Sunday, June 30, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: How Fire Is a Story, Waiting—by Melinda Palacio

By Guest Blogger Thelma T. Reyna

           Melinda Palacio’s first full-length volume of poetry was birthed with modest fanfare but with hopes full and robust. Less than a year later, the book has earned three prominent awards and has taken Palacio on book tours across the nation. This acclaim is richly-deserved and bodes well for a relative newcomer—but indisputably a rising star—in the national literary arena.

            Palacio, a native Californian and part-time resident of New Orleans, has written two other books, each well-received: Folsom Lockdown (2010), poetry that won the Kulupi Press Sense of Place Chapbook Contest in 2009; and Ocotillo Dreams (2011), Palacio’s debut novel and winner of two prestigious national/ international awards.

Palacio puts Midas and his golden touch to shame.

Palacio’s Themes

In How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, Palacio skillfully weaves 65 poems through the four sections of her book—Fire, Air, Water, and Earth—with a humanity and sensitivity that we all recognize and cherish but cannot always plumb within ourselves. She speaks of themes closest to our collective heart, universal, timeless topics that we accept as part of living: family, culture, loss, reminiscence, nature, and resilience of the human spirit.

            These themes envelop her poetry with immediacy and relevance. Her audience is the everyday community of readers navigating daily life, the people with whom we interact, people who filled Palacio’s life and who similarly fill ours. In an authentic, sympathetic voice, she speaks to all of us and, in a largely autobiographical manner, shares her life story begotten through metaphorical fires.

Folsom Lockdown: Family Challenges

            Her award-winning poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, is integrated almost in its entirety into How Fire Is a Story. In Folsom, Palacio, with some “poetic license,” as she has said, recounted her father’s domestic abuse, his unreliability as a parent to her and his other children, and his penchant for conning and manipulating. He ended up imprisoned in Folsom for domestic assault and attempted murder with a gun. Palacio’s relationship with her father had been almost nonexistent throughout her life...until she and her sister visited him in 2009 in prison. Of this visit, which inspired Folsom, Palacio has written: “We had a wonderful exchange with our father. As he regaled us with stories, all walls and barriers fell away” (Author’s Note, Folsom Prison Lockdown, p. 31).  Palacio also writes: “[We] made our trip to Folsom in January. A month later, I sat down and could not stop writing. A quick lightning downpour of poems turned into this chapbook” (p. 31).  

            These poems, interwoven now throughout How Fire Is a Story, depict a father who is smooth, handsome, seductive, an exotic Panamanian with multiple families. She describes him as “the charismatic lunatic, my father,/ the criminal with the psycho gene and tangled gypsy beard!”  In the poem, “Dancing with Zorro’s Ghost,” one of the more powerful ones in her book, Palacio paints a picture of a conflicted man, a Hispanic version of Jekyll and Hyde. Her father, Antonio, “fights windmills in the night./ ...Tony slipped a piece of metal/ into his sock to protect his coffee-bean colored skin.” In the next stanza, Palacio describes Tony thus: “With his enemy tucked away for the purple night, my father wrote poetry./.... [Tony was] nestled like the Man in the Iron Mask, dreaming of sunshine” (p. 22).

Palacio’s ability to simultaneously recognize her father’s malice and hurtfulness, and his vulnerability and humanity, undulates like a powerful wave through the Folsom sections of her book.  Palacio recounts her lack of connectedness to her father when she was a child: her disbelief that he will visit her, her rejection of toys he brings when he manages to show up, and his vicious beatings of her mother. Yet she leaves the door open for finding redemption in him, as when she says in “Astro Turf Hero”: “On the day of [my mother’s] funeral,/I’m surprised to learn there were nice people/who loved my father,/who called him friend” (p. 20, Folsom). In “Sin Verguenza Swagger” (“Shameless Swagger”), Palacio describes the uninhibited sassiness of Panamanians she encounters randomly and says: “It took a trip to Panama to understand my father’s sin verguenza swagger” (p. 48). Palacio allows her own humanity and compassion to override Antonio’s countless lapses in his. She rises above his violence and fallibility to reach a place of understanding and eventual acceptance of her father.
The Folsom poems also include vignettes of her other family members, of the beauties and tantrums of Mother Nature, and of Palacio’s reminiscences of pleasant and painful childhood experiences. As part of How Fire Is a Story, the Folsom poems are scattered throughout the volume, interwoven with different emphases and throughout the four subsection headings. But they still carry the emotional impact they did in the original chapbook.

Three Key Poems

Three poems in particular serve as linchpins in Palacios’ book, capturing pivotal aspects of her life experiences, identity, and evolution as a poet and human being. Powerful in the telling and in the eliciting, the poems form a framework within which her other poems blossom and give us other looks into her life and observations.

            The first is “El South-Central Cucuy” (“The South-Central Boogeyman,” p. 18). Recounted in the persona of a young girl growing up in the ‘hood, the poem starkly paints the elements of a disadvantaged environment: a jaded uncle assuring the girl that she won’t “have a life”; all-too-familiar sounds of gunfire and police helicopters; fear for one’s life as bullets rip through walls and barely miss people who should be safe within their homes; the threat of war and bombs; and a child’s perennial fear of the boogeyman, the Cucuy, the unknown, the embodiment of evil that is already a reality all around. Appearing as it does near the book’s beginning, “El South-Central Cucuy” is a child’s narrative, from a child’s viewpoint: a story of the beginning of things. Palacio ends the poem thus: “You can’t see the Cucuy who lurks in the hallways, under the bed and in the closet./The boogeyman with devil’s feet waits to touch your hair in the dark,/in a crowded house on Albany Street in South-Central L.A.” To a child growing up in the ‘hood, fear of the unknown can be a deal-breaker in the battle for survival and success. Such it could have been for Palacio; such it was for people she knew early on, as she recounts: “Bullets spared me, but took the young lives of three on our street.”  

            The second poem is “Panamanian Percentage” (p. 56), a rhythmic accounting of her father’s ethnic heritage. Tony had ancestral roots in Panama, Jamaica, Colombia, East India, England, and Africa. Palacio details some of the physical attributes she inherited from her father: “I own his crooked smile, a slight curl/of the upper lip.” Palacio’s sister inherited Tony’s height and his “ballsy stride, the stretch of confidence/our father used when he thought/he’d never get caught.” Palacio muses: “Impossible to tell where I begin/or end, where our/Panamanian percentage meets.” She clearly cherishes her mother’s Mexican Indian heritage, “the half made whole by my mother’s feet,/my feet. Feet furious enough to power a car,/squat Indian feet showing off red toes/in an even row....” Dichotomies seem to dominate Palacio’s life, as they do her poems, and the ethnic mixtures she celebrates and accepts in this poem ultimately define her as an individual and a poet.

            The third linchpin poem, “Iron Cross Suite” (p.99), is heart-breakingly poignant. The sub-title—“For Blanca Estela Palacio, December 5, 1949-June 4, 1994”—underscores the untimeliness of Palacio’s mother’s death. Blanca’s “passion cross” roughly symbolizes that of Christ’s “passion cross,” which depicts his suffering and death in the Catholic ritual, the Stations of the Cross. The poem describes an iron cross apparently owned by Blanca, with a dove, fleur de lis, lightning bolts, a scale, moon, rooster, and sun paralleling Stations of the Cross. The poet describes each station in turn, recounting a moment, a memory, an event connecting her to her mother in the past or the aching present. The mother’s refrain in the poem, “Do this in memory of me,” tethers Blanca’s passion cross to Christ’s suffering and assures us that Blanca also suffered in her life. As Christ was betrayed shortly before his death, so also was Blanca betrayed by her beloved priest, who failed to go to her deathbed when summoned.

            Possibly the most intellectual poem in Palacio’s book, “Iron Cross Suite” is never heavy-handed in its analogy to Christ’s passion. Palacio carefully selects reminiscences and images of her mother to lightly, lovingly reveal Blanca’s strength and faith, and the poet’s own devotion to her. In the final stanzas of this poem, Palacio writes: “She [Blanca] is divine./Three years pass before I can step foot in a church or cathedral” (p. 102). Yet this grief is immediately followed by the revelation that her mother’s final words, scribbled on a piece of paper in a speeding ambulance, were, “The ambulance guy is cute....The driver is good, too,” followed by a smiley face. This dichotomy of pathos and wry humor characterize not only this poem, but the character of Blanca herself and the relationship she forged with her daughter.

In summary, Palacio’s book brims with warriors and survivors: immigrants, poor people, abused women, marginalized children, lonely old maids, exhausted laborers, convicts, and variations of the above. The world is “the ‘hood” for many, possibly throughout their lives, with boogeymen real and imagined stealing comfort and security. But her book also includes resilient souls who squeeze hope and comfort from hardship. Palacio’s book appropriately is bookended with the Cucuy near the beginning, and the mother whose spunk and love of life prevailed over the tragedy of her early death at the end: fear and insecurity on one hand, and affirmation on the other. Sandwiched in between these linchpin poems is the one celebrating mixture and embracing of polyglot cultures that define Palacio and the world she navigates.

Melinda Palacios: Photo by Valerie Smith
A Rising Literary Star

            Melinda Palacio is that rare multi-genre author who has excelled in everything she has done. In addition to the Kulupi Prize bestowed upon Folsom Lockdown, her second poetry book, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting has won the following 2013 awards: Milt Kessler Award Finalist, Patterson Poetry Prize Finalist, and International Latino Book Award/Best Poetry Book in English. Her debut novel, Ocotillo Dreams, which started out as a historical account of immigration but metamorphosed to a more accessible work of fiction when Arizona began instituting its draconian immigration laws, received the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature, and the  2012 International Latino Book Award/ Mariposa Award for Best First Book.

          Palacio’s facility with the written word is not all natural talent. She received a degree in Comparative Literature from University of California, Berkeley and earned a Master’s degree in the same discipline from UC Santa Cruz. She has studied her craft diligently, both as a 2007 PEN USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellow, and as an alumna of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Palacio wrote articles for local magazines and newspapers in Arizona and California earlier in her career. So she has been steeped in writing—the informal, conversational writing of lifestyle articles she penned as a freelance journalist, and the more demanding literary creations that have brought her much recognition. She laid a firm foundation through formal study and leverages that expertise into a growing reputation as an outstanding author.

