Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Show me your INK. Banned books update. On-Line Floricanto in waxing October

Review: Sabrina Vourvoulias. Ink. Somerville MA: Crossed Genres Publications, 2012.
ISBN-13: 978-0615657813 ISBN-10: 0615657818

Michael Sedano

In my neck of the woods, Pasadena Califas, birder excitement flies high with recent sightings of the rara avis, Least Bell’s Vireo. I’m a birder, and I’m excited at the prospect of renting a long lens and traipsing out to the wash next door to JPL to expose a few frames of this endangered species.

But that’s not what I’m most excited about right now. It’s the growing population of Chicana Chicano speculative fiction finding its way to bookstores and downloads.

Not that raza literature hasn’t long contained fantasy and out-of-this-world elements—think of the dead baby in Ana Castillo’s So Far From God who flies out of her coffin up to the rafters. Then there’s “magic realism,” a term some exogenous critic planted upon stuff the critic couldn't tolerate or didn't fully understand. Such writing bears no dissonance for raza writers and readers, whose tolerance for  fantastic experience results from  quotidian cultural experience, e.g. DDLM, Juan Diego and la Virgen, el cucuy.

Per some critics, "magic realism" is a worldwide movement. Yet, it’s still possible that one’s life-list of Chicana Chicano speclit sightings can include every specimen of the genre. Which is changing: the growth of Chicana Chicano speculative fiction / science fiction / fantasy / horror is as exciting news as spotting a tree full of Least Bell’s Vireo.

Books, unlike birds, don’t end up extinct, glass-eyed and stuffed behind plexi in some dusty museo display case. Books can be resurrected. For example, Bloguero Ernest Hogan--among the earliest practitioners of the art—recently began recasting his rare titles into eBook forms, as he’s recounted in his La Bloga Chicanonautica columns.

And slowly but inexorably, new titles are finding their way through publisher back rooms into the light of day. A few years ago, now-defunct publisher Calaca Press advanced the puro sci-fi Lunar Braceros on the Moon 2125-2148. In addition to Hogan, Blogueros Daniel Olivas and Rudy Garcia, are doing their part to keep spec alive. There’s Olivas’ gem, Devil Tales, and Garcia’s currently touring  novel Closet of Discarded Dreams.

The most recent newcomer to the speclit ranks is Sabrina Vourvoulias with an edge-of-your-seat dystopic novel, Ink.

In a tea bagger fantasy world, raza and immigrants from America, Asia, Caribe, Africa, wind up on the losing end of a U.S. civil war that cleaved the democracy into castes of citizens, non-citizen aliens, and “inks.”

Inks wear tattoos branding their country of origin and status, and have chips implanted in their necks to facilitate GPS tracking. “Show me your wrist” has replaced “show me your papers.”

But such profound measures hardly satisfy the most avid baggers. Gangs of crackers roam the streets, kidnapping inks to deport them into Mexico, with a wink from law and ordure.

A great story aside, the key to a successful speculative piece is linking the unknown to the known, constructing the fiction over a framework of actuality. For Vourvoulias this means a world where street gangs have gone corporate; where wingnuts control government but not the hearts and minds of all the gente; where private prisons run rampant; where technology is boon and bane and Ink-detecting devices are as widely available as iPods.

The odds stack heavily against them, but Inks fight back, supported by gente decente like Maryknoll priests, youths, congregants, artists, and artificial skin. The conflict driving the novel will fill readers with dismay, seeing parallels between what has already taken place—Japanese locked in concentration camps, narcos controlling swaths of territory in Mexico, rednecks with power—and the novel’s permutations of today’s ugly commonplaces.

In Vourvoulias' most delighting turn, she gives her Inks nahuales: panther, jaguar, bee spirits, or evil dwarves. These spirits jump in and out their dimension to comfort, rescue, or attack, their endangered Ink. With this dual dimensions set-up, the author develops her agon in suspenseful parallels between the bleeding dystopia and the engaged dimension of spirits.

The author skillfully avoids nagual-ex-machina devices except when absolutely required. The presence of one’s nahual isn’t enough to prevent a rape, nor save some souls. Vourvoulias is not reluctant to brutalize or kill her characters, nor subject them to unspeakable torture at the hands of depraved racists. But I repeat myself.

The United States has devolved into a living Hell for decent folk, and all Inks. Readers who allow themselves to be drawn into the fantasy will find Sabrina Vourvoulias’ story both depressing and constantly arresting, enjoying several surprises along the route. In the end comes an inkling of hopefulness for disbanding the tea bagger hold on liberty, but that’s not certain. Vourvoulias won’t let you off that easy.

