Monday, February 29, 2016

It's not too late to help Con Tinta make La Pachanga 2016 a success!

This year, the annual AWP Conference will be held in Los Angeles. And that means Con Tinta will be in the City of Angels, as well, to celebrate literature by hosting La Pachanga and Award Ceremony. Who will be honored? When and where will our event take place? How can you help?


The Advisory Circle of Con Tinta, a collective of Chicana/Latina Activist Writers, Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Avenue 50 Studio in Los Angeles are organizing the 2016 Pachanga & Award Ceremony and one of the book releases for the Anthology, Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press), edited by Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez. La Pachanga 2016 will be held on Thursday, March 31, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., at Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N. Avenue 50, Los Angeles, CA 90042. Con Tinta will honor the following Chican@ and Latin@ writers: Francisco X. Alarcón (RIP), Juan Felipe Herrera, Lucha Corpi, Luis Javier Rodríguez, and Odilia Galván Rodríguez. 

Following the Award Ceremony we will have one of the book releases for the anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice (University of Arizona Press) edited by Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodríguez. Several poets from the anthology will be there to share la poesía for all of us. Stay tuned for an upcoming list of readers.

However, we need your help in order to have a successful event. Please consider donating to help celebrate our Chican@ and Latin@ writers who deserve this event immensely. If you can help, please email for complete information on how to make a donation by check via snail mail. Remember: no donation is too small and donors will be mentioned in the event program.

Con Tinta is excited for this marvelous partnership with Poets Responding to SB 1070 and Avenue 50 Studio. Con Tinta especially wants to thank Kathy Gallegos, Pola Lopez, Jessica Ceballos, and Lea Chavez.

La Pachanga and Award Ceremony is a time for us to come together and celebrate the wonderful achievements of our Chican@/Latin@ community. Let us stand together and be proud of the superb accomplishments of our writers.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Here Comes The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles

Olga García Echeverría

the angels here
have pigeon's wings
blue collars
washed in sweat
the common salt
in tears
tongues swirl
in a stew of cultures
singing asphalt songs
in the mist of seagulls
bebop atop
the San Andreas
a humble plate
of beings

– “Los Angeles” by Kamau Daáood (from The Coiled Serpent)

Tia Chucha's latest publishing endeavor is an exciting anthology featuring a wide range of poetic voices. The Coiled Serpent: Poets Arising from the Cultural Quakes and Shifts of Los Angeles will formally be released on April 15th, 2016. However, copies will be available at the upcoming AWP conference in LA. We will keep you posted on events and readings.

Co-edited by Neelanjana Banerjee, Daniel A. Olivas, and Ruben Rodriguez, the anthology is dedicate to three late writers of color whose work and spirit have inspired so many of us--Wanda Coleman, John Trudell, and Francisco X. Alarcon. Coiled Serpent opens with a brief and powerful introduction by our very own Poet Laureate, Luis J. Rodriguez, who reminds us that “Los Angeles is one of the richest cities in the United States and one of the poorest. What lies beneath all the seething are the social and economic gaps.”

This is an anthology that speaks (sin pelos en la lengua) from and about those gaps. Hollywood (the industry that fabricates and sells so many glittery myths of our city) knows nothing about the real LA revealed in these pages. As Rodriguez writes, this is “poetry that captures a city, a dreamscape, the shape of land and culture… from its underbelly and from among the unseen and unheard. These are artistic weapons in the social battles upturning what America is today and what it can be—toward a grander sense of belonging and inheritance.”

Spanning 355 pages, the anthology includes the work of many well-known and beloved Angelino writers, including work by Coleman and Trudell. There are too many authors to name here, but among the featured poets are Melinda Palacio, Holly Prado, Ruben Martinez, traci kato-kiriyama, Lynne Thompson, Amy Uyematsu, Peter Harris, liz gonzález, Dorothy Randall Gray, Chiwan Choi, Mike Sonken, Terry Wolverton, Antonieta Villamil, Luivette Resto, Thelma T. Reyna, Abel Salas, Iris De Anda, Xochitl-Julisa Bermejo, Jessica Ceballos, Claudia Rodriguez, Erika Ayón, Alejandra Sanchez, and Jamie Asaye FitzGerald.

With shimmering scales made up of metaphor and verse, The Coiled Serpent slithers through the poetic landscapes of LA. It gives us an intimate welcome, “...please / leave your bags at the door / don't carry what you don't need / come in have a seat / because i want to confess to you/ everything...”(Ricardo Lira Acuña). It crosses continents in “Haze” by Tanzila Ahmed, “Today / Los Angeles smells like India, / Like heavy fog and survival trash burning / Like the thick air / of dawn and dusk.”

