Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Interview With Author/ Illustrator Adalucía Quan

Congratulations Adalucía on your beautiful books. Tell us a little bit about them.

I have published three educational books for children and young adults. The titles are The Magic of Clay, La chica de Mendiburo and The Song of the Coconut. The Magic of Clay, written in English, is a book that could be very useful to anyone that wants to start working with clay. It explains complex concepts and definitions in a fun and simple way. The colorful illustrations are done in collage. This book is sold in museums, art galleries, bookstores and ceramic wholesale suppliers where clay artists and instructors buy their supplies. This book is only 32 pages long but it is very thorough. It took the knowledge and experience of 15 years of working with clay to write this book. For more information about this book, please visit

La chica de Mendiburo is a novel for young adults and readers of all ages. This 272 page book was written in Spanish. The book interior has more than 80 black and white illustrations. This book is also an introduction to Spanish and Latin American literature, disguised as a fiction novel. Through the eyes of Marifer (the main character) you will get to know Mendiburo, an imaginary place that can exist in any Latin country. "La chica" is a different love story. The little girl loves her family, her servants, her ocean, her garden, her grandparents and her friends. The reader laughs and cries as he enters inside Marifer's sincere and simple world. It's like an open window to life in a Latin American country. La chica de Mendiburo won 4 awards at the 2007 International Latino Book Awards. First place as Best Fiction Book in Spanish for Young Adults. For more information about this book you can visit

The Song of the Coconut is a 32-page book for children. It has many big, bright illustrations done in collage. It's written in English, sprinkled with some Spanish. It tells the story of a young coconut who gets into trouble. But thanks to his dad's teachings and his grandpa's memories, the story ends in a happy way. Also, children will be able to learn some important facts about palm trees and coconuts. This book has just won three awards at the 2009 International Latino Book Awards. First place: Best Educational Book in English for Children. Second place: Best Cover Illustration. Second place: Best Interior Book Design. We are working on the web page for this book.

Where do you get your inspiration to write your books?

I believe my inspiration comes from everything that has happened in my life. In my books you will find what I experienced as a child, as a young adult. Also, inspiration comes from what my own children have experienced. My family has always been of utmost importance to me. This is why you will always find family values in all of my books. I have four grown children and I have raised my grandson who is now twelve-years old. I have always been surrounded by children and this is why it is easy for me to write for them. I also love to teach. For example, I came up with the idea to write the ceramics book because I wanted to teach my grandson all about working with clay. I couldn't find an appropriate and easy book for his age. So I wrote the book for him, to explain difficult terminology and concepts in a more comprehensive way. A child, as well as a beginner, of any age, can now benefit from this book.

Being a writer as well as an illustrator, what is the process you go through with your children's stories? What comes first the image or the story?

The process is very long and a bit complex. Almost always the words come first, but many times the whole process happens at once. All of a sudden, I get an idea for an image and then the words come about as I am working on the illustration. Other times, I think of several images at once and I jot down my ideas. Then I start working on the text. But it doesn't really matter how the process takes place. Still all the details have to be thoroughly planned, truly to perfection, to be able to come up with a good product.

I know that you publish your own books. How is the publishing process?

My husband is the one in charge of all the administrative work and the publishing process. We have been working with a company in New York City, This company helps small publishers, like ourselves, go through the publishing process. We have found this company very helpful and have enjoyed working with them.

Your effort has been recognized with several awards. How do you feel knowing that your work has had this type of recognition?

This is something that I still cannot believe could ever happen with my books. It is when you receive these awards when you feel that it was really worth the effort. All those long nights, and waking up at 5 in the morning to try to find some time to write and illustrate seem worth while, now. To top it all, because of these awards, Santillana, S. A. got interested in La chica de Mendiburo. This educational giant bought the rights for La chica in four languages. They are going to publish and distribute the book in Latin America and also Spain and Portugal. The Latin American edition is ready and will soon be available to the public.

What advice will you give to aspiring authors?

To follow their dreams. To keep on drawing, painting, writing and not to let anybody tell them that they cannot follow a dream. Even if that dream seems impossible, at times. I always wanted to be a writer but, for many years, this dream was forgotten. I have been writing little poems and songs since I was twelve. In my ceramic pieces I would inscribe words, lines. Now that I am a writer, all of this is very useful to me. Because, in my books, I can even include some poems that I wrote as an adolescent child.

Adalucía Quan was born in beautiful Miraflores, a neighborhood in Lima, Peru. She is the author and illustrator of The Magic of Clay (2003), an educational book about ceramics for readers of all ages. Her new educational picture book, The Song of the Coconut (2008), is written in English sprinkled with Spanish. Adalucía studied Art, Spanish Literature and Modern Languages at Barry University and Florida International University, Miami, Florida. Her latest accomplishment is her Master's Degree in Art Education from The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico. She lives with her family in Santa Fe, New Mexico and she is a Spanish instructor at Santa Fe Community College. Adalucía is a true artist: she paints, draws and enjoys creating sculptures and utilitarian clay pieces where she inscribes her poems.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Review: Reyna Grande. Dancing With Butterflies.

Reyna Grande. Dancing With Butterflies. NY: Washington Square Press, 2009.
ISBN-10: 1439109060
ISBN-13: 9781439109069

Michael Sedano

Every now and again, one of “those novels” comes along that catches fire and finds itself on everyone’s must-read list. Put Dancing With Butterflies at the top of your list because Reyna Grande has one of “those novels” in her new release, Dancing With Butterflies. The novel combines excellent writing, compelling characters, and acute sense of place to make its 390 pages pass too swiftly.

Readers of “Los Angeles” novels will notice right away how Grande weaves in geographical details from throughout the region, from Highland Park to Boyle Heights, from Downtown to Pasadena. And her characters sometimes ride the bus, or walk. Street level gente, in other words.

