Friday, November 09, 2012

Complimentary Takes on Arizona: Meeting Jeff Biggers at the Texas Book Festival

Melinda Palacio
Melinda Palacio and Jeff Biggers 

I had the pleasure of being on an immigration panel with Jeff Biggers at the Texas Book Festival last month. The panel, moderated by Erica Grieger of the Texas Monthly, felt more like conversation pulled in two different directions since I was representing the truth as fiction in Ocotillo Dreams, my novel on the INS sweeps of 1997 Chandler, Arizona, and Jeff Biggers was representing the stories that make up Arizona in his non-fiction book, State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream. Ultimately, both takes on Arizona, fiction and non-fiction, are about story. Of Jeff's Book, Luis Alberto Urrea writes:

"Jeff Biggers has the unblinking gaze of the honed journalist, a novelist's sense of image and story, and a prophet's cache of outrage. He stands in my very short list of American literary heroes. With State Out of the Union, Biggers shows us he can write anything-and do it well. His aim is true."

Erica Grieger, Melinda Palacio, and Jeff Biggers before the panel on immigration in Arizona.
Biggers is prepared to take on the good fight in his non-fiction books. The award-winning writer has authored three books, including Author of State Out of the Union, Reckoning at Eagle Creek, The United States of Appalachia and In the Sierra Madre, and numerous articles in venues such as the New York Times, Washington Post, The Nation, Atlantic Monthly and Salon. He has worked as a writer and educator across the United States, Europe, India, and Mexico.

Growing up in the 1970s in Tucson, Biggers witnessed the state's first and only Mexican American governor, the leadership of Cesar Chavez, and the music of Linda Ronstadt.

Biggers' State out of the Union: Arizona and the Final showdown over the American Dream offers an account of the stories that have shaped Arizona, both facts and the myths that Governor Brewer, a California transplant, who ascended to power when President Obama plucked Janet Napolitano to head the Department of Homeland Security, and Sheriff Arpaio, the son of Italian immigrants, have used their own shortcomings to create the state's xenophobic hysteria and suppress the story of Mexican and Native people of Arizona.

The important take away in Biggers's bellweather book is its optimism for Arizona's future. What's even more powerful is Jeff's presentation of the book. His performance monologues veer from the scripted page as Biggers animates stories from his book in an impressive read that left me with a desire to offer a stronger aural performance of my work.

"As a cultural historian, I try to cross boundaries and that's the beauty of History," he said in an recent chat with La Bloga. "It comes down to our stories, the ones that have influenced us."
Jeff Biggers performing scenes from State Out of the Union.

Jeff's book tells the story of immigration in Arizona and the law HB2281 which shuts down Mexican-American Studies in schools and bans our books in Tucson's Unified School District. His personal story as an Arizonan invests itself in optimism for a state ruled by extremist politicians in a book that was named Publisher's Weekly, Top Ten Social Science Titles, 2012, State of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream. "Their actions would give rise to a game-changing shift in Latino activism to reclaim the state from its extremist interlopers-or, rather, to bring Arizona back as a state in the union."

Jeff will be doing an epic event in Athens, GA on Wednesday, Nov. 14th, on behalf of Freedom U. Georgia, uniting the immigrant/civil rights and environmental justice movements: Visit Jeff's website for future books, articles, and tour dates.

For those in California, Tia Chucha Centro Cultural has a great weekend coming up with Xanath on Saturday and Reyna Grande and Pilar Marerro on Sunday
When:  Saturday, November 10, 2012
What:  Writing Workshop led by Xánath Caraza
Where:  Tia Chuca's Centro Cultural Bookstore
Time:  12:30-3:30p.m.

What:  Xánath Caraza reading from her book, Conjuro
When: (same day--Saturday, November 10th)
Time:  5p.m.
Where:  Tia Chuca's Centro Cultural Bookstore

News from the Fire Tour

After a ten day pause, Melinda Palacio will resume the Fire Tour.
While I am away, listen to a pre-recorded interview on KUNM's Espejos de Aztlan, November 12 at 7pm.

Melinda is going to Cuba, but will be back in time for Lalo's interview on the Pocho Power Hour.

November 16, Pocho Hour of Power Radio Show, Live, 4pm.

November 17, National Hispanic Cultural Center, History & Literary Arts series, 2pm, Albuquerque, NM.

November 18, LA Palabra, Avenue 50 Studio, Highland Park,
131 North Avenue 50, Highland Park, CA 90042, 2pm.

November 20, How Fire Is A Story, Waiting book signing at Chaucer’s Books, Santa Barbara, 7 p.m., 3321 State Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93105.

No comments: