Thursday, September 30, 2021

New Fiction: "Like they say about sleeping dogs"

 Dedicated to Berta. To help her through trying times.

The barracks where it happened

     I moved from door to door looking for somebody in charge. I didn’t care who, a sergeant, a general, anybody. The sign next to one door said, Battalion Commander, good enough. I knocked. A roar came from inside. I entered the stuffy room, a swamp cooler kicking up a racket in the corner. A kid, a PFC, with a pimply face looked up at me. “Well? And don’t tell me you didn’t sign up for Vietnam. I don’t give a rat’s ass what your orders say. Once you’re in, your ass is Uncle Sam’s, got it! If your orders say Vietnam then that’s where you’re going.” 
     I cut him off. “My orders say Germany, not Vietnam.” 
     His brow furrowed, and his eyes bore into me. I repeated, for effect, “I joined Airborne, Fort Benning, not Germany.” 
     His jaw dropped. I rushed the next words, “I’ve got the papers back in the barracks to prove it. I need to see the post commander.” 
     I could see him trying to read me. “Privates don’t talk to the post commander.” 
     “Well, who can change my orders? They got ‘em wrong.” 
     He rose slowly, leaned forward, his hands on the desk, the clicking sound of the swamp cooler getting louder, outside, the Oklahoma heat a furnace. 
     An hour earlier, we’d received orders after graduating from Fort Sill's artillery school, most of my friends assigned Vietnam, a few to Germany, like me, Roy Sandoval, Bobby Lucero, and Birdman Montoya who told me not to mess with fate, to accept my destiny, and thank the gods for my luck. 
     “You go Airborne, you go to Vietnam, baboso,” Bobby had said. 
     I told them I’d dreamed of being be a paratrooper since I was a kid, like my dad and uncles, family pride. Truth be told, my dad was pissed when I told him I joined the army instead of going to college.
     Roy Sandoval, the oldest and smartest of our group, had said, “Pride is one of the deadly sins, man.” He shook his head, slowly, “Kiki, you think people will dig it because you got some chicken shit paratrooper wings pinned to your uniform? Nobody cares. You’ll still be a goddamn Mexican, brother. Don’t you see, it’s just a thing, you know, nothing but a thing. You got it into your head that this thing will somehow make you a man, macho and shit. It won’t. When it’s over, you’ll still be just another guy, or a dead Mejicano.” 
     After a half-hour of trying to convince me to see reason, Birdman said to everyone, “We gotta send the dude off happy, you know. Salas don’t need no bad energy where he’s going, man, so let’s just let this shit lie, ese, like they say about sleeping dogs, tu sabes.” 
     The clerk barked, “Did you hear me?” He was angry, his voice sharp? “The chief is out, just the captain, his exec. is in, and I already said, you go where your orders say. I don’t want to hear anymore bitching today about orders.” He gave me a strange look. I don’t remember what came next, except, like I’d been transported through time, I found myself standing in front of the captain, a man perfectly groomed, his khakis crisp as a board, and, on his collar, two gold shimmering bars, jump wings, three rows of ribbons, a purple heart with a star, and a CIB over his left breast pocket. He had an aura around him. He exuded confidence and pride. He turned and gazed out the window, toward the empty parade ground, his office bathed in light—the calm before the storm. I removed my cap, saluted him, and stood at attention. 
     He lowered the blinds then slanted them, letting in rays of light. He sat down. 
     “Sir,” I said, before he stopped me. 
     His voice was low, gravelly, controlled, “I don’t remember asking you to speak.” 
     “Yes sir.” “
     What did I say?” His eyes moved, as if studying every part of me, from my shoes to my waist, my shoulders to the top of my head. Since I knew I was strac, perfect, I was confident, a good soldier. I had memorized all the regulations, the Code of Conduct, even the key points to the Geneva Convention. Still, I’d never done anything like this, question authority. 
     He said, “I don’t want to hear it, trooper. The army doesn’t get orders wrong. If it says Vietnam, I can’t help you. Now get out!” 
     “My orders don’t say Vietnam, Sir. They say Germany. 
     He answered, robotically, like a kindergarten teacher, reciting instructions. “I told you…to…get…out.” 
     The words tumbled out of my mouth. “Sir, I’m supposed to be going to Fort Benning for jump school.” A cloud must have covered the sun outside. His office grew dark, maybe a shadow over the building. “I have a copy of my enlistment papers,” though I wasn’t really sure what papers were in my footlocker. 
     He had me in his sights. I couldn’t believe what I was doing. Three months ago, I was drinking beer with friends at the neighborhood park. Now, I was confronting an officer, a combat veteran, and a paratrooper. “Sir, my orders say Germany, Frankfurt. The only reason I joined was to go airborne.” 
     He remained quiet for a long time before speaking. “You said that.” 
     His words seemed to come from far away. I mean, I saw his lips move, but the sound, something about the timbre, more of a soft noise slipping into my ears. I realized I was more nervous than I thought. The sun pressed in hard, like the room was shrinking. His swamp-cooler whirred, quietly. My heart pounded, the pressure rising slowly to my face, but I stood, as trained, rigid, my eyes on a West Point baseball cap, top shelf, behind him. 
     He leaned back in his metal chair, his fingers tapping the armrests and his eyes on me, “Stand at ease,” he commanded. I relaxed, clasped my hands behind my back, and separated my feet the right distance. “So, then Germany’s where you’ll go.” 
     “The recruiter promised me Fort Benning, Sir. I don’t want to be in the army if I’m not a paratrooper.” 
     “You’re already in the army, and you’ll go where we send you.” 
     He was too young for WWII, so it was Korea, Santo Domingo, or Vietnam where he’d earned his combat awards. His face was set in stone, his blue eyes like flames. His name plate, Rivers, shone above his right breast pocket. The room brightened, again. The cloud must have moved past. “Do I make myself clear?” his words like a rifle shot, distinct, final. 
     My eyes stayed firm. I’d never spoken to a captain or any officer before. Of course, I’d heard them give orders, and we’d respond in loud cheers or Yes Sirs! But I’d never spoken to one, man to man. “Yes Sir, but….” 
      “No but…orders, trooper! You….” 
     Whatever he was going to say he stopped himself. I could have filled in the blank with a thousand words. “…Can go,” he finished. 
     I held fast. “So, the army lied to me, Sir.” The words leaped out of my mouth. “The day I walked into the recruiter’s office to sign the papers, to go airborne, he lied, and I was proud, I mean really proud, for the first time in my life. Everything changed that day. I wouldn’t have done it, I mean, joined, if I knew he was a liar.” 
     “You’re out of line,” he growled. Waiting a few seconds, he asked, puzzled, “proud? First time…your life?” 
     “Yes, sir.” 
     “How old are you?” 
     “Just turned 19, Sir.” 
     “Get out! I don’t want to hear anymore,” he said, lowering his head into the palm of his hand, breaking his pose, or, maybe, just exhausted from standing outside on the parade grounds all morning.
     “I don’t mean any disrespect, Sir. I won’t stop until someone makes this right. If I need to see a general, I will. I have the papers to prove it, Sir.” 
     I may have been on the fringes of insubordination. 
     “Rogers! Rogers!” he called, his voice hitting the ceiling and bouncing off the walls. He moved quickly, standing, without my seeing him go from his chair to his feet, all six-plus feet of him, standing there, towering over me, rays of light coming through the blinds. I did everything to keep my legs from trembling. I stiffened my thighs, knees, and calves. 
     The door opened, and the clerk rushed in. “Sir!” Rogers barked. 
     “Get this kid out.” 
     “Yes, sir!” 
     The word kid struck me to the core. Four months I’d completed everything the army had thrown at me, the harassment, the physical and mental abuse, a twenty-mile forced march with a 60-pound pack, weapons training, and too many sleepless nights firing the howitzers, from dark to dawn. A “kid,” no way. I wouldn’t move, not an inch. They’d have to drag me out. 
     Rogers grabbed me. His hand burned my arm. He tried pulling me, but I remained firm, unmovable. He had no power over me. I blurted, “You’ve got them, Sir! Jump wings.” 
     Rogers snapped, “Come on, private, out! Before you get your ass busted.” 
     The captain slowly sat down in his chair and leaned back. “You don’t know shit about it, private. You have no idea what you’re asking,” he said in a softened voice but still stern. “Go to Germany, follow orders.” 
     He appeared defeated, not just tired but weakened, his face pale, nearly white, ghostly I’m sure I didn’t have anything to do with it. He’d been meeting guys all morning trying to get out of Vietnam. 
     “I just want the same chance you had, Sir, to live my dream too.” 
     “Dream? What do you know about it?” 
     Rogers tugged and whispered, “Get the hell out. Come on before you get your ass court-marshaled. Like the captain said, you don’t know what you’re asking.” A smell came off Roger’s body I couldn’t quite place, some type of flower, roses, lilac, too much cologne. 
     “It’s my dream, Sir. You gonna lie to me too?” 
     “You can’t see it, can you, even if it’s right in front of your eyes?” 
     I wasn’t sure what he meant. I answered, “Maybe not, Sir. In fact, okay, I know I can’t.” 
     “I can,” he said, cryptically. “Dreams aren’t always what we think they are.” 
     “After jump school, whatever the army wants is okay with me, even Germany.” 
     “No, son, you’ll go straight to Vietnam,” he said, “guaranteed.” 
     “I will follow orders, Sir,” I said. Again, his eyes were on me. I didn’t flinch. I didn’t blink, fearing he’d disappear. 
     “Leave us, PFC,” he ordered Rogers. 
     “You heard.” 
     “Yes, sir.” Rogers stepped back but before closing the door said, “It’s getting close to lunch, Sir.”
     The captain’s tone changed. “Think about it,” he said, looking down at a paper on his desk, “Private, Salas, Henry, Germany. There are guys out there would pay to trade places with you. Jump school is a ticket to hell, one way. We need good men in Europe. Germany has got the best artillery outfits. We have a jump school there.” 
     I repeated, “Sir, I joined the army to jump out of airplanes.” 
    He said, as if reading my mind. “And maybe you’re right. I don’t know either, nobody ever really knows why we do the things we do, why men go to such lengths to win others’ approval, to wear uniforms and play the game. You haven’t even a miniscule of an idea what’s waiting for you, death might be preferable, might be a release from the reality of that place, the smell, the look, the hatred, plain and simple, the hell we make for ourselves, the hell we make for others.” 
     He talked like I wasn’t even there, saying, “It isn’t what you think, private. It never is. It won’t be over for you. You’ll finally see, understand, but maybe too late.” 
     He stopped talking and waited, as if my answer would determine my fate. I remained stoic. An eerie silence crept through the air. I said nothing. Then, the sound of his voice reached my ears. He asked me to wait in the adjoining room. He got up, called for Rogers, and whispered something to him. 
     Rogers told me to come back after lunch. I don’t know who said it, but I thought I heard one of them say, “I’m sorry.” 
The open canopy overhead

     When I returned, a different voice ordered me inside. A corporal, an African-American barked, “Well!” 
     I gave him my name and told him about my change in orders. He listened, his face covering the gamut of expressions as we spoke. He said, curtly, “Not possible,” emphasizing how only he and the Captain Mulligan had been at their desks all morning. 
     I walked outside and checked the building and room number. The same place, no doubt about it. Clouds now filled the sky, and I could hear thunder in the distance, Oklahoma’s monsoons, right on time. 
     I stepped back insides and asked as politely as I could if he’d check to see if anyone had placed a new set of orders on his desk. He said he didn’t need to look. He was clearly annoyed. He said guys had been coming in all morning asking for changes in orders. The captain hadn’t changed anyone’s orders all day. Everyone was trying to get out of going to Vietnam claiming all sorts of hardships. When I repeated that I’d been there earlier, maybe during his lunch break, he repeated, “Not possible.”
     “Rogers,” I said. “Check with PFC Rogers. He’ll tell you. He was here when I came in.” 
     I could hear the first trickles of rain outside. He glowered and stayed silent, then said, finally, “Who?” 
     I didn't answer and asked if he’d look at the OUTGOING tray on his desk. I could see his face tightening. His eyes shifted toward the stack of papers in the tray. He reached and picked up an envelope, papers clipped to the outside. He said, “Henry Salas?” My name dribbled off his lips. 
     I responded affirmatively. He asked, skeptically, “Reassigned: Fort Benning, Airborne?” Slowly, he shook his head. 
     “That’s me,” I answered. What a relief. His eyes were on me as he handed over the new orders and the attached travel information. He scratched his face. As I opened the door to leave, I turned and said, “Tell Captain Rivers thanks—and PFC Rogers, too.” 
     He shot back, “This a sick joke, private? Get out or I’ll report you to the A.G.” 
     The adjutant general was the Army’s legal division. I thought that kind of harsh. But I was happy to have my new orders. As I reached the door, my eyes caught the date on my orders, 1965. I turned and walked back. “Corporal.” 
     “What now?” he spat, threateningly, as he picked up the telephone. But before he could dial, I said, “Wait, look.” I pointed at my orders, signed Captain Nathaniel Rivers, dated July 25, 1965. Outside, the rain was pouring, Oklahoma rain, huge drops like golf balls. I said, “They need to correct the date. It’s ’66.” 
     He blew up and ordered me the hell out or he’d report me to the post commander for defaming an officer. “But Captain Rivers….” 
      “That’s it! Trooper.” 
     “But…the date.” I stepped toward the door. 
     He said, angrily, “Nate Rivers and Peter Rogers transferred to MACV, Saigon over a year ago. Captain Rivers was a battery commander and Rogers his assistant. They didn’t make it back. What’re you trying to pull, Salas?” 
     As I stood at the door, he said he didn’t know how I did it, how I got Captain Rivers name on my orders. He accused me of breaking into the office and falsifying my records and said if I didn’t leave, he’d have me court-marshalled. I turned and walked out, shaken but relieved. In the barracks, I took a black pen and changed the ‘65 to ‘66. No one ever questioned it. Why would the corporal lie about Rivers and Rogers? That made no sense, like putting a curse on them. He must have been covering for someone’s incompetence. It was unbelievable how far these lifers would go to protect each other. Happily, I packed my duffle bag and caught a bus to the airport for a hop to Fort Benning. 
The Eagle's Wings

