Thursday, January 31, 2013

Chicanonautica: OVNIs Over Aztlán and Other Phenomena

Different cultures create different kinds of “aliens.” The “other” depends of who you are and where you’re from. It’s the same in UFO mythology

The OVNI literature of the Latino world is different from the UFO books of Anglolandia. You don’t find extraterrestrials without genitalia that seem to be a Puritan vision of a more advanced species -- instead, aliens are sexy, and hot for humans.

Ever since Brazilian farmer Antonio Villas Boas reported having sex with female alien in 1975 reports have come in. I’ve read about them in English and Spanish. They range from a Mexico City woman claiming to have been impregnated by a man who explained that he had to return to his home planet, to a book by a man who not only had sex with, but painted cheesy portraits of several beautiful alien women, and reverse-engineered flying saucers with Aristotle Onassis. 

I wish I could remember the authors and titles of those books . . . Meanwhile, others show up . . .

 The flying saucer and the White House on the cover of Proyecto Elevación by Enrique Barrios  attracted my attention. It has a hero on an adventure/romance with Iara, a bald, beautiful alien woman after her spaceship crashes in Arizona. “La CIA” and mysterious helicopters chase them as they race to tell the president about the conspiracy in the U.S. and British governments to stop an interplanetary project to bring advanced technology and evolution to the Earth. 

Then I looked up Enrique Barrios’ webiste. He was born in Chile and grew up in Venezuela. He has retired from “actividades públicas.” His books include a children’s book similar to Proyecto Elevacion. There is also El Oráculo del Siglo XXI that delivers I Ching-like interactions.

His attitude about a sinister Anglo-American conspiracy reminded me of the works of J.J. Benitez. I read one of his books back before he switched to writing about Jesus Christ rather than UFOs. It read like a novel, as he ran around the world chasing a mystery that never quite solidified. He had photos of his girlfriend in front of the Sphinx and in the Mediterranean with circles around what looks like dust specks in the sky. Crossing the border into America was described as a Kafkaesque nightmare. He ended the book promising that he’d reveal whatthehell it’s all about in the next book . . . maybe.

Benitez’ latest book, Caballo de Troya 9: Caná is as thick as a brick, in the Spanish Language Fiction section of the library.

Whoever runs the MilMascarasvideo2’s channel on YouTube also has a taste for UFOlogy. There you can now see the incredible movie Misterio en Las Bermudas, which has similar political themes to the works of Barrios and Benitez.

Featuring Santo and Blue Demon along with Mil, it’s a kind of everything-but-the-kitchen-sink example of the luchador/sci-fi genre: No UFOs here; instead futuristic periscopes come out of the Caribbean and alter the weather -- USOs, Unidentified Submerged Objects! Santo’s mask is found in the seaweed before the flashbacks. A wrestling tour of Europe has to be canceled because the “political situation” is getting too dangerous. An Iranian princess/martial artist needs luchador protection. There’s an underwater utopian city where people wear silver jumpsuits and headbands. The music has a lot of wah-wah.

The most bizarre thing is the ending. First, the princess is rescued, the luchadores and some babes in bikinis, all go off in a boat, like in a happy ending . . . Then we go back to the fishermen who found Santo’s mask. One of them explains that the boat disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle and declares that the prophecies of the Book of Revelation are coming true -- and we are treated to some stock footage of a nuclear explosion!

Yeah, it’s paranoid as well as sexy -- and while I wrote this, a helicopter circled over my neighborhood . . .

Ernest Hogan will have stories in the upcoming anthologies We See a Different Frontier and Super Stories of Heroes and Villains.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

American Library Association Award Winners 2013

The Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.

Winner for Illustration
“Martín de Porres: The Rose in the Desert,” illustrated by David Diaz, written by Gary D. Schmidt and published by Clarion Books, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
Author Book Winner 
“Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” written by Benjamin Alire Sáenz and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.

Author Honor books  
 “The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano” by Sonia Manzano, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc.

 The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

“The One and Only Ivan,” written by Katherine Applegate and published by HarperCollins Children’s Books, a division of HarperCollins Publishers.
Honor Books
“Splendors and Glooms” by Laura Amy Schlitz and published by Candlewick Press.

“Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon” by Steve Sheinkin and published by Flash Point, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press.

“Three Times Lucky” by Sheila Turnage and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.

“This Is Not My Hat,” illustrated and written by Jon Klassen and published by Candlewick Press.
Honor Books
“Creepy Carrots!” illustrated by Peter Brown, written by Aaron Reynolds and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
“Extra Yarn,” illustrated by Jon Klassen, written by Mac Barnett and published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.
“Green,” illustrated and written by Laura Vaccaro Seeger and published by Neal Porter Books, an imprint of Roaring Brook Press.
“One Cool Friend,” illustrated by David Small, written by Toni Buzzeo and published by Dial Books for Young Readers, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.
“Sleep Like a Tiger,” illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski, written by Mary Logue and published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

Given to African American authors and illustrator for outstanding inspirational and educational contributions, the Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples and their contribution to the realization of the American dream. The award is designed to commemorate the life and works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and to honor Mrs. Coretta Scott King for her courage and determination to continue the work for peace and world brotherhood. 

