Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cucuy novel good Labor Day read. Libros Cartoneros. News. Banned Book Update. Final August On-Line Floricanto

Alisa Valdes Crafts Good Labor Day Read

Review: Alisa Valdes. The Temptation. NY: Harper Teen, 2012.
ISBN 0062024205 9780062024206

Michael Sedano

With school starting now, kids have put long hours into reading their way through summer reading assignments and need to cool their fried brains over the Labor Day holiday. Adult readers, too, may welcome something totally engaging yet effortless. In both cases, Alisa Valdes’ Young Adult supernatural thriller, The Temptation, fits the bill.

With a compelling story and authorial liberties, The Temptation is sure to raise hackles among fundamentalist sectarians who see the devil’s work in novels like The Temptation’s endorsement of belief in cucuys and restless spirits.

Valdes crafts the story to the young end of YA readership, kids who think of sex as a hot kiss with all your clothes on. If The Temptation were a motion picture it would be PG, for violence and agonizingly clean sex.

Adults will develop their willing suspension of astonishment, though I wonder if even kids will be willing to let Valdes get away with Shane’s instant acceptance of impossibilities. Near death from rolling her Beemer, under attack by vicious coyotes, a teenaged cowboy saves her, vanquishes the beasts, lays hands on the terminally injured girl, and her injuries vanish. And her little dog, too.

Travis, the dreamy cowboy, is a cucuy and has to follow spirit world rules.

Once readers get past niggling details like these and allow Valdes to set up her plot, The Temptation provides tons of fun: Interdimensional manifestations; out-of-body travel; souls trapped between heaven, hell, and purgatory; psychokinetic groping; the Beast.

Readers will have fun observing Valdes take on wildly wonderful romantically purple passages and tour de force nuggets of authorial ambitiousness. Describe what it’s like to die. Describe what music feels like, the colors an orchestra infuses into one’s existence. One or two tastes of stuff like that and I want Valdes to go for it a todo dar. She doesn’t disappoint, amply displaying what she’s got.

The thriller element grows from world-shakingly  high stakes. If Travis has intimate contact with Shane, he risks being vaporized down to hell.

He hotly wants to kiss Shane. She’s putty in his magic hands, “he squeezed my hand and a delicious heat coursed through me, to places no boy had ever touched before.” He also comes into her dreams and transports her through excursions in other dimensions.

Christian fundamentalists haven’t discovered the novel yet. Valdes’ novels attract crackpots who uncharitably trash the writer’s novels in opportunistic anonymity at places like Amazon. I suspect, given other liberties, Valdes is having fun imagining the outrage as she explains Travis’ powers in new testament terms about Jesus. And Shane and He want to hook up. Then there’s the matter that, after Victor slices her throat, Travis resurrects Shane.

The story has elements expected in YA fiction. Valdes hits her stride providing teen ambience. The crummy boyfriend, the BFF, caring mother, dud of a father, a breakup and revenge, and in this case, ambiguous redemption. The physician mother worries and meddles but does all the right things, including a touching moment of little girl comfort. When the father hears about the accident his first question is about the car. Dad gets the cachetada but for his part he forks over a Land Rover. La consentida is minimally grateful.

Kids will learn a few new words from the author while she sets up the rules of a kindred novel. In daylight, revenants like La Llorona, Travis and his horse, and a shape-shifting incubus like Victor, have somatic form. But they’re still dead.

With the passing of the light, these spirits become wisps of light. Whether an homage to Octavia Butler or just the author’s series hook, I’m not clear what “a Kindred novel” means but it’s the subtitle on the cover. Valdes leaves the couple hanging in limbo, so I’m hoping The Temptation earns a second volume in the series to see what Valdes can do with the kinks worked out.

The Temptation comes with a provocatively blank set of ethnic ideas. It’s a missed opportunity. The bad guy is raza, Victor Velarde, as is the deus-ex-fortune teller. Set in New Mexico, the preponderance of characters are rich anglos with names like Logan Shane Lindsey Kelsey. The kids attend an expensive private school that gives airs of the Ivy League, ooze money, and crash Beemers.

Valdes’ lead character, Shane, is probably half Mexican. Her mother is Dr. Romero but the girl’s classroom name is Miss Clark. For these people, ethnicity has grown irrelevant; they are matter-of-fact hispanas living in anglo society. Shane’s ready acceptance of the spirit world hearkens to la cultura and could help bolster the incredulity of the kindred’s first contact.

