Thursday, March 31, 2011

Facebook App Honors César Chávez

UFW Launches New App for César Chávez Day

Tomorrow we celebrate César Chávez Day--an official holiday in ten states. To help spread the word about Cesar's rich legacy, starting today, the UFW is kicking off an innovative new campaign through a "Donate your Status to César" Facebook App. We will be launching this campaign from our Facebook page or you can go directly to the App.

Throughout his life, César inspired millions of people – in the fields and in the cities--to commit themselves to the fight for social, economic, and civil rights. When he was once asked by a union member how he wanted to be remembered, Chávez replied:

“If you want to remember me, organize!”

César knew as you and I do--there is still much to be done. The struggle for a contract with Giumarra (suppliers of most of the table grapes in America), injustice in the wrongful death of farm worker Maria Isavel Vasquez Jimenez, and the continuing legislative attacks on immigrants, unions and the poor remind us of the challenges we face this very moment.

So today on César's March 31 birthday, we’re remembering César the way he wished us to – organizing everyone we know.

Please help us get thousands of people to honor César E. Chávez via organizing through social media by going here. We can make this go viral, but we need every person to do this right now. Through a few simple clicks and an optional comment you can help us tell millions that César's message of social justice still lives on today.

Thank you, y, Sí Se Puede!

United Farm Workers of America

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Trailers- Novels

House Divided by Raul Ramos y Sanchez

Once they had a country, a culture, a future. Today, upheaval and betrayal have turned their world upside down. And for one family-a U.S. war hero, his deeply religious wife, and their impressionable fourteen-year-old son-a new struggle has just begun.

Mano Suarez made a choice to fight against injustice, and his wife can only pray for his deliverance. Now their son, Pedro, takes up his father's cause . . . disappearing into the ranks of a cult-like organization and leaving his family far behind. To rescue him, Mano must face the consequences of his past deeds. But how can he convince his son to give up the very ideals he, Mano, embraced? How can he prove that home and family are the most important ideals of all?

Death at Solstice: A Gloria Damasco Mystery by Lucha Corpi

Chicana detective Gloria Damasco has a "dark gift," an extrasensory prescience that underscores her investigations and compels her to solve numerous cases. This time, the recurring vision haunting her dreams contains two pairs of dark eyes watching her in the night, a phantom horse and rider, and the voice of a woman pleading for help. But most disquieting of all is Gloria's sensation of being trapped underwater, unable to free herself, unable to breathe.

When Gloria is asked to help the owners of the Oro Blanco winery in California's Shenandoah Valley, she finds herself on the road to the legendary Gold Country. And she can't help but wonder if the ever-more persistent visions might foreshadow this new case that involves the theft of a family heirloom, a pair of antique diamond and emerald earrings rumored to have belonged to Mexico's Empress Carlota.

Soon Gloria learns that there's more to the case than stolen jewelry. Mysterious accidents, threatening anonymous notes, the disappearance of a woman believed to be a saint, and a ghost horse thought to have belonged to notorious bandit Joaquín Murrieta are some of the pieces Gloria struggles to fit together. A woman's gruesome murder and the discovery of a group of young women from Mexico being held against their will in an abandoned house send Gloria on a fateful journey to a Witches' Sabbath to find the final pieces of the puzzle before someone else is killed.

Corpi weaves the rich cultural history of California's Gold Country with a suspensefulmystery in this latest installment in the Gloria Damasco Mystery series

Meet Me Under the Ceiba by Silvio Sirias

"I'm not afraid of that old man," Adela once told her niece. But everyone in the small town of La Curva, Nicaragua, knew that the wealthy land owner, Don Roque Ramírez, wanted Adela Rugama dead.And on Christmas Day, Adela disappeared. It was two months before her murdered body was found.

An American professor of Nicaraguan descent spending the summer in his parents' homeland learns of Adela's murder and vows to unravel the threads of the mystery. He begins the painstaking process of interviewing the townspeople, and it quickly becomes apparent that Adela-a hard-working campesina who never learned to read and write-and Don Roque had one thing in common: the beautiful Ixelia Cruz. The love of Adela's life, Ixelia was one of Don Roque's many possessions until Adela lured her away.

The interviews with Adela's family, neighbors, and former lovers shed light on the circumstances of her death and reveal the lively community left reeling by her brutal murder, including: her older sister Mariela and her four children, who spent Christmas morning with their beloved aunt, excitedly unwrapping the gifts she brought them that fateful day; her neighbor and friend, Lizbeth Hodgson, the beautiful mulata who rejected Adela's passionate advances early in their relationship; Padre Uriel, who did not welcome Adela to mass because she loved women (though he has no qualms about his lengthy affair with a married woman); her former lover Gloria, the town's midwife, who is forever destined to beg her charges to name their newborn daughters Adela.

Through stories and gossip that expose jealousies, scandals, and misfortunes, Sirias lovingly portrays the community of La Curva, Nicaragua, in all its evil and goodness. The winner of the Chicano / Latino Literary Prize, this spellbinding novel captures the essence of a world rarely seen in American literature.

America Libre by Raul Ramos y Sanchez

How will today's immigration crisis shape our nation? This provocative novel set in the second decade of the 21st century poses a chillingly credible nightmare vision . . . a Hispanic liberation movement seeking to redraw the borders of the United States.