Author Book Winner
“Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America,” written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney and published by Disney/Jump at the Sun Books, an imprint of Disney Book Group.
Author Honor Books
“Each Kindness” by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E. B. Lewis and published by Nancy Paulsen Books, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

“No Crystal Stair: A Documentary Novel of the Life and Work of Lewis Michaux, Harlem Bookseller” by Vaunda Micheaux Nelson, illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and published by Carolrhoda Lab, an imprint of Carolrhoda Books, a division of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

Winner for Illustration
“I, Too, Am America,” illustrated by Bryan Collier, written by Langston Hughes and published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division.
Honor Books for Illustration
“H. O. R. S. E.,” illustrated and written by Christopher Myers, and published by Egmont USA.

“Ellen’s Broom,” illustrated by Daniel Minter, written by Kelly Starling Lyons and published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Young Readers Group.

“I Have a Dream: Martin Luther King, Jr.” illustrated by Kadir Nelson, written by Martin Luther King, Jr. and published by Schwartz & Wade Books, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc.

For a complete list of ALA awards and winners visit

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Martín Espada on Frederick Douglass. Luzma Umpierre [withdrawn]. Reading Your Stuff Aloud. On-line Floricanto

Special Guest Columnist: Martín Espada

Arriving just in time for this week's La Bloga-Inaugural Flavored Tuesday, La Bloga friend Martín Espada emails a reading of Espada's Frederick Douglass poem--and an interview--on Moyers and Company, which aired on PBS recently. Martín encourages La Bloga readers to enjoy the work and interview, and pass it around.

La Bloga heartily endorses the notion, infact everything about the poem; indeed, gente, pass it around! Click on one or all of the sharing icons at the top of today's column to email, Twitter, Facebook, or Google this.

Guest Columnist LuzMaria Umpierre (Luzma)

Weekend With the Word
Michael Sedano

My first wife and I couldn't pass on the opportunity to hear the LA Philharmonic perform Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. It was a superb bonus that Emanuel Ax would play Mozart's K503 with its inescapable prefiguration of La Marseillaise. I thought the only drawback would be the absence of Dudamel, and the blaring Dutilleux, but I was wrong, that's for sure.

We didn't have our normal Sunday matinée subscription seats overlooking the piano side, and got plunked down among Thursday night tipos who'd had a few bottles of wine with dinner. So they talked and talked loudly. The brassy Shadows of Time opening number masked their chatter, but as conductor Ludovic Morlot launched Mozart, the woman in her cups started chattering. In response, two seats in from my aisle seat, a woman turned and loudly "Shhh'd" the oblivious couple behind me. A few bars into Ax' opening, the shusher launched into delighted chatter of her own. No one shushed her and I kept my eyes on the keyboard, wishing my fingers could read notes as easily as my eyes read text.

But those were the only bad words of the weekend.

Saturday, I joined the Stanford Chicana Chicano Alumni Book Club to discuss Reyna Grande's Critics Circle-nominated memoir, The Distance Between Us, with the author. The group peppered Grande with questions and compliments in an engaging give-and-take that consumed as much time as Reyna could offer. Not only was the author coming down with the current flu bug--on the eve of departing for seven readings in the next three days--she had miles to go and promises to keep.

Reyna had to dash off, reminding me she was headed to Pasadena's sole surviving independent bookstore, Vroman's, for Luis Alberto Urrea's reading of Queen of America. That was news to me, but ni modo. I prevailed on my carpool, Concepción Valadez and Manuel Urrutia, to detour to Vroman's rather than slow down in front of my house to let me open the door and roll to the right as they sped off back to the valley.

We arrived late, with Urrea in the midst of performing to a packed house. Unlike the crowd at Disney Hall, the listeners at Vroman's sat spellbound in the powerful one-man symphony of arte, humor, conversation, interpretative reading. Urrea's was a virtuoso of the spoken word performance.

Some authors avoid reading dialog, claiming "I'm not an actor, I don't do voices." More's the pity such writers fail to honor their words and their labor of creativity by opting for narrative sections that don't challenge them to add vitality to their precious few minutes in front of their audience.

Luis Urrea gets into it, engaging his story, his writing, his audience. When a person in the front row raised her cameraphone to take a foto, the device spoke, "Say Cheese." Urrea stopped in mid-sentence amused and astonished, to ask her, "Did your phone just say 'Say Cheese'?"

Now that is adapting to the audience and the setting. It's what audiences deserve, and what they get from a Urrea presentation. If anyone hasn't yet decided to buy the book, this quality of interactivity is certain to move a few more wallets into the Buy column.

Sunday brought the monthly La Palabra reading. Obviously I'm not paying attention to my surroundings. It wasn't until I read Liz Gonzalez' Facebook post that she would be at Avenue 50 Studio in an hour that it hit me I was about to miss another must-see reading and photography opportunity.

