Saturday, April 04, 2020

Myriam Gurba - Speaking Truth to Power and Facing the Dirt

What happens when you refuse to knuckle under to revisionist white telling of our narratives AND you call out your faculty for racist/abusive behavior? If you're Myriam Gurba de Serrano, you get get removed from your school and walked out by security.

Myriam was instrumental in speaking out against American Dirt and its author, who recently discovered spray tan in a can. Rather than expounding on the book or Oprah, or McMillan's white blindspot, take a minute to read her lynchpin piece, which appeared in Tropics of Meta -My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature.

It was this article, along with the leadership of David Bowles and others the debate led to the development of #DignidadLiteraria and a meeting with McMillan, while only a beginning, signals that we will not be quiet.

Myriam Gurba in her classroom at Long Beach Poly High School where she teaches in Long Beach, 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.
From the Long Beach Post

Myriam Gurba speaks at a panel hosted by #DignidadLiteraria on “American Dirt” and Latinx visibility, held at Antioch University on Thursday, Feb. 6.  (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

From her website:

Myriam Gurba is a writer and artist. She is the author of the true-crime memoir Mean, a New York Times editors’ choice. O, the Oprah Magazine, ranked Mean as one of the best LGBTQ books of all time. Publishers’ Weekly describes Gurba as having a voice like no other. Her essays and criticism have appeared in the Paris Review,, and 4Columns. She has shown art in galleries, museums, and community centers. She lives in Long Beach, California, with herself.
Myriam Gurba’s Mean is “a scalding memoir that comes with a full accounting of the costs of survival, of being haunted by those you could not save and learning to live with their ghosts.” It also “adds a necessary dimension to the discussion of the interplay of race, class and sexuality in sexual violence.” – NYTimes
“Like most truly great books, Mean made me laugh, cry and think. Myriam Gurba’s’s a scorchingly good writer.” – Cheryl Strayd, NYTimes


  • Publisher: Coffee House Press
  • Available in: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-56689-491-3
  • Published: November 7, 2017

  • Publisher: Manic D Press
  • Available in: Paperback, Kindle
  • ISBN: 978-1933149905
  • Published: May 19, 2015

  • Also reviewed in La Bloga, here.
  • Publisher: Manic D Press
  • Available in: Paperbook, Kindle
  • ISBN: 978-1933149165
  • Published: May 1, 2007
You got kicked out of your school because of your critiques. What's the big picture message you want to send to your students?

The school district sent me a letter stating that my *forced* leave was not retaliatory. Lol. Do I believe them? NO. I want my students to know that racism and other forms of oppression have no place in education and that some adults are truly committed to fighting against those phenomena. I want them to know freedom. I want them to live freely. I want them to understand what Assata Shakur meant when she said, "No one is going to give you the education you need to overthrow them." And a lot of motherfuckers need to be overthrown.

What do you think the COVID 19  pandemic will produce in terms of writing, art making, resistance?

I've been thinking about something a friend recently wrote. That this is a shit time so why make any art to commemorate it because we won't want to remember it when its done? Once its done, let's pretend the pandemic never happened. I oscillate between wanting to learn all I can about the virus and its current and future impact and wanting to do the ostrich thing. I'm watching it degrade trust in public institutions, especially state institutions, and I'd like to participate in organizing various "overthrows" but how the fuck can we do that when we can't be together? That's the rub. Shall we storm Versailles wearing masks and gloves? I don't know. Most writers and artists I know are panicking and grieving since they've lost income, some of them have lost ALL OF THEIR INCOME, EVERYTHING, because art gets cut first, and yet, what does the world want in order to survive the horror? Art. Lots of it. People want to be entertained or inspired. But the world doesn't want to pay us for our services. They think being broke is our muse. Money is my muse. (Not really). I need it to live.

June Jordan wrote: “If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.” Talk about predictability and control and the its gifts and its costs.

I love freedom. It cost me a lot to become as free as I am this moment. It cost me my position as a classroom teacher. It cost me friends. In some ways, it has cost me my "reputation." And I don't give a fuck. Waking up and walking through each day "unchained" is the best. Spontaneity reminds me that I'm alive and that I can change this story at any moment. I'm writing this story *because* its mine. I prize spontaneity in thought, action, and word and I push myself to create environments that nurture spontaneity. Its why I tend to say that a quiet classroom is a suspicious classroom. Learning doesn't happen quietly. Its social. Classrooms ought to be social as fuck. And nobody should EVER have to raise their hand to pee.

