Friday, June 28, 2019

Guest Post Poem

By Steve Beisner

Narcissistic Spring at the End of History

When "I" became all, and "We" the name of fools,
when our mountains of shared being
crumbled into oceans of insignificance,
Then Self stole the throne from messy Life.
The great works became flakes of paper,
and dusty shreds of canvas and paint
were swept up by practical men,
and burned for warmth.
Music that once seemed the songs
of angels could no more be coaxed
from disks and plastic and jumbles of bits
because no one mourned its passing.
Cities are now caves.
History's offspring live as grunting primates,
squatting around the fires of lassitude
that consumed the furnishings of their inheritance.
Even the Shaman will not believe that such as we once were.
It can not be that a people so nearly gods could bury
that spark in their own ashes,
its light grown dark, and the spark a cold memory.
It could not be that one hundred thousand years
of striving and making
could so easily be unmade,
and not noted nor remarked upon.
For those attending the smokey fire,
even their own kind are but scenery,
or sticks of wood to be burned for comfort,
or traded for a place nearer the heat.
Proud folk, nearest the glow, feel no regret,
only relief from the discarded burden of knowing.
For the smug, nothing beyond
their own coil of animal flesh.
Each hums inwardly the mantra of I,
No one but I, only I, forever I.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

With Liberty and Justice for All

 Dedicated to Barbara and Michael Sedano: just another fork in the road.                                                                            
America's Pastime and Cultural Crossroads
    In his final year of Little League baseball, the boy knew every bump in the field, played every position, hit off fastest pitchers, and, when he pitched, his fastball blew right past the strongest hitters in the league.
     It was the day of the championship game. His coach told him he’d be on the mound. Before leaving for work, his father had said, “Don’t go out with your friends. Stay home and rest.”
     At 2:00 P.M., his mother had prepared his favorite meal, nopales and chile verde. By 3:30, she’d ironed and spread his wool uniform, socks, and undershirt on his bed. At 4, he began dressing. He took a deep breath. Inside his stomach, butterflies had begun to stir and little knots formed.
     He stepped out of his jeans. Stripped to his shorts, he stood before the full-length mirror nailed to the back of the door. He turned to look at his thin body. Slowly, he took a step back and sat at the edge of his bed.
     He raised one leg and slid the thin, white legging up to his knee, running his hands up along his ankle and calf, removing the wrinkles from the soft material. He repeated the same routine with the other leg. Below the knees, he attached elastic garters to keep the leggings from slipping down.
     He took the baseball socks, green with two white stripes round each, and slid them over the white leggings, stretching them tightly. He stood and moved to the mirror. A lot of people would be watching.
     He stepped into his wool trousers, a green stripe down each side, buttoned the fly, bent over and bloused the bottoms, so the hem barely touched the top stripe. He stood up straight, guided the black leather belt through the loops, and tightened.
     His parents had found the money to buy him a new undershirt, white with long green sleeves. He put his head in first, then his arms, and pulled down on the tail. He picked up his wool baseball jersey, same gray as the trousers, Tigers, in green script, sewn across the front. He placed an arm into each sleeve, pulled the shirt over his shoulders, and buttoned the front. He tucked the shirttail into his trousers, lining up the buttons of the shirt with the seam of the fly, broken only by the black belt, just like his dad had shown him, the way, he’d said, they did it in the Army.
     He took one last look in the mirror, picked up his old gym bag, his glove and shoes inside, and walked to the living room. The butterflies fluttered and the knots tightened.
     His dad arrived home early from work. The family jumped into the car, a clunky ’53 Chevy, and drove to the field. In the front seat, his parents chatted. He heard nothing. His sister hummed as she looked out the window. Twenty minutes later, his father pulled onto a narrow dirt road leading to the parking lot, tall weeds growing on both sides. The car bounced, the springs squeaked, the steering wheel spun from one side to the other, as his father maneuvered around the large potholes, and found a parking spot, between two shiny new cars.
     He played in a league with kids whose parents had big homes and a lot of money. After the last game each season, he and his family attended a team party in the hills where one kid’s home had a pool, a diving platform in a massive oak tree, and a baseball diamond out back. He was one of the few Mexican kids in the league. When he’d once asked why he couldn’t play baseball with his friends at the neighborhood park, his dad had told him this was an official Little League, like playing in the big leagues, grass infield, an announcer’s booth and snack bar. Besides, his older cousins had played here. It was family tradition.
