Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Review: The Hummingbird's Daughter

Michael Sedano

What's an honorable man to do when his illegitimate children force a father's acknowledgement? In Don Tomas Urrea's case, he abandons his wife and children in town and moves out to the rancho to be with the daughter and son he fathered out of sundry dalliances. When the daughter rises from the dead and commences healing the sick, Luis Alberto Urrea's novel takes a wonderful turn from the merely interesting to the arrestingly bizarre.

Given the novel's 499 pages, Urrea has the luxury of spinning out an elaborate set of circumstances and allowing the various forces to play out against one another. Teresita's mean-hearted aunt brutalizes the child until Huila steps forth. The old india takes Teresa as a pupil, teaching her desert herbs, plant medicine, and indigenous philosophy. Urrea blends the story of the two curanderas with that of Teresa's father Tomas and the engineer Lauro Aguirre. They are an ideal combination of leader and genius. Aguirre's inventiveness makes the 1880s Mexican frontier desert bloom to agricultural richness. Don Tomas' leadership wins friends with the Yaqui to ensure his remains a peaceful Eden.

Gardeners, desert lovers, and the like, will enjoy Urrea's passion for the land.The descriptions the various honeys Don Tomas' lands produce should help sales. Unfortunately, his explanation of the curative uses of herbs doesn't go far enough, except for the comic effect of the marijuana smoke in the beekeeper scenes. In his afterword, Urrea demurs on the latter, claiming allegiance to indio informants not to take that part of the novel too far into family secrets. Urrea claims Teresita as an aunt.

The Hummingbird's Daughter, although dealing with Mexico's ugly history comes with a large helping of humor. Indeed, the entire predicament that Don Tomas finds himself in is a total hoot. What can a father do when teeming multitudes invade his hacienda, beseeching his risen-from-the-dead child to heal the sick and raise the dead? Give her his 100% support. This, in turn, leads to one worse disaster after another. They flee. They are caught. Imprisoned. Tortured. Rescued, only to find themselves the bait in a nefarious ambush.

I'm happy to learn from La Bloga that The Hummingbird's Daughter is coming to paperback. This fun novel deserves the much wider audience it'll get.

For now, barring one of Teresita's miracles, that's it until next week. Hay les wachamos.


Monday, February 27, 2006


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Paul Martínez Pompa received his B.A. from the University of Chicago and his M.F.A. from Indiana University. He currently teaches English and creative writing at Triton College in River Grove, Illinois. He resides with his wife and their beloved dog on the northwest side of Chicago.

Momotombo Press has just released Martínez Pompa’s poetry chapbook, Pepper Spray. In the introduction, Luis J. Rodríguez says that his poems “sizzle like Chicago on a sticky August night—as gunfire, a woman’s moans, a child’s cry, glass breaking, a drunken man falling, and a lonely saxophone drenches notes through blast-opened windows in leaning three-story brick buildings.” Here is a poem from this collection:

How to Hear Chicago

Here a spirit must yell
to be heard yet a bullet

need only whisper to make
its point—sometimes I imagine

you right before your death
with an entire city in your ears.

To purchase Pepper Spray and to learn more about its publisher, visit Momotombo Press’s website.

CON TINTA CELEBRATION IN AUSTIN, TEJAS: Con Tinta, a coalition of Chicano/Latino cultural activists, poets and writers, is hosting a pachanga in Austin on Thursday, March 9, 2006, at Doña Emilia's South American Bar and Grill. The evening (6:00-8:30 p.m.) will feature award presentations to two of our veterano writers, Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and raúlrsalinas. The Quetzal Quill Reading Series will feature Diana Marie Delgado, Brenda Cardenas, and Lorna Dee Cervantes.

Admission is free. The Public is invited. Open buffet/Cash bar. (Donations are welcomed.)

The first-time event will coincide with the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Annual Conference. This year’s conference will include over thirty panels and readings featuring a diverse community of Chicano/Latino voices: Francisco Aragon, Norma Cantu, Lisa D. Chavez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Blas Manuel de Luna, Christine Granados, Dagoberto Gilb, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Carolina Monsivais, Alberto Rios, and many others.

This gathering in Austin is part of Con Tinta’s community outreach efforts. The collective’s mission is to create awareness through the cultivation of emerging talent, through the promotion and presentation of artistic expression, and through the collective voice of support to our members, our communities, and our allies.

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Richard Yañez, Con Tinta Advisory Circle member, at theclica@hotmail.com.

FAWN-TAW-STICK!: Alvaro Huerta’s latest essay, “Schwarzenegger’s shortcomings soften support,” appears in UCLA’s Daily Bruin. Huerta is a graduate student in urban planning.

WRITING ABOUT CANCER: Sergio Troncoso’s new essay, "Letter To My Young Sons: Part One," about his wife's battle against breast cancer, is now available on Amazon Shorts. You can go to the front page of Troncoso’s website to find the essay.

And another reminder that Troncoso will be introducing Jamaica Kincaid at an event for the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, where Troncoso is on the board:

February 28, 2006
8:00 p.m.
The Masters School
49 Clinton Avenue
Dobbs Ferry, NY

For more info see http://www.writerscenter.org Also, the Hudson Valley Writers' Center has decided to honor University of Arizona's Camino Del Sol for the great work they have done. The Writers' Center honors a small press each year, and last year it was Curbstone Press. For Camino Del Sol, there will have a special event in November 2006 to highlight the mission of the press, and to promote its authors. See the Writers' Center website above for details.

Finally, Troncoso has decided to donate, effective January 2006, all proceeds from his webpage http://www.chicanoliterature.com/ and http://www.latinofiction.com/ (both URLs lead to the same web page) to Hudson River Healthcare, which provides free healthcare to migrant farmworkers in New York's Hudson Valley.