What's something you think would surprise people to know about you?

I'm not into cats.

Friday, April 03, 2020

The Future Caught Up To the Present Thanks to Covid-19 or We Zoom Now

Melinda Palacio

Life feels as if we have boarded a space ship at warp speed and time traveled into an apocalyptic future where humans no longer interact face to face, let alone touch each other. There’s a shortage of toilet paper, paper towels, tissues (any kind of soft paper that can be used to wipe the nether parts). Hand sanitizer and all kitchen, toilet, and bath cleaning products are also scarce, not because these items are difficult to make, but because some humans have panicked and decided to hoard these products either for their own shelters or for a potential profit, pandemic price gauging. There’s also a virus infecting every human, rich or poor, young or old and there is a shortage of kits to test whether or not someone has the virus. To make matters worse, a person can feel fine but be a silent carrier of the virus, possibly infecting their friends, coworkers, and family. Shutting down society and social distancing is the only cure. All non-essential work and schooling has ceased and the people must stay home to save the world and end the pandemic. 

If someone were to describe the current situation to me six months ago, I would have thought it a horror or apocalyptic story of the worst kind, B-movie material at best. Yet, this is where we’re at with all social activities including work and worship canceled, entire communities on lockdown. Some people seem to be going stir crazy with boredom. Through apps such as Zoom, some have found solutions to keep working, studying, and overall keep a loose grasp on ties to friends and loved ones. As someone who has more musical hobbies than I can keep up with, guitar, ukulele, and singing, I welcomed the time when little demand was placed on me and social distancing meant keeping to yourself. As Covid19 continues to peak and more people realize what a long haul this pandemic is forcing upon us, I find I have to pull back from all the virtual social activities tugging for my attention, whether it’s a zoom hangout or a live stream concert on facebook. Part of me wants to interact virtually with all of my virtual friends, but part of me knows I need to guard my time and energy for my creativity and writing. Anytime I can do an activity that doesn’t involve mindlessly staring at my phone is a win for me, a win for humanity. 

After all, everyone from Toddlers to Elders are connecting through zoom. I’ll always push for less screen time, but it seems as if we have lost that war. To combat this, I suggest everyone participate in National Poetry Month, place a poem in your pocket, memorize it, recite it to a friend or colleague next time you have a zoom meeting. Enjoy your solitude, read more. Don't panic. To the person hoarding toilet paper and wheat flour, please stop. 

Stay home, stay safe, and wash your hands.    

Don't have a poem to memorize? Try this one. 

Mango Juice
by Pat Mora

Eating mangoes 
on a stick
is laughing
as gold juice 
slides down 
your chin
melting manners,
as mangoes slip
through your lips sweet but biting

is hitting pints
blindfolded and spinning
away from the blues
and grays

is tossing 
fragile cascarones
on your love’s hair,

confetti teasing him
to remove his tie
cant and shoes
his mouth open
and laughing
as you glide 
more mango in,
cool rich flesh 
of Mejico

music teasing
you to strew 
streamers on trees 
and cactus
teasing the wind 
to stream through 
your hair blooming
with confetti and butterflies

your toes warm 
in the sand.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

