Monday, September 30, 2013

Spotlight on Verónica Reyes and her new collection, “Chopper! Chopper!: Poetry from Bordered Lives”



Chopper! Chopper!: Poetry from Bordered Lives (Red Hen Press/Arktoi Books) reflects the lives of Mexican Americans, immigrants, Chicanas/os, and la jotería—malfloras, jotos, and beautiful rainbow communities. As vividly as Mexican Technicolor, these poems capture life in the barrio: vendors hauling carts with elote, raspados, botes y más. Vatos fighting to exist. Mujeres claiming space. Summer evenings, children playing in the calles of East L.A., El Paso, and bordered tierras everywhere. Reyes’s work exudes the pride, strength, turmoil and struggle of neighborhoods brimming with tradition and invention, estilo a la brava. These homegrown verses reveal the barrio in all its intricate layers. Revering difference, they fight to make room for something new: Marimacha Poetry. ¡Y Qué!


Chopper! Chopper! replenishes the landscapes of East L.A. and the lives that give it shape. Reyes resurrects old-time shops and hangouts. They memorialize the land alongside edifices of refuse, sterile towers, man-made deserts and rivers, machines that suffocate the sky, fields locked in the historical cycle churning out the fieldworker’s woe. Queers, dandies, cholos, mariachis the same as ‘Chumash, Pomo, Modoc’ ramble these streets. In these dramatic monologues, the perfect poetic mode to retool history, Reyes’ wit leaves a mark. Her young self marvels at ‘old coors or budweiser botes, tab, aspen soda cans . . . tossed by the lake at Lincoln Park, half buried in the sandbox just like the statue of liberty in planet of the apes.’ In this cool, sad, funny collection, East L.A. startles us like ‘a pinche far, faraway land’ it really is." —Kristin Naca, author of Bird Eating Bird

“In this book there is no time to run home chillando or licking your wounds—the gente in Reyes’ recollections pull you into a world where crooked tortillas and marimacha swagger are less the image of otherness, but a symbol of nosotros’ness. Through Reyes’ barrio lyricism, we, the others, do not cross over to become the norm, but come together as strands of hair, distinct, yet slicked together by the force of love, coraje, and Tres Flores.” —Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano


Verónica Reyes is a Chicana feminist jota poet from East Los Angeles, California. She earned her BA from California State University, Long Beach and her MFA from University of Texas, El Paso. Her poems give voice to all her communities: Chicanas/os, immigrants, Mexican Americans, and la jotería. Reyes has won AWP’s Intro-Journal Project, an Astraea Lesbian Foundation Emerging Artist award, and was a Finalist for the Andrés Montoya Poetry award. She has received grants and fellowships from Vermont Studio Center, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Ragdale Foundation, and Montalvo Arts Center. Her work has appeared in Calyx, Feminist Studies, ZYZZYVA, and The New York Quarterly. She is a proud member of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social (MALCS) and Macondo Writers’ Workshop.

To read a sample poem, visit Arktoi BooksArktoi Books, an imprint of Red Hen Press, was established in 2006 by Eloise Klein Healy to publish literary works of high quality by lesbian writers. The mission of Arktoi Books is to give lesbian writers more access to "the conversation" that having a book in print affords. 


• The Los Angeles Review of Books, edited by Tom Lutz, recently ran my three-question interviews with Orlando Ricardo Menes and Alvaro Huerta regarding their new books.

• Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times ran Héctor Tobar's review of Tim Z. Hernandez's beautiful new novel, Mañana Means Heaven (University of Arizona Press). My interview with Hernandez regarding his novel will run in a special online edition of High Country News tomorrow.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Scars and Madness: A New Nola Céspedes Novel, _Nearer Home_. Interview with Joy Castro--

Memoirist and novelist, Joy Castro, has been, of late, quite prolific and you, dear “La Bloga” reader, you have the privilege to receive the many gifts of her multiple publications.  Before 2012, Castro was known most for her beautifully written and searing memoir, The Truth Book.  If you haven’t read it, I strongly encourage you to get yourself a copy.  It has recently been re-issued with a beautiful cover from University of Nebraska-Press (click here!).  

I want to share the last line in The Truth Book.  It won’t give anything away from the memoir.  I’m copying it here because this very last line in her memoir is almost a preface for her subsequent publications.  She writes: “You try to be decent and treat people gently, knowing that they, too, have their scars and madnesses that, like yours, do not show.”  The themes and symbols of scars, madness, empathy, and ethical behavior continue to develop within the genre of the two literary mystery novels she has published. 

Castro’s first novel, Hell or High Water, published in 2012, has already garnered a number of honors, most recently, the 2013 Nebraska Book Award.  And last spring, Hell or High Water received 2nd place in the 2013 International Latino Book Awards in the genre of mystery fiction. 

German publication of Hell or High Water

As well, a translation of Hell or High Water has been published in Germany and translations of Hell or High Water and her newest novel, Nearer Home will be published in France by Gallimard.  Hell or High Water has been optioned for film or TV by a team of producers that includes Zoe Saldana.  Both thrillers are also available as audiobooks, read by 2011 Audie Award Finalist, Roxanne Hernandez!  Orale! 

For more on Hell or High Water, click here to read my interview with Joy Castro from last year when the book was newly out.  Now we have the second installment of the Nola Céspedes series:  Nearer Home, and it is promising to be just as, if not more “thrilling,” tighter, and quite the nail biter.  As well, Castro has continued writing memoir pieces and her second nonfiction book, Island of Bones, is now out from University of Nebraska-Press (click here!).  Island of Bones received the 2013 International Latino Book Award (for inspirational non-fiction in English) and it was a Finalist for the PEN Center USA Literary Award for creative non-fiction. 

Montes: First of all, congratulations on the latest recognition for Hell or High Water and the French translation and publication also for Nearer Home, and the PEN and Latino Book Award for Island of Bones. 

A PEN Center USA Literary Finalist
Castro:  Thank you so much.  A lot of attention is coming to the books now, and I’m grateful.  I hope it helps them reach the readers who will love them. I’m excited that the thrillers are being translated and published abroad, so readers of German and French will have the chance to read about a Latina fighting crime in New Orleans.

Montes:  Yes, very exciting!  Enfolded within the mystery genre that Hell or High Water follows, there is a coming-of-age narrative.  Would you say, Nearer Home continues the bildungsroman or are you making a departure?