Inspiration or Indoctrination?
     His father turned toward the back seat and said, “Go ahead. We’ll be right there.” As the boy stepped from the car, his father added, “Mi ‘jo, good luck.” His mother motioned him close and gave him a peck on the cheek.
     Bag in hand, the boy walked through the crowd, past the Senior League field, and the snack bar. As he neared the field, people he didn’t know called out to him, words of encouragement. His friends’ sisters waved at him. A senior league coach approached and told him how much he’d like him on his team next year. The boy smiled, shyly. Some of the eight and nine- year-olds, minor leaguers, stepped aside to let him pass.
     He walked through an open gate and onto the field, stepping down into the dugout where he removed his high-top Converse tennis shoes and slipped into his baseball shoes, tightening the yellow laces, and folding back the long, leather tongue. His manager came to his side, sat down, and offered some last-minute advice. The butterflies and knots collided.
     The boy walked from the dugout and made his way down the sideline to the warm-up mound along the left field fence. The catcher was already waiting. His team took the field for warm-ups. A light cheer rose from the audience.
     As he threw the ball, his muscles loosened. More people called to him. He heard a familiar voice, his uncle Joe. He turned and saw his uncle standing along the center field fence, a worn straw gardener’s hat shading his face. The boy smiled.
     People filled the bleachers. They lined the outfield fences. An announcer called the starting lineups. The PA boomed. The coach signaled for him to return to the dugout.
     As he put on his windbreaker to keep his arm warm, he turned to see a group of men surrounding his father, who looked gleeful and happy, even after a full day of lugging cement on his shoulders. They shook his father’s hand, as if he was the one pitching. Women, like the mothers straight out of Good Housekeeping, chatted with his mother. She beamed. He glanced over at the opposing team as they warmed-up. The boys appeared bigger, stronger. He whispered a prayer.
     At 6:00 P.M., his team stood on the third-base line, the other team along the first-base line. A summer breeze blew in from the west, the flag waving high on a pole over center field. He heard hundreds of voices say, like a prayer, “With Liberty and Justice for All.”
     The umpire hollered, “PLAY BALL!”
     He walked to the mound, picked up a bag of resin and squeezed, releasing the soft golden powder. The umpire tossed him a new ball. The boy ran his fingers over the slippery white leather and the hard, red stitching. He read the words Official Little League stenciled on one side.
     He reached down, grabbed a handful of dirt, and rubbed it into the ball, for a surer grip. He kicked at the dirt in front of the mound, loosening it for better traction. He threw the ball to the catcher, slowly at first then harder with each pitch.
     The first batter stepped to the plate, digging his right foot into the dirt, clenching his bat, holding it out over the plate, measuring the distance. He took a practice swing, positioned himself in the chalk-lined batter's box, and pulled his bat back over his shoulders and waited.
     The boy looked for the catcher’s sign. He nodded, his eyes glued to the mitt, never losing it, not for an instant. He wound up, his body moving like an acrobat, his arm a slingshot, flinging the little white ball towards the plate. The butterflies rested, and the knots vanished.

Excerpted from Shifting Loyalties, Daniel Cano’s 1995 novel, published by Arte Publico Press

2019 Newberry Award Acceptance- Meg Medina

The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.

Thoughtful, strong-willed sixth-grader Merci Suarez navigates difficult changes with friends, family, and everyone in between in a resonant new novel from Meg Medina.

Merci Suarez knew that sixth grade would be different, but she had no idea just how different. For starters, Merci has never been like the other kids at her private school in Florida, because she and her older brother, Roli, are scholarship students. They don’t have a big house or a fancy boat, and they have to do extra community service to make up for their free tuition. So when bossy Edna Santos sets her sights on the new boy who happens to be Merci’s school-assigned Sunshine Buddy, Merci becomes the target of Edna’s jealousy. Things aren't going well at home, either: Merci’s grandfather and most trusted ally, Lolo, has been acting strangely lately — forgetting important things, falling from his bike, and getting angry over nothing. No one in her family will tell Merci what's going on, so she’s left to her own worries, while also feeling all on her own at school. In a coming-of-age tale full of humor and wisdom, award-winning author Meg Medina gets to the heart of the confusion and constant change that defines middle school — and the steadfast connection that defines family.