“The coiled serpent is connected to the earth, but also ready to spring, to strike, to defend or to protect,” Rodriguez tells us.
Everywhere the serpent goes, there are migrations and the honoring of migrants, like Iliana Carter's powerful portrait of her Salvadorean grandmother, “a woman scorned, brutalized, / the fire that must have burned in her, / courage forged into black diamonds, / beat into shape by his violence / she fled with those dark stars inside her...” and in Karineh Mahdessian's “Here”, a portrait of a father transplanting the most fragile of things, “He has traveled far / to arrive with packed dreams and two babies / Here / He breaks his knees / Bends his back / Callouses his hands / suns his cheeks...”
Yago S. Cura gives us a Los Angeles County Jail Sonnet. He poets, “Jail is the real Mother of Invention: I have seen shoelaces made from the elastic / of a T-shirt, I have seen three miniscule toothbrushes lashed together to form / a wavelet-taming brush, I have seen a playing card used as a telescope, / a rhinoplasty / performed with golf pencils, and portraits of 2Pac, Mandela, and Rosa Parks / made entirely from Bologna...”
Everywhere the serpent goes, there are forgotten people, little people. “The little people listen with a fancy step / Fire in the village /The little people can’t help but dance /Fire in the village…” (John Trudell)

There are two-tongued cantos in this anthology that ask, “Why must we bite one tongue to let the other speak...?” (Iliana Cuellar). 

There's traffic running through this collection—a prayer in traffic, a curse in traffic, a buzzing refrain in traffic. There are odes to pan dulce and buñelos, love letters, F. Douglas Brown seeking advice for a daughter who is all “cherry coke and a pack of bubble gum.” How to talk about and upack the horror of lynchings and Sandra Bland? Or the genocide so alive in our city (cities), our world, our times?

These are poems about ashes, those  of the deceased and those left behind on city blocks as evidence of rebellions. And water. The divergence of water. The longing for water. There are meditations on poverty, money, gentrification, illness, earthquakes, and the crumbling of precious things, cookies, hearts, memory, bone.

Abuelitas, mothers, fathers, uncles, bus stop prophets, street vendors, lovers, drunks, the homeless, and the poets —they all populate these pages not as victims or cardboard caricatures but as resilient three-dimensional urban angels who uncover and discover, who rise up and remind us all to “give thanks and kiss cracked cement / moist lips deposit seeds of sea / into abyss that is our barren world / until the ceremony of our breath / conjures enough tears / to water our next steps” (Iris De Anda).

This is an anthology not to be missed. Look out for it. Support it. Help us spread the word. Gracias.

Luis J. Rodriguez is founding editor of Tía Chucha Press, which has been publishing culturally rich, socially engaged poetry books for 27 years, and co- founder of Tía Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore. He is currently Poet Laureate of Los Angeles.

Neelanjana Banerjee, managing editor at Kaya Press and co-editor of the award-winning Indivisible: An Anthology of South Asian American Poetry (University of Arkansas Press). Her poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in Prairie Schooner, Pank Magazine, The Rumpus, World Literature Today, the Literary Review, and more.

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of seven books including the award-winning novel, The Book of Want (University of Arizona Press). His first nonfiction book is Things We Do Not Talk About: Exploring Latino/a Literature through Essays and Interviews (San Diego State University Press). Olivas is also the editor of the landmark anthology, Latinos in Lotusland (Bilingual Press).

Ruben J. Rodriguez, a recent graduate of UCLA, Magna Cum Laude, was previously an editor at Westwind magazine and has read at UCLA’s Powell Library.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Chicano novelist and his literary works – David Bowles

One characteristic of mainstream Anglo-American literature is separation of literary works vs genre works. Literary is considered superior, more scholarly and artistic, while genre--also called speculative lit, including sci-fi, fantasy, horror and more--is considered something less. Think of it in terms of an Anglo vs POC parallel.
Certain authors and their works have superseded the arbitrary separation belittling speculative literature, like the English author, Neil Gaiman. While Chicano and Latino authors have been producing literature that belies biases against speculative lit, today La Bloga focuses on tejano David Bowles.

The American Library Association recently selected Bowles's YA novel, The Smoking Mirror, as a 2016 Pura Belpré Honor Book.* The award recognizes writing that “best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth.” The committee stated: “Bowles creates an action-packed story based on Aztec and Mayan mythology while capturing the realities of life in contemporary South Texas and Mexico.”

Note that his book was not honored in a sci-fi or fantasy category; the Belpré was given for "an outstanding work of literature." Period. People who choose not to read or get this book for their kids because it's not "mainstream," are missing the point of the Belpré award--"Outstanding literature."

Carol Garza character
Bowles's works go beyond this award-winning book. He writes reviews for the establishment press, writes books of poetry, translations of Náhuatl, history, folklore, research and other prose. You can read some of this below or on his website, but the point is that a speculative lit book was penned by a scholar whose literary credentials are wide-encompassing and growing.

Even if you're a Chicano who never liked genre lit, your kids are going to see Hunger Games, The Martian, Harry Potter movies and possibly reading the same. Consider getting them copies of the Garza Twins books, and other books by Chicano and Latino authors that have heroes as brown as them, as Chicano as them, as literarily worthy as the Anglo authors of the films mentioned.