Dirty Blankets

   Note: I had planned on continuing the next chapters of my novel, but as I shopped for hard-to-find items at Northgate Market and looked at the people around me, this story came to me. It is a work of fiction. Any resemblances to people alive or dead is a coincidence.                                                                            
    Med Men’s prices were steep, and the Mayan MJ Mfrs. had closed down during the crisis, something about unauthorized licensing, and I needed a good night’s sleep, what with all the bad news in the media.
     A friend told me to try Satiro’s Sin Semilla on Slauson, just off Braddock, west side, 1313, near the Projects, straddling the L.A.--Culver City border, always a geographic puzzle for the local gang, having to choose between the two municipalities, causing shifting loyalties, so the guys called themselves La Chiva.
     This was years before anybody ever heard of Guadalajara’s soccer team, a sport unknown to most Westside kids in those days when Pop Warner football reigned supreme. To add to the confusion, many Mexican families settling in Culver City were transplants from Sotel [considered a quasi barrio, due to its close proximity to Westwood and UCLA] having to move when the freeway tore through the heart of the neighborhood.
     I hadn’t been down to the Projects in years, but, as I said, I was desperate for sleep, hence, my authorization for a medical marijuana card.
     Satiro’s is located in a granny pad on top of a garage behind Siriaco Ortega’s two-bedroom home. My friend told me I couldn’t miss it, to just look for the house with the biggest nopal out front, and to not use the word “cannibus.” Satiro hated it, no fancy names for his product, just plain old “weed”, nickel and dime bags, like the old days, except a “nickel” meant fifty bucks and a “dime” meant a-hundred.
     When I asked my friend if Satiro had anything for sleep, aches and pains, anxiety, stomach problems, muscle relaxants, my friend looked at me funny. “No, man. It just gets you loaded.”
     When I arrived, I lined up in the driveway behind two other guys. That’s when I heard the upstairs window open. A man wearing an n-95 facemask and a shaved head popped his head out. “Hey! Give me some social-distancing down there. Six-feet, and don’t make me have to say it again.”
     Like kids following orders, the three of us put some space between us.
     The first guy in line said he came here because there’s less chance catching “the bug,” and he kept calling it "the bug." He was one of those guys who talked even if no one was listening. He said, “I used to go to a place up on Wilshire, Med Max and another place in Santa Monica, Medi-Wana, places folks with money go cuz those places get the best stuff. But it's those people that's carrying the bug and passing it on.”
     “What about the people down here?” the other guy asked, backing up a foot to keep the six-foot distance..
     “Naw. People here don’t travel, bro’, so it’s safer. That’s why I’m here. I got it all figured out.”
     He kept on like we were old friends. “The paper says highest corona outbreaks are Brentwood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, the Palisades, and West Hollywood, rich people, the ones who take ocean cruises and fly everywhere for work, New York, China, like that. Now, they're even passing it on to their nannies and gardeners. Still, dude, until this blows-over, I’m hanging down here in the ghetto. Since the feds talked about the Wall, people down here been quarantining longer than anybody else.”
     The guy in front of me said, “Yeah, but this ain’t the ghetto, anymore, not with those new condos across the street. Betcha Siriaco could get a mil for his pad, easy, maybe a mil-two. This neighborhood is changing--fast, gentrifiers.”
     Just then a young woman wearing a Villanova sweatshirt and tight shorts jogged by, her perky blonde ponytail swinging under a black Pirates’ baseball cap. She was pushing two kids in a high-tech, double-seat stroller, followed by a red Irish setter on a leash. The guy talking said, “See what I mean.”
     The first guy starts again. “I used to shop at Whole Foods for their 365 Value Brand, and Trader Joe’s, good fresh fruits, vegetables, and quality Trail Mix, but no more. Heard some poor grocery clerk caught the bug at Pavilion's, get my point? I'm telling you, the people who shop there are carrying the bug—rich people, mask or no mask. They travel, bring it back here, and pass it on to the rest of us. I loved the meats at Gelson's. No more.”
     The other guy said, “Yeah, like the cavalry giving dirty blankets to the Indians. Hmm, makes sense.”
     “Damn right it does. I’m hanging out down here. I used to shop at Gonzalez’s, over on Centinela, ‘til they changed the name to Northgate. Now you got people from the Marina all up and down the aisles, like they own the place. I found everything I need at Anacleto’s Abarrotes over on Inglewood and Wagner, down the street from El Abajeno, even had toilet paper, last rolls. You want some killer Chimichangas try Chiriaco Chiflotes' over on Centinela and Short Avenue, near where the sporting goods used to be, you know, where Mago's was.”
     He kept on, like we were taking notes, “Panfilo Miraflores' Birria, in Inglewood, Tomasino’s Tacomasos in Hawthorne, Caramelo’s Carnisima Carnitas on Crenshaw and 119th.”
     Upstairs, the window opened again. The bald-headed, masked-man looked out, his voice a little muffled. “All right,” he said, “just checking.” He closed the window.
     I asked, “How about burritos?”
     He didn't even flinch, “No place like Bobby Malacara's Burrisotas on Victoria, east of Redondo Blvd, in Gardena., except, you know, now they're all to-go only. Best to call your order in advance.”
     “You still live in the neighborhood?” It was the second guy in line asking.
     “Naw, man, moved out in the nineties, after I got my degree at Dominguez Hills, houses a lot cheaper in Torrance, bought a ranch-style house with a pool.”
     “Why don’t you shop out there?”
     “Too much ethnic-blending, bro’, even in Hawthorne and Lawndale, too many people with expendable income and names like Brandi Aguilar or Ferguson Machado. I'm suspicious of everything, so I make it back here whenever I can. My wife and kids think I'm a nut.”
     “What if you bring the bug here?”
     He looked perplexed.
     “You mean like I’m passing out dirty blankets?”
     The second guy raised his eyebrows. "It's possible."
     "I'm into software, man, been working from home before all this started."
     That’s when two girls and a guy carrying little brown bags and wearing cheap facemasks came down the stairs, and Satiro called, “Three more. But nobody comes in without a facemask. I'm giving 'em away with each lid you buy.”
     Behind us, a gaggle of people came up the driveway. Satiro shouted, pulling down his mask, “Only three at a time, man! Back up. Six-feet apart, no joke,” and replaced his mask, quickly.
     One of the new guys said, “Hey, Sati, you still open ‘til midnight?”
     Satiro answered like the guy had said something dumb. “Why do you think I tacked that sign up on the garage door. Limited hours, only--until four, no exceptions. I'm not taking any chances.”
     I checked my watch. It was 3:35.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

Third Week: Activities to do at home with our children

Epic! was born out of a single question: How do we make books more accessible to kids? As parents, it always seemed strange to us that our kids could so easily play games and watch videos on their iPhones and iPads, but the same couldn’t be said for books. So in 2013, we decided to build the first “epic” reading experience, designed just for kids. Today, Epic! has grown into an award-winning subscription service, which gives millions of families and classrooms instant, unlimited access to thousands of books, videos and quizzes from leading publishers to help kids everywhere read, learn and grow.

For more information visit, 


Author and illustrator, Rafael Lopez is posting black and white drawings from his books that didn't make to the final cut.

He says, “This way young readers will discover drawings never seen before and an opportunity to color them in their own way. If you like to share your drawing post it on social media with a hashtag like #yomequedoencasa, or #maybesomethingbeautiful.”

Other illustrators are joining to this great idea!

Joe Cepeda

Steve Musgrave

If you are an illustrator, you can post your art on social media and add   #yomequedoencasa  or #maybesomethingbeautiful

Kindergarten worksheets are a wonderful learning tool for educators and students to use. This is why we have and will continue to create hundreds of free kindergarten worksheets that are designed to fit into a standard kindergarten curriculum. The main focus of our kindergarten website is to provide free educational resources. In these difficult economic times, we believe kindergarten teachers and parents can benefit greatly from our printable kindergarten worksheets.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Gluten-free SOS

Michael Sedano

"Come on, crawl on out of there!"

Sergeant Pinkerton, Pinkie, strode through the barrack every day at 6 a.m. and thus the day began in the admin area of Bravo Battery 7th of the 5th air defense artillery. A regular Army breakfast is the same every day, choose eggs, bacon, pancakes, avena, dry cereal, papas, toast, coffee, milk. The treat is lunch and dinner. 

Hey Cookie, what's for chow? When we're in luck, the menu is everybody's favorite, "shit on a shingle," S O S, or as the white-clad cook reports, Creamed Beef on Toast.

Every once in a while, an old soldier has to have some SOS. The Gluten-free Chicano is no different and that once in a while arrived recently. SOS has a warm spot in many a soldier's and Veteran's heart. It truly tastes delicious and is so hearty a food for a cold day. In fact, my Dad used to ask my Mom to make SOS, but as a kid we had it with dried salted beef from a jar.

At any rate, the recipe is incredibly simple, it's probably the first dish Army cooks learn to make. In Plague-time with its depleted stores and larders, SOS might be the only food in the house! And if you don't have shingles, mashed potatoes or cauliflower are tasty. If you don't use papas, this is not only gluten-free, it's low carb chow.

The Gluten-free Chicano does not eat bread, of course not. So this meal features steamed cauliflower as the base. You can use mashed potatoes instead.

SOS - Estilo Gluten-free Chicano

Ground beef
Gluten-free baking mix
half and half
salt, pepper, turmeric, garlic powder, onion
Fresh cauliflower

The Gluten-free Chicano cooks for two, so this preparation involved a scant half pound of 90-10 ground beef. A higher fat ratio produces more liquid and flavor in the gravy.

Steam the cauliflower and trim away the core and stems. At Casa Sedano, la chickenada devoured that cooked stem. You can slice it and serve it for dinner.

Spray a frying pan with non-stick coating if you wish. It makes clean-up easier. 

Over medium flame, add a small amount of olive oil, garlic powder, onion, salt, coarsely ground black peppercorns to heat, adding the ground meat and breaking it up.

