Tuesday, August 30, 2005


Well, we flew back to L.A. in what shouldn't have been a red-eye out of Kaua'i, but due to plane problemas, we landed in LAX at around 2:00 a.m. this morning. Here's a photo of my wife, son and yours truly (flanked by the usual suspects) during one of our many wonderful feasts. La Bloga looks like it had a fine week with great posts from everyone including our new member, Gina. Thank you Michael for posting my pre-packaged offerings. I read a lot while away but did no writing whatsoever which was refreshing...gotta let those batteries recharge (I have some good ideas for short stories, though). I also see that the L.A. Times chose a new book editor while I was away: David Ulin. Excellent choice; he plans to review more fiction which is a good thing. Anyway, glad to be back, sort of! And more on those loco Kaua'i roosters next Monday. -- Daniel


Michael Sedano

Last week, Manuel Ramos posted an encouraging list of books about the Chicano Movement. Most cool seeing all these Chicana Chicano academics getting published. Better still, seeing some of them doing interesting research, professing to successive generations of students. I hope the compilation can be seen as an indicator of an increasing raza presence in the academy.

Back in 2002,Armando Navarro, joined a “writer’s panel” held with the 32nd Observance of the Chicano Moratorium. Here, Navarro holds up his La Raza Unida Party : a Chicano challenge to the U.S. two-party dictatorship.

The moderator, in black t-shirt, is Ralph "Rafas" Urbino-Lopez, editor of the movimiento cultural magazine, Con Safos. Rafas and friends are about to launch a blog version of C/S. The panel included Mario T. Garia, Jesus Treviño, Ernesto Vigil, Armando Morales, Raul Ruiz.

Click for larger image.

In addition to these journalism, history, political science, publications, the movimiento has had a few moments in Chicana Chicano fiction. Lovers of war literature will enjoy Chicano fiction about the Vietnam war. There is some particularly effective work here. Back in 2002, I wrote up a bibliographic essay of sorts that featured Stella Pope Duarte's Let Their Spirits Dance, the first Chicana novel of Vietnam, and also the first novel about el movimiento. The first Chicana to write about Vietnam, Duarte is also the first novelist to feature movimiento organizing. If you navigate to Read! Raza to read the Duarte review, I hope you'll share your own reactions here. Let Their Spirits Dance evokes some strong opinions from some readers. 

Here are titles, with ISBN data so your library can order a copy for you, of movimiento work by Chicana Chicano writers. I list books that have a little, or a lot, or only tangentially to do with the movement or related topics.

What are some other Chicana Chicano novels or stories of el movimiento?

Chicana Chicano Vietnam and movement novels.
Duarte, Stella Pope. Let Their Spirits Dance. NY: Harper Collins, 2002. ISBN 0-06-018637-2.

Santana, Patricia. Motorcycle Ride on the Sea of Tranquility. Albuquerque, 2002. ISBN0-8263-2435-5.

Corpi, Lucha. Eulogy for a Brown Angel: A Mystery Novel. Arte Publico. 2002. ISBN: 1558853561

Ramos, Manuel. Moony's Road to Hell. University of New Mexico Press. 2002. ISBN: 0826329497.

Ramos, Manuel. Blues for the Buffalo. iUniverse.com. 2001. ISBN: 0595200664

          (Ramos' Luis Montez character regularly brings up his movimiento experience; the Moony characters echo the era).

Alfredo Vea. Gods Go Begging. E P Dutton. 1999. ASIN: 052594513X.

Ramirez, Juan A. A Patriot After All: The Story of a Chicano in Vietnam. University of New Mexico Press, 1999.

ISBN: 0826319599. ( You can read this as a free trial subscription at http://www.questia.com/aboutQuestia/eventsg.html)

Rodriguez, Michael W. Humidity Moon. Pecan Grove Press. 1998. ISBN: 1877603546 (Some list this as nonfiction.)

Vazquez, Diego, Jr. Growing Through the Ugly: A Novel. Henry Holt. 1998. (Narrator is voice of dead Chicano soldier. Not a war novel per se.) ISBN: 0805057447

Stavans, Ilan. Ed. Oscar 'Zeta' Acosta: The Uncollected Works. Arte Publico. 1996. ISBN: 1558850996.

Cano, Daniel. Shifting Loyalties. Arte Publico.1995. ISBN: 1558851445.

Trujillo, Charley. Dogs from Illusion. Chusma House. 1994. ISBN: 096245365X.

Trujillo, Charley (ed). Soldados: Chicanos in Viet Nam. Chusma House.1993. ISBN: 0962453609.

Garcia, Guy. Skin Deep. Farrar Straus & Giroux. 1989. ASIN: 0374265739

Acosta, Oscar Zeta. Revolt of the Cockroach People. Vintage Books. 1989 Reprint edition ISBN : 0679722122

Acosta, Oscar Zeta. The Autobiography of a Brown Buffalo.Vintage Books. 1989 ISBN: 0679722130

Romano, Octavio and Herminio Rios (Eds). El Espejo: The Mirror, Selected Chicano Literature. Berkeley, Quinto Sol, 1969. The first literature anthology with "Chicano" in the title.

Monday, August 29, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Michele Serros was still a student at Santa Monica City College , when her first book of poetry and short stories, Chicana Falsa and other stories of Death, Identity and Oxnard, was published. When the original publisher of Chicana Falsa went out of business, Michele continued to sell copies from her garage. In 1998, Riverhead Books reissued Chicana Falsa and as well as Serros' latest collection of fiction, How to be a Chicana Role Model. The latter instantly became a Los Angeles Times Best Seller and both publications are currently used as required reading in U.S. high schools and universities. In 2002, Michele wrote for the ABC television sitcom, The George Lopez Show. "An opportunity," she says, "that hopefully with my contribution opens the door for a wider representation of Latinos in the mass media." Currently living in New York City, Ms. Serros is writing Honey Blonde Chica , a young adult novel for Simon and Schuster (Pulse) to be published spring 2006.

A LITTLE POETRY: Here is a poem by David A. Hernandez:

"Sex and Death"

Always the same two themes pushing through
the revolving door of the page or canvas:

O’Keefe’s skulls and vaginal irises, petals
engorged and flaming crimson. It’s the story

of the teenagers walking their libidos
to a moonlit cemetery, their studded tongues

clinking in the dark. And the mortician,
after a long day of opening cadavers like purses,

comes home to his magazines, glossy women
touching themselves as if to say, Here I am.

Here too, how the ashes of a woman I never met
cool inside the urn on a shelf. Gray dust,

bone-chip of pelvis or femur, her daughter
in the next room, her pelvis crashing into mine,

the bedroom fertile with the night’s soil
for us to plant the blue flowers of our breathing.