Eric Avila will be signing his latest book, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles (University of California Press)

Monday, February 27, 2006
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
UCLA Campus, 144 Haines Hall
A reception follows the book signing

Eric Avila received his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in U.S. history from the University of California, Berkeley. Since 1997, he has taught Chicano studies and history at UCLA and was promoted to associate professor in 2004. On February 27, he will be signing his new book, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight: Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles published by the University of California Press. His research has won various awards and prizes, including recognition by the Organization of American Historians for one of the ten best articles in American history written between the summers of 2004 and 2005. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, where he began research for a second book project, entitled, The Folklore of the Freeway: A Cultural History of Highway Construction.

For more information and information about other programs at the UCLA CSRC, visit its website.

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

Friday, February 24, 2006

Limón, Mango, and Chicken Soup

Manuel Ramos


The North American Branch of the International Association of Crime Writers recently announced the nominees for the annual HAMMETT PRIZE for a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a US or Canadian author. Among the nominees is Martin Limón and his most recent military police procedural featuring G.I. cops Sueño and Bascomb, The Door to Bitterness (Soho Crime, 2005). Michael Sedano reviewed this book for La Bloga, which you can still read here.

The other nominees include: John Brady, Islandbridge (McArthur & Company), Joseph Kanon, Alibi: A Novel (Henry Holt), Cormac McCarthy, No Country for Old Men (Knopf), and Don Winslow, The Power of the Dog (Knopf). The winner will be chosen by three distinguished outside judges: André Aciman, author of Out of Egypt (winner of the Whiting Writer’s Award) and most recently editor of The Proust Project; Karen Rothmyer, managing editor of The Nation; and Lynn Slotkin theatre reviewer for CBC Radio’s Here and Now and editor of The Slotkin Letter. The organization will name the HAMMETT PRIZE winner on June 10, during the Bloody Words mystery conference in Toronto. The winner will receive a bronze trophy, designed by sculptor Peter Boiger. Congratulations to Martin for this well-deserved recognition.

As part of the Brazos Valley Reads celebration, Sandra Cisneros will read from and discuss her classic House on Mango Street on February 27, 2006, 7:30 p.m., at the Bryan Civic Auditorium, 800 Coulter Drive, Bryan, TX. Brazos Valley Reads is a community effort to involve students and adults in reading and discussing literature. Blinn College in Bryan is presenting several related events leading up to Cisneros' visit.

The Chicano Humanities and Arts Council sponsors Soulicious, described as "Soulful Inspirations, Art to Feed the Soul Bordering on ... Duel Identities. Peaceful Retributions of Funk and Groove Chicanismo." The exhibit features Eric Elfego Baca, Rachael Landau, Rebecca Rozales, Eugene Staner, Renee Fajardo, Arlette Lucero, and Thomas Rozales. The opening reception, February 24, 6:00 p.m - 10:00 p.m., includes storytelling, soulful food and booksignings. Chicken Soup for the Latino Soul (HCI, 2005), will be introduced by Renee Fajardo, storyteller and contributor to the book. CHAC is at 772 Santa Fe Drive, Denver. More info at 303-571-0440.


Thursday, February 23, 2006


We don't know how we missed this but Pamela Paul's essay in the December 18, 2005 edition of the New York Times ("What Are They Saying About Me?") explores the interesting and sometimes uneasy relationship between authors and blogs. About two-thirds through the piece, Paul writes:

At best, blogs can be the electronic version of word-of-mouth selling. Luis Alberto Urrea has written more than 10 books, but it wasn't until he published his novel "The Hummingbird's Daughter" earlier this year that he experienced the joys of being blogged (sympathetically) on sites like Bookslut and La Bloga. "I had never paid attention to that whole world before," said Urrea. Now, he has his wife comb the Web every morning, filtering out anything too harsh. "You're always braced for bad news," he said, "but blogs have been so friendly." Urrea (who said he responded to every e-mail message he got) compares the blog world to a country store with a cracker barrel, where he and his readers are playing checkers. "It's so immediate and informal."

Thank you, Ms. Paul and Mr. Urrea for the kind nod to La Bloga. One good turn deserves another: Paul's latest book is Pornified : How Pornography Is Transforming Our Lives, Our Relationships, and Our Families (Times Books, 2005). And Urrea's magnificent 2005 novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter, will be out in paperback this April from Back Bay Books. (Photo is of Urrea.)

Monday, February 20, 2006


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

Kathleen de Azevedo was born in Rio de Janeiro but has lived most of her life in the United States. Consequently, she notes that “my work often reflects the conflict between the Brazilian and the American culture: the sensual and the pragmatic; the myth of self- determination and the myth of El Dorado.” She currently lives in San Francisco with her husband, Lewis Campbell, director of Multi-Ethnic Theatre. De Azevedo teaches English at Skyline College in San Bruno. Her non-writing interests include hiking, traveling and dancing the tango (and samba too, of course!).De Azevedo’s work has appeared in numerous publications including the Los Angeles Times, Américas, Boston Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Greensboro Review, Cream City Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Gulf Coast, Tampa Review and Green Mountains Review. In 1992, her poetry was featured in the Best American Poetry series. She received a grant for Stanford University's Center of Latin American Studies to research Literatura de Cordel, folklore poetry of Northeast Brazil.

De Azevedo’s debut novel is Samba Dreamers (University of Arizona Press). This is what she says about her book:

Samba Dreamers started off as a short story “Rosea Socorro Katz, Coconut” which I wrote for my MFA fiction writing class at the University of Washington. The inspiration for the short story came from an NPR broadcast about Carmen Miranda, that told the sad story of her life. As a child, my mother was very homesick for her native Brazil and every showing of Road to Rio–which included a cameo appearance by Carmen Miranda–was a special occasion. I knew Carmen Miranda was a stereotype, but she was all Brazilians in America had back then.I wanted turn “Rosea Socorro Katz Coconut” into a novel. I wrote snippets and poems about a Brazilian tour guide, but nothing came to pass. In the meantime, I wrote two novels, none of which were of Brazil, and none of which got published. Finally I decided that in order to write about the Brazil in my heart, I needed to relearn the Portuguese language. For about a year, I taught myself Portuguese then decided to return to Brazil for a visit, the first time since my childhood. My cousin picked me up at the airport and as we were passing the beautiful Botofogo Bay, she told me of the time she was in college during the military dictatorship and a group of military police came into the classroom, made the students line up against the wall, and took several of the students away. At that moment, Samba Dreamers was born in my jet lagged brain.I wrote and researched a lot of this novel while I was teaching at three schools. I carried a disk around, found a word processor and worked on small sections of the novel. It was strange to be writing about torture, then facing my night class later on that evening. I could really feel how relatively “free” they all were! For a year after my Brazil trip, I studied Portuguese with a tutor who introduced me to Caetano Veloso’s song: “Debaixo Dos Caracóis Dos Seus Cabelos” (Under The Curls of Your Hair) about a Brazilian exile dreaming of sinking his face into her girlfriend’s hair. I was already on the last drafts of the novel, but at that moment, I knew I got it right.