After years of anti-immigrant backlash, anger seethes in the nation's teeming barrios. The crowded streets bristle with restless youth idled by a deep recession. When undercover detectives in San Antonio accidentally kill a young Latina bystander during a botched drug bust, riots erupt across the Southwest. As the inner-city violence escalates, Anglo vigilantes strike back with barrio shooting rampages.
 Exploiting the turmoil, a congressional demagogue succeeds in passing legislation that transforms the nation's Hispanic enclaves into walled-off Quarantine Zones. Amid the chaos in his L.A. barrio, Manolo Suarez is out of work and struggling to support his growing family. Under the spell of a beautiful Latina radical, the former U.S. Army Ranger eventually finds himself questioning his loyalty to his wife-and his country.

Fast-paced and action-packed, America Libre is a wake-up call to the dangers of extremism - on both sides of this explosive issue.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What boys read. Women and War. On-Line Floricanto

Review: Raul Ramos y Sanchez. House Divided. NY: Grand Central Publishing, 2011. Isbn: 9780446507769

Michael Sedano

A recent column in the Washington Post calls attention to the challenge of finding books for boys. Sarah Pekkanen writes, “when it comes to children’s and young adult novels, many publishers are scrambling to capture the attention of the elusive, picky boy readers”.

Since publishers compete with toys and movies for the boy buck, a quick look there may parallel what would work in a book for boy readers: G.I. Joe action figures and Battle of Los Angeles. Bang Bang shoot ‘em up heroic fantasies pull in the spending.

US publisher Hachette Books may be ahead of the curve in some ways, with its House Divided. Author Raul Ramos y Sanchez may have hit a good formula that could draw boys to reading this book: an action thriller replete with an ethnic angle; teenagers, boy meets girl, romeo & Juliet, the first time; savage war; good guys win in the end. For sure, the book has its share of hurdles to overcome--or overlook--all other things being equal. Sadly, some hurdles loom insurmountably. First, however, the novel’s the thing wherein to capture the imagination of the boy.

The ethnic angle pits “Hispanics” against the rest of the country, brown v. black&white together. Herded by the US military into urban cultural sinks, latinos lose the resultant war sapping the spirits of the Los Angeles insurgency. The central male character is a formerly loyal U.S. soldier who now leads the Hispanic freedom fighters. A schism between the Hispanic Republic of America and the Latino Liberation Front threatens to bring the final defeat of all chicana chicano latina latino resistance. The “vatos” of the LLF are a Texas-born organization with followers among pachucos on the eastside of LA. The HRA’s home base is LA.

The plot makes no effort to tie the novel’s neighborhood to anyplace specific. There’s an ambush on Whittier Boulevard, but otherwise this hellhole can be anywhere from Pacoima to Pomona. Geographic ambiguity keeps the plot in drive mode.

Boy meets girl might hold interest for some kids. Pedro, a teenage Latino gangster, accidentally kidnaps the 15-year old blonde svelte daughter of a top honcho for the CIA. Boy and Girl fall in lust. They are patient and gentle. He's a rebellious son. She’s more a cipher, just a pretty girl handcuffed to a pipe. But Ramos y Sanchez gives her the best line in the dystopia:

Barry, my parents taught me not to be prejudiced. Most people I know—most Americans—they’re not your enemy. They just think Hispanics have turned against this country, that they won’t do things our way and don’t want to learn English.

Pedro. Barry. It’s an Obama joke. Ni modo. Here’s where the war comes in: The CIA guy’s espionage against the Hispanics and their warrior leader, Mano Suarez, becomes a father’s desperate campaign to rescue his daughter. Pedro who's grown impatient with Hispanic caution in the war against the tea baggers, splits his father’s home and becomes a Latino gangbanger warrior. Doesn’t get jumped in or nothing but he rises to the top right away. “Pedro do what mero say. Pedro vato.” Angel, el mero, the cold-blooded local LLF warrior chief, doesn’t speak much English, sabes.

The CIA guy has a warrior buddy with burning desire to kill Suarez. Fuller and Mano clash twice. Their second confrontation has them bond in mutual admiration. They free the girl and affirm the good intentions of the Hispanic movement to the vengeful US President Nixon. (He’s a great sobrino or somesuch to the other Nixon so Julie and Tricia are off the hook.)

As the novel ends, Nixon is about to send three combat-hardened divisions into the barrios to punish everyone for being brown and noble. Decent fictive gente are about to be wiped out by a rampaging army because of the actions of a few assholes who already got theirs, and whom all decent gente repudiate. But the novel ends without a suggestion of a deux ex machina that will stop the invasion.

Hearing about, instead of seeing the action and suspense, looms as this novel’s major hurdle. Not that a boy would notice that stylistic absence, nor the heavy-handedness of the author’s point of view, and probably not the oft-plodding diction. Leave that discussion to a parent coaching a reluctant reader son or sobrino to open the book. Talk to the boy about fantasy, what-if questions; explore the kid’s attitude toward books all the other kids are reading—those Harry Potter books are behemoths and hard to miss.

The novel’s ominous portents make me wonder what “good guys win” actually looks like. That’s the tell-not-showness of the novel. What gives me pause in recommending the story to some boys I know is the absence of compelling ideas about racism, state sanctioned terrorism, elections, speaking Spanish or English. Instead, House Divided is about the capture and rescue of a pretty blonde teenager and the spiritual conversion of her worried father. The gente behind those walls? Suffer. Así es.

I am less tolerant of the novel’s right-of-mugwump moral stance. Opposing sides are broadly drawn to allow lots of ambiguity; anglo and black unitedstatesians on one side, brown / immigrant / Spanish-speaking / chicanesque gente on the other side. Ramos y Sanchez seems unaware of a popular sentiment—particularly in Califas--against acceptability of the word the author chooses for his good guys, “Hispanic.” Peor, he draws an ugly lexical line. The bad guys on the liberation side are “Latino”.

The top Latino turns out to be a backstabbing nihilist whose preference for chaos mirrors his army in the field. Back home, “el mero”, an undocumented Spanish-speaking thug, generals the local resistance fighters of the Latino Liberation Front. Think Pendleton and khakis carrying assault weapons—unthinking and ruthless. That’s Angel, a caricature of me-Tarzan you-Jane speeches, whose only redeeming quality is a sweet sister. Hispanics are noble and incredibly apt. This is the Suarez family. After Mano shoots Angel, they take in the newly-orphaned child.

For blood thirstiness, both sides commit atrocities. To its credit, there is no justifying the teabagger-run-wild United States. Top politicians and vocal haters are slime, punto final. Factotums with consciences save the day.

Initially, House Divided is about division: raza, defeat, heroism in desperate straits. Then the traitor pulls his kidnap movida. The dystopia peopled with gente fighting genocide, burning candles for light in bullet-riddled homes takes a back seat to a standard damsel-in-distress potboiler.

Heaping misery on distress, Ramos y Sanchez attempts to portray both sides equally responsible for their world’s misunderstandings and hatred. Yet, one barrio warrior’s resolve to kill “gabachos” grows from seeing his toddler crushed by a mechanized infantry vehicle in a callously evil hit-and-run. The author later slaps the chicano’s anger in the face, disclosing the driver did not see the child so did not know to stop; the baby’s death was an accident, not the evil intent the Latino makes of the killing. Should the guerrero stop killing GIs, or just enjoy it less?

Clearly writers can write any darn thing they want, the more outrageous and dystopic the better, for some publishers and tastes. But with imagination and publication come opportunity and responsibility, and in its current form, House Divided has yet to open the door nor find an effective métier. I will not recommend it to the boys I know, who love reading. If you look for it at a booksellers, you’ll recognize it; the one with the children walking single file in tall grass, waving a white flag.

Hidden Strengths – Hidden Wounds

La Bloga supports efforts like The Soldiers Project. Stated on the organization's website, We are a group of licensed mental health professionals who offer free psychological treatment to military service members (active duty, National Guard, Reserves and veterans) who have served or who expect to serve in the conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The conference costs up to $100; $30 for the opening reception and film. Details at the group's home page.

April 15-16, 2011
The Davidson Conference Center
University of Southern California
3415 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California 90089

Opening Reception: Friday, April 15, 6-9pm
7:30pm Screening of the Academy Award-nominated Documentary Short “POSTER GIRL”
followed by Q&A with Director Sara Nesson and Robynn Murray—the “Poster Girl”

Register online at:

On-Line Floricanto

March roared in like a lion and kept roaring through California's stormiest winter and Japan's double tragedies, and comes winding down with Libyans killing each other with help from this nation's current version of shock and awe.

The endless March, it seemed. Finally here comes the chronological finis to March’s travails. Over the long haul, we’re in for it.

Arizona appears to have infected quite a number of elected tipas tipos, too. April’s showers and May flowers, hurry up. There’s an election in 2012.

In the meantime, poetry.

Francisco Alarcón and the moderators of Poets Responding the SB 1070, a Facebook group, offer this week’s collection of five:

1. "Human" by Luis Ascencio Cortez
2. "Camouflage" by Joe Navarro
3. "Ilegales" por Charly Charly Vazquez
4. "At Night" by Iris De Anda
5. "Homily / Homilía" by Jorge Argueta

by Luis Ascencio-Cortez

We might talk with an accent,
A thick Spanish accent
You think we don’t understand
Because of the difficulty pronouncing words

But the truth is, we understand rudeness and cruelty
Because like you with your practiced speech
And material objects
WE are human

Does humanity leave you, because of the hardship,
Of speaking another language?
No sir,
It leaves you, when you feel better than another,
Because of the smallest reasons

So we who speak another language
Came from a different heritage,
And are labeled “illegal:
Because we look “illegal”
Is inhumane


No matter how many laws you pass
How many killings and threats, we will still consider ourselves human.
You say there is prejudice, but I consider whites like my brothers,
We are all children of the same earth, same species and same universal energy
Because just like you, who sailed the sea seeking for a better life,
We cross the desert for the same reason.

By: Luis Ascencio-Cortez

by Joe Navarro

My mother tried to camouflage me

in the shadows of benign indifference.

She sought to protect me from

the shadows of ignorance,

which conspired to evict me

past the margins of humanity.

She rearranged my diction

hoping to change my appearance,

concealing my essence in the

convoluted framework of verbs,

nouns and grammatical allusions

to support the illusion that my

aspirations crossed the Atlantic Ocean

on the Mayflower.

But it didn’t work.

They saw beyond the English façade…

as my own skin and surname

betrayed my mother’s efforts

to protect me.

por Charly Charly Vazquez

Cuervos yertos
besan a la nieve
que mira enamorada
la sobriedad del cactus.

