in unique flavor profiles, says the website.

GMG's website observes, "The cornerstone of our business is a cookie - the one I call 'throw me a wedding shower' cookie, most popularly known as the Mexican wedding cookie or Russian teacake. It's buttery, nutty and just scrumptious with a hint of lemon and sweetness from the powder sugar. We made the original Gluten Free Mexican Wedding Cookie."

Here's the origins of the GMG's commitment to the Gluten-free community:


Several years ago, I learned about a gluten-free diet first from my friend Maya. She had to change her diet after under going a series of tests. After I underwent a food cleanse where I could not eat any foods prepared with enriched flour or wheat bread, I became more conscious of what is gluten-free. My awareness of the need for gluten-free products became more pronounced with my business. Clients would ask if I had gluten-free options. In November, with the pan de muerto (Day of Dead Bread), I baked our first gluten-free product.

We continued to produce gluten-free treats with the traditional Mexican sweet bread La Rosca de Reyes and with Mexican Wedding Cookies.

It’s been a joy to meet virtually and in person other Latinas who haven’t been able to eat their favorite sweet breads and now can happily enjoy them again in gluten-free form."

The Gluten-free Chicano isn't uncritical about GMG products, especially the claim "We can make any baked good with gluten-free flour. We make our flour blend that includes Rice Flour or Brown Rice Flour, (whichever one is available), Potato Starch, Tapioca Flour, and Xanthum Gum."

"Any" certainly is possible. But as noted, analogs suck, so the Gluten-free Chicano is not ever again buying "bread" or "cake" or "pie crust" made to be gluten-free. The cookies, now that's a different matter.

Full disclosure: The Gluten-free Chicano enjoys Prado's poetry but has yet to taste her cooking. When he finally has the opportunity to scarf down some GF galletas, La Bloga will report the Good Mexican Girl's success. If it's sweet and dunkable, I'm sure I'll like it. I hope I like it. Oh please.

Faltamos 43! On-line Floricanto
Frank Acosta, Ivonne Gordon Carrera, Tara Evonne, Victor Avila, Xico González

“Warrior Poets Rise (Sovereignty, Justice, Peace)” by Frank Acosta
“AYOTZINAPA” Por Ivonne Gordon Carrera
“Mezcla,” by Tara Evonne
"El Pañuelo Negro" por Victor Avila
"Semillas de Ayotzinapa" by Xico González

Warrior Poets Rise (Sovereignty, Justice, Peace)
by Frank Acosta

The stories are blood flowing thru you
Our people’s truth, worthy to be told
In solidarity, set us free to awaken
The strumming of dormant heart-chords
Searching for sacred songs of purpose
Your words are those of the ancestor’s
Spirit voice returning in wisdom
Your offerings of soulful flor y canto
The silenced stanza of a departed child’s poem
Verses of the lost, to violence, ignorance, greed
Tyrannical avarice would still humanity for gold
Shackled deep inside the belly of the beast
Songs, poems, & prayers of the warrior poet
A confluence of hearts, minds, and souls
Flesh & spirit, present & past, one great circle
Let word and deeds flow in transformative love
Sentinels of sovereignty and sanctity of all creation

Frank de Jesus Acosta is principal of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consulting group that specializes in professional support services to public and private social change ventures in the areas of children, youth and family services, violence prevention, community development, and cultural fluency. In 2007, he authored, The History of Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence, published by Arte Publico Press, University of Houston. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). His professional experience includes serving in executive leadership positions with The California Wellness Foundation, the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), the Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. He is presently focused on completing the writing and publishing a two book series for Arte Publico Press focused on best practices to improve the well-being of Latino young men and boys. Acosta most recently co-authored a published “Brown Paper” with Jerry Tello of the National Latino Fatherhood and Family Institute (NLFFI) entitled, “Lifting Latinos Up by Their Rootstraps: Moving Beyond Trauma Through a Healing-Informed Framework for Latino Boys and Men.” Acosta provides writing and strategic professional support in research, planning, and development to foundations and community-focused institutions on select initiatives focused on advancing social justice, equity, and pluralism. He is also finalizing writing and editing a book of inter-cultural poetry and spiritual reflections.

