Tuesday, August 04, 2020

Kumpangi, Lost & Found.

In the Time of Spirits: Thrice Found Wedding Ring
Michael Sedano

I have been depressed in recent years over losing my wedding ring. I retrace my steps a thousand times, visualizing the last time I had it seven years ago. Where is it now?  

I dream my wedding ring of silver and gold lies under tons of landfill, that ten thousand years from now, an archaelogical dig finds it, reads the hallmark, "Sterling Brooks 18K". 

Before the Ring.

She didn't want an engagement ring--whirlwind courtship--but a wedding band was de rigueur. We shopped rings, two lovebirds. With Barbara's J.W. Robinson employee discount, we wanted to fall in love with a commercial ring, but like the ticky-tacky song they all looked just the same. We'd have to compromise and settle for what the trays held.
Michael Sedano 1968 at International Peace Shrine above Gaviota.
Foto: Barbara Sedano.
Barbara learned of a new jeweler who'd just set up shop in Montecito. He made rings. 

George Brooks' shop occupied a spot in a millionaire's neighborhood. That boded ill for economy-minded lovebirds, ni modo. We would look inside having driven so far. The stuff in Brooks' windows wasn't jewelry but sculpture in precious metals and jewels. My expectations sank as I walked into the barren shop.

I drew what I considered a female and male version of a serpentine design. Brooks looked at the gold dots on mine and told me they'll fall off. They did. Sergio Flores fixed them when he resized the ring.

My ring, I paid $60. Barbara's, $40. I think George Brooks charged us for materials only. 


Hwaak-ni, Republic of Korea, sprang up as an organized settlement when the U.S. Army installed the world's highest HAWK missile site on a near-by mountain peak. Down in the valley, the valley's so low, the Army installed the Admin Area, a base camp housing 75 soldiers. The Admin Area had jobs that attracted people to the rugged remoteness. Encontre muy buen trabajo, y tambien con el GI, the slickie boys would sing if they'd been Chicanos.

Mae Bong mountain upper left, partial view of Admin Area B 7/5
Houseboys came to this place at the end of the road to work and to steal anything not locked up. Five dollars a month from five GIs, earns $300 a year. They wash, iron, and polish, keep the barrack swept, and hate GIs. A damned good job in a country with a $90 per capita income. 

"Me House Man, no House Boy!" When I lost my ring, I figured good will and human kindness would have nothing to do with finding my wedding band before it left the Ville.

I looked up that per capita income before I left the States for Korea. That's why I figured a $25 reward would be compelling. My only hope of finding the ring 6000 miles from George Brooks' studio, lay in offering half a year's salary. 

Miss Park, the Mess Hall lady, spoke enough English to understand. She wrote the placard, scandalized that I knew there was no chance of recovery, except at a price. What a price, taksan too muchie. She discouraged offering anything, people are nice. She wrote the words in Korean for me and refused a fee. $25.00 reward. Lost Kumpangi.

Familia Legend of Great-Grampa's Gold Ring

I came in from digging the soil to shower and realized my left hand was bare. I'd left the ring out there. I couldn't find it. 

For a week, I sit cross-legged on the earth, planting suspended, hand-sifting every square foot of the seedbed, over and over. Grab two handsful of dirt. Open the hand and let the soil sift through anxious fingers, sensing stones and pebbles immediately recognizing them as not the ring. Like winnowing chaff, toss handsful of earth into the air where it turns to dust and choking powder and no ring. Fashion a wire mesh screen and rack, sift the entire plot, one shovelful at a time. No ring.

Abandoning hope, my vision fashions a history of repeated tellings of the story of great-grampa's ring, out there in the back. The garden passes through generations of Sedano descendants, the story of the silver and gold ring handed down from generation to generation until years later, a little girl is digging the earth and uncovers the ring. She pulls it from the earth, holds it triumphantly, the instant compressing all those generations of stories retold into this circle of sky. She knows how the story of grampa's lost ring ends.

Landfill Miracle of the Spirits in Plague-time.

The depression hits at unpredictable times. My left thumb reaches over to the fourth finger, rubs the bare skin below the knuckle frustrated it remembers what the ring used to feel like on the empty skin.