Entre betas coloradas
abre Arizona su pecho
al abrazo de los siglos
que le cruzan, ilegales .

At Night
by Iris De Anda

at night the light blows out
what route have we embarked upon
the dawn stalked the voiceless
made them less
would we regress
to repeat the beat of the war drum
the hymn of peace
does not cease
thus does increase
to form release
that life should not be taken in vain
the stain explodes
the gun reloads
the mind numb soldier kills
behind the clouds of liberty
i'll make you free
fills the heavens with rain
wills the cycle of slaying
a tear the fear
mama hold me near
history unfolds
the sight
the flight
of people sold
for monetary gain
slain without mercy
by democracy
we will save your soil
but not your souls
your blood spilled for oil
the veil recoils
the hypocrisy
of this U.S.A.
you say
you will protect me
represent this sea
of masses
of different classes, colors, & creeds
instead i reject
that which you claim to be
massacring fellow beings
in my name
its this government i blame
it's you i shame
open your eyes
we are the same
under the rising sun
a day will come
america will weep
those numbed in sleep
will awake and plea
for mother earth to forgive thee
and then love will become one
all that i am
all that we are
all that we were
all that we will be
a light
at night

On March 24, 1980, our beloved priest Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, was cowardly assassinated. On the 31st anniversary of his death, I celebrate his life with this poem.

For Our Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
by Jorge Argueta

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
How beautiful your words
So wonderful
So humble
So full of courage
And truth

“In the name of these people
Who suffer so much, I ask you
I beg you
Stop the violence
Stop the repression!”

Those who tried to silence you
Were screwed
From your cathedral in the heart
Of San Salvador
Your homily cannot be silenced

In the Salvadoran sunrise
A deep scent of rosemary
Rosemary for the poor
Rosemary of hope and justice

Rosemary for those who continue to pay a deaf ear
To the clamor of the people

Because of that
I beg you Monsignor
You who prays every Sunday
And every weekday
We need your homily now
Just as we needed in the war years

I want you to please come and pray for this country of yours,
As it continues to struggle

Come and pray for the majestic rivers and lakes
Not very majestic anymore

Pray for the all the gang members

And pray dear Monsignor
So that mothers could find once and for all
The unknown graves of their son and daughters

Finally my dear Monsignor

I want you to come and pray
For our indigenous people
For our girls and boys
For our leaders
For our workers
For our youth
Come and pray the way you know how to pray

I want all Salvadorans the world over to listen to your homily

Your words of wind, in the wind
Your words of water, in the water
Your words of light, in the light
Your words of justice, in justice
Your words of peace, in peace
Your words without hunger
Your words of beans and tortillas for all

Come dear Monsignor and pray for us
So there will be no more distant brothers
No more distant mothers
No more distant mothers
No more distant grandsons
No more distant grandfathers or grandmothers
No more
No more

I want to pray with you your homily
I want all Salvadorans to pray with you

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Those who tried to silence you have failed
From your cathedral in the heart of San Salvador
Your prayer for justice lives on

On March 24, 1980
The trees of fire shined brighter
And the crickets sang their rainsong

Monsignor Romero
I asked my mother why she loved you so much
And she simply answered,
“Because he always tells the truth -
Know what else “
My old mama said,
“He would say,
Those who live by the sword
Die by the sword
And look how his assassins died”

Those who live by the sword
Die by the sword
That’s what my mama said

Monsignor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
I don’t want to pronounce
The names of those who killed you
Instead lets turn the volume on our radios all way up
And let us listen to your homily
And let your words enter the heart of the Salvadoran people
Like the deep smell of tortillas made from new corn

Jorge Argueta

El 24 de marzo de 1980, nuestro querido sacerdote, Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, fue cobardemente asesinado, en el 31 aniversario de su muerte, celebro su vida con este poema.

A Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
por Jorge Argueta

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Qué bonitas tus palabras
Tan hermosas
Tan sencillas
Tan llenas de valor
Y verdad

“En nombre de este pueblo
Que sufre, les suplico, les ordeno
Cese la violencia
¡Alto a la represión!”

Se jodieron los que te quisieron silienciar
Desde tu catedral
En el centro de San Salvador
No calla tu homilía

En el amanecer salvadoreño
Hay para siempre un hermoso olor a romero
Romero para los pobres
Romero de esperanza y de justicia

También hay Romero

Para los que se siguen haciendo los majes
Y no quieren escuchan el clamor del pueblo

Por eso te suplico
Monseñor que oras los domingos
Y todos los días de la semana
Échate un rezo
Necesitamos hoy tu homilía
Así como la necesitábamos en los años de la guerra

Quiero que por favor vengas a rezar por este tu pueblo
Que sigue estando bien jodido

Échate un rezo por los ríos y los lagos
Que ya no son tan majestuosos

Échate un rezo por todos los mareros

Un rezo querido Monseñor
Para que de una vez por todos
Sepan las madres a donde están
Las tumbas de sus hijas y sus hijos

En fin Don Monsi
Quiero que vengas y reces
Por nuestro pueblo indígena
Por los niños
Y las niñas
Por nuestros líderes
Por los obreros
Por los jóvenes
Que vengas a rezar por tu patria como tú sabes rezar

Quiero que todos los salvadoreños escuchemos tu homilía

Tus palabras de viento en el viento
Tus palabras de agua en el agua
Tus palabras de luz en la luz
Tus palabras de justicia en la justicia
Tu palabras de paz en la paz
Tus palabras sin hambre
Tus palabras de tortillas y frijoles para todos