THE PLAY’S THE THING: In L.A. REAL, a contemporary Latina uncovers her family’s past cemented over by 250 years of L.A. history. Original theaterwork produced by About Productions. Performed by Rose Portillo. Written/directed by Theresa Chavez.

Feb 17 through March 5, 2006
Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 p.m.
[Inside] the Ford at the Ford Amphitheatre
2580 Cahuenga Blvd.
EastHollywood, CA 90068

"...laced with a kind of pragmatic irony that never takes itself too seriously, full of rancor for the savaging of the land, imbued with the richness of the past, poetic but never so lyrical as to be out of step with present reality." - L.A. Times

Tickets: $20
Students/seniors: $15
323-461-3673 (Box office open Wednesday through Sunday)
INFO: http://www.FordAmphitheatre.org or http://aboutpd.org

About Productions is a proud member of the Ensemble Theatre Collective at [Inside] The Ford, a collaboration of the five member companies and Los Angeles County Arts Commission, with support from the Flintridge Foundation.

WE WILL ALL SURVIVE: Alvaro Huerta’s latest essay, “Parents anxious to start early on getting kids into top college,” appears in UCLA Today. Huerta is a graduate student in urban planning and a budding fiction writer.

WRITERS INTRODUCING WRITERS: Sergio Troncoso will be introducing Jamaica Kincaid at an event for the Hudson Valley Writers' Center, where Troncoso is on the board:

February 28, 2006
8:00 p.m.
The Masters School
49 Clinton Avenue
Dobbs Ferry, NY

For more info see http://www.writerscenter.org. Also, the Hudson Valley Writers' Center has decided to honor University of Arizona's Camino Del Sol for the great work they have done. The Writers' Center honors a small press each year, and last year it was Curbstone Press. For Camino Del Sol, there will have a special event in November 2006 to highlight the mission of the press, and to promote its authors. See the Writers' Center website above for details.

Finally, Troncoso has decided to donate, effective January 2006, all proceeds from his webpage http://www.chicanoliterature.com/ and http://www.latinofiction.com/ (both URLs lead to the same web page) to Hudson River Healthcare, which provides free healthcare to migrant farmworkers in New York's Hudson Valley.

READY FOR MY CLOSE UP: Cine-Lit VI is an International Conference on Hispanic Film and Fiction (February 21-24, 2007) organized by Portland State University, Oregon State University, and Northwest Film Center/Portland International Film Festival. Cine-Lit VI has issued a call for papers:

You are invited to submit an abstract of a paper on any aspect of the relationship between Hispanic literature and film. Please provide three copies of a 300-word abstract along with one 3 x 5 card listing the following: Title of paper, your name, academic affiliation, address, and telephone and FAX numbers.

Deadline: December 1, 2006.

Cine-Lit VI will be organized around the following sessions: Women Cineastes, Cinema and Theatre, Cinema and Ideologies, Cinematographic Adaptations, Marginalized Voices in Cinema, New Films and Directors, Hispanic Cinema in the U.S., and Hispanic Cinema in the Classroom. A committee will consider requests for the formation of special sessions dealing with a specific author/work, director/film, or other pertinent topics examining the connection between the visual and written image. They should be submitted as soon as possible. Reading time of papers will be limited to 15 minutes. A selection of papers read at the conference will be published in Cine-Lit VI: Essays on Hispanic Film and Fiction.

Please send submissions or inquiries to:

Oscar Fernández
E-mail: osf@pdx.edu


Guy H. Wood
E-mail: gwood@orst.edu

For more information, visit Cine-Lit’s website.

NOT YOUR FATHER'S SPIDER-MAN: Susan Thomsen, creator of Chicken Spaghetti, a blog dedicated to children’s literature, let me know that the Quiet Bubble posts on the newest graphic novel by Jaime Hernandez, co-creator of Love and Rockets.

FINALMENTE: The Southern Cross Review has a new issue out and has reprinted in bilingual format my short story, The Plumed Serpent of Los Angeles / La Serpiente emplumada de Los Angeles. SCR was one of the first journals to published my work. This little story ended up in my collection, Devil Talk (Bilingual Press, 2004).

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

Friday, February 17, 2006


Manuel Ramos

2006 Bedell Scholarship for Literature and World Citizenship

Aspen Summer Words is described by the Aspen Writers' Foundation as:
"Each summer bibliophiles from across the nation gather in Aspen to celebrate the written word during one of the region’s biggest literary workshops. Aspen Summer Words, our flagship program, is a five-day writing retreat and literary festival that offers an inspiring array of events — from author readings and writing workshops to publishing industry panels and VIP receptions. In 2006, Aspen Summer Words will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a Literary Festival exploring Voices of the West: Crossing the Great Divide."

The Bedell Scholarship for Literature and World Citizenship offers one opportunity for a full-tuition scholarship for a Writing Retreat workshop; a Literary Festival pass; two agent/editor meetings; round-trip coach airfare to Aspen; five nights accommodation; and a small stipend to a yet-to-be-published writer of fiction or poetry.

The scholarship recipient is responsible for his/her own meals and travel insurance covering flight, luggage and health. The selected student is responsible for arranging all personal travel documents.

Must be enrolled in a creative writing program in the North American West
No previous book publication credits
Minimum age: 18 years
No upper age limit

The deadline for applications is 5 pm (US Mountain Standard Time) on April 3, 2006. Submission is by post, fax or email. A decision will be made by April 17.

