Friday, January 16, 2015

Remembering Michele Serros and Two Services Next Week

Guest post by Monica Frazier

My friend died two days ago.
I knew she had it for several months.
Pinche cancer.
I really thought she'd survive.
Damn it.
She married the love of her life, a short three years ago. He was by her side when she left this world.
My heart holds a special spot for Michele Serros, or as she liked to hear, "Mrs. Antonio Magaña."
A confusion of feelings surround death.
Why? Why her? Why didn't prayers work?
I see her smile, lively eyes, texts at odd hours,
her words expressing identity, small towns, and individuality
a literary landmark
stories like my life and unlike my life
resonate with scenes only she could paint
She found love, at a vegan restaurant,
with a Berkeley chicano, a mexican, from her home town,
from her own high school, the same alma mater, so long ago
ecstatic with love, a new family
sharing her life.
That's the way she was, loving, giving, living
daring to say the unsaid,
with wit and unique style,
inspired to write by Judy Blume.
A Medium Brown girl,
A Taco Belle,
Mucha Michele,
who wrote outside of 'barrios, borders, and bodegas,'
defining herself and the question of identity
to a mess of other men and women
boys and girls
high schoolers to old schoolers
on what is mexicano, chicano, americano.
A writer of handwritten notes,
handcrafted cards of
glitter and glue,
like her.

Michele was the first writer I knew, personally, and from my home town. I attended her readings back in the late 90's. Her writing inspired me to think that I could be a writer. When I first met her, we clicked. She had that kind of personality-she clicked with everyone.
Monica Frazier and Michele Serros
A giver of advice, affection, and friendship, Michele was a humble person who stayed grounded and a strong woman who was soft on the outside, tough on the inside. A chingona.
She was a long distance member of the writing group to which I belong, sometimes sending us articles to review.
I often felt inadequate, a published author asking me for feedback? But that was the way she was, as real as real can get.
An excerpt from her book, "Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard," struck me, long ago. Her mother died, from cancer, and Michele wrote the obituary. When she described her mother as an artist, someone questioned it, "it isn't like she sold anything."
Definitions always played a big part of my life: a true Mexican versus a fake Mexican...a true artist versus a wannabe. Nonetheless, my mama would have been crushed knowing she left this earth not remembered as an artist. It was her fear and lack of confidence that kept her art stuck on an easel, hidden away in the corner of our family's was her death that gave me the courage to finally share some of my own poems and stories. The purpose? to make someone happy, inspired...I just couldn't bear the thought of questioning what my own obituary would say. 1994
There is no question that Michele was an artist, who made millions of readers happy, who inspired thousands of Latinas, Latinos, and others who rarely read anything that resonated with their lives. Her books are here.
She had been working on a new novel, An Unmarried Mexican, a title she borrowed from one of her favorite books and movie, An Unmarried Woman.
As you could imagine, medical expenses soared, especially for a self employed person. Give Forward has a campaign to assist Michele's family. The fund is halfway to its goal.
To read more about this wonderful person, see "An Unexpected Heirloom," at Huffington Post and this article in the Los Angeles Times.
Rest in love, Michele.

At UC Santa Barbara, Tuesday, January 20 at 6pm

In Oxnard
On Saturday, in Michele's hometown of Oxnard, California, there will be a church service for Michele Serros on January 24, 2015 at Santa Clara Church in Oxnard. The rosary will be recited at 9:30 am and a mass follows at 10 am. The church is located at 323 S. E. St., Oxnard, CA 93030.


Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Gracias, Monica and Melinda for these heartfelt palabras. Michele's poetry and hilarious stories inspired and live on in so many of us. <3

Don Kingfisher Campbell said...

On Saturday, January 24th between 3 and 5pm inside the backroom of the Santa Catalina Branch Library on 999 E. Washington Blvd. in Pasadena we will be looking deeply at Michele's poems for inspiration.

Elizabeth Cardenas said...

In 1995, by some mistake or miracle, I was accepted to UCLA. I was a Santa Monica College transfer student and I had been taking classes there for eight years! So of course I was riddled with fear and self-doubt about attending one of the top universities in the nation. Nonetheless, I decided to put on a brave face and attend the Latino student award ceremony that I had been invited to. That is where I met her. As my name was called for an award, she stood and started clapping and hooting wildly. She ran up to me and hugged me as I walked up and while I was onstage, she frantically waved at me trying to get my attention. I was truly confused! Who was this person making a spectacle of herself and why does she think she knows me?! I figured the polite thing to do was smile at her but gently avoid her as I returned to my seat. When I was called up again (yay!) she burst into cheers once again. I was horrified! I pretended not to notice when people turned around to comment and laugh. Back at my seat, I explained to my husband how embarrassed I felt for this poor girl who had me confused with someone else...but she was so proud of me! It was endearing. As they introduced the keynote speaker, my mind began to wander. I morbidly wondered how long it would take before I failed at UCLA. I wondered if I would receive the letter explaining their mistake in admitting me before I would start the semester, or after. My thoughts about how I deserved none of this were interrupted by a thunderous clap from the audience. Our speaker, was being called on to the stage...and there she was. That sweet, ridiculous girl I was feeling sorry for walked on stage to receive all that wonderful applause. She waved to me one more time before beginning her talk. She spoke about her many years at community college and the studies she thought she might never complete. She talked about her self-doubt and the terror she felt the first day she stepped on the campus of UCLA, her present school. Then she read from her book. I sat there stupefied. When she finished I was the one who leapt to my feet to hoot and holler and clap for her! After the ceremony, I had to wait my turn to speak to her. She had so many fans! We compared notes, trying to figure out where she knew me from. We had not shared any classes, she did not remember my name, but yet she was positive we had been such good friends!
I believe we met for the first time that day. I believe she was somehow put on my path to show me how special I really was. There she was this beautiful stranger, so proud of my accomplishments, accomplishments which I myself could not even see. I met with her a couple more times when I was at UCLA. The talks we shared served to inspire me and keep me going in that campus where it's so easy to feel so alone. Her writings made me laugh out loud and filled me with strength when I needed it most... and now I find out that she's gone. This clever, funny, talented girl, gone just like that. I feel so lucky for having had the opportunity of meeting her and spending time with her. Thank you Michele Serros for seeing me when I couldn't see myself. Thank you for sharing yourself with me and with so many of us who are still learning how to feel pride in ourselves. I will miss you, you wonderful stranger!

Olga Garcia Echeverria said...

Elizabeth Cardenas, what a beautiful story, and funny too, which was one of Michele's fortes. Thank you for sharing this personal story with all of us. It made me laugh and touched my heart.