All done. Pardon the brevity of this post but I’m actually in Hawaii right now! Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, August 26, 2005


Manuel Ramos

The upcoming Ricardo Falcon commemoration, which I note below, got me to thinking about the history of what we all know as El Movimiento (actually, it doesn't take much to get me thinking about that). Here are short summaries of a few books that relate to that history (please let us know about others of which you are aware):

The struggle in South Texas for political control has been described in two books that focus on Crystal City in the '60s and '70s - The Cristal Experiment: A Chicano Struggle for Community Control (University of Wisconsin Press) by Armando Navarro, and The Making of a Chicano Militant: Lessons from Cristal (University of Wisconsin Press) by José Angel Gutiérrez.The second book is the memoir of one of the early leaders in Texas who achieved national recognition and who still is active in progressive politics.

Another book by Armando Navarro is La Raza Unida Party: A Chicano Challenge to the U.S. Two-Party Dictatorship (Temple University Press). This book traces the party from its beginnings in 1970 to its demise in 1981—the events, leaders, ideology, structure, strategy and tactics, successes and problems, and electoral campaigns that marked its trajectory. The book covers political organizing in California, Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and the Midwest, as well as LRUP's national and international politics and its party profile.

Denver activist Ernesto Vigil's book, The Crusade for Justice: Chicano Militancy and the Government's War on Dissent (University of Wisconsin Press) is an impressive work with documentation and precise references. This insider's look at the Crusade marked the first attempt at a full-length scholarly review of Chicano activism in Denver. The role of the police and other agencies such as the FBI in the "war on dissent" is explicitly detailed.

A well-received PBS documentary was the source for Chicano! The History of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement (Arte Público Press), by F. Arturo Rosales. This book is filled with photographs and personal recollections from many veterans of the Movement. It also goes deep into the history of Chicano activism from the Mexican Revolution into topics such as youth organizations, the struggle for educational reform, and the quest for an identity.

Another PBS documentary was the source for The Fight In The Fields, Cesar Chavez and the Farmworkers Movement (Harcourt Brace), by Susan Ferriss and Ricardo Sandoval. The book tracks the story of the birth and eventual triumph of farm worker union activism.

And of course, there is the classic 450 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, first published in 1976 by the Chicano Communications Center, edited by Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez. The book was updated and re-published in 1991 by the Southwest Organizing Project as 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures. The book itself has an interesting history, apparently the second printing was shredded in one of those Movement intra-struggles that permeated politics back then. Martinez wrote about that event and others in the Monthly Review.

Two questions: Is anyone writing the "definitive" biography of César Chávez? Is there a good resource for history of the Movement in California?

Tribute and Commemoration Of Ricardo Falcon
1972 ~ 2005
Ricardo Falcon was an activist, student leader and organizing force in Colorado in the late '60s and early '70s. On August 30, 1972, he was killed on his way to the 1st National La Raza Unida Convention by a racist member of the Right-Wing American Independent Party. The killer was acquitted by an all-white jury and never spent a day in jail.
Saturday August 27, 2005
10:00 A.M. ~ Prayer at Hillside Cemetery (Ft. Lupton)
Caravan Procession ~ Brighton Recreation Center, 555 North 11th Avenue Brighton, Colorado
12:00 p.m. Open Ceremony Blessing ~ Grupo Tlaloc
1:00 p.m. Meal - Cost Donation
Speakers: Dr. Priscilla Falcon, Ricardo Romero, Dr. Rudy Chavez, Kiko Martinez, Louie Sandoval
Entertainment: Grupo Tlaloc, Ballet De La Tierra, Latin Touch, DJ: Larry Moreno

Visual art news:
The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council is celebrating twenty-five years of presenting the art and culture of the vibrant Chicano/Latino community of Denver and the surrounding areas. Stop by the gallery and immerse yourself in the most unique and popular Cultural Gallery in Denver
772 Santa Fe Drive Denver, CO 80204

Here's a lineup of current events and shows at CHAC:
Yolteotl - The Artist's Heart
Featuring CHAC Artists: Meggan DeAnza, Teresa Duran, Landau, Arlette Lucero, Stevon Lucero. The opening reception is September 2, 2005 5-10pm. Show runs through September 10, 2005

2005 Chile Harvest Festival
Add a burst of flavor to your Fall at the 2005 Chile Harvest Festival. Sept. 10 & 11 from 11am - 5pm. The Festival honors and celebrates Spanish - speaking cultures that have incorporated chile peppers into their lifestyles. Get the details here.

Piojos y Cucarachas
Los Animales presents: Piojos y Cucarachas
Exhibiting Artists: Carlos Fresquez, Veronica Herrera, Josiah Lopez, Merlin Madrid, Alfredo Ortiz, Francisco Zamora
Exhibition runs: August 17th - 27th
Los Animales is an art collective of contemporary Chicano artists addressing current issues and opening dialogue with the public through the arts. Personal experiences and collaborations with one another inspire the work. Goals are to define Chicano Art today and nurture its future.

I note the recent passing of Carlos Martinez, CHAC's longtime member, former Director, and cultural activist. Contact CHAC 303-571-0440 for any scheduled memorials and information.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hola à todos! It has been an exciting week for me starting on Saturday when my new grandson Aidan came into this world feet first. He was given his Azteca name of Ehecatlpochtli and today, I start posting on La Bloga where the compadres have made me feel so very welcome. Que padre es la vida!

In future posts, I’ll be covering Chicano children’s books and I’m excited because there is so much out there, so many astounding books with equally wonderful illustrations by some of the best Chicano writers like Gary Soto, Gloria Anzaldua and many more.

For today though, I’ll be posting a poem I wrote in my grandson’s name in honor of my grandfather, Salvador Medina Camarillo who taught me pride in my culture and how to be the woman I am today. He peeps over my shoulder from Mictlan and pushes me to write every day.

Cien Años

“Cien años”
You would say
In that
Raspy, gruff
Yet curiously gentle
“Voy a vivir cien años”

“Naci en el 1900”
You’d tell me
As together we sat
In the patio filled with my
Grandmother’s plants
Canicas, marbles that
Lived in the bright
Green MJB
Coffee can

“Cien años”
Square, determined jaw
Resolute cara de nopal
Face of un indo
Beloved grandfather
Affectionately called

“Deje Mexico durante el revolucion”
Sadness and shadows
Flittering through your warm
Brown eyes
That must have seen
So much
Loss and pain
Brave, brown man
Strong and honest
A working man

“Cien años”
As we hoed the neat
Rows of
Corn, chiles, cilantro, tomate
Bright red strawberries
Freckled like me

“Conoci al Al Capone en Cheecago”
Proud, smiling lightly
As we picked the lemons, membrillo and laurel
Destined for Grandma’s kitchen
To become intoxicating smells
Of a distant land.
I learned of
The stockyards, the stench
Backbreaking work
Racism and hatred
He never once spoke of

“Cien años”
Rolling massive flour tortillas
In three quick thumps
Of the
Rolling pin
Sas! Sas! Sas!
And hands a perfectly round
White moon
To Grandma standing
At the comal

“Somos Aztecas, indios”
Crinkly eyes flashing
Big dimple showing
In your left cheek
Same as mine
Only deeper, much deeper
The “X” marks the spot
In a treasure map of a smile
As we watch
Los Voladores perform