Speech, oral performance, is most photogenic when a poet or prose writer, makes the experience  dynamic communication. Two of La Palabra readers practiced that by getting away from the lectern and committing themselves whole body to their audience.

Christine Jordan

It's frustrating to an audience, and limiting to the writer, to get stuck behind the lectern. Unless the writer "acts", the reading exacts a toll on attention, creating what McLuhan called a "hot" medium that communicates solely through the ears.

A listener expects to listen to the words, of course, but ambient conditions invariably cause distractions and depletes attention. For example, Avenue 50 Studio's storefront windows let in beautiful light, but on this partly cloudy day illumination levels shift as the sky changes in moments from sunny to overcast. Late arrivals open the door and heads turn. In those moments, listening weakens and the audience spends a few moments rewinding and likely misses the immediate phrases in catching up.

Left: Rolland "Vachine" Vasin, Jerry Garcia, Right: Wyatt Underwood, Kimberly Cobian, 
Manuscript-bound readers deprive themselves of eye contact. When hidden behind the lectern, enjoying the art becomes all the more problematic.

Brenda Petrakos, Mary Tornegrassa

The lectern is not a kiss of death, however. When Liz Gonzalez took her place, she corrected for the posture by doing dialog and using vocalics to keep her audience rapt in the intercultural dialog of her teenaged protagonists.

Liz Gonzalez
When Gloria Alvarez took the lectern her plan was to use guitar accompaniment to add atmosphere and enrich the rhythms of her work. Sadly, Alvarez adopted a chanting style that weighted every poem with identical rhythm and portentous gravity, producing a sameness to every piece that creates exhausted audiences who likely won't remember most of her words, they all fade into the sameness of limited vocal variety.

Gloria Enedina Alvarez and Chris
La Palabra's emcee, Luivette Resto, brought a special guest to the Open Mic, her son Antonio Ometotl, who read his poem on cupcakes. It was Antonio's second public reading and he did a fabulous job. He'll work on his eye contact, perhaps memorize the piece.

Luivette Resto

Antonio Ometotl
Public speaking--reading your stuff aloud--offers challenges and serious satisfaction to writers. As a career speech coach, I am eager to see writers strut their stuff in front of audiences, and frustrated that poets seem equivocal about planning a reading. 

After every performance a writer should engage two questions as goals: What three elements did I like about my performance? What one element, and only one, would I change? The answers are the plan for the next reading; keep the three things you enjoyed, rehearse and make that one change. This practice offers an effective way to develop one's oral repertoire and deliver skilled readings that honor your work.

For more information on reading your stuff aloud, see Read! Raza's Writers & Oracy pages, including manuscripts, delivery, memorization.

Last Tuesday in 2013's Only January - La Bloga On-line Floricanto

"Who Are These People?" by Rosalie Robles Crowe
"Will you Listen" by Suzanna Anzaldua
"Remember when we didn't espect to live forever" by Sharon Elliot
"Inauguration Poem (had I been asked) / Poema para Inauguración (si se me hubiera invitado)" by Rafael Jesús González
"More than 50 shades of Brown” by Raúl Sánchez

Who Are These People?
by Rosalie Robles Crowe

Who are these people
Who leave the known of their lands
To come to the unknown of this land?

Who are these people
Who come with little besides the shoes on their feet
And the shirts on their backs?

Who are these people
Who speak little or no English
And must be taught the ways of this land?

Who are these people
Who risk their lives in the desert
Leaving debris, trash and pitiful treasures in their wake?

This migration is not new.

Puritans, Catholics, Jews, Protestants,
Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists came
Seeking to worship their God in their own way
In peace and without fear.

The poor willing to indenture themselves
For a later chance to live better lives
Made the perilous trek across the ocean.

Germans, Italians, Sicilians, Polish and Chinese
Hungarians, Jews, Spaniards, Basques and Irish
Fled torture, violence, wars and famine.

Today they still come
As they came before
In the face of death searching for life

From Mali, Somalia, Bhutan and Nigeria
From El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia
But mostly they come from Mexico.

They come looking for
Whatever menial work
They can find.

Why don't they stay home?
Why do they sneak across the border
Like thieves in the night?

In the face of disgust and hatred,
Of SB-1070 ill will,
Why do they stay?

It's simple really.
They come looking for life.
They come to live
In "la tierra de oportunidad"

They want so little
Yet so much:

A future.

Thats why they come.
That's why they have always come.

© 2013 Rosalie Robles Crowe. All Rights Reserved.

Will you Listen
by Suzanna Anzaldua

Will you listen,
with your ears as heightened
as a man who is blind?
with your mouth quietly shut,
your hands at your side,
Will you take it all in,
every word, every thought
every point and every plea,
will you grasp it and take it seriously?
Allow it to dwell and thrive,
or will you let it flow
into one ear and out the other side,
like liquid cowardice
that reeks from within?
Like hopeless cravings made
from other plans that
don't involve the people?

