Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Roll Out the Collection: Chola Debut

Review: Estella Gonzalez. Chola Salvation. Houston: Arte Publico, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-55885-914-2 

Michael Sedano 

I took a photograph of author Estella Gonzalez during a 2008 book festival at Cal State LA. 
It was her debut as an anthologized writer. 

Soon thereafter, I got to hear Estella read again from Latinos in Lotusland, at the 
Autry Museum (link). 

The next year, when 2010's Yesterday•Today•Tomorrow Festival de Flor y Canto came to the University of Southern California, in a reunion of the historic 1973 floricanto, Estella clearly had to take the lectern on the festival's Tomorrow line-up.

Tomorrow arrives in 2021, for Estella Gonzalez at any rate, with publication by Arte Publico of Chola Salvation, her debut collection of short fiction.

People are going to make noise about this book. Some will be parents outraged at Gonzalez' dispassionate descriptions of sexual functions, of ugly sexual abuse. Some will be kids, adolescents like the 12-year old Beto who has no idea of his identity and no role model to figure things out. Others will be kids like the 16-year old Mireya who wants to efface herself behind maquillaje. 

Hopefully, some will be teachers and counselors handing the book to youth and saying, this is adult stuff that a lot of people your age face. Think about this in your world. 

Kids--YA--should read Chola Salvation and not because the kid's a chola or cholo, but because they're a kid. Stuff happens. You adults read it first.

Some of this stuff you hope not. But you gotta laugh at those monjas getting into a barfight.

This is fiction, remember. There's a lot of ugliness in this world.  Estella Gonzalez sets most of these stories in East LA. But Gonzalez isn't much concerned with place so much as the sordid, the hopeless  pain, the senselessness of abuse and its result in anomie, and the general worthlessness of some men. Or worse, sexual abuser men.

"Angry Blood" takes place in an El Paso hotel. A mother and daughter work as housekeepers. On the side, the mother whores for the soldiers from Ft. Bliss and traveling salesmen. Mother breaks daughter into the trade. In an Erendira-like turn, the daughter pulls in big money and it gives Mom second thoughts. People will scream about this one, for criminy sake! There's salvation in the story, so relax.

Here is Estella Gonzalez reading an early draft of a story that she turned into "Angry Blood." This powerful story is a good reminder that a writer can make even the worst things happen in fiction and it's up to the reader to watch her do it.


Monday, September 27, 2021

Celebrating _Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin_ (FlowerSong Press)

 Celebrating _Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin_ (FlowerSong Press)


I’m excited to invite our lectores de La Bloga to a reading of my book Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin (FlowerSong Press, 2020) on Friday, October 1, at 7 p.m. CST on Facebook and Zoom.  This event is organized by Edward Vidaurre, editor of FlowerSong Press.  Please join us by going to the FlowerSong Press Facebook page el Viernes 1 de octubre.  We are celebrating the nomination of Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin as a finalist for the Juan Felipe Herrera Poetry Award as Best Book of Bilingual Poetry of the International Latino Book Awards 2021. Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin was translated by Sandra Kingery y sus estudiantes. Music performance by Flor Lizbeth Cruz. Espero y nos puedan acompañar. ¡Que la poesía nos salve!

 Xánath Caraza’s Corta la piel/It Pierces the Skin is a remarkable collection of prose poems in which we see the conjuring poet fearless enough to take us through personal, political and geographical terrains.  The poems are muscular meditations on rage, powerlessness, love, and ultimately the sanctity/sanity of poetry.  The title fits into the visceral world filled with the paradoxes of beauty and violence that Caraza is famous for: the fierce loneliness of the New York city trains over the Hudson, Violeta (the Salvadoran speaker, the figure who is observed, the writer who is writing the poem) discerns the full moon as “Icy, splendid, silvery white.”  In one of her most poignant political poems, we encounter the disappeared forty-third student from Ayotzinapa who sees “The stars in the heavens were shining like never before” while his mouth is “buzzing with flies.” Another poem, “Our Sons and Daughters,” captures the heartbreaking evil of separating children from their parents at the border.  Water becomes an ever increasing trope throughout as we move from New York to Lisbon to Athens, an element essential for survival as poetry itself, the poet’s “liquid words” joining the river of memory.  They “flow on placid waters.  They sway back and forth in her mouth.”  Xánath Caraza is one of the most courageous Latina poets writing today. The “silent voice of dawn gallops” towards something framed in hope, and Caraza’s poems leave you light headed, sorrowful, yet empowered.


