Tuesday, April 11, 2017

JLo's nalgas. Désirée Zamorano Meets Stanford Bookclub. April On-line Floricanto

Review: Bárbara Renaud González. Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writings by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995-2005. San Antonio: Aztlán Libre Press, 2017. ISBN: 978-0-9897782-3-7

Michael Sedano

I am bingeing on JLo's nalgas. The book, not the buns. You know what bingeing is. Not in the sense of overdoing something but in the way people will get their hands on the full season of some popular teevee program and devote hours on end to devouring the characters and plots.

But Bárbara Renaud González' collection of newspaper columns is nothing like teevee with teevee's predictable plot lines, telegraphic ironies, heart-throbs of actors pulling down millions of dollars per episode. Like JLo.

But the collection isn't really about JLo. It's about Texans. It's about raza. It's about humans. It's a voice we need and we need it now. Buy this book, gift this book, tell your library and indie bookseller to make JLo's Nalgas widely available.

González isn't going to get rich from this incredibly rich collection, but her voice makes her seem a heart-throb woman. Witty, incisive, a todo dar pulls no punches writing, the collection introduces readers outside of Texas to a Unitedstatesian gem.

Why'd you quit, Bárbara? If there's anything our culture needs right now is a sharp stick in the eye to wake us up to the crud that's a continuation of the kinds of characters, scandals, desmadres, fiery anger, profound humor, that occupy the book's eight sections.

The collection is tough to consume in one sitting because there are so many great lines and classic quips. A reader is forced to stop and savor the moment, read it again. Then, moving on to the next and the next reprinted piece, and a few poems and unpublished thoughts, one has to stop and go back to find a particular gem that won't let you keep reading until you find and relive that phrase.

I dog-ear my books to mark those places but I had to abandon the practice. Nearly every essay has a bent corner. Her subjects probably got bent out of shape when they read their names. Imagine if Henry B. Gonzalez were still around to have his pecadilloes picked over in the first essay ("the hero of San Anto who only saved himself," one poet wrote), or in a closing essay, Henry Cisneros, another would-be sexual athlete. "He is not rich but takes care of women as if he were." Ay, Henry. Both of you.

Excoriating archly-conservative Coors beer's razacentric spending, González lets a journo speak for his ilk, "'I don't think the contribution means we have been silenced,' says Gilbert Bailón, the advocate-minded president for the journalists. 'Some have questioned whether we should be taking money from, beer companies.' He didn't think that Latino journalists were compromised in any way, even if the stories weren't being written."

Reviewing Denise Chávez' Loving Pedro Infante, the columnist offers background on the Mexicano movie heart-throb:

It is no wonder, then, that in Denise Chávez' latest and best novela, the searching for love scorches and burns like a #5 Combination Plate at midnight. But ay, how good it tastes going down. Pedro Infante was a movie star and singer as close to a Mexican god as you can get after that feathered-serpent Quetzalcoatl left us promising to return. That god took to the east by sea, but Pedro Infante flew his own plane, crashed, and died on April 15, 1957, at age forty.
  Though, like Elvis, he has been sighted all over Mexico and even on the border at twilight.

I suppose owing to the strictures of a regional newspaper like the San Antonio Express-News Renaud's editor forced the italics on the Spanish words. Sadly, that's a concession to prescriptive rules that subverts the underlying conception of raza as equal partners in border cultura. Lástima. It's like González observes in Me And Kobe In The Back Seat, "Why don't we complain? Right away? Well, now I have."

As I noted, the richness of these essays could fill pages with great lines and insights.  Selected from a five year record but presented thematically rather than chronologically, it's fun to pick and choose by provocative title with no diminution of continuity. Everything fits. All 284 pages are as richly satisfying as your mother's tacos. That's a consequence not only of Bárbara Renaud Gonzáles' refined skill but also a tribute the publisher, Aztlán Libre Press. Title after title, this small press brings to market fresh ideas too long and conspicuously absent from our Unitedstatesian literary landscape--that is, if you're paying attention.