Ven don Monsi y échate un rezo
Para que ya no hayan hermanos
Ni madres
Ni padres
Ni nietos
Ni abuelos o abuelas lejanos

Quiero rezar contigo tu homilía
Quiero que todos los salvadoreños puedan rezar contigo

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
Se jodieron los que te quisieron silienciar
Desde tu catedral
En el centro de San Salvador
No calla tu homilía

Monseñor Romero
El 24 de marzo de 1980
Se encendieron más los árboles de fuego
Y las chicharas cantaron su canción de lluvia

Monseñor le pregunte a mi madre
Porque te quiere tanto
Y respondio
Que tu siempre decias la verdad
Además me explicó mi viejita
-Monseñor decía el que a hierro mata a hierro muere
Y mira como acabaron los que lo matron-

El que a hierro mata
A hierro muere
Así dice mi viejita

Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero
No quiero pronunciar ya más
El nombre de los que te mataron
Mejor subámole el volumen a la radio
Para escuchar tus homilía
Y que tus palabras entren el centro
Del corazón de todos los salvadoreños

Como un profundo olor a tortillas de maíz Nuevo

- - - -
1. "Human" by Luis Ascencio Cortez
2. "Camouflage" by Joe Navarro
3. "Ilegales" por Charly Charly Vazquez
4. "At Night" by Iris De Anda
5. "Homily / Homilía" by Jorge Argueta

Luis Ascencio Cortez
I'm fourteen years old, and in middle school. I mainly wrote this poem to express that we are all together. Spiritually bonded, since the birth of the planets. That we have somewhat split, but i write so that someday in the future.We will once more be brother and sister, in this land of "opportunity."
Luis Ascencio-Cortez

Joe NavarroJoe Navarro is a Literary Vato Loco, poet, creative writer, educator, community activist, husband, parent and grandparent who currently lives in Hollister, CA. You can visit his website at

CARLOS VÁZQUEZ SEGURA “Charly” ( “charly charly Vazquez” en face book)
Escritor y poeta Mexicano en permanente búsqueda de esencias, imágenes y metáforas.
Aún cuando le ha resultado inevitable el amor como tema inspirador, ha tratado de cubrir otros aspectos de la realidad interior, natural y social en su obra.
Ha publicado dos libros:
SOPLOS Y PENSAVIENTOS, Ed. Nauta, 1999 ( ISBN:970-92388-0-9 ) libro de 200 aforismos filosófico-poéticos como:
“Quien hace amar sus fragmentos, termina teniéndoles celos”
“Ladrillo que no es muro, será pedrada”
“Se llega más lejos con los demás …que de ellos”
“me sumergí en la tristeza …y se me mojó el futuro” .
QUIJOTES Y LUCIÉRNAGAS ( Litaralia editores, Mex, 2008)
correo electrónico:

Iris De AndaI am a woman of Mexican & Salvadorian descent born, raised, and currently living in Los Angeles, California. I am a revolutionary, mother, wife, writer, activist, practitioner of the healing arts, and co-founder of the company Las Adelitas: Moda, Cultura, Revolucion. I believe in the power of spoken word, poetry, storytelling, and dreams. I have been writing for most of my life and this is my ceremony, my offering, and my creation for a better world. Peace!

Jorge ArguetaJorge Tetl Argueta is a native Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian who spent much of his childhood in rural El Salvador. His bilingual children's books have received numerous awards. His poetry and short stories have appeared in acclaimed literary text books. Jorge Tetl's latest book for children's, Arroz con Leche/Un Poema Para Cocinar, Rice Pudding/A Cooking Poem, was selected one of 2010' s Best Children's Book by Kirkus Review. Jorge Tetl is currently the director of Talleres de Poesia, a literary organization that promotes children's literature in the United States and El Salvador.

Monday, March 28, 2011

A lovely time at Libros Schmibros, now on to Kepler’s Books!

Saturday evening, I had a wonderful time reading and signing my new novel, The Book of Want, at Libros Schmibros, a lending library/used bookstore founded by book critic David Kipen for the community of Boyle Heights (2000 E. 1st St. Los Angeles, CA 90033). I want to thank not only David and the volunteers who set up the chairs and basically rearranged Libros Schmibros for the reading, but I also thank Colleen Jaurretche, the operations manager, as well as the former operations manager, Catherine Fryszczyn, who is moving to Ukraine to serve in the Peace Corps. I thank you not only for what you are doing for the community, but also for your hospitality as we had an intimate evening with guests who listened to my reading attentively, and asked insightful, thought-provoking questions. If you want to learn more about David Kipen and Libros Schmibros, please read this fine piece by Carolyn Kellogg for the Los Angeles Times.

As I’ve noted before, writing is a lonely endeavor, but when I get to participate in book readings, the loneliness dissipates and I am reminded why I write. That personal connection with readers fills me with energy and inspiration…I wouldn’t write another word if I couldn’t participate in such literary events.

Now I’m off to Northern California for a book reading and signing on March 30, at 7:00 p.m. (the day before César Chávez Day), at the venerable (and independent)
Kepler's Books, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. This event is co-sponsored by the Stanford Chicano Latino Alumni Association of Northern California. The author, Stephen D. Gutierrez, will be introducing me. Kepler’s Books is just outside of Stanford University where I majored in English literature, so it’s a bit of a homecoming for me. If you can’t make it, visit my website for future events.


