Saturday, March 05, 2005

Pedacitos y Pedazos - Promoting Literacy

One Book, One Denver
More about Sandra Cisneros, following co-blogger Michael's review of the play based on The House on Mango Street.

Denver Mayor Hickenlooper announced on February 24th that the One Book, One Denver selection for 2005 is Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros. Cisneros will visit Denver in April and will kick-off her stay with a reading and booksigning at the Tattered Cover in Cherry Creek on Monday, April 4 at 12:00 noon. As part of the build-up for the event, on Sunday, March 6 at 2 PM at the Mercury Cafe, 2199 California St., Denver, Brianna McLean of The Denver School of the Arts reads an excerpt from Caramelo. This is A Stories on Stage for Students production.

What some critics said about Caramelo:
"[A] multigenerational story of a Mexican-American family whose voices create a dazzling weave of humor, passion and poignancy."
''[E]nchanting. Soulful, sophisticated and skeptical, full of great one-liners ('I haven't cried so much since I got that $5 haircut at the beauty college'), it is one of those novels that blithely leap across the border between literary and popular fiction." The New York Times.
"The language of Caramelo is not difficult or abstruse, but it's thickly textured, and that's part of the appeal. That said, the novel is not some self-conscious writerly exercise. It's rich in character and action, people and passions. " The Houston Chronicle.

I thought about doing my own review of Caramelo but it's been a couple of years since I read it and used it as one of the selections in a Chicano Literature course I taught. To be fair I'd have to at least skim the book again and review my notes from my class, now buried in the so-called storage room in my basement. Guess that's more than I can muster this weekend. I do recommend the book - Cisneros knows how to write, she can twist a phrase and craft dialog as well as anyone in the writing racket today. The story did not appeal to all of my students, although others loved it. But then, very few books in my class were universally loved by my students.

The choice of Caramelo is not without some controversy. Last year's selection for One Book, One Denver, Peace Like A River, by Leif Enger, didn't sit well with many in the Colorado "literary community" because of it's and the author's Minnesota roots. What, no Colorado story can attract and hold the attention of Denver readers? So, this year's selection is set in Chicago and Mexico, the author has lived in just about every state in the Southwest except Colorado, and she's a Chicana. Oh, that last thing is good. Actually, this type of "issue" doesn't bug me. Books and authors already are way over-categorized. Publishers have made marketing of books more like displaying rock collections - the green one goes there, the blue one over there, the red one here. And not one out of its designated place. My attitude is: A good book is a good book, I don't care where the author lives.

More Colorado Honors for Sandra Cisneros
The Evil Companions Literary Award is presented annually to a poet or writer who embodies the literary spirit of the West. The award pays homage to a group of Denver writers who met in the '50s and '60s to drink and discuss writing and the world, and dubbed themselves the Evil Companions. In 2005, Sandra Cisneros (Vintage Cisneros, Loose Woman, The House on Mango Street, Caramelo, Woman Hollering Creek) becomes the twelfth recipient of the Evil Companions Literary Award. The award presentation is scheduled for the Oxford Hotel in Denver on Wednesday, April 6, 2005. Cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and a jazz ensemble kick off at 6 PM, followed by a presentation and book signing by Cisneros. Standard tickets are $50.00 (patron tickets and sponsorships are also available) and all proceeds benefit the Denver Public Library. Call 720-865-2051 or visit the website for tickets and more information.

Police force launches 'novel' reading effort
Thanks to the Sarah Weinman blog for the link to this story. The following is taken from El Universal Online.

NEZAHUALCÓYOTL, State of Mexico For more than 1,200 municipal police officers in the city of Nezahualcóyotl, the phrase "book him" has taken on a new meaning.

Authorities in this sprawling suburb of Mexico City have launched an innovative new program that encourages city cops to participate in a read-a-book-a-month club. And according to Mayor Luis Sánchez Jiménez, the program has awakened a passionate interest in literature within the force.

"A police officer is not just a person who knows how to arrest criminals," explains Sánchez Jiménez, "but he or she is also a person who knows how to express themselves, how to behave respectably, and how to treat the public with respect."

He calls the reading program "a tool for creating better men and women" on the force. "Reading makes us better people and it gives us resources to lead more fulfilling everyday lives," he says.

The reading initiative in Nezahualcóyotl has attracted world-wide attention for its effort to promote literacy among police officers. News radio programs in Argentina, Colombia and Spain have run features on the project, and The Washington Post has also expressed an interest in the story.

And as word of the program spreads, other cities are considering launching their own version of the program. "Radio Caracol (of Colombia) said in their broadcast that there is an interest in doing the same sort of thing in Colombia," says Roberto Pérez, director of the literacy project.

Mayor Sánchez Jiménez says that the city is planning a new angle to the reading program, in which citizens will be encouraged to donate books at their local police stations.

He also made it clear that officers have strict instructions to limit their reading to their leisure hours reading while on the job is strictly prohibited, he says.

Sánchez Jiménez says that local officers have been especially taken by popular contemporary writers like Paco Ignacio Taibo II, whom he calls "our greatest figure in the 'black novel' genre."

As a result, the mayor has invited Taibo II to come to Nezahualcóyotl and address the police force.

Taibo II is the author of a number of mystery/detective novels, including "No Happy Ending," "An Easy Thing," and "Just Passing Through." He is currently collaborating on a detective novel with Chiapan Zapatista rebel leader Subcommandante Marcos.

Winter 2005 Issue of Pluma Fronteriza
"The Winter 2005 issue of Pluma Fronteriza is out. In it we honor the late El Paso writers Abelardo Delgado and Ricardo Aguilar. Also, we put out a Libros, Libros supplement. In the Libros, Libros we have the most comprehensive lis of "what's new" in Chicano and Latino Literature. We invite all writers, librarians, professors, etc who are not on our subscription list to join. We are paperless publication and subscription is free. If anyone is interested in receiving these two issues, please email
Please also make sure you have Adobe Acrobat Reader on your system.
Raymundo Eli Rojas "

Manuel Ramos

No comments: