Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Review: Secrets of Old Blood Sizzles. Mailbag. July's Fifth On-line Floricanto

Review:  Sandra Ramos O'Briant. The Sandoval Sisters' Secret of Old Blood. Los Angeles: La Gente Press, 2012. ISBN-13: 9780615615103

Michael Sedano

There’s a reason folks keep “to-be-read” stacks of books. Prioritizing time, one reads, first, time-certain books--book group selections, impending public library due date. Next in line are serendipitous titles picked up here or there, perhaps a gift or a recovered treasure. Over time, priorities change and a book gets added to the good intentions stack.

Every now and again, time allows one to slide the top volume off the nearest “to-be-read” stack. For me, recently, this happened to be Sandra Ramos O’Briant’s historical novel The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood.

Back in September 2012, I attended a fiestas patrias month reading at the Autry Center that featured Daniel Olivas’ landmark anthology, Latinos in Lotusland. It was an opportunity to photograph authors Sandra Ramos O’Briant, Estella Gonzalez, Lisa Alvarez, Melinda Palacio, and Michael Jaime-Becerra.

O’Briant had copies of the novel there, so I bought my copy intending to get right to it. Eventually, The Sandoval Sisters found itself on the stack. Now I regret not getting to this delightful historical romp sooner.

Historians might quibble here and there, I’m not one so I have no idea about the history. O’Briant doesn’t make a big deal out of the massive historical research that the author conducted. Her labor pays off in a text rich in fact and implied knowledge that lends authenticity to crucial events. Readers shouldn't notice the effort, and in that sense, the history works in this novel.

Set in New Mexico in the decades leading to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, the story of four women comes ready-made with cultural references and a literary heritage. Most notably, as a uniquely New Mexico story with plot lines filled with miracles and mystical prescience, O’Briant fits into literary space created by Rudolfo Anaya’s timeless Bless Me, Ultima.

O’Briant’s story of the Sandoval sister married into a slave-owning Texas family has a counterpart in Arturo Madrid’s In the Country of Empty Crosses. Set in New Mexico beginning fifty years after the Sandoval Sisters stories, Madrid’s depiction of ever-present tensions between Catholic and Protesant gente, raza and anglo, reflects the creative history O’Briant thrusts upon the indomitable Alma.

Historicity sets a background and defines cultural rules that constrains an author’s work. Eroticism has fewer boundaries, and here Sandra Ramos O’Briant gives herself an almost free hand. There’s the soltera sister, the keeper of familia knowledge. There’s the consolation prize bride, Pilar, a 14-year old. Her middle-aged husband looks forward to training her body. Alma, the intended bride, runs off to Texas with a nice cowboy. First impressions are killers, Alma learns. Still, Bill gives her shivers when she lets herself go. Then she meets the doctor.

Lusty as the reading gets in places, O’Briant constrains herself. Women have clefts, men have members. Putting aside small details, the author enjoys placing characters into sexual situations just because she can. But that’s why it’s a romp of a novel, lots of passion. "What if?" that's why authors create novels out of historical material: the rape victim whose sex slavery teaches her to return home a worldly-wise business woman; the woman who prefers to face the world as a male finds love with a woman; are magic and miracle the result of knowledge and literacy, not belief and intent?

Historical fiction might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but ni modo. This one is a treat and deserves a trip to your local independent bookseller.

When I took The Sandoval Sisters’ Secret of Old Blood off my “to-be-read” stack it was none too soon and about time. What a treat to enjoy the joys of sly smiles and breathless intervals between racist attacks, yanqui invasions, local color, gender ambiguity, jealous lovers, patient lovers, huge cultural paradigm shifts.

And the next one on the stack now is “Accordion Crimes.” Vamos a ver.

Melinda Palacio, Estella González, Lisa Alvarez, Sandra Ramos O'Briant, Michael Jaime-Becerra, Daniel Olivas

Mystery Arises From Arte Publico Email

La Bloga readers already on Arte Público Press' email list recently saw Arte Público spotlighting La Bloga co-founder and alternating-Friday columnist, Manuel Ramos, in the publisher's July email.

Manuel's critically-acclaimed Desperado is on the radio in an interview with KUHF radio host Eric Ladau.