            Palacio is hip, uninhibited, and frank. California Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera described her writing in How Fire Is a Story, Waiting as “jazzy and Pachukona...[with] Bop and ‘swagger’...and wild, unexpected turns” (Cover blurb).  Yes, all true. But Palacio can also be little-girl traditional, as she is in “Porch Days” (p. 16): “I’m six, and I sit on the porch Indian style./My best friend Aurora makes the number four with her legs./We sit and listen to the slapping sound our thighs make against red concrete.” And Palacio can also be little-girl scared, as in “Ramona Street” (p. 17): “Hug your rabbit with the ear singed by a light bulb./Cradle her. Ignore the burnt smell and loose button eye./The eye on your mother’s swollen face is worse.” And Palacio can whisper a growing girl’s fears with timidity: “1. You have always been lonely, but never alone....Don’t sink into that dark place from which there is no return. Romance the devil,/until your cries are a distant memory and/you’re ready for church and candy” (“Notes to Self,” p. 31).
          So Melinda Palacio’s mixture of contradictions and life experiences spanning almost coast to coast have given an undeniable authenticity and recognition to her writings. We devour her work because we see ourselves in it. We believe her insights because we know she’s been burned by the fire she awaits, the fire that kindles her stories. And, like moths perennially attracted to flame, we gravitate toward the fire Palacio creates for us.


This review was originally posted in a prior version on Hinchas de Poesia Literary Journal, Issue 10, edited by Jim Heavily.

Thelma T. Reyna is author of The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories (2009), which received 4 national awards. Her stories, poems, essays, book reviews, and other non-fiction have been published in literary and academic journals, textbooks, anthologies, blogs, and in regional media off and on for over 30 years. Her poetry chapbooks—Breath & Bone (2011), and Hearts in Common (June 2013)—was each a semi-finalist in a national poetry chapbook competition. Reyna writes two blogs and is a guest blogger on two others.  She owns the editing/writing consultant business, The Writing Pros, based in Pasadena, CA. Her website is .

Saturday, June 29, 2013

YA a different way 1. Great opp to support El Museo. Keystone XL Pipeline.

Assessing YA lit

La Bloga's contributors cover many genres, especially children's lit, Chicano nonfiction, memoirs, detective and crime, chicalit, works in Spanish, sci-fi, magic realism and poetry. The Young Adult genre has been covered, though nowhere as extensively as its share of the market.

Last year sales in young adult were up 13%, and up 117% in e-books, more than twice the digital growth in adult markets. Reports indicate that young adult fiction yielded much bigger advances to authors.

It's obviously an important genre, given its influence on the younger generation. Also, in a La Bloga series last year, "Spic vs spec - 1. Chicanos/latinos & sci-fi lit", I referenced how classic, American SciFi helped produce the scientists and engineers responsible for the U.S. space program.

For these and other reasons, I've decided to shift my posts to YA lit, especially to the speculative novels of SciFi, fantasy and magic realism. I will focus on books pertinent to Chicano, latino et al youth, but not exclude others.

I'm not a teenager, nor certain if I ever was a "regular" one, either. And from my limited understanding of YA, I won't be reviewing books, so much as assessing them for the messages they give to the young. In the process, I'll refer readers to other, regular reviews.

Morals, ethics, principles, beliefs--all reviewers inject some or much of this into their reviews. I propose to bring mine out front, bring them to bear on specific stories and come out on the other end with "what's the message," if you will.

Being subjective means my opinion can't be taken as THE word about YA books. My intention isn't to attempt to develop a Must-Read or Never-Let-Your-Kid-Read lists. Kids read what they want to, not what their parents wish they would, anyway.

I can already hear Latin@ author cringing, hoping I don't zero in on their work. I know how my gente is and don't necessarily expect my assessments will be met with open brazos. For that reason, I'm going to test my methods on non-brown authors and books first. That won't get me off the hook, but it will give you an idea of the basis for the appraisals. I'd welcome a better term than that one or assessments.

In the end, I hope to generate dialogue, not only among Chicano et al authors, about the nature of YA authorship in these times. I begin.

YA a different way 1

Halo - The Flood (2003) by NYT bestselling author William C. Dietz who's published over forty novels. On his website, Dietz doesn't list any more than he's an American author. Halo is one of the most popular war video games, so boys particularly may pick up one of novels in the series. The book was a Publishers Weekly Top Ten paperback bestseller, listed as SciFi genre, not YA. It's written as an "adult" book, but appeals to youth because of its game connection. (Here's reviews about it by gamestersGo here for an Amazon synopsis.)

If you're into war, kill, death, weapons, soldiers, alien enemies and earthling heroes, that's in the novel. If you're not, pick up something else. From the first chapter, the novel takes you in and through to the end of the Halo videogame.

So, what are some of the main messages conveyed to readers?
  • Tired or wounded soldiers can usually fix themselves with drugs, ganas or inspiring leaders, and keep on fighting.
  • There are no cowards on "our side," the earthlings'.
  • Our heroes always come up with more weapons or ammo and only run out of anything for brief periods.
  • Lack of sleep, rest or food never stops "our side" for long.
  • There are few female good-guy soldiers.
  • Shotguns aren't just legal in war, they're very good to use.
  • The enemy is stupid and are inferior fighters, no matter their technology.
  • It is quick and easy to kill hundreds of the enemy, no matter how many come at you or how they're armed.
  • The enemy doesn't take prisoners, except for special ones they need to torture for info, collaborate against their people, or Spartan, who is basically Super Soldier, their most deadly and seemingly invincible enemy.
  • The good guys, especially the hero Spartan, can go for hundreds of pages, killing hundreds of the enemy and suffer no regrets, PTSD or negative changes to their personalities.
  • In war, there is no collateral damage, since there are no civilians in the story.
  • The war on the alien threat is never-ending.

I plowed through this book and about two thirds of the way through, my mule had difficulty traversing the mud of death, body parts and blood. After a few thousand kills, I wondered about the mind of a reader still interested, entertained and avid to turn the page.

From what I've read, violent games don't breed school shooters. On the other hand, it's conceivable such games and a novel like this do breed something. I won't make this assessment any more subjective by saying what I think that is.