Grande brings four women’s lives into acute focus. Middle aged Yesenia lives to dance. But age and arthritis make painful facts Yesenia’s mind refuses to acknowledge. Adriana harbors resentment at older sister Elena’s escape to college leaving young sister to abusive grandparents. Worse, there’s a dangerous second personality in Adriana who now and again runs wild. Elena is 36 weeks pregnant when she feels the baby die. Mourning leads to disaster for her marriage, made so much worse when she seduces a 17 year old boy. Finally comes Soledad. An undocumented worker, Sol’s costuming mastery sets Alegría dance company apart from competitors. Attempting her return from Mexico, Sol’s coyote abandons her in the Arizona desert.

Each character steps forthrightly onto her time on stage, to stand under Grande’s baleful gaze, but given voice by a skilled writer of conversation. Grande’s writing appears effortless, a tribute to the author’s control of her medium because there is so much one could heap on these women to get themselves right, but instead the characters do their own talking leaving the reader to make sense of the muck-ups and damn shames.

Yesenia steals dance troupe money to buy cosmetic surgery. Just as Yesenia’s TJ bargain tummy tuck goes bad, the dancers of Alegría revolt and the troupe breaks up. Much as Yesenia loves dance and this troupe, thinking her bad behavior the cause of this failure tortures but doesn’t defeat the determined dancer.

Adriana remains in an abusive relationship. She wants to sing, not dance, but because her mother danced, Adriana feels it’s a daughter’s duty to dance. And there’s The Other Adriana, some lurid, ugly tragedy looming ever closer.

Elena’s depression at losing the baby is made all the worse when she feels the opprobrium from family and friends because she has bedded the student. She is stunned when one calls her another Mary Kay Letourneau. Maybe she is? But what’s in it for Elena?

Soledad is about to get her own business going when her partner abruptly changes his plans, crushing her dream into yet one more frustration in her undocumented life. Left to be arrested in the desert, Sol is rescued by a hermit. When immigrants fleeing pursuing ICE agents pound on the door for succor, Sol sees the likelihood of capture if she offers an open door. The choice will haunt the remainder of her life, but she survives to return to L.A.

What’s OK? Can desperation mitigate foul selfishness? Where does the balance tip between reaching out to help others and holding on to help oneself? And when the fulcrum tilts in our favor, unfavorably for others, how does one define the outcome? These are tough questions you don’t have to ask, but are there in the text for the taking. Dancing With Butterflies isn’t going to hit someone over the head with an author’s message. The things these characters go through create ample reason to read, digest, and ask one’s own questions. Then recommend the book to a friend. Dancing With Butterflies is one of “those novels” you’ll enjoy so much you’ll want your friends to enjoy with you.

There's September's final Tuesday. A Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.


La Bloga welcomes your comments and observations on today's or any day's columns. Simply click the comments counter below to share your views. When you have a column of your own, a book review, a report on an arts or cultural event, remember La Bloga welcomes guest columnists. Clickhere to discuss your invitation to be our guest.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Latinos in Lotusland reading and book signing at Tía Chucha's Café Cultural

Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature (Bilingual Press) brings to life Latino denizens of Los Angeles and the city's surrounding communities. The stories describe complex, diverse characters: young and old, gay and straight, rich and poor. Meet a Cuban-American screenwriter trying to pitch the "real" story behind the Bay of Pigs fiasco, a Mexican woman who believes she's seen a miracle, youths trying to avoid gang life while others embrace it, and many others. This anthology brings together 60 years of Los Angeles fiction by 34 Latino/a authors.

In my role as editor of the anthology, I will be moderating a reading and group discussion with six of the authors from this groundbreaking collection. They are: Estella González, Álvaro Huerta, Melinda Palacio, Alejandro Morales, Victorio Barragán, Conrad Romo.

DATE: Saturday, October 3rd

TIME: 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

PLACE: Tía Chucha's Café Cultural, 13197-A Gladstone Ave., Sylmar, CA 91342 (phone: 818-528-4511)

If you haven’t attended one of these wonderful Latinos in Lotusland group readings during the last year and a half, you should try to make this one. We will have one more group reading at the Latino Book and Family Festival on October 10 (more on the two-day festival later).

◙ The debut collection by Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés, Marielitos, Balseros and Other Exiles (Ig Publishing), is receiving nothing but raves. Here is one:

Publishers Weekly: “In her debut collection, Milanés tells varied, often heartbreaking tales of Cuban-American exiles. With young Carmen, Milanés introduces readers to the community's exodus, the 1980 Mariel boatlift, when Castro reluctantly let 10,000 Cubans leave the country. Carmen's simple but eye-opening story features a radio broadcast cataloguing the difficulties those marielitos have since faced in the U.S. In this emotional tour through the semiconnected lives of these immigrants, and the rafters who came after (the balseros), hardworking dishwasher Juan loses the job he loves, becomes homeless and discovers unexpected opportunity; his abrupt fate turns up in a later story about José Vidal, a dangerous marielito who's lost his mind. For her family, Damarys has clawed her way to freedom and success by whatever means necessary; in his own story, her brother Fito refuses to take part in his beloved sister's illegitimate schemes. Complex and woeful, Milanés's rich ensemble act may remind readers of Junot Diaz's Drown and Denis Johnson's Jesus' Son.”

Cecilia Rodríguez Milanés is a professor of Latino/a literature and writing at the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Her short fiction has been anthologized in Iguana Dreams: New Latino Fiction (HarperCollins), Did My Mama Like to Dance? and Other Stories about Mothers and Daughters (Avon) and in New World: Young Latino Writers (Bantam).

◙ One of my favorite writers (who also happens to be a contributor to Latinos in Lotusland) is Reyna Grande whose new novel, Dancing with Butterflies (Washington Square Press), will be published in October. Publishers Weekly says it’s a “lyrical and sensual follow-up to her stunning Across a Hundred Mountains (2006) [and] is well worth the wait.” There will be a combination publication party and a fundraiser for Homeboy Industries.

