On the Road With Jesús
Next week, La Bloga-Tuesday joins Rudolfo Anaya in Alburquerque to interview him in conjunction with my review of Anaya’s latest novel, The Sorrows of Young Alfonso. Getting there is half the fun.
This week, Jesús Treviño and I began a road trip to Anaya's home where Jesús will produce video interviews for Latinopia, as I gather material for La Bloga.
Leaving behind the billowing smoke from the drought-fed Sand fire that rages in the mountains north of our LA area homes, Treviño and I looked forward to the cleaner air of the high desert. As a gloomy reminder of the suffering of folks in northern Los Angeles County, the smoke clouded the western horizon with tendrils infiltrating our route along Interstate 15 toward Las Vegas.
Engaged in conversation and stunned by the amazing CDs of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, we cruised through Barstow and missed the cut-off for the direct route to Winslow AZ, the first stop of our itinerary.
The arresting sight of what looked to be alien installations in the Mojave Desert stopped us in our tracks. Blinding white light glowed at the top of towers rising from shining blue lakes. We took the Nipton Road exit for a better look at what I learned via the internet is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System.
The blue water is the sun reflecting from acres of mirrors installed at the base of solar energy collectors. These heliostats reflect light onto the solar receiver where the heat converts water to steam to drive electricity-generating turbines. Far from an alien attack, the wondrous installation represents a future of clean energy.
We had missed our turn-off, but we weren’t lost. Nipton Road is one of those “blue highways” William Least Heat Moon recommends in his engaging travel adventure, Blue Highways: A Journey Into America. Once across the California state line, Nipton Road becomes Nevada state route 164, dubbed the “Joshua Tree Highway.”
Highway 164 provides an enchanting route through a forest of small-limbed Joshua trees, remarkably dissimilar to the massive-trunked beauties of the Southern California desert. The landscape was dotted with spiky jumping cholla and salt bush. I spotted barrel cactus nestled among the basalt outcroppings that remind of the land’s ancient volcanic activity.
The Joshua Tree Highway meets Highway 95 at Searchlight NV, where Terrible’s Roadhouse serves a hearty breakfast and, this morning, an empty casino featuring rows of slot machines.
From Terrible’s Roadhouse the 95 takes us south to the I-40 and a trek across the Colorado River then up to the high country and piney woods of Flagstaff, where our journey treated we thirsty Californians to the rare and wondrous sight of spectacular lightning bolts and rain. Treviño’s SUV seemed to leap with joy at the necessity of windshield wipers, but it was probably hydroplaning as the weather forced us to slow down.
Nonetheless, we made excellent time and arrived at La Posada in Winslow Arizona. As we turned onto Second Street, tourists were taking photos with a bronze sculpture of a man standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona. It was a fine sight to see the quaint hotel.
As I walked to my second-floor room I looked at photographs of local men hauling coal from a nearby mine to the railroad, where cars would take the bitumen to a power plant somewhere to be converted into dirty particulate air pollution and non-renewable energy.
La Posada wasn’t welcoming to one visitor, who was having a bad day. “That’s the way it is, John,” I heard one of five cops tell a fellow as I carried my luggage past angry confrontation. A few minutes later I watched from my window as John was catching a ride somewhere.
TTBF Reaffirming Inclusive Values
Last week, La Bloga-Tuesday had the immense honor of sharing a community’s restrained outrage that the Texas Teen Book Festival had omitted raza writers and books from the 2016 iteration of this important event scheduled for October 1 in Austin.
El pueblo was definitely browned out by their exclusion from TTBF. Yet, the letter-writers composed with dignity, maturity, and honor, seeking rapprochement rather than rebellion. Their voices of reason made a difference and were met with open eyes and ears at the TTBF.
It’s a pleasure to share the following announcement from TTBF’s website:
We are beyond excited to announce that we have scored FOUR more amazing authors to add to our 2016 #TTBF lineup! So, ready your reading list for an update, and add four more great books to those pre-fest reading goals! Today we celebrate the addition of Guadalupe Garcia McCall, author of Shame the Stars; Joe Jiménez, author of Bloodline; Rene S. Perez II, author of Seeing Off the Johns; & Isabel Quintero, author of the award winning Gabi, A Girl in Pieces and recipient of the first annual Barrio Writers Featured Author Sponsorship, given this year in partnership with the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award!
El pueblo responds again. Sarah Rafael Garcia, who organized the letter-writing campaign, reports her email inbox is bulging with letters from gente expressing appreciation for TTBF’s response.
La Bloga-Tuesday shares these next week.
For today, here is a pair of responses from the community to the news. Please visit TTBF’s website for additional developments of a Barrio Writers Workshop and extended programming.
Texas Teen Book Festival,
Thank you for listening ears and a quick response to our concerns. I grew up reading nothing but white writers until I was in college. Palo Alto College was the first place I was introduced to and read any Latinx author. Had I not gone to college, I may have missed out. And too many of us do.
I don’t want my daughters to grow up in a world where they don’t see themselves in reputable positions such as academia and literature, especially and more importantly, in our own state. It is not lost on me that this does not happen often. Our inclusion is something we always fight for, incessantly and loudly. We are born with this fight.
We appreciate your attentiveness and the four new authors you’ve chosen. You went right into the heart of our neighborhoods and chose a Barrio Writer. Bravo! Then, you invited the Barrio Writers to host a writing workshop. That is community in action.
I didn’t plan to attend the TTBF. That has changed. I’m elated to bring my family and invite my community.
Mother and poet
San Antonio, Texas
Hugo Esteban Rodríguez
One of the greatest allies we could have in the push for diversity are people that listen to concerns and take decisive action to address these concerns. So I am here joining my fellow Latinx writers and poets in thanking the Texas Teen Book Festival and its sponsors for their recent decision to add four fantastic Latin@/Chican@ writers to their author list and a BarrioWriters workshop to the event.
The TTBF didn’t faux-pologize or tell people “you’re wrong, how dare you?” They said: “We are hearing your concerns, and you’re right, we need to change things.”
It shows me two things: One, engaging in constructive criticism and dialogue can bring about positive change. Two, the people (Texas Book Festival and BookPeople) running the show are truly concerned and are very receptive and welcoming of change.
They have my praise and my thanks, and I look forward to a continued dialogue about diversity in young adult literature. I know that the concerns all of us writers have about YA lit are concerns that are best addressed through unity. After all, la unión hace la fuerza.
Hugo Esteban Rodríguez, Houston-based writer and poet
Emerging Writers $10 Opportunity to Emerge
PEN Center USA offers a fellowship application with an upcoming deadline. There's a ten dollar fee to apply. Here's an email from the fellowship coordinator.
Would you be interested in sharing information about our mentorship program in order to help find the next Emerging Voices Fellows? We are looking for diverse and underrepresented voices without MFAs. You can find the application here https://emerging-voices.submittable.com/submit/53291
131 writers have successfully completed the fellowship since its inception in 1996, including writers like Natashia Deón and Cynthia Bond. Mentors have included such well-known talents as Sherman Alexie, Aimee Bender, Harryette Mullen, and Ron Carlson. We are not seeking paid advertisement but welcome you to feature the Emerging Voices Fellowship in your blog, journal, or magazine.
By supporting our search, you are simultaneously supporting PEN Center USA's mission to defend freedom of expression and championing voices that would otherwise not be heard. We truly appreciate your help. Let me know if you have any other questions.
Program Outreach Coordinator
Emerging Voices Fellowship
PEN Center USA
PO Box 6037
Beverly Hills, CA 90212
Phone: 1.323.424.4939 ext. 1007