Thursday, August 31, 2017

Chicanonautica: Underwater Aztecs of the Cuban American Jules Verne

There’s been whining recently about sf/f making it seem like there will be a “white genocide in the future.” This is at the same time when I’ve been celebrating the death of the vision of the all-white future that made it look like all non-white people are scheduled to be exterminated any day now. Does this explain El Presidente's fondness for certain political organizations?

Maybe we should look back to a simpler, more innocent time for some perspective. So, like in the introduction to the Lone Ranger (who we now know is just a whitewashed version of that great African American lawman Bass Reeves), “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear!” As in 1904, and no. 92 of Frank Reade Weekly Magazine, Containing Stories of Adventures on Land, Sea & in the Air,” The Sunken Isthmus; Or, Frank Reade, Jr., in the Yucatan Channel by “NONAME.”

NONAME? The Gutenberg ebook I read lists the author as Luis Senarens. Luis? Sounds kinda Hispanic. I did a quick Google search, and found out that, according to Wikipedia, “an American dime novel writer specializing in science fiction, once called ‘the American Jules Verne.’ He grew up in a Cuban-American family in Brooklyn.”

A Cubano pioneered American sci-fi? Pardon my boggle.

Frank Read, Jr. is a stalwart young inventor, a precursor to Tom Swift. He comes off as very white and Anglo. Not to mention a little dull. He has a best friend who seems to exist to have Frank’s astounding inventions explained to him.
In the dime novel tradition, there are comedy relief characters to liven things up.

There’s Pomp, a stereotypical negro servant with the appropriate dialect--“Yes, sah: I done reckon Marse Frank been lookin' fo' yo' two days, sah.” and comical fear reactions, who falls victim to slapstick mayhem.

Then there's Barney, a redheaded, angry leprechaun who demonstrates how the Irish weren't considered “white” at the time. He bares no resemblance to my own New Mexico Irish cowboy ancestors who brought books along to read while riding the range, and drew their visions of the Wild West on tablecloths. He says things like, “Begorra, I only wish we had our electric gun wid us!”

The story is essentially a Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea ripoff prompted by a theory about a sunken isthmus that predates knowledge of continental drift and plate tectonics, complicated by pirates.

Ruins of a lost civilization is identified as Aztec, even though the Yucatan is closer to the lands of the Maya, Olmecs, and other tribes, but Senarens was probably well-versed in his audience's knowledge and interest in such things.

No natives or even residents of the Yucatan show up, though the Spanish and Cubans are typical foreign enemies—the Spanish American War was a fresh memory, and probably the reason for the “NONAME” pseudonym--and Carib Indians are described as “possibly” being cannibals. Frank and crew were busy with other concerns, like science and sunken treasure.

An interesting read, if more for the “past shock” than the science fiction.

Gutenberg has made a a number of Luis Senarens' works available. I'll probably check out a few more, to remind myself that things do change.

Ernest Hogan is on vacation in the wilds of New Mexico. He'll be back, crazed with inspiration, soon.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Martí's Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad

By Emma Otheguy
Illustrated by Beatriz Vidal
Translated by Adriana Dominguez

  • Age Range: 7 - 10 years
  • Grade Level: 2 - 5
  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Childrens Book Pr; Bilingual edition
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892393750
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892393756

Yo soy un hombre sincero

De donde crece la palma,

Y antes de morirme quiero

Echar mis versos del alma.

As a boy, José Martí was inspired by the natural world. He found freedom in the river that rushed to the sea and peace in the palmas reales that swayed in the wind. Freedom, he believed, was the inherent right of all men and women. But his home island of Cuba was colonized by Spain, and some of the people were enslaved by rich landowners. Enraged, Martí took up his pen and fought against this oppression through his writings. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and forced to leave his beloved island.

Martí traveled the world, speaking out for Cuba’s independence. But throughout his exile, he suffered from illness and homesickness. He found solace in New York’s Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for independence.