We only want to be heard,
We only want to be seen,
these tired hands,
exhausted eyes
these swelling feet
these damaged knees
these broken backs
of those who came before us
also screaming;
they too had dreams.
We want you to hear the stories
from those who came before us.
We want you to hear,
truly acknowledge the meaning.
Hear our cries, our weary voices
our pains and agonies
our hopes and our beliefs.
We are the reality,
it is your choice to perceive.
Believe me, believe them,
the world was built on the backs
of so many women and men.

Will you climb down
into the trenches where we live
where we give
where you seem to be
so familiar with?
Will you feel the pain
for eight hours a day
in the heat or the cold.
Back bent over
shoulders screaming for relief,
or standing for twelve hours
with a thirty minute break
two tens in between.
With a paycheck that dwindles
before it is seen?

Will you stand in a classroom
while the youth of today
choose a gun instead of a book,
as the words of great leaders
they piss down the drain
all in the name of
ipods and video games.
All in the name of
a lack of intelligence
and a broken home.
Will you sit back while
the future can't handle their own?
Are you giving up on hope
on those teachers who fear
that danger is close
that failure is near
because no one wants
to get involved with family lives?
Change must start
if our country is to survive.

Will you sit in an ER
full of sick and suffering
with limited healthcare
and choices
watching nurses do more
while unheard are their voices?
Men and women who are under-appreciated
while they comfort the ailing
while they wipe up
the blood, the urine, the emaciated.
While lacking in sleep
lacking in pay
because healthcare
doesn't care about patient
and hospital staffing complaints.
Will you stand up for us
against pitiful healthcare
against shameful wages
against greedy businessman
and uncaring management?
It is because of us
this world runs.

Are you still listening?
Will you continue to listen
as your new term begins?
Will you listen to a people
who want more than this,
who still want to live
still want to dream,
still want to love and give
all they can give?
The world was built,
from people who envisioned
a different world
then the one we now live in.
The people need to speak
since you seem to offer "Change"
Or is it still just a sham
in the political scheme of things?
It's time to put up
or walk away quietly.

Will you stand with us
or against us
and start taking questions
from we the people who stand
and need to be heard.
This isn't a popularity contest,
it's a Presidency.
It's time to get your hands dirty,
and understand the cries
from the rest of the country
you so want to support.

© Siouxsie Renee Anza 2013. All rights reserved.

Remember when we didn't expect to live forever
(an aging hippie perspective on inauguration)
by Sharon Elliott

“never trust anybody over 30”*

so far from that age

we convinced ourselves

we’d never reach it

or if we did

it would be the end of everything

a wound in time

deep black hole

that all we knew would fall into

never resurface

take us with it

create a blankness

recovery an impossibility

now we are there

old bones reacting to the penetrating cold

seeking sun

looking back

hoping we have been building something

that will last beyond the who of us

trying to figure out if identification is important

carrying ourselves like a license to live

in the back pocket of our jeans

*quote by Jack Weinberger, free speech activist, San Francisco Chronicle, 1964

© 2013 Sharon Elliott. All rights reserved.

Inauguration Poem
(had I been asked)
by Rafael Jesús González

We celebrate the second term
of this U. S. of A.’s forty-fourth president
whom I most like for the color of his skin
and that he talks good — the less bad of two choices
to head the best government money can buy
by selling out the ninety-eight percent of us wholesale.
Taking account that perpetual war is made
by those with most to gain from it and fought
by those with least; that the immigrant
our foreign policy displaced is persecuted;
in jail or on parole one of every thirty-two of us;
that the corn is poisoned for profit
and we’re not told what it is we eat, the Earth violated,
and I am asked if I’m not proud to be
a citizen of this U. S. of A., I declare I am —
as proud as I am to be human — no more, no less
a chance of fate with reason just as much for shame.
So I pledge allegiance to our mythical democracy
for its promise which is the same as has been betrayed.
It is upon that hope I base my praise,
that dream to which we must awake and make real —
that sense of joy, of love, of justice
of the young — and those of us grown old
in the good struggle for life and freedom,
for justice without which there is no peace.
So after we have stood hand over the heart
and sung the old drinking song
to a piece of cloth of certain colors and a certain stripe,
the bleachers dismantled, the last confetti swept
from the ballroom floor, the last straggler returned
to work, and these spaces cleared,
I promise with all due respect, Mr. President,
that my fellow patriots and I of the ninety-eight percent
             will be back to occupy.

© 2013 Rafael Jesús González. All rights reserved.

Poema de Inauguración
(si se me hubiera invitado)

Celebramos el segundo mandato
de este cuarenta y cuarto presidente de estos EE. UU. de A.
que más me gusta por el color de su piel
y que habla bien — el menos mal de dos opciones
para encabezar el mejor gobierno que el dinero pueda comprar
vendiendo el noventa y ocho por ciento de nosotros al por mayor.
Tomando en cuenta que se hace guerra perpetua
por los que más tienen que ganar de ella y luchada
por los que menos tienen; que el inmigrante
que nuestra política exterior desplazó es perseguido
y en cárcel uno de cada treinta y dos de nosotros;
que el maíz es envenenado por lucro
y no se nos dice que es lo que comemos, violada la Tierra,
y se me pregunta si no soy orgulloso de ser
ciudadano de estos EE. UU. de A. declaro que sí lo soy —
tan orgulloso como lo soy de ser humano — ni más ni menos
suerte del destino con tanta razón para vergüenza.
Así que juro fidelidad a nuestra mítica democracia
por su promesa que es lo mismo que se ha traicionado.
Es sobre esta esperanza que baso mi alabanza,
este sueño al cual debemos despertar y realizar —
ese sentido de alegría, de amor, de justicia
de la juventud — y de nosotros hechos viejos
en la buena lucha por la vida y la libertad,
por la justicia sin la cual no hay paz.
Así que después de que de pie, manos sobre el corazón
hemos cantado la vieja canción de taberna
a un trozo de trapo de ciertos colores y cierta raya,
los graderíos desmontados, el último confeti barrido
del piso del salón de baile, el último rezagado vuelto
al trabajo, y estos espacios despejados,
le prometo con todo debido respeto, Sr. Presidente,
que mis compatriotas y yo de los noventa y ocho por ciento
                  volveremos a ocupar.

© Rafael Jesús González 2013

More Than 50 Shades of Brown
by Raúl Sánchez

Náhuatl, Maya, Zapoteco, Mixteco
Otomí, Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Totonaca
Mazateco, Chol, Mazahua, Huasteco
Chinanteco, Purépecha, Mixe, Mayo

Tlapaneco, Tarahumara, Zoque, Tojolabal
Chontal, Popoluca, Chatino, Amuzgo
Huichol, Tepehuán, Triqui, Popoloca
Cora, Canjobal, Yaqui, Cuicateco

Mame, Huave, Tepehua, Pame
Chontal, Choj, Chichimeca, Guarijío
Matlatzinca, Kekchí, Chocholteca
Pima, Jalalteco, Ocuilteco, Seri, Quiché

Ixcateco, Cakchiquel, Kikapú,
Motozintleco, Paipai, Kumiai, Ixil
Pápago, Cucapá, Cochimí, Lacandón
Kiliwa, Aguacateco, Teco

flanged by an ocean and a gulf called México
jungle to the south
to the north protected.

© 2013 Raúl Sánchez. All rights reserved.


"Who Are These People?" by Rosalie Robles Crowe
"Will you Listen" by Suzanna Anzaldua
"Remember when we didn't espect to live forever" by Sharon Elliot
"Inauguration Poem (had I been asked) / Poema para Inauguración (si se me hubiera invitado)" by Rafael Jesús González
"More than 50 shades of Brown” by Raúl Sánchez

Rosalie Robles Crowe, a third generation Arizonan, is a former newspaper reporter who has continued writing well after her retirement. She graduated in journalism from the University of Arizona and over her career has worked on Arizona’s major newspapers, including the Arizona Daily Star, Tucson Citizen, Arizona Republic and the Phoenix Gazette. In addition, she also has written numerous articles based on Arizona history, co-authored a monograph (“Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame”) with Diane Tod, and compiled and edited “Early Yuma: A Graphic History of Life on the American Nile.” Currently, she is a member of Sowing the Seeds, a collective of women writers in Tucson, and is experimenting with other writing styles, including poetry. As an STS member, she has written one of three monologues for Sowing the Seeds’ dramatic presentation “Celebrating Women’s Voices Past & Present,” developed originally in 2012 for Arizona’s Centennial Year. Its focus is on unsung women heroes in the state’s history. She and her late husband, Tommy Keith Crowe, have three children and five grandchildren.

Suzanna Anzaldua has been writing short stories and poetry from the age of 11. She won her first writing contest in the Fifth grade for her short story "The Rose." Her poems and essays are featured on her blog Chicana Writer @ Wordpress. She recently finished her first novel about a troubled teen growing up without parental guidance based on unsent letters to her parents. Writing has continued being the voice of action as well as a positive form of therapy. She has been passionate about society's youth as well as the rights of all people; addressing the government and the President on important issues concerning both. She is inspired by Sandra Cisneros, Enriqueta Vasquez, Gloria Anzaldua, Luis Rodriguez and the men and women of the Beat Generation. Her interests include crocheting and sewing for her line Just Another Chicana, and experiencing new destinations. She is married to Val Anzaldua and currently resides in El Cajon, Ca.

Born and raised in Seattle, Sharon Elliott has written since childhood. Four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador laid the foundation for her activism. As an initiated Lukumi priest, she has learned about her ancestral Scottish history, reinforcing her belief that borders are created by men, enforcing them is simply wrong.

foto:Peter St.John
Rafael Jesús González, Prof. Emeritus of literature and creative writing, was born (10/10/35) and raised biculturally/bilingually in El Paso, Texas/Cd. Juárez, Chihuahua, and taught at University of Oregon, Western State Collage of Colorado, Central Washington State University, University of Texas El Paso (Visiting Professor of Philosophy), and Laney College, Oakland, California where he founded the Dept. of Mexican & Latin-American Studies,

Also visual artist, he has exhibited in the Oakland Museum of California, the Mexican Museum of San Francisco, Charles Ellis Museum of Art, Milwaukee and others. His collection of poems El Hacedor De Juegos/The Maker of Games, Casa Editorial, San Francisco (1977-78) had two printings; his collection La musa lunática/The Lunatic Muse was published in 2009 with a second printing in 2010.