—Helena Maria Viramontes

Author of Their Dogs Came with Them

Xánath Caraza’s Corta la piel is a very powerful piece of writing. These 62 interconnected short prose poems move the reader with images encompassing everything from the personal struggles of the protagonists to current events to the conquest of the Americas. The poignancy of contemplating a world that is, as Violeta murmurs in the first story, “so screwed up” is leavened with shimmering glimpses of the beauty of the natural world and a paean to the power of writing, all expressed in texts that sparkle with the energy and brio and authenticity found in all of Xánath Caraza’s writing.

The two protagonists in these stories afford us dual levels of reality: at the primary level, we have texts in roman script which focus on Violeta the writer. That first Violeta creates the fiction within the fiction, the italicized stories written by Violeta about a fictional character who is also named Violeta. These nesting stories emphasize the creative process as our primary protagonist invents a secondary protagonist who shares many of her experiences and concerns about the world.  Both suffer loneliness and a failed relationship, both revel in the beauty of nature (the moon, water, fog, birdsong), both are drawn inexorably back to memories of their troubled past when they hear the whistles of trains, and both celebrate the power of the written word. The dual nature of the two Violetas is most readily apparent in “Loss,” the only story that includes both roman and italic script: “The racist groups were organizing, and the weight of their negative energy was felt more strongly every day. It was heartbreaking, a threat. There’s nothing worse than ignorance, Violeta wrote, but she was wrong, there was something even worse…”. Subsequent references to the first Violeta’s writing process are more subtle as they remain in italic script: “It’s very easy to project our fears onto others and then blame them, Violeta continued writing”.

 —Sandra Kingery

Lycoming College


The first text, which also gives us the title of the collection, is an indictment of the brutality of the war in El Salvador, since the protagonist remembers that when she was a child she had to flee abruptly—by train—from the Salvadoran soldiers who suddenly appeared near her house with machine guns. That thought leads to another, current and present: the cancelation of the Temporary Protected Status or TPS for Salvadorans. Both reflections are sparked by the sound of a train and by a small cut that the protagonist suffers in her kitchen. In this way, a connection is made between Violeta’s private experience, in other words, the microcosm of the violence she has experienced personally, and the macrocosm of the violence in El Salvador and the anti-immigration politics carried out by the U.S. government. As with other texts in this collection, nature, here embodied in the song of the woodpecker that Violeta hears in the garden and in the trees that she sees from her kitchen window, helps her find peace in a foreign land: “She was soothed by the chirping sounds coming from the thick bushes.”  The social theme, constant in Caraza’s writing, is also found in “43,” a story that alludes to the disappearance of the 43 normalistas in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, in September 2014, where the narrative voice imagines itself as one of the victims who lie beneath the sun with no tomb and no justice: “In the darkness of the night, I felt warm blood trickling toward my eyes. . . ‘I’m from Ayotzinapa’. . . I am the 43.”

—María Esther Quintana Millamoto

Texas A&M University


This is a book of beautiful, poetic images of loneliness, grief and emptiness.  The persona of Violeta tells of a violent childhood of abandonment and impossible love via her travels in New York, Portugal, and Greece.   For Violeta, only ink remains; only ink is indelible.  Translator Sandra Kingery and her team of students have produced smooth, faithful translations that carry all of the sorrow of Caraza’s originals.

 —Don Cellini

poet / translator

Piedra poemas / Stone Poems


Friday, September 24, 2021

Books & Beer

I recently wrote about CALMA here on La Bloga, and today I'm publicizing that organization's Books & Beer book fair.  CALMA is the Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors, and I encourage any Colorado Latino/a author to check it out and become a member.  The group is very active and involved in the community.  Books & Beer is the latest of several CALMA events.  Find out more on the CALMA website:  calmaco.org.  