The other twin, Johnny
Synopsis of The Smoking Mirror: "Carol and Johnny Garza are 12-year-old twins whose lives in a small Texas town are forever changed by their mother’s unexplained disappearance. Shipped off to relatives in Mexico by their grieving father, the twins soon learn that their mother is a nagual, a shapeshifter, and that they have inherited her powers. In order to rescue her, they will have to descend into the Aztec underworld and face the dangers that await them." (Garza Twins • Book One)

Synopsis of A Kingdom Beneath the Waves: The Garza family’s Christmas vacation in Mexico is cut short by the appearance of Pingo, one of the elfish tzapame. The news is grim: a rogue prince from an ancient undersea kingdom is seeking the Shadow Stone, a device he will use to flood the world and wipe out humanity. Now Carol and Johnny must join a group of merfolk and travel into the deepest chasms of the Pacific Ocean to stop the prince and his monstrous army with their savage magic. (Garza Twins • Book Two)

Other books by Bowles:
Ghosts of the Rio Grande Valley (The History Press, Sept. 2016)
The Smoking Mirror (March 2015)
Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry (2013)—winner of the Soeurette Diehl Fraser Award for Best Translation
Mexican Bestiary (2012)—with Noé Vela.

About David Bowles: "A product of an ethnically diverse family with Latino roots, I have lived most of my life in the Río Grande Valley of south Texas, where I teach at the University of Texas. Recipient of awards from the American Library Association, Texas Institute of Letters and Texas Associated Press, I have written several books.
"Additionally, my work has been published in venues including Rattle, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Metamorphoses, Translation Review, Concho River Review, Huizache, Axolotl, The Thing Itself, Eye to the Telescope and James Gunn’s Ad Astra."

For more info on the author and his works:
PS: it's also David's birthday today, FYI.

* Belpré recipients are selected by a committee of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association, and the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-speaking (REFORMA).

Friday, February 26, 2016

Another Chance for Goodbye

 Melinda Palacio

My grandmother has been dying for the past 25 years. At least, that's what she's been telling me for as long. Our telephone conversations always end on an uneasy note and when I see her in person, she reminds me that it may be the last time. Having heard this omen for two decades doesn't make the fact that she's been suffering from congestive heart failure since December and that this time really might be her last year any easier. A big question mark hangs over whether she will reach her 87th birthday in April.

            But she is one tough grandma. She has survived heart valve surgery, blood clot surgery, and the removal of a giant ulcer in her throat. Each time doctors warn us of the possibility that she may not survive. Even now, I do not know what to expect when I arrive in Del Rio, Texas next week. As I prepare to spend another holiday with her in the hospital, I am reminded of our time together earlier this month, during the Valentine/President's Day long weekend.

            I spent long hours in a chair simply watching her. At first, I tried talking to her about random subjects to keep her mind off her personal demons, but she told me to shut my mouth. With the control of her body slipping away, the lack of strength to use her legs, the pain in her throat when she swallows (at the time, we didn't know she had an ulcer in her throat), she experience what the doctors called dementia and prefers talking to ghosts. During these sessions, she relieves painful memories. At first, the conversations seem benign. She talks to dogs on her hospital bed that aren't there, then she fusses about putting the baby in the crib. Sometimes, she hands me an invisible baby. I have three choices: to take the baby, to tell her the baby is already in the crib, or to insist that there is no baby. I find it's easier to choose one of the first two options. Eventually, she is giving birth and the pain is unbearable because the baby is stillborn. She yells for help and calls out for her mother. Her mother is the person she wants the most. She turns towards me, looks me in the eye and asks me to do something. I quickly call a nurse. The minute a nurse steps in and asks her what ails her, my grandmother snaps out of her nightmare and calmly says there is nothing wrong. When the nurses appear they are unfazed by our collective panic. I worry that her trips down painful memories will only get worse. This is the hardest part for me. I don't understand why she chooses to relieve the most painful memories of all her eighty some years, or if it is even a choice.

            My grandmother gave birth to twelve children, but lost two babies. She outlived her husband and one daughter. These past two months, she reverts to relieving those painful tragedies of losing her first two babies. She comforts herself by having long conversations with her ghosts. When she addresses me, I realize how strong she is and I admire that she can maintain her sense of humor through all the surgeries, all the recoveries, and all her delusions. I can only hope that she will soon be well enough to return home. I hope the removal of the ulcer in her throat will make swallowing and eating more amenable to her and bring back her strength. I realize that wishing for her full recovery might be my delusion and that she may not recover and that there may no be another chance for goodbye. Solo vengo a despedirme. During the hours when she is at rest, I tell her that it is my honor to sit with her.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher talks about his new memoir, Presentimiento

 Presentimiento: A Life in Dreams
by Harrison Candelaria Fletcher

Harrison Candelaria Fletcher is the author of Descanso For My Father: Fragments Of A Life, winner of the Colorado Book Award for Creative Nonfiction and International Book Award for Best New Nonfiction, and Presentimiento: A Life In Dreams, winner of the 2015 Autumn House Press Nonfiction Prize. He graciously answered a few questions about his new memoir, Presentimiento:
LG: How did you arrive at the title? It reads to me as the opposite of Descanso, as it evokes a certain “restlessness..." If you have a presentimiento, are you compelled to do something about it? 

HCF: Great question! In a lot of ways, Presentimiento really is the opposite of Descanso as it relates to restlessness. With Presentimiento, I was hoping to keep something alive rather than laying it to rest, in this case, my mother’s legacy of story and memory as opposed to my father’s absence.

