Friday, December 16, 2005


Manuel Ramos

There's been a semi-theme on La Bloga this week about Chicana/o, Mexicana/o youth, hassles inflicted on youth, problems with the schools and education systems, etc. I started to think about several books that also deal with these issues and eventually decided that I would limit this post to a survey of the books of Gloria Velásquez.

One of her publishers, Arte Público, says about Gloria:

"Gloria Velásquez is an award-winning writer of poetry and fiction who graduated from Stanford University in 1985 with a PH.D. in Latin American and Chicano Literatures. She is the author of the Roosevelt High School series of books for young adults, which features a multiracial group of teenaged students who must individually face social and cultural issues (such as violence, sexuality, prejudice and inter-racial dating) inescapable among young adults today. The books in the series are: Juanita Fights the School Board(Piñata Books, 1994); Maya's Divided World, (Piñata Books, 1995); Tommy Stands Alone(Piñata Books, 1995); Rina's Family Secret(Piñata Books, 1998); Ankiza (Piñata Books, 2000); and Teen Angel (Piñata Books, 2003). She is also the author of a collection of poetry, I Used to Be a Superwoman (Arte Público Press, 1997).

Velásquez has received various awards for her poetry and fiction. In 1985, she was the recipient of the 11th Chicano Literary Prize in the Short Story from the University of California at Irvine; and in 1979, Velásquez was awarded the Premier and Deuxieme Prix in poetry from the Department of French & Italian at Stanford University. Velásquez became the first Chicana to be inducted into the University of Northern Colorado's Hall of Fame for her achievements in creative writing in 1989.

Her poetry and short stories have been published in numerous journals and anthologies such as: Chicanos y Chicanas en Diálogo (Quarry West Magazine, 1989); Best New Chicano Literature (Bilingual Review Press, 1989); Neueste Chicano Lyrik (Bamberg, Germany, 1994). Velásquez was featured in Latino Voices in Literature, 1997. ...

Gloria Velásquez is currently a Professor in the Modern Languages and Literatures Department at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where she resides with her family."

Gloria recently was named Poet Laureate of San Luis Obispo for 2006. An article at mentions that she had more than 100 poems published by the time she was 35, and that Tommy Stands Alone was banned from a middle school in Longmont, CO for its story of a gay high school student.

Here’s what a few reviewers have said about some of the books in the Roosevelt High School Series -

Maya’s Divided World: This book deals with divorce and the antisocial reaction of the daughter to her parents’ separation. Booklist said, “there are few young adult books available in which Chicano characters and family life are central, and the author does a nice job of giving readers a window into the culture and providing some positive role models.”

Rina’s Family Secret: A violent, abusive and alcoholic father, a passive mother, and a teenager who must take control of the situation are at the heart of this book. “Velasquez offers a believable portrait of a multiethnic high-school community and realistically captures the emotions and actions (from drunken beach parties to tender moments between caring friends) of the teenagers who are part of it. The Spanish phrases scattered throughout the story ... are easily understood in context and lend further verisimilitude. Although this is the fourth book in the Roosevelt High School Series, it is both strong and complete enough to stand on its own.” Booklist.

Ankiza: "In this fifth book in the series, Ankiza, who is black, starts dating Hunter,who is white. Her friends, parents, his parents, and other students ... do not approve. At first the teen is shocked, and then hurt, confused, and angered by their reactions. It is only when Ankiza gets a nasty, anonymous letter that her friends and family rally around her. The characters are a diverse group and are true to the age group they represent. The author tackles a powerful social issue with compassion and honesty. A good discussion starter with a satisfying ending.” School Library Journal.

Another publisher, Chusma House, says this about her latest collection of poetry, Xicana On The Run:

"In Xicana on the Run, Velásquez reconstructs a Chicana consciousness that addresses issues of politics, love, war, solitude, poverty and feminism. Velásquez's poetry reveals a variety of political perspectives and themes that are both universal and personal. In paying homage to her humble barrio roots, Velasquez includes vintage photographs from her childhood, which illustrate her desire to further immortalize her parents, Juan and Francisca, and her only brother, Fini, who was killed in Vietnam. A foremost Chicana Chingona literary activist, Velásquez succeeds in empowering La Raza, young adults, women, and many other diverse ethnic groups in this powerful and compelling collection of poetry."



msedano said...

what a great discovery! young adult lit offers so much vitally important stuff. sadly, most of my connections into the public schools are retiring. guess i'll have to make friends with their replacements. i have a couple of high school age friends, however, that i'll pass along some of these to--the kids are readers ahua!--and they'll get them into good hands. thanx for the lead.


daniel olivas said...

i knew a little about her but now i know so much more! excellent post, compa.

Steven said...

I've met Gloria and her husband at a Book Fair in Jacksonville (I think). They're good people. Nice to see her getting some recognition.