Friday, September 23, 2011

Review - Crossing Borders: Personal Essays / Events & Literary Prizes

Crossing Borders

Book Review by Manuel RamosLink

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

Although the noted sportswriter Red Smith got it wrong about Muhammad Ali, he was right on when he said that writing is easy: "All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open a vein." Ernest Hemingway put it this way: "I have to write to be happy, whether I get paid for it or not. But it is a hell of a disease to be born with. I like to do it. Which is even worse. That makes it from a disease to a vice."

Sergio Troncoso, author of the acclaimed The Last Tortilla and Other Stories (winner of the Premio Aztlán), The Nature of Truth, and his most recent novel, This Wicked Patch of Dust, embodies both Smith's and Hemingway's brutal yet romantic views of the writer. Want proof? Pick up a copy of Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, Troncoso's latest.

We live in a complex time. Troncoso is a complicated man trying to understand a complicated world. In his quest for understanding, he eloquently shares lessons learned in sixteen provocative essays.

Troncoso delivers on the promise of the title of his book. These very personal essays cross several borders: cultural, historical, and self-imposed.

For example, he contemplates writer's block in A Day Without Ideas and compares it to a death-like existence where nothing matters and he will "simply be there."

In a painful letter to his sons detailing their mother's struggle with breast cancer, Troncoso the writer reveals his true identity as Troncoso the frightened, caring, and strong father.

He takes on the 9/11 attackers (Terror and Humanity) not with hatred or revenge but with a plea for basic humanity. "To be human is to engage with, to care about. To be human is to love another. To be human is to communicate with someone, even if you are only shouting at them. The most human of all is discourse. With nature. With other human beings."

He writes, with some anxiety and plenty of honesty (Fresh Challah), about major contradictions he has embraced – he is a Chicano from El Paso, educated at Harvard, attracted to Judaism, and now living the intellectual life in New York. The careful reader picks up on Troncoso's exuberance for his situation even though he documents despair and uncertainty. The writer deals with the consequence of his choices and, as Hemingway predicted, he likes it so much it has become a vice.

Troncoso also embraces his Latino identity and what it means to claim that identity. He enlightens about racial politics, bicultural anomie, and the "irrational fears of non-Latinos to the growing Latino community." However, his most moving words are about his beloved and feared abuelita, the grandmother who, even "if her dark brown eyes were downcast and weary … was poised for a fight." Here is Troncoso on his tough love relationship with his grandmother:

"I wanted to ensure she did not have a hard life anymore; I wanted her to enjoy an elusive peace in her soul. Most of all, I wanted her steely optimism never to be crushed by evil. She had always been tough, and she also knew how to hurt her toughest grandchild, the one with such a sharp tongue. So we understood each other only too well."

Although many of the essays were written years ago, the collection remains timely. We owe it to ourselves to read, savor, and read them again.

This review first appeared in the El Paso Times.

Sergio Troncoso will appear at the following events in support of his latest books, Crossing Borders and From This Wicked Patch of Dust.

September 23, 2011, 2 PM---San Elizario High School, 13981 Socorro Road, San Elizario, TX.

September 23, 2011, 4-6 PM---The Bookery, 10167 Socorro Road (just past the Socorro Mission), Socorro, TX.

September 24, 2011---El Paso Community College, Annual Literary Fiesta, El Paso, TX.

Enrique's Journey - Su Teatro

Su Teatro is excited, honored and pleased to be opening our 40th Anniversary Season (and second year as owners of the Denver Civic Theater) with the world premiere theatrical adaptation of Sonia Nazario's Pulitzer Prize winning journalistic work, Enrique's Journey.

Enrique's Journey depicts the unforgettable odyssey of a Honduran boy who braves unimaginable hardship and peril to reach his mother in the United States. Enrique pushes forward using his wit, courage, and hope-and the kindness of strangers. It is an epic journey, one thousands of immigrant children make each year to find their mothers in the United States.

This production is significant. We are proud to tell a a story that you made possible with your support. It is an essential story for our time. We hope you will join us. But just as fervently, we hope you will help us to get the word out!

Theatrical adaptation and direction by Anthony J. Garcia

Oct. 13-30 TH. FRI. and SAT. 7:30 p.m. Matinee Sun. Oct. 30 3 p.m. $20 gen. $17 stu/sen -
COMADRES! 12 tix $12 a piece 2-4-1 THURS. off of general admission tix - when you ask for discount and order tix in advance.

Su Teatro @ The Denver Civic Theater 721 Santa Fe Dr. Denver, CO 80216 303-296-0219

Writer Thelma Reyna shares her poetry and prose at Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse in La Canada

Sunday, October 2, 3 – 5 P.M.
Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse hosts a reading for writer and Pasadena resident Thelma T. Reyna. The noted author shares selections from her recent book of poetry Breath & Bone and The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories. This event is held to coincide with Latino Heritage Month, a celebration of the contribution made to American life by the Hispanic community.

Breath & Bone , Reyna’s first poetry chapbook, was a Semi-Finalist in the 2010 National Poetry Chapbook Competition by Finishing Line Press. The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories received four national honors: National 2010 “Best Books” Award (USA Book News), Finalist, Short Story Fiction; 2011 Eric Hoffer Award, Honorable Mention, General Fiction; The Montaigne Medal 2011, Finalist; and 2011 National Indie Excellence Book Award, Finalist, Multicultural Fiction. Dr. Reyna’s stories, poems, essays, book reviews, and other nonfiction have been published in literary and academic journals, textbooks, anthologies, blogs, and in regional media for over 30 years. She writes the blogs “American Latina/o Writers Todayand “The Literary Self.” She is also a monthly guest blogger on “Powerful Latinas.”

For more information, call (818) 790-0717. Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse is located at 1010 Foothill Blvd., La Canada Flintridge CA 91011, at the intersection of Foothill Blvd. and the Angeles Crest Highway. Take the Angeles Crest exit off the 210, turn south, make a right onto Foothill Blvd., and turn left onto Chevy Chase. Parking is in the rear of the store.

A Night of Music and Latino/a Poetry

Hispanic Heritage Month Presents: A Night of Music and Latino/a Poetry Featuring Maria Melendez, Juliana Aragón Fatula, Juan J. Morales, & the music of Dr. Derek Lopez

Wednesday, October 5, 6:30 PM, Crestone Hall, Colorado State University, Pueblo, CO.

United Voices
click on the image for details and information


$1000 and publication by University of Notre Dame Press will be given to support a first book by a Latino/a poet. Francisco X. Alarcón will judge. Upon publication of the book, the winning poet will receive an invitation to read with the final judge at Notre Dame. Submit two copies of a manuscript of at least 50 pages by JANUARY 15, 2012. Visit the website for complete guidelines. There is no entry fee.

Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize
Institute for Latino Studies
230 McKenna Hall
Notre Dame, IN 45666
Francisco Aragón, prize coordinator


$1000 and publication by Red Hen Press will be given to support a second or third book by a Latino/a poet. Orlando Ricardo Menes will judge. Upon publication of the book, the winning poet will receive an invitation to give a reading in Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York, as well as a two-week residency at the Ragdale Foundation. In addition, a modest travel fund will be established by Letras Latinas, the literary program of the Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame, to assist with further promotion of the winning book. Submit two copies of a manuscript of at least 50 pages by January 15, 2012. Visit the website for guidelines.There is no entry fee.

Letras Latinas/Red Hen Poetry Prize
Institute for Latino Studies
230 McKenna Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556
Francisco Aragón, prize coordinator


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