WHEN: Saturday, October 3rd

TIME: 4 p.m. - 5:30 p.m. (Author Book Reading & Signing); 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. (Faith & Hope: Beyond Prison Walls Art Exhibit)

WHO: Reyna Grande, author; Fr. Greg Boyle, S.J., founder, Homeboy Industries; Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company

WHERE: Homeboy Industries, 130 W. Bruno St., Los Angeles, CA 90012

◙ NEW NOVEL SERIES FROM KATHY CANO-MURILLO: Kathy Cano-Murillo’s new novel series debuts in March 2010 with Waking Up in the Land of Glitter (Grand Central Publishing). She is a writer and artist and has sold her handmade "Chicano Pop Art" crafts to hundreds of retailers including Bloomingdales, Target, and Hallmark. Cano-Murillo wrote a weekly syndicated Arizona Republic newspaper column for eight years, and has authored seven books including Crafty Chica's Art de la Soul and Crafty Chica's Guide to Artful Sewing. She is the founder of, a popular website to inspire women to brighten their lives with clever craft ideas. Cano-Murillo has a podcast series on iTunes, a web series on, has been profiled in the New York Times, USA Today and NPR, and now has a Crafty Chica product line. Cano-Murillo lives in Phoenix, AZ, with her husband, two kids and five Chihuahuas.

◙ PUENTE ALUMNUS ALEX ESPINOZA TO READ FROM DEBUT NOVEL: On Thursday, October 1, at 6 p.m., in the Nordic Lounge, the Long Beach City College Puente Program will host author and Puente alumnus Alex Espinoza. The public is invited to this free event. Espinoza will read excerpts from his debut novel, Still Water Saints. The story follows the lives of Perla, the owner of a botánica in Agua Mansa, a fictional town in the Inland Empire, and the locals who visit her store.

Born in Tijuana, Mexico, Espinoza is the youngest of eleven children. He grew up in La Puente. In 1991, he moved to the Inland Empire and attended San Bernardino Valley College where he participated in the Puente Program. He earned a BA in Creative Writing at UC Riverside and an MFA at UC Irvine. Currently, he is an Assistant Professor of English at California State University, Fresno.

Puente is a two-semester program designed to increase the number of Latino and other educationally underrepresented students who successfully transfer to a four-year colleges and universities, complete their degrees, and to return to the community as mentors and leaders of future generations. Puente is open to all students.

This event is supported by Poets & Writers, Inc. through a grant received from The James Irvine Foundation.

Light refreshments will be served.

Parking is available for $1 in lot J at Clark Avenue and Carson Street Map.

◙ LOS ANGELES SOUTHWEST COLLEGE CELEBRATES HISPANIC HERITAGE MONTH: Come join LASC in a full month of wonderful events. In particular, La Bloga notes the Latino Author Series held at LASC’s Library Art Gallery, 1:00 to 2:30 p.m.:

Thursday, October 1: Alex Espinoza, Author, Still Water Saints

Thursday, October 8: Reyna Grande, Author, Dancing with Butterflies

For the full calendar of events, visit LASC’s official website.

◙ 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!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Sundry Sunday

Liz Vega
Faithful La Bloga readers know Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15th-October 15th. Personally, I celebrate Hispanic Heritage from October 15th-September 15th and celebrate other heritages the month that everyone else celebrates Hispanic Heritage.
But for those of you who do not not follow my calendar and thanks to Hachette Book Group, La Bloga is hosting a Hispanic Heritage Month Book Giveaway Contest, HHMBGC for short. One lucky winner will be chosen to receive a set of five books!

The five books are:
Zumba® By Beto Perez , Maggie Greenwood-Robinson ISBN: 0446546127
Evenings at the Argentine Club By Julia Amante ISBN: 0446581623
Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz By Belinda Acosta ISBN: 044654051X
Tell Me Something True By Leila Cobo ISBN: 0446519367
Amigoland By Oscar Casares ISBN: 0316159697

The lucky winner will be the first person who e-mails me at and answers the following five questions, three of them from this past week's columns:

1) Who translated into Spanish, Junot Diaz's pulitzer-prize winning novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao?

2) Which of these comics came first, La Cucaracha, Love and Rockets series, or Love and Rockets Volume 2?

3) Name one text that the Department of Education in Puerto Rico has banned from the 11th grade public high school curriculum on the basis of "coarse and vulgar" language?

4) What is your full name?

5) What is the address to which Hachette Book Group should send you the set of five books?

Again, I repeat, the first person to contact me via e-mail at and answer the questions correctly will be selected as the winner of the HHMBGC.

Now for something completely different but still about books....

Happening this week, Sept.28-Oct.3, 2009, is the 4th Annual San Diego City College Int'l Book Fair.

For a detailed schedule of the weeks events, workshops, and signings visit the fair's website.

The bookfair will feature Gustavo Arellano of the OC Weekly and the nationally syndicated column, "Ask a Mexican!", and many authors like Ana Castillo, poet Marilyn Chin, and La Bloga's very own Olga García Echeverría will be reading from Lavanderia.

Softcover 334 pgs 5 1/2 X 8ISBN #9780981602066

LAVANDERIA: A MIXED LOAD OF WOMEN, WASH, AND WORD Published By: San Diego City Works Press. Edited By: Donna J. Watson, Michelle Sierra, and Lucia Gbaya-Kanga

"This anthology initiates us into one of the most sacred domestic rituals of our mundane world—the purging of physical and psychic stains, or the art and work of doing laundry. The writers' voices rise above the sounds of washing machines, non-televised daytime dramas, and laughter. Removing the clothespins from their mouths, these women reveal their secrets, fears, loves, and regrets in poem and story form. As finely detailed as the vintage sleeve of a rummage sale find, the work in "Lavanderia" brings the circle closer to home as you find yourself nodding and remembering and thanking every woman who ever sat next to you in a laundromat and made conversation. "

For those of you in the L.A./O.C. area that missed the National Free Museum Day sponsored by the Smithsonian yesterday then mark your calendars for next weekend when 24 Los Angeles and Orange County Museums participate in the fifth annual "Museums Free-For-All" Saturday-Sunday, October 3 and 4, 2009.

