Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Read and Listen: Aftermath of August 29, 1970, Esteban Torres Remembers

From Chapter Nine: The Movimiento.

The Autobiography of Esteban Torres As Told To Michael Sedano

 

Michael Sedano


There’s a reason Esteban Torres remains el movimiento’s unsung hero: no one’s sung his song, though there are chapters and essays by other people that circle around the man and his career. No one can sing what only Esteban remembers, so right now, Esteban and I have the music, we need a publisher.

 

And we need the pandemic to abate to reopen the possibility of writing part two of Esteban Torres’ story. That’s the part where he becomes a United States Ambassador, then Jimmy Carter’s White House organizer for all things raza. When Jimmy loses, Torres comes  home, runs for the House of Representatives. He serves eight terms in Congress. In Torres' view, he is the first Chicano in the House. He was elected to serve with a couple of Mexican Americans, they weren't Chicanos, he says.

 

I devoted two years before plague-time hit, in weekly meetings with Esteban Torres and wife, Arcy, and various adult kids. Loquacious Torres, meet Loquacious Sedano. We met memory limits, too. These memories happened so long ago, it sure doesn't seem like yesterday. It wasn't. So it goes. 

 

Part One of Esteban Torres’ Autobiography As Told To Michael Sedano recounts the early chronology growing up in East Los Angeles, graduating Garfield High, joining the Army for six years occupying Germany and guarding the eastern front. Returning from the Army on the eve of the Korean war, Love happens and Torres lands a good solid Union job welding together Plymouths in South Gate. From there, Union leadership takes him to Washington, D.C. and international organizing. He's the first Chicano, the Only Chicano, he fits in and succeeds in good times and hard, and he knows why.

 

Chapter Nine brings Torres back home to ELA. He has a mission from the Union. Use the model of trade unions to fashion community growth through mutual ownership. Thus TELACU in its original conception happens and does good, especially helpful to the burgeoning movimiento. They occupied the identical community space. This is how Chicanas Chicanos fight the War on Poverty.

 

Bert Corona and Esteban Torres vie to lead Congreso, a coalition of dozens of activist groups pursuing diverse causes para el pueblo. Torres is elected and he’s in the position to finance demonstrations that culminate on August 29, 1970.

 

In this excerpt from the movimiento chapter, Torres recounts the aftermath of August 29. Follow along as Sedano reads the text with you.

 

From Chapter Nine: The Movimiento.

The Autobiography of Esteban Torres As Told To Michael Sedano

 

Michael Sedano

 

As the leader of Congreso, responsibility came to me to make sure the permits were in place. The committee had secured our right to march. But it wasn’t free. You have to buy permits for Free Speech. 

 

I had the honor of walking into Los Angeles County Hall of Records and signing a check from the Congress of Mexican American Unity. The Chicano Moratorium march of August 29, 1970 had its permit. We were marching.

 

The August 29, 1970 Chicano Moratorium without question is the most well-known event of the Chicano Movement because it ended in a police riot. In the course of the day, three Chicanos were killed by sheriff or police…..In East Los Angeles, Ruben Salazar was killed by a Sheriff Deputy. In Los Angeles, Angel Díaz and 14-year old Lyn Ward, were shot by LAPD.

 

A Coroner’s inquest into the shooting of journalist Salazar held Southern California television audiences glued to their sofas. …. “The Coroner to the Stars,” Thomas Noguchi, and his staff, shared spell-binding testimony with law enforcement experts and street-level agents.

 

The march and killing came under a microscope, the community’s complaints about police brutality were placed on the record and spoken on live television to millions of people who knew “East LA” only as a phrase.

 

The Coroner concluded Salazar’s killing was a homicide, a man was dead at the hands of another man. The Deputy who fired the gun was not indicted.

 

The East LA antiwar protest killings followed a pattern. Earlier that year, 3 were killed at Jackson State University, and before that, Kent State University. El Pueblo Unido Jamas Sera Vencido, but at the same time we didn’t want to get shot to be heard. 

 

Despite the fervor of our intentions, after August 29th there was significant shrinkage of public support. Congreso and the Moratorium Committee did not abandon the message nor abandon marching as a communication tactic. We experienced some push-back from the community, however.

. . . 

The Comité Civico Patriotico, the club that organizes the 15 de Septiembre parade, said we—Congreso and the Moratorium Committee—weren’t welcome at the quince de Septiembre parade down Whittier Boulevard. 

 

Conservative Mexicanos, they feared our activism, they saw our goals as unpatriotic. There clearly existed a cultural and a generation gap. But we shared cultura and that was enough to open a door. Comité invited us to state our case in a public meeting.

 

Once again, Rosalio and I were the portavozes for the Moratorium Committee. We heard their side; the Consul General of Mexico would be there, the Chamber of Commerce, the Lions Club, all manner of civic organizations. Why would they want our group in the line of march?....

 

Even the most conservative American of Mexican descent understood the unequal burden the Draft and the Vietnam war placed on the community. And that had been the focus of August 29. We urged them not to allow police rioting to silence our demands against the war and all our dead Chicano GIs.

 

The Comité Civico Patriotico said we could march. But we had to remain twenty yards behind their last official float.

 

That’s where we marched on 15 de Septiembre, 1970. Two weeks earlier, thousands took to the street. There were only thirty of us. 

 

Our spirits remained strong. There’s a funny photograph of our team marching back there behind the floats and bands. Rosalio, Richard Martinez, Max Avalos, and I are in the front of our group. I’m gesturing my happiness that once again, speaking up was the route to effectiveness. We understood the Comité as people and neighbors. We offered good reasons to let us march. My team had a spot in the big parade. My upraised fist said “We fight and we win and we do not give up. Y que?”