I chose “presentimiento” as the title based on my mother’s interpretation of the word  – “something you feel in your heart,” or something you feel compelled to act upon. And I did feel compelled to act, or  “rescue,” as she calls it, a part of our past slipping away. 

LG: Can you tell me a bit about the process of writing Presentimiento… Why did you choose to write in vignettes? Is fragmentation meant to echo the language of dreams?  

HCF: With Presentimiento, I was hoping to reflect the language my mother speaks – that we speak – the language of mosaic, collage, fragment, vignette. I was hoping to reflect how she made her home – piece by piece, from artifacts and stories gathered over a lifetime.

Each fragment has its own individual story, but when viewed as a whole, says something larger. I hadn’t thought of your suggestion about fragmentation echoing the language dreams, but I can see that in retrospect – how it might reflect the blurring and blending, as well as how things come into focus and fade away. Very astute!

I should also say that I write pretty intuitively. I try not to follow preconceived notions of how the book should come together. I follow what rises to the surface and assemble it later. Not the most efficient process, but I like being surprised. I try to let the writing show me rather than make a deliberate choice to write in vignettes or whatever. 

That said, I do love white space and how it relates to text. Pat Mora, a beautiful poet-memoirist says it best: “I like to compare the openness of the desert to the openness the blank page. The desert — in its firmness and fierceness, in its whispered chants and tempestuous dance – shapes us as geography always shapes its inhabitants.” As a desert creature myself, I know exactly what she means. I try to share that with readers. 

HCF: Did you do any formal research of people and places or was your writing informed more by oral histories?

I did quite a bit of research actually. I consulted histories, maps, news archives, as well as visiting the physical locations where many of these stories took place. But after immersing myself in data, I set it aside, and filtered these stories through my memory and perception. I wanted to capture the dreamlike my mother tells these stories. 

Presentimiento is not so much a history as a feeling about that history.  I think every family has its own narrative of who it is and how it came to be. And I think we hold onto those narratives for the emotions they contain as well as the names, places, dates and data. I was really trying to capture the emotion of why she holds onto what she does – and why I too am compelled to “rescue” it. 

LG: Compared to more traditional memoirs, there didn’t seem to be much of you in the text… Was this intentional?   

HCF: Yes. It was intentional. As you can tell from Descanso, I don’t approach memoir in a traditional way. Not that I have anything against traditional memoir, I’m just not wired that way. I’m drawn more to the exploration of memory than a personal narrative of the past.

This book was an attempt to view my family, my roots and my home through the eyes of the woman who made them – my mother. But by doing so – by interpreting her life and inhabiting her stories – I’m revealing more about myself to the reader than my mother.

I’m sharing with readers my feelings about my mother – my hopes, dreams, fears, etc. Although it’s indirect, this book really is about me – all my emotions toward her laid bare. At least I hope that comes through. 

LG: How did you organize the text? Was it an organic process? I thought of Cortázar’s Rayuela as I was reading Presentimiento… Is the order given relevant or meaningful to the reader? 

HCF: It’s organic. As I say, I was raised by a woman who speaks the language of mosaic and collage and that’s the vocabulary I tried to use – how pieces form a whole greater than the sum of their parts. There is a linear underpinning as well but I hope the pieces accumulated thematically by the end. 

LG: What are you working on right now? 

HCF: I’m working on a book-length essay project exploring different notions of "mixedness.” As a person of mixed ethnicity, I’ve long been drawn to questions of how an internal hyphen can become an intersection as much as a border – or a bridge as much as a boundary.

It grew from an essay in Descanso – “White” – that explores my ethnic identity through a more complicated prism. I hope to combine research, memory, rumination and possibly images, although I have no idea how it might end up. I’m still hunting and gathering.

I’m also working on a prose-poem novella thing about grace. It’s based in New Mexico – like most of what I do. 

 Harrison Candelaria Fletcher
Photo by Rebecca Allen

Review / Reseña de Presentimiento:


Por Lydia Gil
El nuevo libro de Harrison Candelaria Fletcher, “Presentimiento”, se enfoca en la herencia cultural nuevomexicana de su familia materna.Este segundo libro de memorias continúa su interpretación poética del género, donde el autor se revela más a través del lenguaje, el paisaje y los otros personajes que mediante una narración en primera persona. 

"Presentimiento" está escrito en un inglés formal, a veces erudito, a menudo interrupido por palabras y frases en español. Esa convivencia lingüística refleja el universo tanto poético como personal del autor.

Si bien su primer libro de memorias, "Descanso for my Father", destacaba la ausencia del padre, los relatos de "Presentimiento" recalcan la presencia  persistente de su herencia materna. El título es significativo no solo por integrar su herencia hispana en el lugar más visible, pero también como marca profunda de lo que dicha herencia significa para Fletcher.

"Elegí 'Presentimiento' como título en base a cómo mi madre interpreta la palabra: como algo que sientes en tu corazón que te obliga a actuar", dijo. 

Fue así que Fletcher, al recoger las historias familiares, sintió la obligación de rescatar a través de la escritura ese pasado en vías de desaparición. Los recuerdos familiares se narran en estampas, algunas brevísimas, que evocan las voces fragmentadas del pasado.

"Intenté reflejar el modo de hablar de mi madre, de todos nosotros, que es el lenguaje del mosaico, del collage, del fragmento, de la estampa," dijo.

Ese lenguaje entrecortado de citas recordadas, de historias roídas por el recuerdo, refleja también el lenguaje entrecortado de los sueños. Muchas de las estampas se relatan desde el ensueño o el recuerdo, recalcando la incertidumbre sobre la veracidad de lo que se narra.Esta ambigüedad se refleja en el relato de Benicio que regresa borracho a su rancho siguiendo una acequia cerca de Bernalillo. Detrás de los arbustos escucha una voz de mujer que gime y cuando se acerca encuentra una calavera. 

La presencia fantasmagórica figura también en el recuerdo de su madre, quien de niña oyó a su fenecida tía abuela despertarla de noche. Visto también por su madre, el espectro no desaparece hasta que la abuela le ordena firmemente que se marche.

Fletcher parece recordarnos que la veracidad tanto de la experiencia vivida como de la contada, depende de la disposición del otro para creerla. Es el caso del relato de Abenicio, quien pasa una noche dormido sobre un nido de serpientes de cascabel.Al final del relato, Fletcher imagina a Abenicio riéndose nervioso: "Nadie le creerá. O bien, puede que sí…”

Individualmente, estos relatos podrían considerarse historias menores o incluso triviales. Sin embargo, al compartir las historias familiares de lugares sacros y profanos, Fletcher nos ofrece una ventana a un pasado mucho más abarcador que el propio. 

"Cada fragmento cuenta su historia, pero al leerlos en su conjunto, cuentan algo mayor", expresó.

Fletcher confiesa que pasó mucho tiempo investigando formalmente documentos históricos y visitando los lugares que describe en sus memorias, pero al final, todo se destila a través del recuerdo.

"Después de sumergirme en la investigación, lo hice todo a un lado y filtré estas historias a través de mi memoria y percepción", dijo.

Más que relatos personales y familiares, "Presentimiento" es el eco emocional de esas historias y de cómo ese eco informa las acciones de su presente.

"Intenté capturar el sentimiento del por qué mi madre se aferra a los recuerdos que conserva. Y cómo esos recuerdos me obligan también a mí a rescatarlos".

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Read Conmigo

Empowering Families Through Bilingual Literacy

Time spent together is a precious gift for families. Read Conmigo, sponsored by Infinity Insurance, was created to help parents, grandparents, and educators develop in their children and students bilingual reading and comprehension skills.
Recognized as a Bright Spot in Hispanic Education by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, Read Conmigo provides parents with bilingual storybooks, apps, and online resources to read with their children in English and Spanish.
The program has already distributed more than one million free books to classrooms and families, and receives support from more than 9,200 educators. 

Join Read Conmigo's FREE reading program today!

Visit for more information.

Ariadna Sánchez shared the following article about Read Conmigo on the Spanish Children's Blog Los Bloguitos.

Por Ariadna Sánchez

Febrero es la época donde los caramelos, flores y detalles para celebrar el amor y la amistad están tan presente como la lectura misma. Una manera práctica de ensalzar estos sentimientos es leyendo historias que cultiven valores que se quedarán para el resto de la vida. 

Una herramienta que se encuentra disponible para las familias latinas radicadas en la Unión Americana es Read Conmigo. Read Conmigo ofrece libros, aplicaciones y recursos por internet gratuitos para que los padres puedan leerle a sus niños en inglés y/o en español. El programa ha tenido un éxito tremendo que ha sido reconocido por la Iniciativa de la Casa Blanca para la Excelencia Educativa de los Hispanos, por su gran labor en el fortalecimiento de los vínculos familiares; a través de la lectura bilingüe. Su portal electrónico es colorido y muy fácil de navegar.   La inscripción es gratuita y sin compromiso; en un dos por tres, estas leyendo o descargando los libros, aprendiendo de valiosos recursos para los niños y sobre todo invirtiendo en estrategias para un óptimo desarrollo de todos los integrantes de la familia.

A continuación te dejo las ligas correspondientes para que las consultes e inicies un recorrido por el mágico mundo de la lectura.

Recuerda que la lectura te da alas. !Nos leemos la próxima semana!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Review: The Amado Women. Dear Chavela. 3030 Studio Opens.

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

Review: Désirée Zamorano. The Amado Women. El Paso TX: Cinco Puntos Press, 2014.

Michael Sedano

Love is complicated, not the many-splendored thing of songs of yore. Take the four Amado women, for instance. In their own way, each is loved, or finds love, or thinks she does, in Désirée Zamorano’s first novel for Cinco Puntos Press, The Amado Women. But there’s a wide gap between perceived love, and happiness. Zamorano is not kind to her characters in ways that will unnerve some readers, but at the end of the book, the reader is going to want more.

There’s Nataly, a soltera artist who doesn’t finish her projects and finds lubricious sex with another woman’s man. There’s Sylvia Levine, wife and mother of two little girls, in a brutal loveless marriage. There’s Celeste, a damaged divorcée who has buried her only child and alienated herself from the familia. There’s Mercy, the sixty-year old mother who finally dumped her old man and started making her own life. Women’s lives are complicated.