There will be books and beer, of course, as well as a food truck, a table with information about CALMA, and twenty or so authors who will be more than happy to talk to you about anything related to writing. (See the poster below.) We will have our books for sale and if you want signed copies just ask.  Several genres will be represented including poetry, children's books, memoir, crime fiction, speculative fiction, young adult, nonfiction, self-help, and more.  

I will have my latest for sale (Angels in the Wind) at a special Books & Beer price, as well as a few of my older books.

Take a break on Saturday, enjoy some culture and good company, and be a part of history by joining CALMA authors at Raices Brewery in Denver.  Books & Beer will be the largest gathering of Latino/a authors ever held in Colorado.  This could become an annual event if it proves to be popular.

See you at Raices.  



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.

(I'll buy a beer for the first person at Books & Beer who tells me they read about this offer on La Bloga.  Members of CALMA not eligible.) 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Chicanonautica: Chicxulubing Into an Old/New Word

by Ernest Hogan 

Warning: R. Ch. Garcia is a cohort of mine and responsible for my getting involved in La Bloga, so I may not be completely objective in discussing his major achievement in speculative fiction, Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub. (I warned him about the hazards of introducing a strange new word to the Anglocentric book biz. May Tezcatlipoca help him.)

Anyway, Death Song, or maybe I should call it Chicxulub--readers need to get used to learning alien words if they’re going to survive in this world--is out, and it’s good, a heroic fantasy, coming-of-age story that’s also a journey of Mexicanidad, pushing the limits of the YA/Young Adult category, that’s really just a marketing gimmick (I remember when it was weird new thing, that seemed too dominated by church youth counselors, that in recent years focused on introverted high school girls of all races). 

I also remember when fantasy wasn’t considered an Anglo thing. It is the intellectual property of the entire human race, but in the Nineteen-Sixties of my childhood, it wasn’t considered proper for someone over age 12 to be interested in such things. Then Lord of the Rings became popular. I first read it around 1970 in high school, jocks would see the cover and accuse me of being a sissy, then I would show them one of the gorier passages . . . In a few years sword&sorcery invaded the paperback racks; it rapidly devolved into a commercial formula that got so Anglo I wanted to scream. This was while I was studying (on my own, school was no help) pre-Columbian, African, and other cultures, and getting inspired.

At one point I wrote an angry letter to Amazing Stories (where I would later make my first fiction sales) asking WHY IS FANTASY SO DAMNED ANGLO? (yeah, in all caps, just like that). It didn’t seem to do much good. And it took the publishers decades to begin to stop thinking that all marketable fantasy worlds were based on distortions of medieval England.

Things have changed a bit, though I must note that Chicxulub was not published by a New York publisher. And mainstream publishing is all the poorer for it.

Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub really is a major achievement. Not just an exercise in regurgitating undigested pop culture like most YA, we’ve got more than a typical Jungian monster fighting tale here. There is a lot more going on—the Dragón, la Muerte Blanca, is not just a threatening beast, she is a fully realized character and  a creation that stands out in global pop culture that has become crowded with such things. Fans of more conventional fantasy and science fiction will be impressed. She also grows out of pre-Columbian mythology.

To make it all the better, the book contains a lot of reality. The best fantasy is always intimately connected to realism. It’s set in a time and place that can be recognized as our modern world. There is a quest that goes from New Mexico, to Mexico City, to Chichén Itzá and the Yucatán—places I’ve been to on my own quests—that all ring true.

And the characters! The primary protagonist, Miguel Reilly is an Irish-Mexican (like me, though he isn’t at all like me) going against the usual stereotypes about the Latinoid Continuum. Maritza Magdelena, the leading lady, who is more of co-hero, a Maya medical student who can hold her own in a supernatural battle. And then there’s Tomás, the shaman, who is going to be compared to Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, but is much more interesting and inspiring.

I have always found Castaneda entertaining, but somewhat lacking, and suspect. I knew some people who went to one of his “magical passes” retreats back in the Nineties. Their descriptions of what went on did not change my mind. People who buy Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub will be getting more spiritual bang for their bucks.