Where did the ring go? Did I drop it inside a paper cup of birthday party candies, worthless crap someone automatically tossed? Did the ring lie at the bottom of the trash bin until the truck took its contents to the landfill? Now, do tons of landfill cover my ring? 

I convince myself, my wedding ring now lies buried deep in the guts of urban trash, a fleck of golden detritus calling with despair matching my own. Never, never, never, never, never.

There's medical literature that argues no one dies and returns, they have "near death experience." Bunkum. I was on the Other Side and returned with ancestors' directive to Burn Sage. I do. I hear those ancestor voices, I know my familia occupies this space with me.

It is not my NDE that brings Spirits into my room, most Raza I know have a clear sense of spirit matters, la llorona, el cucui, angelito negro/blanco, family leyenda. We don't have to die and come back to know they're involved.

This time, my mother found my ring for me. 

I should have seen it coming. My Mom found me in deep despair over our national failure, but always lurking at the pits of emotion, the lost wedding ring. 

A wedding ring contains potent values, but not what the Monsignor pronounced about the endlessness of a cycle. That ring, sterling, Brooks, 18K, holds in its circumference joyous memory that I lived, that a vital Barbara lived, she who laughed and made jokes and didn't have any money to buy my ring so I paid George Brooks and he gave us a pair of small manila envelopes. 

We slid the rings onto our palms, shiny and ready for August 31. Brooks 18K hers read. Sterling Brooks 18K mine read. We looked forward to filling the ring with this lifetime of memories. And we did, we have, we are. That I alone remember now is how it is. So it goes.

Mom alerted me to good things happening a few weeks ago. She guided my hand underneath a chest into a remote corner at the furthest reach of my ringless fingers. I found a silver ring with a stone my mom fashioned in lapidary night school. I took that as a sign I would never have my ring, my mother offering, here is a replacement mi'jo. I heard her say that.

Mom's jasper cabochon snuggles comfortably in the crook of the little finger when the ring works its way around to rest there. Thank you, Mom. I will live wearing this silver band now. This is how it is.

Sunday afternoon, I feel my mother behind and next to me while I rummage through storage containers in the attic. Some of this is her stuff. I find the stylus from a blood glucose test kit, an emergency spare set aside has found its way into this grocery bag. 

I extract a dusty, blue vinyl zippered case. Inside I see four strands of beads and art deco hook earrings. I remember the day Mom's great-granddaughter visited, rejected the beads as not what the girl coveted. She wanted Mom's something exquisite made from silver and gold and pearls, not these Lapis, Amethyst, Red Garnet, and Green Jade strung beads. That day hurt my Mother profoundly, such bitter disappointment, seeing that child grown.

I zip closed the purse and take a handful of textile, some kind of purse. Empty. I pull it out and look into the worn grocery bag. 

My heart does not skip a beat. I am surprised but accept what I see. I am not exultantly shouting hosanna! and I realize my restraint. In the dim dusty recess, between nondescript bundles of stuff my Mom left behind, sits my silver and gold ring. My ring has come from the landfill to sit quietly triumphant, glowing out a satisfied quehubole in 18K gold and sterling silver made by George Brooks in 1968, lost in 1969, lost again in 2005, lost a third time around 2015.

My Mom never made a big deal about stuff, she took everything with equanimity, and I'm following her lead, she doesn't have to remind me.  Matter-of-factly, I slip on the ring and from now on, that's how it is.

Thanks for the ring. Mom.

My left thumb reaches for the fourth finger, finds the hard edge of the ring under the knuckle, back where it belongs. Lost. Found. Trust in the Spirits.

On August 31 Barbara and I observe the 52d anniversary of her putting that ring on my finger. It was supposed to be for the rest of my life. Thanks, Mom, that's the way it's going to be again.

Burn Sage.
The Silver & Gold Ring in 2020.

GOTV. Wear a mask. Social isolate like it means your life.

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Monday, August 03, 2020


Guest Blogger, Alex Espinoza

LOS ANGELES, CA - Tom Lutz, publisher of LARB Books, has announced the finalists of the inaugural Tomás Rivera Book Prize: Maceo Montoya, Toni Margarita Plummer, and J. L. Torres.