To read the complete acceptance visit,

Good evening. Muy buenas noches.

I’m so happy to be with all of you here tonight, and to share this incredible moment on stage with Sophie [Blackall] and to help honor the enormous legacy of Walter Dean Myers. My deepest congratulations to all the winners and honorees of ALA awards this year, particularly to Veera [Hiranandani] and Catherine [Gilbert Murdock]. I’ve been working my way through the reading list that your works have provided, and I feel so honored to be celebrating with all of you.

It has been six months since I received my life-changing phone call, and in all that time I’ve been wondering what to say right now. I’ve decided what’s important to say about Merci Suárez Changes Gears and this lovely award can best be told by way of my personal bike history.

I’ve owned four bikes in my life.

The first one I got when I was about six. It was forest green and had training wheels, and it arrived as something of a miracle because it was a gift from my father, a man I didn’t remember at all. He and my mother had separated years earlier, when they were recently arrived from Cuba.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

His Wife Enters Memory Care

Michael Sedano

"Yesterday,Today. Today, Tomorrow."

“It’s been fun,” she said and I smiled at the sardonic humor. That was the old Barbara talking, wise-cracking in the sobering face of tragedy. What she meant was, on Thursday, Barbara moves into  Memory Care and for the second time in our lives together we're going to be torn asunder.

The first time we were forcibly separated I had to go live at Ft. Ord. Barbara refused to allow it, and when advanced training started, Barbara packed up kit and caboodle and moved into a farmworker shack outside the gates of Ft. Ord. I went AWOL every night of my advanced training because Barbara refused to allow us to stay separated.

I began La Bloga's 2019 with a Tuesday column on Memory (link), fearing that today's column was steamrolling toward me like an out-of-control 16-wheeler on a greased downhill run and that guy was sitting up there watching it coming on our first New Year's Day together. 

In the fifty years since I returned from Korea to home with Barbara, our separations lasted at most two weeks at a stretch. I was travelling for work at lot, but when I returned home, life resumed its responsibilities of building more memories and we did that well. We accumulated stuff. Barbara threw parties at the drop of a hat! People had their weddings at our pad. We filled the yard and house with gente food fun memories, que no? We never were alone and we are not alone now, that's for sure my friends.

This is intimate stuff, I know. People fear Alzheimer’s with good reason. An ironic fear because once you’re living with Alzheimer’s you are dispossessed of Reason. And short term memory, and things like my name and identity. She’ll respond to something I say with “Michael says that all the time,” and look at me as if I’m some well-meaning nameless person. It hurts, but it is what it is. I’m not me to her. The person speaking is no longer my Barbara. It makes love grow stronger, pain.

Barbara has memory, she knows stuff. She remembers her friends from when she was Chair of the Department; they visit and call. They hold warm memories of Barbara’s friendship and love over her teaching career. But near-term memories jumble and immediate experience evaporates. She doesn’t remember but senses a foreboding. She asks repeatedly what day today is. Then she asks, when am I moving? Why are you getting rid of me? I don’t know why I can’t stay here? I am going to beat this, she pledges.

Barbara Sedano watches her first graduating seniors, San Gabriel High School, 1971

Her bargaining gives me hopefulness, but not hope. There’s a personality operating in the shadows. She was powerful, that woman whose reflections rise up to argue against inevitability. That’s Barbara in there, the fighter not giving in, looking for a way out. She knows it must be this way. 

When she says, on her bad days, “I want to go home,” I know she means her brain is screaming for life as it used to be, herself as she used to be. We live here. "Not here, Home." She wants to go home a lot. There are good days.

The hippocampus is the first to go, a clinician told me once. What a cruel disease, dementia. Our entire family has been crushed by the existence of Alzheimer’s among us. I saw our condition as my new career, I dedicated myself to caring for Barbara’s needs with the single-minded intensity I used to assume, when I took on work projects. I revived the “Type A Personality” me. And it broke me. I failed in lots of ways and the disease itself won’t back down.

That’s why I explain to Barbara, I’m not sending you away. I can no longer take care of you the way you deserve, the way you need, the way the family deserves. And she says it’s her fault.