Castro:  Though Nola is 27 in Hell or High Water, she still has some growing up to do.  Most of it has to do with facing elements of her past that she has avoided.  She accomplishes that in the first novel (and it’s implied aftermath), but her growth continues in Nearer Home.  It’s not as dramatic, and I think she’s reaching a good place, but her process of growth won’t stop. 

I think that’s true for most of us.  Unless we’re stuck and stagnating, we keep growing and learning and changing throughout our llves.  I don’t know if those changes can be called “coming-of-age” anymore, but sometimes the process feels just as humbling and difficult as when we were young.  The difference is that we’re held accountable by society; we’re expected to know how to act like responsible adults.  Unfortunately, one look at the news will show how often we fail at this. 

Montes:  Yes—and the focus of these kinds of failures are highlighted within what may seem disparate worlds in Nearer Home. Nearer Home turns its attention to the world of academia as well as the world of horse racing, thoroughbreds, and political figures. Tell me about your research preparation.

Castro:  I’ve been teaching college for over 20 years now, so academia is familiar to me.  I grew up loving horses, and I had a pony when I was a little girl—a wild pony that my parents bought for $20.00 in rural West Virginia.  I tamed her—to an extent; she still bit and bucked and kicked—and rode her bareback in the hills there.  It was a good time in my life.  I was already a voracious reader, and I read a lot of books about horse training, horse racing, and so on.  When Affirmed won the Triple Crown in 1978, I had newspaper clipping taped up on the wall in my bedroom.  I cried when I grew too tall to be a jockey.  In college in San Antonio, I worked at a stable for a while, mucking out stalls and grooming, just to be around the horses.  Political figures, I knew less about.  I read a lot of newspaper and magazine profiles of political figures to get the gist, but I still worried that I’d make Senator Claiborne, my fictional character, a caricature.  I’m not sure I succeeded in making him fully real.  His wife, who’s actually fairly pivotal to the plot, remains offstage throughout the entire book.  Political wives have it rough.  I wanted to leave her in peace.

Montes:  Many of the secondary characters that appear in Hell or High Water return in Nearer Home.  What is your process in their development this time around? 

Castro:  I like to imagine how people change over time.  For Nearer Home, I just listened to what I’d established in Hell or High Water and then let my mind wander.  The characters usually told me how they’d evolved.  That sounds a little mystical or woo-woo, but that’s how it works.  I just relax and listen. 

Montes:  Unlike Hell or High Water, Nearer Home is divided not only by chapters, but days of the week.  Why? 

Castro:  As a scholar of literary modernism, I became very interested in the representation of time.  James Joyce famously spent hundreds of pages chronicling a single day in the life of his protagonist Leopold Bloom; other modernists experimented similarly.  I’m interested in the way we perceive time, how it shrinks or elongates according to the experiences we’re having. 

Hell or High Water unfolds over a period of one month.  With Nearer Home, I wanted to try a tighter time-frame and see what that compression did to the action and character development.  I’ve outlined a future Nola Céspedes novel that takes place within twenty-four hours.  These are crime thrillers, though, so I don’t want to get too precious about it. 

Bourbon Street, New Orleans
Montes:  Your sense of detail and description is so lovely.  For example, when you describe Chloe’s hair, you write:  “the browned gold of ice tea on a sun porch.”  Great stuff.  Tell us your process in avoiding clichés in descriptive writing.

Castro:  I’m not sure that I do!  Thank you.  I try.  I just revise and revise and revise.  I reread with a cold eye and try to be ruthless.

Montes:  Yes—revision is key.  I also want to ask about your craft in creating good solid dialogue.  For example, the dialogue scenes with Bento are done so well.  What is your process?

Castro:  I listen to the characters.  When it’s going well, the process feels like dictation.  Often, though, it doesn’t go well.  Dialogue is hard for me.  I revise dialogue the way I do everything else:  read aloud, listen for rhythm and realism, and cut, cut, cut. 

Bento is unique in the books, in that he’s a highly educated expert in his field (coastal geomorphology), but English is his third language, and he knows it primarily from the classic literature he studied in school.  As a result, his dialogue is a little stilted, a little formal.  It’s an odd mix of mistakes and unexpected flourishes. 

Montes:  That comes through splendidly.  And what of another secondary character:  Fabi?  She is a Chicana who is wealthy and materialistic, a “well meaning liberal,” or as Nola says, “Fabi, our Chicana Princess.”  What is your definition of a Chicana and how did Fabi come to be? 

Castro:  With Fabi, I wanted to create a character different from typical depictions of Chicanas as domestic workers and farm laborers.  Similarly, the protagonist Nola—contrary to stereotypes about Cuban Americans (as well-to-do)—grew up poor in the projects.  I was interested in exploring the diversity among Latinas and creating something surprising.  There are two definitions of Chicana that seem to be in cultural use.  One simply means a Mexican American woman.  The other is politically inflected and includes the sacrifices and achievements of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement.  The character of Fabi is ironic.  She has always been cosseted, yet enjoys claiming the cultural cachet of El Movimiento without having worked or suffered for it. She wasn’t even born at that time.  Because of this, she’s a little bit of a comic character, but I still wanted her to be sympathetic, too;  she has good qualities as well. 

Montes:  Was this an easier novel to write from the first? 

Castro:  Yes.  With Hell or High Water, I was learning how to write a novel.  It was my first attempt, and I floundered around.  It went through many, many revisions and took about four years, whereas Nearer Home took me only a single year to write.  I had a much clearer sense of what I was doing.  It also helped that I knew the characters well by that point: I wasn’t making them up from scratch. 

Montes:  What did you learn, then, during the writing of Hell or High Water that you were able to further develop or avoid in Nearer Home? 

Castro:  Plot.  I had a terrible time with cause-and-effect, with action—again, perhaps due to my training in modernist literature, in which a few reveries and an epiphany equal a story.  I love that mode.  It’s lovely.  But it didn’t quite work in crime fiction, so I had to learn—the hard, slow, foot-dragging way—how to plot.

Montes:  Who is your audience for Nearer Home?

Castro:  I wrote the books with a Latina audience especially in mind, but my thrillers are for everyone who enjoys crime fiction.  If you’re fond of New Orleans, then you’ll enjoy them—and if you know New Orleans really well, then you’ll enjoy finding the couple of mistakes I made.  Readers have written in to let me know where I goofed. 

Montes:  Even if you’ve lived your whole life in a place and write about it, some readers will still want to say something about their own perspective of place.  Hopefully, they have been kind and decent! 

Castro:  Yes, they have.  They care so much about New Orleans that they want me to get it right.  I appreciate that love for the city and that love for detail. 