Por Ivonne Gordon Carrera

Ayotzinapa, hace poco no podía pronunciar tu nombre.
Ahora no sólo lo pronuncio, no sólo lo repito,
sino que es una herida abierta en la tierra.
Es una violación de la tierra, 43 hijos
de vientres heridos claman, Ayotzinapa
ya no es una palabra, ya no es un lugar.
Ayotzinapa es un monumento a la violencia,
es un campamento de jardines descompuestos.
Es un grito, un aullido, es cicatriz
y carne viva. Ya basta.
Ya nos cansamos
de tanto ataúd y vitrina.

© Ivonne Gordon Carrera (2014)

by Ivonne Gordon Carrera

Ayotzinapa, not long ago I could not pronounce your name.
Now I pronounce it, now I repeat it,
now it is an open wound of the earth.
The ground has been raped, 43 sons
of wounded wombs cry out. Ayotzinapa,
it is no longer a word, it is no longer a place.
Ayotzinapa is a monument of violence,
It is a camp of decomposed gardens.
It is a yell, a howl, it is a scar
of live flesh. Enough, we have become tired
of caskets and showcases.

© Ivonne Gordon Carrera (2014)

by Tara Evonne

I became
the mix
of all those
before me
las abuelitas
enduring me
de méjico
y españa
my mix
of dark
and light
all I’ve ever
to be true
my red heart
beating brown
never did I
this corazón
when distraught
a daughter
trusting life
somewhere else
when flying
I became torn
my parts
the effects
of long term
generational genocide
buried under
the rubble
of mankind
all my relations
praying alongside
to protect
women and children
I became
the written
across maps
of great divides
hate created
by mankind
I became
the shooting star
tearing across
early dawn sky
a woman kind
of star dusting
for others
to follow
the collective
of survival.

Tara Evonne Trudell is a recent graduate with her BFA in Media Arts from New Mexico Highlands University.  While in school she developed a passion in combining the many forms of multi media with poetry to address social issues. In this process she discovered her own purpose and commitment to using these medias to create art and movement. It has become her goal to offer work that instills and emotional impact in the viewer. Her work can be viewed at www.taraevonnetrudell.com

"El Pañuelo Negro"
por Victor Avila

para mg

Porque yo no tenía
el poder de un gobierno corrupto detrás de mí,
O la farsa de un medio cobarde
que no pudo hablar la verdad en mi nombre.
Porque me habían amenazado
a punta de pistola pensando
que sería suficiente
para garanitzar mi silencio - O porque muchos habían desaparecido ya
que iba a tener demasiado miedo a levantar la voz.
Pero hoy me di cuenta" ¿Qué otra cosa pueden hacer me a mí
que aún no lo han hecho?"
Las madres de Juárez claman por sus
Hijas asesinados
Y los fantasmas de los hombres olvidados
persigan el puente donde les colgaron.
¿Qué más pueden hacer me? Se llevaron todo de mí
y eso fue su mayor error
porque también tomaron mi miedo.
Y ahora que ya no estoy asustado…
Si yo no hable hasta ahora
sólo tengo yo la culpa
cuando la policía venga llamar a mi puerta.
¿Son esos sus mismos camiones que se aproximan? Y este simple pedazo de tela
alguna vez insignificante y que ahora significa algo más.
Saludo con la mano en la cara de esos cobardes que tomaron los 43
Enojado levanto en mi puño agitándolo, agitándolo.
Ya no voy a utilizarlo para enjugar mis lágrimas
o los de mis hermanos y hermanas.
Es mi bandera para enfrente a enormes obstáculos.
Si me voy del mundo sepan que no estoy derrotado,
que México no esta derrotado,
y que nos traerá los 43 a casa.

Victor Avila is an award-winning poet. Recent work has been included in the anthology Overthrowing Capitalism and Revolutionary Poets Brigade-Los Angeles. Victor is also the writer and illustrator of the series Hollywood Ghost Comix.  Volume Two will be available on Ghoula Press in February of 2015.  He has taught in California public schools for twenty five years.  This is his eighteenth appearance in La Bloga and would like to thank the moderators of Poets Responding to SB 1070 for that honor.

"Semillas de Ayotzinapa"
by Xico González

"Nos querían enterrar
pero no sabían que éramos semillas."