The following museums invite visitors free of charge.*
Participating Museums:
Armory Center for the Arts - Both Days
The Autry National Center - October 4th ONLY
Bowers Museum - October 4th Only
California African American Museum - Both Days
California Heritage Museum - October 3rd Only
California Science Center - Both Days
Craft and Folk Art Museum - Both Days
Fowler Museum at UCLA - Both Days
The Getty Center - Both Days
The Getty Villa**- Both Days
The Grammy Museum at L.A. Live - October 4th Only
Hammer Museum at UCLA - October 4th Only
Japanese American National Museum - October 3rd Only
Los Angeles Fire Department Museum and Memorial - October 3rd
The Museum of Contemporary Art,Los Angeles (MOCA) - October 4th Only
Museum of Latin American Art (MoLAA) - Both Days
Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County - October 4th Only
Norton Simon Museum - October 4th Only
Orange County Center for Contemporary Art - Both Days
Orange County Museum of Art - Both Days
The Paley Center for Media - Both Days
Santa Monica Museum of Art - October 3rd Only
Skirball Cultural Center - October 4th Only
The Studio for Southern California History - Both Days
*Regular parking fees apply. General museum admission only. May not apply to ticketed exhibitions.**Timed tickets are required. Visit
Museums Free for All

Y porque es Domingo y Aún Hay Más and I know the palabras of La Bloga reverberate far and wide...from the West to the East, here's something for those of you in the NYC area.
Mark your calendars and check out From the Page to the Stage: Poetas and Writers--A no holds barred celebration of Queer Latin@ poets and writers who experiment with style and breathe life into their words including Janis Astor Delvalle, Devon Gallegos, Rigoberto González, Karen Jaime, Mariposa, Ignacio Rivera, Roberto Santiago and Charlie Vázquez.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009
8:00pm - 10:00pm
Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance
841 Barretto Street
Bronx, NY


Al rato,

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Review of Lida's First Stop; plus, Denver's youth answer Disney's High School Musical

David Lida's First Stop in the New World
book review by Beatrice Chernikoff

Ever motivated by his affection for Mexico City, David Lida presents his book First Stop in the New World, about the people and places that have shaped his own conclusion on what it means to live in the labyrinth that is el Distrito Federal.

First Stop is written in the style you would expect from someone with years of experience in journalism, with a witty and authentic voice that can inform us about Mexico City like any lifelong capitalino, and still remain refreshingly apolitical. He is not afraid of clarifying the truth behind the "Walmart next door to the Pyramids" rumor, or the exaggeration of the frequency of kidnappings. Want to know the truth behind these two sensational stories? Then read this book.

Lida's literary style comes through his investigative narrative, (and evokes his other career as a short story writer), filled with characters that are fodder for stories in their own right, as he admits. He recounts details as varied as Mexico City herself--how the culture drives the sexuality of the inhabitants; how the city inspires ingenious ways for people to become entrepreneurs; and how the urban landscape even affects what and how people eat.

Lida is clearly in love with the city he calls home, and like a passionate lover, the City can sometimes hurt the one who loves her: readers will be jarred by Lida's composed, calm testimony about his ordeal as a victim of an "express kidnapping." It would have been easy for anyone to write about this with certain bitterness, but Lida did not let this experience keep him away from el D.F.

As a chilangophile myself, I am happy to find that as joyously overwhelming as Mexico City is, Lida's book is not improvised like the very lives and urban sprawl he writes about; it is carefully composed with ringside accounts of someone who has been there and stayed to tell the stories, without the insular judgment of an infrequent tourist "surviving among the natives." The book reads less like generic publications on Mexico and closer to literary journalism, which makes First Stop in the New World a book worth reading multiple times, both for its smooth prose and the startling metropolis it chronicles.

David Lida will be talking about Mexico City at college campuses and bookstores in the US. All events are free and open to the public:

09/23/09 Los Angeles, CA
Loyola Marymount University
Time: 4:30pm
Location: University Hall, Ahmanson 1000, 1 LMU Dr.

09/24/09 Los Angeles, CA
USC at Los Angeles
Time: 2:00pm
Address: Social Sciences Building B-1, 3520 Trousdale Parkway

09/25/09 Santa Ana, CA
Centro Cultural de México
Time: 7:00pm
Location: 310 West 5th St. (5th & Broadway)

09/26/09 Pasadena, CA
Vroman’s Bookstore
Time: 1:00 pm
Location: 695 East Colorado Blvd.

09/28/09 Palo Alto, CA
Stanford University
Time: 12:00pm
Location: 582 Alvarado Row

09/29/09 San Francisco, CA
Get Lost Books
Time: 7:00pm
Location: 1825 Market St.

10/1/09 Chicago, IL
Loyola University, Crown Center Auditorium at Lake Shore Campus
Time: 4 pm
Location: 6525 North Sheridan Rd.

10/1/09 Chicago, IL
Stop Smiling Book Events
Time 7 pm
Location: 1371 North Milwaukee Ave.

10/2/09 Chicago, IL
University of Chicago Center for Latin American Studies, Kelly Hall 117
Time: 12 pm
Location: 5848 South University Ave.

10/06/09 Philadelphia, PA
Temple University
Time: 12:30pm

David Lida is a native New Yorker who has lived in Mexico City for more than 15 years, is an author of two previous books (one in Spanish) and a journalist for more than 20 years. Continuing his earlier spring presentations, he is currently presenting a series of lectures on Mexico City in California, Chicago and Philadelphia.

For more info go to here.

If you are interested but unable to attend David Lida's talk on Mexico City, then click on this two-part interview by Gregg Barrios. On this interview you can hear David Lida talk about the book's premise as well as the art and political scene in Mexico City. Barrios also asks him about the Mexican perspective on US policy on immigration. (part 1) (part 2)


Denver high school youth on stage

From Jose Mercado at CU Denver comes the following:

"I encourage you to attend this show written by high school youth in ArtLab (a collaborative effort of PlatteForum & Labyrinth) and performed by ArtLab with students from CU Denver's College of Arts & Media. This show is a realistic, raw and entertaining examination of life in high school with music. A "High School Musical" it is not!"