Montes:  Do you feel more comfortable now, having written two mystery novels, and do you think you will continue writing in this genre or will you try another?

Castro:  I do know now that I can finish a novel. Five years ago, I didn’t know that.  So yes, I think the process has built my confidence as a writer.  My current project is a new novel, and I’m in love with it.  Short stories, though, were my first love, and I’m revising a book of stories now.  It’s called HOW WINTER BEGAN, and a wonderful press has offered a contract for it.  (I’ll be discreet, since we haven’t signed papers yet.)  I’m very excited that it will be in print.  I’ve been working on it for years. 

Montes:  So you are not working on another Nola novel? 

Castro:  I’ve outlined books 3 and 4 of the Nola Céspedes series, and I received an offer for a third installment.  I declined it, though, for the time being.  I’m currently working on a stand-alone psychological thriller.  The protagonist is a Chicago Latina with a hidden past.  When I finish it, I plan to go back and write books 3 and 4.  I think about them a lot. 

Montes:  It’s exciting knowing that we will have a mystery set in Chicago with a Latina protagonist—a Midwest Latina mystery.  Orale!  What advice do you have for writers of mystery? 

Castro:  Love the form.  Read widely. Bring your whole self to the project; be honest on the page.  Revise, revise, revise.  Be patient.  Remember that crime fiction is the genre of justice, and you can bring your political concerns to the story.  That’s the same advice I’m still giving myself.  

Montes:  There is the writing, and then there is the selling of a book.  Describe the selling of one’s book, the responsibilities:  it’s challenges and successes.  How well has Hell or High Water been doing and what will you do differently or the same with Nearer Home?

Castro:  Authors are asked to promote their books aggressively, maintain a social media presence, give public readings, visit book clubs, and so on.  I’ve done those things for both books, and I’ll continue to do them.  I especially love visiting book clubs; the warmth and kindness are so moving.  Readers don’t realize what a gift they give back to authors.  Both books have been doing fine, sales-wise, though neither has become a bestseller.  It takes a lot of work from both the publisher and author to break a book out, and some luck is involved, too.

They’re reaching their readers.  What the publishing industry knows is the word-of-mouth, person-to-person, one friend to another, is the best way of selling books, hands-down.  That organic, passionate buzz is something that all the ads in the world can’t create.  So I hope people will love the books and tell their friends about them, and that word-of-mouth will give them a long life. 

Montes:  Describe your audience reception.  What has surprised you or intrigued you regarding reader reactions to your work?

Castro:  The passion.  Readers really seem to love the books.  They get very excited when they tell me how shocked they were by the ending of Hell or High Water – how they never saw it coming, but when they went back later and reread, they could see all the clues.  That’s a great thing for an author to hear.  I always love it when I hear from Latina readers:  “I feel like you wrote this book for me.”  Because I did. 

Montes:  What else would you like to tell our “La Bloga” readers?

Castro:  A lot of people in the mainstream book industry still believe that we, as Latinas and Latinos, are not a worthwhile market segment.  You’ll still occasionally hear, “Latinos don’t read.”  Though this mistaken sentiment is changing, it’s still out there, and it affects editors’ decisions about whose manuscripts to purchase, publish, and promote. 

So I’d just remind everyone how important your choices are.  When you buy a book, or request a book from your library, you make a difference. 

Montes:  Yes, so important!  Thank you, Joy!

Castro:  Thank you for taking the time to ask about my work. 

Montes:  No need to wait, dear “La Bloga” readers—get yourself a copy of Joy Castro’s works now!  Add one of her titles to your book club list, to your own private reading, to your curriculum list for teaching.  Sending you all buenas energias for a most lovely week!  

Joy Castro BIO:  Joy Castro (click here for her website) is the author of the memoir, The Truth Book and the New Orleans literary thrillers Hell or High Water and Nearer Home.  Island of Bones, her collection of personal essays, is a PEN Finalist and the winner of an International Latino Book Award. Her work has appeared in Fourth Genre, Seneca Review, North American Review, and The New York Times Magazine.  Publishers Weekly calls her new edited collection, Family Trouble: Memoirists on the Hazards and Rewards of Revealing Family, "a must-read."  She teaches literature, creative writing, and Latino studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and she is on Twitter at @_JoyCastro

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Writing Young Adult books for latinos

Getting diversity into Sci-Fi/Fantasy

In early Sept., I began posts on cultural appropriation, Young Adult Sci-Fi/Fantasy and latino lit. Here's more follow-up to that. If you're a brown writer reader or publisher/editor, you should check out Stacy Whitman's Grimoir series that began with Beyond Orcs and Elves: Diversity in Science Fiction and Fantasy for Young Readers

Whitman is publisher of Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books that publishes fantasy, science fiction, and mystery for children and young adults. To give you an idea of why you should check it out, here's excerpts:

"SF [science fiction, but let’s include fantasy too] has either totally ignored women or presented them as squeaking dolls subject to instant rape by monsters—or old-maid scientists desexed by hypertrophy of the intellectual organs—or, at best, loyal little wives or mistresses of accomplished heroes. Male elitism has run rampant in SF. But is it only male elitism? Isn’t the “subjection of women” in SF merely a symptom of a whole which is authoritarian, power-worshiping, and intensely parochial?"

Whitman surveys "Old-school epic fantasy," i.e., white male-dominated, that has lists of such "good" novels.

The second part of the series, gets more into the question of minority readers and topics. In the video by author Chimamanda Adichie, called “The Dangers of a Single Story,” you'll find this:

"She talks of how, when she was growing up in Nigeria (it was Nigeria, right? The books she read most often (always?) featured white kids who ate apples. So when she started to write, she wrote stories about white people who ate apples, even though she had never seen an apple. - A powerful talk about the importance of finding your own voice as a writer and how important to our body of literature a wide variety of voices is."

Next comes, "Black books don't sell? In a world in which Will Smith and Denzel Washington are doing just fine, why is this a problem in our books? There’s a lot of work to do in making sure that kids in poverty also see themselves mirrored in books."

"We often talk in multicultural book circles about the idea of mirrors and windows—mirrors to see your own experience reflected back, windows to see into another world. Author Zetta Elliott recently added a dimension to that which I like, the idea of “sliding glass doors” to walk in and experience someone else’s world. That’s what reading is, isn’t it? That’s where true interculturalism begins."

I'll highlight points from that third installment next week.

Young Adult books in 2014?