The Tomás Rivera Book Prize is a unique partnership between the Los Angeles Review of Books and the University of California, Riverside, committed to the discovery and fostering of extraordinary writing by an author whose work examines the long and varied contributions of Chicanx/Latinx in the United States. 

Known for his seminal collection of stories, …y no se lo tragó la tierra/ …and the Earth Did Not Devour Him, Rivera was the first Latino chancellor of the UC system and a champion of higher education and social justice. The Tomás Rivera Book Prize honors his legacy and his belief in the power of education, activism, and stories to change lives.
The award attracted applications from writers from California, Texas, the East Coast, and the Midwest.

“The selection committee was impressed by the quality of the manuscripts and the range of voices,” said Alex Espinoza, the current Tomás Rivera Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at UC Riverside and author of The Five Acts of Diego León, the first title published by LARB’s Libros series. “The three finalists selected exhibit the freshest and most innovative voices in Chicanx and Latinx prose in the country.”

Award finalist Maceo Montoya is a California-based author, artist, and educator who has published The Scoundrel and the Optimist (Bilingual Review, 2010); The Deportation of Wopper Barraza (University of New Mexico Press, 2014); Letters to the Poet from His Brother (Copilot Press, 2014), a hybrid book combining images, prose poems, and essays; You Must Fight Them: A Novella and Stories (University of New Mexico Press, 2015), which was a finalist for Foreword Review’s INDIEFAB Book of the Year Award; and Chicano Movement for Beginners, which he both wrote and illustrated. He is currently an associate professor of Chicanx culture and literature at UC Davis.

  Toni Margarita Plummer, a finalist from Hudson Valley, is the author of the story collection The Bolero of Andi Rowe and won Honorable Mention for the 2019 Reynolds Price Prize in Fiction given by the Center for Women Writers. A Macondo Fellow and graduate of the Master of Professional Writing Program at USC, she is a contributor to the anthologies East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte and Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity. She is a member of Latinx in Publishing and currently mentors a writer in its inaugural Writers Mentorship Program.

  Finalist J. L. Torres is the author of The Family Terrorist and Other Stories; a novel, The Accidental Native; and the collection of poetry, Boricua Passport. He has published stories and poems in numerous journals and magazines, including the North American Review, Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Eckleburg Review, Puerto del Sol, Las Americas Review, and the anthology Growing Up Latino. Born in Puerto Rico, raised in the South Bronx, he lives in Plattsburgh, New York, where he teaches American literature, US ethnic literatures, and creative writing at the SUNY campus there. Besides the PhD, he holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia University.

The winner of the Prize will be announced on October 1, 2020, and will receive a $1,000 prize; publication of the manuscript by LARB Libros, a series by LARB Books dedicated to highlighting emerging Latinx talent; and 10 copies of the book. Additionally, the winner will have a book signing at UC Riverside during Writers Week in 2021. The award's final judge will be Luis Alberto Urrea, Mexican-American novelist, poet, and essayist.

Contact: Jessica Kubinec, jessica@lareviewofbooks.org

Bloguero invitado, Alex Espinoza

LOS ANGELES, CA - Tom Lutz, editor de LARB Books, anunció a los Finalistas del Premio inaugural Del Libro Tomás Rivera: Maceo Montoya, Toni Plummer y J.L. Torres.

El Premio del Libro Tomás Rivera es una asociación única entre Los Angeles Review of Books y la Universidad de California, Riverside, comprometida con el descubrimiento y el fomento de la escritura extraordinaria por un autor primerizo o de carrera temprana cuyo trabajo examina el largo y variado contribuciones de Chicanx / Latinx en los Estados Unidos

Conocido por su colección seminal de historias “...y la Tierra no lo Devoró,” Rivera fue el primer Canciller Latino del Sistema de la UC y un defensor de la educación superior y la justicia social. El Premio del Libro Rivera honra su legado y su creencia en el poder de la educación, el activismo y las historias para cambiar vidas.

El premio atrajo solicitudes de escritores de California, Texas, la costa este y el medio oeste.

