Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Stanford reads Chacon. Gluten-free papas con chorizo. Charnega Poeta.

Review: Daniel Chacón. Hotel Juarez : stories, rooms and loops. Houston, TX : Arte Publico Press, 2013. ISBN: 9781558857681  1558857680

Michael Sedano

If Daniel Chacon ever decides to quit his day job to go into radio, Benjamin Alire Saenz will have to do the same because they make a fabulous duo on the internet radio program Words on a Wire from KTEP. Their recent effort airing on February 23, their poetry show, is an example that deserves a listen, a beautiful on-air floricanto.

Chacon, of course, already has a day job to go with his day job, writer. Take Chacon’s 2013 collection, Hotel Juarez: stories, rooms and loops. Please do. You’ll be happy about it with a tempered joy.

That’s the estimation of a recent assembly of the Stanford Latina Latino Alumni Book Group, whose February selection spotlights Hotel Juarez. Stanford alums in the Los Angeles area who want to join the regular meetings click here.

Stanford Latina Latino Chicana Chicano Book Group
Roberto Garcia, Margie Hernandez, M. Urrutia, Concepción Valadez, Angelique Flores,
 Michael Sedano, Dierdre Reyes, Mario Vasquez 
As a collection of stories, readers find connections between characters and incidents threaded, or looped, in and out of disparate stories. Chacon has a subtle touch and some readers delight when another reader points out unseen connections, a character reappears, a consequence of some inconspicuous act strikes.

Because the book proffers a collection of stories, some readers allow themselves to temper their joy wishing for what they don’t have. Hotel Juárez is a collection, not a novel. Those loops and connections, however, narrow the gaps between the short and long forms of fiction, increasing some readers’ impatience with the start-stop-next of short fiction.

Chacon divides Hotel Juárez into five rooms. Within each room the author sublets space for series of stories developing a character or incident. Part I, The Purple Crayon, is a sketch book. Like the basket of goodies found in the hotel bathroom, each serves its own end but it belongs in the basket.

The title section, the fifth, most whets one’s appetite to see what Chacon can do with the longer form.  Before that is Mujeres Matadas, an intoxicatingly unnerving journey into underground clubs on the Juárez side, intimations of danger always lurking, knowledge of “death metal” music semi-essential. Close readers will wonder why she needed the ride in the first place, since her guitar and bandmates were already set up in the old maquiladora, and what were those red pills?

Chacon anticipates the television-influenced continuity doubters on the copyright page where he places his dedication, “For those who still believe.” The author next provides two instructions on how to read his book. On the dedication page, “The Order of Things”, and a Borges quotation, “esas visiones son minuciosas”. In other words, the author advises, read the book front to back, don’t skip around. The Borges echoes the dedicatory phrase, reality is what you make it.

Those words of advice, however, may be a magnificent author’s joke. The final section, Hotel Juárez, features a character, the professor, who attracts dogs and street kids. Maybe. The dogs are real enough—feed them tacos and they’ll follow you anywhere—but the kids and the implied danger may be hallucinations of a brain-fried pendejo.

Chacon has us on the professor’s side through the ten stories of this title section. “Believe” he’s told us. We believe, in The Best Tortas , Ever!, the professor is duped by the rock cocaine dealer. We believe the boys pick him up, trail him, box him in. We smile at his futility in buying an inkpen to use as a sword against an attack. We believe, maybe would welcome a fight scene. But when he pulls out of his sock a glass pipe we didn’t know was there and fires up those rocks, one's vision of the professor's world crumbles into the unreliability of a drugged-out narrator who really had us fooled. This is what you get for believing.

The Stanford women object that Chacon’s women are flat and deserve stronger, longer, more minuciosas visiones. La mujer matada is a fascinating character in her eponymous piece, but she’s ultimately only window dressing on the narrator’s set. In Tasty Chicken the narrator is a woman with a quirky fear that glittery makeup on her cleavage will infiltrate her bloodstream, grow and multiply to explode her body like a critter from an outer space movie. Pobrecita, and las mujeres have a point there.

The beauties of using books, especially one as rich in detail, loops, connections, predicaments as Hotel Juárez, include the ability to take your time, set the book down then come back to it, repeat and reread, and see the same words every time. That’s also a beauty of internet radio. Click on this link to Words on a Wire Poetry Show and listen to a beautiful example of aural floricanto. Like a book and other interposed media, you can return to time and again and repeat the experience, just as some of Hotel Juárez' stories, loops and rooms merit several visits before noticing you finally feel comfortable in that world.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Papas con Chorizo y Blanquillos

"Boys have huevos," my Grandmother explained, "gallinas hacen blanquillos." I was acquiring speech and language and that lesson stays with me since I was four years old.

Gramma probably taught me that as we gathered blanquillos from the jaula the gallinas shared with the goats and rabbits, at the back of the yard, past the excusado, by the nopales.

I imagine we went inside where she stoked the wood-burning stove and made me a breakfast of papas con chorizo y blanquillos. The dish has been a staple of The Gluten-free Chicano's diet for as long as he remembers.

My grandmother would roll out a perfect tortilla de harina, toast it on the stovetop, and drop it steaming onto my plate. We didn't use forks.

