Saturday, March 31, 2018

Yoeme The People, Part I Palm Sunday Celebration by Antonio SolisGomez

My wife and I are in the dusty court yard that stretches more than half the length of a football, at the front the Catholic Church with its doorless wall open to the courtyard.  Finally there is organized movement and the Chapayekas begin to line up on both sides of the sacred space, wearing their grotesque masks upon which they labor all year, masks that represent evil with misshaped features of animals, of roman soldiers, of characters from popular culture and others originating in the mind of the person wearing it. Their bodies are tightly wrapped in colorful but inexpensive Mexican cotton blankets, with wide leather belts dangling small deer hoofs that emit a rattling sound when they shake their hips, which they do often although not as often as they beat their wooden swords with a wooden dagger. The sword beating is done in rhythmic unison in choreographed movements, in contrast to the shaking of the hips, which are determined by the individual as are his jester like antics around the courtyard during the three hours that the hundreds of people have been waiting for the actual start of the Palm Sunday event.


 Despite the wait, it’s a relaxed crowd, a few hundred of them have brought folding canvass chairs that line the perimeter of the sacred center area that is demarked by the leaves of the cottonwood tree, more people are in the small bleachers, as my wife and I, more yet are standing around at several food booths on the edges or simply standing off to the side at the Fiesta Ramada watching the shirtless Pascola (pahko’ola) dancing to the beat of a water drum, a half of a large gourd sitting in a shallow basin of water and emitting a loud distinctive sound. A few Chapayekas are there providing comic contrast to the Pascola who acknowledges them during a break by offering them cigarettes which he has to place in their pouch when the Chapayekas turn their back to him. Later the deer dancer will appear in the same area.

The people in attendance are mostly brown and are accompanied by family, friends, old neighbors, not many seem like outsiders, not many light skinned people. And it’s difficult to say with any certainty that a person is Yaqui by looks alone and not a Mexican or a Chicano. Many of them speak Spanish and English and Yaquis have been in Tucson since the early 1900’s when they left their ancestral lands in Mexico because of constant wars and persecution by the Mexican government.  Some of the men look like vatos, they strut, their posture rigid, reminding me of the pintos from Los Angeles that I knew. I was once friends with a Yaqui tecato, an excon whose three sons grew up with my son. And there was little about him that didn’t look Chicano. Until I accompanied him to the Yaqui Easter celebration and began to understand that they believe in seven worlds; a world of day, a world of night, a world of wilderness, a dream world, an enchanted world and two bad worlds that are never mentioned.

The Easter Celebration, including Palm Sunday, is a conjoining of traditional Yoeme culture and Catholicism that depicts the Passion of Christ. Todays celebration begins with the Chepayekas lining inside the boundary formed by the cottonwood leaves and the Matachines, men dressed in street clothes emerge from the church in two lines performing a choreographed weaving dance that moves them down the sacred area of the courtyard to the music of a fiddle and two guitars.  When the Matachines return to the church entrance from the farthest reaches of the courtyard they are followed by several men come carrying two tables each laden with a large bundle that is obviously heavy as the men strain to walk to the entrance of the church. Women carrying a palanquin with a figurine of the Virgin Mary also walk by and head for the church. We wait and begin hearing a faint litany coming from the church that we learn from neighbors are prayers. After awhile boys from the church carrying a bundle of palms that have been blessed begin distributing them to the people, while other boys and men begin tucking bundles of the palms in the belt of the Chapayekas, who do their best to resist because they have been blessed and are an anathema.

The ceremony ends when the crowd receives their bundle of palms but this is by no means the conclusion of the Yoeme Easter Celebration. There are still days of celebration to come and will only begin to conclude on the Gloria on Saturday with the repentance of the Fariseos and the burning of Judas. Here is the description of that momentous part of the ceremony when the Fariseos assault the church and are repulsed by flowers, written by Muriel Thayer Painter in her small book A Yaqui Easter published by the University of Arizona Press
---As the Gloria is sung a third time Fariseos run full tilt to the very door of the church, are repulsed as before, wheel, and run back to the Judas pyre. They throw on it their masks, swords and daggers, and it is lighted and all their symbols of evil are consumed in the flames. The Fariseos have been ‘killed’ by flowers; that is by the blood of Christ transformed into flowers, which is the logical climax of the flower theme. Their godparents throw coats or blankets over their heads and rush them to the altar to be re-dedicated to Jesus….
   We have been fortunate in having sat next to Feliciana Martinez widow of the famous Yoeme mask carver Frank Chico Martinez and Part II will feature their story.