  

Oracy & Written Words

"What do I do with my video, once I've recorded my Best 2 Minutes reading my own stuff?

Save your video with Public settings on the Face, or Vimeo, or any site where La Bloga can link for the world to share. Send a Link via email to msedano@aol.com.  Include your mailing address to receive acknowledgement of your entry in La Bloga's 100,000 Poets For Change 2021 event.

Here are details (link) on the "My Best 2 Minutes." Celebrate Oracy through an effective, considered, oral reading of your own work. Additional details in two more links below.

https://labloga.blogspot.com/2021/08/augusto-al-gusto-reading-your-stuff.html

https://labloga.blogspot.com/2021/08/my-best-2-minutes-kmart-farewell.html




Esteban Torres' autobiography is written in conversational style. More formal, academic-scented narratives, offer readers the "he said she said" challenge, of using only the vocal expression of printed text to change speakers and characters.

Nonverbal behaviors offers visual cues, like holding a fist in the air as the text reads. Think radio. Hold that fist high overhead, but hold it in the sound of your voice visualizing that hand against the sky. We can't see you on radio. But we sure can hear you. In general, audiences hear what the reader sees.

Monday, August 30, 2021

Experiencia de un viaje íntimo, melódico y cautivador en ‘Ejercicio en la oscuridad’ de Xánath Caraza por Álvaro Torres-Calderón

Experiencia de un viaje íntimo, melódico y cautivador en ‘Ejercicio en la oscuridad’ de Xánath Caraza por Álvaro Torres-Calderón

 


Leer el poemario fue un viaje cautivador de imágenes poderosas en los que se combina la naturaleza, lo onírico, el cuerpo y el mismo proceso de la creación poética como elemento regenerador del espíritu. Los poemas fluyen por la abundancia de recursos que utiliza la poeta para representar el lenguaje de la naturaleza, como el uso de aliteraciones, repeticiones, onomatopeyas, personificaciones y metáforas. Los versos en prosa determinan las experiencias de la narradora. Un punto llamativo son las palabras destacadas en negro que se entretejen al final del poema como la idea central o como resumen en un pequeño poema dentro del mismo poema. Las traducciones de cada poema por Sandra Kingery mantienen el mismo espíritu de la autora, con elecciones cuidadas en cuanto a frases idiomáticas, lo semántico y sintáctico. Así mismo, es cautivador cómo los poemas tienen una representación gráfica que enfatizan su plasticidad, gracias a la mano de Tudor Serbanescu. Como se menciona en el prólogo, este poemario cuenta con tres secciones escritas en diferentes lugares: Tierra fértil en el clima templado y tropical de México, Las planicies en el invierno de Kansas City, Missouri y Puntuación aleatoria en la primavera de Vermont.

 

En Tierra fértil, la naturaleza se manifiesta como una sinfonía de movimientos que conectan con el ámbito de la voz que narra. Lo hermoso es que los poemas pueden leerse en cualquier orden y cada uno mantiene su individualidad; pero leí los poemas en el orden en que aparecen y mantienen una secuencia: una introducción, un in-crescendo y un poema al final que puede ser tomado como la resolución o reflexión de cada sección.

 

La voz poética nos presenta un bosque sinfónico en el que naturaleza y humanidad se mezclan reflejando un lienzo de vivacidad musical y poética. Las imágenes se suceden a buen ritmo y nos sitúan en el momento que la narradora experimenta. La lluvia se personifica y canta a través de cada gota que toca las hojas de los árboles, que juntas se convierten en un sonido de ritmo constante, repetitivo y agradable. En eso, la niebla de color nacarado se une al paisaje musical. Hay una fusión sensorial de sonido y vista.

 

A medida que avanzamos en la lectura, nos adentramos en el espíritu de la poeta, quien, influenciada por la lluvia, siente melancolía, nostalgia de espacios y tiempos lejanos y lamenta los desamores. Los llora como acción necesaria para purificar el alma y abrir los ojos ante el amanecer que se muestra con el sonido de las aves, las hojas y la humeante taza de café. Los recuerdos se activan, porque es una imagen que antes la poeta experimentó, permitiéndole respirar y encontrar un paraíso. Es un paraíso que reconforta, en el cual la voz poética toma energías para regenerarse, y al buscar ese lugar idóneo convierten a su espacio en fértil y por tanto se conectan con su corazón formando la idea de esencia, origen y fertilidad de la tierra en la que se halla. Es un reencontrarse. Es viajar a este paraíso para colmarse de energías, para reflexionar y sanar de heridas mortales.

 

Xánath nos muestra un poco más de esa comunión de sentidos con su poema “El chinini”, en el que podemos relacionar la vista del árbol de chinini, árbol mesoamericano cuyos frutos son similares a los aguacates y son muy preciados en la zona de Veracruz, lugar de origen de nuestra autora. A ello se une el trinar de una oropéndola, un ave que también es típica de la región mesoamericana. El aroma del pachuli humeando termina por decorar no solo la idea de aquel espacio y momento placentero sino también presentarnos una copa de poción mágica sobre la mesa, plasmada sobre la hoja escrita de la poeta.

 

Parte de ese proceso regenerativo es el poema “Respiración”, entendiéndose como el aprender a vivir apreciando cada instante. Una suerte de carpe diem enfatizando el disfrute intenso de cada instante de vida y de naturaleza. El final de aquel poema se resume en “Pasión sin dolor efímera respiración”. La vida en la visión del poeta, así como esa respiración efímera implica también un momento, una sílaba, una imagen, sinestesias hermosas que la poeta nos presenta en “el soplo de acuática melodía”, en las jacarandas, en el trascurrir de la vida de las flores, cuyos pétalos van cayendo en un pozo, y el anochecer invernal en forma de aleteos de aves.