The publisher offers a sneak peak at the opening pages of The Temptation. Take a dip then think about that long Labor Day nothingness by the pool in the lingering hours of a lazy summer’s swansong and let yourself go.

On a Personal Note...

August 31 marks a 44th and 67th anniversary for me. The date marks my birth day in 1945 and my wedding in 1968.

Sixty-seven years ago, history says, General Patton fought his way to Leipzig, Germany to end WWII. In fact, that was my dad. He operated the .30 calibre machine gun on C'est la Guerre, the first US tank to fight its way to Leipzig City Hall. So there's my dad after Germany surrenders, still in Europe, awaiting orders to ship out to the Pacific. My impending birth adds enough "points" and he gets designated for return from overseas and discharge. Dad, qepd, always said I got him out of the Army.

Used to be, being married, teaching, and in school, kept one out of the Army; the Draft. Not in 1968. I wed on my birthday so I'd never forget my anniversary. I am a 23-year old grad student, working toward an MA slated for June, TA'ing in the Speech Depto and teaching two classes for a profe on leave of absence. A few weeks after the honeymoon, Richard Nixon orders me to report for induction, in time for Thanksgiving.

Ok, Ok, the draft board says, you can finish the quarter. November and December, as you might imagine, are tense for the newlyweds. I wrap up my classes and abandon my M.A.--who knew then if I'd be coming home, sabes? In January 1969 I become a soldier and come home again--back in the world the soldiers used to say--in August 1970.

My first wife and I celebrate these dual anniveraries with extra vigor, carpe diem, sabes? We'll laugh how panicked she was when I was told to "report for orders to Vietnam." She thought sure I'd get my ass killed. I'm willing. Instead, I do an incredible summer and winter atop a remote HAWK missile site in Korea, finishing off with half a year in Hq, running the battalion Information Office as the highest ranking Spec Four in the US Army.

Fourty-four years by the calendar, including that initial nineteen months in the service, hasn't been long enough, but it'll do until another one comes around.

Banned Books Update

Wherever you go in the United States of America, if local authorities want to ban books, no one's going to stop them. Not in Arizona, where state law requires Tucson Unified School District to ban courses and pull books off classroom shelves. TUSD complies enthusiastically, holding on to its ban with self-righteousness. And the rule of law.

Less than one month until a desegregation court issues a ruling that may reintroduce ethnic studies into TUSD's curriculum. Or it may not. As reported in last week's La Bloga Banned Books Update, the court's keeping a tight lid on its Special Master report until Friday, September 21, 2012.

And then, as my grandfather used to intone after prolonged discussions, a ver.

Libros Cartoneros By Poets

Sandra C. Muñoz. Free Metal Woman and other poems

Held together by brads and featuring pasted-down work, Free Metal Woman and other poems presents a grand collection of now-classic chicana humor and elegance.

Muñoz' Free Metal Woman remains as among the most side-splitting hilarious poems in the chicana chicano canon.

And effective. It's been years since I've seen a plethora of chrome silhouettes enslaved on some jerk's mud flaps or truck bed gate.

Sandra, Free Metal Woman worked, you have the magic. Now please write about banned books, ok? If TUSD students made their own poetry books, I'm sure TUSD would ban these books, too.

Olga García Echeverría, Lovely Little Creatures
Bloguera alumna Olga Garcia's handmade corrugated cardboard cover wraps Garcia's beautifully printed poems, assembled with photographs and saddle-stiched as Lovely Little Creatures.

The handcut inside cover adds a tactile note as well as a reminder of the labor that poets expend to create fabulous books like these.

Garcia designs the printed manuscript to be part of a numbered edition of 50.

Tatiana de la Tierra, Tierra.

Tatiana de la Tierra died recently, adding poignancy to this cartonera gem she fashioned.

The collection inside the gorgeous cover is Tierra 2010 poems, songs & a little blood from Chibcha Press, Long Beach.

News From the Presses

The Mas Tequila Review (TMTR) is a small press, bi-annual, independent poetry magazine publishing quality work by well known poets and many who should be.

The editor published The Tequila Review in the 1970s. The TMTR is a continuation of the editor's desire to contribute to his art by providing a platform to share "poetry for the rest of us" and highlight what he considers to be some of the most fresh and exciting poetry being written today.

Issue #5 contributors include Zach Nelson-Lopiccolo, Stewart Warren, Matthew Conley, Cathy Arellano, Virgil Suarez, Tanaya Winder, Hakim Bellamy, Margaret Randall, Stellasue Lee, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Andrea J. Serrano, ire'ne lara silva, Jane Lin, Marge Piercy, and editor Richard Vargas.

