Friday, August 26, 2011

What's Goin' On?

Talk to me
So you can see
What's going on
Ya, what's going on
Tell me what's going on
I'll tell you what's going on - Uh
Right on baby

"What's Going On" written by Renaldo "Obie" Benson, Al Cleveland, and Marvin Gaye.

New books from not-so-young writers, new TV about an old master, performance art by old farts, and old agit-prop in a new bottle. It's goin' on.

Manuel Ramos

New Books

Before the End, After the Beginning
Dagoberto Gilb

Grove Press - November, 2011

[from the publisher]

Before the End, After the Beginning is an exquisite collection of ten stories by Dagoberto Gilb. The pieces come in the wake of a stroke Gilb suffered at his home in Austin, Texas, in 2009, and a majority of the stories were written over his many months of recovery. The result is a powerful and triumphant book that tackles common themes of existence and identity and describes the American experience in a raw, authentic vernacular unique to Gilb.

These ten stories take readers through the American Southwest, from Los Angeles and Albuquerque to El Paso and Austin. Gilb covers territory touched on in some of his earlier work—a mother and son’s relationship in Southern California in the story “Uncle Rock,” and a character looking to shed his mixed-up past in “The Last Time I Saw Junior”—while dealing with the themes of mortality and limitation that have arose during his own illness. The collection’s most personal story, “please, thank you,” focuses on a man who has been hospitalized with a stroke, and paints in detail the protagonist’s relationship with his children and the nurses who care for him. The final story, “Hacia Teotitlán,” looks at a man, now old, returning to Mexico and considering his life and imminent death.

Short stories are the perfect medium for Gilb, an accomplished storyteller whose debut collection, The Magic of Blood, won the prestigious PEN/ Hemingway Foundation Award for fiction in 1994. Before the End, After the Beginning proves that Gilb has lost none of his gifts, and that this may be his most extraordinary achievement to date.

[Publishers Weekly]

PEN/Hemingway Award–winner Gilb’s 10 new tales, many written as the author recovered from a 2009 stroke, take on family ties, poverty, labor, and prejudice at the country’s borders, but defy racial and geographic boundaries even when they provide the principal conflict. In “Hacia Teotitlán,” a Mexican immigrant raised in L.A. struggles to resolve his dual identity; “Uncle Rock” finds an Americanized child trying to bond with his mother’s culturally naïve boyfriend. Financial divisions abound, as in “Willows Village,” where the shiftless Guillermo visits a wealthy relation, and the wonderful “Cheap,” the prescience of whose subjects—immigration policy and underpaid laborers—is rivaled only by the explicit address of Arizona’s immigration crackdown in “To Document.” And yet the most affecting story may be “please, thank you” for its depiction of a proud man recovering from a stroke and working his way back into language, as Gilb himself was forced to do. This new collection (after The Flowers) demonstrates that the author has more power than ever in addressing the conditions and contradictions of being split across cultures, and reminds us that every American, native or immigrant, is the product of a society that must learn to share or risk losing its founding graces.

From This Wicked Patch of Dust
Sergio Troncoso
University of Arizona Press - September, 2011

[from the publisher]

In the border shantytown of Ysleta, Mexican immigrants Pilar and Cuauhtémoc Martínez strive to teach their four children to forsake the drugs and gangs of their neighborhood. The family’s hardscrabble

origins are just the beginning of this sweeping new novel from Sergio Troncoso.

Spanning four decades, this is a story of a family’s struggle to become American and yet not be pulled apart by a maelstrom of cultural forces. As a young adult, daughter Julieta is disenchanted with Catholicism and converts to Islam. Youngest son Ismael, always the bookworm, is accepted to Harvard but feels out of place in the Northeast where he meets and marries a Jewish woman. The other boys—Marcos and Francisco—toil in their father’s old apartment buildings, serving as the cheap labor to fuel the family’s rise to the middle class. Over time, Francisco isolates himself in El Paso while Marcos eventually leaves to become a teacher, but then returns, struggling with a deep bitterness about his work and marriage. Through it all, Pilar clings to the idea of her family and tries to hold it together as her husband’s health begins to fail.