To apply, send a:
Typewritten single-sided, double-spaced writing sample of up to 10 pages of fiction OR poetry
Brief cover letter explaining your desire to participate (include name, mailing address, email address, telephone number)

Only complete application packets, including both components, will be juried by our scholarship committee. Each application will be considered on its merit alone. Manuscripts will not be returned.

Aspen Writers' Foundation
110 E. Hallam Street, No. 116
Aspen CO 81611
Tel: 970.925.3122
Fax: 970.920.5700
Email: info@aspenwriters.org


I picked this up from Hardluck Stories, an online story site that features hard-boiled and noir fiction. Even if you don't submit a story, you have to admit that the call for submissions is entertaining:

"Deadline: March 15, 2006. Max. word length: 5000. Theme for this issue: Borderland Noir

La frontera … what El Paso-based songwriter Tom Russell describes as 'that delicious, dark-eyed myth of the border.'

We’re headed way out west, out past where you’ve dared to go before. Out to Touch of Evil country (that’s the film, not the book, hombres).

Our troubadours are Russell, Dave Alvin … Marty Robbins and Ry Cooder. Mariachi bands dominate the shortwave radios down this way, where tortured widower Orson Welles hands out justice with his ham-sized fists, all the while muttering under his boxy Stetson.

We’re not looking to be slavish about the coordinates: The Border is a state of mind every bit as much as it is a geographic boundary. But fiction or nonfiction, I will be seeking that Malcolm Lowry/Day of the Dead/Cinco de Mayo vibe.

Focus on that uneasy friction between Old Meh-hi-co and El Norte … because, way down deep, we all know that you can leave Brownsville, but you can never get Matamoros out of your soul.

Give me stories about young lives snuffed out chasing the dream of more money and better futures up north.

Show me guilt-stricken 'coyotes' who can no longer stand to roast peasants in locked freight cars, or to abandon babies and their too-young mothers in the scrub-oak purgatory of the Sonoran desert.

Tell me tales of Narcotrafficante madmen with too much cash and bent imaginations who build crazy tunnels under miles of wasteland to smuggle drugs. I’m craving stories about bad bastards who kidnap tourists and mail them back one-finger-at-a-time, seeking impossible-to-pay ransoms from gringo wage-slaves whose one foreign vacation has gone so terribly south on them.

To this day, cherry boys with butterflies in their bellies steal across the border to get laid … to drink rum at TJ’s infamous 'longest bar in the world' and to find out exactly what the hell a 'Donkey Show' is. But sometimes things take a turn. Rum and tequila and first sex are a treacherous mix. Show me how treacherous.

Emiliano Zapata said, 'It’s better to die on your feet than to live on your knees.' So, in that spirit, swing for the fences, amigos. Give me strong and original voices. Gut-shoot me and/or break my heart, because, tonight, I just want to feel something.

About Craig [McDonald, the editor for this issue]: Along with being one of the top crime fiction reviewers working today, Craig is an award-winning journalist, editor and an acclaimed short story writer. He is a contributor to the 2004 New York Times nonfiction bestseller Secrets of the Code. Craig's also had crime short stories appear in both Mississippi Review and Dublin Noir, edited by Ken Bruen. Art in The Blood, a collection of interviews conducted by Craig with 20 crime writers, is forthcoming from PointBlank Press."

The National Latino Playwriting Award was established by Arizona Theatre Company to create a greater awareness of the work being done by Latino playwrights. Recent recipients of the Award are Luis Santiero, Karen Zacarias, Caridad Svich, Felix Pire, Luis Alfaro and Octavio Solis. Latino playwrights residing in the United States, its territories, or Mexico are encouraged to submit scripts for the 2006 Award. Each script will be read and evaluated by a culturally diverse panel of theatre artists. Finalists will be judged by ATC artistic staff. The winner will be awarded $1,000 and will be considered for ATC's GENESIS: New Play Reading Series. For the detailed guidelines call (520) 884-8210. Submissions must be postmarked by March 30, 2006.

Nickelodeon is offering writing fellowships in live action and animated television to culturally and ethnically diverse, new writers. Participants will have hands-on experience writing spec scripts and pitching story ideas. The focus of the program is to broaden Nickelodeon’s outreach efforts and provides a salaried position for up to one year. The ’06 – ’07 cycle is tentatively scheduled to begin in October 2006. The next submission cycle runs from January 2 – February 28, 2006 . Application and submission guidelines are available on the website at http://www.nickwriting.com./ Information via phone: 818.736.3663 Information via email: info.writing@nick.com

This notice is for Denver but there must be similar efforts all around the country:
Bradford Publishing is holding a Book Drive to benefit Louisiana libraries, Feb. 28–March 3. The libraries are in need of gently used books, including fiction, non-fiction published in the last five years, and audio books. The libraries cannot accept professional legal, medical, technical, or scientific books, or old encyclopedias, almanacs, or textbooks. You can donate books at Bradford Publishing, 1743 Wazee St., or Tattered Cover (LoDo, Cherry Creek and Highlands Ranch locations).


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Roses are red . . .

Michael Sedano

Happy St. Valentine’s Day! It’s been my annual valentine to share my favorite love poems with those who will have them. Buy yourself some candy and flowers, find a quiet place to read, and enjoy the three best love poems I've come across.

Two by Yeats strike me as ideal companion pieces. When You Are Old simply stated, is the best love poem ever.

Because it sounds a sobering counterpoint, I enjoy Yeats’1904 sadder-and-wiser lament, Sweetheart, Do Not Love Too Long.

Ina Cumpiano’s Metonymies joined my list a few years ago. It was anthologized in Floating Borderlands, a compilation from 25 years of La Revista Chicana-Riqueña and its successors. Here's only the fourth stanza of Cumpiano’s piece, which I quoted back in October 2005, after La Bloga Bloguero Daniel Olivas’ home survived a wildfire.