Details on the issue, submissions, supporting TMTR, fotos of  past festivities at TMTR's website here.

Huizache Taking Care of Business

La Bloga friend Conrad Romo emails his belief in the importance of Huizache, an arts journal going into its second issue. Romo continues, "There simply aren't enough platforms to nurture the Latina Latino voice. Huizache's founder, Dagoberto Gilb, is putting out a beautiful magazine that needs your support.

A note about Dagoberto, he has been published in the New Yorker magazine more than any other Mexican American, so it is a significant thing to have him at the helm.

 The second issue is going to be great. I'm not saying that Huizache can change the world. But, I'm not saying it can't.

Your support by way of an ad would go a long way towards endorsing the importance of the Latina  Latino voice. The debut issue won critical acclaim for its original cover art from César A. Martínez and praise for the poetry and prose included within its pages.

The second issue promises to be bigger and better. Its cover features art from famed Los Angeles artist Patssi Valdez and works from both new and established voices such as Naomi Shihab Nye, Luis Rodriguez.

Inquire at Huizache's website for details on submissions, buying an ad (deadline 8/31), or subscribing.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto Final Tuesday of August 2012
Pocho Luna, José Hernández Díaz, Jim Byron, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Lidia Renteria

The graduation reception teemed with mingling anglophones. The suits and elegant dresses towered above the short woman in an oft-washed housedress who struggled to emerge from invisibility among the giants. She grasped my arm and reached out with her eyes so I leaned down placing an ear close to her voice. “Nosotros no pertenecemos aquí.”

The moment came to recall as I read today’s lead-off poem by Pocho Luna, “Armando Has a Secret.”
En todas partes pertenecemos, I told the woman. Dream kids putting themselves through school with or without the military are just as good as all these people. We belong here.

"Armando Has a Secret" by Pocho Luna
"Mirror" by José Hernández Díaz
“Go Down Ye Border Gunman" by Jim Byron
"For A Rainy Day" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Para Mi Maestra" by Lidia Renteria

Armando Has a Secret
by Pocho Luna

Armando Guadalupe Perez looks askance
At his reflection poised handsome
Ties and unties a knot about his neck
Places a black-tasseled cap and smiles
Nervously as an older man’s furrowed-brow
In the fogged bathroom mirror hides
A secret beneath a smooth brown face
Mama’s chile verde cooking since dawn
Everything in the home marinates
Furniture, humid walls, the seasoned air
Including Armando creasing his pants
Over and over spraying starch obsessive
For the second third time until stark borders
Divide left from right like a knife
An iron’s hot steam swirling
With tomatillos, chile, cebolla
Amor y cilantro's deep smell
His black gown swims in pork’s simmering scent
A hint of mama’s sugared sweat in June
On the phone he hears her calling while she stirs
In a floral moo-moo Tios, Tias, Compas, Primos, Abuela
Even his Tio Rueben who went from Vato
To Pentecostal Preacher and waits to finish
Her homemade menudo every Sunday before
Yelling at mama as he wipes red menudo juice
From his fat jowls “You’re going to hell Socorro!”
Yes, even him she calls excited
Because her Mijo is graduating
Armando breathes deep
Wipes the sweat from his face
Sprays himself the third time with Old Spice
Trying to cover up his secret
The heavy scent of Chile Verde
The unspoken fear of undocumentation

by José Hernández Díaz

It is hard to gather the words
From the floor. The desert is too

Vast and poems are pain. We know
About the countless dead: The

Crucifixes, mute and torn. The
Mirror is an unmarked grave: A

Rock, a faith, a pillow case. The
Pen can never write the sun: The

Isolated rose, the dream. Our
Words will never raise the slain;

The desert is too vast and poems,
Our pain.

Go Down Ye Border Gunman
by Jim Byron

Go down ye border gunman, go down
Go down from your stilted wall
For the ones in the light
Of your sniping sight
Are not your enemies at all
Put down your rifle
Leave your bullets in the trunk
Because you would be your own enemy
The instant that rifle goes off

Go down ye border gunman, go down
Go down from your shooting cage
Go to the trench
Of the razor fence
And unlock the iron gate
Forget the killing orders
In the crooked codes of law
Look in the whites of the refugee’s eyes
And remember the soul that you saw

Yield ye immigrant jailer
Yield, let them pass, let them be
For you know in your spirit
You know you can feel it
You live in the land of the free
You live in the land of the free