Nominated thrice for a Pushcart price, he was honored by the National Council of Teachers of English and Annenberg CPB for his writing in 2003. In 2009 he was honored by the City of Berkeley for his writing, art, teaching, activism for social justice & peace. He received the 2012 Dragonfly Press Award for Outstanding Literary Achievement. His work may be read at

Raúl Sánchez, conducts workshops on The Day of the Dead. His most recent work is the translation of John Burgess’ Punk Poems in his book Graffito. His inaugural collection "All Our Brown-Skinned Angels" is filled with poems of cultural identity, familial, a civil protest, personal celebration, completely impassioned and personal. and

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Last Bookstore hosts a literary event that will change your life

A reading by three authors on the theme of “metamorphosis”

WHEN: Saturday, February 2, at 5:00 p.m.
WHERE: The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., Ground Floor, Downtown L.A.
COST: Free!
MORE INFO: Website

Is metamorphosis a condition or a state of being? Is it temporary or permanent? Is it conditioned by culture, sexual identity, nationality, or location? Los Angeles writers reconsider the idea of metamorphosis through poetry, fiction, and autobiographical narratives that address the meaning of change and transformation in a city of perpetual reinvention.

Susana Chávez-Silverman

Susana Chávez-Silverman is co-editor of Tropicalizations: Transcultural Representations of Latinidad and Reading and Writing the Ambiente: Queer Sexualities in Latino, Latin American, and Spanish Culture. Her bilingual creative nonfiction books, Killer Crónicas: Bilingual Memories (2004) and Scenes from la Cuenca de Los Angeles y otros Natural Disasters (2010) have been anthologized in print, in the inaugural Norton Anthology of Latino Literature (2010), among others, and online, where audio versions are also available. Susana is professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Pomona College in California.

Ramón García

Ramón García’s book of poetry, Other Countries, was published by What Books Press in 2010. He is the author of a forthcoming book-length monograph on the documentary photographer Ricardo Valverde, to be published by the University of Minnesota Press. His work has appeared in Best American Poetry 1996, Ambit, Poetry Salzburg Review, Los Angeles Review, and Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas. A founding member of the Glass Table Collective, an artist collective in Los Angeles, he is a professor at the California State University, Northridge, and lives in Downtown Los Angeles.

Trebor Healey

Trebor Healey received the 2004 Ferro-Grumley and Violet Quill Awards for his first novel, Through It Came Bright Colors (Harrington Park Press) and is also the author of the novels A Horse Named Sorrow (University of Wisconsin Press) and Faun (Lethe Press), released this fall; a collection of poems, Sweet Son of Pan (Suspect Thoughts, 2006); and a short story collection, A Perfect Scar & Other Stories (Harrington Park Press, 2007). He co-edited (with Marci Blackman) Beyond Definition: New Writing from Gay and Lesbian San Francisco (Manic D Press, 1994) and co-edited (with Amie M. Evans) Queer & Catholic (Routledge, 2008). He lives in Los Angeles, where he does economic justice work.

ABOUT THE LAST BOOKSTORE: The Last Bookstore is an independent bookstore started by Josh Spencer and is currently open in its (relatively) new 10,000 square foot space in the Spring Arts Tower located at the corner of 5th and Spring in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. It is more than a bookstore…it is a like one of those neighbors you actually like, one who does things for others, and brings culture, joy and smiles even to those who are a little grumpy. Not only does The Last Bookstore sell a wide array of used and new books of all types, you can also enjoy a book reading, pick up a cup of coffee and/or browse through an extensive used record collection. It also accepts donations and operates a free donation pick-up service county-wide called Re-BookIt, with the purpose of saving books from landfills and redistributing books to schools, hospitals, and charities upon request. Funds raised from sales of donations are given back to the local community in charitable, constructive ways.


Sandra Tarling reviews Reyna Grande’s memoir, The Distance Between Us (Atria Books), for the Los Angeles Review of Books. Tarling observes, in part: “At the core of Grande’s stories about immigrants and their children’s lives is her mission to reveal the deep, permanent costs of immigration, both the loss when parents are separated from their children, and the impoverished lives and unrealized hopes once they arrive.”

Congratulations to Associate Professor Juanita Heredia of Northern Arizona University who has just published “The task of the translator: An interview with Daniel Alarcón” in the journal, Latino Studies (Autumn 2012) 10, pp. 395–409. I noticed that she mentions my interview with Alarcón that was published by The Elegant Variation in 2007. This reminded me, yet again, that the interviews we do here on La Bloga and elsewhere have become important source materials in the study of Latino/a literature.