Written in verse, with excerpts from Martí’s seminal Versos sencillos, this book is a beautiful tribute to a brilliant political writer and courageous fighter of freedom for all men and women.

A bilingual biography of José Martí, who dedicated his life to the promotion of liberty, the abolishment of slavery, political independence for Cuba, and intellectual freedom.


Excerpts from Martí’s Versos sencillos thoughtfully underscore this moving account of his crusade for justice. –Starred Review- Publishers Weekly

A sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figures that will encourage readers of all ages to fight for freedom and peace. –Starred Review- School Library Journal

A direct and approachable introduction to the life and works of Cuban poet and freedom fighter José Martí. –Starred Review- Shelf Awareness

Otheguy and Vidal tell a timely story that will inspire many to fight for equality and sings songs for freedom. –Starred Review- Booklist

In bringing an important life back into the conversation during divided political times, this book spotlights a steadfast hero and brilliant writer still worth admiring today. –Starred Review- Kirkus Reviews

Emma Otheguy is a children's book author and a historian of Spain and colonial Latin America. She is a member of the Bank Street Writers Lab, and her short story "Fairies in Town" was awarded Magazine Merit Honors by the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI). Otheguy lives with her husband in New York City. This is her picture book debut. You can find her online at

Beatriz Vidal is an award-winning painter, illustrator, and teacher. Her work has appeared in well-known publications such as The New York Times Magazine, Woman’s Day, and the New Yorker. Her artwork has also been featured on PBS programs and in numerous exhibitions around the world, including the International Exhibition of Illustrations for Children in Italy and the Society of Illustrators in New York. Vidal divides her time between New York City and Buenos Aires, Argentina. You can visit her online at

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Gluten-free Calabasa Abundance. Glass sculptor Jaime Guerrero. La Palabra reading. No Border Wall Video On-line Floricanto.

Farewell, Joan. QEPD Joan Arias

"Farewell, Joan," was the subject line of Ron Arias' simple announcement. What more is there to say, when one's wife crosses over, but a tender, sad "farewell"?

Joan Arias passed away the night of August 18,  after a brief battle with cancer. She died without pain, surrounded by loved ones.

La Bloga extends our sympathy to husban Ron, son Michael, and Joan's transition. QEPD.

The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks Calabacitas
Michael Sedano

For gardeners and farmers markets, there's an abundance of squash and tomatoes right now. These delicious vegetables make the basis of numerous naturally gluten-free meals. Ingredients can be decided by what's ripe.

Preheat the oven to 350º.
Grease or not-stick spray a casserole dish.

Slice the squash into interesting shapes. This crookneck turned into rounds. I have a spiralizer and whirled a few half moons and a couple of long strands.

Make a savory custard. Hand beat two or three whole eggs to a froth, add a ¾ cup of milk or half-and-half. Stir in a cup of cheddar cheese, grated, and some sliced onion.

Chop two tomatoes, some chiles and peppers. I had left-over corn. One could use left-over rice or leave it out altogether. 

Here is where a host of options presents itself. Make it chiloso with chopped chiles. Add a meat, use three or four cheeses, add sliced fresh garlic or other herb. Make a roux with that milk, blend in the eggs. 

Mix the custard and vegetables, fill a casserole, and bake for an hour at 350º.

I had left-over tomatoes so I cooked them with the squash and made salsa later.

The custardy base is rich and has lots of liquid. Save it and let it soak into the leftovers overnight. Lunch tomorrow will be wonderful.

I served small pork steaks on the side. The whirlly yellow crookneck squash demanded attention.

Specular Reflections: Jaime Guerrero in "Broken Dreams" Exhibition

Jaime Guerrero works with fire. Molten glass, creativity, and heavy labor produce life-size glass figures whose presence “humanizes and universalizes” a young immigrant’s experience.

Three figures wear blindfolds, the sculpture in the storefront window covers his eyes, little kids do that so no one will see them, look right through them. Admirers look into the gallery where two figures face toward a figure and a piñata.