González is paying attention. As she puts finis to the volume on the eve of the sickness taking control in the oval orifice, she leaves the reader with a plate of sesos. "With this book, I want you to understand resistance, and the price of that resistance. But I also want you to love yourself so that you can love others. I hope I will not be in jail in the next decade, but who knows?"

You can, and should, order Las Nalgas de JLo/JLo’s Booty: The Best & Most Notorious Calumnas & Other Writings by the First Chicana Columnist in Texas 1995-2005
from your local indie bookseller, but it's a one-step process when you order publisher-direct here.

Désirée Zamorano and The Amado Women Meet Stanford Alumni Readers

The quarterly meeting of the Book Club of the Chicano/Latino Stanford University Alumni Association of Southern California met in the home of Mario Vasquez on Sunday, April 9, 2017.

The meeting to discuss The Amado Women with its author, Désirée Zamorano, engaged the readers with energy and passion. A novel featuring three distinctive women, their lifestyle choices, and matters beyond their immediate control, the book raises critical questions for both men and women. That proved true on Sunday.

Discussion flowed around issues and ideas woven into the arresting story such as battered women, cultural identification, randy unfaithful men and a couple of good ones, the uses and purposes of literature.

And there was food a-plenty. Pollo, ceviche, quinoa salad in the style of North African couscous, frijoles, arroz,  roasted jalapeños, salsas, German chocolate bunnies, layer cake, encouraged people to enjoy seconds and nibble on thirds.

It was the usual feast for the club's pre-discussion social hour. New members are welcome. See details below.

Concepción Valadez, the club organizer, makes her point as Zamorano smiles in the ambiente of lively discussion and analysis of her work.

Diedre Reyes launched the discussion with a question about "ownership" of a story. Angelique Flores and Manuel Urrutia listed intently. The club's discussions reflect attention to detail and the incisive critical skills the members employ in their professional settings.

Angel Guerrero emphasizes a point of view while Margie Hernandez listens intently.

Freely flowing discussion divagates into hilarious side discussions and the kind of light-hearted camaraderie that reflects the longevity of the club and openness to alternative views and counterstatement.

Désirée Zamorano jumps into the spirit of the discussion. Elaborating on some questions, contributing a question or adding background to salient points. 

Diedre enjoys Manuel Urrutia's distinctive analytic style. 

Margie Hernandez elaborates on a point of view while Angel enjoys the diversity of commentaries.

Host Mario Vasquez' comfortable home in Monrovia is the usual meeting place of the Stanford readers. New members are welcome to join the discussion. For information about the next meeting, email stanfordbookclub@readraza.com.

To wrap the discussion of The Amado Women, Zamorano debuts a story-in-progress. Such readings are a cherished feature of the club's meetings when the author accepts their invitation.

Book Club of the Chicano/Latino Stanford University Alumni Association of Southern California. Front, L to R: Angelique Flores. Désirée Zamorano. Concepción Valadez Back: Angel Guerrero. Manuel Urrutia. Diedre Reyes. Michael Sedano. Margie Hernandez. Mario Vasquez.

Not-At-All-Cruel On-line Floricanto
John Meza, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Amanda A. Taylor, John Martinez, Rolando Serna

Ed's note: Leave a Comment below if you identify the allusion in the title of April's first On-line Floricanto.

Can I Ask You Something? by John Meza
Her Way by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Brujeria by Amanda A. Taylor
MAMMA NATCHA by John Martinez
The Wetback Only Wants to be dry by Rolando Serna

Can I Ask You Something?
By John Meza

No, I'm not native American
No, I'm not a Spaniard
I'm a Mexican
Yes, this is my face
It's mexican too
Yes, I've been told I look Indian
No, not like Ghandi
More like Cuahetemoc
Never mind
Yes, I'm dark like this all over
My grandfather?
He was chichimex from Guanajuato
No, it's not in New Mexico
No, it's not in Arizona
It's where the chichimex are from
Haven't you been listening?