Over at's Young Adult Books, Children's Books Guide, Elizabeth Kennedy interviews the president of the Young Adult Library Services Association (part of the American Library Association) about trends in teen reading for the coming year. Among others things, is this:

"I've been at publishing previews where the books written with female protagonists outweighs books with boy protagonist 9 out of 10 times. Ditto for books with characters of color or written by characters of color. So the publishing market has definitely fallen into a rut, and they're missing out on drawing new readers.


By Monday I will have attended 3 writers conferences and a four-day writer's retreat within 5 weeks. I'm whipped. So. . .
Es todo, hoy,

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Quick Trip to Santa Catalina

In front of Avalon's harbor and Casino (ballroom and museum)

Until last weekend, Catalina was one of the many places I had visited only through childhood photographs. There's a photo of me and my grandmother in front of Avalon's famous harbor. I know it's Catalina because my grandmother would tell me the story of our day trip there. In another photo, I'm smiling for the camera, while in the background, my mother naps on the grass.
My first trip to Avalon

Luckily, I was able to make new memories of the trip and snap some updated photos. Not much has changed over the past decades. Although something tells me the trip used to be more affordable than it is today. At forty dollars for the ferry, the hour-long trip is pretty expensive. Locals complain that they have to wait 16 years for a car-owning lottery and gasoline is over seven dollars a gallon. There are some tricks, outside of befriending someone with a yacht, to making the trip on the cheap.

First. You say it's your birthday? Birthday boys and girls travel the 26 miles across the sea from Long Beach or San Pedro to Avalon for free. Plus, restaurants and museums offer discounts to celebrants.

Next, try booking midweek lodging and stay on the beach for less than the little inns and cottages during the higher weekend rate. I drove down from Santa Barbara and stayed with a friend before heading out to Long Beach Saturday morning. The island is small enough to see everything in one day. With enough planning, you can book a land and sea tour. However, for me, having time to write, lounge, and read a book without the regular distractions was worth the extra day on the island.
Buffalo on the island

I took a land tour to the airport in the sky at the top of the island. The view of California was spectacular. The bison were out and I saw a fully grown gray fox and several large birds.
An Avalon Fox

My favorite part of trip was riding inside the yellow submarine. The semi submersible was just like the ride at Disneyland, except there were no mermaids. I saw Garibaldi (the state fish), plenty of perch, a sea lion, and gigantic kelp. What gave me an extra thrill was firing the torpedoes of fish food. A green light came on to indicate that the food torpedoes were armed. Upon depression, a boom and explosion of fish food causes dozens of fish to rush to the front of your window.
The Yellow Submarine

Last weekend, I was blessed with perfect weather, a beautiful sunset, and fun memories to at last say goodbye to Summer. It was also nice meeting friends at Avalon, 26 miles across the sea. Glad I happen to be in California for a quick trip to Santa Catalina. 
Santa Catalina Sunset

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chicanonautica: How I Accidentally Created Chicano Sci-Fi

Suddenly, buzz about science fiction diversity is crackling through the air. And a monster called Chicano Sci-Fi is roaming the night. Frank S Lechuga keeps calling me its father. A DNA test may be in order.

But all those years of humping science fiction should get me something. I imagine her looking like Elsa Lanchester in The Bride of Frankenstein. Ummmm . . .

I do feel like shouting, “IT’S ALIVE! IT’S ALIVE!”

But I didn’t set out to become the father of Chicano Sci-Fi. I just happened to be a born-in-East-L.A. Chicano who wanted to write science fiction. I didn’t know that it was something I shouldn’t be doing. After all, this was America, and people kept telling me I could be whatever I wanted!

One day, I took that “write what you know” advice to heart, and wrote a non-science fiction fragment that turned in into a stream of fascinating Chicano characters inspired by my family and people I had known. These characters came to life -- again, “IT’S ALIVE!” -- like no others I’d created. 

Combine that with all the material from La Cultura that most readers would consider “new” and I realized that I was onto something. I experimented with putting Chicanos in a science fiction context that eventually became Cortez on Jupiter.

Being proud of my Aztec heritage -- sí, cabrones, my ancestors were cannibals, and I’m damn proud of it! -- I perversely projected it into the future, that evolved into High Aztech and Smoking Mirror Blues.

This hasn’t made me rich and famous -- I still have a day job, kids -- but it has been a constant source of inspiration that has me publishing short fiction to this day, and newfangled postcolonialists and Afrofuturists include me in their publications.

I was a pioneer -- which of course, is another way of saying illegal alien. I boldly went where no Chicano had gone before.

And I believe that this is only the beginning.

Chicano is when and where I’m from.  It’s a subset of Hispanic, which includes non-Mexican immigrants, and is a favorite way of describing crime suspects. Latino is global, from Latin America, coined back when the French saw us being ruled by a Francophone elite, but that lets in the French Canadians, Haitians, Francophone Africans, and the Portuguese-speaking Brazilians.

Latino is also favored by show biz. Those Latino sex symbols sell like crazy. 

It's also a hemispheric majority.

And lately, Chicano -- Xicano, Xicana/o --  has been seen as an attitude and political stance that I’m all for. Combine that with new developments that transformer lowriders, barrio cyberpunks, and other emerging subcultures are coming up with, and Chicano Sci-Fi could sweep the planet, and beyond.

After all, as I’ve said before, Chicano is a science fiction state of being

Which reminds me, I have to get back to my novel about a mariachi on Mars . . .

Ernest Hogan, was born in East L.A., and his mother’s maiden name is Garcia. He wanted to be a science fiction writer when he grew up. He succeeded.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Migrant Family Story / La historia de mi familia migrante

By Lily Garcia 

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Pinata Books; Bilingual edition (October 31, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 155885780X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1558857803

Every spring, Lilia Garcia had to leave school early to go north with her family to pick fruits and vegetables. She was too young to work in the fields with the rest of the family, so her mother and teenage brother would sign her up to attend the local school. She was the only Spanish-speaking child at Coloma Elementary, and that, combined with the fact that it was late in the school year, made it difficult to make friends and keep up with the work. 

In this bilingual collection of short vignettes, Garcia remembers her family's life as migrant workers in the 1970s. Every year, they packed their red, Ford pick-up and left McAllen, Texas. The children's excitement soon waned during the long drive through Texas, but grew as they passed the Gateway Arch in St. Louis and skyscrapers in Chicago. Finally, they arrived at their destination: the Ponderosa in Coloma, Michigan. 

The family worked year in and year out for the same patron, who allowed them to live in a house they called the Ponderosa, named for the big house in the TV show Bonanza. It was surrounded by fields full of fruits: an apple orchard lay to the east; a peach orchard was on the other side. There were strawberry patches, cherry trees and a grape vineyard. 