Speaking of the study of Latino/a literature, Ohio State Professor Frederick Luis Aldama has a new book coming out shortly: The Routledge Concise History of Latino/a Literature. As the publisher explains, Aldama “traces a historical path through Latino/a literature, examining both the historical and political contexts of the works, as well as their authors and the readership. He also provides an enlightening analysis of: (1) the differing sub-groups of Latino/a literature, including Mexican American, Cuban American, Puerto Rican American, Dominican American, and Central and South American émigré authors; (2) established and emerging literary trends such as the postmodern, historical, chica-lit storytelling formats and the graphic novel; and (3) key literary themes, including gender and sexuality, feminist and queer voices, and migration and borderlands.” More on this important book later.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Liliana Valenzuela's "Codex of Journeys: Bendito Camino"

by Amelia M.L. Montes (

"Bendito Camino" translates to the English as "Blessed Journey." Today's La Bloga takes such a journey with the acclaimed writer and translator, Liliana Valenzuela, to recognize her recently published chapbook and discuss its inception and creation.  So far, there has been an excellent response to the book. 

Inaugural poet, Richard Blanco, writes of Codex of Journeys: Bendito Camino:  “Word by word, line by line, Codex of Journeys entrances with its crisp rhythms echoing in the heart and transfixes with its luminous images, vibrating on the page.  Spare and full of light, each poem is like a tiny x-ray of the soul, capturing so much of what is not seen by the naked eye underneath.”

Liliana Valenzuela’s latest book of bilingual poetry is part of a larger manuscript or as she describes it:  a “codex.”  The term “codex” is defined as an ancient book or a compilation of vellum, sheets of paper.  The Latin “caudex” signals a “block of wood” or “the trunk of a tree, transformed into folded pages.”

“I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of the codex,” Valenzuela says.  “They can contain pictographs, like the ancient Aztec codices which record the history of these peoples. This work is about going back to that idea.  Each section is a codex of different topics.”

Liliana Valenzuela, an award-winning international translator, poet, essayist, and journalist, is meticulous in creating her literary works of art.  The process she describes in translation work as well as in fiction, poetry, and non-fiction reminds me of those who crochet by hand without the use of a machine. The quality of the work far exceeds something more quickly put together. In this particular chapbook, the eleven poems are carefully stitched together with themes of identity, remembrance, and loss. 

Acclaimed writer, Sandra Cisneros writes:  “Poetry is her  instrument, and the songs Valenzuela plucks are from her voyage beyond borders, a vantage point called Nepantla, eternally a visitor from the land in-between, even at home.  Lyrical, lush, traviesa, here is a woman’s voice uncensored.”  Indeed, these poems are fragrant and filled with rhythm and Cisneros is well acquainted with Valenzuela's work.  Valenzuela has translated all of Cisneros' books (except for House on Mango Street which was translated by Elena Poniatowska).  

Liliana Valenzuela reading her poetry
Montes:  Tell me about the cover of your book which is a beautiful painting by the artist, Liliana Wilson entitled “Transformación.” 

Valenzuela:  Yes, Liliana had done a cover for the literary journal, Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, which I helped put together.  I was the guest editor for one issue and I also had a say in the cover.  I had always admired her work and one day I happened to meet her during the East Austin Studio Tour. When we met, I told her about this project and she immediately wanted to contribute, which was very generous of her. 

Montes:  How did you go about choosing the title?

Valenzuela:  This is actually part of a larger manuscript called Codex of Desire.  There are five codices within the Codex of Desire.  This chapbook, The Codex of Journeys: Bendito Camino is one of them. And in Bendito Camino, there are poems that observe the world, examine what it’s like being out in the world, exploring the process of meeting others who are like or unlike yourself, learning about your differences and similarities. Here, I look at journeys that are geographic, (West Africa, Ivory Coast, Cuba, Mexico), and not necessarily geographic but journeys within oneself, as in the poem, “She Should Have Been a Nun.”  The poem “September 19, 1985” remembers the earthquake in Mexico City. I also investigate the contact of cultures in civilization, in and out of colonization.  I also look at the siren (“la sirena”), the connection with nature and the marine world.  These poems reflect journeys in all different directions. 

Liliana Valenzuela with fellow author (and mystery writer) Lucha Corpi

Montes:  Why did you begin this chapbook with “Son Cubano,” a Cuban song?

Valenzuela:  In the planning stage, you have the poems and you put them in different orders to see how they fit.  This is a performance poem that works well as a spoken word piece.  It has its own rhythms and music. It seemed like a good way to start.  It’s also more a language poem. 

Montes:  Yes.  I like how we begin with music.  Tell us more about the three poems that focus on Ghana. 

Valenzuela:  These are testimonio-type poems about an actual experience.  They are three identity Ghana poems.  It was an interesting experience traveling by myself to West Africa when I was 27.  Identity has always been a mixed bag for me because even though I am Mexican, I’m also light skinned and so traveling to such a different place so far away, some people there wanted to see me as Western European "white," and I’m not.  They put me in this category with the British or French colonizers of Africa.  When you stand out so much, it’s hard to hide or blend in and yet there were moments when it didn’t matter, like being at the night market.  Without sunshine, our skin was the same, and it was a feeling of freedom and liberation by not having to be defined by how you look.  And it has sections of the song “Sombras Nada Mas." That song came to mind as I was writing it, thinking of the version sung by Lucha Villa (click here to hear "Sombras").  The lyrics are:  
Sombras nada mas entre tu vida y mi vida,
sombras nada mas entre mi amor y tu amor.  