Enough intro. If you have to 'splain stuff, it's not worth it. Pero sabes que, I am always on the alert for love poems that are better than these, so please, click on the Comment link and share your favorites.


WHEN you are old and grey and full of sleep,
And nodding by the fire, take down this book,
And slowly read, and dream of the soft look
Your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep;

How many loved your moments of glad grace,
And loved your beauty with love false or true,
But one man loved the pilgrim Soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

And bending down beside the glowing bars,
Murmur, a little sadly, how Love fled
And paced upon the mountains overhead
And hid his face amid a crowd of stars.
--William Butler Yeats, 1893

SWEETHEART,do not love too long,
I loved long and long,
And grew to be out of fashion
Like an old song.
All through the years of our youth
Neither could have known
Their own thought from the other's,
We were so much at one.
But O, in a minute she changed-
O do not love too long,
Or you will grow out of fashion
Like an old song.

William Butler Yeats, 1904

4 from "Metonymies"

If the police ordered me to evacuate,
what would I take with me?
Baby pictures, computer disks, the silver,
proofs of birth? The sun
would hang like old fruit until the smoke
gathered it in. Then: night in day, sirens,
and knowing that whatever I took
would hold in its small cup
everything I had ever lost.
So if the police ordered me to evacuate during a firestorm,
I would write your name on a slip of paper,
light it, and--
in those few hurried moments allowed me--
watch it burn, brush the ashes into an envelope
which I would seal and keep with me, always.
Ina Cumpiano."Metonymies." In The Floating Borderlands, Twenty-five
Years of U.S. Hispanic Literature.
Ed. Lauro Flores. Seattle: UofW
Press, 1998, pp. 390-391

It's been a busy several months, and it's good getting back into a chiclit groove. See you next time.


Monday, February 13, 2006


Monday’s post from Daniel Olivas

As proudly and rightfully announced on its website, Tía Chucha's Café Cultural is a dream of community empowerment. Three San Fernando residents—María Trinidad Rodríguez, Enrique Sanchez, and Luis J. Rodríguez—came together in November 2000 and created a partnership to make this dream come true. On December 15, 2001, this dream became a reality when they opened their doors to the public. Tía Chucha's provides great books on Xicano history and literature, young adult fiction, as well as indigenous, contemporary and social commentary issues, Spanish-language, and bilingual children's books. The founders of Tía Chucha's believe that every mind is precious and that books and the arts can save lives.

Tía Chucha's also provides a space for community Open Mic nights, for musical performances, for theater and performance pieces, for author readings and signings, for documentaries and feature films of social relevance, and great dialogue on the pressing issues of the day. If this weren’t enough, Tía Chucha's has an art gallery featuring the creations of local and internationally-recognized artists and sculptors, including art receptions for the community as well as a full coffee bar with the best in espresso coffee drinks, as well as smoothies, tamales, pan dulce, muffins, juices, soft drinks, flan, cakes and more.

Keeping with its goals, Tía Chucha's helps serve this low home-computer usage area. Last fall, they opened an Internet Café with access to the Internet, emails and work files. In June of 2003, Tía Chucha's leased the space next door to the Café to establish a not-for-profit wing, Tia Chucha's Centro Cultural. In six-months, they've had workshops on Aztec Dance, theater, music, art/sculpture, paper mâché, gourd-making, flute-making, film making, comedy, as well as a women's natural healing circle and a young man's healing circle.

On Saturday, February 18, at 6:00 p.m., Tía Chucha's will be celebrating its fourth anniversary with live music, food, a raffle, danza azteca and so much more. Bring your family and friends and get ready for a great pachanga!

Tía Chucha's Café Cultural
12737 Glenoaks Boulevard, #22
Sylmar, CA 91342
Phone: (818) 362-7060
Fax: (818) 362-7102
Email: info@tiachucha.com
Website: http://www.tiachucha.com/

PERSONAL EXPERIENCES: LatinoLA published a new essay by Reyna Grande whose debut novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, is forthcoming this summer from Atria Books.

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL: Eric Avila, Associate Professor, UCLA Chicano Studies and History, will be signing his new book, Popular Culture in the Age of White Flight : Fear and Fantasy in Suburban Los Angeles, published by the University of California Press. His research has won various awards and prizes, including recognition by the Organization of American Historians for one of the ten best articles in American history written between the summers of 2004 and 2005. He recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University in the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, where he began research for a second book project, entitled, The Folklore of the Freeway: A Cultural History of Highway Construction.
Monday, February 27
4:00 pm - 5:30 pm
144 Haines Hall

A reception follows the book signing. Sponsored by the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center, Chicana/o Studies Department, and the Department of History.


Aztlán Goes Online!

The CSRC press is excited to announce that the journal of record in the field of Chicano studies is going online! Starting with the next issue, spring 2006, the full text of Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies will be available to subscribers in print and electronically. The journal will continue to be edited and produced at the center, but subscribers will have access to the online version through the University of California Press website Caliber. For the first year, 2006, only institutions with subscriptions will have access to the online content. For instance, if you are on the internet through a UCLA server, you will be able to read all the Aztlán content, since the UCLA library is a subscriber. Starting in 2007, individual subscribers will also have password access to Caliber. Until then, if your library doesn’t subscribe, make sure to ask them to start subscribing so that you can search and read all Aztlán articles online this year. Part of what makes this step so important is that the articles that appear in Aztlán will now receive much wider dissemination and much more critical attention. The CSRC expects to see significant increases in the number of Aztlán readers and the number of citations to Aztlán articles. Taking Aztlán online is an essential step toward advancing the field of Chicano studies as a whole. To learn more, please go to the CSRC website or email CSRC Press.

ON THE RADIO: We learn from our friend and well-respected writer, Sergio Troncoso, that David Dorado Romo's Ringside Seat to a Revolution: An Underground Cultural History of El Paso and Juarez, 1893-1923 (Cinco Puntos Press), was featured on NPR. And you can also read Troncoso’s review of Romo’s book.