     My son promised me a trip to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial for my retirement gift, but I was always reluctant, too many bad memories, and lost friends. Once there, everything was different. We located the names of my friends who had been killed, including Birdman Montoya. I mean, I knew Birdman was killed his first week in-country, after he’d spent six-months in Germany. It was different seeing his name up on the wall, my eyes welling up. I wiped and tried avoiding tears. 
     I found the names of guys killed the day I was wounded, close friends, guys who fought side-by-side, fighting a V.C. company from over-running our artillery battery. I’d spent my life trying to put it out of my mind, especially the screams inside the FDC tent, VC everywhere, the chaos, and terror, blood-soaked tables and maps, torn flesh, both American and Vietnamese, splashed against the canopy walls. 
     After spending a couple of hours shivering in the cold, I asked my son for just one more favor, to search for the names Captain Rivers and PFC Rogers, pretty sure it was just a waste of time. My son flipped through the pages of the huge directories and said, “What’s the first name?” 
     I answered, fearing to even say them out loud. “Captain Nathaniel Rivers and Rogers, Peter, I think, probably a corporal or sergeant.” 
     A few minutes later, his teeth chattering from the D.C. cold, he said, “Got it.” 
     “Are you sure?” I asked, rubbing my hands together for warmth. 
     He read their full names, hometowns, and day killed: “July 25, 1965, Tay Ninh.” 
     I began to shiver. ’65? There’s no way. “Are you sure it says 1965?” 
     He looked again. “That’s what it says, Pop. Must ‘a been early in the war.” 
     “You said, July 25, right?” 
     “Yeah.” I could feel my temperature drop. I’m not sure if it was the cold or something else. I had my son roll me back towards the Wall, where I looked up to see Rivers and Rogers names etched in stone. My son sat down on a ledge next to my wheelchair. I was too disturbed to keep moving. There had to be some mistake. 
     “Did you know them,” he asked, “those two? You talked about other guys in Vietnam but not them.”
     My voice was jittery. “I…yeah…but,” I answered, trying to unjumble my thoughts. Maybe it was a mistake. I was talking to myself. "Just some mix up," I said.
     “Meaning what?” 
     How could I tell him? My family already thought their old man crazy from going to war and losing his legs. I didn’t need to add any more fuel to that fire, and they didn’t’ even know the half of it, or how much work it took to set me free. I could see my son shivering. He pulled the blanket up around my waist. “Hey, Dad, let’s get to some place warm.” 
     “Hold on, just one second,” I said, pulling a wrinkled sheet of paper from my jacket pocket, unfolding it, and checking the date. I saw where I changed the year from the ‘65 to ‘66, though my ink mark had blended into the type, as if there had never been a mistake. 
     “The date there,” I asked my son. “What is it?” 
     He leaned down to read. “1966. 
     “Not ’65?” I asked, making sure. 
     “1966, Pop. What, we gotta get you stronger glasses?” 
      “And the signature?” 
      “Captain Nathaniel Rivers. Wait! Rivers, signed 1966, but he was KIA in ’65? Somebody messed up, somewhere,” he said. 
     I couldn’t get myself to look my son in the eyes, worried he might see something I feared, but then, like a crow's caw, clear across the Potomac, Birdman Montoya’s voice rang in my ears, “Salas don’t need no bad energy where he’s going, man, so let’s just let this shit lie, ese, like they say about sleeping dogs, tu sabes.”

