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.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Back to Books

Presenting a short list of new or upcoming books.  Nothing here about pandemics, quarantines, or social distancing.  What can I say that you haven't already heard or read?  In any event, who couldn't use a good book now?  Inspiration, escape, entertainment, support, information -- just turn the pages.


Eva García Sáenz
Vintage Crime/Black Lizard -- July 28, 2020

[from the publisher]

Already a major bestseller in Spain and Latin America, the first installment of the sensational White City Trilogy introduces Inspector Unai López de Ayala and follows his hunt for a terrifying serial killer.

Young Inspector Unai López de Ayala, known as “Kraken,” is charged with investigating a series of ritualistic murders. The murders are eerily similar to ones that rattled the citizens of Vitoria twenty years earlier. But back then, police were sure they had discovered the killer, a prestigious archaeologist who is currently in jail. Now Kraken must race to determine whether the killer had an accomplice or whether the wrong man has been incarcerated for two decades. This fast-paced, unrelenting thriller weaves in and out of mythology and legends of the Basque country as it hurtles to its shocking conclusion.

Eva García Sáenz was born in Vitoria and has been living in Alicante since she was fifteen years old. She published her first novel, La saga de los longevos (The Immortal Collection), in 2012, which became a sales phenomenon in Spain, Latin America, the United States, and the United Kingdom. She is also the author of Los hijos de Adán (The Sons of Adam) and the historical novel Pasaje a Tahití (Passage to Tahiti). In 2016 she published the first installment of the White City Trilogy, titled El silencio de la ciudad blanca (The Silence of the White City), followed by Los ritos del agua (The Water Rituals) and Los señores del tiempo (The Lords of Time). She is married and has two children.


Ecco -- August 25, 2020

[from the publisher]

An addictive and groundbreaking debut thriller set on a Native American reservation.

Virgil Wounded Horse is the local enforcer on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota. When justice is denied by the American legal system or the tribal council, Virgil is hired to deliver his own punishment, the kind that’s hard to forget. But when heroin makes its way into the reservation and finds Virgil’s own nephew, his vigilantism suddenly becomes personal. He enlists the help of his ex-girlfriend and sets out to learn where the drugs are coming from, and how to make them stop.

They follow a lead to Denver and find that drug cartels are rapidly expanding and forming new and terrifying alliances. And back on the reservation, a new tribal council initiative raises uncomfortable questions about money and power. As Virgil starts to link the pieces together, he must face his own demons and reclaim his Native identity. He realizes that being a Native American in the twenty-first century comes at an incredible cost.

Winter Counts is a tour-de-force of crime fiction, a bracingly honest look at a long-ignored part of American life, and a twisting, turning story that’s as deeply rendered as it is thrilling.

David Heska Wanbli Weiden is an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation and received his MFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts. He’s a MacDowell Colony Fellow, a Tin House Scholar, and the recipient of the PEN/America’s Writing for Justice Fellowship. He lives in Denver, Colorado.


The Painted Bunting’s Last Molt:  Poems
Virgil Suárez
University of Pittsburgh Press -- March 3, 2020

[from the publisher]

The Painted Bunting’s Last Molt explores fatherhood, parenting, and separation anxiety; and the ways in which time and memory are both a prison and a giver of joy. Fifteen years in the making, Virgil Suárez’s new collection uses his mother’s return to Cuba after 50 years of exile as a catalyst to muse on familial relationships, death, and the passing of time.

Moon Decima
If it were the Eucharist, it’d be hard to swallow,
this moon of lost impressions, a boy in deep water,
something tickling his skin. This memory of weight-
lessness—a kite that somehow still manages to hover
in the dog mouth blackness of sky. This is a cut out
moon of lost children, or is it a savior’s moon?
This boy will float on home, or be swallowed
by the water. Above the pines and mangroves,
this moon hangs unrelenting. Is it the one eye
of an indifferent God that remains open just so?

Virgil Suárez is the author of four novels, a collection of stories, two memoirs, and eight poetry collections, and he has coedited two anthologies with his wife, Delia Poey. Most recently he has published an anthology of Latino poetry titled Paper Dance. Suárez is the recipient of a fellowship in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts and a recipient of a Florida State Arts Grant.


Julia Alvarez
Algonquin -- April 7, 2020

[from the publisher]

Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep. Antonia has always sought direction in the literature she loves—lines from her favorite authors play in her head like a soundtrack—but now she finds that the world demands more of her than words.

