Monday, November 10, 2008

Libros, libros, libros...

So many wonderful books come my way but I often cannot dedicate as much time discussing them as I’d like. To try to make up for this, let me tell you about several that deserve some attention. This is the drill: below each title is the press’s description of the book followed by a short excerpt. Enjoy!

Some of My Best Friends and Other Fictions (Lewis-Clark Press) by Joe Benevento: Joe Benevento's first collection of short stories is a compelling and diverse exploration of American and Latin American cultures. Benevento's readers may recall his prolific work in poetry and novels, which include the volumes "Holding On," "Willing to Believe," "Plumbing in Harlem," and "The Odd Squad." Some of My Best Friends and Other Fictions is a significant addition to Benevento's fresh portrayals of the urban lives of New York City and of the Midwest. Benevento is a full professor at Truman State University in Missouri where he has served as Director of Freshman Writing and Director of Graduate Studies, and teaches courses in American and Latin American Literature, Creative Writing, and Spanish. He is co-editor of the Green Hills Literary Lantern.

Excerpt: Last night I saw my husband, dead now these twenty years. I asked him if he missed me as much as I missed him, and if he were waiting for me anxiously in heaven. He told me he had come to warn me not to expect to be reunited. I was his second wife; his first had died young. In heaven they had been reunited, as was proper. If there was a place for me, it could not be with him.

One Night in America: Robert Kennedy, César Chávez, and the Dream of Dignity (Paradigm) by Steven W. Bender: Robert Kennedy and César Chávez came from opposite sides of the tracks of race and class that still divide Americans. Both optimists, Kennedy and Chávez shared a common vision of equality. They united in the 1960s to crusade for the rights of migrant farm workers. Farm workers faded from public consciousness following Kennedy's assassination and Chávez's early passing. Yet the work of Kennedy and Chávez continues to reverberate in America today. Bender chronicles their warm friendship and embraces their bold political vision for making the American dream a reality for all. Bender examines their shared legacy and its continuing influence on political issues including immigration, education, war, poverty, and religion. Mapping a new political path for Mexican Americans and the poor of all backgrounds, this book argues that there is still time to prove Kennedy and Chávez right.

Excerpt: Chávez was overcome with sadness after Robert Kennedy’s death. Nixon’s presidency aggravated the loss when his administration targeted the farm workers union for hostile federal action and reversed any influence the union had enjoyed in prior years within the executive branch.

The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes: Selected Works of Jose Antonio Burciaga (University of Arizona Press) edited by Mimi R. Gladstein and Daniel Chacón: Widely considered one of the most important voices in the Chicano literary canon, José Antonio Burciaga was a pioneer who exposed inequities and cultural difficulties through humor, art, and deceptively simple prose. In this anthology and tribute, Mimi Gladstein and Daniel Chacón bring together dozens of remarkable examples of Burciaga's work. His work never demonstrates machismo or sexism, as he believed strongly that all Chicano voices are equally valuable. A joy to read, this rich compendium is an important contribution not only to Chicano literature but also to the preservation of the creative, spiritual, and political voice of a talented and passionate man.

Excerpt: Most popular Mexican cuss words begin with a p. Why words such as pinchi, puto, politico, and pendejo carry such a harsh negative sound, I don’t know. I’m not a linguist.

Esperanza: A Latina Story (Floricanto Press) by Sandra C. López: In this young adult novel, fourteen-year old Esperanza Ignacio could only think of a few words to sum up her life: crap, crap, crap! She was born into a poor Latino family living in a small crummy apartment in the barrio side of town, where the graffiti chiseled more the souls and character of the residents than it impacted the exterior looks of the buildings. Her father was a drunken gambler, and wife-beater who, one cold night, got arrested after a violent intrusion. Her entire circle of relatives consisted of nothing but formers-former drug-addicts, former gangsters and gang-bangers, former alcoholics, former everything. Esperanza illustrates what persistent Latino youth can achieve when they get back up after a fall and keep on walking straight into college.

Excerpt: Another year was gone, and a brand new one had just begun. Nothing had really changed. I was following the same routine from the previous year.

L.A. Bitch: The Last Word (LuLu Press) by Jim Marquez: This is the latest in a series of passionate, in-your-face slices of life about Los Angeles after dark. Wicked. Foul. Funny. Sexy. Sad. Boozy. This is the long awaited best-of collection: a little from each of the first three in the series mixed in with new material. Come on, join the madness.