 

En “Se extiende en las manos” se enfatiza lo táctil, la absorción del agua del amanecer, el abrazar en la noche y el encanto sutil. El sentir del frío en el alba. Ese sentir es vivir, es parte de la sílaba melódica, de la respiración efímera, por lo tanto, el dolor es reprimir las emociones o como refiere la voz poética, es “morir en vida”. La poeta busca claridad y lucidez ante la pregunta de lo que significa vivir con ganas y felicidad. La respuesta está en las dos líneas al final: “Morir junto a ti” siendo consecuente con la idea secuencial que se va dando en el orden de los poemas, esa respiración efímera, ese instante de disfrute se comparte y se vive intensa y libremente.

 

En “Palabra que se crea”, gusta mucho la idea de la poesía como inspiración o “corriente eléctrica” que es parte de ese instante. La poesía es la luz en la oscuridad, es el soplo o aliento divino que nos inspira y nos hace pequeños creadores de vida. Al crear, nuestra obra queda plasmada y perenne, y adquiere vida; así en “Subsuelo” nuestra inspiración se materializa en tinta que se plasma en las páginas y perduran, haciendo que la respiración efímera, el instante, la vida, queden enraizados en el papel y en la memoria. El proceso de poder ingerir la naturaleza que se observa es terapia que ayuda a fluir la lluvia del corazón y a alimentar el espíritu. Las “hortensias” a las que se refiere la poeta son aquellas flores o imágenes bellas que han limpiado el corazón herido. La lluvia cesa y el alma se purifica, la energía crece y hierve como lo podemos notar en “El ojo de agua”. La consecuencia es que la misma naturaleza regeneradora limpia el espíritu y aleja los miedos que pueda haber en la superficie.

 

En cuanto a la sección de Las planicies, en el poema “Una luz verde”, entre los elementos melódicos y plásticos, la voz poética se pregunta sobre la felicidad. Es un intervalo donde la respuesta parece ser una luz verde en el crepúsculo, que abriga el corazón y derrite el hielo.

Vemos que el tema onírico toma mayor protagonismo en estos poemas y en los que la noche es propicio lienzo para delinear imágenes o sueños en capítulos.

 

En “El fondo lunar”, la poeta nos extiende un deseo de recuperar un mundo mejor enfatizando la esperanza de la alegría con la cual la naturaleza de la tierra brille nuevamente en “flores desbordadas de color” y “cascadas de luz” o en el canto de las rocas al contacto del agua. Hay un deseo profundo de que los sueños de un planeta mejor se concreten. Asimismo, notamos incertidumbre y miedos ante lo que pueda venir en el camino de la narradora. Sin embargo, el resplandor que se menciona parece adquirir un valor de esperanza, como la oportunidad de renovarse. Serán quizá las voces ancestrales de las que habla la autora en “Otro lugar”; y que hacen que se mantenga el “Corazón de jade”, apasionado, vivo en el centro del cuerpo a pesar de la frialdad ‘calcinante’ del invierno. La naturaleza se personifica, toma cuerpo quien la siente y anhela libertad, abundancia y amor. Se torna en una espera que llegará a su fin en el momento justo y que el sonido de la serpiente de cascabel representa el paso del tiempo, la memoria y el origen.

 

Estos símbolos son producto del proceso de la escritura y la creación, son poesía que se origina del interior y que inspiran a la voz poética recordar su pasado para encontrar una luz de sosiego.

En el poema “Las planicies” se puede ver la idea del origen del lugar, la influencia indígena, lo gélido del tiempo en invierno y la combinación de “danza y melodía” que como en una ceremonia ritual se invocan a las voces divinas, se contempla la faz de la luna y se vuela al silbido del viento.

 

La naturaleza, lo onírico y la memoria del pasado tienen un rol preponderante en la mayoría de los poemas de esta sección, y presenta la vida en constante lucha con la nieve y los tornados, entre la muerte del espíritu y la chispa de la creación de vida en el proceso de la escritura o la poesía como lo podemos ver en poemas como “Cálida luz de las gotas”, “Tornado de recuerdos”, “La pluma” y “Luna de invierno”. El proceso creativo de la poesía disipa los miedos, que se transforman en recuerdos en blanco y negro. Los miedos son “el jaguar onírico” que la voz poética menciona en “Luz artificial”, poema final de esta sección.

 

En la última sección, Puntuación aleatoria, se comienza con lo simbólico del paisaje, el azul de las flores, del cielo y del lago que dan color al frío matutino, en el que las aves danzan entre el aire y el agua. Lo que los miedos a la incertidumbre eran uno de los elementos de la sección previa, en la última sección, la esperanza es “la fiel compañera” que acompaña en el tiempo efímero de la vida, como el barro que se deshace fácilmente. Cada elemento de la naturaleza produce ilusión, el río es el vehículo de las pasiones y siempre tendrá un resplandor como “las líneas doradas” en “Al otro lado del río”. Ese resplandor dorado representa la esperanza, la luz al final del camino que recompensa la constante lucha contra la oscuridad del mundo, los miedos humanos, la incertidumbre del tiempo que se nos escapa de las manos y sin embargo extendemos nuestros dedos hacia la naturaleza que siempre está viva para sentir que existimos y para reconectarnos con ella.

 

Un poema que establece un pequeño alto y es representativo en esta sección es “En el jardín”. Además de ser un tributo a la poeta Emily Dickinson, revela elementos que son características importantes de la poesía de la poeta americana nacida en Amherst, Massachusetts, y con los cuales Caraza se identifica, como son la puntuación aleatoria, lo no convencional, el comportamiento azaroso y misterioso de la naturaleza, la eternidad, y el aislamiento de la autora para dirigirse al mundo desde su jardín, aquel paraíso de bosques, mariposas, aves y sinfonía constante.