Men are less so. Men are shits. There’s a medical doctor who won’t listen to a child’s complaints yet ignoring them could be lethal. There’s Amado père, a philandering jerk who turns mawkish when Mercy dumps him. There’s Nataly’s married lover who wants sex, not love nor companionship. She doesn’t see that. There’s one decent guy, Celeste’s friend, whose passion she refuses to allow. Then there’s Jack Levine. All you need to know about this brutal asshole is in the novel’s opening pages. There’s a lot more to Jack and his own love life, but to share details would be a spoiler.

There are two more Amado women, the Levine girls. Is their future to replicate the other Amado women’s? And like mom, the children are in danger. Daddy doesn’t like Becky, the youngest. Becky’s body hurts but her bruises don’t show, either. Like mother, like daughter? The first-born, Miriam, perhaps is daddy’s girl and doesn’t get beaten. When Sylvia does something “wrong”, the first words out of Miriam’s mouth when daddy walks in the door are to snitch on mom and Becky. Of all these people, Miriam may be in the greatest danger, danger of growing up to be a survivor through connivance. Again, to reveal details will ruin the twists that Zamorano skillfully crafts for her readers.

As one reads the stories of these four women and two girls, a reader begins to question if Désirée Zamorano is being ironic with that surname. Are these women loved? Do they know love, or is their experience the detritus of love? Might the only genuine, lasting love be that between mother and child?

As Zamorano’s novel unfolds, the latter seems the most accurate assessment of these women’s lives. Sisterly love is just as complicated as women with men. Nataly and Celeste are at each other’s throats. Nataly, the youngest and her mother’s favorite, resents Celeste’s decision to leave their home town of Orange for school in Arcata. Celeste went off to Humboldt State and never came back. For her part, Celeste sneers at her sister’s art career and privately gloats that Nataly works as a waitress while her art career goes nowhere. Sylvia keeps secrets from her family, instead shares the private details of her hellish life with a confidante.

Désirée Zamorano’s focus is these women’s experience, electing to zoom in on the drama and skimming over what the women look like. Are they brown? Except for a smattering of Spanish phrases and a child who chokes to death on a tortilla de harina, we don’t really see them as ethnic, nor as others see them.

Women aren’t their looks so Zamorano gives little attention to superficial matters, describing women in general terms and tokens like purses. Nataly is beautiful. Celeste has short spiky hair. Mercy touches up her canas. Sylvia has bruises that don’t show, and money that does.

Zamorano has chosen to downplay physical appearance, so vital to a woman’s place in contemporary culture. Not until the action is spinning down does the author let the reader “see” what some of the characters look like, the New York artist, the confidante. These moments of recognition at the end of the book enhance the story, adding dimension to minor, but key, players, and a measure of ineluctable satisfaction, even if looks don’t matter.

With her characters reeling through yearning, loneliness, illness, discord, tragedy, unfolding crisis that brings them together, Zamorano allows the superficial issues of appearance to provide momentary respite from some really terrible events happening to people whom we care about, even if they don’t care as much as the reader.

With so much in this novel that a reviewer cannot talk about, what, then are we to make of the Amado women? When the reader steps back from the page inductively and looks for connections between these particular women and women generally, the fog begins clearing. The Amado Women is a novel about consequences and accountability.

Bad decisions lead to messy outcomes. Indecision leads to a damaged spirit and worse—Sylvia. But so does hasty decision--Nataly. Doing the right thing for oneself is something that requires risk—Celeste and Mercy. Then outside forces beyond one’s influence or control happen, and knock one for a loop. The woman who is reluctant to take a reasoned risk is unprepared for life’s vagaries and will live one of those lives of quiet desperation that demand a second novel to resolve all that unfinished business.

I hope that’s Désirée Zamorano’s plan because I want to know what happened after the final page.

Visit Cinco Puntos Press to order a copy, or ask your local indie bookseller to get your copies through   Consortium Book Sales and Distribution.

Altadena Event Brings Delightful Surprise

It was a difficult weekend in that far too many wonderful events were scheduled for the same time across the Los Angeles basin. In my neck of the woods, Luis J. Rodriguez was reading at the Pasadena main library and later that day part of a Poet Laureate Address to the Nation.

My camera wanted to go Pasadena, but my heart took me instead to Altadena, where Daniel Castro was leading a discussion of a PBS documentary, Latino Americans: 500 Years of History. Episode 5, Prejudice and Pride 1965-1980.

That was a grand decision on my part, not only for the entertaining documentary but for the delightful surprise that cropped up. Sancho has a book!

Southern Californians enjoyed years of “The Sancho Show” on Pasadena City College’s FM radio station, KPCC. Sancho had consejos for young listeners: go to school, study, groove to good sounds, stay out of trouble. Then KPCC went private and the station went to the dogs. The programmers dumped Sancho, the European Hour, and a midnight jazz program, under the guise that, as their star deejay whined, “we want to play our music” emphasis on the “our.”

As I took my seat in Altadena Library’s community room, I noticed poet Mario Angel Escobar seated near the wall. I threw him a head nod and turned attention to the film and discussion. That was when the delightful surprise hit me.