“Cien años”
As you sat at the table
With the ever present
Playing cards
Shuffling with all the
Finesse of a Vegas dealer
And told me
Of the first time you worked
With your father
At age 3
And earned
Tres centavos
One you bought an olla with
Gave it and the remaining
To your mother

“No cobramos por ayuda”
Every time someone tried to pay
For the sobadas
By the healing hands
Of a sobador, a huesero
Those same hands
That carved a cherry stone
or a porous rock
into the face of a monkey

“Cien años”
Body racked with nausea
Losing your thick black hair
That asbestos-caused evil
From working in that place
That manufactured dishes
Gave you a turkey a year, Franciscanware
The apple pattern
Desert Rose
And the “Big C”

“Dios te lo pague, hija”
Each time I did something
For you
Or my Grandma
Out of love
For no other reason
But to lighten your load
Do something for those
That gave me so much

“Cien años”
As you kissed the
Forehead of your bride
Still in love
After decades of marriage
Dancing with her
To a bolero reminiscent of
Times past

“Tengo que trabajar”
After seven major surgeries
The month after
My grandmother’s death
As we tried to get
You to stop
The hard muscle
Of your indio labor
Tucked under the wrinkled
Mask of frailty

“Cien años”
When the hospital
Sent you home to die
A thin man hiding his
Looking like
A woodcut
By Guadalupe Posada

“No tengo hambre”
As I parade your favorite foods
Chicharones en chile verde
Frijoles del olla
Burnt blackened tortillas
I never understood
Why you liked them that way
Almost 86
On that April Fools
Sunny day
I called to see how you were
And found you had gone
To Mictlan
"Fitting", I said
As I held my children and cried
Fitting for the practical joker
You were

A great, great grandson
Came backwards into this world
Bearing your name – Salvador
In the Aztec veintena of
The Offering of the Flowers

In his name
Aidan Cesar Salvador Ehecatlpochtli
I gift to you this
Flower, this poem
This bittersweet tear
May you live on
In our memories, our stories
Our hearts and dreams
Por much mas que
“Cien años”

Gina Ruiz

Monday, August 22, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Aldo Alvarez was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from Columbia University and Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. He is Executive Editor and Publisher of Blithe House Quarterly, which was nominated for the GLAAD Media Award and named by Out magazine as "the central publishing arm of new queer fiction." Alvarez is the author of the short-story collection, Interesting Monsters (Graywolf Press). Of this collection, Helena Maria Viramontes said: "Alvarez has a poet's eye and a confessor's soul. Honesty resides where it isn't welcomed, as each of the stories reaches into the contradiction of what it is we call life. Interesting, yes; incredible, of course; awesome, absolutely."

A LITTLE POETRY: Here is a poem by Maria Garcia Tabor, a very talented writer and teacher:

La Mano (The Hand)

Smooth hands are suspect.
I love the roughness of your touch,
the way your hands snag my silk blouses.
Sandpaper man, angel of the working classes,
your calluses are kisses.

I have tortilla-making hands, but don’t make them.
My fingernails have chipped red polish
from Saturday night, are cut short for typing,
are tattooed with the ink of poems.
my hands touch moonlight on lour cheek while you sleep.

LOS ARTES: The City of Brea invites you to attend Latin American Exploration: The Expression of Identity in Latin American Art:

August 13 – September 23, 2005
Brea Art Gallery
City of Brea ~ Civic & Cultural Center
1 Civic Center Circle
Brea, CA 92821

Featured Latin American Artists:
José Bedia
Raul Corrales
Juan Manuel de la Rosa
Susana Espinosa
José M. Fors
Aimeé García
Flavio Garciandía
Jorge Marín
Lucía Maya
Sebastián Picker
Fernando Rodríguez
Victor Vázquez

Guest Curator:
Eliud Alvarado

Regular Art Gallery Hours:
Wednesday - Thursday, Sunday: 12 - 5 pm
Friday - 12 - 8 pm
Saturday - Please call ahead for hours
CLOSED Mondays, Tuesdays and Holidays
Admission: General Admission $1, Children under 12 FREE

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Saturday, August 20, 2005


So, mis amigos, tomorrow my wife, son and I fly away to spend eight wonderful days in Kauai. Michael Sedano very kindly agreed to post my Monday entries (August 22 and 29) while I'm away (it should work...they're sitting in draft form waiting to be published; will technology fail us?). This is a picture of a Kauai rooster. Frankly, it looks like a Mexican rooster to me. But what do I know? I'm a writer, not a roosterologist (whatever, as my son would say). Anyway, I need to get my ch’i back in balance; I must correct the bad feng shui in my life. It's been a long, hard 12 months since our last summer vacation. Stay well. Abrazos.

Friday, August 19, 2005

More Literary Awards - Movie News

Manuel Ramos

Looking forward to La Bloga's new voice, Gina Ruiz. Meanwhile, here's some bits and pieces.

Southwest Book Awards
The Border Regional Library Association is soliciting nominations for its 35th annual Southwest Book Awards competition.To be eligible for an award, materials submitted must:
Be about the Southwest (West Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico).
Appear in book or non-print format for the first time.
Have been published between Aug. 1, 2004, and July 31, 2005.
Be of high quality.

The association considers books, scholarly works, original video and audio materials.The deadline to submit nominations, which must include the official publication date, is Sept. 30.

Mail materials to:BRLA Southwest Book Awards, c/o Lisa Weber, 500 University, University of Texas at El Paso, El Paso, TX 79968-0582.

Information: Claudia Rivers, crivers@libr.utep.edu; or Lisa Weber, lisa@libr.utep.edu

Virginia Kirkus Literary Award
The winner of the first Virginia Kirkus Literary Award will be awarded a standard publishing contract with Back Bay, the trade paperback imprint of Time Warner's Little, Brown. The book will be published in the 2006 season.

Unpublished fiction authors may submit their manuscripts of 150 pages or more to:
The Virginia Kirkus Literary Award, 770 Broadway, 6th Floor, New York, NY 10003.The deadline is Nov. 1. A $150 submission fee and completed registration form are required.

Information: www.kirkusawards.com

Olmos Directs "Walkout"
This is old news in L.A., I'm sure, but for the rest of us it's an exciting story.

On a recent hot Sunday afternoon, a thousand people swarmed the steps of Los Angeles City Hall, chanting "Chicano power!" and carrying hand-lettered signs reading "Viva la raza" and "Viva la causa." Among them were militant Black Panthers and Brown Berets.They were re-enacting a piece of Los Angeles history - one that, at the time, news accounts underreported and now school texts barely acknowledge - for director Edward James Olmos' HBO film Walkout.The film, airing next year, aims to capture the frustration, the anger and, ultimately, the burst of brown power that gave rise to and followed the 1968 Chicano student walkouts. And while it looks at the past, it may draw attention to the present and future regarding the continuing high dropout rate and other problems plaguing Latino students today.