• Over at
LatinoLA, check out Jimmy Franco’s provocative essay, “Ruben Salazar: A Man of Courage” which is subtitled, “Not just a symbol of nostalgia, rather an example to everyone that we should stand up and continue to struggle.”

• Thursday March 31, at the University of Redlands, as part of their
Visiting Writers Series, Lisa Alvarez and Manuel Muñoz will discuss their work in Sudden Fiction Latino (W. W. Norton). For more on this event, visit Lisa’s literary blog, The Mark on the Wall. Lisa and I will do a similar panel on April 9 at Literary Orange on the campus of UC Irvine (moderated by Andrew Tonkovich, host of Bibliocracy).

• Speaking of Manuel Muñoz, his wonderful new novel,
What You See in the Dark (Algonquin Books), will be officially released on March 29. Check out his website for his book tour schedule.

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

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Afterglow: Life With No-TV

by tatiana de la tierra

It’s a big gray lump in the living room, a has-been that now attracts dust and random clutter—CDs, pens, cinnamon gum, a magnifying lens, a red dragon, notebooks, DVDs, coins, colorful glass figurines, a purse, a salt lamp, a silver bracelet. My very own eyesore. Gone are the days that I worshipped its light into the night. How midnight quickly became three in the morning. How my pulse raced with suspense. How I yelled, outraged. How I got hooked on predictable stories, sappy sentiments, and bimbos. How I attempted to multi-task, working and watching, eventually dropping the “working” part.

How I swore, every time I got the cable bill, This is the last time! No longer will I pay an insane amount of money to submit my subconscious to psychic and mental pollution! How I fantasized giving Charter the finger. How I would chop, chop, cut, cut.

I thought about it seriously for three years, replaying the chop-chop-cut-cut fantasy every month. I thought about all the money I’d save. All the time I’d have to write. All those hikes I was going to do. How I’d make up for all the lost time. How I would sleep a good eight hours each night. How I’d be cooking soups and baking cakes from scratch. How I’d hang out with friends. How I’d go out to poetry readings, live performances, art movies. How I’d read all those novels on my bookshelves. Maybe I’d take up water coloring or spin clay bowls with my hands. Go horseback riding. Who knows. Anything is possible, right?

A writer I know ditched TV. I wrote to her on Facebook and asked her the big question: Is there life after no-TV? Yes! She raved about the 600-page novel she edited and whittled down to 470 pages with no-TV. The article she wrote for publication. The talk she gave at a conference, the workshop she did at a library, on and on. All of this during one month of no-TV.

The TV was her surrogate soul mate. She had several sets on at the same time, so she wouldn’t miss anything as she went from room to room. She sped home to catch her shows. She fell asleep under its glow. And now that she was healed with no-TV, she was rediscovering her soul. Words were pouring out of her. She became attentive to bird song and sunshine. She joined humankind again and became a social butterfly. She even got a little TV in with friends, for special occasions—the Super Bowl, the Oscars, some great flick.

Clearly, her TV grip was even stronger than mine. If she could do it, I could do it. She recommended a 21-day TV fast, to start.

I thought about it for another year. In that time, my no-TV fantasy grew. I would write a novel! Learn how to play the harmonica! I would compost and become an urban farmer! I’d write songs and record a CD! I’d volunteer for hospice care, take in a few foster kids, become a shaman, help save Mother Earth!

Two months ago, I called Charter and did the chop-chop-cut-cut.

Television, my perverse meditation, how I miss you.

Forgive me the cliché, but life hasn’t been the same without you. None of my grandiose ideas have taken root in your absence. I’ve gone to one poetry reading in two months. Hung out twice with friends. I haven’t hiked, baked cakes, started a novel, learned how to paint or play anything, or read a book from my own collection.

I’ve eaten frozen pizzas, taken care of laundry on Thursdays, washed and rearranged all my rocks, kept my apartment free of dust bunnies by sweeping every day. I have fantasized. A lot. About all those things I was going to do without you, yet haven’t.

I have sat in my red rocking chair, staring at you, pining for you. How perfect you were. Everything in one place, in one big box. How that leather couch from Ikea was like a favorite sweater. How you transformed the living room into the dining room. How much more I enjoyed meals in your company. Even the cats adored you, got entranced with you. How I was so almighty with that control in my hands, cruising for the perfect flick of the moment, sometimes even toggling between two movies. How I felt superior to most other TV people, because I only watched movies. No junk shows, no commercials, no reality TV. Premium cable for premium people like myself.

Now I am empty and alone.

Now you must go.

I was so faithful, I didn’t even get one of those snazzy flat screens. It was you, only you.

Now you must go. Because the fact that you are physically here makes it difficult to find other ways to live. It’s like a bad lesbian breakup. The kind where you break up, yet continue to live with each other. There is no sex, only memories of when there was sex.

You have become a big gray useless blob. I can’t go forward in your presence. You must leave now.

The door is just to your left. I will roll you out, straight to the back of the building, and set you by the dumpster. I will dust your body, kiss you on the cheek, honor our time together, and turn my back. You will make someone else very happy.