Garcia's family worked long, back-breaking hours for a pittance, but they were together and their love for each other pulled them through. Garcia was nine when her father found a full-time job in McAllen and their migrant life came to an end. "We missed the adventure of travel and sightseeing, but we didn't miss the hard, back-breaking work." Staying in one place allowed the kids to focus on school, ensuring that they never had to do that back-breaking work again. This is a heartfelt recollection of the life of migrant workers.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Review: Rebeldes. La Verne Author Summit. News. On-line floricanto.

Review: Rebeldes. A Proyecto Latina Anthology. Chicago: Proyecto Latina, 2013.
ISBN 978-1-4675-7607-9

Michael Sedano

The second-toughest challenge for a critic comes in form of the anthology collected from a host of writers.
To assess one writer inherently sleights those others whose work merited the editor-compiler’s notice. Then again, reading is a contextual process. After each reading, I find a different piece consuming memory space, demanding to be noticed and appreciated, an earlier favorite displaced.

My process, normally, is to approach anthologies with an eye on the editor’s strategy of recency and primacy. What piece appears first to set the tone; what appears as the closing piece for a final lasting impression? And, in the middle, what gems lurk in the flow of words and titles from contributor to contributor?

Rebeldes, A Proyecto Latina Anthology, defies this review process. Not because it doesn’t have a first and last piece with lots of wondrous work in between, but, owing to the showcase motive, the anthology features a rich mix of writers new to me, plus multiple genres including chisme, poetry, prose, graphic art, drama, and personal essay. Each of those segments has its first, middle, last structure, too. So many strong exemplars.

This reviewer, then, is unapologetically guilty he cannot single out each of the 26 contributors for analysis and examination, and owing to a faulty memory, will for sure forget to mention something valued highly at an earlier reading, like the closing piece by a woman my age. Así es, mil disculpas.

Quality is not an issue for the reader; one can begin in any random section or start at the beginning. Every piece comes with intrinsic value, beyond being one of more than 300 writers—established and emergent--who’ve contributed over the seven years Proyecto Latina has showcased writers in its Chicagoland reading series. This history alone merits buying the collection, if only to support the ideals of the project and founders Irasema Gonzales and Coya Paz. Rebeldes reflects an effective dedication to art and community. It has impact.

Each genre section launches with a page of epigrammatic chismes that range from funny to erotic to trenchant to ironic, and sometimes all-in-one. Like the chismosa who complains that the kids downstairs throw long and loud parties that remind her how old she’s growing, or la chismosa rebelde who complains about being propositioned for sex when a date would have been nicer.

The poetry and prose sections offer keen reflections of what Proyecto Latina is about. The poems divide clearly between two poles, the sophisticated poetry of a mature writer and the debut poet proclaiming her discovery of the world as if she were the first to notice.

In the mature work of lead-off writer Claudia Rosa Silva-Hernandez, a mother warns a daughter off elevator conversations with Felipe because Mexicanos think a woman wants him just because she chats him up. “No les des alas” she warns. Hija apostrophizes an apology to the hapless man, that she gave him the wrong idea. The sly woman, however, has set her sights and tells her Felipe to hold still while she clips his wings. Brilliantly crafted and insightful, Silva-Hernandez reminds us women have ideas, too; it’s not just about a man’s desires, and she’s in charge.

The second poet, Awilda González, reflects the emerging sensibility of dawning independence, a voice learning to expose dogging domestic abuse. “While children are dying to violence, we stand silent / Too busy taking up more important causes” she complains, adding, “Daddy’s too busy playing house in someone else’s home / Forgetting he has one of his own”.

Gonzalez’ tools are not simply the poet’s bludgeon, but she makes a reader wait for the final line to disclose her sharp stick to the eye, “Your memories are so few that you never knew what it was like to be called / Daddy.”

The third poet, bloguera Xánath Caraza, reaches for the sublime in her Spanish-language poems, particularly the lead-off piece of her three-poem quota. “Alcanza la niebla” begins in stone before rising into obscuring mists, “Con palabras rojas / Y la luna tatuada en el pecho / La mujer de senos llenos / Y canciones suaves / Alcanza la niebla.”

The prose section suffers from a paucity of pages. A taste of Mónica Teresa Ortiz, an appetizer from Diana Pando, an amuse bouche from Desiree T. Castro, followed with an extended serving from Stephanie Diaz Reppen.

Castro’s seven paragraphs of “Broken Language” compress time, looking backward and forward, in an abbreviated coming of age posture. An older sister counsels 13-year old cholas to knock off the eyebrow painting and mascara, to concentrate on studies, master bilinguality. “Your Spanish is so broken, I mean think of a gold fish swimming in an ocean with a broken fin, that’s how you struggle with your Spanish, you should be embarrassed.” The college girl pulls no punches on the peewees.

Sis knows what she’s talking about, giving pause to the cholitas whose make-up is camouflage to look tough so no one will want to pick fights. “We sat there at the table just listening…Melissa was a real badass in the neighborhood, known to fight like a guy, so we weren’t trying to talk back and test her.” But Melissa owns a new perspective, she’s fighting to save these kids, and it probably works. “you understand? We nodded. We kinda did, but not really…not yet anyway.”

Given the scope of this anthology, and the editors’ program of offering a writer more than one time at the plate to show her stuff, the prose abridgements and excerpts fail to satisfy, like an expensive entrée at a minimalist restaurant. Except Rebeldes is so completely affordable, at only $15.00, that readers should buy multiple copies to share with friends who enjoy a taste of fresh sensibilities and appreciate keen literary reminders of where we have been, where we might grow.

For sure, these writers shall grow and one day a reader will close the covers of a darn good book or poetry collection, and remember this initial exposure to the author’s immense talent in Rebeldes A Proyecto Latina Anthology.

Order directly from Proyecto Latina (click here), or have your local independent bookseller order your copies in time for trick or treat--it's a treat--or xmas--what a wondrous gift--or just be good to yourself and your friends and share your discovery of Rebeldes A Proyecto Latina Anthology.

University of La Verne Hosts LEAD Conference and Latina Latino Author Summit

Bel Hernandez’ head recoils in shocked recognition when she hears the speaker Bel’s just introduced pronounce the three syllables of the university president’s name, “Devorah.” “Debra,” Bel has just called her. It is one of those moments that catches one short. Some emcees might shine it on and hope no one notices.

Not Bel. Next time Hernandez takes the microphone, Bel acknowledges and apologizes for the mispronunciation. Devorah Lieberman shrugs it off and sails through the remainder of the opening program. There's too much inspirational content coming that's vitally important.