Valenzuela:  The poems in this collection either began in English or in Spanish.  For example, I originally wrote “Son Cubano” in English and then translated it into Spanish.  That’s how I work.  I write in whatever language feels right at the time.  To translate into English, though, is the hardest for me.  In my daily work, I always go from English to Spanish.  For my own poetry, when I’m still so close to it, I go to the Latin or Spanish words or roots first.  If I wrote the poem in Spanish, its harder to translate it myself into English, into the Anglo-Saxon roots and sounds.  Then is when I need more help.

Montes:  What is your process:  How are some ways you begin a poem?

When I was working on the larger codex, I realized that if I didn’t ask someone to help with the translation from Spanish to English, I might not get this done.  My friend, Angela McEwan, did a wonderful job in translating them to English for this chapbook. 

Montes:  Translation is an entirely unique act within the literary world.  What is your philosophy of translation?

Valenzuela:  To understand that the reader in the target language has the same experience as the one in the source language.  The source language is the one you begin with, and the target language is the one you go to.  Whatever literary devices, style, experience, sentiment that the readers had in the original version, the readers in the translated version must have the same experience. 

Montes:  And how would you describe the process of translation? 

Valenzuela:  For literary translation, revision is very important whether it is a short story, novel, whatever size it is, you need to do at least four revisions.  The first one is a rough translation with a list of queries for the author, friends, and for your own research.  Then there’s another pass to incorporate some of those queries and begin polishing the material. In the third pass, you are looking for grammar, punctuation, style issues.  Another pass focuses on listening for the style and the sound, and here it is best to read it out loud and to see if it captures the voice of the original.  Then you get proofs, and there are usually two: the first and second round of proofs.  Commercial translators who must turn in things quicker, will not spend as much time with one particular document.  They will not revise it so many times even though they also edit machine translations.  

It’s important to really get the style of the author, the repetitions, to let it internalize and let it soak in.  I don’t think a machine can really do that.  It would be really rough, like a "Tarzan and Jane" version: you may get some of the meaning (not all), and it will lack style and voice.  Literary translation:  it’s all about the style. 

Montes:  Who are the translators you admire or with whom you’ve worked? 

Valenzuela:  Marian Schwartz translates from Russian into English.  She has many wonderful novels and other works she has translated.  She happens to be my friend and lives here in Austin.  She’s been a wonderful mentor.  Also, Edith Grossman translates from the Spanish to English.  She translated Don Quixote, and writers from the Latin American boom.  She’s really good.

Montes:  How do you translate “moments” in your poetry and I’m thinking of your poem, "Cinnamon Skin/Piel Canela"?

Valenzuela:  “Piel Canela” came out while watching a film and Sonia Braga was one of the characters.  I can’t remember the title, but the sensual Brazilian beach scene, mixed with my own experiences and feelings brought out a poem about sensuality and desire.  The rhythms mixed in with my own experiences.  We are always translating the moment, the sensations, images from film, or from real life included with a rhythm and sound interpretation. 

Montes:  Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview? 

Valenzuela:  I’m very grateful to Maria Miranda Maloney at Mouthfeel Press (in El Paso) for publishing this chapbook.  It’s been a long time coming to see it in a fully bilingual edition.  It’s great to have small publishers who understand our work even though it’s bilingual poetry.  It’s important to have our voices in the way we want to present them, and with publishers like her who really understand what we’re doing, it can be done.  Hopefully this book will reach wider and wider audiences in either one of those languages and in our own culture where we mix the languages.  It was a lot of extra work in also including translations, but now that it’s done, it was definitely worth it.  Maria went the extra mile on this chapbook to do a glossy cover and create a chapbook that is bound, not stapled.  The final product then, is between a paperback and a chapbook. 

Montes:  Muchisimas gracias Liliana!  And to you, dear Bloga readers, after you read this interview, I encourage you to purchase your copy of  Codex of Journeys:  Bendito Camino on the Mouthfeel Press website (click here) or on Amazon (click here and ignore Amazon’s warning that they are out of stock).  I heard it from a reliable source that Amazon does have more books available.  Wishing you all un buen Domingo!

Liliana Valenzuela Bio:  Born and raised in Mexico City, Liliana Valenzuela is an adopted Tejana.  An award-winning literary translator, poet, essayist, and journalist, her poetry chapbook Codex of Journeys: Bendito Camino was published by Mouthfeel Press in October 2012.  She is also the acclaimed Spanish language translator of works by Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez, Denise Chávez, Dagoberto Gilb, Richard Rodríguez, Cristina García, Gloria Anzaldúa, and other writers.  A long-time member of the Macondo Writers Workshop, and an inaugural fellow of CantuMundo, she works for the ¡ahora si! Spanish newspaper in Austin.  You can find her work at and