Excerpt: I should’ve been happy after the reading and signing of my latest book: big crowd, standing room only, college girls sitting on the floor and gazing up at me like I was the Mexican-Charles-fucking-Bukowski himself, but something was off…

Rigoberto González, an award-winning writer living in New York City, reviews La Bloga’s very own Lisa Alvarado's debut book of poems, Raw Silk Suture (Floricanto Press). He says, in part:

"Raw Silk Suture" lives up to its name. This book is the marriage between that which aggravates and that which soothes the body and soul. There's no picking and choosing; there's only the dealing with all things beautiful and all things hurtful. It's called life, it's called survival: "Yes, / I am here, / even now."

Read the entire review here. You may also order the book from your favorite bookstore or online.

◙ Last week, Ramón Rentería, book editor for the El Paso Times, wrote about the newly-released The Last Supper of Chicano Heroes : Selected Works of Jose Antonio Burciaga (University of Arizona Press), edited by Mimi Gladstein and Daniel Chacón. He says that the editors “must have felt like they had cracked a literary piñata when they searched 41 boxes of Burciaga's papers in California and found unpublished work.” He adds:

The editors are optimistic that the new book will generate fresh interest in Burciaga's work, especially among young people and teachers. "We hope this book will revitalize his spirit," Chacón said. "We're trying to present the complexities of a great artist and to have him referred to as a great artist and not just a funny humorist or essayist."

Let me add my own opinion about this book: Without question, any personal collection (particularly one that focuses on Chicano literature) should have this volume; the editors have done a remarkable job in capturing the heart, soul and talent of the late, great Burciaga. In any event, read the entire El Paso Times piece here.

◙ And yes…there’s more literary news from the El Paso Times with my piece on Orange County: A Personal History (I’ve Been Taking Notes) (Scrbner) by Gustavo Arellano. More on Arellano’s book later.

“Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas” Explores Borderland’s Identity

An excerpt of an article by Yadhira De Leon

Captivating exhibition explores Mexican popular culture inspired by the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

An exhibit opening at the Autry National Center of the American West will explore the development of Mexican popular culture and United States, and take a look at U.S.-Mexico relations through the works of some of the country’s foremost artists.

“Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas,” organized by the Autry National Center in association with Arizona State University’s Hispanic Research Center, uses art, rare historical footage, feature film, music, and popular culture to experience and understand the monumental changes in the Americas that were inspired by the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Creating a mythology that endures to this day in Mexico and the United States, towering figures such as Emiliano Zapata and Francisco “Pancho” Villa inspired a vast output of film, art, folklore, music, song, and literature that continues to shape the identity of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, according to the exhibit’s curators.

* * *

The exhibition runs from Saturday, Nov 1 to Sunday, May 10, 2009. Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors 60+, $3 for children 3-12, and free for Autry members, veterans and children 2 and under. For more information call (323) 667-2000 or visit Autry’s website. You may read the entire article about the exhibit here.

◙ lizz huerta has published a new chapbook of poetry, Half Life of Memory. You may learn more about it here or here. Here is a sample:

“I want to rope, I want to rope you in”

thunder honey, your mouth is the same as your mama’s sweet pot and
you’ve got me tasting, recalling every ground we have kissed over

the rules I habitually remove from your body; encouraging distance, water, spirit
the memory of your hand on my face the first morning I knew you

I’ll stay your super sexy if you keep me believing that everything
up until now, every concentric circle of doubt I have haloed myself into

every slab mortared around my heart, every nettle planted
have been so that when you came riding through, slaying my ugly ducklings

I would recognize the new hero scent of your breath, your come-love-me forearms

and would gratefully celebrate the day you were conceived.

◙ Last week, I had the pleasure of giving a lecture at Santa Monica College about the making of Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press). The faculty, staff and the students were wonderful and I hope to visit again.

◙ That’s all for this week. So, in the meantime, enjoy the intervening posts from mis compadres y comadres here on La Bloga. And remember: ¡Lea un libro!


Corina said...

Wow! What a wonderful collection of books you've pointed us to, Daniel! I am particularly interested in adding the Burciaga volume to my collection. I have all of Tony's other books. Now I have to add this one.

Thank you for the list. I'll be sure to look them up, after Nanowrimo!

Anonymous said...

The Chavez/Kennedy book looks exciting. I'm going to give it to my sister for Christmas! I know she'll love it.

Thanks for the post!

Francisco Aragón said...

What a generous and thorough post!

Rebel Girl said...


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The novel Esperanza: A Young Latina, shows the damaging effects caused by alcohol and drugs to a person. Therefore, jeopardizing the future of young generations because it chooses any age to victimize.