Monday, April 20, 2009

¡Inaugural issue of The Homeboy Review is now available!

Homeboy Press and its literary magazine, The Homeboy Review, serve as a voice for the poets and writers of Homeboy Industries, as well as a forum to publish both under-represented and established writers from around the globe. Begun as a writing program in Homeboy’s curriculum classes, the Homeboy Press was created to teach contemporary computer skills, including typesetting, desk-top publishing, web design and computer graphics to its clients, as well as to create an open, creative forum for global literary and art publishing by new and established writers and artists.

Acclaimed novelist Leslie Schwartz (pictured below) is the editor-in-chief and managing editor of The Homeboy Review. In honor of the inaugural issue of the literary journal, Schwartz has kindly agreed to allow La Bloga to publish her introduction to the first issue:

Before we begin…

In the fall of 2006, I taught a writing class at Homeboy Industries. The story of that class and the powerful voices of the young writers that emerged from it has had a lasting impact on my work as a writer and as an advocate for young people whose voices are formed and colored by living and writing from the margins. The class, made possible by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities and PEN USA, culminated several months later with a public reading and an anthology of the students’ work.

That particular ending, much to my surprise, became a beginning for me. I found in the voices of the students a kind of power and courage that was lacking in my own life as a writer. And in Homeboy Industries, I found a place that I could call home. I have been there ever since.

Homeboy Industries is a gang intervention program created in 1988 by Jesuit Priest, Gregory Boyle, while he was pastor of Dolores Mission parish in the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles. Fr. Greg started Homeboy as a response to the proliferation of gang violence and the monumental loss of life he saw in his parish. Since then, Homeboy Industries, a non-profit organization, has grown into the largest gang intervention agency in the nation, demonstrating two decades of success helping at-risk youth and young adults make the transition from gang life to becoming contributing members of the community. The distinctive feature of Homeboy Industries is its small businesses. These businesses have employed hundreds of the most difficult-to-hire people into transitional jobs in a safe, supportive environment. At Homeboy Industries these young men and women learn both concrete and soft job skills while building their resumes with actual work experience. Most of them go on to find meaningful employment.

These are the facts of Homeboy.

The miracle is this: Young people in gangs who might have once considered each other enemies on the streets, come into Homeboy and work side-by-side as friends, in kinship. To me, one of the most beautiful and poetic examples of this is our bakery, where ex-gang members from all over the city of Los Angeles bake and break bread together.

Poetry is another expression of this solidarity. While Father Greg might say that nothing stops a bullet like a job, I would add, nothing stops a bullet like a poem.

At the end of the grant period, my students had the chance to see their work in print. Seeing their work in print, as well as having an opportunity to publicly share their stories, was such a revelation to them that it became immediately clear to me that writing, publishing and reading poetry was a powerful tool to inspire continued transformation. As a result, the Homeboy Press was born.

In keeping with the mission of Homeboy Industries, those who work on the press simultaneously hone their passion for poetry, creative writing and public performance, while developing a variety of widely marketable contemporary job skills like web design, graphic design, desktop publishing, typing, editing and advanced computer skills. At the same time, this magazine that you now hold in your hands serves as an important outlet for both our homegrown writers and writers of national repute. The Homeboy Review is its own neighborhood, if you will. It is a space to be shared by both our own poets and an extended community of established artists and writers.

Each issue will follow the same basic format. Because we felt that it was important to invite the global literary community into ours, the first section – which we are calling simply “The First Section” – includes work from poets and writers who will likely be familiar to you. We are honored to feature the nationally known poet, Luis Rodriguez, who is something of a hero to us at Homeboy Industries. Like few other poets, Luis has created a literary life that extends outward, to those who most need the kind of inspiration and generous help he so freely gives. That his poetry is fresh and rewarding to read made him the obvious choice for our featured artist.

You will also find beautiful works by established writers like Naomi Shihab Nye, Chris Abani and Kerry Madden. Emerging, though previously published writers, include Reyna Grande and Alvaro Huerta, and we are delighted to present a very special piece by award-winning journalist, Erika Hayasaki. Our first-timers include poems by Rocio Carlos-Gonzales and a short story by Sheela Sukumaran, both of whom were recent PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellows. And finally, don’t pass up Fr. Greg Boyle’s remarkable excerpt from his forthcoming book, Tattoos on the Heart. (Bring a hankie for that one!)