This evil disease will extinguish those vestiges of my Barbara as more and more she is present and in the moment, and only that. Much of her passing hours she sits motionlessly, body at rest. I sit in the room, watch, wondering what battles rage in the synaptic universe that populates her beautiful mind? Our lifetime together resides in there for her and it can’t get out here into the light. Dementia chips away at chips away at chips away at her Self. Each blow rings with finality, taking a little more until the spark in her eye will refuse to shine for me.

One of those "happiest ever" days, daughter's wedding.
So we’ve dedicated this week to doing stuff for the last time. We don't talk about it, and maybe it's just me being emotional. But it's purposive.

This is similar to the first time we were separated. The day before I reported to the Army, Barbara and I took a rowboat off the Santa Barbara coast so I could view the Continent I was leaving. I planned on coming back.

Today will be the last time we cruised by King Taco; last time we sat at Jones Coffee for her hot chocolate and a treat. We'll go grocery shopping one last time; I’ll buy food as if there’s a tomorrow. 

Wednesday we're having lunch with the first couple we dined with after I returned from the Army. We didn't plan our last social lunch this way, but it comes around like it that.

I’ll cook Wednesday night’s dinner as if she’ll have leftovers for Thursday’s lunch. Maybe Thursday she’ll eat those leftovers for our final lunch at home. I love cooking for my wife. I'll take her stuff in Memory Care.

Thursday night, Barbara has dinner in Memory Care. I’ll kiss her goodbye instead of goodnight. I'll leave her there, come home, and sleep alone. I'll go visit Friday morning.

Barbara at 5, 70 years ago. P'alla va la sombra.
51 years ago this August, I promised to love, honor, cherish, in sickness in health, all the days of our lives and I’ve done my darnedest to live up to that promise I made in front of my familia.

I can’t do it myself anymore. I’m beaten. This Memory Care operated by a large medical corporation is how I am keeping that promise from now on. We almost made it to 51, together.

I tell myself I didn’t fail, I coulda done better, for sure I shoulda done it differently. I apologized to Barbara that I could not help her when she needed me the most. But I didn’t fail. Alzheimer's cannot be beaten. Yet. I volunteered for a study of healthy brains (link). My brain will inform researchers in studies designed to predict Alzheimer's. Maybe someone will figure out how to fix broken brains from what someone sees in my brain under a microscope. A ver.

So off Barbara goes on Thursday. One more separation in our life of belonging together. She’s in walking distance and I’ll visit a lot. I hope Barbara’s around when I get there. Our life together, it’s been fun, Barbara. Thank you.

A couple years ago as the disease onset struck us with finality, I asked Barbara what she wanted people to remember of her. She answered instantly she was Charlotte's grandmother and Amelia's mother, and after that, she was an English teacher.

Dear Mrs. Sedano,
I have thought about you often through the years & even shared stories about you with my own students & family. My name is Natalie Chavez (Contreras now) and I was one of your Journalism students back in 1985 at Alhambra High. You are the whole reason I came out of my shell and started having confidence. You helped get me involved in high school & changed my whole direction. Now every time I come across a shy kid like me, I think of you! Thank you! My love has always been writing, but I chose to make a difference, like you did, and I teach. (smile) I really do hope you get this (or your family) because I want you to know, I’ll never forget you! God bless you. Love, Natalie & Family.

That’s my Barbara, gente. Don’t forget her.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Joy Harjo: Poeta Laureada de los Estados Unidos por Xánath Caraza

Joy Harjo: Poeta Laureada de los Estados Unidos por Xánath Caraza

Joy Harjo nació en Tulsa, Oklahoma y es miembro del pueblo Mvskoke.  Es autora de diez libros de poesía que incluyen los títulos American Sunrise, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems, The Woman Who Fell from the Sky y She Had Some Horses, entre otros. Además ha escrito prosa y drama.

Recientemente fue nombrada Poeta Laureada de los Estados Unidos por lo cual la celebramos en La Bloga.