TWO EVENTS: Award-winning author Rigoberto González will read from his work and share his experiences as a Chicano writer, book critic and cultural activist during two events in El Paso. González, a regular contributor to the El Paso Times book page, is a contributing editor to Poets & Writers magazine and an associate professor of English and Latino studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

González will speak from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Feb. 13 at El Paso Community College, Valle Verde Campus, Room A1510, 919 Hunter.

He also has a scheduled literary reading from 7 to 9 p.m. Feb. 13 in the board room at El Paso Community College's Administrative Service Center, 9050 Viscount.

El Paso writers Carolina Monsivais and Ray Ramos will be the opening readers. Both events are free and open to the public.

Information: 831-2630.

NUEVO LIBRO: The omnipresent Rigoberto González reviews María Amparo Escandón's second novel, González & Daughter Trucking Co. (Three Rivers Press). He calls it a “highly engaging” read that “is a much more complex and polished novel than Escandón's best-selling Esperanza's Box of Saints."

SHOUT OUT: To Chicano Forums. We encourage every reader of La Bloga to visit.

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

Friday, February 10, 2006

New Mexico to New York

Manuel Ramos

Lots of good news from Rudolfo Anaya. On February 26, The Tricentennial Matanza celebration honors Anaya at the Wine Festival Grounds in Bernalillo, New Mexico. The agenda for the day includes a traditional matanza menu, music and dancing, a cash bar, and the general good times of a New Mexican party. All proceeds (tickets are $10) benefit the Rudolfo Anaya Scholarship Fund, which supports "an Hispanic student enrolled in the MFA Creative Writing Program" at the University of New Mexico. This will be great time for a great cause. For more information, contact Sharon Ord Warner, Director of Creative Writing at UNM, swarner@unm.edu. The artwork above is Matanza by New Mexican artist Ray Martin Abeyta.

The best piece of news is that a collection of Rudolfo Anaya's short stories, representing thirty years of his writing, will be published by the University of Oklahoma Press in March. The title of the collection is The Man Who Could Fly And Other Stories. The press says: "Unlike his novels, which range broadly over the American tapestry, Anaya's short stories focus on character and ethical questions in a regional setting - from the harsh deserts of the American Southwest and northern Mexico to the lush tropical forests of Uxmal in the Yucatán. These tales demonstrate Anaya's singular attitude toward fiction: that stories create myths to live and love by." This sounds like one of those "must have" books. I note that this book is Volume 5 in the Chicana & Chicano Visions of the Américas series from University of Oklahoma Press. Now I have to find the other four volumes.

To top it all off, the University of New Mexico Press has published a new trade paperback edition of Anaya's initial dip into Chicano crime fiction, Alburquerque.This book won the PEN Center West Award for Fiction and marked the first appearance of Chicano private eye Sonny Baca.

So far, a pretty good year for the National Medal of Arts winner.

A recent announcement from Kensington Books says: "These are exciting times for Latinos in the publishing world. To this end, Kensington, the largest independent book publisher in the United States, is seeking writers of Latino descent to publish books that resonate with us, that truly reflect our vibrancy, our struggle, and our many hued selves.

We are inviting people of Latino descent to submit fiction in the form of romance, erotica, mysteries, thrillers, paranormals, literary, and urban stories. We are also exploring non-fiction projects that engage and educate, in the spirit of Sandra Guzman's The Latina's Bible. Unfortunately, we have no plans for poetry, plays, screenplays, or children's books at this time. We are concentrating primarily on English and Spanglish writing, but we are open to works in Spanish for translation.

Previously published, self-published, never been published and un-agented writers are all encouraged to submit full-length novels (80 to 100,000 words) or novellas (20 to 30,000 words) Please snail mail with a letter of introduction, synopsis, and a SASE if you'd like the work returned.

Sulay Hernandez
Kensington Publishing
850 Third Avenue
New York, NY 10022

And to prove that Kensington means what it says, Jerry A. Rodriguez, Nuyorican playwright, writer, director, producer, and filmmaker, sends word that he recently signed a three book deal with Kensington for his Nicholas Esperanza crime thriller series. Jerry has a nifty website where you can read excerpts from his upcoming series. The first book should show up around April, 2007.

Arte Público continues its strong presence in the Latino publishing field with several intriguing fiction titles for Spring, 2006. Included are: We Happy Few, Rolando Hinojosa ("a slyly humorous novel"); a Spanish translation of Graciela Limon's outstanding Song of the Hummingbird (La canción del colibrí); and The Throw-Away Piece by Jo Ann Yolanda Hernández (winner of the University of California Irvine's Chicano/Latino Literary Prize).


Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Guest reviewer: Octogenarian Philosophy by S. Ramos O'Briant

Octogenarian Philosophy: Looking for the America They Once Knew
S. Ramos O’Briant

At first glance, Kurt Vonnegut, author, pessimist and humorist might not seem to have much in common with Jimmy Carter, author, optimist and former President of the United States. But these two members of the so-called Greatest Generation are worried about America, and both have recently published books on the subject.

A Man Without a Country (Seven Stories Press, 2005) is a slender book of Vonnegut’s musings, opinions and insights about the state of humanity, specifically American humanity. It starts out grumpy — which brings my mother to mind, only eighty to Vonnegut’s eighty-three and Carter’s eighty-two. Like her, it focuses on all the bad news in the world: greed, religion, politics, and the curious admixture of religion with politics. He ventures into the last subject via an obscure reference to the Great Lakes people, apparently extinct except for Vonnegut, but allowing him to mention Socialist Party candidate Eugene Victor Debs which naturally segues into Stalin, Christianity, the Spanish Inquisition, Hitler and, ta ta ta ta, Karl Marx. Notice a trend here, and I don’t mean the K’s in Kurt and Karl? No? As with all Vonnegut books, a pattern will emerge. Or not.

His point is that this is not the first time in history that politics and religion have intermixed to frightening results. I almost used the phrase “catastrophic results,” but that would have been too Vonnegut. He’s at his best when he veers off the pessimist’s track and tells a story, like the one about Powers Hapgood. I love that name. If I was still egglicious, and wasn’t so jaded with joy over my empty nest, I’d think about that name for a kid. Or consider Vonnegut’s story about his joy when standing in line to purchase the envelope and stamp to mail a chapter to his typist. Only a writer who has worked long hours alone and with little human contact, can appreciate the active use of one’s senses — being outside, walking, talking, and smelling in real time, rather than in imagination.