Read the entire article at DailyNews.com.

Thursday, August 18, 2005


La Bloga is pleased to announce the addition of a new person as part of this little endeavor. Her name is Gina Ruiz. Some of you may already know Gina from her book reviews on her site, AmoxCalli as well as at Xispas. Gina has worked in the entertainment industry for 10 years with stints at Disney Corporate Management Audit/ABC Broadcasting. She is now general manager of a completely online publication group specializing in the animation and visual effects industry worldwide. Gina is active in Aztec dancing and culture, Chicano rights activism and collected modern first editions. She resides in El Sereno and has four children, plus six — shortly to be eight — grandchildren. Her friend Sarah Baisley says that Gina’s life is a telenovela. Well, good, we need a little more drama around here. Please welcome Gina and her insightful reviews and analysis of Chicano/a children’s literature and presses each Thursday. She will begin next week, August 25.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

My sister's returning

On the occasion of my sister Marie Helen returning to Mother Earth, below is my attempt at a children's story, in Spanish, to be read at her funeral. (Please send corrections directly to my Email address.)

El Gato que era maestro

Había una vez un Maestro qué halló un gato en los callejones de Denver. Como al Maestro le encantaba mucho a los gatos, lo llevó a su casa y allí vivían, alegres y en paz.

El gato dijo que él se llamaba LC, y por muchos años el Maestro creía que eran las iniciales en inglés para Little Cat.

Durante esos años, los dos jugaron casi cada día. LC le enseño que era un buen ratero y nunca dejaba que los ratones se metieron en la casa. También le gustaba persiguír los pajaros, pero en todo ese tiempo, nomás pescó uno.

En una manera, LC era un gato especiál. No era morado como Barney, era de color gris con patitas blancas, como si nunca se quitaba sus calcetines. Ni era grandote como Clifford, pero más grande que un gatito.

Entonces, ¿como era especiál? Pues, LC enseño al Maestro como chiflar para llamar lo, y el Maestro nomás tenía que abrir la puerta y chiflar, luego el gato se arrancó con el Maestro. Era una cosa muy chistosa para ver, porque para mucha gente, solo los perros daron caso a sus chifles.

Ya después de más de diez años, el LC se cambió. Ya no persiguía los pajaros, tampoco los ratones. Se hizo como una tortuga qué no pudía correr. Estaba enfermo. Los veterinarios dijeron al Maestro que LC no iba seguir viviendo, que su cuerpo ya ha gastado la vida.

Por muchas noches el Maestro se levantaba de cama cada vez que LC lloró en una voz muy dolorosa y pesada. Pero el Maestro no pudía hacer nada. LC ya no comía, ya no tenía ganas de hacer nada.

El Maestro ya mero se hizo triste. A veces se sentía de llorar, como sabía que su tiempo con el gato iba terminar.

LC sí le dijo que estaba muy cansado, y el Maestro respondió que ya se pudía nomás cansarse. LC le dijo que le dolía un poco la panza, y el Maestro le dijo que no se preocupaba porque el Maestro tenía muchas piloras para el dolor.

Al fin de cuantos días cuando LC solamente se dormía, una mañana no se despiertó. El Maestro, que era muy inteligente y educado, creyó que se murió LC.

Pero el gato brincó como un sapo y dijo al Maestro, --No te preocupes, Maestro, pero tu no sabes todo. Los gatos no se mueran. Lo que es mí, el espiritu de un gato, nunca termina. Un día, mis pelos grises van a almuerzar a tus flores. Mis huesos se van hacer parte de los nopales en tu jardín. Mis calcetines blancos regreserán una noche como nieve que refresca el zacate, para que sigué creciendo. Y mis ojos y orejas van a cambiarsen y salgan en forma de nuevos pajaritos. Cada vez que chifles te voy a oír.--

Y con eso, el Maestro entendió que el gato era un maestro mejor que él. Entendió que "LC" no eran las letras para "Little Cat". Eran las iniciales para Los Corazones.

© Rudy Ch. Garcia

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

August Wilson's Radio Golf A Must See.

Michael Sedano

I highly recommend Radio Golf at the Mark Taper Forum. An incredibly significant play, superbly acted. Tragedy or comedy? Redemption or come uppance? Principled or foolhardy?

August Wilson's skilled hand kept me on seat's edge watching four characters careen out of control. The fate of a crazy old man's home, a working man's job, a politician's ambitions teetering on a real estate developer's ethics. I saw the play Saturday afternoon. The full house agonizing against a tragic outcome set off a palpable tension. We were putty in the director Kenny Leon's hands.

A charismatic real estate developer-cum-mayoral hopeful and his outspoken golf-loving banker partner-they are life long friends--open the drama with ingratiating repartee and a funny ribald disquisition on golf by the eloquent banker.

The developer wants a clinic named for the first black RN in Pittsburgh. The banker could give a hoot. The developer wants to run for mayor and bring about change. He has a conscience. The banker will go along with anything that doesn't cost him money. The developer hangs an inspiring poster of Martin Luther King, Jr. The banker hangs Tiger Woods.

Then stuff gets complicated. The partners discover they don't own the house at 1839, slated for demolition next Thursday." So who gives a f*ck?" is the banker's position, it's a technicality.

The audience cares a lot. August Wilson, the playwright, crowns a 10-play cycle with this gem. The plays revolve around the people in the house at 1839. I'm hoping Wilson publishes them in a single collection. If he does, reading the plays will be totally worthwhile, and sadly, the only way most audiences will be able to share the plays. I suspect, though, Radio Golf will be like Death of a Salesman, around for years.

The world comes crashing down on the principled candidate. Will he lose everything, fortune, political opportunity, the development? Will the righteously bitter old man lose his home totally confused but outraged at his impotence? Will the working man lose a last chance for dignified work that lets him set his own limits? Curtain.

Intermission, play-goers chatter about high rollers and playing golf. Denials the old man would lose the house. Wonder at how Wilson would get the politician out of the mess. An essential pessimism for the outcome seems to settle the matter.

There's some delicious stuff about segregation and a huge riff on what chicanas chicanos call the crabs issue. Who's holding down whom? Who's making something of themselves? The working man puts all the money in his pocket on the table, challenges the banker to put all his money on the table. The banker sneers, “I'd need a wheelbarrow”. The working man paints fierce warrior streaks on his face. The banker declares the fool failed to think it through and now has to get that paint off his skin. The working man, though, has made his point with exactitude: "I recognize you," he tells the banker, "You are a Negro." Among other things.

The old man--in another scene stealer-- goes into a rage about "self segregation," talking about 1200 student bodies in the college cafeteria, how the six black kids enrolled eat together, cluster together. "I don't hear anyone saying anything about the 1,994 white kids clustering together!"

The scene is 1997, which doesn't prevent Wilson's sounding a powerfully resonant antiwar message. A flag lapel and a tear for a twin brother KIA Vietnam, sends the old man into a harrowing tale of picking up the U.S. flag from a fallen comrade in the heat of an infantry assault, only to walk a Georgia street where a cracker rips the lapel pin off the veteran's coat, shouting about having no right to wear the flag.