This is a big step toward the de-Angloization of fantasy. And a helluva good read. Something to buy and give as a gift during Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Ernest Hogan, has a story in Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology (on sale now). He also will be judging Somos en escrito’s Extra-Fiction Contest--the deadline is September 30, hurry mi gente!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Los Angeles Libros Festival


For more information visit,  https://www.lapl.org/libros-fest



Read, dream and celebrate… en dos idiomas


Friday, September 24 • 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Saturday, September 25 • 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.


Streaming live on Facebook and YouTube




L.A. Libros Fest ofrecerá dos días de programación en vivo vía Facebook y YouTube con cuentacuentos, autores locales e internacionales, talleres de arte, conciertos y mucho más.


Participa en el reto en línea para acumular insignias virtuales y la oportunidad de ganar libros.


Explora el calendario de eventos del festival.


Llévate a casa los libros del festival con tu tarjeta de biblioteca o compra tus copias en la LA librería.


Lee el blog del festival.


Aprende más sobre los autores, artistas y narradores orales que participarán este año.


Los Ángeles Libros Festival es un festival literario bilingüe gratuito para toda la familia. L.A. Libros Fest es una colaboración entre la Biblioteca Pública de Los Ángeles, LA librería y REFORMA Los Angeles Chapter (La Asociación Nacional para Promover Servicios Bibliotecarios y de Información a Latinos e Hispanohablantes). 

El arte para el festival fue creado por el galardonado ilustrador Leo Espinosa.



A Free Bilingual Book Festival for the Whole Family


Los Angeles Libros Festival will offer two days of entertainment for all ages featuring Spanish-language and bilingual storytelling, performances, workshops, and award-winning authors.


Join the online challenge for the opportunity to win digital badges and books


Browse the festival schedule


Check out festival books from the library collection or purchase your own copies from LA librería


Read the festival blog


Learn more about this year's authors, artists, and performers.


Los Angeles Libros Festival is a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. L.A. Libros Fest is a collaboration between the Los Angeles Public Library, LA librería, and REFORMA Los Angeles Chapter, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking. The artwork for the festival was created by award-winning illustrator Leo Espinosa.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Small Piece of a Global Event: My Best 2 Minutes

Aside from the ability to think up something and write it compellingly, a writer’s most important skills are reading aloud, and marketing the work. Gotta be able to write, que no? Equally, if you want your writing to find an audience, a writer needs to read aloud effectively.

Reading your stuff to an audience forms the central role in marketing the work. Marketing is the part after publication when the publisher or more often, the writer whip up interest in buying the poem. A reading in a bookstore is the heart of marketing: it churns up interest and produces sales.

A sale is the sole measure of good marketing. If you read well, someone's going to buy your product.

Standing in that bookstore, looking out at three people, looking out at twenty people, the writer needs to read out loud as compellingly as they wrote those words. Do that, and people will buy the book right there, reinforcing the bookstore’s hosting readings.

Some day, ojalá, After we’ve licked the plague and returned to normal public readings, video readings will continue to hold an important place in marketing your work. For writers whom expression itself measures all the satisfaction the writer needs, video is the right tool to document the moment.

This Saturday, September 25, One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change  (link)  stages a global event linking people around the world in a demonstration/celebration to promote peace, sustainability and justice, and to call for serious social, environmental and political change.

As our contribution to the global event, La Bloga made an open call to writers to share a "my best 2 minutes" video of the writer reading their own work.

What is “my best 2 minutes”? Not what you might think. Oracy comes in all flavors and volumes. 

Public speaking is organized civilization’s oldest educational curriculum. Back in ancient Athens, when society practiced unsophisticated problem-solving with swords, Aristotle said it was equally unthinkable a person could not defend themselves with words, or sword. Words civilized the world.

Every presentation is your “best” 2, or 5, or 15 minutes. Right here right now, it’s all the audience gets, there’s no good better best. 