The publisher distributes a book book and an electronic one. Whichever a reader elects, Ink’s compelling story drives itself effortlessly, and a reader likely will devour it within a day or two. Ink is fun, and scary as can be. Of course, that's the point of speculative fiction. Can it happen here? A little birdy tells me the known of this novel offers compelling evidence that Ink’s world certainly could, and as current events illustrate, that world is lumbering toward Washington DC to be born.

Banned Books Update

The books are still banned. Tucson's school board gave a vote of confidence to the jefe in charge of banning books, along with a nice salary increase. SB 1070's "show me your papers" got a court go-ahead. Joe Arpaio's re-election campaign advances toward victory.

It's ugly out there. Vote like your freedom depends on it.

La Bloga On-Line Floricanto Two Ten Twelve
Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Maurisa Thompson, Kris Barney, Devreaux Baker, Jabez W. Churchill

“Occupied America” by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
“We Did Not Build Pyramids with Words that Feared Our Skin” by Maurisa Thompson
“What Will It Take?” by Kris Barney
“Recipe for Peace” by Devreaux Baker
“El Procesional” por Jabez W. Churchill
“Processional” by Jabez W. Churchill

Occupied America
by Odilia Galván Rodríguez

so occupied
are they
in their heads
stuck in screens
smart phones
the iOnly CU
online society
who'd rather text
their talking fingers
flying swiftly
over keyboards
to communicate
into the ether
O occupied America
so sick of who's at war
with whom
or don't care and
what new doom will
the yarn spinners spin
what Hollywood or TV
drama will they foist
on the eye glued
masses today
will they cower
in fear then
proudly wave
their death flag
even higher
who will win
the next elections
with Corporations
as people
can we can leave
the driving to them
after all don't cha know
the One Percent
has it rigged
with new fangled
voter fraud schemes
the old ones too
like show me your papers
to vote
while the dead still
rise from their graves
every four years to
pull the lever
at the voting box
automatons speak
the great computers
calculating the numbers
in the chosen ones favor
who will it be
you ask
as if there
were really a choice
lift your voice
in a different way
take to the streets
and yell your stories
no matter how dumb
you think it is
leave your smart phone
at home

Copyright 2012 Odilia Galván Rodríguez

We Did Not Build Pyramids with Words that Feared Our Skin
by Maurisa Thompson

We did not build pyramids with words that feared our skin
We did not bear entire nations ashamed of the cadence of our hips

the white parent in us
so many ways absent
your father left your mother nursing
you with stories she spoke in Spanish
middle passages coast island migrations
arms of earth always around you
you carried them in this country
talismans on your full lips

my mother’s subconscious praises
for baby blue blue eyes
a classmate’s complexion
all lovely pale and flushed
willowed legs slender thighs
her own hands mute awkward
they were scarred by a lifetime
of dick and jane and sameness
she struggled to hold my difference
in any form of embrace

I could not begin to say these things
until you gave me words beyond
textbooks beyond negro y blanco
eased the secret knot open
trigueña—color of wheat
beneath the nightfall of your hair
morenasa—first word that loved me
beautiful dark woman
the sound rippling gently through
the letters of my own name

what language still throbs
within our mingled bloods
Nele muu ina Oju inun ashe
come we must find and weave it
tuck its medicine in our pockets
I seek each time I glimpse
lightning behind my closed eyes

after years in this body
I know at least the beginning

We did not bear entire nations ashamed of the cadence of our hips
We did not build pyramids with words that feared our skin