Inside, a blindfolded niño holds a palo in readiness to strike the colorful piñata. This figure stands in open space, viewers walk around the piece for views toward the window and the glowing figures aligned toward the light.

Two figures stand behind a chain link fence. They are walking through a landscape of shattered glass. You know these kids are going to be hurt. And on they come.

Letters from immigrants cover a wall. Most are Spanish, a right-aligned language, plain English. In their own voice, immigrants relate their satisfaction, their journey, their existence here. The glass kids crossing those cutting obstacles want to hang their messages, too.

Writers are happy they are here, despite what's on the page and maybe between the lines. You'll want to allow time to read and think about what kids like these have been going through. Don't look through them.

Guerrero's work process is the subject of a PBS documentary BORDERS and NEIGHBORS episode, premiering on PBS September 29, 2017. Photographs and videos of Guerrero at work in the studio will usually have Tyler Straight involved.

Straight is Guerrero's dependable assistant. The artist and budding craftsman met when Guerrero ran a glass workshop in Watts. Straight took to fire and has the scars to prove it. He earned a grant to attend the glass worker institute at Corning Glass Works and now teaches beginning glass-blowing at the Watts studio under auspices of Watts Labor Community Action Committee.

Guerrero's sculputre installation, “Broken Dreams,” is on view  through October 7th at:
Craft in America Center
8415 W. Third Street
Los Angeles, CA 90048
Tues – Sat, 12:00pm – 6:00pm

Jaime Guerrero will be a busy artist in September. Concurrent to the run at Craft in America, Guerrero has an exhibition at Skidmore Contemporary Art gallery, in Bergamot Station complex. Guerrero hosts an opening, Contemporary Relics: A Tribute to the Makers, on September 9, 2017 (and a second on September 16) from 5 to 7. The gallery is at 2525 Michigan Ave, Santa Monica, California 90404.

Avenue 50 Studio Hosts La Palabra Reading Series

Subdued lighting inside the back gallery at Avenue 50 Studio suggests a coolness that eludes the gente gathering for a literary reading. The last-Sunday of the month La Palabra Reading Series hosted by Karineh Mahdessian invariably draws readers and listeners from near and far.

West Anaheim, Garden Grove, and Santa Ana were the starting points for the three featured readers, Jesus Cortes, Marilynn Montaño, and Sarah Rafael García. One Open Mic reader from far reaches of the Valley recently migrated from Corpus and made her reading debut among the encouraging circle of listeners.

Jesus Cortes, who performs as Stay True, brought a niece and nephew, the peripatetic García attended with her significant other, a Ph.D. candidate from Texas. It’s one of the best kinds of audiences for a reader. Not only do friends and familiars bring a special vibe, but a lot of goodwill rubs off on the other readers.

In the Open Mic segment, returning after a long hiatus, Eddy Bello celebrated reawakening to love after widowhood. Kathryn read in public for the first time. Anabel Ramirez joined the readers with a bit of urging from Karineh.

Mahdessian is the spark who warms the air with effusive energy. In her fourth year hosting Los Angeles’ most engaging literary readings series, La Palabra has been engaging poets and storytellers since 2001.

Jesus Cortes

Marilynn Montaño "aged out" of the SanTana Barrio Writers Program. For García the reading marks Montaño's going from mentee to colleague.

Marilynn Montaño

Sarah Rafael Garcia read from her SanTanas Fairy Tales (978-0-692-86030-4 Stay True shares a variety of work, as does Marilynn Montaño, poetry of urban landscapes, portraits and tributes, and in Stay True’s case, a drumming hip-hop recitation.

García's literary career extends to before 2010, when she read from her memoir at the 2010 Festival de Flor y Canto • Yesterday • Today • Tomorrow. She had just launched Barrio Writers, a important training ground for young raza writers.