That’s the only glitch in the otherwise inspirational and exceedingly well-organized Latino Education Access and Development Conference that brings area high school kids and teachers to University of La Verne on a Saturday morning for the LEAD Conference.

Middle-schooler, captivated by astronaut Hernandez' speech returned multiple times to film the speed.
Note the brown-and-white-together logo on the projection screen.
About the only way to improve LEAD next time is bring in middle school kids. If schools want to instill a college-going culture, catch the kids in middle school, because that’s ideally when college planning should start.

Idealism has nothing to do with University of La Verne’s sponsorship of today’s events. There’s a steady vision guiding the effort to inspire and instill in attending youth the ganas to go out and get some of the pie, like today’s role models prove can be accomplished.

Clearly these kids have ganas but they need orientation. The boy sitting next to me, for example, is considering La Verne, Caltech, and Cal Poly Pomona for his first science degree. "Buenos días," I saludar his mother.

Dr. Devorah A. Lieberman commits her campus to a todo dar
efforts to serve the community and raza students.
One speaker is Grace Napolitano, the local House of Representatives officeholder. She's not a college graduate--high school only--adding a slight discordance to the effort to get the kids into college as the steppingstone to satisfying lives. The Congresswoman's story, however, illustrates the point Lieberman has made, NGU--Never Give Up.

The keynote speaker offers a genuinely heroic role model, astronaut José M. Hernández. A migrant farmworker born on this side, Hernández describes his fruitpicker upbringing crawling through mud so that the siblings enjoy taking off their Levi's so stiff from mud they stand on their own. Born here, during picking season, the future astronaut's siblings were born in Mexico, during the winter.

Hernandez' speech is puro chicano mezcla. Wacha:

You can take the boy out of the fields but you can't take la cultura out of the boy. Hernández' speech is a classic example of mezcla, or code-switching expression. His polished presentation identifies José M. Hernández as a perfect candidate for any school looking for bilingual role models for kids with their own ad astra per aspera dreams. Hernández' biography sells out in English from La Verne's bookstore, only a few Spanish-language copies remain.

Hernández' father approves the ten-year old's dream to be an astronaut. Set a goal, know what's expected, where you fall short, work to achieve. Otherwise your future is here in the fields picking strawberries con la familia. He applies eleven times and is denied. On the twelfth application, he wins appointment.

In the Latina Empowerment Workshop, three powerful women share life stories that, like these kids, began in the humblest straits but through NGU and college, they've achieved high positions. Julie Mendoza, Director of Research and Evaluation for ARCHES, the Alliance for Regional Collaboration to Heighten Educational Success. Mendoza recounts the high school counselor who interrupts when she tells him her dream to attend UCLA: "Oh, no way, not you."

A second empowerment latina, Thelma Meléndez de Santa Ana, recently appointed to be LA Mayor Garcetti's Education Aide, prior was Superintendent of Schools for Santa Ana Unified, the largest Orange County system and sixth-largest in Califas.

What would you do if you won the lottery? It's not idle speculation, given the third woman panelist is Jacki Cisneros. When she and husband Gilbert won the California Mega Millions Lottery they set up the Gilbert & Jacki Cisneros foundation. The couple decided to spend their millions to improve educational access for Latina Latino kids.

Jacki's no suddenly wealthy person. A two-time Emmy winner as a broadcaster. One story the journalist covered reports that a local man bought a $266 million dollar ticket. She learns he is her husband. Now that she's rich, she intends to give away as much money as possible to kids like these.

There's also a Latino Empowerment Workshop and a Parent Empowerment Workshop. Following empowerment come workshops in STEM-Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and Financial Aid and Scholarship Access, and closing speech from Richard Montanez, PepsiCo's marketing guru on the West Coast.

Author Summit

The campus in La Verne hosts the latest iteration of the Latino Book and Family Festival, appearing this year as the Author Summit. The event and an ambitious awards program come from the efforts of Latino Literacy Now.

Out on the quad, under tents, a handful of writers greet passers-by and shar their work. I asked each what their goal was, and to a man and woman, it is to inspire kids to write, and, only one author acknowledges, to sell their book.
Army veteran, holder of the Combat Infantryman Badge and un montón de medals (typical chicano warrior) earned in Bosnia and Iraq, Mexicali-born Juan Carlos Mercado is a San Diego sheriff's deputy and author, in Spanish, of Fe Americana. The Villegas sisters, Maria and Ana, from San Diego, join him.

Jeaninne Escallier Kato's children's picture book, Manuel's Murals, seeks to awaken a child's love for art generally, and particularly the work of Diego Rivera Manuel discovers on a visit to Mexico City.

Sandra C. Lopez has been included or featured in La Bloga. A YA author, López was raised only a few miles from the tent she occupies as an author.

YA author Yolanda Espinosa Espinoza wants to be tight-lipped about the surprises in her father's life story recounted in El Caracol. She grows increasingly animated as she recounts the story and eventually shares one of the key secrets to the story. A librarian gives the young boy Don Quixote and infects him with a love of reading.

Graphic novelist Javier Hernandez has a good marketing strategy for Los Comex Codex, with low-cost trinkets that serve as his "silent sales force." A kid spends a dollar for a cool button and every time the kid walks about wearing the button, he's advertising Hernadez' titles.

Composer-author Roma Calatayud-Stocks' book is perfect bound and includes a CD of her compositions. A Song in My Heart begins in Minneapolis, a far-flung outpost of cultura not often considered as part of the Latina Latino homeland. One browser is so surprised he lingers at Roma's display throwing questions of opinions in an effort to work out the surprising fact of chicanas existing in Minnesota. Not only that, one chicana writes books about it.

Several other authors work the crowd, and the Author Summit prize announcements are upcoming, but my granddaughter has a soccer game, and familia comes first. So we split the scene at La Verne. I miss chatting up the other writers, but don't regret my departure. Charlotte scores The Golden Gorillas' first three goals.

Visit Read! Raza for more on these marketing powerhouses.

Late-breaking News from the Author Summit

La Bloga enjoys this opportunity to announce a significant award to Frida bloguero Manuel Ramos and his Luis Montez novel, Blues for the Buffalo. See below for the full list of Books into Movies winners.

fotos courtesy René Colato Laínez
Montez' search for legendary activist, attorney, candidate for Sheriff of LA, Oscar Zeta Acosta, aka the Brown Buffalo, takes the Denver private dick to California. A thrilling suspenseful novel, it will make a great movie. The gente from The Latino Author Summit agree, awarding Ramos its coveted "Books Into Movies" award.