Go down ye border gunman, go down
Bury your badge in the sand
For you know in your heart
You don’t want no part
In spilling the blood on the land
Wake up your sleeping conscience
Wake up to the call of the wind
When the rust goes to dust
The bricks and steel are gonna bust
And there ain’t no border to the wind
There ain’t no border to the wind

For A Rainy Day
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

in an old Bustelo coffee can
its bright yellow and red face
faded from years of abuse
she keeps the money
she says she's saving
for a rainy day
though most all her days
have been stormy
this special day will be one
where the rain comes up
on a groundswell of vapors
copper and adobe smelling
no dark rainclouds will move in
with their arms folded
across their chest
to stand menacing
for hours from the west
the way they usually do
before cracking open
spilling out their insides
all over south Texas ground
this day the rain
will swoop in so fast
sun won't have a choice
but to stay and witness
what with no clouds
to hide behind
in this surprise
attack downpour
she will make a break for it
grab the can
with its faint traces
of coffee dust and
her rainy day money
and hightail it
to the highway
smiling brighter
than that sun
she will flag down a car and
with one arm hugging
her coffee can
and the other carrying
a small overnight bag
she will accept a ride
when the driver asks
where you headed
all she will say is
any where but here

Para Mi Maestra
por Lidia Renteria

Dedicado a mi Maestra Elena

Gracias Maestra. Se me llenaron
los ojos de agua al leer su mensaje…
asi como me sucede cuando
escucho a mi mamá decirme algo
que me llega al corazón.

No sabe cuanto
le agradesco sus palabras.
Usted a sido mi protectora,
mi maestra y mi amiga
a través del tiempo.

Fueron sus palabras quienes retaron
a un sistema, que en ese tiempo
no queria incluir a una pequeña
de 5 años que no hablaba inglés
en todas sus lecciones.

Fueron sus palabras las que convencieron
a la maestra que me sentara adelante
con los otros alumos y que me permitiera
participar en todo.

Fueron las visitas que nos hicieron usted
y su agradable familia en aquella casita vieja
entre las huertas de manzana que me permitieron
la oportunidad de desarrollar el idioma
y de aprender sobre tantas cosas.

Su comprensión, sus palabras de aliento
y su apoyo constante se imprimieron
en mi mente y en mi camino.
Por eso, y por muchas razones mas...
siempre le estaré agradecida.

"Armando Has a Secret" by Pocho Luna
"Mirror" by José Hernández Díaz
“Go Down Ye Border Gunman" by Jim Byron
"For A Rainy Day" by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
"Para Mi Maestra" by Lidia Renteria

Pocho Luna grew up in Fresno, in a working class Chicano home. My father grew up in makeshift tent communities, picking crops up and down California in the 1950s and 1960s.

During the Mexican revolution my great grandfather, Jesus Luna, crossed the border from Chihuahua into El Paso, then on to Fresno. In 1920 Jesus built an adobe house on the outskirts of the city, it is still our family’s home and the center of our Mexican identity today. I desire to give voice to the experiences of my Chicano family who have gone before, whose spirits walk with me, who whisper in my ear and guide me.

Currently I am a PhD candidate in history at Stanford University. My research involves border issues, Latin American religion, the Cult of Saints in the Hispanic World, Immigration into the Southwest, and the Criminalization of Chicano culture."

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet/activist, writer and editor, has been involved in social justice organizing and helping people find their creative and spiritual voice for over two decades. Odilia is one of the founding members and a moderator of Poets Responding to SB 1070 on Facebook. She teaches creative writing workshops nationally, currently at Casa Latina, and also co-hosts, "Poetry Express" a weekly open mike with featured poets, in Berkeley, CA. For more information about workshops see her blog http://xhiuayotl.blogspot.com/ or contact her at Red Earth Productions & Cultural Work 510-343-3693.

Lidia Renteria is an educator who has committed her life to helping young children to succeed. Inspired by her elementary school teacher, Lidia chose a career that would change her life forever – teaching!

Lidia attended California State University Sacramento’s education program where she was able to obtain a multiple subject teaching credential with a Bilingual Cross-cultural Language and Academic Development Certificate and a Master of Arts degree in Multicultural Education.

Her 12 years of experience as a teacher, site support provider, team leader and supervisor of teachers led her to her current role of education programs consultant. Lidia has been responsible for implementing statewide legislation, monitoring academic achievement and assisting in the design of the state’s “Response to Intervention” model to ensure that children receive a high quality education with appropriate interventions as needed.

Throughout her journey, Lidia has been an advocate for English learners, children with special needs and low-income families.

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