Copyright 2012 Maurisa Thompson

What Will It Take?
by Kris Barney

i burn cedar tonight
and lightning flickers all around the house
thunder booms and rumbles and
i think of yei dancers whose
voices and rattles will sound on
a night like tonight
after the frost melts into the earth
after all vegetation dies back and
aspens and cottonwoods turn yellow
Cedar smoke circles my body as
i rub the smoke on my heart with an eagle feather
as i watch every movement of
smoke wash over my face and my hands and
the fleeting moments that
burn and fade like
ponderosa logs on the fire and
i am tired of praying
i want something more to happen
i want my people to find the strength
inside them to do something
to address or to protect or to
regain honor in my eyes
i want to send a call to every warrior
every man or woman who loves
his/her homeland
his/her family and
how tough can it be to say enough is enough?
how hard is it to stand strong in unity?
how hard is it to stand up
to speak up
to have courage?
or are we just too ill with colonial post trauma and
images of failed attempts to defend and resist?
do we give up or do we just endure
long enough to become another
commodity for corporate disposal?
So my people medicate themselves
be it NAC pills Marijuana Reds Whites and Blues or
wine bottles smashed against windshields and skulls
the webbed nets of disease and dysfunction
dreams bred out of anarchy and alchemy and
this song that runs wild in the purple red neon
as the blood hits the wind and
eyes are the doorways and
i lick i look
i fool myself with your smile and
the beads of sweat that collects down the curves
of your body as i kiss you into the night
and the constellations are the only ones
who hear our voices and white puffs of breath like
dancers painted white dancing by moon star and
firelight and
i hold you closer and breathe in your smell as
suns rise and set and
i hear the hoof beat of horses and
i can taste the rain in my sleep and
rivers running across the desert and
mountains where the deer stop to watch
our passing and hawks circle into
the red iris of the sun
and i walked
and i ran
and i asked questions to the clouds and
rain confirmed in recognition
in voices as old as the ocean and
i drank from water clear and cold
glacier melt water and ice cold streams that
mourn for salmon and
the men and women who weep
my brothers and sisters who weep
our children who weep for parents who are too
traumatized by colonial gods and demons and
rumors of eternity
Our elders weep
silently in nursing homes or
prisons and mourn for the
beauty of their youth or
for relatives long dead
the stories that cannot
be translated into English
stories images and
memories hidden in the blood
on every highway
in America
on every street downtown every city
on every metro train that connects
above to below
on every dirt road where children
board buses or airplanes and die for
wars created by the
wealth and gluttony of greed and
ones who suck the life
out of every living system of life
and i hear the wailing of rivers
whole rainforests and indigenous tribal relatives
fighting death and dams with arrows and spears
and all the marked and unmarked graves
unearthed by stripmine shovels and those who
rob the dead
gold robbers
coal robbers
bone collectors
those who sell trade and barter whole
corpses and the bone fragments
that line museum walls or
spark intelligent and curious
conversations at dinner tables
conversations that
give rise to festive occasions and
celebrations of the
opening of another new strip mall
another ski resort
another oil rig
another mountaintop stripmine
another copper mine
another diamond mine
another uranium mine
another mine where they
mine and drain the blood out of
the bodies of babies and aquifers and
the dust and smoke of charred human remains
settle after wars for natural resources have claimed
another hundred thousand or half million to million
civilian causalities
the lives of the innocent cemented to the lenses of
journalists and scenes that the media
only wants you to see and voices
crushed like how they crushed infant
skulls on the sides of kivas or pit houses or
hogans or long house walls
the blood always runs cleaner on the other side
so they say in the written history in every
colonial country
where the guilt of massacres and genocide
is weighed and bought
by stock market trends and
designer shoes and bleached blonde images
emulated by every modern Native out there
who's impressed by the illusions of the
american dreams and promises of prosperity
those of my people who would sell more
than their souls just
to get him/her a piece of the action
and the blood of the
innocent continues to run when
you are able to deceive those who
dare not think for themselves or think
intellectually and really put it all out there
for the world to see but
even then
images are not enough in today's america
images have not enough value or intrinsic value and
what price can really be put on
clean air
clean water
healthy soil
healthy children/descendants?
and here i look at the
black silhouette of the mountain
behind my house
i am immersed in the
melodies of this wind and
i think of life
all the lives of this earth
all the millions of ancestors and relatives
all the lives of animals
genetically generically modified plant life
the sterilizations
the mass murders
the modern mass global extinctions
the crimes against humanity
the crimes against creation
the crimes and murders against
every living thing
every living breathing entity and
yet my people do nothing
but make excuses and
tell me to pray more or
to be more humble
or tell me to come into the fold of their religions or
to go into some deep part of the world and
find something to distract myself from
the horrors of reality
the wombs of creation and
i wonder
i stop
i sometimes listen
i watch
i look to clouds and wind for inspiration and
i dare to question and i have yet to ask of
them for help
for assistance
i have yet to crank things up a notch
i have yet to lay it all out on the line
i have yet to make things happen and
so i burn cedar tonight
i think of all my loved ones
i think of the recently deceased
i think of all the animals
i think of all my people and relatives
i will not pray for you all
a part of me is tired of praying
of going through the motions of prayer and song
i am tired
i have walked but i have not walked far enough
i have prayed
my feet have bled
my heart has been broken
my body is beaten but my spirit
remains intact
i have no song to sing
no offering stronger than my
own blood to give
i walk now
surrounded by clouds
dark blue and deep purple and
a silver blue moon and this rain which
washes over my skin and i
sit on this hill and i watch the lightning far off
i watch it twist and bend and
the thunder booms in a voice
i have known all my life and
i have no tobacco
no corn pollen
no eagle plumes
no words to comfort me here and now
but only my two hands my two feet and
the scent of cedar smoke close to my chest
and this road of possibility
this lightning that
my eyes....