Friday, March 30, 2018

New Books

As I like to say, something for everybody this week:  A literary debut from a young writer whose roots are in the Philippines; an impressive anthology with sixty-nine contributors, just in time for International Women's Month; a new Star Wars chapter penned by one of the brightest lights in Latino Lit; and another book from a Denver indie writer whose latest historical fiction covers a wide range of topics, from the environment to spirituality.  Hope you see something you want to read. 

America Is Not The Heart
Elaine Castillo
Viking - April

[from the publisher]

How many lives fit in a lifetime?

When Hero De Vera arrives in America–haunted by the political upheaval in the Philippines and disowned by her parents–she’s already on her third. Her uncle gives her a fresh start in the Bay Area, and he doesn’t ask about her past. His younger wife knows enough about the might and secrecy of the De Vera family to keep her head down. But their daughter–the first American-born daughter in the family–can’t resist asking Hero about her damaged hands.

An increasingly relevant story told with startling lucidity, humor, and an uncanny ear for the intimacies and shorthand of family ritual, America Is Not the Heart is a sprawling, soulful debut about three generations of women in one family struggling to balance the promise of the American dream and the unshakeable grip of history. With exuberance, grit, and sly tenderness, here is a family saga; an origin story; a romance; a narrative of two nations and the people who leave one home to grasp at another.

Elaine Castillo was born in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. America Is Not the Heart is her first novel.

All The Women In My Family Sing
Deborah Santana, ed.
Nothing But The Truth Publications - January, 2018

[from the publisher]

All the Women in My Family Sing is a vital collection of prose and poetry by women of color, with topics that range from the pressures of being the vice-president of a Fortune 500 Company, to escaping the killing fields of Cambodia, to the struggles inside immigration, identity, romance and self-worth. The brief, trenchant essays capture the aspirations and wisdom of these powerful women as they exercise autonomy, creativity, and dignity and build bridges to heal the brokenness in today’s turbulent world.
Sixty-nine authors ― African American, Asian American, Chicana, Native American, Cameroonian, South African, Korean, LGBTQI ― lend their voices to broaden cross-cultural understanding and to build bridges to each other’s histories and daily experiences of life. America Ferrera’s essay is from her powerful speech at the Women’s March in Washington D.C.; Natalie Baszile writes about her travels to Louisiana to research Queen Sugar and finding the “painful truths” her father experienced in the “belly of segregation;” Porochista Khakpour tells us what it is like to fly across America under the Muslim travel ban; Lalita Tademy writes about her transition from top executive at Sun Microsystems to NY Times bestselling author. This anthology is monumental and timely as human rights and justice are being challenged around the world. It is a watershed title, not only written, but produced entirely by women of color, including the publishing, editing, process management, book cover design, and promotions. Our vision is to empower underrepresented voices and to impact the world of publishing in America ― particularly important in a time when 80% of people who work in publishing self-identify as white (as found recently in a study by Lee & Low Books, and reported on NPR).

Daniel José Older
Del Rey - April

[from the publisher]


It’s one of the galaxy’s most dangerous secrets: a mysterious transmitter with unknown power and a reward for its discovery that most could only dream of claiming. But those who fly the Millennium Falcon throughout its infamous history aren’t your average scoundrels. Not once, but twice, the crew of the Falcon tries to claim the elusive prize—first, Lando Calrissian and the droid L3-37 at the dawn of an ambitious career, and later, a young and hungry Han Solo with the help of his copilot, Chewbacca. But the device’s creator, the volatile criminal Fyzen Gor, isn’t interested in sharing. And Gor knows how to hold a grudge. . . .