This completes YA A Different Way 1. I am very interested to know what La Bloga readers and contributors feel about this post. Should they include more? Should I push the envelope of criticism? Qué más?

Next time, I'll up the stakes by assessing the messages of non-Chicano author Paolo Bacigalupi, bestselling author of The Windup Girls--an incredible novel. I'll consider instead his two YA SciFi bestsellers, Shipbreakers and Drowned Cities. I'll examine his novels in the context of his words, "Give up on the adults!."

2 to 1 Matching Fundraising Campaign - Only 1 day left!

A worthy appeal from Denver's Museo de las Américas:

"Museo's long-term benefactor, Irving Tragen, has offered a matching grant that will make it possible to own our building in the Art District on Santa Fe that we have occupied since 1991. Mr. Tragen has offered $50,000 if we meet a goal of $25,000 by June 30, 2013. Through many Museo friends and 100% of our board contributing, we have raised $18,000.

"Please give today to support the only Latin American museum in Colorado, which serves 11,000 students and 20,000 visitors each year!

"Thank you for your generosity!"

Keystone XL Pipeline - not good news

From Obama's Climate Change statement:
"I know there's been, for example, a lot of controversy surrounding the proposal to build a pipeline - the Keystone pipeline, that would carry oil from Canadian tar sands down to refineries in the Gulf. The State Department is going through the final stages of evaluating the proposal. That's how it's always been done. But I do want to be clear. Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation's interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline's impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It's relevant."

It's relevant, as he says, but he may approve the pipeline. The reason is, the wording "significantly exacerbate." The State Dept.'s has already certified that the pipeline won't "significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution." The EPA is not in agreement. Pipelines leak, energy companies lie about safety and compliance,  their compliance with regulations. Those are the inescapable facts about pipelines, especially oil pipelines, especially tar-sands oil pipelines, especially tar-sands oil will poison the atmosphere and further char-broil the planet. The Oglalla Aquifer will be affected by the filthiest fossil-fuel ever. Obama may take a dive on this summer.

You can read more here
Here you can do something about it in your area, this summer.

Es todo, hoy,
aka Rudy Ch. Garcia, author of The Closet of Discarded Dreams, awarded Honorable Mention at the 2013 International Latino Book Awards, Fantasy/SciFi category

Friday, June 28, 2013

Francisco Goya - Los Caprichos

We recently visited the Loveland Museum/Gallery about 45 minutes north of Denver. The Museum is the current home to an exceptional exhibit entitled Francisco Goya: Los Caprichos. The trip turned out to be a great idea and a fine way to enjoy northern Colorado. Goya's genius is certainly recognized worldwide and images of his art are everywhere, but there is nothing like seeing the actual figures, inches from your face. These etchings are incredibly detailed and powerful. The complicated process to produce them involves etching needles, copper plates, and acid baths. Thanks to the City of Loveland for making this art accessible to all - only $5 admission for non-members, with several free days, and an impressive list of talks, films, and events for all ages related to the exhibit. I highly recommend the show, which will be on display all Summer. 

Loveland Museum/Gallery
503 N. Lincoln Ave.
Loveland, CO 80537
(970) 962-2410 

Here's information from the Museum's website.

 June 14 - September 22, 2013
Admission: $5, free for Museum members
Guided tours every Friday at noon, free with admission. Tours last 30-45 minutes. Reservations are not required but space is limited.

Saturday, June 22; Thursday, July 11; Sunday, August 18
Let your imagination run wild at "The Goya Gala." Click the link to learn more!
Main GalleryFrancisco Goya - The Sleep of Reason Brings Forth Monsters
This exhibition features an early first edition of Los Caprichos, a set of 80 etchings by Spanish artist Francisco de Goya y Lucientes that was published in 1799. It is regarded as one of the most influential series of graphic images in the history of Western art.

Enigmatic and controversial, Los Caprichos was created in a time of social repression and economic crisis in Spain. Influenced by Enlightenment thinking, Goya set out to analyze the human condition and denounce social abuses and superstitions. Los Caprichos was his passionate declaration that the chains of social repression had to be broken if humanity was to advance. The prints attest to the artist’s political liberalism and to his revulsion at ignorance and intellectual persecution, mirroring his ambivalence towards authority and the church. Filled with a remarkable cast of characters ranging from aristocrats to goblins, Los Caprichos conjures up a haunting vision of a world without reason.

Accompanying the exhibition are images by two distinguished artists directly inspired by Los Caprichos, Edward Hagedorn and Enrique Chagoya. Their images resonate with Goya’s vision: that art can be used as a weapon of truth to attack injustice through irony, ridicule, and satire.
Throughout the exhibit, Loveland Museum/Gallery will present exciting programming that explores Francisco Goya: Los Caprichos from a rich mix of social, historical, and artistic perspectives.

Below is a video that give a taste of the exhibit. The Museum provides links to several of these short videos so that visitors can listen as they ponder Goya's provocative and brilliant art.

The view north of Loveland, Colorado


Thursday, June 27, 2013


Revista digital semestral y arbitrada, dedicada al estudio de las culturas en América Latina, publica textos en español, inglés y portugués. Cada número contará con una sección especial sobre un tema específico, en el cual se explorarán las articulaciones entre lo cultural, lo social, lo económico y lo político en América Latina. Aceptamos artículos académicos y ensayos multimedia durante todo el año. Por favor, consultar las Normas Editoriales para mayor información.

alter/nativas es de acceso libre y gratuito, y su fin es promover el más amplio intercambio de ideas entre intelectuales, artistas e investigadores dedicados a la problemática cultural de la región.