Sol, tierra, agua,
cuerpo- semilla rebelde
que enterraron
para luego brotar como rabia y rebeldía

Casas campesinas están tristes
Lágrimas corren por las milpas
porque los elotes salados
de tristeza y dolor
fueron cortados verdes
con machetes amellados
en manos bruscas y ladronas
que no perdonará Dios

Ese maíz nunca llegará a ser nixtamal,
masa o tortillas
Ni nutrirá las mentes y las almas
de jóvenes guerrerenses

Mujeres del color de la tierra
no tocarán a ese maíz
con sus delicadas manos
ni lo purificarán en el metate

Las milpas extrañarán a esas mazorcas
por el resto de sus días
Oh, frutos de vida
decansen en la madre tierra
hasta volver a brotar
y calmar el hambre de justicia de nuestro pueblo.

Xico González is an educator, artist, poet, and a political and cultural activista based in Sacramento, California. He received a MA in Spanish from Sacramento State, and a MFA in Art Studio from the University of California at Davis.  González currently teaches Spanish and Art Studio at the Met Sacramento High School.

The work of Xico González seeks to empower people uniting in common cause against a common oppressor disguised in different máscaras.  Gonzalez’s silkscreen posters address and support numerous political causes, such as the struggle for immigrants’ rights, the Palestinian and Zapatista struggles, and the right for Chicana/o self determination.  González is not only an artist, but is also an activist/organizer that puts his artistic skills to the benefit of his community.  Xico’s work contributes to the long dialogue of art, activism and the legacy of the Chicano Art Movement.  González has been influenced primarily by his mentors, Chicano artists Ricardo Favela (RIP), and Malaquías Montoya, and by early Chicano art collectives like the Mexican American Liberation Art Front (MALA-F), and the Rebel Chicano Art Front also known as the Royal Chicano Air Force (RCAF).

Website: www.xicogonzalez.com


Anonymous said...

About your question--U.S. media is driven by a cops-are-heroes theme. What's portrayed on screen and in lit bears little resemblance to reality. The only good cop is the one who exposes the bad cops, and in fact does serve and protect citizens. Otherwise, I don't see the value in fictionalizing a good cop; that's already society's message.


The problem is publishers are a much a part of society as the police. They sell good cops as entertainment for readers who fear the world, it's their business. But it is amazing how the world had turned around in the last few weeks. Who knows where it will lead and how long it will last. The political merry-go-round spins on. Publishing lead times can't keep up. Writers can only do what they think is right, and hope they can make it work. The rest of this decade is going to be interesting.

Sabrina Vourvoulias said...

Interesting take to think of it as a pro-cop piece. I wouldn't say that's the usual reading at all, since the monsters in the piece are all cops and what brutality there is in the piece is all perpetrated by cops.

The publisher's and my concern was more along the lines that the story reflects, fantastically, a reality that is all too common — of predators within a group that has authority over the people — and that in the real world that manifests in impunity such as in the cases in Ferguson and Staten Island.

Not the standard police procedural at all. ;)

KTHolt said...

I don't think Mr. Sedano read "Skin in the Game." Or if he did, he can't have been paying attention. WARNING: Spoilers ahead.

There was no glorification in "Skin." There was a community preyed upon by police (who happened to be privileged monsters). Then the community saved itself from the police by fighting back and winning. The main character (who happened to be a woman, a member of the community, and another monster cop) is saved and embraced by the community. Not the other way around.

And "Skin" wasn't only a bad example of the point Mr. Sedano tried to make. It also clashes with the historical reference he cited...


Fictional cops can be subversive. Jimena Villagrán has more in common with with Chester Himes' Coffin Ed and Gravedigger Jones that the officers being protested. Also, cops and detectives investigating crimes provide a good way to lead the readers -- and editors, and publishers -- in brave new terra incognita, which is always a good thing.

Manuel Ramos said...

"Cops are not heroes, why does literature glorify them? Is it harmful to a reader to be rooting for the “good” detective to win when every day news abounds with one dead reason after another to distrust cops?" Provocative words, Em. Fiction is, after all, fiction -- not true. Some cops are heroes. There is literature that does not glorify cops but just the opposite. Perhaps this requires a longer response. But again, you have stirred the pot, viejo.

msedano said...

pots deserve stirring. the topic merits lots more thought and work indeed. i had to go back to 2005, Rolo Diez Tequila Blue, to find a cop novel that gives the cop lots of warts but forces him to do the right thing. Haven't seen another like it, nor another from Rolo.