Sarah Rafael García

That subdued lighting leads to photographic adjustments. Digital cameras have good low light sensitivity. These speakers are exposed between 1/8 and 1/25 second at f/5.6. That’s awfully slow. Gestures and head shakes blur. I don’t mind blur if it works, but I want mouth forming a word, eye contact, dynamic posture, and focus. Eye contact today is fleeting and unpredictable. In dim lighting especially, but as a general practice, printing the text in 16 point type promotes improved moments of eye contact and the directness, perhaps intimacy, that grows out of the eyes.

The traditional group portrait turns out to be a memorable photograph. The readers had circulated among the crowd and were floating high on the satisfaction of an audience-pleasing experience. Then the photographer pulled them away to pose. They took stiff and dour postures, their friends were out there watching. I reclamared them about being dour. Show me bad and baddest.


Part II in a Series
No Border Wall Video On-line Floricanto
Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Nayelly Barrios, Stevie Luna Rodriguez, Cesar Leonardo De Leon, Erika Garza-Johnson

La Bloga proudly shares this space with gente from Tejas directly affected by the border wall of hate, the second of a series of video On-line Floricanto we plan to share weekly. The readings originate from a reading organized by Emmy Pérez, Alejandro Sánchez, and Arnulfo Segovia, called Floreciendo Resistencia en el Valle / Flourishing Resistance in the Valley. You can view the full line-up who read at the Old Hidalgo Pumphouse World Birding Center at the event site, here (link). 

Resist! means don’t stop until there’s no reason to resist. Reasonable poets know there are as many reasons to resist as there are poems in their plumas. That’s why the Floreciendo gente will read anew, this week, in McAllen, Tejas.

Resistenica en la frontera: Poets Against Border Walls Reading
Yerberia Cultura, downtown McAllen, Tejas
Wednesday, Aug. 30th, 2017
Doors open at 6:30pm Reading starts at 7pm

Poets Reading:
Nayelly Barrios , Roberto de la Torre , César de León, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Erika Garza-Johnson, Celina Gomez , Rodney Gomez, Rossy Evelin Lima, Stevie Luna Rodriguez, Carolina Monsiváis, Emmy Pérez , Santa Ramirez, Brenda Nettles Riojas , José Antonio Rodríguez, Alejandro Sánchez, Arnulfo Daniel Segovia, Priscilla Celina Suarez

In these videos, each poet responds to la frontera, immigration, the wall of hate, in personal ways of noticing and expressing. Running through each poem is a global consideration posed by organizer Emmy Pérez, "What do you want the world to know about your home?" #poetsagainstwalls

“Open House “(an excerpt from House Built on Ashes: A Memoir) By Jose Antonio Rodriguez
“You Bring Out the Border in Me” By Nayelly Barrios
“A Love Letter to the 956” By Stevie Luna Rodriguez
“My Words” by Cesar Leonardo De Leon
“Trump” by Erika Garza-Johnson

Open House (an excerpt from House Built on Ashes: A Memoir)
By Jose Antonio Rodriguez

It is a strange sight, the school at night, aglow with light emanating from all its open doors. Amá, Luis, Yara, and I walk toward it, together. Amá begins to lag behind. We slow our pace and she catches up but eventually lags behind again, like she prefers to walk one step behind us.
In every room, we find a corner to stand in, Amá wringing her hands like she owes the room money. I tell her about how crowded the school is, built for half the number of students that now live a third of their lives in it. The teacher walks to us. In every room I translate for the teacher. In every room I translate for Amá. In every room I am a gran estudiante. The Spanish reminds me of church. The Spanish sounds foreign—talk of literature, talk of math, talk of science. In every room the white students marvel at my perfect Spanish, my Spanish without an accent, avert their eyes from my mother’s lack of English.

In every room they harbor the suspicion, hear the language, my first tongue, the telling sign that I could not be from here, that I could not be American. How they look at me, see someone they didn’t imagine.