Her Way
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

Her Way
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

earth toned
her way of talk
even her gait, heavy
as if tethered by hidden cords
to land

surrounds her world
she dives in mute, ears first
taken in by blues, the music
is key

deadened by fear
affect: controlled sedate
her modified behavior

the unseen, seen.
a discovery, new.
uttered quick, like a sharp intake,
of air

this forest talks;
nothing is as it seems.
you speak it from your heart, and then,
it’s true

By Amanda A. Taylor

I wear these stones around my wrist,
shining balls of onyx, quartz and jade,
To protect against “el ojo,” and other wicked things-
That look upon me with evil eyes or otherwise-
Because I was branded at birth.
My grandpa called me “guerita,” his shining, white light.
They put oil on my wrists,
And holy water in my car-
From the shrine I always drive past,
But never stop to go inside.
“Mijita, you can’t hide from the curse,” the curandera said to me,
As she lit a candle and prayed for my heart-
the hand-me-down stone.
A body between two cultures – a tug to make sense of each.
I search to fill the void in the dark-
Driving down caliche roads and wasting miles of gas,
to see that one fire that never goes out,
with the stars that echo this infinity.
“Curses are real and they live inside you.”
I still hold the hand that gave me the stone.

By John Martinez

Abuelita Raquel, with her burned hair,
Her waddling walk, under crunched slippers,
Took me to her mother, who was dark
In her sockets, and ready to see God
The room was grey, wheat curtains
Letting in one dusty ray of light
Mamma Natcha was dying
In the beginning of my life,
My hair bunched, pinned up
Like a little tee pee
On my, still, hardening head
And level with the edge of the bed,
I reached to touch the branch of her lips
And one eye, a hawk’s eye opened
And took me flying, piercing,
The cold suds of pumped clouds
And bleached blue sky,
Like a musical flurry of notes;
Took me to where I am today,
Curled in her love,
Until I see her again.

The Wetback Only Wants to be dry
By Rolando Serna

The wetback only wants to be dry
Their minds that are drowning
With the news
Of the felony, they have committed
What felony?
Well the illegal crossing of the Rio Grande River
More grave
Than the Italians, Germans, Japanese, Chinese, and Arabs.
That crossed an entire ocean
When will the day come, that they will finally dry?
It is not possible that the documents that my government gives them
Will be made from terrycloth
So, they can use it too dry themselves
The magic day of five years so they can finally begin to dry
Only four years is not enough time
Because the river water is permanently attached
Too their backs for five years and nothing can dry it
The government, has trained the dogs
At the Falfurrias check point, too alert the immigration officers
When there is an illegal hiding. The dogs
Can tell the difference a Mexican American and an Illegal Mexican
Can that be possible? That an American military uniform be made
Out of magic cloth that will dry the wet-back?
This magic cloth will only dry their back after they return.
Return from where? Today they did not send you back to Mexico.
If you wear that uniform, they will send you too another country.
The wetback will dry their body and wet their minds with the bloody memories of
Assassins and if they sign the dotted line they won’t send them back home where it is safe.
I don’t remember if it is proper for a wetback too use the uniform of
My country that convicts them of being wetbacks
They rounded them up and gave them work
That pays $.12 cents an hour, $.88 cents per day
$19.20 per month
Minus cost of bar of soap
Their shoes, their exercise cloth, tooth paste
Cologne and food too survive during lock down
The prisons remind me of the old southern plantations where
White men would dictate what the blacks would do
What did they call the blacks in those days, was it slaves?
Because they worked all day
And when night fell they had not earned a single coin
Too send their families, this government
Has not mentioned that no wetback can earn more than $.12 cents an hour
$.88 cents a day, $19.20 a month
If they can put all the wetbacks into prison
It will be possible too pay 48 wetbacks too work for a whole day
For what it would cost to pay a single person to work for one hour at $5.75an hour.
How can our government require all employers?
to pay their employees a minimum wage?
They should be leading by example
And start paying their new slaves the legal minimum wage.
The wetbacks that have been made into government slaves
When will they explain to the American citizens who are the owners of these companies?
Why don’t they have to follow the law of our country?
They should be fined $5000.00 for hiring wetbacks
And not paying them a fair and legal wage for their work.
how is it possible?
Those wetbacks are now responsible for terrorism.
When the terrorist entered through Canada
They also entered through airports in New York
And some we don’t know they entered through where ever they entered
And they blame the wetbacks
Because my people come to work
When was the day that we started?
Too look like terrorists and when was
The day that we were implicated
In the deaths of our friends in those two towers?
When did they prepare to convert my people?
Into slaves for Unicore
The great corporation in all Federal Prisons, who demands that,
All prisoners will work or get acquainted with solitary confinement
When did the day come? That being a wetback?
Was converted into being a Slave?
It is not possible for me, not too be herd
It is also impossible not to take the truth into account.
A Fairytale maybe, but all this info is online under B.O.P.
There to read for you and me.