In more news, television watchers will want to expand their enjoyment of The Bridge, according to Arte Público, by reading Alicia Gaspar de Alba's unforgettable novel about the Juarez murders, Desert Blood. The publisher has it in English or Spanish language editions.

On-line Floricanto in July Farewell
Francisco X. Alarcon, Andrea Mauk, Sherry Carbajal, Bulfrano Mendoza, Irma Guadarrama

August horizons today as La Bloga's On-line Floricanto wraps July with five distinctive voices selected by the Moderators of the Facebook group Poets Responding to SB 1070 Poetry of Resistance.

Canto Hondo/Deep Song by Francisco X. Alarcon
Don’t Call Me White Girl (The Backlash) by Andrea Mauk
Trying to Understand by Sherry Carbajal
Sacrificio by Bulfrano Mendoza
Water (The River of Life in a Desert of Hell) by Irma Guadarrama

Canto Hondo/Deep Song
Francisco X. Alarcon

Francisco X. Alarcón, award winning Chicano poet and educator, is author of twelve volumes of poetry,
including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002), and Snake Poems: An Aztec Invocation (Chronicle Books 1992) His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His book of bilingual poetry for children, Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008), was selected as a Notable Book for a Global Society by the International Reading Association. His previous bilingual book titled Poems to Dream Together (Lee & Low Books 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Honor Book Award. He has been a finalist nominated for Poet Laureate of California in two occasions. He teaches at the University of California, Davis.

Francisco recently participated in the First Children’s Poetry Festival in El Salvador (Nov. 8-10, 2010) and was able to visit Monseñor Oscar Arnulfo Romero’s tomb beneath the metropolitan cathedral of San Salvador. Monseñor Romero was killed saying mass in 1980 marking one of the most violent periods of the civil war in El Salvador.
He created a new Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070 that is getting lots of poetry submissions and comments. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Poets-Responding-to-SB-1070/117494558268757?ref=ts

Don't Call Me White Girl (The Backlash) 
Andrea Mauk

Don't stop me in the U-Scan of the grocery store
to tell me that I am a white girl,
to erase my mother's heritage,
to judge me only skin deep,
to tell me I don't know how it is
to be misunderstood,
or that you're angry -
more angry
than I could ever be -
and violence
stops violence.
Don't tell me that
it's my fault.
Just don't.

Don't ask me if I've heard about the protests
on Crenshaw and Vernon
when I live at Western and Vernon
and I hear the helicopters circling
all night long.
Just stop assuming.

Don't tell me that the conquest
of your people
was worse
or larger
or more important
or more brutal
than the conquest of my people.
My ancestors all but disappeared,
their demise blamed
on kind smiles and generosity,
and now you only see them
in the turn-up of my eyes.
Don't think you're the only one
who lost a piece of your identity.
After all, in a flick of your tongue,
you just stripped me of half of mine.
Can I have it back now, please?

Don't throw Arizona in my face,
say I'm afraid to teach
the other side.
I am the other side,
I lived my life,
my education,
in the great
Grand Canyon State,
but you couldn't see that
I was thrown against a police car
on my 15th birthday
because the Phoenix P.D.
couldn't believe that
my father's German name
really belonged to me.
You couldn't understand that
because you were too busy
calling me white girl.
Just shut your mouth
and do something constructive
with your anger
instead of taking it out
on me.

And I do understand,
at first glance,
I look like a white girl.

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 currently 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 anthology, Our Spirit, Our Reality. She is also a moderator of Diving Deeper, an online workshop for writers, and has written
online extensively about music, especially jazz, while working in the entertainment industry.

Trying to Understand 
Sherry Carbajal

I will never understand racism,
prejudice of any kind,
or the bullying of others.

Even if people don't believe
in a Higher Being,
what happened to common courtesy
and good will to others?

Life can be difficult,
and even more so
for those who are unique
and different from the majority.

Is it fear, jealousy,
or plain evil that forces
people to hate?

We owe it to our children
to love one another
or at the very least
to accept or simply leave

those alone who we
don't understand,
and to stand up for and protect
those being abused or bullied.

For if we do nothing,
what kind of world
are we creating for our children
and grandchildren?