El primer volumen, otoño 2013, ya está en línea,

Bi-annual and peer reviewed journal devoted to the study of Latin American cultures, publishes texts in Spanish, English and Portuguese. Each issue will have a special section on a specific theme, which will explore the articulations between the cultural, social, economic, and political spheres within Latin America.We welcome submissions of academic articles and multimedia essays all year round. Please consult the guidelines for more information.

alter/nativasprovides free and open access and its goal is to promote the widest possible exchange of ideas among intellectuals, artists and researchers concerned with the region’s cultural problems.

The first issue, Autumn 2013, is already online at

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

REFORMA Activities at ALA Annual in Chicago

Friday, June 28th
2:30pm - 4:00pm Executive Committee Meeting I Palmer House Hilton, Indiana Room

6:30pm - 11:30pm Second Annual Denim & Diamonds Gala Lobo De Mar Restaurant, 5503 W. Cermak Road, Cicero, IL.

Saturday, June 29th
8:30am - 10:00am Connecting Multilingual Patrons with Legal Information: Key Resources Palmer House Hilton, Spire Parlor [Program Flyer]

8:30am - 10:00am Multicultural Programming for Tweens and Families McCormick Place Convention Center, S404d

3:00pm - 4:30pm Advances, Challenges and Issues in Black and Latino Librarianship in America McCormick Place Convention Center, S103d [Program Flyer]

4:30pm - 5:30pm Cuéntame Un Cuentito: A Cross Border Look at Books That Inspire Children to Read McCormick Place Convention Center, N227a

4:30pm - 5:30pm Preserving History: Establishing a National Latino Digital Archive Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Room

Sunday, June 30th
8:30am - 11:30am Board Meeting Palmer House Hilton, Chicago Room

10:30am - 11:30am Latino Books for Youth: an Honest Conversation McCormick Place Convention Center, N128

10:30am - 12:00pm Creando Enlaces: Building Cross-Border Connections McCormick Place Convention Center, Hall A, Exhibit Floor

1:00pm - 3:00pm 2013 Pura Belpré Celebración Hyatt Regency Chicago, Grand A

3:00pm - 4:00pm Making it Happen: DIVERSITY in your library Palmer House Hilton, Spire Parlor

4:30pm - 5:30pm Libraries empowering communities to deal with Climate Crisis Palmer House Hilton, Crystal Room

Monday, July 1st
8:30am - 10:00am REFORMA General Membership Meeting Palmer House Hilton, Spire Parlor

1:00pm - 2:30pm Executive Committee Meeting II Palmer House Hilton, Indiana Room

 A Message By Author Alma Flor Ada

If you are going to the ALA Conference, please consider attending:

Saturday, June 29

10:00-11:30 am
Charlesbrige Booth #1908
Signing the new book YES! WE ARE LATINOS

2:00 -3:00 pm Lee & Low Booth #2305

Sunday, June 30

1:00 -2:00 pm
Book Buzz – Roots and Wings: Books for the Spanish/Bilingual and Latino Interest Reader
Isabel Campoy and I will in the panel.
Room S104A McCormick Place, Convention Center

Monday, July 1

10:00-11:30 am
Poetry Blast at the Top Stage, Exhibit Floor
Isabel Campoy and I will be reading from our new book YES! WE ARE LATINOS. Book signing following. 

It will be a joy to see you at ALA!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks Zucchini Tortillas. On-line Floricanto

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Gluten-free Zucchini Tortillas

Across the country, home gardeners find themselves harvesting pounds of summer squash and rifling through cook books for recipes. I give my excess to a local food bank; those five-pound monsters are edible, sabes?

Here is a delicious, fast, incredibly easy, delicious food. Made with wheat flour, it's not OK for gente who cannot eat gluten. Made with gluten-free consciousness and ingredients, this zucchini tortilla becomes a universal food.

Gente afflicted by gluten intolerance get exceedingly ill after consuming wheat-, barley-, or rye-containing foods. This means no beer, no soy sauce, no corn flakes, no bread of any kind, white, wheat, rye, pizza, donuts, bagels, croutons, bocadillas, and worst of all, no tortillas de harina.

The Gluten-free Chicano grew up eating tortillas de harina from his mother’s and both grandmothers’ hands. They are his native food. Packed in a brown bag wrapped around a weenie, eggs and papas, beans and cheese, his school lunches provided variety and converse with the other kids.

My mother and her mother made the best masa, turning out thin, supple tortillas whether hot or cold. My other gramma made sabanas, huge thin wondrous treats pulled off the cast iron stove. Which is neither here nor there because if you're afflicted you're never going to eat another flour tortilla in your life. So this recipe makes a flour tortilla analog, on the thick side for a tortilla but then, it's not a tortilla de harina.

Keep the masa wet, spread it thinly across the comal, cook it solid all the way through, and you can wrap food in it. You cannot taquear with it but you can sop up the salsa or dip into hummus with a piece torn from The Gluten-free Chicano's gluten-free zucchini tortillas.

Any squash will do. Today’s garden provides zucchini and patty pan calabacitas. As I am feeding only two, I choose one patty pan. La Chickenada provide one egg. I need milk, baking soda, salt, pepper, chile powder, plus a deep bowl for beating eggs, a wire whisk.

Whip the egg frothy. Whip in the baking soda, salt, chile powder.

Stir in a quarter cup of GF flour or less. You want a thin masa, so splash in some milk, then stir in the grated squash. Now the masa flows easily and and sticks to itself and the veggies.