Me, I’m going to stare at my bookshelves. Hernando Téllez, Laura Restrepo, Mario Mendoza, Mutis and Silvana Paternostro are calling out my name. I’m going to take them into my hands, get to know them, and make new friends.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chicanonautica: Roque ‘n’ Rol

Looks like the political turmoil out of Arizona is giving us a break. Anti-immigrant bills got snuffed, thanks to the business community speaking up about how these paranoid delusions are bad for the economy. Certain politicians are furious. They may strike back soon.

But, meanwhile, this gives me a chance to get back to La Cultura, music, books . . . like Land of a Thousand Dances: Chicano Rock ‘n’ Roll from Southern California by David Reyes and Tom Waldman, two guys from my hometown of West Covina, California, who used to work at Tower Records. Tower is long gone. There’s now a gigantic, world-class shopping mall there, in the place that we used to call the Plaza.

This book is not just a SoCal nostalgia trip, but a well-researched (musicians, disk jockeys, and others were interviewed) documentation of Chicano Rock. It points out how integral this music was, not just to brown kids, but to Rock en General.

It starts back in the days of Lalo Guerrero and early Rhythm and Blues (the days when my dad said the police would pull you over if they heard that kind of music coming out of your car), to the beginnings of Rock in the Fifties, through the Sixties, into Punk, to Rap, and (in this new edition) to the present.

Quite a diverse array of musicians and musical styles are covered proving that this was rarely an isolated barrio phenomenon. Black music was always an influence as well as white rock. Rebellion against traditional Mexican music often turned into a rediscovery of that tradition, adding to the powerful mix, demonstrating that Chicano Rock is a mestizo thing.

Back in the early Eighties, when MTV dominated the national culture with the music videos it played, few nonwhite performers were featured. There was talk about musical apartheid, how black and white music were played on different radio stations, to different audiences, different worlds. Some pendejos suggested that only white guys could play proper rock and roll.

This what not the case where I grew up. KRLA and the other L.A. stations that appealed to the Chicano audience would go from the British Invasion to Motown without skipping a beat. I remember not knowing if a band was black or white until I saw them on television. And of course, in low-def black and white TV, the Beatles looked like they could be four guys from East L.A.

Chicano Rock provided connective tissue, linking cultures and communities, as well as providing a place to create new identities for those who lived between cultures. Land of a Thousand Dances shows all of this, and it makes me proud to be a Chicano.

Ernest Hogan’s story “Guerrilla Mural of a Siren’s Song” -- that he expanded into his novel Cortez on Jupiter -- will be reprinted in Alien Contact edited by Marty Halpern.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Revolution in Publishing?

Writers are in a tizzy about e-books and self-publishing. You must have read or heard something about this recently, right? Search the name Barry Eisler and you soon will learn that this successful thriller writer turned down a $500,000 (yes, half-a-million dollars) offer from a traditional publisher for a new book because, as he put it, “I think I can do better in the long term on my own.” He means self-publishing using the e-book format. Read his interview here, with Joe Konrath, another “name” author now digging deep into the e-publishing world (you know, Kindle, Nook, and so on.) Reading that interview may make you weep, or at least take a deep breath. Eisler estimates he will make $30,000 this year on a short story (!); Konrath talks about a book he wrote twelve years ago, rejected by every major publisher, that has sold over 35,000 copies in only two years on Amazon.

How about these numbers --

"According to preliminary estimates from the Association of American Publishers, e-book sales from 16 reporting companies jumped 115.8%, to $69.9 million in January. No other trade segment posted a sales increase in the month. Sales of mass market paperbacks were terrible in January, down 30.9% from the nine reporting companies, falling to $39.0 million, $30 million below the sales of e-books. E-book sales also topped $49.1 million in adult hardcover sales reported by 17 publishers; hardcover sales fell 11.3% in January. Trade paperback sales fell 19.7% in the month but remained above e-book revenue at $83.6 million from 19 houses."

That paragraph is from a Publishers Weekly article entitled January E-book Sales Soar, Top Hardcover, Mass Market Paperback, which you can read here.

Meanwhile, writers’ groups are presenting seminars about the topic of e-books; new e-formatting and e-distribution services like Smashwords arise and thrive on the landscape; and listservs and discussion groups debate the pros and cons of self-publishing through hyperspace with some familiar arguments heard before, such as the decline of quality because the self-published works are not vetted by editors; the relatively inexpensive price of an e-book hurts writers who are still published in the old-fashioned way; this is the end of bookstores; this is the end of traditional publishers and the publishing world. This is the end.

But it’s not, of course. The demise of the book has been predicted time and time again, only to not ever happen, and it won’t happen now. The golden age of paperbacks caused critics to moan about the decline in quality because of the massive hit on the market that the paperbacks had created, and many lamented that the traditional “hardback” (a code word for literary work) was dead. Didn’t happen then, won’t happen now. TV was supposed to destroy radio, movies, books, and brains. Only part of that turned out to be true. Bookstores have been dying for decades; publishers have languished for years; writers have complained for centuries -- and yet, we continue to write, publish, read and collect books. Oh, the world is changing, for sure, but we will always have books with actual pages, just like we still have music cassette tapes and players even though we live in a downloaded, i-tuney world.

It’s obvious that traditional publishers have to change, and some of them will wither away and die because they can’t keep up, but let’s have some faith in the multinational publishing corporations to understand and fix their bottom line. They will make it once again profitable for writers like Eisler and Konrath to return to the fold, simply because doing so is in the multinational’s best business interest.