The University of Colorado Denver's Department of Theatre, Film and Video presents the world premier of I.Am.Here. As a response to Disney's High School Musical and other Hollywood high school melodramas, I.Am.Here. provides the audience with a raw taste of what it takes to survive a day in today’s urban high school. The students offer an insightful, poignant and honest examination of today's complex teenage life.

The play follows the teens though a day at school, full of hall sweeps, hanging out, and humorous discussions about the truth of the opposite sex. They present an honest face to urban teenage struggle that includes teenage pregnancy, alcoholism at home, interracial dating, economic hardship, and violence.

I.Am.Here. dives into race issues that shape the lives of students’ choices and beliefs. The youth draw you into their sometimes raw, sometimes touching...and always-truthful portrayal of high school life.

I.Am.Here. fuses the efforts of high school and higher learning. Performed by the culturally diverse group of high school youth that created the stories, "I.Am.Here." is also an autobiographical look at their own struggles and triumphs as high school students in Denver.

The show is directed by Assistant Professor Jose Mercado and scripted by Associate Professor Craig Volk, both in the UC Denver’s Department of Theatre, Film & Video Production.

Remaining performances are Saturday Sept. 26; and Wednesday-Saturday Sept. 30-Oct. 3. Curtain is 7:30pm.

Tickets available at or at


Lydia Gil on UniVision

Lastly, if your Spanish is better than mine, check out La Bloga contributor Lydia Gil's article on how Latino authors are making inroads into the U.S. literary scene--and winning awards in the process--on UniVision's website. It's entitled
Escritores latinos viven auge en EE. UU. You make us proud, Lydia!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Martín Espada in Spanish

Spain's El Gaviero Ediciones recently published Soldados en el jardín, a thematic anthology of Martín Espada's poetry in Spanish translation. The text includes poems from 1989-2009 organized not chronologically, but thematically into seven areas, showcasing the major themes in Espada's oeuvre over the past two decades.

The translations were done in teams, some reworking earlier translations of his poetry into Spanish. Sometimes the result is a text so polished that, while accurate in content and form, aesthetically it seems to lack airiness and colloquiality. Other times, the translations are glorious, suggesting possibilities of interpretation not as evident in the original.


Martín Espada Fall Readings:

September 24: Reading & Discussion, 4:30 PM
The Big Read (Mexican Short Stories)
Phillips Autograph Library
West Chester University
West Chester, PA
Contact: Mame Purce,

September 24: Reading, 7:30 PM
Main Hall Auditorium
West Chester University
West Chester, PA
Contact: Michael Peich,

October 15: Seminar, 3:00 PM
Intellectual Life at Moments of Crisis
Humanities Institute
University of Texas
Austin, TX
Contact: Pauline Strong,

October 15: Reading, 7:30 PM
Quadrangle Room
Texas Union
University of Texas
Austin, TX
Contact: César Salgado,

October 16: Reading, 12:00 PM
Hispanic Heritage Luncheon
Hispanic Bar Association of Austin
Austin, TX
Contact: Paul Ruiz,

October 23: Reading, 7:30 PM
Benaroya Recital Hall
Seattle Arts & Lectures
Seattle, WA
Contact: Rebecca Hoogs,

October 24: Workshop, 1 PM
Richard Hugo House
Seattle, WA
Contact: Alix Wilber,

October 27: Reading, 5:30 PM
Bunker Hill Community College
Charlestown, MA
Contact: Luke Salisbury,

INCREIBLE! Ban on Public High School Books in Puerto Rico

The Department of Education in Puerto Rico has banned a series of books from the 11th grade public high school curriculum on the basis of "coarse and vulgar" language. These texts include El entierro de Cortijo» by Edgardo Rodríguez Juliá; «Aura», by Carlos Fuentes; the anthology «Reunión de Espejos»; «Mejor te lo cuento» by Juan Antonio Ramos; and “Antología personal” by José Luis González. Mairym Cruz Bernal, president of the PEN Club of Puerto Rico, has issued a statement, signed by numerous Puerto Rican writers and educators, denouncing the initiative as puritan and old-fashioned and demanding an explanation from the governor, Luis Fortuño. Check out the letter here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

René's Website

My character René has his own website! Discover more about my new book René Has Two Last Names and I Am René, the Boy. René talks about his looks, his favorites, his parents and grandparents. Also, René offers great ideas for teachers. Take a look at René is waiting and eager to meet you.

Here are two great reviews of René Has Two Last Names. The book is coming out this October 31.

René Has Two Last Names/René tiene dos apellidos. illus. by Fabiola Graullera Ramírez. unpaged. Arte Publico. Nov. 2009. Tr $15.95. ISBN 978-1-55885-530-4. LC 2009004864.

K-Gr 3–René, a new student from El Salvador, doesn’t understand why his second last name is missing from his desk’s name label. Adding it results in a name so long that his classmates make fun of it by comparing it to that of a dinosaur. He discusses the problem with his parents, but they don’t have an answer. That night he dreams of a world without a mother and maternal grandparents who dance, make chocolate, and fix his bike. Half of his world is missing and he is not about to let that happen. When his teacher assigns the students the project of creating a family tree, René is determined to show his classmates and teacher why he has two last names and the importance of his dos apellidos. Colato Laínez introduces readers to a significant Hispanic cultural tradition and the sentiments of many immigrants. The illustrations are simple but beautifully embellish the text. A wonderful bilingual selection for storytime and for units on families.–Diana Borrego Martínez, Salinas, CA- School Library Journal/ Críticas

* * *

Colato Laínez, René


Illus. by Fabiola Graullera Ramirez

On the first day in his new school, René’s teacher gives everyone a nametag with their first and last names. Though René’s last name, like many Salvadorans’, has two parts, “Colato Laínez,” his tag reads only “René Colato.” Maybe the teacher ran out of ink? Adding “Laínez” on his own, René is teased about having an unusually “long dinosaur name” but uses the opportunity of a family-tree assignment to instruct everyone, including the teacher, about why both names together represent his full Italian and Spanish heritage. René’s full name proudly reminds him that he is a product of both his father and mother’s family histories, both rich in talent and hard work. Drawing from his personal immigrant experience, the author tells his story in a bilingual narration, his sincere, earnest voice augmented by Graullera Ramírez’s softly colored cartoon-style watercolor scenes of family and classmates. The significance of this Hispanic tradition respecting both sides of a child’s parentage is well explained in this easily understood example of cultural differences. (Picture book. 5-8)- Kirkus Reviews

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Review: La Ranfla & Other New Mexico Stories.