This is live teatro at its finest. Radio Golf marks the final production of Gordon Davidson's career at the Taper. You may think that's no big deal, but the tipo who's taken over for Gordy really sucks out loud.

The five person cast make the trip to music center hill and $9 parking well worth it. Radio Golf will make you think. Make you cry. Have you on the edge of your seat hoping for, yet fearing, redemption.

Through September 18 at the Mark Taper Forum. Los Angeles.

Monday, August 15, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Mario Acevedo says that when he was four years old, his aunt asked what he wanted for Christmas. His answer: “I want a machine gun.” So even at that tender age, his expectations from life were a little different than most. Years later, he bought his first computer and decided to write a novel. Four computers later, and with six unpublished manuscripts "gathering dust under [his] bed," Acevedo says that he finally wrote "a story good enough to get the interest of an agent and a publisher."

Born in El Paso, Texas, Acevedo spent most of my childhood in Las Cruces, New Mexico, with travels to visit family in Pacoima, California, and Chihuahua, Mexico. After graduating from New Mexico State University, he was commissioned into the Army to serve in the Infantry where he finally "got to play with machine guns." Acevedo says that later he “hoodwinked” the Army into letting him fly attack helicopters. Civilian life has been filled with many jobs. Acevedo worked as an engineer in corporate America and got downsized. He earned a masters degree in Information Systems from the University of Denver and found another corporate job. He saw that job "sail across the Pacific" when he was outsourced and laid off again. Ever the optimist, Acevedo notes that he has two bright and handsome sons in college who will take care of him as he grows older.

Acevedo believes that his “forays into art” have kept him “grounded.” The highpoints include being the artist-in-residence for Arte Americas in Fresno, California, and being called from the Reserves to serve in Operation Desert Storm as a combat artist. Add to that teaching art to prisoners at the Avenal State Prison and organizing art fundraisers for various pet rescue groups.

All this time Acevedo was “scribbling” his stories, sending them out, and collecting rejection slips. What changed his luck was joining the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers which introduced him to "real authors and the advice needed to get published." Acevedo's debut novel, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats, will be published by HarperCollins' Rayo imprint in March 2006. The novel concerns Felix Gomez who doesn't like what war has done to him. He went to Iraq a soldier, and came back a vampire. Now he's a private detective, hired by a trusted friend to penetrate the murderous conspiracy cloaking an outbreak of nymphomania at the U.S. Department of Energy's Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant. As Gomez unravels the mystery surrounding one of the darkest secrets of modern times, he realizes that he must resolve issues from his human past if he is to defeat government assassins and fanatical vampire hunters from Transylvania. Sexual myths, conspiracy fables, and bureaucratic paranoia are skewered in this novel about American pop culture. HarperCollins/Rayo says that The Nymphos of Rocky Flats deconstructs vampire lore and presents the bizarre world of the undead with a humorous slant and a fresh Latino twist.

Now Acevedo is busy writing his Felix the vampire detective novels. And he’s decided that he no longer wants a machine gun for Christmas.

NOTICIAS: On August 18, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., there will be a fundraiser for Espíritu de Nuestro Futuro. Librería Martínez Books & Art Gallery, CSUDH's Espíritu de Nuestro Futuro and the Chicana/o Studies Department at California State University Dominguez Hills will host Allan Wernick, a professor from Baruch College, City University New York (CUNY) and Chair of CUNY's Citizenship and Immigration Project. Mr. Wernick will provide valuable information in Spanish and English on how to obtain visas, green cards, and how to become a U.S. citizen. His discussion will be based on his book, U.S. Immigration and Citizenship Complete Guide (U.S. Immigration & Citizenship) (Emmis Books, 4th edition), and will address employer sanctions and information for refugees and asylum seekers. Mr. Wernick will be signing copies of his books (English and Spanish) and half of the proceeds will benefit an AB540 tuition based scholarship fund at California State University Dominguez Hills. Venue: Librería Martínez Books & Art Gallery Plaza Mexico, 11221 Long Beach Blvd. , Lynwood, 90262. Ages: 15 and up. Admission: Free. For more information visit: http://www.latinobooks.com/. Email: john@latinobooks.com.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Saturday, August 13, 2005

One More New Mexican Award Winner

Denise Chávez recognized: Las Cruces writer and educator Denise Chávez will receive this year's Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature. Chávez is the author of a collection of short stories, The Last of the Menu Girls, and two novels, Loving Pedro Infante and Face of an Angel, which won the American Book Award in 1995. Her work focuses on border issues, Chicano culture and women in contemporary society.The award will be presented at the Santa Barbara Book & Author Festival on Sept. 24. Previous winners were Oscar Hijuelos and Rudolfo Anaya.

So Many Books ...

Manuel Ramos

The Rocky Mountain News (August 13, 2005) reports that Amazon.com reports that there are 83,000 U.S. publishers with at least one book in circulation, and that in 2004, 195,000 new titles were published in the U.S., up from 114,000 a decade earlier. Sheesh. Who says books are a thing of the past?

Friday, August 12, 2005

Pedazos y Pedacitos

Manuel Ramos

New Mexico And Literary Awards

The Premio Aztlán calls for submissions for its 2005 award. Established by Patricia and Rudolfo Anaya, the award is limited to a 2005 novel written by a Chicana or Chicano who has published no more than two novels. There is a $1000 prize, a chance to read at the University of New Mexico, and the prestige that goes with an award that previously has recognized authors such as Alicia Gaspar del Alba, Sergio Troncoso, Denise Chavez and Pat Mora. Deadline is December 31, 2005. Get the details here.
Patricia and Rudolfo Anaya

Another award established by Patricia and Rudolfo Anaya, the Critica Nueva Award, announced a few weeks ago that this year's award goes to Dr. Felipe de Ortega y Gasca, language and literature lecturer at Texas A&M University-Kingsville. He was chosen to receive the award for his influential contributions to Chicano literature and critical theory.

In addition to teaching English at A&M-Kingsville, Ortego is professor emeritus of English at Texas State University System-Sul Ross State. Ortego was the first Mexican American to earn a doctorate in English from the University of New Mexico. Read more at the Texas A&M Campus News and Events.

Albuquerque-area author Ralph Flores has won an award from an organization that focuses attention on multicultural diversity in American writing.

Flores' The Horse in the Kitchen: Stories of a Mexican-American Family was picked as one of the winners of the 2005 American Book Award by the Oakland, Calif.-based Before Columbus Foundation, according to an announcement from the publisher, the University of New Mexico Press. This book was a finalist for last year's Premio Aztlán and it also was recognized as a Southwest Book of the Year by the Tucson-Pima Public Library. More at the New Mexico Business Weekly, July 21, 2005.

Denver Stuff

August 13, dedication of César Chávez park, 41st and Tennyson (the former Alcott Park) - food, music, speechifying, y todo.