"El comité de selección quedó impresionado por la calidad de los manuscritos y el rango de voces", dijo Alex Espinoza, Jefe del Comité y autor de The Five Acts of Diego Leon, el primer título publicado por la serie Libros de LARB. "Los tres finalistas la exposición seleccionada muestra las voces más frescas e innovadoras en prosa chicana / o y latina / o en el país ".

 El finalista del premio Maceo Montoya es un autor, artista y educador con sede en California que ha publicado The Scoundrel and the Optimist (Bilingual Review, 2010), The Deportation of Wopper Barraza (University of New Mexico Press, 2014), Letters to the Poet from Su hermano (Copilot Press, 2014), un libro híbrido que combina imágenes, poemas en prosa y ensayos, You Fight Them: A Novella and Stories (University of New Mexico Press, 2015), que fue finalista del libro INDIEFAB de Foreword Review. Premio del Año y Movimiento Chicano para Principiantes, que escribió e ilustró. Actualmente es profesor asociado de cultura y literatura Chicanx en UC Davis.

 Toni Margarita Plummer, finalista de Hudson Valley, es la autora de la colección de cuentos The Bolero of Andi Rowe y ganó la Mención de Honor por el Premio Reynolds Price en Ficción 2019 otorgado por el Center for Women Writers. Becaria Macondo y graduada del Master of Professional Writing Program en USC, es colaboradora de las antologías East of East: The Making of Greater El Monte y Latina Outsiders Remaking Latina Identity. Es miembro de Latinx in Publishing y actualmente es mentora de una escritora en su Programa de Mentoría de Escritores inaugural.

 El finalista J.L. Torres es el autor de The Family Terrorist and Other Stories; una novela, The Accidental Native; y la colección de poesía, Pasaporte Boricua. Ha publicado historias y poemas en numerosas revistas y periódicos, incluidos The North American Review, Denver Quarterly, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Eckleburg Review, Puerto del Sol, Las Americas Review y la antología Growing Up Latino. Nacido en Puerto Rico, criado en el sur del Bronx, vive en Plattsburgh, Nueva York, donde enseña literatura estadounidense, literatura étnica estadounidense y escritura creativa en el campus de SUNY. Además del doctorado, tiene un M.F.A. en escritura creativa de la Universidad de Columbia.

El ganador del premio se anunciará en 1 de octubre de 2020 y recibirá un premio de $ 1,000, la publicación del manuscrito por LARB Libros, una serie de LARB Books dedicada a resaltar el talento latinox emergente y diez copias del libro. Además, el ganador tendrá una firma de libros en UC Riverside durante la Semana de los Escritores en 2021. El juez final del premio será Luis Alberto Urrea, novelista, poeta y ensayista mexicano-estadounidense.

Información de contacto: Jessica Kubinec, jessica@lareviewofbooks.org

Friday, July 31, 2020

New -- From Virus to Vietnam

This week, more new books. Presenting an eclectic collection of recent or upcoming literature.


Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Del Ray - June 30, 2020

[from the publisher]
After receiving a frantic letter from her newly-wed cousin begging for someone to save her from a mysterious doom, Noemí Taboada heads to High Place, a distant house in the Mexican countryside. She’s not sure what she will find—her cousin’s husband, a handsome Englishman, is a stranger, and Noemí knows little about the region.

Noemí is also an unlikely rescuer: She’s a glamorous debutante, and her chic gowns and perfect red lipstick are more suited for cocktail parties than amateur sleuthing. But she’s also tough and smart, with an indomitable will, and she is not afraid: Not of her cousin’s new husband, who is both menacing and alluring; not of his father, the ancient patriarch who seems to be fascinated by Noemí; and not even of the house itself, which begins to invade Noemi’s dreams with visions of blood and doom.

Her only ally in this inhospitable abode is the family’s youngest son. Shy and gentle, he seems to want to help Noemí, but might also be hiding dark knowledge of his family’s past. For there are many secrets behind the walls of High Place. The family’s once colossal wealth and faded mining empire kept them from prying eyes, but as Noemí digs deeper she unearths stories of violence and madness.

And Noemí, mesmerized by the terrifying yet seductive world of High Place, may soon find it impossible to ever leave this enigmatic house behind.

Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed speculative novels Gods of Jade and Shadow, Signal to Noise, Certain Dark Things, and The Beautiful Ones; and the crime novel Untamed Shore. She has edited several anthologies, includ­ing the World Fantasy Award–winning She Walks in Shadows (aka Cthulhu’s Daughters). She lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.


Gloria L. Velásquez
Arizona State University and Ediciones Eón -- July, 2020

[from the publisher]
Gloria Velásquez' new heart warming novel in Spanish and English, is a powerful example of perseverance, loss,and the struggle of living a life of poverty and dislocation, one in which the oral narrative of the main character transcends words on the page and touches deeply the heart of all who read it.  It is Esperanza's story, her life as a child growing up in a farmworker family, and the shattering loss of her brother in the Vietnam War.  It is also Esperanza's journey.  


Edward Vidaurre
Aztlan Libre Press -- August 15, 2020

[from the publisher]
Pandemia & Other Poems comes to the world as a salve to a trifecta of crises—border issues of children in cages and immigrants being held in tent cities to wait with little or no hope; a virus that has crippled the world forcing us to reevaluate and test our resolve as survivors; and the ongoing issue of police brutality stirring protests around the
world. Vidaurre is a poet who wants to help people, and who works through “the ghostly streets of uncertainty” in the midst of this pandemia with dreams, hope—and love, always, there is love. “There is a different quality to these poems,” writes Odilia Galván Rodríguez, “a maturity that comes with mas
golpes de la vida.”


Thelma T. Reyna, Editor
Golden Foothills Press -- September, 2020

[from the publisher]
A ground-breaking anthology of 44 distinguished American contemporary poets and prose writers, written in real time in the first half of the historic, devastating coronavirus COVID-19 invasion of America in 2020. In heart-wrenching, wide-eyed observations, firsthand events, tragedies, and reflections, these top authors document for us the horrors, grief, and heroism of friends, family, neighbors as we watched the disease unfold. Here are moments of hope and togetherness as well, seeking respite and balms. This gathering of Poets Laureate, national award winners, poet leaders, essayists, academics, and short fiction writers is a collection to treasure and a touchstone for generations to come.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction and is working on another Gus Corral novel.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Chicanonautica: Going Postmodern at the Canción Cannibal Cabaret

I was impressed with a couple of videos by Canción Cannibal Cabaret back in 2019. I put them on Facebook and Twitter. Then I forgot about them. The world blew up, you know, 2020.

Therefore, I was happy to hear about the book The Canción Cannibal Cabaret & Other Songs by Amalia L. Ortiz. According to the back cover it’s “Set in a not-so-distant dystopian future . . . a Xicana punk rock musical—part concept album, part radio play.” Sounded like just the sort of thing for me to review here. And it seemed like a good thing to follow my José Torres-Tama trilogy.

Talk about a strange little book! There’s a lot going on between its covers.

Here’s what I said on Goodreads: “A helluvalot more than meets the eye here. The guerrilla woman with guitar, lace-gloves, and guitar is more than a mere cover girl. What we have here aren't just poems, song lyrics, performance texts . . . There's some world building that ain't just a backdrop for commercial melodrama. I see the influences of Guillermo Gómez-Peña/La Poca Nostra, José Torre-Tama, Gloria Anzaladúa, and believe it or not, Weird Al Yankovic. And the now ancient tradition of punk, with footnotes to keep track of the cultural references in a post-apocalyptic scenario that holds up a shattered mirror to our current reality and evokes a goddess while declaring the death of gender. Plus cannibalism, cabaret, canciónes . ..”

Along with other things. A lot of other things. 

There’s science/speculative fiction, some futuristic world building centered around La Madre Valiente, an iconic goddess-figure, a new Virgin of Guadalupe (who was an updating of older goddesses) has emerged from the wreckage of  the world to bring about a feminist revolution against the repressive State and lead the Fugees (the refugees, including all of the downtrodden, similar to Oscar Zeta Acosta’s cockroach people.) to a utopia that not only defeats the patriarchy, but declares that “Gender is Dead.”

It’s told in a series of narratives that provide the origin story for La Madre Valiente, and songs that act as manifestos.

At this point, I must remind you that the book was published back in 2019 (seems like at least a decade ago, doesn’t it?), before the protests that have El Presidente sending unmarked, unidentified, undocumented troops into our cities in name of “law and order.”