Martha Egan. La Ranfla & Other New Mexico Stories. Santa Fe, NM. Papalote Press, 2009.
ISBN-13: 9780975588147

Michael Sedano

Martha Egan and Papalote Press have put together a seven-story collection of enjoyable, readable short fiction. Two of the stories feature automobiles, hence the “ranfla” title, and all take place in the state of New Mexico, hence the “New Mexico stories” subtitle. But for the latter add a subtle flavor of insider-outsider seasoning that I find curious. This doesn't diminish the pleasure of reading the collection, it adds an unsettling dimension that, perhaps, is another New Mexico element.

The title story, “La ranfla,” begins in late 1960s Berkeley, when a law student, fed up with law school pettiness and male chauvinism, storms out of lecture and huffs off with a handful of joints to move in with her hippie lover living in New Mexico. Her wheels start to show signs of conking out as she arrives in the state. A gas station attendant admires her “ranfla”, to her mystification. Gradually, the blonde Mary Kowalski and boyfriend Oso, begin fitting in. A kindly neighbor warns her about Pito, the crooked reverend and mechanic. But Oso and Starshine—her New Mexico name—already know Pito from the night Oso catches Pito stealing Oso’s marijuana crop. The story ends in a “cada cochino le llega su Sabado” irony, when the hippies conspire with an itinterant Mexican to pull a sting on the crooked local.

“Green eyes” delves into convoluted family histories. A lovestruck teenager wants to hook up with Teddy Gonzalez. Grandma Guenther tells Stephanie a tale about great grandmother Seferina and her husband, hubby Wilhelm. Seferina rides into the night to a remote home where she widwifes a sickly neonate. Fearing for the infant’s survival, and the hardship on the already large family, Seferina puts the child in her apron and rides back home. Fast forward to to the kitchen. That baby is Stephanie’s grandfather. Teddy comes from the family that consigned the preemie grandpa to the widwife’s apron. Cousins can’t hook up, and Stephanie learns a life lesson.

Egan’s third story, “Carnales,” makes the insider-outsider theme more explicit. A group of locals in the village of Ojo Claro, held at gunpoint by another local, feel unsure when the first deputy to arrive is an outsider—Procopio “Porky” Lucero. Porky’s wife is a local, but he’s from Española so the locals aren’t sure where Porky’s loyalties lie. The dispute grows from a greedy land grabber, in one view, protecting his property rights, the other view. It’s a spare story that hints rather than explains the complications of ejido lands held in common versus the fence ‘em off values of the outside economy. The dispute ends with gusto for the locals when they get the upper hand.

Two dog stories, “Mutt” and “Guapo” are strong pieces. In “Mutt” a transplanted local artisan is two-timed by a traveling salesman. “Guapo” offers a charming love story of two locals, a veterinarian and a rancher widower whose love story revolves around a singing, suicidal, dog. The story’s tragic ending both tugs at the heartstrings and leads me to wonder why locals cannot have happiness in an Egan story?

At least one outsider gets his come-uppance, in “Time Circles.” A philandering psychiatry profe at UNM, toys with blonde Anna, a woman 25 years his junior. The story treks out to “the rez” for a Navajo curing ceremony. Anna develops a kinship while helping Bernarda, a high school principal with a doctorate, pick her corn. Bernarda presents Anna with choice blue cobs and the truth about her lover. Shades of Tony Hillerman, the blonde records clerk finds a precious arrow point that she presents to their host, Dan Tom. Anna thinks Dan planted it as a cultural test. He didn’t and, unknown to Anna, her gift become a family treasure. It’s a moment of cultural and romantic truth for the woman. She dumps the profe and starts her own business in an Alburque adobe. Comes the flood when some pendejo runs a car over a fire hydrant and Anna’s gift craft antique shop fills with mud. The accident attracts a local snooty blond teevee news woman. It’s a “cute meet” as the tall indio camera operator is smitten with the damsel in distress and the rest, as someone says, is love at first sight.

“Granny” closes this excellent collection. A surfer dude, an east coast footloose grad traveling to California to find the perfect wave, has a car break down outside a dusty trailer park town on the edge of nowhere. Penniless, and ripped off during the night for his stereo and cool hubcaps—dastardly locals, no doubt—the fellow hangs around to teach middle school. It’s his lucky day when two precocious students help their grandmother escape from a jail on the other side. The dude can’t believe the outlandish story, but when he goes to find the truth, the kids and their dad have taken it on the lam. Eventually, they return to their trailer. The dad is the mechanic who’s promised to fix that broken down ranfla. Granny comes to the door and she is one hot mamasota. End of story but obviously the beginning of an affair to remember as the outsider hooks up with the local.

I think the vestiges of cultural nationalism infect my own experience of these seven stories. On their own, divorced of cultural baggage, they tell about a cultural patchwork and the melding of cultures and genetics overlaid upon the New Mexico landscape where we meet some decent gente and a variety of crummy people: drunks, thugs, crooks, exploiters, philanderers. Other than the philandering psychiatrist, all the lowlifes and losers are locals. But then, the star-crossed lovers are locals. The trump card for me is Egan’s persona , an outsider looking in with that sense of curiosity and apartness that allows the writer to express a subtle contempt for the local losers. Don’t think like that and you’ll enjoy the heck out of the occasionally bumpy ride in Egan’s ranfla suave.