But for now, the opportunity exists for all writers to seize the day. I know writers who have gathered or are in the process of collecting their already-published and paid-for stories or out-of-print books precisely for the purpose of publishing them in e-book format, yours truly included. Nothing better I would like than to have my stories available in one place at a very affordable price. I think new readers and old fans can appreciate such a collection, and those writers who have already done this are reporting success and satisfaction. Check out Steven Torres’ short story collections now available for your Kindle – he’s pleased with what is happening to his work and the reactions from readers.

There isn't a revolution in publishing coming, it's already happened. I think it's a good thing, but opinions vary. Meanwhile, I am digging my Nook (a gift) and using it - I've managed to read all of the Captain Alatriste series without extending my already over-extended book shelves, I have all the Mark Twain novels at my fingertips, and even my own book, King of the Chicanos, (available in all e-book formats, I might add) sits on my Nook shelf ready to be read and shared, just like the copy that stands proud on my work table.

¡Viva la revolución!


Melinda Palacio, the other Friday blogger here on La Bloga, reports the following good news:

Melinda will read with contributors to the poetry anthology New Poets of the American West including Teresa Dowell, Jeffrey Schult, Joyce E. Young, Lynne Thompson, Maurya Simon, William Archila, Carol V. Davis, Thea Gavin, Craig Cotter, and Rafael Jesús González.

March 26, Saturday 7:00 PM

Many Voices Press proudly announces the Publication of New Poets of the American West: an anthology of poets from eleven Western states. (Please see attached flyers for cover art and additional information). This anthology contains 450 poems, including several written in the Spanish, Navajo, Salish, Assiniboine, and Dakota languages (with translations). The poets are Pulitzer Prize winners, MacArthur Fellows, newcomers, and street poets.

Collected here are poems about horse racing, mining, trash collecting, nuclear testing, firefighting, border crossings, buffalo hunting, surfing, logging, and sifting flour. In these pages you will visit flea markets, military bases, internment camps, reservations, funerals, weddings, rodeos, nursing homes, national parks, backyard barbecues, prisons, forests, meadows, rivers, and mountain tops. In your “mind’s eye,” you will meet a simple-minded girl who gets run over by a bull, two mothers watching a bear menacingly nosing toward unsuspecting children, and children who “have yet to be toilet trained out of their souls.” You will learn to “reach into the sacred womb, / grasp a placid hoof / and coax life toward this certain moment.” You’ll teach poetry to third graders, converse with hitchhikers, lament for an incarcerated brother “trying to fill the holes in his soul / with Camel cigarettes / and crude tattoos.” You will sit at the kitchen table where perhaps the world will end “while we are laughing and crying, eating of the last sweet bite.”

In the short time each of us has in this world, here’s your chance to experience life widely and to reflect on your experiences deeply. In New Poets of the American West, we hear from Native Americans and first-generation immigrants, from ranchlanders and megaopolites, from poet-teachers and street-poets, and more. In fact, the West is so big, and home to such diversity that the deeper one reads in this anthology, the more voices and world views one encounters, the more textures of thought, emotion, and language one discovers, the less we may find ourselves able to speak of a single, stable something called the American West. Rather, we may find ourselves living in (or reading into) not one West, but many.

Find a link here to the official publication flyer.

This event is scheduled for the
Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center
681 Venice Blvd. Venice, CA 90291 | Venice/ Marina del Rey | (310) 822-3006
Map |

If you are in the neighborhood, join Melinda and the other poets for what should be a stimulating and creative evening of poetry.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rockabilly infects Claremont in Public Spectacle...

Late Breaking Announcement. La Bloga learned only today from John McDonald of the Claremont Universities Library about a Latino Student Union event, its 4th Annual Rockabilly Festival.

The event begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, March 26, 2011. Get there earlier than 5 p.m. when the music and car show call it a day.

Per the organizer's press release, five bands take the stage:

Don Juan y Los Blancos
Jonny Come Lately
Gamblers Mark
The Wiseguys
Omar & The Stringpoppers

VENDORS (Art, Apparel, Music, etc.)

The 4th Annual Latino Student Union Rockabilly Festival is a celebration of an aesthetic movement typically called "Kustom Kulture." Kustom Kulture is a term encompassing artists who work with different mediums, including metal fabricators, tattooist, pinstrippers, photographers, filmmakers and performance artists. Kustom Kulture is often synonymous with "lowbrow art" and "pop surrealism." Popular Kustom Kulture artists include, Von Dutch (Kenneth Howard), Ed Roth, and Robert Williams. Yet, the most pioneering Kustom Kulture artists were the metal fabricators who radically transformed classic American cars into rolling sculpture. It is little wonder that one of Tom Wolfe's most memorable essays was devoted to these artists and appropriately titled, "The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby." Today, Kustom Kulture is alive in many Latino barrios throughout the Southwest. With their fusion of Aztec-Catholic-Pachuco-Chicano-Greaser-Lowrider imagery and the styles and art of Ed Roth and Von Dutch; these artists are redefining Kustom Kulture in contemporary America. Come see barrio art and the artists on March 26th on "The Mounds" at Pitzer College.

*This year's poster features Sonja Serventi, one of the few female car builders in the kustom kulture scene. She is the owner of a kustom car shop in El Monte and her creations have been featured in many car magazines. Sonja is a member of the Black Widows; the oldest and largest female kustom car club in California.

Details: .

RSVP to this event on Facebook.