Sherry Trujillo Carbajal has been a culinary arts teacher at Morenci High School since 2000.
 After graduating first in her class at Morenci High School in 1984, she attended Arizona State University where she graduated Summa Cum Laude with a B.A.E. in Secondary Education. She later earned a Master’s degree in Secondary Education with a Reading endorsement from Northern Arizona University. In 2002-2003, she was named the ASBA (Arizona School Board Association) Greenlee County Teacher of the Year. She resides in Morenci, Arizona, with her husband of 25 years, Arnold, her daughter, Ashley, and her younger son, James. Her older son, Christopher, is a 4th generation copper miner who also resides in Morenci with his fiancée, Michelle, and children, little Christopher and Adriana.

Bulfrano Mendoza

I took my sacred eagle feathers
and all of my Medicina
to an ancient place
in a steamy jungle village
near Quintanaroo.
A place where the physical
and the spirit world are one.
To begin a prayer that I
knew would have consequences.
Careful what you ask for....
Twenty five offerings of flesh
were cut from each arm
plus five..warrior style.
My blood flowed freely
from my offering.
A sign of respect for all
of the women that bleed
and for all their suffering.
I prayed so hard, Tlecuauhtlacupeuh
floated out of the Sun and
danced right through me.
But, with this blessing I was granted,
a message was whispered in my
spirit that opened the eyes of my heart.
Careful what you ask for....
For my prayer had moved
the Moon and Stars
but had no effect
on you.
Careful what you ask for....


Rick " Bulfrano " Mendoza, is a Pamaque Indian descendant, born and raised in the barrios of San Antonio, Texas.

The Pamaque were one of the tribes from South Tejas, that were taken into the mission system by the Spanish Catholics, before the Americans came here, to populate the Spanish Colonial Missions.

Water (The River of Life in a Desert of Hell)
Irma Guadarrama

Water droplet on scorched tongue,
like a fragile twig almost dead,
too precious, too little, so wrong,
only a surreal existence lingers.
Fingers reaching the empty
plastic jug that feels like brittle
bones, aching feet, useless appendages
that burden every slight stride
now slow and heavy;
life pleading with merciless sunrays
determined to kill.

Caged in an inferno of hell,
let death be the victor,
let death be the heaven that
brings peace, peace, peace;
and stops the agony.

Water for the thirsty, water for the dead.

Irma Guadarrama recently retired after a 44-year career of teaching and research. She started out as a bilingual teacher and finished a professor at various universities, including University of Houston and South Texas’ University of Texas Pan American in Edinburg.

I begin writing poetry and songs in my twenties but I wasn’t interested in performing or publishing until 2009 when I became involved with the Writer’s Forum group in South Texas. Living on the border was such a unique, inspirational experience, and my literary interests broadened and deepened. I have a collection of poems and songs that I’m still refining and eventually will publish a chapbook, and perhaps, record my songs. My poetry and song lyrics have been published in literary anthologies and magazines such as the Interstice literary journal from South Texas College, the Boundless 2011 anthology of the RGV international poetry festival, and Voices from the Chicho anthology (Narciso Martínez Cultural Center’s Writer’s Forum Group). I also published two bilingual chapbooks of children’s original fables while a professor at the University of Houston: Cuéntame una fábula and Cuéntame mas fábulas.

I received a bachelor’s degree from Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Master’s degree from the University of Texas in San Antonio, and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. My area of study was education with an emphasis in reading and language and culture.

I was born in Cd. Juárez, México, but grew up in Central and North Texas areas. My home is currently Houston, TX where I live with my two children.

Presently, I work as a writer/researcher for a couple of blogs, which I recently developed: Bilingual Frontera (http://bilingualfrontera.blogspot.com) deals with themes related to social and political issues in the borderlands, and Mujeres, Fronteras y Sus Historias/Women, Borders and Their Stories (http://mujeresfronteras.wordpress.com), that focuses on the plight of immigrant women in the United States. In the former project, I’m collaborating with colleagues from Matamoros, Tamaulipas.


Unknown said...

Keep the good work, Em. Best wishes--Francisco

sramosobriant said...

Em, you are too much! Maybe it's the two white Russians I just imbibed while cooking shrimp creole, but this is the best review on The Sandoval Sisters I've read. Please post it on Amazon! It's historical fiction, baby! And it's my Santa Fe! Sounds like you weren't bored, and for that I am deeply gratified.

msedano said...

ay, sandra, i am not an Amazon customer and thus unable to post anything to their site.