Harjo es poeta, activista, música, autora y es la primera indígena nombrada Poeta Laureada de los Estados Unidos.  Ha enseñado en varias universidades a lo largo de la nación; y entre los premios que ha recibido están el 2019 Jackson Poetry Prize, el PEN Open Book Award, the American Indian Distinguished Achievement in the Arts Award, The Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Josephine Miles Poetry Award, the Mountains and Plains Booksellers Award, the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts, the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America y el Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers Circle of the Americas.

Harjo es un testimonio viviente a la multiculturalidad artística y no es para menos que haya recibido esta máxima distinción. ¡Enhorabuena!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Interview -- Christopher David Rosales

This week I interview a writer currently living in Colorado who has racked up writing awards, published three novels, and teaches at more than one university. He's a busy erudite guy who writes noir crime fiction.

Christopher David Rosales is from Paramount, CA. Since 2007 he has taught literature and creative writing at CU Boulder, where he earned his MFA, and the University of Denver, where he earned his PhD, and at MSU-Denver. His first novel, Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper, won him the McNamara Creative Arts Grant. His third novel, Word is Bone, a noir about southern California in the 1990's out now from Broken River Books, is a 2019 winner of the International Latino Book Award.

MR:  Why write? What drives you to create with words? When did you know you were a writer?

CDR:  First of all, thanks so much for these wonderful questions. It was enlightening to sit down and meditate on these responses. As for why I write, it really comes down to habit, or compulsion, though both those words make it sound bad even though I love to do it. I attempted to write my first “novel” in the fourth grade, and stayed up late nights reading with a flashlight under my blanket well past my bedtime. So, without intending to, I guess I groomed myself for nothing but writing. It was the only constant while I attempted too many majors in college to mention and, afterward, more jobs than I can count. My family always encouraged my writing, and were voracious readers themselves. I think this is why some of my most rewarding work has not been with adult students who already want to be writers, but with elementary, high school, and college students who don’t yet understand that being a writer is an option for them too.

I’m driven to create with words for a similar reason. It’s ultimately this profound magic. When one writes a thought, an emotion, a perspective, the reader internalizes that, translates that based on their own heart’s interpretations. For a moment unlimited by time or space, one person’s feelings inhabit another’s being. I think I knew I was a writer all the way back then in fourth grade with that first attempt at a novel. When I first read books and internalized something from outside of myself, a magical experience because I had not worked to call it to me, I knew someone had given it to me as a gift in the form of that book. And I thought, I want to do that. I want to gift my thoughts and feelings to someone else too.

MR:  I’ve seen your writing referred to as California Gothic and surreal. I also know that you have an interest in noir crime fiction. How would you describe your writing? Why is an award-winning, PhD professor writing such stuff? Who is your audience?

CDR:  I would describe my fiction as, yes, engaged with popular genres (sometimes many of them all at once). And there are a few reasons that I’m drawn to writing southern California gothic, the surreal, and noir, in particular.

First of all, I’m from Paramount, CA, in Los Angeles County. Los Angeles is steeped in a noir sensibility. In the Post-War period many minority populations were drawn to make their homes in southern California, and many writers, particularly of crime and noir, began writing both for film and writing fiction in a style that would translate to film more readily. Couple that with a lot of post-war immigration to Hollywood by experimental European directors, and you get this stylistic sensibility that is all at once surreal and gritty, poetic and cinematic—it permeates the voices and stories that fascinate me in books, film, and music.

Secondly, cultural-criminological research often points out how we accept narratives about urban settings from the media while the urban settings themselves have no voicing of, and no influence on, their representations in that dominant media and political sphere. So I feel a calling to write in that voice, and about those places. My audience is anyone who thinks to themselves, sure, this is a story about a crime, or a complicated, perhaps dangerous, setting, or choices that challenge my sense of morality, but I don’t want the made-for-tv-movie version of these stories oversimplifying the humans involved and their struggles to come to a decision under duress. I want the version of the story from the voice of the people who live it, and their rationale for the decisions they make whether I approve or not.

