Monday, July 14, 2008

Spotlight on m. m. garcia and her first book, Hate Mail

As m. m. garcia puts it, “one particularly crappy day at work,” she wrote “a decidedly pissed-off rant on craigslist.” Garcia notes that her “online tirade found its way to the best of craigslist section, where it elicited an influx of e-mails expressing sympathy, empathy, and even a few ‘you-go-girl’ cheers.” Thus was born Hate Mail (Dame Rocket Press), garcia’s “gift to the world” (as she puts it). It is, indeed, a gift, for those who have a certain sense of humor…like the one I have. Hate Mail is one of the funniest books I've read, ever. But I admit that I’m a bit warped.

“I realized that there was a whole community of other people out there who were equally irritated by the people around them but felt helpless to express their anger,” explains garcia. “I wanted to make something funny and honest that represented what we were all going through.”

Garcia wrote and designed the book over the course of one summer before she began her graduate studies in publishing at Portland State University. It was “an experiment to see what kind of book I was capable of making all on my own.” She made and sold only a handful of her copies before one of them found its way into the hands of her future publisher, Dame Rocket Press. A collaboration between garcia and Dame Rocket’s publisher led to the current hardbound edition that was recently awarded the gold medal in the Gift/Holiday/Specialty Book category of the 2008 PubWest Book Design Awards.

Garcia currently lives in Portland, Oregon, but is about to relocate to London, England. “I love the way British people are so calm and polite on the outside, and seething with pent-up anger on the inside,” she muses. “They’re the perfect Hate Mail audience.”

The Wasted Years is garcia’s next project, which she describes as “a short story collection that celebrates those blissfully ignorant years between 18 and 29, when you don’t know what the hell you’re doing with your life—like a wind-up toy that goes in the most convenient direction until something gets in its way.” She promises it will be 99 percent less ranty.

As a special treat for La Bloga readers, and because it is difficult to describe garcia’s humor, she has kindly allowed La Bloga to reprint one of the more infamous chapters from Hate Mail entitled, “Fucking Cat.” Sorry if this offends any gentle soul…if off-the-wall, uncensored humor is not your style, go here for about fifteen minutes rather than read the following:


A short story from the beloved Hate Mail

By m. m. garcia

I caught my roommate’s cat pissing in the bathroom sink. I turned on the lights and there was Jean-Luc (named after Patrick Stewart’s character on Star Trek: The Next Generation) hunkered down in the sink, taking a piss. Immediately to his left, sitting on the rim of the sink, was my toothbrush.

I was deeply upset. Jean-Luc had already proved to be much like his owner: skittish, impulsive, and neurotic. I would sometimes see his glowing eyes peering out at me from the dark recesses of my closet—like the vampire Nosferatu—with his claws ready to scratch and his jaws ready to bite. It was as if he knew exactly which room I would enter next, using some kind of feline telekinesis to beam himself into the nearest closet, cupboard, or crevice to wait. And watch. And sometimes to pee.

I didn’t freak out when he pissed on the plastic bag of clothes I had set aside to go to the thrift stores. I didn’t say anything when my roommate announced, “Jean-Luc likes all the doors in the house to stay open.” And I only swatted at him when he decided to chew through the Saran wrap and start licking the fresh batch of hummus I had just made for an office potluck. So when I saw the brush I regularly used to scrub my teeth not three inches from a stream of cat urine, I went a little berserk.

Things were said that probably shouldn’t have been said. I may have threatened to put him in a lead-weighted sack and throw him in the Willamette River. I may have turned on the sink, causing a stream of cold water to instantly drench him. I may have yelled that there was more where that came from as he ran to my roommate in her room.

“Did you yell at Jean-Luc?” she asked.

“Yes. Your precious Jean-Luc was relieving himself next to my toothbrush in the sink that I wash my face in. Your cat is a fucker.”

“Don’t call my cat a fucker!” she snapped as Jean-Luc stared at me from her lap with a look of feline contempt. “It upsets him, and I don’t want Jean-Luc to develop low self-esteem because of YOU.”


I served the hummus anyway.

Cat food is food for cats, not food made of cats.

Cats have permanently inflated self-esteem.

◙ In case you missed Saturday’s post, La Bloga’s own roving reporter, Thania Muñoz, sent a wonderful dispatch from Spain where she’s attending this month’s crime fiction symposium called La Semana Negra. The annual fiesta is led by Paco Ignacio Taibo II in his hometown Gijón located on Spain's northern coast. Thania is a master's student of Latin American literature at California State Los Angeles (where she's editor of the Spanish Department blog) doing research to present at the Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies conference this November. She was interested in Mexican detective fiction and her research focuses on Jorge Ibargüengoitia’s novels. And many thanks to el Rudy for designing Thania’s dispatches. More to come…

◙ Issue number 40 of Pembroke Magazine is now available. It’s a special edition dedicated to Latino/a literature guest edited by Liliana Wendorff. The issue includes fiction, poetry, essays and interviews. Many authors are represented here including Rane Arroyo, Alma Luz Villanueva, and Sergio Troncoso (I have a little story, too). In any event, consider ordering a copy and perhaps submitting work in the future.