Copyright 2012 Kris Barney

Recipe for Peace
by Devreaux Baker

Bare your feet
roll up your sleeves
oil the immigrant's bowl
open the doors and windows of your house
invite in the neighbors
invite in strangers off the street
roll out the dough
add spices for a good life
cardamon and soul
cumin and tears
sesame and sorrow
add a dash of salt
pink as new hope
add marjaram and thyme
rub lemon grass and holy basil
on your fingers and pat the dough
bless the table
bless the bread
bless your hands and feet
bless the neighbors and strangers off the street
bake the bread for a century or more
on moderate heat
under the olive trees in your back yard
or on the sun filled stones of Syria
in the white rocks of Beirut
or behind the walls of Jerusalem
in the mountains of Afghanistan
and in the sky scrapers of New York
Feast with all the migrant tongues
until your mouth understands
the taste of many different homes
and your belly is full
so you fall asleep cradled
in the skirts of the world
in the lap of peace.

Copyright 2012 Devreaux Baker

El Procesional
por Jabez W. Churchill

La llevo encima de la cruz
arriba de mis hombros,
botas negras y medias de red
hasta el pelo tenido de henna.
No se baja.
Ya estaba
cargando banderas,
fantoches vanos por las calles.
Ni puedo yo,
ídolo caído,
bajarla a abrazar.
carroza alegorica de uno,
penitente y su Maria Magdalena
por el camino.
Solo el rastro pasado del amor,
condones gastados a los pies,
promesa de noche sin luna,
mi Santa muda
a atestiguar.

Copyright 2012 Jabez W. Churchill

by Jabez W. Churchill

I carry her upon a cross
above my shoulders,
black boots and fishnet stockings
up to her dyed henna hair.
She will not come down.
Already been there,
carrying banners,
vain caricatures along the streets.
Nor can I,
a fallen idol,
put her down.
We carry on,
allegory of one,
a penitent and his Mary Magdalene,
upon the highway.
Only the faded scent of love,
used condoms at my feet,
promise of a moonless sky,
my Guardian Angel, silent,
to testify.

Copyright 2012 Jabez W. Churchill


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 original 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 through Red Earth Productions & Cultural Work 510-343-3693.

Maurisa Thompson was born and raised in San Francisco, where she began writing poetry with her spelling words in 4th grade. She graduated from Swarthmore College, where she studied creative writing, and UC Berkeley, where she earned her M.A. in Education. She is a former student-teacher-poet of June Jordan's Poetry for the People, where she learned that "poetry means taking control of the language of your life," and that poetry can create what Jordan called "the beloved community," in which people from different backgrounds can come together and learn from one another while healing and addressing injustice. She currently works as a literacy teacher in San Francisco, and as as an editorial assistant for the Black Scholar: Journal of Black Studies and Research and the Black Scholar Press. She is member of Librotraficante BayArea Califas, a local chapter of a national movement of poets and writers raising awareness of the Ethnic Studies ban in Arizona through public readings and activism around the banned books. Her published poems can be found in The Pedestal Magazine and Caxixi: International Capoeira Angola Foundation Newsletter.

Devreaux Baker has published three books of poetry. Her most recent, Red Willow People, was awarded a 2011 PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Award. She is the recipient of a 2012 Hawaii Council on Humanities International Poetry Award and a 2012 Women's Global Leadership Initiative Poetry Award. Her poetry has been widely published in literary journals including most recently; ZYZZYVA, Borderlands Texas Poetry Review, La Bloga, Crab Orchard Review, New Millenium Writing, Albatross, Mas Tequila Review, Liberty’s Vigil: The Occupy Anthology 99 Poets among the 99%, and Occupy SF Poems from the movement.


Anonymous said...

Re your comment: "What I’m most excited about right now is the growing population of Chicana Chicano speculative fiction."
Bloguero novelist Ernest Hogan put it another way: " I hear rumors of an international Latino New Wave in speculative fiction."
Ink sounds like another Chicano nail in the coffin of Anglos' stranglehold on American spec lit. While we will yet write of El Cucui, we've begun injecting our Spanglo palabras, our Chicano characters and our Raza experience into mainstream spec lit. A ver qué va pasar.


Best of luck to Sabrina Vourvoulias with INK! It's time for the future to zigzag across the border.

Sabrina Vourvoulias said...

Thank you, Ernest and Rudy (and Em)!

Unidos en la lucha,