Video you can edit and make stuff better. You get to confront yourself on that screen. Identify and name the reader’s skills. Plan to keep those next reading. Identify a single skill that needs eliminating or changing next reading. Work on that in rehearsal, and re-record.

Oral presentations have consequences. No one wants their audience on a death bed to be angry at you for wasting two minutes of their lives with a lousy presentation. They will want those two minutes back, so make that unnecessary. Think about your words, then give a good two minutes to that angry at you dying listener.

“I am Cinna, the Poet!” the character in Julius Caesar tells the angry mob. Someone who attended his readings says, “Kill him for being a bad poet!” Consequences, gente.

Whatever your gave us in that two minutes is your best.

Today, La Bloga-Tuesday takes pleasure sharing the work of Augie Medina and Lisbeth Coiman with you as La Bloga’s contribution to the global event.



Augie Medina

George Cried ‘Momma’


When the angry white man

Called young George the “N” word

George cried “Momma”


When the security guard

Constantly dogged him in the store

George cried “Momma”


When the teacher said to George

College was probably not for him

George cried Momma”


When the prospective employer

Asked him if he was a felon

George cried “Momma”


When the city librarian

Asked what he was doing in a library

George cried “Momma”


Each time the police stopped him on the street

Because he looked like “someone we’re looking for”

George cried “Momma”


With the assassin’s knee

On the back of his neck

George cried “Momma” --

for the last time


Now a nation cries for George

Why wasn’t George heard before?

He had to die to gain respect?


George only wanted to feel

Like “all men are created equal”

In the land he called his home



Guanajuato Sunrise


I was there before dawn’s bleary eyes opened 

to reveal the sun lifting from night’s repose.

I felt glorious seated in my little canoe

watching the palm trees along the bank 

sprout a glow of orange


The river rippled gently underneath 

a refrain to the call of the unfolding sunrise

the river thanking Helios for another day

in the land of the Aztecs

land of an orange cast


The outstretched warmth of the sun

coaxed fragrance from the palms

calling to memory

the same fragrance 

that perfumes my hometown’s air

where sister palms grow

and memories fuse




Lisbeth Coiman

Lisbeth Coiman reads "Above Sea Level," from her just-released collection, Uprising/Alzamiento. Please listen to Lisbeth via the Facebook link below.


16,076 Feet Above the Sea 



16,076 Feet Above the Sea

By Lisbeth Coiman

Single file march  

plastic bags wrapped around bodies  

Hope and oxygen is scarce above the tree line

But Papa Bolívar knew how

Paramo Berlin, Colombia

16,076 feet above sea level

A two-way road along through this stretch in the Andes

121 miles between despair and uncertainty

On the perilous stretch

Marchers discover death by hypothermia

Between Cucuta and Bucaramanga

Accept food and clothes from the Samaritans of the mountains

On the way down to an unknown future

Bodies regain heat despite starvation

And litter the road with broken promises

Single file march out of inferno

4900 metros sobre el nivel del mar

By Lisbeth Coiman

Marcha en fila india

Cuerpos envueltos en bolsas de basura

Esperanza y oxígeno escasos por encima de la línea de los árboles

Pero Papá Bolívar supo qué hacer

Páramo Berlín , Colombia

4900 metros sobre el nivel del mar

Una carretera doble vía atraviesa este estrecho andino

194 kilómetros entre la desesperación y la incertidumbre

En este trecho peligroso

Los caminantes descubren la muerte del mal de páramo

Entre Cúcuta y Bucaramanga

Aceptando bondades de samaritanos de montaña

Cuesta abajo en camino a un futuro desconocido

Los cuerpos comienzan a recobrar el calor 

Incluso en la frialdad del hambre

Desechando una estela de promesas incumplidas

En su marcha fuera del infierno

Friday, September 17, 2021

Teatro Sin Fronteras New Orleans

Melinda Palacio

An announcement in three photos, or the show must go on. Teatro Sin Fronteras New Orleans.

Hurricane Ida blew through New Orleans, snapping off billboards and rooftops.

An uprooted tree in Audubon Park.

Even though there are still hundreds of residents without power, the show must go on.  New Orleans requires proof of vaccination for all indoor gatherings.