Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Chicano novelist and his literary works – David Bowles

One characteristic of mainstream Anglo-American literature is separation of literary works vs genre works. Literary is considered superior, more scholarly and artistic, while genre--also called speculative lit, including sci-fi, fantasy, horror and more--is considered something less. Think of it in terms of an Anglo vs POC parallel.
Certain authors and their works have superseded the arbitrary separation belittling speculative literature, like the English author, Neil Gaiman. While Chicano and Latino authors have been producing literature that belies biases against speculative lit, today La Bloga focuses on tejano David Bowles.

The American Library Association recently selected Bowles's YA novel, The Smoking Mirror, as a 2016 Pura Belpré Honor Book.* The award recognizes writing that “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” The committee stated: “Bowles creates an action-packed story based on Aztec and Mayan mythology while capturing the realities of life in contemporary South Texas and Mexico.”

Note that his book was not honored in a sci-fi or fantasy category; the Belpré was given for "an outstanding work of literature." Period. People who choose not to read or get this book for their kids because it's not "mainstream," are missing the point of the Belpré award--"Outstanding literature."

Carol Garza character
Bowles's works go beyond this award-winning book. He writes reviews for the establishment press, writes books of poetry, translations of Náhuatl, history, folklore, research and other prose. You can read some of this below or on his website, but the point is that a speculative lit book was penned by a scholar whose literary credentials are wide-encompassing and growing.

Even if you're a Chicano who never liked genre lit, your kids are going to see Hunger Games, The Martian, Harry Potter movies and possibly reading the same. Consider getting them copies of the Garza Twins books, and other books by Chicano and Latino authors that have heroes as brown as them, as Chicano as them, as literarily worthy as the Anglo authors of the films mentioned.

The other twin, Johnny
Synopsis of The Smoking Mirror: "Carol and Johnny Garza are 12-year-old twins whose lives in a small Texas town are forever changed by their mother’s unexplained disappearance. Shipped off to relatives in Mexico by their grieving father, the twins soon learn that their mother is a nagual, a shapeshifter, and that they have inherited her powers. In order to rescue her, they will have to descend into the Aztec underworld and face the dangers that await them." (Garza Twins • Book One)

Synopsis of A Kingdom Beneath the Waves: The Garza family’s Christmas vacation in Mexico is cut short by the appearance of Pingo, one of the elfish tzapame. The news is grim: a rogue prince from an ancient undersea kingdom is seeking the Shadow Stone, a device he will use to flood the world and wipe out humanity. Now Carol and Johnny must join a group of merfolk and travel into the deepest chasms of the Pacific Ocean to stop the prince and his monstrous army with their savage magic. (Garza Twins • Book Two)

Other books by Bowles:
Ghosts of the Rio Grande Valley (The History Press, Sept. 2016)
The Smoking Mirror (March 2015)
Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry (2013)—winner of the Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translation
Mexican Bestiary (2012)—with Noé Vela.

About David Bowles: "A product of an ethnically diverse family with Latino roots, I have lived most of my life in the Río Grande Valley of south Texas, where I teach at the University of Texas. Recipient of awards from the American Library Association, Texas Institute of Letters and Texas Associated Press, I have written several books.
"Additionally, my work has been published in venues including Rattle, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Metamorphoses, Translation Review, Concho River Review, Huizache, Axolotl, The Thing Itself, Eye to the Telescope and James Gunn’s Ad Astra."

For more info on the author and his works:
PS: it's also David's birthday today, FYI.

* Belpré recipients are selected by a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking (REFORMA).

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