◙ The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism has announced the 2008 winners of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for outstanding reporting on Latin America and the Caribbean. In its seventieth year and the oldest international journalism award, the Cabot Prize honors journalists who have covered the Western Hemisphere and furthered inter-American understanding. Among the 2008 gold medalists is Sam Quinones, general assignment reporter for the Los Angeles Times and author of True Tales From Another Mexico and Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Stories Of Mexican Migration, both published by the University of New Mexico Press.

To learn more about the prizes and this year's winners, visit the prize’s official website.

◙ The July-August issue of Southern Cross Review has finally arrived on your cyber-doorstep. Hurry to the journal’s official link and enjoy.

◙ For a lively interview with Dagoberto Gilb, visit identitytheory here. Regarding Sonny Bravo, the young protagonist in Gilb’s new novel, The Flowers (Grove/Atlantic), he says:

I've had some ideas about him for a decade but first pen to paper was about five years ago and then I really got at it recently. Within the last two to three years. I actually finished a version two years ago. I didn't know if I was really done. And then I went back. I took more time with it—not necessarily with the writing, but I'd let it sit for a while. Not knowing what to do—if I got it right. I wanted to make sure I had what I wanted.

◙ Rosa Martha Villarreal’s novel, The Stillness of Love and Exile (Tertulia Press), won a Silver Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Pacific-West regional category. You may see all of the winners here.

Carolyn Kellogg (one of my favorite literary types) interviews Gustavo “¡Ask a Mexican!” Arellano over at the Los Angeles Times. Keep an eye open for Arellano’s upcoming memoir-of-place, Orange County: I've Been Taking Notes (Scribner).

◙ Rigoberto González reviews Gabriela Jauregui’s debut poetry collection, Controlled Decay (Akashic Books) over at the El Paso Times. González notes, in part:

In her debut collection, she's unafraid to write about "the bad games we're playing at being human." Oppression of the disenfranchised, religious and political persecution, threats to civil liberties and freedoms -- all of these dangers happen outside the walls of this country, and within them.

Though Jauregui's muse takes her to the holocausts of Europe and to the war-ravaged Middle East, it's the poems set in the Americas that ring with more urgency and conviction.

◙ At the Jewish Journal, Amanda Susskind reviews Gregory Rodgriguez’s Mongrels, Bastards, Orphans and Vagabonds: Mexican Immigration and the Future of Race in America (Pantheon). In a thoughtful analysis of the book, Susskind notes, in part:

For those who monitor and respond to extremism at the border, hate crimes against Latinos and the victimization of new immigrants, Gregory Rodgriguez's new book…is a welcome resource, detailing the history, politics and patterns of Mexican immigration. His academic approach and extensive research provide much-needed factual information. His humor and straightforward style keep the reader engaged and curious. And his conclusions are well reasoned and accessible.

Rodriguez takes us through a history lesson that tells the story of Mexican immigration through the lens of his premise that the Latin American concept of mestizaje (racial and cultural synthesis) has influenced and will continue to influence America's view of race. He starts in the 16th century with the story of the first Spanish expeditions to Mexico and their mixed race progeny who blended Spanish, Indian, Black, Aztec and Christian customs.
* * *

Rodriguez's thorough study and articulate presentation will help anyone who advocates for comprehensive immigration reform and speaks out against bigotry of all kinds. But even the casual observer of race and society in America will find the book enlightening and accessible.

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


Ann Hagman Cardinal said...

Thanks for this piece, this sounds like a fabulous book! It seems to me that m.m. Garcia says out loud what most people merely think. I'm ordering my copy today!

norma landa flores said...

POBRE GATO! I hope he's just a figment of M.M. Garcia's pissed-off imagination. Because if he's not, he may make a stream of MEOWdos in her eye one of these nights, when she's asleep, just to get back at her for threatening his feline self esteem. Other than that, I think she's going to have good luck with this book. Lots of people have to hide their anger at other people's pets. In my neighborhood, every Chicano has a chingado loud-barking esquincle Chihuahua but no lawn. Guess who has a big, beautiful lawn? Me!


Anonymous said...

What an amazing book! I just read it and it even has cards that you can send to people that you "hate" for any situation! It's so funny and very witty!