Vonnegut describes himself and the rest of humanity as hopeless “addicts of fossil fuels in a state of denial,” and he goes on to say that “our leaders are now committing violent crimes to get what little is left of what we’re hooked on,” and in the process making “trillionaires out of billionaires.” Like Carter, he talks about America’s standing in the world community “ . . . they don’t hate us for our purported liberty and justice . . . they hate us now for our arrogance.” While he doesn’t mention fundamentalists, he does describe the people who are running our government as “Christians,” who are “smart, personable people who have no consciences.”

Vonnegut’s book is peppered with side journeys into his extended family history. He makes his case for being “without a country” by convincing us that it’s understandable why he personally believes it’s coming to the end of all things. I think he is speaking in mythical, rather than metaphorical terms. He is most dismayed because he thinks we don’t really care what happens in the future. Vonnegut compares himself to Einstein and Mark Twain, who he says, “gave up on the human race at the end of their lives.”

“This is not the country that I once knew,” Jimmy Carter lamented in a recent L.A. Times editorial. Carter is also a humanist and a Christian in the old-time definition, as in actively helping the poor and doing as Jesus said to do in the Sermon on the Mount (also mentioned in Vonnegut’s book). In Our Endangered Values: America’s Moral Crises (Simon & Schuster, 2005), Carter cites current government policies threatening American civil liberties, and environmental protections. He emphasizes the widening divide between the rich and the poor, and a growing disregard of human rights. He pays particular attention to the marriage of religion and politics. He’s worried, saddened, and possibly even outraged, albeit in a gentlemanly, ex-President sort of way.

Yet, he doesn’t mince words, and he names names. He points out that the Bush Administration has justified actions “similar to those of abusive regimes that we have historically condemned.” Carter ticks off a list of prime-time issues in our current government: prescriptive war, fundamentalism, women’s rights, terrorism, civil liberties, gay rights, abortion, the death penalty, science and religion, nuclear build-up, America’s standing in the world, and the unsettling mix of religion and politics.

Back to the old R & P. Carter builds his case for why fundamentalism is ruining America with stark, simple and earnest prose. He defines fundamentalists as those who “have managed to change the nuances and subtleties of historical debate into black-white rigidities and the personal derogation of those who dare to disagree.” Unlike Vonnegut, Carter makes no use of humor to soften his view that the fundamentalist philosophy of our current government threatens American representative democracy.

He also focuses on money and taxes stating that “ . . . billions in tax breaks (have gone) to the wealthiest” but Congress has refused to increase the minimum wage. “This administration has committed itself to extol the advantages of the rich,” he says.

Much of what appears in both the Vonnegut and the Carter book has appeared elsewhere, in both speeches and articles the two have written. As early as 1995, Vonnegut spoke about the “computer age minimum-wage conspiracy,”* his extended family, humanists, and Iraq. Likewise, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Oslo in 2002, Carter stated that “we have not yet made the commitment to share with others an appreciable part of our excessive wealth.” To Vonnegut’s credit, by the end of A Man Without a Country he admits that he might be a tad on the crotchety side, but more specifically, and in true secular humanist mode, he says, “There have never been any ‘good old days,’ there have just been days.” This admission, stated in the form of an apology (something I’ll never hear from my mother), doesn’t appear until almost the last of the essays. Carter tells us that our bond of common humanity is stronger than the divisiveness of our fears and prejudices: “God gives us the capacity for choice. We can choose to alleviate suffering. We can choose to work together for peace. We can make changes - and we must.”

On a personal note, although I read and enjoyed Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse 5, it is my sons who truly embraced his writing and went on to read the majority of his novels. My eldest put A Man Without a Country on his Amazon wish list, and its arrival after the holidays led to my reading it. Also home over the holidays, my younger, channel-surfing son landed on a cable channel hosting an all nuns, all the time hootenanny of Hail Marys, and insisted on watching it. He found my increasingly obstreperous objections amusing. Easy for him. He’s never been to Catholic school, been to confession, or had the women in his family gerrymandered by authoritarian priests and their habited handmaidens.

His teasing and my rebuttals opened a lively family discussion on tolerance and religion, and more importantly, on values and ethics. This led to Carter’s book, which my husband had already read, and my post-holiday digestion of octogenarian philosophy. My son took a devil’s advocate position, and I have no problem with that. It’s fine to look at an issue from as many different angles as possible, but eventually you have to take a stand. Which is what Vonnegut and Carter have done. Both authors, in very different ways, incite their readers to think hard on the subject of values, and take action. Read them together or back-to-back. They make a nice desk set.

*see http://www.links.net/vita/speak/vonnegut/

note on this week's guest La Bloga bloguera:

Ms. O’Briant is the daughter of a Spanish Catholic and a Texan Baptist, and was introduced to both the self-flagellating Penitentes of New Mexico and the tent show holy-rollers of East Texas. In addition, her hometown of Santa Fe, the city of Holy Faith, is host to state politics and the attendant corruption, artists and their hangers-on, and a thriving homosexual community.

All of this went into her first book, The Secret of Old Blood: The Sandoval Sisters. Set in the 19th and early decades of the 20th century, the issues confronted by three sisters are contemporary: racism, sexual and religious intolerance, the power of superstition, incest, reproductive freedom. Finally, it is a story of what constitutes a family, and the myths associated with the blood and bounds of loyalty.

For published credits, please visit her website, linked above in title.

La Bloga Blogmeister's note: La Bloga regulars happily welcome Ms. O'Briant back as our guest for her second visit. We welcome others with an eye and ear for literature to join us as our guest. We would love to share the pleasure of your company at La Bloga!