Not really Chicano related, but Westside Books announces that on August 17 at 7:00 PM it will host a Stories For All Seasons with prolific and celebrated author Edward Bryant, as he celebrates his 60th birthday. As is only right for an author, Ed will read new fiction. Admission and refreshments are free. Ed is a friend of La Bloga and a damn good writer. Drop by to hear RudyG sing Las Mañanitas to the old guy.

Finally, a tip of La Bloga's sombrero to Rosemary Rodriguez, who is the new President of the Denver City Council. Can't hurt to have someone running those meetings who personally knows people like Alfredo Véa, Luis Alberto Urrea, Sandra Cisneros and Rudy Anaya. Rosemary has long been a friend and supporter of Chicano Lit - her book club was famous for meets and greets with visiting authors. ¡Felicidades!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

A Mexican from El Salvador. A bit. A piece.

Michael Sedano

When I worked at Cal State LA many years ago, campus cops had an eyeball description of a swarthy fellow who'd committed a burglary. In true Officer Obie fashion, the local heat circulated one of those paint-by-the-numbers suspect mugs. Kinda looked like me. But the best part was the police description "5' 8", 150 lbs, black hair and eyes, Mexican male...". Since it was my office that had been burglarized, I doubted I was the suspect. I asked the police invesigator, "How'd you know he's a Mexican?" After a paroxysm of rage, the fellow sputtered, "Well, he could be a Mexican from El Salvador!"

Not that we all look alike, que no? Must be a fairly common experience for other-than-Mexican brown folks in LA. At any rate, that's one of the minor subtexts in an enjoyable Romilia Chaco'n detective novel, A Venom Beneath the Skin, Marcos M. Villatoro's recent offering from Kate's Mystery Books out of Boston. (That accented "o" looks odd, doesn't it? Same thing happens in Chaco'n's sleuthing.)

Aside from Spanish language diacritics, and those who speak it/them, Villatoro plays with a bunch of fun stuff. Poison frogs. Domestic Terrorism. Arch fiends. You'll get a kick out of Romilia's new partner, a midwest farm-raised gem named Pearl. Not that I knew the old partner, as this is the first Romilia Chaco'n novel I've had the pleasure of reading. It's the third in Villatoro's series. If you need a quick summer read between the heavy stuff, A Venom Beneath the Skin fits the bill.


Boston isn't ghettoizing the literature, is it? How about a New York Spanish language publisher? Marcela Landres' current email announces a couple of editorial jales in NYC. One's a salaried post as assistant to the editor, another's an hourly slot. Landres describes the former as:

Responsibilities: Assist the Editor-in-Chief in the review, acquisition and title planning of all books for Mosaico and Circulo de Lectores book clubs. Research Spanish language publishing trends, new titles and publishers as well as review publishers' catalogs and upcoming editorial plans. Review submissions, negotiate rights for all selections promoted in those clubs and contract titles. Develop in-depth knowledge of market trends and form relationships with key publishers.

Details on Mosaico's openings at her Yahoo page.


SPAM Happens. And Then Some.

Michael Sedano

"Earth to Gus."

Gus Vigil came out of a trance, self-induced by staring motionlessly at his Inbox minute after minute, thinking, “SPAM, Nothing but SPAM”.

"Yeah, Licha, otra," he agreed, when the barmaid’s question registered. Turning his eyes back to his laptop, Gus made a sour face as his eyes scanned his Inbox again:

SPAM-HIGH: Fw: Best software pri- ces.
Fw: [5]
SPAM-MED: Fw: 75 % Off for All N_ew Sof_tware.
SPAM-MED: how about this pharmacy
SPAM-MED: dosage : 1 pill a day (VAlGRA)
Fw: [33]
SPAM-MED: Fw: Need soft_ware? Cl- ick here.
SPAM-HIGH: Watch our gils f uck themselves silly…
SPAM-MED: Vacuum pumps - cause deformed pen1s
Un-secured D E B T is extended and eradicated
SPAM-LOW: You can feed rescued wild horses; More ...
SPAM-HIGH: Important Message from the Olingo Family. Please READ!!

Gus wished he lived in a William Gibson novel. He could jack in to the ‘net, glide through cyberspace and wring some necks. Or watch. That would solve a whole raft of problems, he thought, not the least being boredom.

Gus Vigil pressed the TAB key, highlighting the first Subject. He read it aloud. "spam hyphen high colon space Fewuh colon space Best software pri hyphen space ces period".

"You say 'pa rices' I say "pa reeses', Gus sang.

He down arrowed and read the next subject. "Fewuh colon space box five".

"What the Hell is that supposed to be all about?" Gus Vigil mumbled, “fewuh colon space box number? What kind of stupid asshole thinks anyone is stupid enough to read this shit?" Gus double clicked and waited for the message to fill the screen.

"OK, I don't need any penis enhancers today, thanks..." Gus Vigil looked at the sender's name. "...thanks, Lance Sepulveda. That's a good one, nice ethnic touch."

Licha set the bottle on the bar. Four musical notes sounded out, dit dit dit dah. "Ah, the Scherzo from Beethoven's Eroica. I have a call." Gus announced with excitement. He rarely received phone calls. He fished a plum purple Treo 650 from his casi-mari, pushed the Speakerphone key, and spoke. Licha rolled her eyes.

"Bueno?" Gus spoke loudly, raising an eyebrow at the barmaid, and winked.

"Sir, do you speak English?"

"Bueno? Bueno? Digame," Gus urged.

"Sir, can you hold please while I connect you to one of my Spanish-speaking teammates? I'm transferring you now, Sir, please don't disconnect."

Gus pounded the Off key with gusto when the Treo screen flashed and a HAL voice announced, "Excuse me, Gus, you are being paged." The display read, "Press #606# to pick up."

His excitement was obvious as Gus spoke his ritual dialog:
“Computer. En-gaged.”

He announced each key he pushed. "Pound six naught six pound".

The screen flashed and an unfamiliar boy's face looked back at him.

"Hi! Are you Gus Vigil?"

"Who the ... what ... hey ... who?"

"We're calling from the picture phone booth at Disneyland!"

"Disneyland? But how did you get my Treo 650?"

"The GPS Locator chose you at random! We told it to find a Chicano, mid to late 50s, who grew up in an urban area, has a college degree and a Treo 650."

"And who didn't earn more than thirty-five grand a year". A girl's face pushed into the tiny screen. "There aren't too many of you."

"GPS? You asked for what?" Gus felt his chest tighten. He willed himself to relax.

"What do you want?"

"Well, we have this argument and we figured a guy with your profile could settle it." The boy's face pushed back into frame.

Gus furrowed his brow. The girl's voice came from off screen, "OK, here's the question: Was The Rolling Stones' 'It's All Over Now' the greatest rock ‘n roll song ever recorded, or was it 'Wooly Bully'?"

