Tuesday, August 15, 2017

YA Review: U of Doom. No Border Wall On-line Floricanto.

It's the U in DOOM That Counts

Review: Mario Acevedo. University of Doom. Erie, CO: Hex Publishers, 2015.
ISBN 9780996403986 (print. also in E-book 9780996403993)

Michael Sedano

Upon first reading Mario Acevedo's YA thriller, University of Doom--a real joy-ride of a novel--I had to stop and figure out how he does it, create the voice of a teenager in my head via the novel's omniscient narrator. Sabes que? Go with the flow and don't over-think stuff. Just enjoy the ride. Does anyone know what an E-Ticket ride is? University of Doom ia a whole book of E-coupons.

Wait! Don't judge this novel by its cover. The really heroic figures are two girls. A boy,  for sure is the lead--Alfonso Frankenstein, with a second fiddle partner, Greg Kaminsky. But behind this burgeoning mad scientist is a fearless, indomitable public school girl--Sarah--and a mad scientist-in-training, Lilith Vampira.

Acevedo packs a page with details, so many that a bare-bones outline does little to explain how much fun this book will be for teens and young readers.

Alfonso's dad, a descendant of that Frankenstein, gets booted out of his faculty spot at the University of Doom. Broke in spirit and money, father and son move into a real dump in a poverty neighborhood. Alfonso is totally immersed in his studies and knows nothing about girls, women, sex, and baseball.

Parents will be pleased at some of this. There is no sex, despite the author's reputation from his adult work for a no-holds-barred lubricity that makes his vampire/werewolf novels rare gems of adult speculative fiction. But there's baseball. Sarah introduces herself by flinging a catchable baseball Adolfo's way. He catches it with his face when he doesn't understand Sarah's friendly gesture, "catch!"

There's a jerk of a bully, a baseball star whose prowess makes him largely immune to rules. How does a kid deal with an overpowering bully? Stand up to him. Fight him. Beat him in baseball. Except for the latter, that's Alfonso's way. He takes no crud from the punk, but corking baseball bats with mad scientist gear is cheating, and cheaters never win. There's more than one lesson for kids here, and that's a big one. The author makes sure the argument doesn't disappear by placing the cheating baseball game at the early chapters, then reminding readers of that episode as the book begins to wrap up the plot.

The biggest cheater is dad's nemesis, make that deadly enemy, Dr. Moriarty. Of those Moriartys. The evil-doer's plan to steal children's brains to drive cyborgs is genuinely lethal, but in a "oh, no, Alfonso and Sarah are going to foil this plot" way. As thrillers will do, every time the kids get close to that goal, a monster or another cyborg mucks up the works. Or Moriarty captures them and it looks like the kids are goners. Maybe they are--University of Doom features that kind of plotting and this review ain't gonna say.

Excitement reigns in this YA page-turner. YA and younger readers will thrill at Acevedo's wildly imaginative critters, and they'll learn a few things: some Latin, a handful of powerful vocabulary words, that Krakens and other monsters exist, that imagination, knowledge, and kid power overcomes all. That's not a spoiler because every step of the way comes with a montón of danger. Sarah is captured by a grizzly shark, but when Alfonso goes to save her, Sarah's baseball arm saves them by tossing a capsaicin-producing toad into the beast's gorge. No, that's not a spoiler. After that escape, they get captured again and... buy University of Doom. Read it. Give it to a kid. Once that kid gets into this absolutely fun novel, the kid will devour the pages like a furry land octopus devours anyone who moves near the campus quad.

University of Doom is 364 pages of puro fun. Let it be the last summer read before school starts. Kids will be back to school with a different perspective on rules, bullies, pendejas in the front office, pendejos behind the big desks, and will want to ace those SATs to qualify for matriculation to the University of Doom.

My copy of University of Doom arrived with a cool decal to mount in my car's rear windshield so I can pretend to be a degreed alumnus. Fight on for ol' UD.

Read Ernest Hogan's review of University of Doom (link)

Have You Volunteered Today?