I'm a bit late today, but nonetheless, here, on the penultimate Tuesday of the 9th month of 2009, a Tuesday like any other Tuesday, except You Are Here. Thank you for visiting La Bloga.

te watcho.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

826LA event: COMICS!

Tuesday, September 22
7:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.
826LA East
1714 W. Sunset Blvd.
Echo Park, CA 90026
Tickets are $25.

Join 826LA for a panel discussion featuring some of the most groundbreaking and innovative cartoonists working today. Guests will discuss ink and pixels, pigments and politics, and how the love of comics mixes with the sticky waters of the business. Panelists will also answer your thought and question bubbles.

The panelists:

Lalo Alcaraz (pictured) is a Los Angeles-based cartoonist and creator of the first nationally syndicated Latino-themed political daily comic strip, La Cucaracha. Lalo drew editorial cartoons for the LA Weekly from 1992 to 2009. Lalo illustrated Latino USA: A Cartoon History (text by Ilan Stavans), and produced the books La Cucaracha (the first collection from his daily comic strip) and Migra Mouse, a collection of his editorial cartoons on immigration. He is also a screenwriter and a popular speaker on the college circuit. His award-winning artwork has appeared across the US and the planet. Lalo also hosts the popular radio program The Pocho Hour of Power Fridays at 4:00 p.m. on KPFK 90.7 FM.

Jaime Hernandez is the co-creator of the beloved Love and Rockets series, one of the pioneering alternative comics of the 1980s. Love and Rockets, initially a self-published single comic, was picked up by Fantagraphics Books and produced 50 issues before the series went dormant in 1996. In 2001, the run was revived as Love and Rockets Volume 2. In the interim, Jaime’s solo projects included Whoa, Nellie!, Penny Century, and Maggie and Hopey Color Fun. Jaime has also worked for The New Yorker, Spin, and Hustler, and has done album covers for Michelle Shocked, 7 Year Bitch, The Indigo Girls, and Los Lobos. In 2006, he produced a 20-part strip in The New York Times Magazine titled La Maggie La Loca. Jaime was born in Oxnard, California, and now lives in Pasadena with his wife and daughter.

Keith Knight is a cartoonist, rapper, and media activist. His two weekly comic strips, The K Chronicles and (Th)ink, appear in various publications throughout the nation and have been collected into six books. His art has appeared in, ESPN the Magazine, LA Weekly, MAD Magazine, The Funny Times, and World War 3 Illustrated. Keith is the recipient of the 2006 & 2007 Glyph Awards for Best Comic Strip, and three of his comix were the basis of an award-winning, live-action German short film, Jetzt Kommt Ein Karton. His comic art has appeared in museums and galleries from San Francisco (CA) to Angoulême (France).

Marv Wolfman is a forty-year veteran in the field of comic book writing. After lengthy runs working for Marvel Comics in the 1970s on such titles as Amazing Spiderman and Dr. Strange (and creating the character of Nova), Wolfman moved to competitor DC Comics where he has mostly remained since. There, with penciller George Perez, Wolfman co-created The New Teen Titans, which has seen life beyond the comics page as a Cartoon Network series and whose characters have appeared in the television program Smallville. Also with Perez, Wolfman is responsible for the groundbreaking mini-series Crisis on Infinite Earths. He has won numerous awards for his writing and helped pioneer the receiving of writing credits for for-hire work.

Moderator Salvador Plascencia was born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in El Monte, California. His debut novel, The People of Paper, was named a best book of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Los Angeles Times, and has been translated into ten languages. A chapter from his novel appears in the anthology, Latinos in Lotusland. He is the recipient of the Bard Fiction Prize and the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans. Salvador is a Visiting Professor at UC Davis.

◙ INTRODUCING THE PREMIER ISSUE OF THE HUMMINGBIRD REVIEW: The Hummingbird Review promotes fine writing by publishing both new writers and fully established literary figures. The review is committed to portraying the beauty and challenges of life—the full human experience—through literature and art, and promotes cross-cultural writing in all forms. The first issue is now available. As the publisher, Charlie Redner, notes: “Our name was lifted straight from the title of the 2005 book, The Hummingbird’s Daughter written by Luis Alberto Urrea, a valued contributor and the inspiration for this review’s emergence.” Check it out and submit!

◙ From the editor of LatinoLA: This week, the CNN anchor Lou Dobbs broadcast his radio show from the conference of anti-immigrant hate group FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Reform. Founded by a white nationalist, FAIR was linked earlier in 2009 to vigilantes in Arizona who brutally murdered 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father in their home. The appearance at FAIR is just the latest example of Dobbs using his status as a CNN anchor to spread fear about Latinos and immigrants. It's time we said ¡Basta! Enough is enough. Please join, and a coalition of groups from across the country to demand that CNN drop Dobbs from its network. Add your voice at Read more at: Latinos to CNN: Dump Dobbs Now by Roberto Lovato.

◙ In spring 2010, Denver-based Ghost Road Press will publish my first poetry collection, Crossing the Border. (Here is a sneak peek of the very cool cover photo which was taken by my son, Ben, based on my rather strange concept.) The collection brings together eight years of poems where I explore the concept of “border crossings” both literally and figuratively. The title poem was first published in Poetry Super Highway which I’d like to reprint here since it fits rather nicely with the above post regarding Lou Dobbs. Here it is:

“Crossing the Border”

It is now a sport, great fun,
a diversion from your
work-a-day grind.

Hunt the mojados – “wetbacks” just
doesn’t sound humane, now does it?
– as they run across the border from
Mexico to the great state of Texas.

Help the border patrol
(though they deny wanting help,
poor overworked bastards) by lining up
your pick-ups and jeeps (American-made,
of course) and shining your headlights bright and
revealing towards the scrub, towards
our neighbors to the south.