The second section, “Art and Justice,” will be a distinctive feature of the Homeboy Review. It is designed to examine the relationship between art and community and how, together, they are integral to fostering creativity and transformation. We firmly believe that the expression of our creative lives is a community action. To that end, this section will typically include original art or photos from or by the community members who contribute their poetry.

For the first issue, we are proud to present essays by Homeboy writers Agustin Lizama and Trayvon Jeffers. The essays they wrote and the accompanying photos speak to the necessity of exporting practical solutions for peace, prosperity and justice. I was fortunate to tag along on this trip and teach a creative writing class to the students of the small school in this poverty-stricken neighborhood.

The poems that emerged are stirring and complicated. They speak to the ordeal of neglect and poverty on young hearts and minds. Some of the poems, published here, will surely give you a moment’s pause.

The final section, “130 West Bruno Street” contains the poetry that has come out of my creative writing classes at Homeboy Industries. The poems here are perhaps the most dear to me. They illustrate the courage, faith and hope of the young people at Homeboy Industries, people whose lives have been marked by tragedy, pain and suffering. Yet over the years of teaching creative writing at Homeboy, I have come to see that in the process of excavating their stories, the Homeboy poets have learned the value of writing and its tonic of empowerment. Not a single poet has left the class without the knowledge that real transformation requires the ability to imagine and tell new stories about oneself. Though the poems are raw and sometimes painful to read, the poetry of “130 West Bruno Street” is above all else, a demonstration of hope and courage. I know you’ll enjoy their work as much as I have enjoyed helping these poets find their voices.

There is no way this magazine could have happened without the help of many. First of all, thanks to Fr. Greg who just gets it. Not many people appreciate the value of the written word and its power to impact so many lives the way he does. Thanks also to Kaile Shilling, Mona Hobson and Veronica Vargas whose unwavering faith in this project helped us through the moments when we wondered if we would ever be able to pull it off.

This project was and will continue to be a community effort. In addition to the homeboys who helped make it happen – Maynor Aguirre, Agustin Lizama and Hector Verdugo – thank you to our intern Kaitlin Lynch. And special thanks to our computer whiz extraordinaire, Tina Turbeville, without whose generous time and tremendous desktop publishing skills this magazine would not have been completed.

Finally, I want to dedicate this first issue of the Homeboy Review to the memory of Abel “Mousey” Garcia whose poems live on in all of us, and whose passion as a poet kept me inspired even in those moments when I was filled with doubt.


Subscriptions: The Homeboy Review is published annually. For an issue of the magazine, please send $16.50 (includes $4.50 S&H) and your address to The Homeboy Press, Attn: Norma Gillette, 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Submissions: Please send manuscripts to The Homeboy Press, Attn: Norma Gillette, 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012 or to For guidelines and more information on future contests please log on to, then under “Free Services” click on to “Homeboy Press” or type:

Donations: Please send your donations to Homeboy Press, 130 West Bruno Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012, Attn: Mona Hobson. Please be sure to make out the check to Homeboy Industries and write “Press” on the memo line.

◙ My review of the groundbreaking antholgy, Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery (Arte Público Press), edited by Sarah Cortez and Liz Martinez, appeared in yesterday’s El Paso Times. Also in the EPT, you may read Rigoberto González’s review of Julia Alvarez’s new book for young readers, Return to Sender (Knopf). Kudos to EPT for its coverage of Chicano/Latino literature!

◙ Next Saturday and Sunday is the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Many friends of La Bloga will be on panels including Luis Alberto Urrea, Gustavo Arellano, Concepcion Valdez, Hector Tobar, Lalo Alcaraz, Steve Lopez, Lucia de Garcia, Gregorio Luke, Lysa Flores, Ruben Martinez, and more. For a complete list of authors, go here.

◙ Soon, very soon, Luis Alberto Urrea’s wonderfull new novel, Into the Beautiful North (Little, Brown), will be released. If you want to get a little preview on Youtube, go to this link:

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

No comments: