Monday, October 14, 2019

Lara Medina in Kansas City for the Day of the Dead 2019 Celebration at the Writers Place

Lara Medina in Kansas City for the Day of the Dead 2019 Celebration at the Writers Place

Por Xánath Caraza

La celebración de Día de Muertos en el Writers Place en Kansas City será el 25 de octubre de 7 a 9 p.m. Día de muertos en el Writers Place se ha celebrado desde 2010 y para este año tendremos una serie de eventos que llenarán la noche de cempaxóchiles y humo de copal. 

Nos acompañaran el grupo Calpulli Iskali para abrir la noche.  Calpulli Iskali se define, a través de las palabras de Arelis Flores, como: “A family that continues to grow as we search for knowledge of our ancestors to find our identity through traditional Mexica dance and prayer.”

Tendremos dos altares para compartir con el público, además de comida tradicional para Día de Muertos.

Este 2019 es particularmente especial porque nos acompañará Lara Medina para presentar la antología Voices from the Ancestors que la University of Arizona Press recientemente publicó. Lara Medina y Martha R. Gonzáles son las editoras de esta importante publicación.  Espero y nos acompañen.

Voices from the Ancestors brings together the reflective writings and spiritual practices of Xicanx, Latinx, and Afro-Latinx womxn and male allies in the United States who seek to heal from the historical traumas of colonization by returning to ancestral traditions and knowledge.

This wisdom is based on the authors’ oral traditions, research, intuitions, and lived experiences—wisdom inspired by, and created from, personal trajectories on the path to spiritual conocimiento, or inner spiritual inquiry. This conocimiento has reemerged over the last fifty years as efforts to decolonize lives, minds, spirits, and bodies have advanced. Yet this knowledge goes back many generations to the time when the ancestors understood their interconnectedness with each other, with nature, and with the sacred cosmic ­forces—a time when the human body was a microcosm of the universe.

Reclaiming and reconstructing spirituality based on non-Western epistemologies is central to the process of decolonization, particularly in these fraught times. The wisdom offered here appears in a variety of forms—in reflective essays, poetry, prayers, specific guidelines for healing practices, communal rituals, and visual art, all meant to address life transitions and how to live holistically and with a spiritual consciousness for the challenges of the twenty-first century.”

—University of Arizona Press

Lara Medina, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies at California State University, Northridge where she teaches courses in Chicanx history and Chicanx spirituality and religious diversity.  She earned her doctorate from Claremont Graduate University in American History and a MA in Theology from the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. Her first book, Las Hermanas: Chicana/Latina Religious Political Activism in the U.S. Catholic Church (Temple University, 2004) won a Choice Book Award. Her recent co-edited book is titled Voices from the Ancestors: Xicanx/Latinx Spiritual Reflections and Healing Practices (Arizona University Press, 2019). She also has several published writings on Días de los muertos in Chicanx communities and Chicana feminist spirituality. She is first generation college educated and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and now resides in Los Angeles.

Friday, October 11, 2019

Review: A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son

A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son: Stories by Sergio Troncoso
Sergio Troncoso
Cinco Puntos Press - October, 2019

[from the publisher]

How does a Mexican-American, the son of immigrants, a child of the border, la frontera, leave home and move to the heart of gringo America? How does he adapt to the worlds of wealth, elite universities, the rush and power of New York City? How does he make peace with a stern old-fashioned father who has only known hard field labor his whole life? With echoes of Dreiser's American Tragedy and Fitzgerald's Gatsby, Troncoso tells his luminous stories through the lens of an exile adrift in the 21st century, his characters suffering from the loss of culture and language, the loss of roots and home as they adapt to the glittering promises of new worlds which ultimately seem so empty.


Review by Manuel Ramos

The "peculiar" son in Sergio Troncoso's latest short story collection is a resident of New York City, or perhaps New England. Maybe Iraq or the fantastic Library Island. He was born and raised in the Ysleta barrio of El Paso, Texas. His parents were “traditional” Mexicans. He is a success by the standards of the Twenty-first Century United States. He has a beautiful wife, loving children, respect of his peers. Given all that, what makes him “peculiar?”

The linked stories in A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son describe with insightful precision the predicament of those not born into the wealth and security of white upper middle-class (and above) America, but who, because of their talent, intelligence or perseverance, find themselves caught up in the throes of a neurotic American dream, with an overlay of nightmarish betrayal, hypocrisy, and loss of meaning.