Share a nice little Jack Daniel’s with
your buddy and keep a lookout for a
family or two, crouching, lurking,
hoping for a better life.

Cock your rifles, but never aim at ‘em,
just blast a few warning shots
up into the star-filled,
moonlit night.

It is a beautiful evening,
redolent with desert life,
just waiting for them to
cross the border.

◙ And now, a special announcement from Lizz Huerta: I'm part of amazing show of performance artists and poets sharing their humorous and thoughtful take on sexuality, eroticism and the centrifugal force of their clítoris next week at Highways in Santa Monica, September 25 and 26 at 8:30 p.m. Here is the 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! And L’Shana Tova to all who are celebrating the new year!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

biblio-comentario: spirit matters

tatiana de la tierra

it was early in november of last year when a woman walked into my office at work in the library asking about a book by victoria avalon, an author i'd never heard of. “it's about my sister ramona, a clairvoyant,” she said, “and it's the story of my life.” the book was brand new, though she didn't know the title. i quickly searched catalogs while emilia, the patron, rambled on with details that included tidbits about incest, speaking with the dead, healing, and paranormal sightings in mexico. she was on a first-name basis with the author. “vicky” had already published two books, she said, and this one was ramona's biography.

i had some doubts about the veracity of the whole account; emilia carried her library card along with crumpled bills and tiny pieces of paper in a ziploc bag. she spoke in crazy patchworks of words that i had to decipher. but i promised to look for the book at the guadalajara international book fair, where i was headed in a few weeks. when she started to weep, the feeling in my gut told me it was real, all of it. she gave me contact numbers for herself in los angeles and for vicky and ramona in guadalajara, and i promised to bring her back a copy of the book if i could swing it.

i found an old blog posting by victoria avalon and e-mailed her in advance, hoping to get concrete information about her book, such as the title and publisher. as it turned out, out she was having a book launch for el sendero de una vidente (ediciones b) on the day i was leaving. for some strange reason, i dutifully extended my visit in guadalajara so that i could attend the event. and i decided that, in addition to getting the book, i would meet with vicky and ramona while i was in town.

and so it is that i led a double life while attending the renowned book fair. by day i trotted up and down the isles of books, took e-mail breaks in the professional center, and downed convention center food. but by night, i had a mission-i was in search of other worlds.

i had dinner with vicky on the first evening of the book fair. an inquisitive gemini, she's a journalist with a special interest in the paranormal. she met ramona a few years prior while doing research for an article about healers and they had developed a close friendship. the next day i met with another of her friends, josé, an astrologer. he brought his laptop when he came to the hotel to read my chart; he felt very familiar to me. and while it was hard to hook up with her because she was a busy lady, i eventually met ramona, an unassuming centered being with a spark of mischief in her eyes. she touched my wrist and immediately did a psychic tour inside my body; she gave me offbeat prescriptions, such as soak white onions in alcohol and place them on your belly button fifteen minutes before going to bed.

but best of all, ramona accompanied me to el foco tonal, an outdoor temple in poncitlan, jalisco. people come from all over to this place in nature where energy springs from the earth and connects to the cosmos. i stood in the precise point of the current of energy, spoke my name and heard it resonate and amplify. i saw a kaleidoscope of colors and felt a tremendous internal whoosh as ramona officiated with cosmic agents on my behalf. i got high off the energy and, afterwards, i glowed.

spirit matters.

always, never knowing why, i've been drawn to spiritual representations. i've studied paganism, dianic witchcraft, santeria, eastern religions, anything mystical. i collect virgins and goddesses of all kinds. i've stayed away from organized religions, though i have some holy rollers in my family (thankfully, none of them are racist right wing immigrant-hating homophobic bigots). i believe in karma, consciousness, past lives, ascended masters, destiny, higher purpose, and pendulums. yet there's a part of me that's wondered if this is all white-talk, hippie dippie doo doo leftover from the sixties. as a south american without catholic guilt or male gods, am i a defective latina?

well, all the new age mexicans who packed the hall at the book launch of el sendero de una vidente put my doubts to rest.
they testified about energy healings, angels, and vibrations. the book, which i started reading on my flight on the way back to los angeles the next morning, is rife with stories about crystals, trapped souls, pyramids, extra terrestrials, chakras, and psychic surgery. just like emilia said, it is about ramona's life and her evolution as a clairvoyant, and it is about so much more.

back in the library, i wonder about the meaning of it all. how a patron in search of a book led me to a journalist, an astrologer, a psychic, and an amazing experience with energy. all because i said “yes” to some little voice inside. we have opportunities to say “yes” to the unknown all the time, to follow instinct, to see where it takes us. i'm fortunate, or a fool, depending on how you look at it, that i have an army of angels cheering me on to do all sorts of bizarre things, some which yield better results than others.

in this cosmic world of mine, there is a lot of talk about “light”-about shining from the inside out and spreading it around. librarians are perfectly positioned to be light spreaders. on a good day, i do just that, and people respond to the energy that i put out. it's a back and forth, a show of lights, happening right @ your library. check it out.

31 de agosto de 2008, long beach, califas.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A week as a U.S. teacher

(10-word ultra-flash fiction)


Teaching bubbly children to read, watching bureaucracies crush their avidness.

Three hours on my ass; consultants lecture, leech away life.


Kids create their own behavior guide; their fairness merits immortality!

One-hour writing, one of math: conformity stinking, formulaic repression.


NO child left behind(!) where exclusion would let her blossom.

Creating scary stories after school with seven giggling Bram Stokers.


Our contract again renegotiated, our professional self-esteem slavishly recheapened.

Assessment day: standardized scoring and tracking of beautifully unique children.


Berated for arriving late, humiliated, like teachers deliberately invented entropy.

FAC arrives, flooding our empty arteries with inebriating, deceptive palliatives!


Twelve hours, six days, teachers' sangre, lágrimas stained many blackboards.

Grade homework, prepare lessons, parent letters, Monday-lecture vaccine, etc.