 

En esta sección se escucha hablar a los arces, y nos llevan a imaginar los secretos de los bosques, nos hace pensar en su sacrificio al ser cortados en beneficio de la humanidad y nos transmite el deseo de la voz poética de querer formar un solo ser con la naturaleza, buscando un nuevo amanecer primaveral, después que “La hora azul” se haya ido. El deseo de la poeta se ve materializado en “Ventanas de felicidad”, en las cuales tenemos imágenes simultáneas de las buenas noticias como “un libro terminado, la noticia de un viaje, alguien que recuerda [los versos de la poeta]” y la celebración de la naturaleza reflejada en el sol que brilla y los animales salvajes asoleándose con la poeta. Finalmente llega la primavera en lluvia, en el sol que titila, en el caprichoso vuelo de las gaviotas, en el misterio y comportamiento aleatorio de la naturaleza, de la creación y de la poesía misma. La inspiración motiva el soplo de vida cuyo origen es divino y se plasma en lo natural y lo humano fluyendo como el agua, que brota del subsuelo y que irónicamente nace de la oscuridad, ya sea del día o de la noche o de los mismos miedos y dudas humanas.

 

Para concluir, Ejercicio en la oscuridad de Xánath Caraza es un viaje que muestra imágenes vivas, que se convierten en luminosidad para el espíritu, la plasticidad de sus versos lleva al lector a lugares en los que otros no lo pueden alcanzar porque la naturaleza entra en armonía e intimidad con uno mismo y disipa las dudas y miedos. Es una unidad, tiene secuencia, el proceso de la creación poética es una terapia en busca de respuestas y es regenerador del alma que comparte sus emociones con la naturaleza formándose un todo, sin importar los diferentes climas o geografías. Es la creación del instante y vivir ese momento valorando lo que está a nuestro alrededor. Ejercicio en la oscuridad busca la felicidad de vivir, de escribir y de existir. Disfruté del resumen esencial de los pequeños versos al final de cada poema, de los recursos que representan la naturaleza tal cual, con aleatoriedad aparente y que sin embargo es su propio orden. Asimismo, disfruté de lo sensorial del poemario, de las sinestesias y las referencias al pasado indígena, la naturaleza mesoamericana y norteamericana y el comportamiento de su naturaleza. Fue un gran viaje y aunque es un instante efímero de vida, aquella sinfonía de viento, agua, tierra y fuego queda tatuada en el alma de quien escribe esta reseña.


 





Ejercicio en la oscuridad / An Exercise in the Darkness (Pandora Lobo Estepario Productions Press, 2021)

 

 



Álvaro Torres-Calderón es Abogado peruano y Profesor Asociado del Departamento de Español de University of North Georgia. Ha participado en la publicación de Alejo Carpentier ante la crítica, Caracas: Monte Ávila 2005, con el artículo “Alejo Carpentier y el hombre fronterizo: una constante en el Reino de este mundo”, Publicó "Nación, identidad y frontera en la prosa de Clorinda Matto de Turner" en Tinta Expresa (2015). Publicó su poemario "Claroscuro," en Lima, 2010 y la versión en español/inglés en Chicago, 2014. Considerado en dos antologías poéticas en España y Rumanía. Tiene poemas traducidos al rumano y poemas publicados en inglés para Stonepile Writer's Anthology con la University of North Georgia Press así como poemas, artículos y entrevistas en revistas y páginas digitales norteamericanas, latinoamericanas y españolas. En 2018 ha publicado su libro Mujer, nación y progreso en el discurso del exilio de Clorinda Matto de Turner y Juana Manuela Gorriti. Sus temas de investigación abarcan diferentes áreas entre los cuales se encuentran el género, la identidad, la nación, las fronteras y el poder.

 

 

 

 

Friday, August 27, 2021

CALMA


The Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors, otherwise known as CALMA, was officially launched on October 15th, 2020. CALMA's Vision is to "celebrate, promote and preserve the written words of Latino Authors in Colorado." The group's Mission is to "provide hands-on strategies for aspiring Latino authors by providing forums, venues, mentoring and coaching to promote and market their work and in addition, to elevate and celebrate the current writers and authors in Colorado."  

In pursuit of its Vision and Mission, CALMA has been busy, busy, despite having to deal with COVID limitations.  In less than a year since its launch, CALMA has sponsored roundtables, book fairs, a mentoring project, and a very successful author mixer, and it has strengthened ties with local book stores on behalf of its membership.  The group has ambitious plans for future projects and events, all for the benefit of Colorado authors and Latino Literature.  If you are a Colorado Latino/a writer, in any genre, you should become a CALMA member.  More information about CALMA can be found at this link.

The next CALMA event is Books and Beer, a bookfair with twenty authors at Raices Brewing Company, 2060 West Colfax, Denver, on Saturday, September 25, from 2:00 to 6:00 PM. Children’s books, poetry, memoir, mystery, and much more will be on sale.

The launch of CALMA, and its growth and continuing success, are hopeful signs about the creative health of Colorado and the bright future of Latino/a writing. 

Hope to see you on September 25 at Raices Brewing Company for books and beer.

Later.

__________________________

Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.  His latest is Angels in the Wind, available from Arte Público Press.


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Chicanonautica: Extra-Fiction Contest Emerging in 2021

 



In the dreaded year of 2020, the Extra-Fiction Contest, a production of Somos en escrito, The Latino Literary Online Magazine and publisher, did not happen. It was canceled, a victim of COVID-19. The planet in turmoil, not enough submissions were received.


Undaunted, they have decided to try it again, even though the virus is still skulking about the planet in deadly new variants.