This backdrop is then shaken to its core by the historic events of 2001 in New York City. The aftermath sends shockwaves through this newly American family. Bitter conflicts erupt between siblings and the physical and cultural spaces between them threaten to tear them apart. Will their shared history and once-common dreams be enough to hold together a family from Ysleta, this wicked patch of dust?


One reads From This Wicked patch of Dust and can only pause for a moment to say, ‘Yes.’ Sergio Troncoso writes with inevitable grace and mounting power. Family, in all its baffling wonder, comes alive on these pages.

—Luis Urrea, author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays
Sergio Troncoso
Arte Público Press - September, 2011

"On good days I feel I am a bridge. On bad days I just feel alone,” Sergio Troncoso writes in this riveting collection of sixteen personal essays in which he seeks to connect the humanity of his Mexican family to people he meets on the East Coast, including his wife’s Jewish kin. Raised in a home steps from the Mexican border in El Paso, Texas, Troncoso crossed what seemed an even more imposing border when he left home to attend Harvard College.

Initially, “outsider status” was thrust upon him; later, he adopted it willingly, writing about the Southwest and Chicanos in an effort to communicate who he was and where he came from to those unfamiliar with his childhood world. He wrote to maintain his ties to his parents and his abuelita, and to fight against the elitism he experienced at an Ivy League school. “I was torn,” he writes, “between the people I loved at home and the ideas I devoured away from home.”

Troncoso writes to preserve his connections to the past, but he puts pen to paper just as much for the future. In his three-part essay entitled “Letter to My Young Sons,” he documents the terror of his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis and the ups and downs of her surgery and treatment. Other essays convey the joys and frustrations of fatherhood, his uneasy relationship with his elderly father and the impact his wife’s Jewish heritage and religion have on his Mexican-American identity.

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays reveals a writer, father and husband who has crossed linguistic, cultural and intellectual borders to provoke debate about contemporary Mexican-American identity. Challenging assumptions about literature, the role of writers in America, fatherhood and family, these essays bridge the chasm between the poverty of the border region and the highest echelons of success in America. Troncoso writes with the deepest faith in humanity about sacrifice, commitment and honesty


"Touching and intelligent, this book shows what it's like growing up an intellectual on the border of the US and Mexico. It's often painful, often funny, but always precise in expressing how rich and challenging life can be, how sometimes moving away from home can bring you even closer to your family and heritage." --Daniel Chacon, author of And the shadows took him and Unending Rooms.

"Sergio Troncoso takes us on his journey from El Paso to New York, from child to husband, and student to father....and it is worth our while to witness this journey from native son to the bloody birth of a public intellectual." ---Kathleen Alcala, author of The Desert Remembers My Name.

New TV

The award-winning documentary Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice, about the trailblazing jurist who was the first Latino appointed to the California Supreme Court, will be broadcast on public television during 2011 Hispanic Heritage Month, Sept. 15-Oct. 15, 2011. (For a complete listing of airdates and stations, please visit

During his extraordinary life, Cruz Reynoso has been one of those rare individuals who not only were shaped by history but made history. As the child of migrant farm workers, Reynoso understood injustice and as a lawyer, judge and teacher, he has fought to eradicate discrimination and inequality. Cruz Reynoso: Sowing the Seeds of Justice was produced and directed by award-winning director Abby Ginzberg. It is narrated by Luis Valdez; Ray Telles (The Storm that Swept Mexico) served as Consulting Producer. The one-hour film was funded by Latino Public Broadcasting and the California Council for the Humanities.

Born into a large Mexican-American farm worker family, Cruz Reynoso struggled to earn an education; he graduated from Pomona College and then received a law degree from UC Berkeley in 1958, where he was the only Latino in his class. In a career marked by a number of firsts, he was the first Latino director of California Rural Legal Assistance (CRLA), which provided legal aid to California’s rural poor during the early days of Cesar Chavez’s farm worker movement. As the film chronicles, the CRLA came under fire from then Governor Ronald Reagan, who saw the CRLA’s efforts as counter to the interests of his agribusiness supporters.