Spray the pan with non-stick spray. Add a scant tsp of olive oil and let it get hot enough to sizzle a test droplet.

Drop a generous amount of masa into the pan and spread it out. Let it cook until the edges have set. Be patient and let it bubble here and there.

 Five or six minutes on the first side.


Three minutes on the other or until done all the way. To ensure the center cooks effectively I press on the tortilla with the spatula.

Set cooked tortilla on newspaper to soak up any excess cooking oil. Some people slather butter on them and eat with a knife and fork. If you're making a lot, 1.5 per mouth could be about right, wrap them in a dish towel and cover with a bowl. Leave the leftovers in the trapo and refrigerate. They're good cold.

I make these large enough to wrap around some carne asada or scrambled eggs, and eat by hand, like a taco. I call these tortillas, others call them pancakes. 

Anyone you serve them to will call these delectable, and ask you "please make your zucchini tortillas again tomorrow." Be sure to echo, "you mean The Gluten-free Chicano's zucchini tortillas, with my own special touch."

Next time, maybe grate chile huero with the squash so they're decently picosos. Or use yellow and green calabazas, a few shavings of red pepper, for eye appeal. Add dried parmesan cheese to the flour for piquancy. Raisins and nuts could make this a sweet dish.

Variations on ingredients and cooking options provide delightful meals, in almost no time and minimal preparation difficulty. An experimental attitude produces compliments and stuffed bellies, along with another way to use all those squash.

Do rinse the bowl and utensils right away because gluten-free flour products dry hard and require scraping and lots of elbow grease to uncrust.

For additional The Gluten-free Chicano recipes visit Read! Raza's GF pages.

The Gluten-free Chicano Bakes
For Dessert, Gluten-free Peanut Butter Cookies

These generously-sized galletas de cacahuate come out of the oven chewy but not soft and spongy. Use any gluten-free flour or pancake mix, mix everything by hand, drop heaped tablespoons of dough onto a coated cookie tray. Bake  at 350 degrees 15 to 20 minutes or until suitably brown, remove to cooling rack.

You'll need 15 minutes to make the dough and get the cookies into the hot oven.

Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix, or King Arthur gluten-free flour.
Sugar to taste, generous half a cup
Salt, 2 shakes
Cinnamon, a shake
Baking soda, a couple pinches or 1/16 tsp
Vanilla powder, a couple shakes or 1/4 tsp genuine vanilla extract
Unsweetened butter, 3/4 cube
crunchy peanut butter, 3 tbs
1 egg

In a suitable container:
Whisk the heck out of an egg. When frothy, whip in the baking soda, salt, vanilla, canela.

In a deep mixing bowl: 
Cut 3/4 stick butter into the flour mix with a fork. Get the mix to a fine crumble.
Mix sugar throughly. 1/4 brown 1/4 cup white sugar, or just brown or just white.
Mix in 3 heaping, dripping tbs crunchy peanut butter.
Dig to the bottom of the bowl and get all the dry stuff into the mix.
You now have a heavy lump of dough that could be rolled out.
Stir the egg mix into the peanut butter mix.
The dough is stiff, so splash milk to thin enough to stir the dough into a sticky ball.

Non-stick spray a cookie sheet:
Wash your hands again and leave them wet.
Scoop a palmful of batter and roll into a ball.
Position the balls of dough 3 across 4 down. They will spread out in the oven and may touch.

Bake 20 minutes or until nicely browned.
You may have to rotate the cookie sheet if the oven bakes unevenly.
Remove with a wide flat spatula to a cooling rack.
Cookies left to cool on the sheet continue cooking. They will be crispier.
Serve warm if you're in serious need of a cookie.

For additional The Gluten-free Chicano recipes visit Read! Raza's GF pages.

For The Gluten-free Chicano's GF Beer tasting report, click here.

Lit Crawl Promises Literary Mayhem in Public

Sally Shore, OG of spoken word literature in El Lay and environs brings, along with Conrad Romo and Rosalind Helfand, Lit Crawl to the environs: North Hollywood’s square mile of performance spaces, bars, restaurants, galleries, the NoHo arts scene.

The San Francisco-originated Lit Crawl movimiento began in 2004 to solve a marketing conundrum: “Could we take over a neighborhood, or two, add pop-up events to every venue that might allow it (bars, cafes, bookstores, theaters, galleries, clothing boutiques, furniture showrooms, parking lots, Laundromats, bee-keeping supply shops), invite dozens of authors to read from their work, and watch hundreds of literati tromp the route and get drunk on words—all for free?”

According to Sally’s email, the October 2013 Lit Crawl brings “the best of LA’s writers” to read and sell books to thousands of teeming literati and the inevitable literatonti. The line-up depends upon who applies to perform in venues ranging from bars to bakeries, promising accommodation to a variety of content and age ranges.

Shore says she is “reaching out to the many L.A. literary organizations and communities for presentation proposals for this inaugural crawl.” Those who apply by July 15 have a shot at Lit Crawl real estate and a spot on the Command Performance stage that will be the principal literary legacy of Lit Crawl LA:NoHo.

To claim a place among the best of LA’s writers, contact Sally Shore, Interim Director at the organization's website. She cautions hopefuls be creative, fun, and comply with guidelines detailed in the application form, such as “Lit Crawl is known nationally for innovative/fun/challenging content and we love great & unique ideas for Lit Crawl L.A: NoHo!"

Your tax dollars at work
Lit Crawl LA: NoHo is a project of the EMERGE fiscal sponsorship program of The Pasadena Arts Council and is also a project of the Litquake Foundation.