And once again they asked me, the Father of Chicano Science Fiction, to be the judge. I said I would, because I’m all about encouraging those in the Latinoid continuum to push La Cultura into strange new vistas.


Or as they put it: “. . . we are keeping a few of our extra eyestalks out for anything EMERGING.”


I got the news that it was a go while my wife and I were on an interstate memorial road trip in for her mother who recently, at age 99, went “traveling in time and space.” 




I was asked to make a video, so with my phone, in the Cowgirls room of the Silver Saddle Motel in Santa Fe New Mexico, I did my stuttering best to shame would-be constants into getting their caca conjunto and daring them to blow my twisted mind.


The deadline is September 30, 2021. Plenty of time, considering that it’s been one of the weirdest years ever. You should be brimming over with ideas.


The first place winner will get $100 and a copy of the upcoming Povenir Ya!,Chicano Science Fiction Anthology, that will have a new story by me. Second and third places will also get copies of Provenir Ya! There will also be two honorable mentions. All of the finalists will have their stories published online in Somos en escrito.


So, what are you waiting for? I need to get my mind blown.



Ernest Hogan somehow managed to have a career writing science fiction from a Chicano viewpoint even though the Anglophone publishing world is still convinced that there’s no money in such things. He invites all of you out there to join him in proving them wrong.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Letters from Cuba- Cartas de Cuba

  


By Ruth Behar 

 

 

Pura Belpré Award Winner Ruth Behar's inspiring story of a young Jewish girl who escapes Poland to make a new life in Cuba, while she works to rescue the rest of her family

 

The situation is getting dire for Jews in Poland on the eve of World War II. Esther's father has fled to Cuba, and she is the first one to join him. It's heartbreaking to be separated from her beloved sister, so Esther promises to write down everything that happens until they're reunited. And she does, recording both the good--the kindness of the Cuban people and her discovery of a valuable hidden talent--and the bad: the fact that Nazism has found a foothold even in Cuba. Esther's evocative letters are full of her appreciation for life and reveal a resourceful, determined girl with a rare ability to bring people together, all the while striving to get the rest of their family out of Poland before it's too late.

 

Based on Ruth Behar's family history, this compelling story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit in the most challenging times.

 



La inspiradora historia de una joven judía que escapa de Polonia para rehacer su vida en Cuba, mientras trabaja para rescatar al resto de su familia. La situación se está poniendo terrible para los judíos en Polonia en vísperas de la Segunda Guerra Mundial. El padre de Esther ha huido a Cuba y ella es la primera en seguir sus pasos y reencontrarse con él en la isla. Vivir separada de su querida hermana es desgarrador, por lo que Esther promete escribirle cartas contándole todo lo que le suceda hasta el día en que se vuelvan a reunir. Y lo hace, manteniendo un registro tanto de lo bueno la bondad del pueblo cubano y su descubrimiento de un valioso talento oculto como de lo malo: el hecho de que las garras del nazismo se han arraigado incluso en Cuba. Las evocadoras cartas de Esther están llenas de su aprecio por la vida y revelan a una niña ingeniosa y decidida, con una habilidad única para unir a las personas, mientras se esfuerza por sacar al resto de su familia de Polonia antes de que sea demasiado tarde. Basada en la historia familiar de Ruth Behar, esta impresionante historia celebra la resiliencia del espíritu humano en los tiempos más desafiantes.

 

 

Review

 

*  “Readers dive into the story headfirst as they get to know Esther, her family, and her newfound friends. Esther’s first-person descriptions of people and the island craft a vivid experience of Cuba’s sights, sounds, and culinary delights. Readers will not want to part with this story of resilience. A World War II refugee tale that spotlights dedicated hard work. A must-have.”—School Library Journal, starred review

 

* “Warmhearted cross-cultural friendship for a refugee on distant shores: both necessary and kind.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review

 

“Complemented by a vibrant supporting cast and an extensive author’s note about the Holocaust and Cuban refugees, Esther’s tale is one of adaptation and perseverence . . . while also fighting for her rights and for peace in her new home.”--Booklist 

 

“The story is in some ways refreshingly optimistic. . . . Behar creates a welcome portrait of a warm, diverse community—one that supports the family members when they do face local antisemitism. . . . But the novel doesn’t paint an overly sunny picture. . . . An author’s note cites connections to Behar’s family history and to Karen Hesse’s Letters from Rifka.”—Horn Book

 

“Inspired by her own grandmother’s life, Behar (Lucky Broken Girl) crafts a series of loving letters from Esther to her sister, describing the perilous journey and Esther’s first year in Cuba. . . . Global issues such as Hitler’s rise, anti-Semitism, slavery, and worker protests are neatly woven into Esther’s narrative. . . . Behar’s appreciative descriptions of Cuba and Esther’s close, protective bonds with her father and sister make for an engaging read.”—Publishers Weekly





Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Novelist's Poetry Estreno. In Season: Boatyard Chile Verde

Editor's Note:
La Bloga teamed with Latinopia in 2019 to spotlight one of the finest writers of Chicano United States fiction, Alejandro Morales. Here's a link to La Bloga's review of Morales' book on the plague of TB. The novelist has a debut poetry collection from Pasadena/Altadena's Golden Foothills Press. Morales note, small presses have resilience and flexibility to bring material to market in timely fashion, months not years.

Golden Foothills Press markets the publication through the dominant internet bookseller. You can order directly from the Press (link), or ask your local independent bookseller to order Zapote Tree
--Michael Sedano
 

From the Publisher: Alejandro Morales debut collection, Zapote Tree, includes 34 poems reflecting upon childhood, family, friends, colleagues, neighbors, historical figures, mythical beings, metaphysical entities, serpents, ghosts, heroes, villains, and the dispossessed. Weighty topics, like autocracy, racial injustice, and artificial intelligence, mix with good-humored, witty portraits of his wine-drinking dog, overachievers, and slacker repairmen. Zapote Tree's pathos and gritty depictions of social outcasts are balanced by Morales' joyful celebrations of loyalty, love, and resilience.

 


Q: You are the acclaimed author of about 20 books-- novels, short fiction, and nonfiction—written over a decades-long career. Why did it take so long for you to decide to write a book of poetry?  

 

I have been writing poetry since middle school, high school, and college, through the present. At first, I wrote short paragraphs or verses about what I saw, felt, experienced.  As I learned more about poetry, my poems became grounded, structured, and guided by my experiences and what I learned about the craft. This book is a compilation of poems that I wrote throughout 60-plus years of my life. 

 

The idea to put together a collection for publication came a few years ago when I met with an author friend and book publisher and asked her to take a look at some of my poems. After a while she said, “You have enough for 3 or 4 books of poems here.”  I felt the time had finally come to put my writings into my first poetry book!

 

Q: Why did you choose Zapote Tree as the title of your debut poetry book? 

 

Because the zapote tree was always there, watching over me as I grew up, during good and bad times: physically there in my neighbor’s yard in my childhood with me greeting the giant, lush tree each morning when I walked out the back door of my house. As the years passed, I imagined the zapote tree “observing” my physical, intellectual, spiritual, and creative development. The power of its nurturing memory became a kind of spiritual touchstone, an inspiration, in my life.  

 

Q:  Women comprise a sizable portion of the characters in your book. Why is that, and how do you think readers will react to these varied individuals?

 

The women in this book all have something special about them and perhaps readers, women and men, will see at least an aspect of themselves in these women who are wives, daughters, mothers, celebrities, heroes. The poems embody their suffering, their joys, achievements, ingenuity, spirituality, bravery, and triumphs. In my family and community, I always saw women as intelligent, powerful, mystical, and inherently beautiful.

 

Q:  The son of immigrants, you are still very close to your Latino roots, especially your native language. Several of your poems have lines or stanzas in Spanish and a few bilingual renditions of poems. How does bilingualism affect your poems and writings in general?

 

I don’t consider myself traditionally bilingual. Yes, I speak Spanish; but, I’m English-dominant.  The first language I heard was Spanish, and I didn’t start learning English until kindergarten. My entire education was in English. Throughout my schooling, as I learned more English words, I sadly lost Spanish words. 

 

But this created a coalescence of both languages that ultimately became the language that I speak and write in now. If you listen to the way I speak and if you read my books, you will find a strange syntax, word usage that is neither Spanish nor English but a combination of both. I consider this coalescence unique and feel that this combining gives my works an unconventional view of the world.

 

Q:  What was your biggest challenge generally in writing the 34 poems that comprise this volume?  

 

Editing the poems to fewer words. A main quality of poetry is to say more with less. The process of editing is iterative and cumulatively improves the work. No matter the genre of your writing, editors help you see what you don’t see as the creator, and I was able to work with three excellent editors at three stages of development. 

 

It took more than a year of editing to get this book ready for publication, from idea, research, first draft, multiple drafts with significant restructuring,  multiple galley proofs, and finally the release of the book. This book creation process usually takes me 4 to 5 years. What I find amazing about Zapote Tree’s production is that all this was accomplished in less time. 

 

Q:  How can Latinx authors gain more widespread recognition for their work, more mainstream exposure?

 

First, I hope readers are aware that Latinx writers are often considered one-theme authors and are expected to write only from their racialized identities. However, Latinx writers are highly diverse and explore universal themes, just as authors from any ethnic background. Latinx writers—in fact, all Latinx people— are not monolithic. Yet editors, publishers, others responsible for producing books, might “pigeonhole” us more than they think.

 

 For example, I once wrote a speculative story for an anthology of Latinx speculative stories. My narrative, which the selections committee for that book praised, was based on memory theories and was scientifically grounded. Eventually it was rejected because, I was told, “it was not Chicano enough” and the characters “didn’t have Chicano names.” These editors had put Latinx writers in an ethnic cubbyhole instead of letting us be free to write about whatever interests us. Don’t let editors like these stifle our identities and versatility.



Alejandro Morales earned his B.A. from California State University, Los Angeles, and a M.A. and Ph.D. from Rutgers University. 


Morales is an Emeritus Professor in the Department of Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. His 20 published books include: The Brick People (1988); The Rag Doll Plagues (1992); River of Angels (2014); and Little Nation & Other Stories (2014). Morales received the prestigious “Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/Latino Literature” in 2007 from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  He lives in Santa Ana, California and is now working on three projects: a biographical novel, a collection ofshort stories, and another book of poetry. Morales is considered a pioneer in American Latino literature, being one of the first authors in the 1970s to depict harsh socioeconomic conditions of barrios and to create Chicano cultural testimonies and metanarratives.



𝜴
The Gluten-free Chicano Cooks
Strike while the chile is hot, goes an old saying, casí. And it's chile harvest time this month. What could be more seasonal, then, than a re-run of a column that ran in the dead of Winter, January 15, 2019. The Gluten-free Chicano puts away 15 pounds of roasted rajas and can prepare this delicious meal year-round. That's a gentle suggestion to buy and bag your year's supply. Chile harvest time comes but once a  year.


Kathy and Jim Build a Boat. Boatyard chile verde.

Durf marveled at his teammate, a javelin thrower who lived in the Goleta monte. A born storyteller, my roommate spun a fanciful tale of a man I knew only by sight from track meets. I sought what germ of truth must lie at the heart of Durfee’s account.