There is little truth to the uncomfirmed chisme that the Zeta role will be played by bloguero and former Director of Teatro a la Brava, Michael Sedano.

2013 Latino Author Summit Winners 

from the LLN announcement
The events, organized by Latino Literacy Now in conjunction with the University of La Verne, were held in eastern Los Angeles county. Our film industry professionals who presented the Awards were award winning actor Mike Gomez, award winning screenwriter and producer Rick Najera, and Nosotros President Emeritus Jerry Velasco. It was a very enjoyable ceremony and everyone loved Rick Najera’s jokes.

Latino Literacy Now was co-founded by Edward James Olmos and Kirk Whisler in 1996. Since then the organization has produced 52 Latino Book & Family Festivals with just under 900,000 in total attendees and 15 International Latino Book Awards that have honored over 1,400 authors and publishers.

Copies of these winning books will be presented to key motion picture studios, producers, and other key entertainment industry insiders. It’s Latino Literacy Now’s goal through these awards to help foster the creation and production of more movies about and by Latinas Latinos. For too long, Latinas Latinos have been underrepresented within the industry and appropriate scripts is one of the weaker links.

Entries are now being accepted for the 2014 International Latino Book Awards, the largest Latino cultural awards in the USA. Entries for the 2014 Latino Books into Movies Awards will begin in October 2013.

For more information on this and other Latino Literacy Now activities go to

Action & Adventure
First Place, Walking for Peace: An Inner Journey, Mony Dojeiji and Alberto Agraso,, Inc.
Second Place, The Encounter (El encuentro), Rita Wirkala, Pearson Educacion

First Place, LightKeepers to the Rescue!, Marisa de Jesús Paolicelli, A Caribbean Experience Con Amor

First Place, El Caracol: The Story of Alfonso, Labor Camp Child, Yolanda Espinosa Espinoza, Mill City Press, Inc.
Second Place, Maidin Iron, Ana Padilla, Author House

First Place, Spirits of the Ordinary: A Tale of Casas Grandes, Kathleen Alcalá, Chronicle Books

First Place, The Witch Narratives Reincarnation, Belinda Vasquez Garcia, Magic Prose

First Place, A Song in My Heart, Roma Calatayud-Stocks, Beaver’s Pond Press

Sci-Fi or Fantasy
First Place, Mortal Flesh: The Last Hero of Pompeii, Ana Costa Alongi, Sigillum Publishers

Suspense or Mystery
First Place, Blues for the Buffalo, Manuel Ramos, Northwestern University Press

SoCal Stanford Alumni Read Chicana Chicano Literature

The Book Club of the Chicano/Latino Stanford University Alumni Association of Southern California looks forward to hosting renowned crime writer and bloguero Manuel Ramos to its Sunday, November 17 meeting in Long Beach Califas.

Blues for the Buffalo is the 2013 winner of Latino Literacy Now's Books into Movies Award. Story above.

The Book Club welcomes Stanford alumni who enjoy Ramos' work, or enjoy a good book discussion. Click here for details.

Is Anybody Going to San Antone...

La Bloga friend, musicologist and independent publisher Juan Tejeda moderates an important public discussion on the 51st state of the USA, the State of Xicana Xicano Studies, this Friday, September 27, 2013.

The “State of Xicana/o Studies” panel discussion is part of Palo Alto College’s Hispanic Heritage Month activities that is co-sponsored by the Student Activities Fee, the Office of Student Engagement and Retention, and Center for Mexican-American Studies.

For the complete schedule of Palo Alto College’s Hispanic Heritage Month events, visit or for more information, call 210.486.3125.

Or Corpus?

Teatro a la Brava was performing in Calexico. Poetry gigante Ricardo Sánchez was at the border festival, too. At the big social event featuring dancing, one of the actors, una tejana, egged me on. "Corpus Krispies," she said, "ask him if he's from Corpus Krispies." Just to get his goat. Los de Corpus hate that, Maggie told me. Why should I antagonize the vato, I wondered, but altered states of reality got the better of me. 

Ricardo was on the other side of the room, wallflowering with Alurista. When he headed over toward the refreshments, I pushed off my wall and intercepted him. "Orale, Ricardo," I said. He stopped in the middle of the floor and we stood face to face, me looking up at the massive poet. "I hear you're from Corpus Krispies." 

Sánchez' mouth gaped open and he looked down his nose at me with a frown. "Oh crap," I thought, "this vato is going to want to fight." 

The stone-faced poet replied, "No mas dimos 'Corpus.'" When I let that sink in a moment, Sánchez opened his arms and gave me a big abrazote and we were fine. We didn't fire up, or go outside to share a bottle or nothing, but we were OK, krispies or no krispies.

Anent Corpus Christi, the following email comes from Corpus public radio. The program is recorded in San Antonio.

Super Xicanas on the loose and broadcasting! Taking to the airwaves - the message of firme mujeres who have made an impact in our community. It's a hybrid format featuring live music, enlivened interviews with Super Xicana Dignitaries, and the uncensored opinions on contemporary issues from Mari Chingas (Marisela Barrera) and Sweet Jane (Jane Madrigal).

An ol' skool, new skool -- nuevo cool performance BROAD-CAST! “The Super Xicana Power Hour” will be broadcast once a week on Corpus Christi Community Radio, a media outlet pursuing social justice and advocating for a better Corpus Christi. CCComRadio provides space for art, music, perspectives, and information that are either not present in or ignored by mainstream media. Broadcasts can be heard on

DDLM Poetry Contest: Calaveras Literarias

Día de los Muertos celebrations in the United States parallel those of Mexico in many dimensions. One missing element from US-based DDLM observations is the poetic tradition of light verse calaveritas literarias. Often quatrains--but no formal requirement--the calavera takes a satiric poke at the living in the context of eulogy, or simply expresses actitud about death, dying, and burial.

To the House of Representatives
Posturing politicians be aware:
Someone will be patting you in the face
With a shovel.
But you won't know it.

So It Goes
Enjoy the parade, Congresscritter.
There's seven going out,
and six coming back.

For examples of the diverse forms of the calavera literaria, visit where you'll find short ones and longer pieces, risqué and not so much, like the ejemplares below, plus details of the contest in México that pays winners: Hay 100 dólares americanos en premios, así que anímate!

Los Enamorados
Ahí viene la calaca vestida de morado para todos los enamorados

Comiendo elote
Estaba Mari comiendo elote
vino la calavera y le echó un pedote.