Meet the Floricanto Poets
Can I Ask You Something? by John Meza
Her Way by Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Brujeria by Amanda A. Taylor
MAMMA NATCHA by John Martinez
The Wetback Only Wants to be dry by Rolando Serna

This is John Meza’s first published poem. Meza considers himself a simple poet with a pen who loves to write about his culture, heritage and people. He says, “I am a chicano, born in Ohio, raised as a migrant by migrant parents, picking cucumbers and tomatoes for the first 17 years of my life. Raised in the Rio Grande Valley, San Benito.” An Army veteran of 10 years, John Meza currently lives in Corpus Christi, Tx and work at building bridges in Robstown, Tx.
“I have been writing poetry for over 20 yrs, and performing spoken word and slam poetry for the last 5 yrs. I am an activist supporting immigrants, clean water, the environment. As a member of Tacos Not Bombs we feed the homeless every Sunday afternoon at Artesian park in Corpus Christi.”

foto: Eldrena Douma
Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, educator, and activist, is the author of six volumes of poetry, her latest, The Nature of Things, a collaboration with Texas photographer, Richard Loya, by Merced College Press 2016. Also, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcón, she edited the award-winning anthology, Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, University of Arizona Press, 2016. This poetry of witness anthology, the first of its kind, because it came about because of the on-line organizing work of Alarcón, Galván Rodriguez, and other poet-activists which began as a response to the proposal of SB 1070, the racial profiling law which was eventually passed by the Arizona State Legislature in 2010, and later that year, HB 2281which bans ethnic studies. With the advent of the Facebook page Poets Responding (to SB 1070) thousands of poems were submitted witnessing racism, xenophobia, and other social justice issues which culminated in the anthology.

Galván Rodríguez has worked as an editor for various print media such as Matrix Women's News Magazine, Community Mural's Magazine, and Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba. She is currently, the editor of Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal online; facilitates creative writing workshops nationally, and is director of Poets Responding to SB 1070, and Love and Prayers for Fukushima, both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and wellbeing of many people and encouraging people to take action. Her poetry has appeared in numerous anthologies, and literary journals on and offline.

As an activist, she worked for the United Farm Workers of America AFL-CIO, The East Bay Institute for Urban Arts, has served on numerous boards and commissions, and is currently active in Women’s organizations whose mission it is to educate around environmental justice issues and disseminate an indigenous world view regarding the earth and people’s custodial relationship to it. Odilia Galván Rodríguez has a long and rich history of working for social justice in solidarity with activists from all ethnic groups.

Amanda A. Taylor is a writer and editor from the Rio Grande Valley in south Texas. She has an extensive background in journalism, having worked in media for ten years. During her time as a reporter, she won two APME (Associated Press of Managing Editors) awards for feature writing. She is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in English with focus in Cultural Studies while working on a series of novels.

John Martinez is a Chicano poet from Fresno living in the greater San Gabriel Valley. He recently celebrated his granddaughter Stella Nova’s First Birthday. Martinez has several collections in final editing for publication in 2017.

Rolando Serna is Father of the Seven with multiple publications, including Panorama UTPA,
Galley UTPA, 2006 Harper College learning communities. His awards and education include 2009 Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities & Colleges, Minor in Spanish, Bachelors in English, Masters of Arts in English. He is seeking a Ph.D. program. He is an associate of Nueva Onda Poets, Vice President Sigma Tau Delta, No Name Poetry Group, Novena Poetry member.

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