Finally, I think it’s particularly important for academics to study popular culture, and the popular genres that appeal to that culture and reveal the culture’s psychological preoccupations. Almost every American understands the convention of the Detective, Noir, or Mystery novel. That shared understanding of genre convention is a language both writer and a larger audience of readers speak, meaning the readers will remain intensely aware whenever the writer changes something up, changes the vocabulary of the genre’s language so-to-speak. That makes popular genres like crime very ripe for social commentary. What does it mean, for instance, in Word is Bone, when the male protagonists make fools of themselves obsessing over their rivalry with each other, instead of their love for their girlfriend? We wouldn’t get the satire if we hadn’t seen hundreds of white American macho detectives “get the girl,” as a palliative for post-war white-American anxieties of societal impotence, in most films noir and crime novels to hit the scene from the 30s until the 70s. A film’s projector needs the back-drop of the screen the way my subversion and transgression use the backdrop of a defined genre.

MR:  The publicity flyer for your novel, Word is Bone, says that your protagonist brings “violence and mayhem” to everyone he encounters. Why should readers care about such a character, or want to know more about him? How does such a character fit into today’s world of social media immediacy and jaded political apathy, or are those kinds of concepts not relevant to your stories?

CDR:  The “violence and mayhem” in the ad-copy for Word is Bone is a bit of an intentional misdirection. Word is Bone is largely about how reputations can become inescapable. The neighborhood rumors say that the main character June commits malicious acts, but the novel questions those rumors to mimic some of the questioning we should be doing about who gets painted the villains and “thugs” in everyday mainstream America. The novel also questions how easily we let those representations dictate, on the one hand, our own behavior and, on the other hand, our perception of the behavior of others relative to their socio-economic, political, and interpersonal circumstances. Hopefully, by reading the community’s interpretations of the main character, the reader comes to a conclusion about the dangerous community myths (like the “value” of machismo or any other self-destructive traditions) and also the role or lack thereof that certain youths have in repeating patterns that ultimately damage the community they believe they uphold.

The concepts of political apathy and social media immediacy are very relevant to all of my work, because I often represent a version of community in which not much is different from today despite a different setting in time. Our perception is that everything has changed, but in reality those changes only occur in the re-telling of certain fictional mainstream narratives by the media or by academia. In neighborhood streets frequently little changes at all. While Eurocentric academics see reality as a combination of reflexive ‘signs’ and ‘codes’ that have little or no referent to a ‘reality’ other than language, I find that philosophically useful but obnoxiously abstract. I try to point out that while academic work might exist in Baudrillard’s ‘void-like world of empty signs,’ people in the streets find crime painful, sudden, and concrete.

MR:  How would you describe your experience as a professional writer? Satisfying? Frustrating? More than you imagined? What lessons, if any, have you learned about being a writer and writing?

CDR:  Is “all of the above” an appropriate answer? Being a professional writer can be frustrating, as I imagine “any other job” can be. But the satisfaction of creating something out of nothing but imagination far outweighs the frustration. Especially when people take enjoyment from what you’ve created. One lesson that I’ve learned to help me keep that satisfaction in focus is precisely to treat writing like “any other job”.

I like to tell my students this old joke of “As a writer, I’ve never heard a plumber start a sentence with, ‘As a plumber.’” By setting concrete goals and achieving them, much of the frustrations about having such an abstract gig as “Art” dissipates. Maybe I just enjoy structure. I’m always on a rotation in threes. I work on a new novel or set of short-stories, edit a different project, and outline/brainstorm/research a third. To demystify it, I’ve got to think of it as a full-time job, even when I have a different full-time job. So, I say, dive into the writing as with anything that requires effort, without waiting on a flippant muse or rare inspiration. The sooner you dive, the sooner you’re deep under the surface of the text and swimming in the dream of whatever story you’re dying to tell.

MR:  What’s going on in Word is Bone? Who are the people that populate your stories, and where do your story ideas come from?

CDR:  Word is Bone is populated by the people of Clearwater, CA, a fictional version of my hometown Paramount in the 1990s, which I use in my novels and short-stories because it frees me to let the stories tell themselves rather than force me to try to remain “accurate,” which can be quite crippling in the writing of fiction. Word is Bone was fun to write because it’s told in the voices of several different members of the community, as well as a weaving, more cinematic, more traditional voice of an author. I wanted to let those two types of voices, the colloquial and slangy play of a community, and the more elevated diction of the traditional literary voice, exist side by side, to make a claim for their equality and differing strengths. As far as where the ideas come from, it’s a mixture of my own life experiences and overheard stories from everyday people that usually bring a character to mind. And from that point on it’s all about listening to what that character wants most out of their life and what they are willing, and unwilling, to do to get it.