Could we see a real-life Madre Valiente soon? Is Portland’s Naked Athena a manifestation?

The sensibility is postmodern and punk. But then punk was postmodern, and now it seems to have become a venerable tradition—a “Punkera Scholar” with a Phd is quoted on the cover. The author/bandleader Amalia L. Ortiz sounds like an academic in her introduction. Would this make it postpostmodern? Postpostpostmodern?

Maybe it’s just cultural cannibalization.

I remember the original punk movement back in the last Seventies. How just about everybody—especially the academics and intellectuals were offended. My own generation, who just a few years earlier were offending their parents with long hair and acid rock, were disgusted by someone else’s rebellion.

Now punk, like the songs/poems printed in the book, has cultural references up the yingyang. I remember a lot of the original songs when they were first played on KROQ in L.A. If you're just reading the book without the music, you miss something.

I recommend seeing the music videos on YouTube; there’s also an hour-long concert that was livestreamed as a book launch event. While watching it, I found myself opening the book and following along, as if it were the prayer book for the mass of a new religion.

And who knows? That just may be what all this cultural cannibalization is leading to.

Ernest Hogan has always been proud of his cannibal heritage.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

JIMENA PEREZ PUEDE VOLAR / JIMENA PEREZ CAN FLY- Winner of a Skipping Stones Honor Award



Jorge Argueta's haunting narrative poem about family separation, JIMENA PEREZ PUEDE VOLAR / JIMENA PEREZ CAN FLY, is the winner of a Skipping Stones Honor Award!

Esther Celis, grandmother and Skipping Stones Board President says:


These  are  two  books  in  one,  two  front  pages,  one  in English,  and  the  other  in  Spanish. Each  a  translation  of  the  other,  the same  verse  format  in  both  languages.  It  begins  as  a  thoughtful  and sweet  story  about  Jimena  living  a modest  and  sheltered  life  with  her parents  and  friends  in  El  Salvador. Unfortunately,  gang  members  can threaten  even  young  children  like Jimena  and  her  friends.  Her  parents  decide  she  won’t be  safe;  Jimena  and  her  mother  risk  the  long  journey north  to  reunite  with  family  living  in  the  US.  Jimena describes the trip; we imagine the danger. She is innocent;  we  are  not. We  haven’t  forgotten  the  reports  of children separated at the border from their parents. We haven’t  forgotten  the  thousands  of  Central Americans forced to stay in the Mexican side of the border while applying  for  asylum  in  the  U.S.  Jimena  is  brave,  she keeps  telling  us  her  story,  and  she  keeps  living  despite the cruelty and sadness around her.



Congratulations to the creators of  all the winner books under the three categories.

To download the reviews of the 2020 Skipping Stones Honor Books  click


From the publisher, Arte Público Press:


Ten-year-old Jimena Pérez loves life with her parents in El Salvador. They sell fruit at the market, just like her grandmother and great grandmother did. “Fruits / are a blessing / like you, Jimena,” her mother tells her.


But one day a group of boys threaten her friend Rosenda at school. “You know / what will happen / to your family / if you don’t join us.” Jimena’s parents, afraid gangs will try to recruit her too, decide she must go to the United States with her mother. She is excited and fearful, and doesn’t want to leave her father, friends and dog Sultán. “I felt sad / the way fruit looks / when it’s past ripeness.” By bus, train and on foot, mother and daughter make their way north, until one night, bright lights fill the sky and men in green uniforms rip Jimena from her mother.


Imprisoned with children from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico, Jimena and the others cry for their parents. One boy repeats over and over, “My father’s name is Marcos / He is in Los Angeles.” A box full of books brings her some solace, reminding her of the ones donated to kids at the market in El Salvador. “The letters kiss me / like my mama’s words / like my papa’s words / I am a little bird / Nothing can stop me / I can fly.”


In this poignant narrative poem for kids ages 10-15, award-winning Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta movingly captures the fear that drives so many Central Americans to flee their countries and the anguish created by separating children from their parents at the US border. Putting a human face on the millions of people who flee their homelands each year, this book will help young people understand the difficulties of migration and leaving behind all that is dear.