Reading Honors Poet Gloria Enedina Alvarez

La Bloga friend Abel Salas, publisher of Los Angeles' razacentric arts weekly Brooklyn & Boyle Magazine, sends news of an all-star lineup of Chicana Chicano Latina Latino poets, artists, and musicians gathering at Salas' Boyle Heights production facility, Medford Street Studios, to celebrate and honor their mentor and friend, multifaceted poet, librettist, consejera, Gloria Enedina Alvarez.

Latinopia Feature of the Week: Bloguera Olga García Echeverría

Olga García Echeverría's Sunday columns never fail to elicit enthusiastic comments from readers. Comments, both here and at La Bloga's Facebook pageholder, enjoy Olga's distinctive voice and seriously funny insights. 

Olga's engagingly effective reading of her memorable code-switching gem, "Lengualistic Algo" is this week's Latinopia Word feature.

If the video link above doesn't play, click here to enjoy Olga's this-is-how-you-read-your-own-stuff reading of this masterpiece.

On-line Floricanto At the End of June, Beginning of Summer
Andrea Mauk, edward vidaurre, Fernando Rodríguez, Rose Sanchez, Frank De Jesus Acosta

“You Taught Me Well” by Andrea Mauk
“guión”, by edward vidaurre
"Somos América" by Fernando Rodríguez
"My Beauty Queen" by Rose Sanchez
"Colors of Love" by Frank De Jesus Acosta

You Taught Me Well
by Andrea Mauk

Your hand was as big as ten of mine
and cupped with warmth
as we walked the uneven streets
of Nogales.
You took me from store to store
searching for a shield,
crossed swords protruding from behind,
royal blue, a proud eagle
with wings spread in confidence.
Garcia. The same in Mexico.
You taught me names have meaning
and links to history.

Around the corner,
children smaller than I
offered naranjas y chicles
but I couldn't take my eyes away from
the boat of a car heading nose first
down the cobbled side of the mountain.
Why doesn't it fall, Grandpa?
He studied it, smiled slowly.
The road only looks that steep
from here, he explained.
Besides, things don't always make sense
in Mexico - not the way we're used to.
You let me believe in miracles.

Back home, my brother's body
limp and sinking. I dove down
and grabbed him, and pulled
and struggled, and ran out of air,
but stayed down. I felt
claws of steel cinch my waist,
a forklift ride hoisting both of us.
You didn't swim, but you somehow
saved him, saved us.
He spit out water for five minutes straight
as I shivered and thanked God.
Thanked you.
You taught me to never give up.

Saturday mornings
playing with toys saved from my mom's childhood,
milk bottles that bobbed up and down in
a pull-wagon. Dressing up in high heels
and musty garments stored in the
cedar chest. My grandmother
trying to clean up
my cyclonic mess.
You laughed, and made
panqueques con mouse ears
or lumpy fork-mashed potatoes
swimming in butter, and your eyes
were sun rays when you looked at me.
You taught me how people
treat one another
when they love.

Ten years old. We got the news on
the telephone. Three generations
of women who adored you
knotted by love and loss on the side
of my mom's bed. You left me
your Ford Fairlane with
no power steering and the air conditioning
that made it sound like an airplane.
I drove it once before my dad sold it
because he needed the money.
You taught me loss,
the one I loved most, Grandpa,
because you were the first to go.

Andrea García Mauk grew up in Arizona, where both the immense beauty and harsh realities of living in the desert shaped her artistic soul. She calls Los Angeles home, but has also lived in Chicago, New York and Boston. She has worked in the music industry, and on various film and television productions. She writes short fiction, poetry, original screenplays and adaptations, and is currently finishing two novels. Her writing and artwork has been published and viewed in a variety of places such as on The Late, Late Show with Tom Snyder; The Journal of School Psychologists and Victorian Homes Magazine. Both her poetry and artwork have won awards. Several of her poems and a memoir are included in the 2011 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality, and her poetry is featured in the 2012 Mujeres de Maiz “‘Zine.” She is a regular contributor to Poets responding to SB 1070. Her poems have been chosen for publication on La Bloga’s Tuesday Floricanto numerous times. She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry. Her production company, Dancing Horse Media Group, is currently in pre-production of her independent film, “Beautiful Dreamer,” based on her original screenplay and manuscript, and along with her partners, is producing a unique cookbook that blends healthful recipes with poetry and prose from the community.

by Edward A. Vidaurre

do you know the in-between?
i do
i plank on hyphens
there i understand the reason for lighting candles
there i read banned music notes
there alurista explains duende to me
there oldies explain the meaning behind quinceañera dance choreography
there i can see mi gente running and jumping over la pobreza into el racismo
there our children are detained
there clouds come down and carry off my denials
there i search for the chemical reaction that makes love work
there is where Neruda dropped his pen after asking for silence
there the CIA jumped off
there lie the odes yet written
there goes an ode for the unwritten
there revolutions rise
there a poem lies face down
between the hyphen
right there

Born in East L.A., CA in 1973, Edward Vidaurre writes poetry about his upbringing and experiences of living in the barrio. Raised in Boyle Heights in the projects of Aliso Village, his poetry takes you through his memory of La Lucha. Known to his friends as Barrio Poet, Vidaurre says:” Sometimes the barrio claims us, holds us by our feet like roots in its field of chalk outlines closed off by the screaming yellow tape being pulled from its soul.”