Escobar is a publisher. Izote Press’ book, Dear Chavela, was authored by Sancho, who in his non-radio persona is Dr. Daniel Castro, retired now but formerly president of LA Trade-Technical College, where he met Mario. Escobar related the story, and it’s as wonderfully heart-warming as Dear Chavela, and reflects the raison d’être of Dear Chavela and Castro’s mission as an educator and as Sancho.

Escobar was being arrested on the campus of LA Trade Tech, after a fist fight. Castro intervened, directing the campus cop to release the plumbing student into the president’s custody. Escobar explained his frustration at flunking his plumbing classes. Castro told the kid to explore something different, entonces.

Mario enrolled in philosophy and literature classes and excelled. He got his first degree and kept going until he attained a doctorate and has made a career in teaching and writing. Can I get an ¡Ajua! for that?

Izote Press’ Dear Chavela is the richest 52 pages you will read this year, if you order copies. You’ll read it the first time in an hour, then re-read favorites over and over.

A pastiche on advice columns, Chavela is the advice columnist for The Chicano Times, headquartered at Marrano Beach, California. Chavela is the world’s foremost authority on cosas Chicana, hence the letters.

In his introduction, Castro promises “My goal was to make you, my friends, smile, think, and dream a little. You may laugh, ponder, get angry agree or disagree, maybe even cry—but the goal is to get you thinking.” Promises made, promises kept.

Castro captures the colloquial voice of young people like the ones you grew up with. I heard my own voice, that of my primas and primos, tias and tios, in the epistolary style.

The kid who doesn’t speak Spanish when “everyone” expects that and gets to wondering, “what am I?”

The kid whose name is mispronounced, or denied by anglo teachers in favor of a nickname. The kid asks, “who am I?”

There’s a laugh-out-loud piece on nicknames and their origins.

There’s a tear-jerker piece on the assimilated kid named Brandon Swartz who gets confronted by cultura when his unknown-to-him grandfather dies in Morenci, where his mother comes from. At home, she calls him “son” but in Arizona he’s “mi’jo.” Like the kid with the Mexican names, Brandon asks, “who am I? What am I?”

Each of the thirty-two pieces in the volume runs a few paragraphs, a page or two at most. Many of Castro’s voices are young--elementary and junior high—making Dear Chavela totally appropriate for kids that age. Any reader coming out of the bicultural experience will find a lot to enjoy in this book.

All proceeds from sales go to Castro’s memorial scholarship named for Castro’s son, Quetzalcoatl, who died in an automobile accident.

Click here for a video and information on The Sancho Show and CDs.

Click here for Izote Press and to order copies of Dear Chavela.

Fire, Friends and Fun on Olympic Blvd

I lost track of time and when my wife called me away from writing, I grabbed nothing and headed to the car. We had seats at Cal Tech for the Escher Quartet with guitarist Jason Vieaux. A fabulous concert indeed, yet I had time to remember my camera, but did not. Chamber Music listeners will enjoy The Coleman Concert series at Cal Tech. It’s the best—without exception—music bargain in California. The Eroica Trio wraps the season in April, followed by the $15,000 competition for chamber performers.

After the concert our destination was the opening of glass sculptor Jaime Guerrero’s new studio complex at 3030 E. Olympic Blvd in Boyle Heights. I arrived with only an old hand-me-down iPhone 4S.

There was a host of artists attending. Margaret Garcia, who is learning glass work, was there with LA Art News publisher Kathi Milligan.  Polaroid Image Transer artist Mario Trillo and cartoonist Sergio Hernandez joined writer Angel Guerrero in the house. Poet Gloria Enedina Alvarez and artist José Lozano, whose book Little Chanclas is earning him lots of attention, also joined the audience.

The heart of the studio is Jaime’s glass blowing studio. After a successful funding drive, Jaime bought the equipment housed in the loading dock of the industrial building. Guerrero will train young people in the generally inaccessible technology, in addition to Jaime’s own stupendous work.

Guests stationed themselves along the rail above the work floor. Guerrero’s students worked with skilled confidence shaping and blowing a glob of molten glass into a sphere. Jaime’s key apprentice, Tyler Straight, guided the younger apprentices through the process. Suddenly a clinking noise told the sad tale; the piece had gone out of control and broke.

Tyler, Jaime announced, has earned an internship at the Corning Glass Works in New York state. That achievement is a clear indicator of the quality instruction and guidance Jaime Guerrero provides, and Tyler’s talent. La Bloga congratulates Tyler on this outstanding first step in a major career in art and technology of glass.

The 3030 E Olympic Blvd facility features a central hallway lined by artist studios. I visited Francisco Palomares’ painting studio,  and Vegan Moni’s kitchen and enjoyed an all-vegetable ceviche.  Moni works with families and youth to learn plant-based cuisine, and to assist cancer survivors as part of the Eastside Cancer Project’s 8-week cooking course.

I missed Araceli Silva’s jewelry studio. I remembered Silva’s beadwork displayed at Artemio Rodriguez’ studio years ago and had lost track of her. I still have. A visit to her webpage illustrates new styles, semi-precious mineral work, but no beading. Drat.