Here is information from Reading Partners, a nationwide organization that helps community members volunteer to be reading tutors in a local school, to increase the potential of a nation's most valuable asset: literate people.

Click here to view the Full Impact Report.

Unities, Imperatives, and Regeneration: Getting Involved in Your Future

Organizers invite adults and 17 or older teenagers to this modern teach-in. Community, educators, student activists, parents will find value in the meeting and take home effective strategies to launch or support programs of relevancy and inclusiveness in their communities.

No Border Wall On-line Floricanto: First In A Series In Alliance With Resistencia en la frontera: Poets Against Border Walls
Brenda Nettles Riojas, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Rodney Gomez, Priscilla Celina Suárez,

Two Lands Kissed Into One, Brenda Nettles Riojas
Hands,  Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Rio Grande Valley Litany, Rodney Gomez
McAllen: Our Rinconcito, Priscilla Celina Suárez
Struggle in the Borderlands, Celina A. Gómez

The camera captured the beautiful landscape made more beauteous by the line of determined figures who headed for sites along or near the Rio Bravo. There, subversives intend to destroy wildlife habitat by bulldozing miles of earth through pristine riparian environments. Government-sponsored terrorists act entitled to erect a wall there. The line of people heading to the site will use the force of their character and the content of their poetry to erect a spiritual wall constructed of soul, heart, mind, and tears. There will not be a wall through here, unless evil has its way.

La Bloga invites you to join with those poets at la frontera, wherever you are. Today, and in following weeks, La Bloga-Tuesday takes you to the border to share in this vital resistance, in a special and particularly useful manner. Poetry performed by the poets, accompanied by the poems themselves, comprises one of the best ways to enjoy a poem. Please enjoy the video reading as you accompany the reading in your voice. The magic of media means you can repeat the experience as many times as you wish, so long as there's electricity feeding your computer. With each audition you'll find something new, in the video, in the lines, in yourself. Multiply the experience by sharing this column or a favored reading with friends and allies. You'll find links after the poets' biographies.

Two Lands Kissed Into One
By Brenda Nettles Riojas

Aquí crecí en la frontera,
wearing Singer sewing machine dresses
cut from yards of itching polyester;
tomboy play climbing mesquites,
daring, reaching the next branch;
Skateland Saturdays, sunsets,
fishing on Boca Chica Beach;
siempre protegida con una bendición.

Aquí comí
platillos, enchilados con chile piquin
y salsas hechas en el molcajete,
Fruity Pebbles breakfasts,
fideo y tortilla lunches,
steak and potato dinners,
guayaba and mango desserts.

Aquí oi
stories of La Llorona followed,
con miedo de dormir, or listening
for La Sirena or El Gallo
to fill Chalupa spaces, ansiosa de ganar.
Other nights, classics read out loud;
knights and pawns maneuvered
across a chess board.

Aquí conocí dos sures.
Mama Pepa in Matamoros,
preparando su tesitos de manzanilla;
vendiendo coronas para los difuntos.
Mama Lucy in Charleston,
birthday cards delivered by mail.
Hablando español con mi mami,
English with my dad.

Aquí estoy.
Two lands kissed into one.

Dos mundos se unieron con un beso.

Previously published in La Primera Voz Que Oí 

Brenda Nettles Riojas is the host of Corazón Bilingüe, a weekly radio program. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and earned her M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans. La Primera Voz Que Oí is her first collection of Spanish poetry. She is the Diocesan Relations Director for the Diocese of Brownsville and editor of The Valley Catholic newspaper.


By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

we storm
the border between
here and there

the border
has been replaced
by people

holding hands
a human chain

across the Southlands
our hands joined
our hands holding

our hands sharing the power
from one palm to the next
a chain of energy

thousands of hands
held in hope
held in love

holding and sharing
in solidarity
for a new world

made possible
in positivity
in visions

of other realities
our hands

of our hands
red, yellow, black, and white

legal hands

just because
they are human

sending out
a message

sending out
love hands
saying basta ya!

out the hate

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, educator, and activist, is the author of five volumes of poetry. Her latest book, The Nature of Things, is a collaboration with photographer Richard Loya, Merced College Press, 2015. She is co-editor, along with
the late Francisco X. Alarcón, of the award-winning anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, University of Arizona Press, 2016. She has worked as the editor for several magazines, most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba and Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal online.