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Videos- Los Angeles Libros Festival

For more information visit,

 Friday, September 24


Este es el día completo de programación con cuentacuentos, autores locales e internacionales, talleres de arte, conciertos y mucho más.  Participa en el reto en línea para acumular insignias virtuales y la oportunidad de ganar premios. Explora el calendario de eventos y asiste a la serie de programas previos al festival. Toma prestados los libros del festival con tu tarjeta de biblioteca o compra tus copias en la LA librería. Lee el blog del festival. 

 Saturday, September 25


This is a full day of entertainment for all ages featuring Spanish-language and bilingual storytelling, performances, workshops, and award-winning authors. Join the online challenge for the opportunity to win digital badges and prizes Browse the calendar for a series of pre-festival events Check out festival books from the library collection or purchase your own copy from LA librería Read the festival blog. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Roll Out the Collection: Chola Debut

Review: Estella Gonzalez. Chola Salvation. Houston: Arte Publico, 2021. ISBN: 978-1-55885-914-2 

Michael Sedano 

I took a photograph of author Estella Gonzalez during a 2008 book festival at Cal State LA. 
It was her debut as an anthologized writer. 

Soon thereafter, I got to hear Estella read again from Latinos in Lotusland, at the 
Autry Museum (link). 

The next year, when 2010's Yesterday•Today•Tomorrow Festival de Flor y Canto came to the University of Southern California, in a reunion of the historic 1973 floricanto, Estella clearly had to take the lectern on the festival's Tomorrow line-up.

Tomorrow arrives in 2021, for Estella Gonzalez at any rate, with publication by Arte Publico of Chola Salvation, her debut collection of short fiction.

People are going to make noise about this book. Some will be parents outraged at Gonzalez' dispassionate descriptions of sexual functions, of ugly sexual abuse. Some will be kids, adolescents like the 12-year old Beto who has no idea of his identity and no role model to figure things out. Others will be kids like the 16-year old Mireya who wants to efface herself behind maquillaje. 

Hopefully, some will be teachers and counselors handing the book to youth and saying, this is adult stuff that a lot of people your age face. Think about this in your world. 

Kids--YA--should read Chola Salvation and not because the kid's a chola or cholo, but because they're a kid. Stuff happens. You adults read it first.

Some of this stuff you hope not. But you gotta laugh at those monjas getting into a barfight.