It’s been ten years since the rebel hero Han Solo last encountered Fyzen Gor. After mounting a successful rebellion against the Empire and starting a family with an Alderaanian princess, Han hasn’t given much thought to the mad inventor. But when Lando turns up at Han’s doorstep in the middle of the night, it’s Fyzen’s assassins that he’s running from. And without Han’s help, Lando—and all life on Cloud City—will be annihilated.

With the assistance of a young hotshot pilot, an Ewok slicer prodigy, the woman who might be the love of Lando’s life, and Han’s best and furriest friend, the two most notorious scoundrels in the New Republic are working together once more. They’ll have to journey across the stars—and into the past—before Gor uses the device’s power to reshape the galaxy.
Daniel José Older is the New York Times bestselling author of the young adult series The Shadowshaper Cypher, the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series, and the middle-grade historical fantasy Dactyl Hill Squad. He won the International Latino Book Award and has been nominated for the Kirkus Prize, the Mythopoeic Award, the Locus Award, the Andre Norton Award, and the World Fantasy Award. Shadowshaper was named one of Esquire’s 80 Books Every Person Should Read. You can find his thoughts on writing, read dispatches from his decade-long career as an NYC paramedic, and hear his music at his website, on YouTube, and on Twitter.

Anthony Garcia
October - 2017
[from the author]
When young Watili is kidnapped by Apache slavers, she is sold as a domestic servant and enters a world beyond her imagination. She meets the only man who can take her home: a cartographer-map maker as they cross the American southwest and surprising come across the dashing Cibolero.

All find themselves facing the truth about the Oneness of Spirituality that binds them in life, and are forced to learn from each other to adapt in a quickly changing world. Secrets are revealed, truths unveiled, and strife arises as this trio of travelers makes their way not only across the geography of the land, but also the geography of their own private beliefs and viewpoints

That's all folks.

Manuel Ramos has three noir short stories in the literary pipeline: Night in Tunisia (Blood Business, Mario Acevedo and Joshua Viola, eds., Hex Publishing, 2017), Snake Farm (Culprits: The Heist Was Only the Beginning, Richard Brewer and Gary Phillips, eds., Polis Books, 2018), and Sitting Ducks (Blood and Gasoline, Mario Acevedo, ed., Hex Publishing, 2018). His next novel is scheduled for publication in September, 2018.

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Chicanonautica: Why I Don’t Give a Damn About the Hugos, Nebulas, and SFWA

By Ernest Hogan
I got disgusted with awards--especially the sff ones--way back in the twentieth century, and my physical and mental health have been the better for it. Sure, it would nice to have a snazzy doodad with my name on it as a token of appreciation of my work, that would impress people who don’t know any better, but I’m cynical about such things--my wife had to talk me out of throwing away my high school diploma--eventually, the day would come when I’d see it as a worthless hunk of junk.

I lost faith in the Hugos in the Eighties when the movie of Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff won for Best Dramatic Presentation--this wasn't even fiction, it was history. The World Science Fiction Society--which is just the people who bought memberships for the WorldCon any year--had lost track of what the genre was!

And there are people who dutifully buy WorldCon memberships every year, read all the nominated works that they can, and vote. They are the people who should, not somebody with a conflict of interest like me. And people like me should leave them alone.

But, then we shouldn't be surprised that books from popular series like Harry Potter win (we’re lucky it didn’t go to Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey as well) and shenanigans like the Sad Puppies debacle happen. I’m amazed that things like that don’t happen more often.

The Nebulas are even worse. They are decided by the members of SFWA, the Science Fiction (and Fantasy) Writers of America, a so-called professional organization. Unfortunately, it means that everybody has a conflict of interest. The winners tend to be the most popular works among a group of people who are in competition against each other.

It felt good when I became eligible for SFWA membership and was accepted after the bizarre approval process. For a bright, shining moment, I felt that I had arrived. That cheap thrill didn’t last. Being a SFWA member didn’t make selling my work any easier. And suddenly, I was getting mail and phone calls from people who thought I could do something for them, even if was just letting them waste my time.