Rio Grande Valley Litany
By Rodney Gomez

Not the wealth
Not the census place with all the wealth
Not the thousand among the million
Not the wealth of the thousand
Not the segregated place
Not the segregated classroom, the segregated desk
Not the punishment for the brown mouth that says zarzamora
Not the amnesiacs and the enablers
Not the old Harlingen
Not the place with all the wealth
Not the pristine verandas, Mexicanized lawns
Not the land grants
Not the wine tastings
Not the platinum wedding package
Not the brown bodies who forget the people who live among the huisache
Not the brown bodies who forget the salt that was here before them
Not the Dallas Cowboys
Not the charcuterie, not the opera cake
Not the sons and daughters sent off to St. Edwards and St. Mary’s
Not the Playboys of Edinburg
Not the vanity press
Not the ranches and farmland passed down from one thief to another
Not the bayside condos
Not the interlopers, drawn from one wealth to another
Not the Island and the lesser islands
Not the vanity boutiques and treasury bonds
Not the poet laureate
Not the elsewhere degrees and certifications
Not the royal decrees
Not the Brownsville Raid
Not the lineage
Not the noble stock
Not the breeding
Not the ennui
Not the payday loans
Not Kris Kristofferson
Not the brownfields
Not the real estate swindlers
Not the poetry of the visible
Not the trivial mention of tacos and enchiladas
Not the opportunistic use of the mariachi
Not the classroom Spanish
Not the museum director, not the conductor, not the doctor, not the writer, not the poet (especially not the poet)
Not the free time to write
Not the free passes for this and that crime
Not Saint Joseph Academy
Not the power brokers
Not the educated patriarch
Not the insouciance
Not the inheritance
Not the car dealerships
Not the mayor
Not the city council
Not the exclusion
Not the wealth in the hands of the few
Not the priest who drives a Benz
Not the cotillion
Not the "founder" of this city or that city
Not the maleness
Not the white beauty pageant
Not the high school peacocks
Not the teeth-whitening agent
Not the antibiotics
Not the after-Mass mimosa
Not the tax write-offs
Not the estate planning
Not the luxury hotels
Not Vail, not Breckenridge, not Copper Mountain
Not the microbreweries
Not the bistros
Not the Broadway show tunes
Not the private collections
Not the garden party
Not the real estate ventures
Not the nonprofit boards
Not the doctor-owned hospitals
Not the baroque revivals
Not junkyard chic
Not pioneer, not Confederate
Not any name like Shary or Stillman
Not the inability to distinguish migas from chilaquiles
Not the brown Republicans
Not the owner's box
Not the "small" business owner
Not molon labe
Not the casual sexism
Not the business done on a golf course
Not the public golf manager's salary
Not the lighted tennis courts and pitch black soccer fields
Not the Polo shirts
Not the starched khakis
Not the smugness
Not the Ray-Bans
Not the Lexus
Not Noah, not Liam, not Mason
Not the central air
No the paved roads
Not the Duck Dynasty clones
Not the ones who disown the ghetto in their hearts
Not those who leave and never return
Not the indoor plumbing
Not the redesigned garages
Not the comfort
Not the comfort
Not the comfort
La taqueria

Rodney Gomez is a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop and the proud son of migrant farmworkers. He is the author of Citizens of the Mausoleum (forthcoming) and the chapbooks Mouth Filled with Night, Spine, and A Short Tablature of Loss. His work has appeared in Poetry, Rattle, Blackbird, Pleiades, and Puerto del Sol. He was awarded the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize, RHINO Editors’ Prize, Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize, and Rane Arroyo Prize.


McAllen: Our Rinconcito
By Priscilla Celina Suárez

Dancing on bare feet
as I jump into my car, I hear ama
remind me
not to forget the pan dulce
before heading to wela’s house.

KTEX slowly drowns outside noises
as I slip on my chanclas
and Bo Garza’s I’m home
catches my attention – “I’m home, everybody I’m home”.

The air-con on full blast
competing with the 105° heat index
Tim Smith predicted. ¡Ay, que calor!

There’s nothing like a blue coconut raspa
from Young’s Snow Wiz
to cool off with during the Dog Days of summer.

Driving off from my parent’s home in McAllen
the scent of citrus groves
swims in through my car windows.
A quinceañera’s baile
drumming tunes from a neighboring dance hall.

De Alba’s bakery is but a moment’s drive
the scent of fresh corn tortillas
and empanadas hitting me as I walk in.

Los Tigres del Norte on the intercom
belting out Golpes en el Corazón.
“Pero tu que me has dado golpes en el corazón...”
Golpes en el corazón
are sometimes the memories
that have brought my familia closer.

A viejito pays for his tamales
and asks for extra salsita. With his accent
and sombrero, I cannot help but think of my abuelo.

I slip back into my car
and change the station –
Ramon Ayala sings about Un Rinconcito en el Cielo…

A little piece of heaven
is belonging. It is listening to cumbias and corridos
while studying at the library – knowing the best taquitos
and papas asadas can be served from a food truck – it is
using dichos and getting your point across.
Being an English speaker
and somehow having a strong ‘che’ accent -
it is looking forward to the fall
because our Winter Texan friends come home – this little piece
of heaven is acknowledging your roots
will always holds on.

It is remembering our home
is a community that warms
because it forever embraces us.

This is our rinconcito.

Priscilla Celina Suárez is the 2015-17 McAllen Poet Laureate and has been a recipient of the Mexicasa Writing Fellowship. A RGV native, her poetry is a hybrid of rancheras, polkas, pop, rock, and musica internacional. A past contributor to the American Library Association’s YALS magazine, she has also authored the Texas State Library’s Bilingual Programs Chapter – allowing her an opportunity to gain experience in writing poetry, rhymes, and tongue twisters for children and teens. Most recently, Lina released an eBook titled Cuentos Wela Told Me: That Scared the Beeswax Out of Me!. Her poetry was included in ¡Juventud!: Growing up on the Border and Along the River III: Dark Voices from the Río Grande. In 2003, her work was selected by the Monitor staff as ‘The Best Poetry of the Year’.


Struggle in the Borderlands
By Celina A. Gómez

Today, I pulled up from the earth, in handfuls, thigh-high weeds, plentiful from weeks of rain. Some came up from the roots bringing rings of soil, soft and littered with shell and worms that stiffened into curls of black dotted yellow. Snails crack under feet packed dirt. No breeze from outstretched wings of the kiskadee.

I carry this land as each fingernail is filled with dirt, still damp from the midday rain—dense and bitter with the raising of the sun. Today, I became part of the earth, part of Tejas—covered in rain and shreds of green splintering into small cuts on the inside of my fingers, forearms, and wrists. Bloodless and scarless but proof of the land’s fight to remain serpented and circled, universe and chaos, roped and rooted. But I am not part of this land’s history—a history hidden from its people, untaught and ignored. This fight is fruitless and my hands are sore from pulling in the borderlands—into me.

The soil has hardened and the sun has dried remains piled in mounds across the barren patch of earth. Everything grows back lush around the Rio Grande. For now, stubborn roots remain with tendrils roping themselves to a rusted post once used as a lasso. Roots forged on the divide between lands, languages, and selves. Foraged but forked in their resolve—stinging when pulled. Today, I pulled from the earth hunched over with hands gripping my heart that yearns to remain.

Celina A. Gómez is a high school and college teacher and performance poetry coach. Her work appears in Ostrich Review, Outrage: A Protest Anthology for a Post 9/11 World, and numerous chapbooks and conference proceedings. The reigning Ultimate Poetry Boxing Champion of South Texas, she received her MFA with a certificate in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas Pan American.


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