Jim Clark back to camera. Barbara Sedano at right.
“Jim Clark takes his javelin to hunt deer in the mountains.” Durf's story was Jim lived for free on a remote ranch and survived mostly off the land, running down deer in the chaparral. I loved the image my roommate conjured, a wild man living at the edge of civilization because he chose to live like that, free and unencumbered. I imagined Jim Clark went hungry a lot.

Jim Clark’s girlfriend, Kathy, loved him with immense dissonance. Jim’s life was impossible to share with a woman studying to make a career teaching high school English. It was during one of their off-again separations that Kathy and I were hanging around together.

Kathy filled whatever space she occupied. Not many people chose to occupy space with her, however, because Kathy spoke her mind. A woman of wit and brains, Kathy was a formidable personality who fit perfectly into my world, especially as we both were single and not looking. An ideal end-of-college-summer partnership.

Four years have ways of changing a person’s life and attitudes. I was back from overseas and learned from the locals that Kathy and Jim lived in the boatyard along the railroad tracks. They were building a boat and needed help. I called the boatyard. I hadn’t heard Kathy’s voice in four years but I recognized her “hello?” instantly and she mine. Old friends are good friends, separations are meaningless.

I asked him about the javelin story. “I tried it one time,” Jim Clark laughed. That was the day we laid the keel for the cement boat.

Kathy looks out while Jim and friend cement the deck.

Jim had identified a pile of rotted railroad ties where some steel rails lay by the rail side. He had already picked out his keel and pulled the rail to clear ground. All he needed was someone with a truck or car to transport the rail to the boatyard.

I drove the car into the weeds where Jim directed me to stop with the rail underneath. Jim and another fellow lifted the front end and I lashed it to the front bumper. We did the same on the other end.

The nose of the rail extended a few feet from both ends of the Buick Skylark. Slowly and not spotted by cruising cops or railroad dicks, we drove the back streets to the boatyard and dropped the keel in place. In the boatyard shack’s two-burner propane stove, Kathy made her famous dumpster soup and we feasted friendship, old times, the cement boat to be.

A few months after, the boatyard shack has gained a dining table, an outdoor couch and several makeshift seats. Where we’d dropped the keel now stood a rebar and steel wire superstructure of a 40-foot boat. Jim worked on that boat with the intensity that led him to think he could chase down a deer and kill it with his javelin. The deer was certainly out of reach but Jim had built a boat. All it needed now was a skin of cement.


Months passed as Jim constructed the hull, deck, interior spaces and hidden recesses. The work took the time required. Ugency arrived with cementing. The work must be completed in one weekend so the boat dries and cures as a single mass of cement and steel that floats on the open sea. Friday after work, Barbara and I drove up from Temple City. The work was well underway by our arrival late afternoon. Jim and Kathy had lots of friends.
Jim Clark. qepd.

The third day the hull looked like a boat. Only a few people fit inside so workers took shifts pounding cement into the interior walls. Others touched up the exterior. By noon Sunday, the cement boat was done. Most of the crew had left, exulting in knowing they’d joined the culmination of an incredible feat. Jim had read books and talked to old salts, he and Kathy moved into the boatyard, and they built that boat by hand.

I volunteered to make the celebratory feast, a one-dish meal I call Boatyard Chile Verde. After Jim and the cement boat were taken by pirates in southeast Asia, Kathy sailed those waters in hopes of word. She cooked Boatyard Chile Verde for merchant mariners the world over, it was the crew’s favorite dish.

You can make this on a one-burner propane stove, or in a sartén over an open fire. Ingredients, improvisation, and preparation are the keys to making Boatyard Chile Verde.


Michael Sedano's BOATYARD CHILE VERDE
INGREDIENTS
Pork. Sub beef or chicken. 
Gf flour.
Tomatillos.
Green chile – hatch, California, mild new mexico, canned whole are fine.
El pato hot sauce.
comino
Onions
Garlic.
Cilantro
Cast iron frying pan and lid.
Paper or plastic bag.
Sharp knife.
Salt
Pepper
Chile powder
Olive oil

Into the bag, put a ¼ cup of gluten-free flour, a pinch of salt, pepper, and chile powder.

Wash and dry the (pork) meat.
Cut the meat into ½” cubes.
Dust the meat with seasoned flour in the bag.

Dice a large onion and six or eight garlic segments.
Chop cilantro to make 1/8 cup.
Chop 6-8 large tomatillos

Get 1/8” of olive oil hot in the pan. High flame.
Wilt the onion and garlic, stir don’t burn.
Toss the meat cubes with the wilted onions and garlic.
Season with salt, pepper, ground comino or a pinch of seed.
Brown.
Add the chopped tomatillos and chopped fresh/canned chiles, and the can or two of el pato.
Stir and cover.
Lower heat to medium and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to lowest simmer setting and cook for an hour, stirring now and again.

This is ready to serve right away. The objective to fork-tender bits of meat that look like meat, not a paste. Cook vegetable longer before adding chicken, then simmer raw chicken fifteen or twenty minutes until firm. Chicken is fast. Cook beef an hour and a quarter, maybe longer.


Monday, August 23, 2021

Birthing a New Book

 

The typewriter owned by Michael Augustine Olivas
The typewriter owned by Michael Augustine Olivas

On Sunday, received my copy editor's redline to my manuscript, How to Date a Flying Mexican: New and Collected Stories (University of Nevada Press), coming out in February 2022. The email included a lovely letter from my copy editor, Robin DuBlanc, that began:

“Congratulations on How to Date a Flying Mexican. Your stories are by turns intriguing, funny, poignant, charming, alarming, and above all human. I had to force myself to slow down while editing because I often had a tendency to rush to see what would happen next.”