Monday, February 06, 2006

War, Sex and Chicano Vampires

Book Review by Daniel Olivas

The Nymphos of Rocky Flats
By Mario Acevedo
368 pp., $13.95 (paperback)

In his debut novel, Mario Acevedo lets us know early on that his protagonist, Felix Gomez, is nothing like your father’s private investigator: “I don’t like what Operation Iraqi Freedom has done to me. I went to the war a soldier; I came back a vampire.”

We’re immediately thrown into the hell of war as we follow then-Sergeant Gomez and his infantry division, “still ass-deep in combat along the Euphrates valley,” searching out fedayeen guerrillas in a village south of Karbala. Gomez spots a group of what he believes to be the enemy apparently armed with RPGs or other weapons. Based on his confirmation, the division’s lieutenant gives the signal to open fire and they do. When the lieutenant orders cease fire, Gomez’s “heart pounded in euphoric victory” and he acknowledges that the “moment was exhilarating….” But the thrill quickly dissipates as Gomez and his comrades discover that they’ve just massacred a family. Only a young girl shows signs of life and Gomez tries to stop the bleeding from a hole near her navel. But it’s hopeless.

In a guilty daze with blood on his hands, Gomez wanders until he comes upon a stranger with eyes that shone like a wolf’s; the man immediately controls Gomez with nothing more than his gaze. Gomez confesses about what he has done and that he wants to be punished for his crime. The stranger obliges and bites Gomez on the neck. Gomez feels the transformation occurring and asks what’s happening. The stranger answers: “…I’ve given you what you wanted. A punishment even worse than death. I’ve given you immortality. As a vampire.”

Back in the states, Gomez makes a living as a private investigator using special contact lenses and plenty of makeup and sunblock to venture out in the daylight. Gomez is a vampire with a conscience: he refuses to drink human blood because of his guilt over the massacre. He makes due on animal blood which slightly diminishes some of his vampire powers such as scaling walls and transforming into a wolf. But even in this weakened state, Gomez still outpaces humans with supernatural powers so that his private investigation practice becomes almost legendary.

Gomez’s successes lead to a lucrative job offered by his old college roommate, Gilbert Odin, who now is the Assistant Manager for Environmental Restoration at Rocky Flats, which had been a nuclear weapons plant. It seems that the Department of Energy needs to uncover the cause of an outbreak of nymphomania among female personnel at the plant. To complicate matters, the vampire society known as nidus, or the web, has its own investigation going into a deadly group of vampire hunters who seem to show up every time there’s an outbreak of nymphomania. This setup allows Acevedo to take us on a wild ride—often with a wink and a nod—delving into everything from lying war mongers and vengeful scientists to Homeland Security cover-ups and alien abduction.

And let’s not forget that vampire stuff. Acevedo gleefully debunks vampire lore and creates new rules of the game with a bit of romance thrown in for good measure. In the end, The Nymphos of Rocky Flats delivers fast-paced fun topped off with wry humor and dead-on social commentary. One wonders who will play Felix Gomez in the screen adaptation.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Bits and Pieces

Manuel Ramos

First, Congratulations to La Bloga's own Gina MarySol Ruiz on the publication of her poem Cien Años in the current issue of poeticdiversity. Gina's poem, a moving tribute to her grandfather, premiered here on La Bloga last year and we are happy that it is now available in one more venue. Check it out. Felicidades, Gina.

From the Tattered Cover Events Calendar:
"Time: Saturday, February 25, 2006 2:00 PM Location: Cherry Creek (Denver)
Title of Event: Meet the Authors Storytime with Renee Fajardo & Carl Ruby
Renee Fajardo, Carl Ruby, and contributing members of the Rocky Mountain Storytellers Conference will read from and sign Olè! Posole! & Other Tummy Tales ($14.00 Jems Books), the fourth and final book in the Tummy Tales series. Each book in this unique series, which includes Chili Today/Hot Tamale, Holy Mole Guacamole, and Pinchalotta Enchiladas is a warm and personal collection of family food stories that look into the culturally diverse culinary taste of the folks that call America home. Sprinkle in an ample helping of family recipes from long ago and far away and you have a feast for all occasions.
Request a signed copy: books@tatteredcover.com"

The 2005 recipients of the Mayor's Awards for Excellence in the Arts were recently announced. The awards, first presented in 1986, recognize individuals and organizations that have made significant and lasting contributions to the arts in the City and County of Denver. They will be presented on Feb. 21 in the Ellie Caulkins Opera House at the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Among this year's honorees are a couple of old friends. Here's the blurb about their award:

Daniel and Maruca Salazar, visual artists and long-time arts activists: In the 1970s they formed Chispa, a predecessor to the Chicano Humanities and Arts Council (CHAC). The venue served as a visual arts space, as well as a gathering place for Chicano artists of all kinds. They have since worked to develop cultural policy to allow for more opportunities for Latinos and other artists of color.

The honorees were selected by Mayor Hickenlooper, the Denver Office of Cultural Affairs and the Denver Commission on Cultural Affairs. To the right is El Valiente by Daniel Salazar. You can see more of Daniel's art at En Foco - sorry, could not find any sample of Maruca's work on the web.

In honor of Gina's abuelito poem - and because poor fathers are still taken from their sons to fight rich men's wars - here's A Name On The Wall, first published in The Pearl Street Press back in 1989, written by yours truly.

Mighty Frankie Valdez, Jr.
Jumped on his bike
Rode through
The most dangerous sidewalk
In North Denver.

Granpa held the back of his seat
Mighty Frankie pedaled and steered
Skimmed over lawns
The curb
Across the street.

Granpa hollered
Grabbed for the bike
Missed the boy.

Frankie's legs were demons
His bike a rocket
Launched into heaven
Among the clouds where
Mighty Frankie laughed like a two year old.

He landed in Johnson's hedge.

"Jesus, Frankie. You're either
Real stupid or
Real brave
I don't know which
Just like your old man."

Photograph in the golden frame
On his mother's dresser
Young man with dark eyes, thick moustache
Brown, serious uniform
Flag draped in the corner.

Mighty Frankie Valdez, Jr.
Climbed back on the bike
Rode through the afternoon
Granpa stood back and watched.