Reynoso was also one of the first Latino law professors in the country, beginning his academic career at the University of New Mexico Law School. He next became the first Latino justice on the California Supreme Court, appointed by then Governor Jerry Brown. Later, as Vice-Chair of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, he provided leadership in the only investigation of the voting rights abuses which disenfranchised thousands of Florida voters in the 2000 election. He received the country’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, from President Bill Clinton for his lifelong devotion to public service. Today at 80, he continues to teach law at UC Davis Law School and actively participate in community organizations throughout the state of California.

About the Filmmakers

Abby Ginzberg (Producer/Director)

Abby Ginzberg has been producing and directing award-winning documentary films since 1983. Her work has focused on character-driven stories, racial and gender discrimination and social justice issues, and has been shown in film festivals and broadcast on public television networks nationally and internationally. Her previous film about another trailblazing jurist, Soul of Justice: Thelton Henderson’s American Journey earned several awards and was featured at film festivals around the country and broadcast on public television Thelton Henderson has been the judge responsible for the reform of medical care for those incarcerated in California's maximum security prisons. Ginzberg has won numerous awards for her work including five CINE Golden Eagles, two Silver Gavels and in 2008 she was selected as a Gerbode Foundation Fellow.

Ray Telles (Consulting Producer)

Ray Telles recently produced The Storm that Swept Mexico, a two-hour documentary about the history of the Mexican Revolution, which aired nationally on PBS. Telles is a veteran producer of many award-winning programs including The Fight in the Fields, the biography of Cesar Chavez; Inside the Body Trade; Children of the Night (Frontline) and Race is the Place. He has been a producer and director for NBC’s Dateline, ABC’s Turning Point and Nightline, PBS and Univision. Telles has won numerous awards including three Emmy Awards, the DuPont-Columbia Gold Baton and two PBS Programming Awards for News and Current Affairs.

New Performance Art


MacArthur Fellow and Border Brujo Guillermo Gomez Pena

La Pocha Nostra and Richard Montoya Culture Clash in a mano a mano collaboration.

A once in a lifetime opportunity to see two titans of Chicano performance face off.

Los Dopplegangers is a smart, funny, satirical and incisive commentary that delves into topics such as the rampant violence taking place in Mexico and the concurrent anti-immigration hysteria in the United States.

Expect a "dual exploration of their collective trans-border despair...humor, satire, intelligence, a jalapeño uzi and a chain saw will be weapons of choice, to name just a few".

Museo de las Americas y SU TEATRO presentan.....


Su Teatro @ The Denver Civic Theater
721 Santa Fe Dr.
Denver, Colorado 80204
7:30 p.m.
$20 gen. $17 stu/sen
COMADRES! $12/ 12 or more
Special pricing for groups of 20 or more

New Take On An Old Enemy - COINTELPRO

COINTELPRO 101 is the title of the one-hour film to be shown in conjunction with a panel discussion on Saturday, September 10, 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., at the nonprofit El Centro Su Teatro located at 721 Santa Fe Drive in Denver. Panelists will be longtime Chicano activists Ricardo Romero, Priscilla Falcon and Francisco “Kiko” Martinez. The film will introduce viewers to the basics of understanding the history of COINTELPRO (acronym for Counter Intelligence Program), the formal program of the FBI and a more general war by U.S. Government agencies to target activists deemed “subversive” by the government. At one time, mainstream groups like NAACP and nonviolent activists like Martin Luther King were targets of COINTELPRO. The history is told in the film by several activists (Kathleen Cleaver and others) who experienced COINTELPRO firsthand. The film’s intended audiences are people who did not experience the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s. COINTELPRO may not be a well-understood acronym, but its meaning is central to understanding the U.S. Government’s repression against people working for social change. COINTELPRO was – and still is – an orchestrated effort by governmental departments (local, state, federal) engaged in spying and related activities within the U.S. Compared to 1970 when the COINTELPRO budget was $6 billion, funding for COINTELPRO type programs grew to $75 billion in 2010. Admission to the September 10th public event is $7.00 per person.



Unknown said...

These look like great reads, thanks for the recommendations.
A question for you: When are your books going to available on Kindle?

Manuel Ramos said...

Thanks for asking about my books. King of the Chicanos is available now on Kindle and Nook. The others not yet. Maybe one day. I am working on my own collection of my published short stories, which I will eventually publish as an e-book for Kindle and Nook. But other projects get in the way of wrapping up the short stories, like finishing off my next novel (I'm very close.)