And so, the birthing of my new book truly begins. This will be the twelfth time I’ve worked with a copy editor on one of my books (I’ve written ten books, and served as anthology editor for two), and each time, I get butterflies of anticipation. But this book is particularly special to me. As I explain in my introduction to the manuscript, my late father, Michael Augustine Olivas, loved the title story which is why I chose it to lead off the book and set the tone, if you will. I also dedicate the collection to him.

My father's declining health and my weekly visits with him inspired me last year to review my published stories of the last 20-plus years and choose my favorites for this collection. I then added two newer ones to complete it. My father, who passed away September 23, 2021, never lived to hear the news that a publisher enthusiastically accepted it earlier this year. But we had an opportunity to discuss my selection process which brought him great joy.

My father never got to publish his own fiction and poetry. He worked in a factory while he and my mother raised five children. But he wrote on a little manual typewriter when I was young and completed a novel and many poems. However, publishers rejected his submissions. I think my father was ahead of his time. Very few publishers would even consider a manuscript written by a Chicano who told stories and had themes that were not "mainstream."

He eventually destroyed his manuscripts and focused on getting his college degree and master's. So, when I became a published writer over 20 years ago, my father was so proud. Writing was our special bond. I miss him dearly.


Friday, August 20, 2021

Boosters and the Covid Reboot

 Melinda Palacio 


While people are deciding whether or not to get a vaccine, I’ve not only received both Moderna shots, but a booster to boot. I’ve seen too many people fall deathly ill with COVID. I feel lucky that I’m vaccinated and healthy and can go out into the world, wearing a mask doesn’t bother me. I think of our health care workers who often wear a combo of multiple masks and face shields all day to treat patients who refuse vaccines and mask wearing. I’ve also added vitamins C and D to my regiment of supplements to boost my immunity. 

The Delta Variant of Covid has thwarted my trip to New Orleans, where there are no hospital beds available should an emergency occur. The city has issued an vaccine passport mandate or entering indoor venues, such as restaurants and theatres. I’m surprised California hasn’t done that. Instead, we are busy with the bogus recall. I can say I voted against it. 

Yesterday, I signed up with CVS for a booster shot and was able to get an appointment within a few hours.  For those in the know, the first COVID-19 shot is no big deal. I didn’t feel the needle and I’m pretty sensitive and hate needles in general. I suppose there are some macho types out there who might claim that a shot in the arm is nothing compared to a painful pregnancy or a bullet. I don’t know. I do know the second shot drained my energy the next day. I have a feeling I’m going to be feeling low all weekend. Especially since I opted to also get a flu shot while I was at it. As I write this post, I’m already starting to feel sleepy and will cut this weblog short. As with all vaccines and preventative medicine, I’m sure happy about staying alive and healthy. After emerging from the fog of losing a loved one, you can appreciate that everyday is a gift. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Remembering the Past While Witnessing the Present

                                                        "Someone had blundered. 

                                                        Theirs not to make reply,

                                                        Theirs not to reason why,                 

                                                         Theirs but to do and die."

                                                            Alfred Lord Tennyson                                                                        

Dedicated to those who did not make it home, and to those who made it home forever changed..             


Chicano voices speak of war

                                                                           Fire Mission

     Danny Rios’ ears rang from the incessant roar of the howitzers. The smell of sulfur filled his nose. He wiped the dust from his face and watched Lt. Villareal search the ammo dump for one more HE round—nothing.

     From the mountaintop, the artillerymen listened to the embattled infantrymen fighting in the valley below. Someone pointed to the sky. Everyone looked up. There they were, like termites crawling along a blue ceiling. The ground rumbled. Danny grabbed a sandbag to steady himself. The B-52s rocked the entire valley.

                                                                              

A Moment of Silence

     The sun had begun its descent as the first chopper rose from the valley floor. Danny walked to the mountain’s edge to watch. It landed on a grassy knoll, about 75 meters downhill, a vast mountain range in the background.

     Two door gunners jumped from behind their M-60s and grabbed the body of an American infantryman. They stepped carefully from the chopper to avoid the powerful blades. They placed the body on the grass, returned to the chopper and lifted another body, carried it, and placed it beside the first. After the helicopter lifted and dipped back down to the valley floor, six dead Americans lay side by side.

     The next chopper was but minutes behind the first. The door gunners rushed, unloading one body at a time. After the chopper’s skids lifted above the earth, twelve bodies lay on the green knoll. Danny stood motionless, his foot resting on a sandbag wall. A couple of other artillerymen walked away.

     The sky darkened and a stream of choppers continued rising from below, all depositing their loads. Danny didn’t know how many choppers were involved in the grisly delivery. After a while, they all looked the same.

     The door gunners moved fast, fighting the darkness. They no longer stacked the bodies side by side. Instead, as each helicopter hovered, the door gunners, balancing in the doorway, shoved the bodies out onto the growing pile. Danny could barely see as the last chopper dropped its cargo.

     He listened as the plopping sounds of the blades faded and died. The mound of flesh looked like a messy pyramid. Darkness was nearly complete, and most of the artilleryman had returned to their gun sections.

     The mountains lay silent and stars shone overhead. Danny turned to a soldier who stood next to him, opened his mouth to speak, but said nothing. Both strained to see the corpses, but night had swallowed them. The soldier walked away. Danny stood alone, wondering about his mother and father and how they were. He hadn’t written them in a long time and felt guilty.

     He turned and walked back to the battery area. He peered into the night, and moved towards the whispering voices, faces he couldn’t see. Every now and then, a cigarette’s orange glow lighted a man’s lips and nose.

     Danny walked to his hootch, where three friends sat talking. The blast of a mortar echoed in the distance, and then came the crack of a rifle, one single shot, and the jungle fell silent.

    From Shifting Loyalties, Daniel Cano, Arte Publico Press, 1995