José Antonio Rodríguez was born in Mexico and raised in South Texas. His books include the memoir House Built on Ashes and the poetry collections The Shallow End of Sleepand Backlit Hour. His work has also appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The New Republic, The Texas Observer, and other publications. He holds a Ph.D. in English and Creative Writing from Binghamton University and is an assistant professor of creative writing at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley.

You Bring Out the Border in Me
By Nayelly Barrios
after “You Bring Out the Mexican in Me” by Sandra Cisneros

You bring out the border in me.
You bring out the Rio Grande in me.
The nameless, cracked bones on the riverbed in me.

You flood that river that connects two countries
in me. Run it from a palm tree in El Valle to the plazita in Reynosa.
You bring out the border tongues in me,

the huarache, comal, parqiadero, cenizas, and calla lilies
in me. You bring out the Spanish, Spanglish, English, and Nahuatl in me.
You unfurl the coiled tongues in me.

You pray the rosary in me. Each beady eye a different gasp
for confessions to sink in. You bring out the Hail Mary,
the cold baptisms. You consecrate the sins

within me, pray to my crosses and robed saints. You bring out
the accordion in me. Stretch it out like a spine,
bent and breathless, in me. Braid its moans

through my hair. You bring out the corridos in me.
You bring out the chicharra in me. Make my wings tremble,
send that hum through my bones.

You bring out the mesquites in me.
Those tired limbs, dirty and freckled with chicharra casings.
You bring out the sin-vergüenza in me.

You bring out the hija de la chingada in me, scoop the earth
between my breasts. Light pyres
at the intersection of two lands within me.

Nayelly Barrios is a Rio Grande Valley native. She is a feminist and immigrant who earned an MFA in Creative writing and an MA in Literature from McNeese State University. She is currently a lecturer at UT-Rio Grande Valley. Nayelly is a CantoMundo fellow.

A Love Letter to the 956
By Stevie Luna Rodriguez

Do you want to know what I think is beautiful?
Aside from the intricacies that go into your braided velvet hair, or your brown voice and the melting of its notes on everything you sing and speak or, the dedication of your hands and spine, aside from your nopal resiliency, I love all of this and more.

It's breathtaking the way you all move like the palms trees and bougainvilleas, vast and steady, vast and steady, despite the constant pruning and tearing of you. You are not just the standing still in lines of offices where people get paid to dehumanize you. You dance like infinity was your stage. I've never seen anyone move like that. Remember that.

And listen, the ocean of South Padre calls us back to our very inception every day. The waves rolls their R's, we hear it even if they don't. and I love that you smile a Xochiquetzal type of smile when the tides roll right up to meet your busy minds with colchas of their unconditional acceptance. You are not still waters. Don't ever forget it.

I admire how you nurture yourselves with these South Texas sunrises, taking in a cafecito in the morning, kissing yellow school buses goodbye. I adore you taking hands with neighbors and building solidarity together. Like weaving a rug. You've all made something strong but you are not to be stepped on. Do not let them.

I love how you tear down walls within to your own hearts, despite your wrists in chains and how they can both still ache long after you've been freed. You are not a holding center, you are not greed. I've never encountered anyone so free like the way you cruise down 83. One day, with our hearts full of pink leche and poder and si se puede, we'll cruise here and tear down that wall, too.

Hear me out, I know there are silenced notes of us that we can never hear again. But we can compose corridos until the bottles run dry, make no mistake. We are infinite and no imaginary lines can contain the deafening songs of our Chicano cries.

The next time you say, "Let the sun pull us apart with it's rays, I'm done with these ways, I don't want to be afraid, I'm tired of being so fucking afraid" remember-
Our ancestors did not create rope out of the magueys for us to hang ourselves with.
We do not burn ourselves in with the sugar cane.

We take what we have harvested ourselves and make wine and honey and holy water and paved streets and smart kids and we write books with seeds, we are not just the picking of the fruit. We are simply the sweetness of its flavor.

Read my RGV love letter and write back later, because we are all too many shades of brown to let anybody else bleach the beauty of each and every hue. I love all of you, I really do. Love yourselves and each other too.

Stevie Luna Rodriguez is a mom first, cry later type of bitxh. Influenced by local poets/artists/friends, heartache as much as love, farmworker parents, existentialism, heauxism, and rap/hip hop, they continue to question and cry about everything from brownness to capitalism to PTSD that they experience alone but also collectively with El Valle. Their poetry is new, a work in progress, yet always ready to be devoured by anyone who is hungry. Reach them at or visit their site:

My Words
Cesar Leonardo De Leon

You say my words have no power
no meaning
that they are not worthy
that is because you
only perceive them as words

but my words are more than words

My words are roots
like the roots of the mesquite
that grew in my back yard
the one that fucked up my back
when grandpa and I dug it up
because it fought hard to hold on
to the black soil and caliche it grew in
or like the roots of the huisaches
that grow twisted along the Rio Grande
and drink blood along with water

My words are more than words

Son palabras
and they are old and proud
like the cerros in Nuevo León
que todo lo ven
and then tell their stories
when the sun sets
orange and pink on their rocky peaks

My words are stars
that illuminate the dark
brighter than the gold paper ones
given to me in elementary school
when I finally learned the pledge of allegiance
not knowing what it meant
not knowing that it is only
liberty and justice for some

My words are magical and holy
like the smell of the curanderas hierbas
that penetrate
your clothes, your skin, your soul
and cleanse you

My words are futuristic
and they have been moving forward
from the day that Cortez set foot on Veracruz
to the day I crossed the border as a child
to the day when there are no more words to say

They are my mother's struggle
they are Malinche's struggle
they are her victory and her legacy

My words are more than words
my words are seeds.

César L. de León is a student in the MFA program at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. His work has appeared in journals such as Pilgrimage, The Acentos Review, Yellow Chair Review, PublicPool, La Bloga and the anthologies Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan Borderlands, Texas Weather Anthology, and the upcoming Pulse/Pulso Anthology among others. He has received awards from the Texas Intercollegiate Press Association and the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. An active participant in the local literature scene, he lives and works in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas.

By Erika Garza-Johnson

I made a nest of pillows.
The orange dictator won't find me here.
I am not his type, either way.
Woman of color, frizzy hair, bilingual.
Not a blonde bombshell he seems to favor
that he can't refrain
from kissing.

There is business to do today.
Get grabbed.
Appease a man.
Lose weight.
There is so much I need to do today.

I can't get up from here for fear of losing my life.

I can't let my emotional life be run by CNN.
A Beat taught me it makes madness.

Shut off the lights. He might see me.

I write this with fear.
I write this with urgency.
I don't want my daughter
to leave her room.

I teach my son
more than manners.
That he needs to see women as human.
Not an object bejeweled,
bedazzled for his eyes.

Not just a set of legs.

So much work to do
and I can't get that word out of head.

"Don't be such a pussy.” I tell myself.
Don't be such a pussy, orange dictator.
Don't be such a pussy, America.

The nest is swallowing me hole.
I can't fly away from this.

Erika Garza-Johnson
Closer to Crazy Cat Lady status than award winning poet, Erika Garza Johnson, coven of one, writes and lives in McAllen. Author, editor, instructor, mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, frenemy, local loca, xicana, tejana, word witch y fideo enthusiast, Garza Johnson is working on her second book but mostly trying to balance it all while keeping sane and pain free.

Monday, August 28, 2017

#90X90LA Strikes Again, This Time with Lawyers Who Write


When the poet, Chiwan Choi, reached out to me to participate in 90X90LA, I was delighted. Aside from being a writer, Chiwan is also a partner at Writ Large Press, a Los Angeles-based indie publisher, which is “focused on using literary arts to resist, disrupt, and transgress.” Once I checked my calendar and saw that I was free, I said yes.

The organizers of 90X90LA include the fine people at Writ Large Press, and specifically Chiwan Choi, Judeth Oden Choi, traci kato-kiriyama, Skira Martinez, and Peter Woods.