The characters in these stories often are captured by Troncoso at the crux of an existential crisis. For example, in Rosary on the Border, a prodigal son returns home for his father’s funeral, and the son remembers that his father once told him, “We love you, David, but sometimes we didn’t know what to do with you. You are not like any one of us.” David recalls the dark and negative history of his life with his father. He remembers the embarrassment and frustration of dealing with the close-minded man, and how he felt removed from his mother because of the father. He concludes that he has “always been alone.” And yet, at the end, he stands guard, as he puts it, at his father’s casket. “I face only my father and who I am.”

In Fragments of a Dream, the tragic Maribel contemplates her future and is about to make a decision that will change her life forever. She is a sophomore in high school and a motel maid who has determined that she can “have everything,” that she can escape her family, escape returning to Narcolandia, escape being deported. Her boyfriend Hector, a Puerto Rican, is her means of escape. She envisions college for herself, a GED for Hector, a life made up of dreams, “’cause everybody dreams, just not everybody pays attention to all dreamers.”

Troncoso tells the heartbreaking tale of Maribel and Hector with agonizing clarity and patience. Their fate is not to be denied, even if there is no justice or fairness in the outcome.

In a cover blurb for the book, Junot Díaz praises these “aching stories.” That’s exactly how I felt when I finished reading the book. The knife of short fiction can cut close to the bone, and Troncoso yields a razor-sharp scalpel. His characters have escaped whatever it is that stood in their way, be it old superstitions or even older racism, but too often the price they pay has left them injured, not healed, adrift in their self-imposed exile, far from what should be home, yet in a place where they must be to survive.

Life in America, indeed.


I get the chance to talk with Sergio Troncoso about his gut-wrenching collection of stories, A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son, at the Tattered Cover in LoDo (Denver) on Saturday, October 12 at 2:00 P.M. Please join us at the bookstore.


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

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Chicanonautica: Help Lucy Veloz Fly

Alex Hernandez is a Cuban-American science fiction writer based in South Florida, author of the novel, Tooth and Talon. and story collection, Transhuman Mambo. He is also the father of two daughters, and had noticed some things while looking for books for them:

Based on 2018 Amazon data, only 18% of the bestselling children’s books had a female protagonist and according to Time’s 100 Best Children’s Books of All Time, just 19% of the most critically acclaimed children’s books had female protagonists.

To compound things, a mere 5% of books published in 2018 depicted a Latinx character, as found by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, School of Education, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

5%!!! In 2018! And that’s both male and female. If you look at only Latina characters, the percentage becomes almost insignificant.

So he’s decided to do something about it. He wrote Lucy Veloz, The High-Flying Princess, the story of a smart, brave girl who uses her marvelous inventions to become a superhero when the conquering Drood arrive on her planet.” 

It’s a chapter book for ages 6 to 8, with illustrations by artist Patrick Lugo. There’s science, adventure, and all kinds of stuff that will entertain kids of all ethnicities, but especially let Latinx girls (and boys) see characters like themselves do the world-saving for a change.

He’s doing a crowdfunding to get it published (yeah, yeah, do I have to explain that the mainstream publishers, even of kid’s books are still hesitant about this sort of thing even in this day and age?), which gives you a chance to help.

So go here and donate, (I did), and tell your friends and family.

Kids will have fun, learn a few things, and maybe go on to invent things and do some world saving of their own.

Ernest Hogan will be the judge of the Second Annual Somo en escrito Extra-Fiction Contest, for which the deadline has been extended to October 14th.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019

Caravan to the North: Misael’s Long Walk/ Caravana al Norte: La larga caminata de Misael

Written by Jorge Argueta
Illustrated by Manuel Monroy.

*Age Range: 9 and up
*Grade Level: 4 - 6
*Hardcover: 112 pages
*Publisher: Groundwood Books

This novel in verse is a powerful first-person account of Misael Martínez, a Salvadoran boy whose family joins the caravan heading north to the United States. We learn all the different reasons why people feel the need to leave the hope that lies behind their decision, but also the terrible sadness of leaving home. We learn about how far and hard the trip is, but also about the kindness of those along the way.

Finally, once the caravan arrives in Tijuana, Misael and those around him are relieved. They think they have arrived at the goal of the trip to enter the United States. But then tear gas, hateful demonstrations, force and fear descend on these vulnerable people. The border is closed. The book ends with Misael dreaming of El Salvador.

This beautiful and timely story is written in simple but poetic verse by Jorge Argueta, the award-winning author of Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds. Award-winning Mexican illustrator Manuel Monroy illuminates Misael’s journey. An author’s note is included, along with a map showing the caravan’s route.

Esta novela en verso es un poderoso relato en primera persona. Cuenta la historia de Misael Martínez, un niño salvadoreño cuya familia se une a la caravana que viaja al Norte, hacia los Estados Unidos. Nos muestra muchas de las razones que hacen que personas sientan la necesidad de irse, la esperanza que se esconde detrás de esta decisión, y la terrible tristeza de abandonar sus hogares. Es un aprendizaje sobre lo largo y arduo del viaje pero también sobre la bondad.