Vidaurre is the founder of Pasta, Poetry & Vino and Barrio Poet Productions. He has been nominated for a pushcart prize for his poem, "Lorca in the Barrio" and also is co-editing an anthology called "Twenty" for Newtown, CT through El Zarape Press with Daniel Garcia Ordaz, Katie Hoerth, Jose Chapa V and Rene Saldaña Jr.His book "I Took My Barrio On A Road Trip" (Slough Press 2013) is available on and Barnes & Noble.

Somos América
by Fernando Rodríguez

Somos América
Somos el pasto a través del país,
Que alimenta y mantiene a tus vacas
Somos las nubes del país,
Que cubren y mojan la tierra
Somos 11 millones
Somos americanos
El contitnente es América no solo un país
Somos el futuro, pasado y presente
Somos América
El desayuno del güero
El descanso de los flojos
El ticket del policía
El consumidor de la Wal-mart
El que paga la renta, luz y agua
El que mantiene tu economía
El que pelea tus batallas
Somos América
Somos muchos
Y dime tú ¿quién eres?

Fernando Rodríguez from Los Baños, California, having two kids for which I care for. I envision an America where we are equal. That vato from that ghetto neighborhood in Mexicali. The same guy who wishes to become educated, to help others. That guy who is blessed to be a part of both cultures.

My Beauty Queen
by Rose Sanchez

Beauty rang loud and clear,
in all the things Claudia said,
in all the things Claudia did
for her family.
You see,
Claudia made quite obvious
to anyone who listened,
that her family was the cornerstone
of her life.
Claudia's actions
could win a beauty contest hands down,
if the contestants were judged by the example they set.
Claudia showed her three daughters,
that honey really IS sweeter then vinegar,
no matter what the issues may have been,
between her and her man,
(My dad)
they always worked them out.
Security is so precious
to a child.
Beauty,danced miraculous in piano keys.
This short,spirited,dark haired, plump,
cinnamon skinned woman,
bent over her ivories,
pounding out Bach, Beethoven,
Rancheras, and even the Blues.
She always thought she wasn't
"good enough"
Yet I can still hear and feel her music
in my mind so many years later.
Let me tell you,
the woman could PLAY!
I know you'll think I'm crazy,
when I tell you that I recently realized,
how gorgeous, green beans really are.
It hit me one day, out of the blue,
when I was thinking about Claudia.
You see, she forever had green beans in her pantry.
The beauty in those cans with stick on labels was,
in her mind they represented nutrition and health.
So what if her family was the only family for miles,
forced to eat frijoles, tortillas AND green beans.
I know now, there was beauty in every bite.
Summer nights were made in heaven,
you wouldn't think THAT could be possible
someplace in a smoggy, gang infested barrio of East Los Angeles right?
Yet, when Claudia sat out on the front porch steps
her husband lightly strumming the guitar,
she sang the sad love songs.
she learned at her father's knee
in her native New Mexico
Hearing the strains of her haunting melodic voice,
even the stars stopped twinkling to listen.
This Claudia I speak of,
is an amazing woman.
She has shed tears of both joy and pain,
she offers her life and her family
with total faith, into the hands of God.
I don't see Claudia as often as I would like to,
but when I do,
I drink in the contours of her face
her dark brown eyes,
and I enjoy that husky laugh.
I believe that the
soft lines on her cafe con leche skin,
could never mar her beauty.
I can only hope,
that time will be kind
showing me the secrets of becoming
even half the strong and beautiful woman she is.
I hug her tight when I am able
For a brief moment,
I am that wild haired, freckle faced niña again.
It should be mandated,
every child could have a Claudia in their lives.
Claudia is my mom.
The true definition of beauty to me.
For Claudia who taught me the importance of hugs,
kisses and embracing each moment tightly.....
I love you lady.

Rose Valencia Sanchez was born to Santos and Claudia Valencia in East Los Angele's California. Rose developed a love for words and reading at a young age, due to playing word games, and reading together with her family. She also enjoyed listening to the many stories of her fathers childhood in New Mexico. He painted such a vivid picture with his words, that Rose aspired to do the same.

Rose currently resides Arizona, and is fighting against racial intolerance and injustice aimed at the people she was always taught to be so proud of. The first thing you see when you walk up to Rose's front door is a sign on her front window that states "NO SB1070." She carries this statement inside her heart, and it fills up her every waking moment.

She is fighting this war with her words, her weapons are drawn, she is ready to battle.

Colors of Love
By Frank De Jesus Acosta

I awaken drawing a virgin breath
New day offering a canvas of revelation
The amber of the dawn sun illumes possibility
Words dance like finger-paints in a childlike heart
Innocent imaginations channeling ancient wisdom
Earth a tambour for those embroidering red roads
Renderings of hate, greed, & cruelty turn the world grey
Reflect the shades & blushes of creation; brilliant & serene
Be a chameleon of truth, bearing the hues of humanity
Beyond the spectrum of beauty are the colors of love

Frank de Jesus Acosta is a writer and the principal strategist of Acosta & Associates, a California-based consultant group that specializes in community change ventures facilitated by non-profit management, organization capacity-building, fund development, project research/planning/development, and initiative management activities targeting philanthropic, non-profit, government institutions. Acosta is a graduate of University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Acosta’s professional experience includes serving as a Sr. Program Officer with The California Wellness Foundation, as well as executive leadership tenures with the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), Downtown Immigrant Advocates (DIA), National Center for Community Change, and the UCLA Community Programs Office. In 2007, Acosta authored a book published by the Arte Publico Press Hispanic Civil Rights Series, University of Houston, “The History of Santa Cruz Barrios Unidos, Cultura Es Cura, Healing Community Violence.”