What is 90X90LA? Well, to use the words of Michelle Franke, Executive Director of PEN Center USA, “it is the most ambitious reading series…attempted in Los Angeles, not to mention one of the most inclusive.” Started in 2014, the series presents 90 events in 90 days.

This year’s #90X90LA started on July 5 and will run to October 1, 2017. The 90 events will be spread out among three historic Los Angeles neighborhoods: Little Tokyo, DTLA, and South Central Los Angeles.

Yesterday’s brunch event was held at The Escondite, 410 Boyd St. Los Angeles, CA 90013 (you should really check out this bar/restaurant…I had the French toast). It was one of the two Working Writers Brunch readings which gather “people from two different fields that we don’t often think of when we think of POETS or WRITERS” (to quote from #90X90LA’s website).

I participated in the Lawyers Who Write brunch. My fellow barristers were Natashia Deón, David Rocklin, Jill Rosenthal, and Olivia Samad. Each has a different style, but all of them offered well-crafted, evocative work. And it made me feel quite at home having other lawyer/writers share their literary side. Rocío Carlos served as the emcee (she was wonderful!). Here they are doing their thing:

Olivia Samad

Jill Rosenthal

David Rocklin

Natashia Deón

Rocío Carlos

Daniel Olivas
(Photo credit: Malinda Lee)

I read a story titled “The Great Wall" from my forthcoming collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures (University of Arizona Press, Sept. 2017), which (sadly) is my first Trump-inspired piece of fiction where I imagine a world where his border wall has been constructed. I also read “Papa Wrote” from my debut poetry collection, Crossing the Border (Pact Press, Nov. 2017). I had not read either of these in public before, but it was good practice as I get ready for two book launches.

There’s still time to catch the literary events that make up 90X90LA. Check the website for a complete listing.


Speaking of my forthcoming collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures, yesterday morning, Foreword Reviews published the first review of my collection. You may read the very thoughtful piece here (it is written by the award-winning poet, Karen Rigby). This is one of the harder parts of publishing a book: waiting for the reviews. I am very pleased by Ms. Rigby’s analysis.

And here is the flyer for the book launch. If you’re in town, come enjoy the event.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Calls for Peace, Equality, Dignity on the Streets of San Francisco

On the morning of Saturday, August 26th, I was in San Francisco, with a friend, bound for the Stanford Library.  Little did we know that counter protestors had decided to still mobilize even though the right-wing rally had been canceled.  As we walked to where the car was parked, we heard and saw the crowd (see below) and knew that (A), we needed to change plans; and (B), we needed to witness, be present, contribute. 

Photo by Josh Edelson

And so, I took photographs, met, and talked with San Franciscans who told me that despite having other plans that day, they too had dropped everything to come out, to be seen, to be heard.  They said they were not going to allow Nazis to take over their city.  Some were there to counter protest. Others told me they were quite upset about the pardoning of Arizona Sheriff Arpaio, while also marching to support immigrant rights.

In her book, Essays in Understanding, Hannah Arendt writes, "The reality is that the Nazis are men like ourselves and the nightmare is that they have shown, have proven beyond doubt what man is capable of" ("Nightmare and Flight," 134).

She also wrote:  "[T]he question is not as for Hamlet, to be or not to be, but to belong or not to belong" (The Origins of Totalitarianism).

I kept thinking about my step-father, Joseph Montes, who fought bravely in WWII, was wounded twice, and received a number of service awards as well as two Purple Hearts.  He was willing to sacrifice his life in order to stop the Nazis, to end white supremacy, to help create an ethical and peaceful world based upon mutual respect and honesty.

One afternoon, he sat down with me and showed me pictures he had taken in Germany-- pictures that included soldiers tearing down swastika symbols.

The following is a photo essay of what I saw on the streets of San Francisco. At the end of this piece. the last photo I took in early evening--I took for him.

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

Photo by Amelia Montes

photo by Amelia Montes