I added Turmeric powder for color and salutary benefits.

Brown up the meat.

When the meat is fully cooked, add a quarter cup of gluten-free baking flour and stir it into the cooked meat.

Stir a little  half and half, or milk, into the pan and let it begin to thicken. Add the rest of your liquid to thin it down. Stir and cook until the gravy reaches the right viscosity for you. 

Thin with tap water if you want. If you over-thin with water or milk, cook it a few minutes longer, stirring constantly. It'll thicken for you.

Turmeric gives a nice orange tint to the dirty-white gravy. If you want to tickle the heartstrings of an old GI, find a banged-up metal tray and serve.

Monday, March 30, 2020

'Metztli' Edición bilingüe

Metztli Edición bilingüe by Xánath Caraza (Capitulo Siete; Coacalco de Berriozábal, Estado de México, 2018)
Translation by Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple
Review by Donna Snyder

In Aztec mythology, “Metztli” is a god or goddess of the moon. Gender is fluid. In some traditions, Metztli fears the Sun’s fire, in others, they wed. Today the Nahuatl word is primarily used as a feminine name. Make a crazy leap from Nahuatl, a living language originating with the pre-Columbian Mexica people of Central America, to the Urban Dictionary. Here, Metztli is identified as a moon goddess, but also as an energetic and artistic girl who is romantic and sensuous, yet innocent. Curiously, I did not research the meaning of the word until after I had already read Metztli, Xánath Caraza’s recent bilingual collection of stories. Knowing makes all the difference in seeing.

Caraza wrote Metztli in Spanish then worked with Sandra Kingery and Kaitlyn Hipple to translate each story into English with the support of a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and funding from the Lycoming College Student-Faculty Research Program. Kingery has collaborated with Caraza before, and she and Hipple appear to have developed a clear understanding of how Caraza’s poetic mind works. 

As noted in my previous review of Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, an earlier fiction collection, Caraza often appears in her own narratives, as a character with a fictional name or as an unnamed author referenced in stories. In Metztli, one of Caraza’s narrators falls in love with a character in a book being written within the same story. The writer enters the book and interacts with the other characters while the story shifts to the story within the story. As described by a narrator in one of the pieces in Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, Caraza’s characters possess the power to “dissolve from this dimension to reappear on the printed page.”

In “Thursday,” midway through Metztli, the main character, a writer, could be describing Caraza’s book.
My book is laden with sorrow.
I tried to convince the publishers that it was a book about traveling, a book of metafiction. But I knew it was actually laden with sorrow, with losses I collected over the years, sometimes as their protagonist, others as mere spectator, all of it persisting through time. Sorrow that I safeguarded within the lines, that remained in the design of the letters, that I exorcized as I wrote each of them on paper.
In my review of Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings, I noted that Caraza’s stories are imbued with Federico García Lorca’s aesthetics of duende, “a fascination with both death and great erotic desire…precipitating a momentary experience of the sublime.” García Lorca tells us that the duende is found when “Through the empty archway a wind of the spirit enters, blowing insistently over the heads of the dead, in search of new landscapes and unknown accents….” As an immigrant and a traveler, Caraza has internalized a multiplicity of identities as well as the constant pulse of loss and departure. 

In “Citizenship,” two brothers left behind their widowed mother to attend university, not seeing her for several years until they unexpectedly appear to witness her swearing in as a United States citizen after working as a dishwasher for most of 20 years. The story reveals a kaleidoscope of memories and emotions: the complexity of grief following the death of an abusive husband, the longing for her sons, the struggle with learning a new language and culture, the decision to become a naturalized citizen. The repeated ruptures in connection mirror the lives of real immigrant workers and asylum seekers, already sorrowful to be forced to leave home, only to have their families ripped apart at the U.S. border. Here in the borderlands of Mexico and the U.S.A., these separations are real, wrenching, and daily. 

Metztli’s characters parallel the author’s migrations. They leave their homelands only to feel years later an anguished longing for the details of daily life. Originally from Xalapa in the state of Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, she has lived many years in the U.S.A., while frequently travelling throughout the Americas, Europe, and Asia. In “Lemongrass,” a woman receives a box of gifts from what could be Caraza’s own homeland: 

[A] dress with colorful flowers embroidered on the chest, canned mangoes in syrup, epazote for frijoles, acuyo leaves to wrap tamales rancheros, dried beans, and a peasant blouse with embroidery on the cuff. [She finds that her] departure from Mexico has helped her remember. She’s spent her first year far from the smell of fresh tortillas….
The mammoth sense of loss felt when a lover leaves is broached several times in the collection. In “Prelude,” college students revel in an unconsummated desire born of a mutual devotion to Bach, Scarlatti, and Nietzsche. Their world is filled with near magical sensory details such as a room inexplicably filled with green lightning bugs. The girl is devastated when the boy disappears, only to be spied with another girl weeks later. In another story, “Thursday,” the narrator reveals the extent of her pain after being left.