"Hey," the boy added, "did you know you have three CDs and Moony's Road to Hell overdue at the library?"

a little news...

from Daniel Olivas

Just a little note to let folks know that my recent appearance on Pinky’s Paperhaus, the all literature music show, can be heard by going here. You can listen to a short version and, if you wish, the full 1 and ½ hour show. I brought along some new Latino tunes, a little bit of old school stuff, some Stevie Wonder and John Lennon, a bit of Elvis Costello, etc. Pinky asked wonderful questions about Chicano lit, the meaning of “pocho,” the power of blogs (La Bloga is prominently mentioned), etc.

Monday, August 08, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Ariel Robello’s first book of poems, My Sweet Unconditional was released this spring by Tía Chucha Press. In 2002, she was awarded an Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellowship with PEN West. She is the founder of Full Moon Phases, a multi-ethnic, multi-generational women’s poetry cipher. Robello has featured at the World Stage, the Los Angeles Poetry Festival, and Voz Alta. Her poems have appeared, or are forthcoming in Urban Latino Magazine, el Aviso Magazine, The Sense of Site Project produced by Writers at Work, Poetry Is Not A Luxury, an Anthology of Poems by Women of Color in Los Angeles, the Luna Xol Anthology cd and the Never Ending Battle (produced by 5th Battalion). Robello teaches poetry in local high schools with PEN in the Classroom and the HeART project. Her poetry has been featured in several issues of the online journal, poeticdiverstiy. Robello is based in Echo Park. This is her poem, “Window Shopping on Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles” which appears in the February 2005 issue of poeticdiversity:

she stares at her reflection in the window
a showgirl’s figure superimposed
on her own round silhouette
her huipil is stained with red clay
black birds dance across her chest
their caws fending off men
who lean in with mamacitas and bonitas
their accents and beer steaming the glass

there is no harvest of wool here
no poppy seed dye
crushed red grasshopper
no loom between her legs
here women’s feet press cold steel pedals
their sewing machines hidden
behind garage doors here women
dress their worn fingers with band-aids

at the ends of each arm
she sees the palms that once shuttled rainbows
the lines of yarn held tight to the loom
she remembers the rug underbid
by another weaver two stalls down
and her grandmother’s plum-stained hands
waving to clot the bleeding sky as her bus pulled out

betrayed by their own uselessness in this new world
her hands press up against the warm glass
beyond her reflection a rack of leopard print
and pants suits cut to hug a size six
calling on her to begin the day
in someone else’s body

REVIEWS: Rigoberto González reviews Salvador Plascencia’s debut novel, The People of Paper (McSweeney’s) for the El Paso Times. He observes that entering this novel “is like inhabiting a poem that tantalizes with its brilliant imagery and imaginative leaps. Although the novel's conceptual narrative and structure claim lineage to magic realism, it stands firmly on its own as an original book.” ◘ Speaking of Rigoberto, I give him a great review in the summer issue of the Multicultural Review for his new children’s book, Antonio's Card/La Tarjeta de Antonio (Children’s Book Press). I note that “González’s story teaches not only tolerance but also reassures children that a household filled with love is something to cherish.”

NUEVO NOMBRE: Due to a change in the structure of the company formerly known as Espresso Mi Cultura Books & Coffee, the owner and founder of the coffeehouse, Ramon Pantoja, has changed the name of his business to Sabor & Cultura Café. The old name, Espresso Mi Cultura, has been retained by Josefina Aguilar, former partner and founder of the bookstore. Josefina has moved on to pursue her own interests and intends to use the name Espresso Mi Cultura on a future venture. Ramon’s business still remains in the same original location in Hollywood: 5625 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028; (323) 466-0481.

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!

Friday, August 05, 2005

The Strange Cases of Danny Santiago and Amado Muro

Manuel Ramos

Last week, the Moorishgirl blog posted a link to an article by Margaret Drabble entitled Only Correct. The article provided a history of the road to publication of Drabble's novel, The Red Queen, and the author's defense of her book against "accusations of Orientalism and cultural appropriation, of ignorance, cynicism and plagiarism."

Drabble's essay got me to thinking about cultural appropriation in Chicana/o Literature, and that thinking eventually led me to reading again about the strange and sad cases of Danny Santiago and Amado Muro.

Here's what Joyce Carol Oates wrote about the Danny Santiago affair in "Success and the Pseudonymous Writer: Turning Over A New Self" in the New York Times Book Review, December 6, 1987:

"In 1984 the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters awarded one of its distinguished fiction prizes to a new and presumably young Chicano writer named Danny Santiago, for his first novel, Famous All Over Town. Subsequent to the award it was revealed, with some embarrassment, that the newly discovered Chicano writer was not Chicano at all: 'Danny Santiago' turned out to be the pseudonym of seventy-three-year-old Daniel James, author of several previously published books, and better known as a playwright and screenwriter; and a former Communist Party member who had been blacklisted by Hollywood in the 1950s. By his account, James wrote Famous All Over Town as a consequence of his experience doing volunteer social work in Mexican-American districts of Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s, and chose to publish it under a Hispanic pseudonym because he had lost confidence in his own writing ability. Yet it is plausible to assume that he chose 'Santiago' over 'James' because, while writing the novel which is narrated by the fourteen-year-old Chicano boy he felt closer to 'Santiago' than to 'James.'

(Though Famous All Over Town alone should have been the issue, and not its author's identity, the awards committee confessed that they might have had second thoughts about giving the novel their prize, had they known its author was 'Anglo' and not 'Chicano.')"

The Simon & Schuster editor who bought Santiago's book stated that the author had hidden his identity and masqueraded as a Chicano (using Chicano slang in his letters to the editor) and, even after his identity had been exposed, expressed his intention to continue writing as Danny Santiago. He died before he completed another book.

Famous All Over Town is still in print and still for sale.

Amado Muro presents a slightly different situation. Muro was really Chester Seltzer, Kenyon College educated and son of Louis B. Seltzer, editor of the Cleveland Press for a number of years. When Seltzer was not riding the rails, he lived in El Paso with his Mexican wife and his two sons, where he died suddenly in 1971. It was not until 1977 that The Collected Stories of Amado Muro was published.

Muro incurred the wrath of Chicano poet/icon Ricardo Sánchez. He wrote at least two articles that blasted Muro and Muro's pretense. In fairness, Sánchez delivered a good deal of criticism at "Chicano academics" who had embraced Muro as a shining star of Chicano Lit, when, according to Sánchez, it was obvious Muro was not a Chicano. Here's a bit of what Sánchez wrote:

"Chicano literature can only be written by Chicanos, for only Chicanos understand the nuance of the Chicano way of life from a living/feeling/existential/experiential perspective-others can write about how they observe us, but they cannot possibly know why and how we valuate life, for that is a cultural/linguistic process. Muro made cultural/ linguistic mistakes that any Chicano from the barrio-or even from academe should have heuristically picked up and exposed: in one of his better known short stories about Chihuahuita sitting down at breakfast to eat mondongo, which he alludes to as being a traditional breakfast for them. Any Chicano who knows something about Raza foods and regionalizations in regards to customs, language, etc., would immediately recognize that cultural fallacy-for mondongo is not Mexican nor Chicano, IT IS PUERTORICAN! Having traveled among Bori­cuas in New England in 1970, I had been introduced to mondongo, which is a stew. Now Seltzer née Muro (whose wife was Amada Muro, which is where he acquired the name) probably meant to talk about menudo, but figured that mondongo and menudo being stews and both had Spanish names, why no one would know the difference. Not too many in academia, which is the only place where he was widely read, realized that the great short story writer from El Paso was really another rip off artist passing himself as brown and trying to be just as greasy as us regular meskins. That was a real trip, a quemada maxima; the kind of trick that coyote/pí­caro types can appreciate."