MR:  What is the main reason someone should read your books?

This answer goes back to your earlier question about a PhD professor writing crime. Graham Greene liked to distinguish between his “novels” and his “entertainments.” I think that to him this meant that there was such a thing as a “literary” work and a work of “entertainment.” The main reason to read my books is that I don’t make that distinction between literature and entertainment. All of my books, whether political commentary (Silence the Bird, Silence the Keeper), SciFi/Western/Detective Mash-Up (Gods on the Lam), or California Gothic/Crime-Noir (Word is Bone), are meticulously researched and make statements about human relationships to their communities, society at-large, popular culture, and the effects national politics have on even the smallest avenues and alleyways. At the same time, I love pop-culture, I love film and music, and I try to light a cinematic fire to my pages to make sure readers enjoy themselves.

MR:  What are you working on? What are your writing goals for the immediate future?

CDR:  I’ve got two projects in the works that I’m very excited about. The first is a short-story called “Fat Tuesday,” which will appear in Both Sides: An Anthology of Border Noir from Polis Books, edited by Bram Stoker Award Nominee Gabino Iglesias. “Fat Tuesday” is about a professor in Mexico who learns his son has been injured in a nearby fight in California, by a man across the border in the professor’s old L.A. neighborhoods. The professor used to know those streets well as a youth, and wants to take vengeance, but he also realizes that his early life decisions may have caused this crime to flare in his son’s life. In his descent from his calm life in Mexico into the barrios in California, he must make some decision as to how he will handle his son's health, his and his son’s core values, and his own relationship to violence.

Secondly, I’m starting a new novel tentatively titled Sugar Means Azúcar, in which the reversal of American translation there is intentional. It’s an homage to Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man, and the 1949 Carol Reed film noir of the same name. Instead of the original post-war Viennese black-market setting, my novel comments on the human trafficking currently taking place across the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana. A reformed convict, Silas, inherits the deed to a business in Tijuana, Mexico, formerly owned by Lola, an ex-girlfriend and partner in crime who has disappeared. Thanks to a suspicious Mexican detective, Viviana, Silas finds himself the only person with information that could save a group of girls kept in hiding across the border in America.

Between those two projects and all of the books I can’t wait to read, it’s going to be a fun and busy summer. 

MR:  Thank you, Christopher, for spending some time with La Bloga.  Your comments have much food for thought.  Your approach to writing is admirable -- good luck with your books and stories, and please keep us informed about what is happening with you and your writing.



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.  His latest is The Golden Havana Night (Arte Público Press.)

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Chicanonautica: The Haunted Girl Attacks

I didn’t know what to expect from Lisa M. Bradley’s collection,The Haunted Girl. It had poems as well as stories. I don’t mind poetry, but it’s never been my thing. Like I keep saying, I’m more of a slapstick comedian than a poet

And there were a lot of them. What the hell, I dug in . . . and these were a bunch of solid gut-punchers: images of the desert . . . Aztlán . . . the sun-blasted landscape, with people and things that lurk in those shadows that can be darker than the night.
There’s this one called “Teratoma Lullaby” that scars my memory.  According to the National Cancer Institute, a teratoma is “A type of germ cell tumor that may contain several different types of tissue, such as hair, muscle, and bone.” They “usually occur in the ovaries in women, the testicles in men, and the tailbone in children.” The story (poem? Pose poem?) switches from poetry to prose and back.

This genre/format blurring goes further in “we come together we fall apart”--a serious mind-ripper about a super dysfunctional family that demonstrates the diabolical extremes of human behavior. I was shocked, and I’m an old guy who’s been wallowing in weird shit forever. It impressed the hell out of me. It really should have won an award of some kind.

The rest of the stories (or should I call them prose pieces?) were an impressive array of tough, gritty, postpunk horror tales from millennial points of view, full of amazing, weird characters,including various kinds of Latiniods.

Hmm. My term actually seems to fit this time.

So this old vato is impressed. I’m also going to be looking out for more stuff by Lisa M. Bradley. She can really mess up your mind, in a good way.

Ernest Hogan’s story “PeaceCon,” a savage, full-frontal attack on popular sensibilities is in Unfit Magazine Vol.3.