Afterlife is a compact, nimble, and sharply droll novel. Set in this political moment of tribalism and distrust, it asks: What do we owe those in crisis in our families, including—maybe especially—members of our human family? How do we live in a broken world without losing faith in one another or ourselves? And how do we stay true to those glorious souls we have lost?

Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic for the United States in 1960 at the age of ten. She is the author of six novels, three books of nonfiction, three collections of poetry, and eleven books for children and young adults. She has taught and mentored writers in schools and communities across America and, until her retirement in 2016, was a writer-in-residence at Middlebury College. Her work has garnered wide recognition, including a Latina Leader Award in Literature from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, the Hispanic Heritage Award in Literature, the Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, and inclusion in the New York Public Library’s program “The Hand of the Poet: Original Manuscripts by 100 Masters, from John Donne to Julia Alvarez.” In the Time of the Butterflies, with over one million copies in print, was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its national Big Read program, and in 2013 President Obama awarded Alvarez the National Medal of Arts in recognition of her extraordinary storytelling.


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

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Chicanonautica: Our Myths Recovered

I meant to read David Bowles' Feathered Serpent/Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico much sooner, but I'm a writer, so I live under a mound of books that grows larger all the time. Also, the last few years have been hectic—do I really have to catalog the
Trumptopian madness?

It hasn't calmed down. In fact the last few weeks have gotten crazier. All the more reason to dig this book out one of my many, teetering to-be-read stacks. I was glad I did.

I became a mythology fan in grade school, back in the Sixties. The peplum, or sword and sandal genre caught my childish attention. Movies like Hercules in the Haunted World and Jason and the Argonauts left their mark on my sensibilities. And then I would find books.

But then these were usually Greco-Roman, occasionally Norse. Sometimes they were from Egypt, "Arabia," Asia . . . distant lands.

By the time I was in middle school, I found out about the Aztecs and Maya, in the public library; also my dad had books on archaeology. My mind was blown. There was something different about these stories. And the people looked like me.

Hell, the were my ancestors! This mythology was mine.

I wondered why there weren't any movies about them. I had a lot to learn.

This began my life-long obsession with preColumbian cultures. It shaped my world, and made me a Chicano in mind and spirit as well as genetics.

It wasn't easy.
I had to hunt down books in libraries and used book stores. And they were never easy-to-read editions.
These were often adult, scholarly works full of dull academic prose. But the subject matter compelled me. A lost world, shattered by colonialism. Someone had to to gather the fragments, reassemble them, bring them back to life.

I had often watched my dad get interested in something, go to the library, check out a stack of books, and in a few weeks become an expert.

I became a teenage researcher, a scholar. Also an writer and artist.

Today's kids don't realize how easy they have it. They just have to read Feathered Serpent/Dark Heart of the Sky and they have an excellent introduction to preColumbian cultures and mythology, and an entertaining read at the same time.

It goes from the creation myths, the hero twins of the Popol Vuh, to the Toltecs and Maya, the Aztecs (others are mentioned, ancient Mexico was multicultural), and the grand tragedy of the Conquest. The stories are separate, but they are presented as a mosaic and bring a shattered world back together again. A miracle or sorts.

I'm sure it will inspire young Chicanos/Latinos/Lantinxs/Latinoids, make them sure of their identity, and send them off to study their mythology.

The book is a remarkable accomplishment. David Bowles should be considered a true Chicano hero. He makes me feel like a slacker.

Ernest Hogan wrote this review at home, while the library where he works was closed due to the Coronavirus.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Second Week: Activities to do at home with our children

Audible, an Amazon Company

For as long as schools are closed audible is free. Children everywhere can instantly stream an incredible collection of stories, including titles across six different languages, that will help them continue dreaming, learning, and just being kids.


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


First-School features free fun preschool lesson plans, educational early childhood activities, printable crafts, worksheets, calendar of events and other resources for children of preschool age. The preschool crafts, lesson plans and activities are appropriate and adaptable for toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarten level (ages 2 to 6).

First-School's content is ideal for home schooling, preschool and kindergarten teachers, daycare, child care providers, after-school and babysitters.

Primera Escuela

Primera Escuela provee actividades infantiles divertidas para niños, materiales de educación preescolar, primaria, parvularia y nivel inicial. Encontrará temas educativos, artes manuales, manualidades recortables, fichas infantiles, dibujos para colorear y otros recursos educativos imprimibles en español.