Watch La Bloga for news of future events at 3030.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sin Fronteras Book Festival

Xánath Caraza

Sin Fronteras Book Festival

Guest Columnist, Rossy Lima

The Second Sin Fronteras Book Festival will host its annual celebration of books and art for the community on Saturday March 5th, from 10-5pm. This year, the festival will be held at the McAllen Arts Incubator, in McAllen Texas, with an expected attendance of more than 700 people throughout the day. Organized by the Coalition of New Chican@ artist, the festival showcases local presses and authors as well as visiting authors and presses from all over Texas and border cities such as Reynosa and Monterrey.

The festival will include a performance by the local theater groups directed by Lucia Macias, a silent art auction of a painting by the talented Gaby Rico, the featured artist of this event and ongoing activities for all ages. The festival’s special guest is Arte Público Press, represented by its executive director Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Featured authors include Carlos Aguasaco, Leticia Sandoval, Xánath Caraza and Roberto de la Torre, to name a few.

The Coalition of New Chican@ Artist (C.O.N.C.A) is a nonprofit organization located in the Río Grande Valley that is compromised with the promotion of cultural awareness and pride. Last year, the festival proved to be one of the most important events in the area with an overwhelming acceptance from the community. This year, the festival will be hosted in a larger space, hoping to provide a more comfortable and central location.  2016 is an important year for Sin Fronteras Book Fest, as it is working with the UTRGV’s FESTIBA to reach out to a bigger audience and collaborate with other community organizations.  

 In an effort to give back to the community, C.O.N.C.A. will be giving up to 100 children’s books, thanks to a generous donation by Charo Violante and Friends. The mission of Sin Fronteras Book Fest is to provide a space where Spanish, English and Bilingual presses and authors are able to present their works to our community, powered with the undoubted message “Our literatures are important, our languages are important, our culture is fully alive”.

Members of the Coalition of New Chican@ Artists are: Christopher Carmona, Gabriel Sanchez, Isaac Chavarria and Rossy Lima.

For more information visit: and like us on facebook/SinFronterasIndependentBookFest

Festival del Libro Sin Fronteras

Columnista invitada, Rossy Lima

El Segundo Festival del Libro Sin Fronteras presenta su celebración anual de libros y arte para la comunidad el sábado 5 de marzo, de 10 a.m.-5p.m. Este año, el festival se llevará a cabo en el McAllen Arts Incubator, en McAllen Tx, con una asistencia estimada de más de 700 personas a lo largo del día. Organizado por la Coalition of New Chican@o Artists, el festival presenta a editoriales y autores locales, como también autores y editoriales de todo Texas y las ciudades fronterizas de Reynosa y Monterrey.

El festival incluirá una presentación del grupo de teatro local dirigido por Lucía Macías, la subasta de arte de una pintura hecha por la talentosa Gaby Rico, pintora estelar de este evento así como actividades continuas para todas las edades. El invitado especial del festival es Arte Público Press, representado por su directora ejecutiva Gabriela Baeza Ventura. Algunos autores estelares incluyen Carlos Aguasaco, Leticia Sandoval, Xánath Caraza y Roberto de la Torre, para mencionar algunos.

La Coalition of New Chican@o Artist (C.O.N.C.A) es una organización no lucrativa localizada en el Valle del Río Grande que está comprometida con la promoción de la conciencia y orgullo cultural. El año pasado, el festival comprobó ser uno de los eventos más importantes del área con una aceptación contundente por parte de la comunidad. Este año, el festival será llevado a cabo en un espacio más grande, esperando proveer un lugar más cómodo y céntrico.  El 2016 es un año importante para Sin Fronteras Book Fest, ya que está trabajando con el festival UTRGV FESTIBA para llegar a una mayor audiencia y colaborar con otras organizaciones comunitarias.

En un esfuerzo por contribuir a la comunidad, C.O.N.C.A. estará dando hasta 100 libros para niños gratis, gracias a la generosa donación de Charo Violante y Amigas. La misión del Festival Sin Fronteras es de proveer un espacio donde autores y editoriales en español, inglés y bilingües puedan presentar sus trabajos a nuestra comunidad, alimentado por el indudable mensaje “Nuestras literaturas son importantes, nuestros lenguajes son importantes, nuestra cultura está completamente viva.”

Miembros de la Coalition of New Chican@ Artists son: Christopher Carmona, Gabriel Sanchez, Isaac Chavarria y Rossy Lima.

Para más información visite: o dennos un “like”

Rossy Evelin Lima, linguist and translator. Her fist poetry book Ecos de Barro published by Otras Voces Press was recognized by the International Latino Book Awards 2014. She received the Gabriela Mistral Award 2010 by the National Hispanic Honor Society.  She was awarded the international poetry award Concorso di poesia Altino in Italy (2015).  The author has been published in numerous anthologies and literary magazines in Spain, Canada, USA, Argentina, Chile, Venezuela, Italy and Mexico. Lima has been featured  in the Smithsonian Latino Day of the Dead Celebration and invited to be a TEDx McAllen speaker. Her second book of poetry Augacamino was published by Mouthfeel Press. Lima co-organizes the Sin Fronteras Independent Book Fest.