Monday, May 19, 2008

Spotlight on Michael Sarabia

Michael Sarabia was born in Boyle Heights, attended Roosevelt High School, graduating in 1974. He spent three years in the Marines, worked a number of jobs before returning to school and earning an AA Degree from East Los Angeles College. In 1992, Sarabia received a BA in Political Science from Cal State Los Angeles, and later a Teaching Credential in Social Sciences with a Supplemental Degree in English. In 2005, he received a Master’s in Writing (MPW) from USC. Currently, Sarabia teaches English at Garfield High School and in September will assume the duties of Union Rep (UTLA).

His writing influences include Kurt Vonnegut, Raymond Chandler, Ray Bradbury, James Clavell, Robert Ludlum, Sandra Cisneros, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Rudolfo Anaya. Sarabia has studied with a number of writers and teachers including Helena Viramontes, Aram Saroyan, Janet Fitch, Don Freed and Maria Escandon.

Growing up at the end of the 1970s, Sarabia notes that he “witnessed and was influenced by a variety of events including various movements for justice and equality.” His family lived near Whittier Boulevard and he can still recall that tragic afternoon of August 29, 1970, when Ruben Salazar was killed. Two of his works, a one-act play (The Execution of Ruben Salazar) and an unpublished novel (The Bishop of White Fence) take place during this time period. Besides those works, Sarabia has also produced an unpublished collection of short stories (Colonias and Other Stories), a screenplay (A Theft of Self), as well as another one-act play (Tocayas).

Sarabia’s short stories, “Colonias” and “Tío Chu,” have been published by The Hawaii Review and The Minnesota Review, respectively, and "Tío Chu" will be reprinted May 2008 by Pilgrimage of Colorado. Currently he is in discussions with the Sobel-Weber Literary Agency of New York over possible representation. Sarabia facilitated writing workshops at Tia Chucha’s bookstore in Sylmar and at the East Los Angeles County Library.

Rigoberto González, over at the El Paso Times, reviews a wonderfully creepy illustrated novel, Dead in Desemboque: Historias de Amor y Sangre (Soft Skull Press). He notes, in part:

Inspired by historietas -- the illustrated mini-novels for sale on any street corner of Mexico -- musician and author Eddy Robert Arellano has penned an edgy, transnational graphic novel about a man trekking down to Sonora from Arizona to face his prophesied death…Illustrated by three stylistically different artists, the novel moves through three distinct episodes in the journey of Eddy, a horse-riding working-class hombre traveling solo through the deserts of the Southwest with his two dogs in tow.

◙ WE’RE VERY PROUD: Over at Steve Torres’s blog, Crime Time Café, La Bloga’s own Manuel Ramos receives well-deserved kudos for his novel, Moony's Road to Hell (University of New Mexico Press). Torres says, in part:

Here's the thing about this book - it is, like all of Manuel Ramos's novels, beautifully written. The man is a poet. The Jordans of Crimespree Magazine recommend the book as a "noir" classic. Noir purists will argue perhaps, but I can say this much - this isn't an emotional roller coaster ride. It's more like that ride where they just drop you from a height and you pray like hell that there are brakes that'll kick in before the concrete comes up to smash you to pieces. Except in this book there are no brakes.

You may read the entire post here. ¡Bravo!

The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, edited by Francisco Aragón, has been selected to be presented at the “The Best of the Best from the University Presses: Books You Should Know About” program, which will be given at the American Library Association’s annual conference in June.

After reviewing approximately 500 university press titles published in 2007, librarians who work daily with high school students and the general public have chosen twenty-four titles that they consider to be lively scholarship. These titles run the gamut of subjects, from the history of slavery to a pictorial history of early Chicago, ultimately demonstrating the vital role university presses play in the world of publishing.

The Wind Shifts gathers, for the first time, works by emerging Latino and Latina poets in the twenty-first century. In it readers will discover 25 new and vital voices, including Naomi Ayala, Richard Blanco, David Dominguez, Gina Franco, Sheryl Luna, and Urayoán Noel. The variety is tantalizing. There are sonnets and a sestina, poems about traveling and living overseas, poems rooted in the natural world and poems embedded in suburbia, poems nourished by life on the U.S.–Mexico border and poems electrified by living in Chicago or Los Angeles or San Francisco or New York City.

Praised by Booklist as a “ravishing” collection and called "compelling and exhilarating” by the El Paso Times, this anthology presents a rich and varied sample of young, talented North American Latinos and Latinas. The twenty-four “Best of the Best” titles will be featured in the 18th edition of University Press Books Selected for Public and Secondary School Libraries. This popular and trusted acquisitions resource is the product of a longstanding and successful collaboration between AAUP, the American Association of School Librarians (AASL), and the Public Library Association (PLA). More than 13,000 copies will be distributed free to librarians across the country, and through its online format it will be available to librarians around the world.