Nowadays I have to be gluten free, and, served with tortillas de maíz, here is a gluten-free breakfast of champions.

Dice the papas into uniform cubes and drop into a thin layer of cooking oil in a hot sartén. Stir the papas and turn so they begin to brown on all sides.

Add ⅓ of an onion, chopped, and a couple of sliced dientes de ajo and continue cooking until you can pierce the papas with a fork. Set the papas aside.

I buy a chub of pork chorizo and slice off a third of it to serve two. Spray the pan with nonstick coating and over medium flame, soften the chorizo five minutes, stirring and scraping.

Add the cooked papas to the chorizo and stir together.

I plan on one blanquillo per person, though this dish is almost infinitely expandable with more of everything.

Stir the eggs into the mixture and cook until the eggs have the texture you enjoy, wet and shiny or dry and hard. Serve with sliced fresh tomatoes from the garden when available, tortillas de maíz, and a hot salsa chile.

This is a fifteen minute refrigerator to plate gluten-free meal. Be sure to read all ingredients on the chorizo and tortillas to ensure absence of wheat, barley, or rye products.

A Foto Minus a Thousand Curses Plus a Million Tears

Charnega Chicana Poeta Publishes

La Bloga friend Raquel Delgado, poet and performance artist la Pocha Catalana, debuts her collection, El centro de la llama from Barcelona’s Excodra Editorial.

Charnegas Charnegos are Catalunya’s chicanada. Beset by social exigencies, charnegas charnegos employ code-switching dialects, a sense of Peoplehood, and poetry to claim their place among their peers.

Here's Raquel Delgado's bio from her publisher's website:

Charnega, nació en Barcelona en 1979. Es licenciada en Filología Hispánica. En 2001 inició un estudio lingüístico sobre Spanglish que le llevó a centrar su investigación sobre el pueblo chicano. En 2006 colaboró en la organización de las primeras Jornadas Chicanas en Casa Amèrica de Catalunya en las que presentó su lectura En Busca de un Aztlán, donde realiza un análisis tanto lingüístico como cultural del pueblo chicano comparándolo con los catalanes de primera generación. Dos años después se celebraron las segundas Jornadas Chicanas donde presentó la lectura La conciencia fronteriza en el nuevo arte chicano. Allí conoció a los artistas Guillermo Gómez-Peña y Roberto Sifuentes, miembros fundadores del colectivo La Pocha Nostra. El mismo año realizó un taller de performance con ellos en Evora, Portugal.

En 2009 presentó su performance Post-Colonial Malinches: Tongues of Fire en El Mundo Zurdo: The First International Conference on Gloria Anzaldúa en la University of Texas at San Antonio, y en La Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival en Chicago.

En 2010 presentó su trabajo Entrails' Wail en La Cova de les Cultures, en Barcelona y en el Milwaukee Avenue Arts Festival en Chicago. También ha participado como poeta en el Festival de Flor y Canto en San Francisco, en el Festival de Flor y Canto. Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow en Los Angeles, siendo la primera española que participa en este festival chicano desde que se inició en 1973. También participó en Mujerismo en la Avenue 50th Studio.

Es conocida como La Pocha Catalana, que es una reinvención del término charnega, y que expresa el gran paralelismo que existe entre charnegos y chicanos.

Community College Writers Anthology Call

La Bloga friend Chella Courington, faculty adviser of Santa Barbara City College's literary publication, Painted Cave sends the following.

Painted Cave Literary Magazine is accepting submissions from community college student writers nationwide for its inaugural issue May 2014.  Submissions are accepted on a rolling basis.

Painted Cave is the online student-run, faculty-guided literary journal of Santa Barbara City College. We publish the work of community college student writers in fiction, poetry and creative nonfiction.

Painted Cave reserves First North American Serial Rights. We accept simultaneous submissions, but please notify us immediately if your work is accepted elsewhere.

Paste your submission in the body of the email to paintedcavesubmissions@gmail.com.

Include the genre of the submission, title(s) and your name in the subject line (Fiction, “Born Too Late,” Mary Mullins).

We accept the following genres:
Flash Fiction: 1-3 pieces, no more than 750 words each.
Fiction: 1 piece, no more than 5000 words.
Poetry: 3-5 poems, no more then 50 lines each.
Creative Nonfiction: 1 piece, no more than 5000 words.
Flash Creative Nonfiction: 1-3 pieces, no more than 750 words each.


Manuel Ramos said...

Em, thanks for this. Reminded me that our (Flo and me)world-wide search for the best chorizo ended up a few blocks from our house at a local carniceria. Just the right mix of spices - although we have learned that each batch is different, the nature of sausage I suppose. I like to throw in chopped onion and tomatoes, but not too much, of course. Now I'm hungry.

Anonymous said...

My world-wide search for the finest chorizo also ended up a few blocks from my house, which is a few blocks from Ramos's. Could they be the same? Quién sabe.

Daniel A. Olivas said...

Bravo, Daniel Chacon! Bravo Stanford!

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

My father always said blanquillos too. And he made the best homemade chorizo ever. He'd drive out to Chino, CA to kill a pig and come back with it to play barrio butcher en la cocina. Cabeza, patas y todo. Kinda traumatizing but in the end always delicious. :)

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Oh, and felicidades to Daniel & Raquel.