I cried in the car. In the office. At home. Before walking into a meeting. Between classes. I cried while showering, while cooking. I cried until the table where I was writing these lines flooded, and the sound of my tears mingled with the sound of the rain…The night is neon-blue cold. Metallic rain continues to fall….
The growing friendship between women who are grieving the loss of their lovers is beautifully described in “Gentle Breeze.” “Without realizing it, without making an effort, little by little, they stopped saying those names.”  Caraza’s format reminds us that time is an artificial construct. Perhaps we experience loss in this reality, yet physicists tell us that we may continue to exist in another universe. In the other universe, we may not suffer that grief. 

The fire of first love is always unique but can hint of banality when viewed from outside. Consequently, the last story in the book, “Voices in the Sea,” was a small disappointment in an otherwise stimulating and pleasurable collection. Taken as a whole, however, Metztli dazzles the reader with the interconnectivity of its stories and intrigues us when the fiction is juxtaposed with its writer’s own life. In the title story, the narrator is a Mexican who has lived abroad many years.

She had traveled in Morocco for five years, dancing in different cities. . . . Before dancing, she would prepare her iridescent feathers, seashells, jade necklaces, and turquoise rings. She made sure that the pre-Hispanic instruments she used in her show, like the huehuetl drum, were ready to vibrate like a living heart. She carefully inspected the clay pots that she filled with varying amounts of water to turn them into percussion instruments, and she confirmed the depth of sound of the teponaztli drum. As time went by, while she danced, she began to feel Morocco flow through her veins. Two rhythms began to beat within her, perhaps three now, indigenous, Moroccan, and Spanish.
In addition to writing poetry and fiction, Caraza teaches at the University of Missouri-Kansas City and writes for various scholarly publications related to Latinos/Latinas and their shared, yet disparate, cultures. Caraza has won honors in Central America, Europe, and the U.S.A, such as receiving the 2014 Beca Nebrija para Creadores, from the Universidad de Alcalá de Henares in Spain. She has been translated into English, Italian, and Greek; and partially translated into Nahuatl, Portuguese, Hindi, Turkish, and Romanian. 

Caraza was a finalist in the Multicultural Fiction category of the 2013 International Book Awards. Also in 2013, her book Conjuro won multiple international awards. Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings won several international awards. Her book of poetry, Sílabas de viento/Syllables of Wind, received the 2015 International Book Award for Poetry, as well as other prizes. In the 2018 International Latino Book Awards, Caraza’s Lagrima roja won First Place for Best Book of Poetry in Spanish by One Author and First Place for Sin preámbulos/Without Preamble for Best Book of Bilingual Poetry by One Author. The book at hand, Metztli, won second place in the 2019 International Latino Book Awards for Best Short Story Collection.

While the names of characters change, the stories in Metztli are interwoven, with repeated motifs such as winged insects, birds of portent, and references to the keen pleasure of drinking a cup of tea and reading. Most importantly, each main character presents another face of the same moon.

“I usually think in colors, feel colors, smell colors, see images. . .” says the narrator in “Thursday.”  Both Metztli and Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings describe this anomaly known as synesthesia, the triggering of one sort of sense impression when a different sense is stimulated. Both books are saturated with color and sensuality. In Metztli, Caraza’s subject is sorrow, yet she catches readers in a storm of eroticism, emphasizing that the sadness of life can be redeemed by art and the pleasures of the physical world. The senses counterbalance life’s inherent sorrow, and only through embracing the duende is there hope to encounter the sublime.

Donna Snyder
Donna Snyder founded the Tumblewords Project in 1995 and continues to organize its free weekly workshop series and other events in the borderlands of El Paso, Texas. Her poetry collections include Poemas ante el Catafalco: Grief and Renewal from Chimbarazu Press, I Am South from Virgogray Press, and The Tongue Has its Secrets from NeoPoiesis Press. She previously practiced law representing indigenous people, people with disabilities, and immigrant workers.