CaliforniaAuthors has a new design! What? You don’t know this literary website? Since 2002, CaliforniaAuthors has offered news on the nation’s largest book market. Along the way, they’ve built great literary resources: a growing and varied library of book excerpts and original essays by California writers; a directory where readers can find California authors and authors can tell the world about their work; and listings pointing readers to independent bookstores, west coast publishers, media, literary events, organizations and more. CaliforniaAuthors has teamed with Angel City Press to co-publish the remarkable My California anthology, which benefits the California Arts Council and has raised nearly $100,000 for school writing programs. Visit today…you’ll stay for a while.

◙ Last week, I offered a free inscribed copy of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press) to the twentieth e-mailer. Also, I asked folks to tell me titles of three favorite books. Well, the winner is… Veronica I. Arreola of Chicago! Veronica says that her three favorite books are:

(1) The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

(2) Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina by Rosie Molinary

(3) Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler

Felicidades, Veronica…enjoy! And mil gracias to the kind La Bloga readers who wrote to me. Don’t forget this week's Latinos in Lotusland reading in Denver! You will be able to judge for yourself who is more handsome, Rudy or Manuel. Their stories in Latinos in Lotusland are not to be missed. If you can't make it, check my website for other readings including a group event and reception on May 31, 5:00 to 8:00 p.m. at the Patricia Correia Gallery, 2525 Michigan Ave., E-2, Santa Monica, CA 90404.

◙ Arizona State University has just launched a beautiful website called Eagles that Inspire. The site notes:

The early history of this Web site began in 2001, when a group of professors at Arizona State University (ASU), supported with funds from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and from our university, taught a set of courses in Costa Rica on the symbolism of the natural world, including mountains, bodies of water, and biodiversity. The initiating concept was that the natural world—volcanoes and other mountains, rivers, lakes, bays, and other such prominent natural locales—has assumed a symbolic importance over thousands of years that has not been systematically catalogued or analyzed over time and across cultures. Similarly, animals and plants have also assumed a profound dimension of symbolic significance that urgently calls for cross-cultural scholarship.

The ultimate goal of this project, which began with a few very basic undergraduate and graduate courses, was to create a Web site that would belong to the worldwide community of students of this subject and that would provide a place for anyone to contribute relevant examples and advances in the endeavor of studying the symbolism of the natural world and biodiversity. Such a Web site is under construction and we have tentatively named it Interpretations of the Natural World.

Our first concrete contribution to our Interpretations of the Natural World idea was a Web site founded early this millennium that now contains a considerable number of entries. We invite you to visit Transcendent Icon, Resplendent Quetzal at

◙ Jennifer Silva Redmond guest blogs over at Madam Mayo’s site. Click here to take a peek. She offers her top five websites of those who write about Baja California -- its history, natural history, people, places and cuisine.

◙ Finally, over at Critical Mass, the blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors, Rigoberto González offers a “small press spotlight” on…me! His focus is on Latinos in Lotusland. Read it here. I do want to quote one of my answers to a question Rigoberto asked regarding my use of the "Lotusland" in the title because it's a question I've received a few times:

As Gary Keller (Bilingual Press' director) and I kicked around ideas for naming the anthology, he suggested that we use a nickname for Los Angeles. The city had been disparaged by many a writer (usually those who moved here from elsewhere) with such nicknames as La-La Land, El-Lay, etc. One such nickname is "Lotusland" which harkens back to the mythological race of lotus (or "lotos") eaters "represented by Homer as living on the fruit of the lotus and living in a state of dreamy forgetfulness and idleness" according to The New Shorter Oxford English Dictionary. Thus, the term has entered the English language to mean "a place or state of idle pleasure and luxury, contentment and self-indulgence." (Websters New Millennium Dictionary of English.) So, some clever wags have pinned it to Los Angeles' lapel. Similarly, as William Safire [picture above] noted in a New York Times essay:

"La-La Land is a play on the initials L.A., perhaps influenced by Lotos-land in 'The Lotos-Eaters,' a poem by Tennyson: 'In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined / On the hills like Gods together.' In his 1941 novel, The Last Tycoon, F. Scott Fitzgerald [pictured on right] had a character describe Hollywood as 'a mining town in lotus land.'"

So, I use the name "Lotusland" ironically because, as I note in my introduction: "[N]otwithstanding the fact that the characters who populate this anthology may have feasted on the City of Angel's lotus flowers, they do not live in blissful oblivion and they certainly have not forgotten who they are." I thought long and hard about whether I should explain all of this in my introduction but I decided to allow readers to do a little exploration if they were curious. Many readers who live in Los Angeles chuckle when they hear the title and readily understand the allusion.

◙ All done! So, until next Monday, enjoy the intervening posts from my compadres y comadres. And check out the great literary blogging by Luis Alberto Urrea who keeps us abreast of his writing and other mysteries of life. ¡Lea un libro!

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