El profe Raúl
Estaba el profe Raúl comiendo meloncito
llega la calaca y dice vámonos a lo oscurito.

Maestra Madi
Estaba la maestra Madi bailando reggaetón
Cuando llegó la Catrina y le bajó el pantalón.

Mi subdirector
Ha transcurrido ya un año,
Que el Sub me felicitó
Por aquella calavera,
Que a él tanto le gustó.

Hoy nuevamente le escribo
Pues la muerte me mandó,
No ha logrado su objetivo
Y su tiempo se acabó.

Mucha tristeza me da,
Que la muerte se lo lleve
Pero la mera verdad,
Con los profes no se puede.

Canas verdes le sacamos,
¡Nunca nos hizo cambiar!
Ahora mismo lo enterramos,
Sin su objetivo lograr.

De luto todos estamos,
El Sub jamás volverá
De corazón le deseamos,
Que ahora sí descanse en paz.

La Bloga's Contest: Send up to three calaveras in English, Spanish, or mezcla to win inclusion in the October 29, On-line Floricanto, and perhaps one of the prizes TBA.

Place your calaveras literarias in the body of an email (no files, please) and be sure to include your name and mail address in event your work wins one of the fabulous TBA prizes. Click here for the address, which is

On-line Floricanto: Edward Vidaurre

A critic's most challenging assignment is reviewing poetry. A poem can carry the weight and value of a novel, entirely compressed within the tight constraints of the verse form. Puro daunting, the thought of making sense of fifty or a hundred poemas and poemitas.

This week, en vez de una review of south Texas poet Edward Vidaurre's collection, I Took My Barrio On A Road Trip, La Bloga elects to let the poems speak for themselves. That's the ultimate point of any review, to get a reader into the book.

Here then, are five gems selected by Mr. Vidaurre for this occasion, from his current collection, I Took My Barrio on a Road Trip.

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, and Jose Chapa V.

Ask your local independent booksellter to order Edward's book I Took My Barrio On A Road Trip. College Station TX: Slough Press, 2013. ISBN 9780941720137 0941720136. You can also find it on leading internet bookseller catalogs.

I remember it as a greenish,
flaky, semi powdery substance.
like fish food

My strolls down the uneven
sidewalks of Santa Ana
were making memories in my mind
as a child sent away to
El Salvador as soon as school went on break

I looked forward
to walking these streets
that through the years
caused hardship on my grandmother’s
hips as she went from vendor to vendor
in the mercado collecting interest on loans

I smiled when they had no money,
just plenty of excuses
because that would make them pay
with product
hand made sandals, sorbete, gaseosas in plastic baggies,
pupusitas de frijolitos, or my favorite:
manguitos con alguashte

La Puerta del Diablo
held stories of bodies forgotten
and crouching guerilla soldiers
waiting for word that the war was over.

But it never was.

Nuestra Señora de Santa Ana
continues to hold on to her sad look
as her children paint the streets red

i always thought she was sad
because she could not eat
manguitos verdes
con alguashte.

Dominga has
hazel eyes, like honey dripping from
a wooden spoon she used to mix postres
como seda, her skin

I don’t know how old she is
I don’t want to know
my grandma
is eternal

Her voice thunderous
Pero cuando le grito al perro
que no me muerda

Her name is Concepcion
but they call her Conchita
De cariño

she fits the part of an old lady
orthopedic shoes
keeps up with eye exams
one-bad hip
and a holiness about her

she likes her cafecito, black
and eats frijolitos by scooping
them up with a warm tortilla

Her maiden name is Henriquez
wide noses,
you can see the legacy in my hijitas
when she flares them up
everytime she gets angry
curly hair,
my childhood pics prove it
as I smile for a Polaroid snap

Her mother took her life
and her aunt became mommy

Her married name is de Aviles
She took it from a man
Papa Foncho
He comes to me in
Dreams every now and again

He still wears the same suit in heaven
And has a distinct old man smell
Armpits and Musk deodorant

Straight hair combed and
Parted on one side
Con poquitas canas

The Salvadorean Clark Gable
And she was his Scarlet
With a dusty dress
And brown lips

Cholo Stroll (He may not make it)
I'm writing a story
about this cholo, I’ll call him Travieso
he wakes up in the morning
and lights up a cigarette

checks his phone
and grabs a white t-shirt
and a pair of brown Dickie pants
first the shirt,
the burro is unfolded
and the iron is hot enough

his mom is at work
and little brother in school
my cholo decided to skip school
and I'm afraid he may not make it

he looks through the
blinds of his apartment
before setting foot outside
-it's cool
no one's creeping

the tres flores
trails behind him
keeping his shadow company
as he walks towards the barrio
slow with a limp
to meet up with his homies
and I’m afraid he won’t make it, Travieso

a chicano mess
he commands
a mother's pain
as the distant cries
are just that
-non existent

he smiles
at the neighborhood
like he's a hero of sorts
with his limp
and I'm afraid he may not make it

the brothers G.
are already glossy-eyed
and swerving each time
a breeze blows by

the ink is drying on La Teardrop's neck,
y las oldies sound
different this morning
like an anthem of death
and I'm afraid he may not make it

my cholo
is trying to make it
to the end of his story
and I'm afraid he may not make it.

Child Left Behind
Before your choice
takes his life
- his opportunities
-his ability to run against the wind

before your choice
stops his little heart
from breathing
-eating candy
-singing and dancing
and asking questions

before you lay
on that steel bed
in that dreadful clinic

let me
enter your womb
and cuddle with him
let me share embryonic
fluids and chat with
him in dim waters
let me see
his smile
tiny fingers and toes

let me cradle him
and sing him a lullaby
written with the blood
of your intestines
and cold heart

let me whisper
I love you
and tickle him
while I touch his
bald little head

before you open your legs
and let the murder weapon
enter by permission

let me wrap the umbilical cord
around my neck
and hang
from your useless

as I watch my
baby boy
cry loudly

"Mommy, is that you?"

I took my barrio on a road trip
for three days

everywhere i went
there it was

my barrio

there were times i had
to put it in my pocket

-mi barrio

but out it came
from my lips

i took my barrio
on a road trip
to Austin

together we
side by side

we ate, drank,
and smoked

no matter
where i tried
telling my barrio
to stay
it followed me

protecting me
and giving me advice

get a hold of yourself
it would tell me
"you can do this ese!"
-tu rifas!
-tu controlas!
-tu eres el meromero
-no te rajes!

i took my barrio on a road trip

and from now on
i will take it with me
en mi corazon.