Drabble certainly never hid her identity, nor did she pretend that she was Korean. In today's publishing world, the accusation of appropriation usually is not aimed at such blatant examples as Santiago and Muro. Now we are confronted with authors of all races and ethnicities who openly write characters from other races and ethnicities, often with some claim to sensitivity and accuracy, and, occasionally, as Drabble has done, as part of the fight against "American political correctness" and the "multicultural censor." Excellent and not so excellent writers have circumvented Dr. Sánchez's rules that "Chicano literature can only be written by Chicanos" and that "only Chicanos understand the nuance of the Chicano way of life."

My own view is that anyone can write anything he or she wants. Go ahead and include that ethnic character in your book so that it has the feel of authenticity. Throw in a couple of Spanish swear words and a bit of Caló. Make your protagonist a single, Latina female because your agent assures you that is what the NY editors are looking for - but be ready for heat if you get it wrong. Stereotypes, subtle racism, paternalism, and naiveté are products of bad writing. If one prefers, call the bad writing cultural appropriation or exploitation or simply "another rip off artist passing himself as brown and trying to be just as greasy as us regular meskins." Just don't call it Chicano Literature.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Is Chicana Chicano Literature "Ghettoized"?

michael sedano

Linked above is an interview with Salvador Plascencia in the Los Angeles Times (registration required). The interview will attract more readers to People of Paper. Felicidades, Salvador. A great P.R. coup.

My eye was drawn to the novelist's answer:

"There are many Latino culture collectives. Why did you publish with McSweeney's, home to an aesthetic associated with white writers such as Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace?
The Latino imprints never called when it was going around. McSweeney's called. But I'm very happy because now the book doesn't get reviewed as a "Latino imprint" book, but as a book. As a writer, I align myself with aesthetics, not ethnicity. Why is Jonathan Safran Foer not published by a Jewish American press? Should John Edgar Wideman and Toni Morrison be published only by black presses? There is something comforting in the fact that these ethnic collectives exist, but they can also have a ghettoizing effect."

I'm a bit offended by the idea of a literary "ghetto," especially used to describe anything chicana chicano. Call it a barrio, ese, or call it a colonia. When I think of "ghetto" a couple of images come to mind. The Warsaw Ghetto and Watts. The Warsaw Ghetto constituted a large city, literally walled-in by the pigs running the city. An ugly place of desperation and history. During the Watts riots in 1964 or thereabouts, a racist joke made the rounds that the "solution" to the problem of Watts' unrest would be to build a big wall around the area and once a week toss meat over it.

More recently, scholars coined the concept of the "internal colony" to account for the daily lives of multicultural gente like imigrantes and chicanos. We go by day into the anglo-unitedstatesian economic culture where, chameleon-like, we don neckties and similar disguises, speak English, say stuff like "how nice," and "lovely," and take two-hour martini lunches. At 5:00 we return to our neighborhoods, kick back with una chelada listening to Freddy Fender and Los Tigres Del Norte, chow down on nopales bean sandwiches lavished with chile, and ogle the blondes on Televisa.

In other words, we are culturally different. Different doesn't imply deficient. Hence, the pejoration that attends the word and concept of "ghetto" strikes me as, if not a form of cultural misappropriation, then perhaps as a form of cultural submission.

Write, raza!

Monday, August 01, 2005


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Jessica Barksdale Inclán's debut novel Her Daughter's Eyes, published in 2001, was the premier novel published under New American Library's new imprint Accent. Her Daughter's Eyes was a final nominee for the YALSA Award for the best books of 2001 and best paperbacks for 2001 and has been published in Dutch and Spanish. Her next novel The Matter of Grace was published in May 2002 and was re-released in a mass market version in May 2004. Her third, When You Go Away, came out April 1, 2003. Her fourth, One Small Thing, was published April 2004, and is soon to be published in Dutch. Her fifth, Walking With Her Daughter, was published in April 2005. The Instant When Everything is Perfect will be published in 2006. She is a 2002 recipient of the CAC Artist’s Fellowship in Literature. Inclán teaches composition, creative writing, mythology, and women’s literature at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, California, and on-line creative writing courses for UCLA extension. She has studied with Sharon Olds, Anne Lamott, Kate Braverman, Grace Paley, Marjorie Sandor, and Cristina Garcia. Her short stories and poems have appeared in Rockhurst Review, Hotwired, The Salt Hill Journal, Free Lunch, The West Wind Review, The Prairie Star, Gargoyle and many other journals and newspapers. Her short story Open Eyes was given first prize by Sandra Cisneros for El Andar magazine's 2000 writing contest. She co-edited a women’s literature/studies textbook Diverse Voices of Women (Mayfield Publishing, 1995). Inclán has degrees in sociology and English literature from CSU Stanislaus and a Master’s degree in English literature from SFSU. Inclán lives in Orinda, California and is currently at work on her next novel.

REVIEWS: Rigoberto González reviews Rose Castillo Guilbault’s new book, Farmworker's Daughter: Growing Up Mexican in America (Heyday Books). González calls it “a tender memoir about growing up in California's Salinas Valley in the 1960s.” He observes:

“As a testament of the politicized '60s as viewed through the lens of a budding Latina activist, Farmworker's Daughter is a quiet endeavor, but no less significant, since, in fact, this is a story of how the world viewed her. Everyone -- including the soldiers at Fort Ord, the working-class Anglos and the agribusiness bosses -- has a hand in defining parameters and boundaries of power. But from these encounters Rose learns about resistance.”

CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: Border Senses is about to begin accepting submissions for its Fall issue. Submission period: Aug 1, 2005 – Sep 30, 2005. Please read submission guidelines. Spring 2005 Volume XI was published on May 12, 2005 with a grand party. Read more. (Thanks to my compa RudyG for this notice.)

IN THE FLESH: Next Saturday, August 6, at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be signing my first children’s book, Benjamin and the Word / Benjamin y La Palabra (Arte Público Press) at Tía Chucha's Cafe Cultural, 12737 Glenoaks Blvd., Sylmar, (818) 362-7060. No need to buy! Just come and say hola, give me a big abrazo, and enjoy one of the best bookstores around (not to mention great coffee and other treats).

All done. Until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres at La Bloga. ¡Lea un libro!