This is fiction, remember. There's a lot of ugliness in this world.  Estella Gonzalez sets most of these stories in East LA. But Gonzalez isn't much concerned with place so much as the sordid, the hopeless  pain, the senselessness of abuse and its result in anomie, and the general worthlessness of some men. Or worse, sexual abuser men.

"Angry Blood" takes place in an El Paso hotel. A mother and daughter work as housekeepers. On the side, the mother whores for the soldiers from Ft. Bliss and traveling salesmen. Mother breaks daughter into the trade. In an Erendira-like turn, the daughter pulls in big money and it gives Mom second thoughts. People will scream about this one, for criminy sake! There's salvation in the story, so relax.

Here is Estella Gonzalez reading an early draft of a story that she turned into "Angry Blood." This powerful story is a good reminder that a writer can make even the worst things happen in fiction and it's up to the reader to watch her do it.


Monday, September 27, 2021

Celebrating _Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin_ (FlowerSong Press)

 Celebrating _Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin_ (FlowerSong Press)


I’m excited to invite our lectores de La Bloga to a reading of my book Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin (FlowerSong Press, 2020) on Friday, October 1, at 7 p.m. CST on Facebook and Zoom.  This event is organized by Edward Vidaurre, editor of FlowerSong Press.  Please join us by going to the FlowerSong Press Facebook page el Viernes 1 de octubre.  We are celebrating the nomination of Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin as a finalist for the Juan Felipe Herrera Poetry Award as Best Book of Bilingual Poetry of the International Latino Book Awards 2021. Corta la piel / It Pierces the Skin was translated by Sandra Kingery y sus estudiantes. Music performance by Flor Lizbeth Cruz. Espero y nos puedan acompañar. ¡Que la poesía nos salve!

 Xánath Caraza’s Corta la piel/It Pierces the Skin is a remarkable collection of prose poems in which we see the conjuring poet fearless enough to take us through personal, political and geographical terrains.  The poems are muscular meditations on rage, powerlessness, love, and ultimately the sanctity/sanity of poetry.  The title fits into the visceral world filled with the paradoxes of beauty and violence that Caraza is famous for: the fierce loneliness of the New York city trains over the Hudson, Violeta (the Salvadoran speaker, the figure who is observed, the writer who is writing the poem) discerns the full moon as “Icy, splendid, silvery white.”  In one of her most poignant political poems, we encounter the disappeared forty-third student from Ayotzinapa who sees “The stars in the heavens were shining like never before” while his mouth is “buzzing with flies.” Another poem, “Our Sons and Daughters,” captures the heartbreaking evil of separating children from their parents at the border.  Water becomes an ever increasing trope throughout as we move from New York to Lisbon to Athens, an element essential for survival as poetry itself, the poet’s “liquid words” joining the river of memory.  They “flow on placid waters.  They sway back and forth in her mouth.”  Xánath Caraza is one of the most courageous Latina poets writing today. The “silent voice of dawn gallops” towards something framed in hope, and Caraza’s poems leave you light headed, sorrowful, yet empowered.


—Helena Maria Viramontes

Author of Their Dogs Came with Them

Xánath Caraza’s Corta la piel is a very powerful piece of writing. These 62 interconnected short prose poems move the reader with images encompassing everything from the personal struggles of the protagonists to current events to the conquest of the Americas. The poignancy of contemplating a world that is, as Violeta murmurs in the first story, “so screwed up” is leavened with shimmering glimpses of the beauty of the natural world and a paean to the power of writing, all expressed in texts that sparkle with the energy and brio and authenticity found in all of Xánath Caraza’s writing.

The two protagonists in these stories afford us dual levels of reality: at the primary level, we have texts in roman script which focus on Violeta the writer. That first Violeta creates the fiction within the fiction, the italicized stories written by Violeta about a fictional character who is also named Violeta. These nesting stories emphasize the creative process as our primary protagonist invents a secondary protagonist who shares many of her experiences and concerns about the world.  Both suffer loneliness and a failed relationship, both revel in the beauty of nature (the moon, water, fog, birdsong), both are drawn inexorably back to memories of their troubled past when they hear the whistles of trains, and both celebrate the power of the written word. The dual nature of the two Violetas is most readily apparent in “Loss,” the only story that includes both roman and italic script: “The racist groups were organizing, and the weight of their negative energy was felt more strongly every day. It was heartbreaking, a threat. There’s nothing worse than ignorance, Violeta wrote, but she was wrong, there was something even worse…”. Subsequent references to the first Violeta’s writing process are more subtle as they remain in italic script: “It’s very easy to project our fears onto others and then blame them, Violeta continued writing”.

