Friday, April 03, 2009

Latinos in Lotusland in Santa Ana

On March 28, a merry gang of writers converged on one of the country's great book stores - Librería Martinez in Santa Ana, California - as guests of the inimitable Reuben Martinez to read from, sign copies of, and show off the great writing in Latinos in Lotusland, Daniel Olivas' labor of love. Regular readers of La Bloga know all about Lotusland and have several copies in their homes, some ready to be presented as gifts in another month or two to the happy graduate, the blushing bride, or the returning vet. Those of you not yet hip to Lotusland, get with it, homes. You owe it to the right side of your brain to start munching on the savory delectables that Daniel collected in the anthology.

Have you noticed that the economy has the hurts? These days many more people than we care to think about are having to choose between the light bill or the rent. You can guess what that means for an independent bookseller like Reuben - times are tough, ése. It was with some trepidation then that the merry gang of wordsters made their way to Reuben's shop - what if no one showed up; what if all of Mamacita's stash cash went for an extra package of tortillas for that rainy day; what if Jose and Josie Student needed a li'l somethin' somethin' to get them through upcoming finals and there went all the loose coins from under the couch? What if?

Not to worry. Daniel got the word out - he had some help from folks like Gustavo Arrellano, the Ask A Mexican guy who made it to the reading and looked like he enjoyed himself; that's him to the left, with his now-famous grin. A great, in fact, a fantastic crowd greeted the writers with cheers and laughter and song and even a brass band (well, not really, but it felt that good). And for a couple of hours we managed to ignore the threatening reality of 2009. Oh, we talked about the recession, we just didn't let it keep us down.

Daniel worked so hard during the weeks leading up to March 28 drumming up interest for our event that he showed up at the reading fighting off bronchitis; his voice sounded as rough as Jay Cutler's ugly exit from the Broncos.

But the writers carried on. Bouyed by the spirit of the crowd and Reuben's unflagging enthusiasm, the five presenters spent a few minutes talking about themselves, then reading from their Lotusland selections, then the group answered questions from the crowd. Beer and wine and bottled water flowed like beer and wine and bottled water. Special thanks to Sarah Rafael García, who helped Reuben with the logistics of the event and added her own special touch of class. The Saturday Southern California afternoon was uncommonly sunny and warm but it paled in comparison with the emotional heat in the book store. It was quite a deal. You should'a been there.

The writers in the group were Lisa Alvarez, Victorio Barragán, Alejandro Morales, Manuel Ramos, and Sandra Ramos O'Briant. Here's a group shot (Left to right: Victorio, Daniel, Lisa, Sandra, Manuel, Alejandro).

The writers answered questions that ranged from concerns about the demise of newspapers and what that means for writers, to dealing with the presumed contradiction between ethnic-specific and universal themes in fiction, to correcting a misconception that no one had written about the forced removal of Mexican laborers from the United States in the early years of the Twentieth Century, to why Lotusland is so damn important. Each of the writers brought their own perspective, intelligence, humor, and style to the table and it looked like the crowd enjoyed it all. You should'a been there.

Alejandro Morales, professor at the University of California at Irvine and author of Barrio on the Edge, The Rag Doll Plagues, Waiting to Happen, The Captain of All These Men of Death, and several other works that chronicle the Chicano experience past, present and future. His presentation was loaded with Chicano Lit history - this guy has been there from the early days of the modern Chicano Literature movement.

The hardest working man in the book business, Daniel Olivas, author, editor, lawyer, family man, and all around nice guy. Daniel has worked tirelessly to present Latinos in Lotusland to the reading public. Later this year his own collection of short stories, Anywhere But L.A., will be published. Order it now. I've read it. It's an amazing collection.

Lisa Alvarez's selection for Lotusland, Sweet Time, is a chapter from her novel-in-progress. She's a professor of English at Irvine Valley College and some of her students were in the audience. They praised Lisa's commitment to teaching and thanked her for all she had done for them. You could see that she was truly an inspiration.

Sandra Ramos O'Briant has contributed to La Bloga (thank you, Sandra) as well as to several literary magazines. Her story in Lotusland, Lana Turner Slept Here, is one of my favorites. She also has a story in Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery. Have to read that one soon.

Victorio Barragán teaches sociology and is completing a collection of stories and two novels. He gave some astute and provocative answers to many of the questions from the crowd. He also had a good time and smiled a lot, although you wouldn't know that from this photo. Nice guy.

The interloper from Denver seizes the mike and refuses to let go until Daniel Olivas wrenches it from his sweaty hands. When peace was restored, Daniel, Sandra, Manuel and Flo called it a day and enjoyed chile rellenos, tacos de pollo, tacos de birria, and a torta at the taquería across the street. Alejandro, Lisa and Victorio disappeared into the night. And the Latinos from Lotusland went back to Lotusland (or Irvine or Tustin), satisfied but eager for the next outing. You should'a been there.

event photos courtesy of Florencia Hernandez-Ramos

La Huelga Movie
You folks in Santa Ana - there's a free showing of the short flick Viva La Causa, a documentary about César Chávez and Dolores Huerta, presented by the Dolores Huerta Foundation and Fiesta Marketplace. The movie is scheduled for April 4 at 6:00 pm at the Yost Theater, 307 N. Spurgeon Street, Santa Ana. It's an Orange County premiere. Call 626-716-0201 for more information.

at the Gallista Gallery
1913 S. Flores Street San Antonio, Texas 78204
April 11 6:00 pm - 10:00 pm

Acevedo Interview

John Kuebler, Media Coordinator for El Centro Su Teatro (whose XicanIndie Film Fest is now in full swing) interviewed Denver author Mario Acevedo for the Denver Urban Spectrum. Mario is described as a "loveable smart ass" - could be. The interview is here.

That's it -



Anonymous said...

Sounds like I "should'a been there."
Rudy Ch. Garcia
author of LAX Confidential, Lotusland.

Daniel A. Olivas said...

What a wonderful report on our Lotusland reading! I was delighted by our visit to Libreria Martinez (the panelists were perfect) and also happy to finally meet our friend from Denver!

Rebel Girl said...

Sounds like a lot of fun - and it was!

Let's do it - or soemthing like it - again!

~Lisa Alvarez

msedano said...

Orale. ¿Sabes qué? With the popularity and ongoing interest of LILLI, seems it's time for LILLII.

¿Que no?


Print Banners said...

I wish something like that would come around our area. What else happened that day? I hope you guys have video.

Thanks for posting this - Gracias.