I didn’t even know when my membership lapsed. When I did, I realized that I didn’t need any of the crap from SFWA to find markets and make sales. I didn’t miss all their stupid publications.

Also, at conventions, if I wanted to get into the SFWA suite, I just had to find someone I knew and they would let me in.

And it’s wonderful to be able to tell people campaigning for the Nebula that I’m not a member.

I haven’t felt the need to renew my membership.

There was a time I almost did, though.

Once, while Googling my name--that’s how I keep track of unauthorized translations, and student films of my work--a Russian science fiction magazine called Esli came up and my name was in the table of contents. After studying the Cyrillic a while, it became clear that Obsidian Harvest, a collaboration I did with Rick Cook that was in Analog, was being offered for sale.

There were also works by a number of big name sff authors.

From Wikipedia: It was started in 1991 in Moscow, as a publisher of foreign SF stories, but soon broadened its format to include Russophone writers as well.

Rick, who is a member, though we should inform SFWA. I agreed.
There was a flurry of emails, and in the end it was decided that they would ask the magazine to play nice in the future. In other words, nothing was done.

I did not renew my membership. In fact, I felt like Groucho Marx when he said, “I refuse to join any club that would have me as a member.”

And my career goes merrily along without them.

Frankly, I would rather get paid, published, and read than win any awards.

Also, in my ten years as a bookstore clerk at Borders, not one customer ever came in and asked for a Hugo or Nebula winner. 

Most people have never heard of them.

The more I hear about awards of any kinds, and how they work, the less I’m impressed. I’m sure the details of how the Nobel guys decided to give theirs to Bob Dylan would read like proof of the end of Western Civilization. Which is okay, I’m ready for what comes next.

Ernest Hogan has been called the Father of Chicano Science Fiction, and probably will never win a major science fiction award.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Alma and How She Got Her Name

By Juana Martinez-Neal

Age Range: 4 - 8 years
Grade Level: Preschool - 3
Hardcover: 32 pages
Publisher: Candlewick (April 10, 2018)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0763693553
ISBN-13: 978-0763693558

What’s in a name? For one little girl, her very long name tells the vibrant story of where she came from — and who she may one day be.

If you ask her, Alma Sofia Esperanza José Pura Candela has way too many names: six! How did such a small person wind up with such a large name? Alma turns to Daddy for an answer and learns of Sofia, the grandmother who loved books and flowers; Esperanza, the great-grandmother who longed to travel; José, the grandfather who was an artist; and other namesakes, too. As she hears the story of her name, Alma starts to think it might be a perfect fit after all — and realizes that she will one day have her own story to tell. In her author-illustrator debut, Juana Martinez-Neal opens a treasure box of discovery for children who may be curious about their own origin stories or names.


Martinez-Neal brings her gentle story to life through beautiful graphite and colored pencil artwork, set against cream-colored backgrounds. Soft blue and red details pop against the charcoal scenes, which perfectly reflect the snapshots of Alma’s family. While Alma feels enriched by learning her family’s history, she is also empowered by the knowledge that she will give her name, Alma, its own story. —Booklist (starred review)

Martinez-Neal’s first outing as author is a winner—her velvety and largely monochromatic pencil drawings, punctuated with cherry red, teem with emotional intimacy. It’s an origin story that envelops readers like a hug.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)

The softly colored images and curvilinear shapes that embrace the figures evoke a sense of warmth and affection. At the story’s end, the only tale readers have not heard is Alma’s. “You will make your own story,” states her father. A beautifully illustrated, tender story to be shared with all children, sure to evoke conversations about their names. —School Library Journal (starred review)

Mostly monochromatic against a cream background, the illustrations—print transfers with graphite and colored pencils—are delightful, capturing the distinctive essences of Alma’s many namesakes...A celebration of identity, family and belonging. —Kirkus Reviews

Juana Martinez-Neal is the daughter and granddaughter of painters. She started her story in Lima, Peru, and then moved to the United States. The winner of a 2018 Pura Belpré Illustrator Award for La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elya, Juana Martinez-Neal is still writing the story of her life, with the help of her husband and three children, in Arizona.