Cuando la caravana finalmente llega a Tijuana, Misael y los que lo acompañan se sienten aliviados. Piensan que han alcanzado la meta del viaje de entrar a los Estados Unidos. Pero enseguida el gas lacrimógeno, las protestas cargadas de odio, la fuerza bruta y el miedo caen sobre esta gente tan vulnerable. La frontera sigue cerrada. El libro termina con Misael soñando con El Salvador.

Esta hermosa y relevante historia está escrita en el verso accesible y poético de Jorge Argueta, el galardonado autor de Somos como las nubes / We are Like the Clouds. El premiado ilustrador mexicano Manuel Monroy ilumina la travesía de Misael. El libro incluye una nota final del autor y un mapa que ilustra la ruta de la caravana.


“The award-winning Salvadoran writer Argueta offers a brief but powerful novel in verse. … [His] spare text is given emotional potency through Misael’s observations of the members of the caravan …” Booklist, starred review

“Deceptively simple black-and-white line drawings accompany this wrenching account of the humanitarian crisis taking place in Central America and at the U.S. border. … This moving work should help children understand the current national discussion.” Kirkus Reviews

Jorge Argueta is an award-winning author of picture books and poetry for young children. He has won the International Latino Book Award, the Américas Book Award, the NAPPA Gold Award and the Independent Publisher Book Award for Multicultural Fiction for Juveniles. His books have also been named to the Américas Award Commended List, the USBBY Outstanding International Books Honor List, Kirkus Reviews Best Children’s Books and the Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices. Somos como las nubes / We Are Like the Clouds, illustrated by Alfonso Ruano, won the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, was a Malka Penn Award for Human Rights in Children’s Literature honor book and an ALA Notable book, and received many other honors. A native Salvadoran and Pipil Nahua Indian, Jorge Argueta has returned to El Salvador and built a library in his backyard in San Salvador so that children can learn to love books.

Manuel Monroy is one of Mexico’s most celebrated illustrators who has exhibited his art in Mexico, Cuba, the Czech Republic, Italy, the Netherlands and Japan. He has won the A la Orilla del Viento and the Noma Concours Encouragement Prize, and he has been included on the IBBY Honour List. His illustrations appear in Rooster / Gallo, Be a Baby (Se un bebé), When I Was a Boy Neruda Called Me Policarpo, What Are You Doing? and Why Are You Doing That? He lives in Mexico City.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

What Olivas Said

In La Bloga-Monday, Daniel A. Olivas has this to say, among other things:

La Bloga-Tuesday finds Daniel's message well worth repeating. See above.

Note the theme of tempus fugit or "save twenty dollars" when you place your order now until this Saturday. On Sunday, attendance is last year's top-dollar seat price, $100. That's interesting to note, the fundraiser hasn't raised its prices amid rising expectations and ever-rising prices.

Tia Chucha is a bookstore. Tia Chucha is a publisher. (link) Tia Chucha is a publisher of raza poets. You get the point behind the fundraiser. Niche publishers of near-impossible-to-find literature merit support on the basis of what they bring to the public mind. Publishers survive from people buying their books. Buy the press' books (link), you can do that wherever you read, you don't have to be in LA and environs like attending the fundraiser.

Many readers enjoy Tia Chucha's productivity and personalities. Some as yet unfamiliar with the enterprise might enjoy a tour of the Press website, where it notes:
By 2005, TCP was transferred to Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, becoming its publishing wing. TCP developed a growing list of new poetry books, including from emerging writers such as Patricia Spears Jones, Richard Vargas, Luivette Resto, Linda Susan Jackson, Susan D. Anderson, Jose Antonio Rodriguez, Melinda Palacio, and Mayda Del Valle. An anthology of the best of Tia Chucha Press appeared in 2005: “Dream of a Word: The Tia Chucha Press Poetry Anthology” edited by Quraysh Ali and Toni Assante Lightfoot.

Speaking of Tia Chucha, I searched my foto files for the earliest Tia Chucha images and found two from the dedication of a location in San Fernando. Tia Chucha's had lived in three locations, if memory serves. The files date to August 23, 2016, when opening ceremonies included dusting mural outlines on a courtyard wall.

Here's a more recent foto, (link) a reading at the current location in Sylmar, Califas. The October 26 gala takes place in DTLA, not Sylmar. La Plaza de Cultura y Artes is fast taking a leading place as a showcase of historical and contemporary raza arte.

Pictured: Alyssa Granados, Andrea Gutierrez, Christine Granados, Jesus Salvador Treviño, Alicia Gaspar de Alba