 —Sandra Kingery

Lycoming College


The first text, which also gives us the title of the collection, is an indictment of the brutality of the war in El Salvador, since the protagonist remembers that when she was a child she had to flee abruptly—by train—from the Salvadoran soldiers who suddenly appeared near her house with machine guns. That thought leads to another, current and present: the cancelation of the Temporary Protected Status or TPS for Salvadorans. Both reflections are sparked by the sound of a train and by a small cut that the protagonist suffers in her kitchen. In this way, a connection is made between Violeta’s private experience, in other words, the microcosm of the violence she has experienced personally, and the macrocosm of the violence in El Salvador and the anti-immigration politics carried out by the U.S. government. As with other texts in this collection, nature, here embodied in the song of the woodpecker that Violeta hears in the garden and in the trees that she sees from her kitchen window, helps her find peace in a foreign land: “She was soothed by the chirping sounds coming from the thick bushes.”  The social theme, constant in Caraza’s writing, is also found in “43,” a story that alludes to the disappearance of the 43 normalistas in Ayotzinapa, Mexico, in September 2014, where the narrative voice imagines itself as one of the victims who lie beneath the sun with no tomb and no justice: “In the darkness of the night, I felt warm blood trickling toward my eyes. . . ‘I’m from Ayotzinapa’. . . I am the 43.”

—María Esther Quintana Millamoto

Texas A&M University


This is a book of beautiful, poetic images of loneliness, grief and emptiness.  The persona of Violeta tells of a violent childhood of abandonment and impossible love via her travels in New York, Portugal, and Greece.   For Violeta, only ink remains; only ink is indelible.  Translator Sandra Kingery and her team of students have produced smooth, faithful translations that carry all of the sorrow of Caraza’s originals.

 —Don Cellini

poet / translator

Piedra poemas / Stone Poems


Friday, September 24, 2021

Books & Beer

I recently wrote about CALMA here on La Bloga, and today I'm publicizing that organization's Books & Beer book fair.  CALMA is the Colorado Alliance of Latino Mentors and Authors, and I encourage any Colorado Latino/a author to check it out and become a member.  The group is very active and involved in the community.  Books & Beer is the latest of several CALMA events.  Find out more on the CALMA website:  

There will be books and beer, of course, as well as a food truck, a table with information about CALMA, and twenty or so authors who will be more than happy to talk to you about anything related to writing. (See the poster below.) We will have our books for sale and if you want signed copies just ask.  Several genres will be represented including poetry, children's books, memoir, crime fiction, speculative fiction, young adult, nonfiction, self-help, and more.  

I will have my latest for sale (Angels in the Wind) at a special Books & Beer price, as well as a few of my older books.

Take a break on Saturday, enjoy some culture and good company, and be a part of history by joining CALMA authors at Raices Brewery in Denver.  Books & Beer will be the largest gathering of Latino/a authors ever held in Colorado.  This could become an annual event if it proves to be popular.

See you at Raices.  



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction.

(I'll buy a beer for the first person at Books & Beer who tells me they read about this offer on La Bloga.  Members of CALMA not eligible.) 

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Chicanonautica: Chicxulubing Into an Old/New Word

by Ernest Hogan 

Warning: R. Ch. Garcia is a cohort of mine and responsible for my getting involved in La Bloga, so I may not be completely objective in discussing his major achievement in speculative fiction, Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub. (I warned him about the hazards of introducing a strange new word to the Anglocentric book biz. May Tezcatlipoca help him.)

Anyway, Death Song, or maybe I should call it Chicxulub--readers need to get used to learning alien words if they’re going to survive in this world--is out, and it’s good, a heroic fantasy, coming-of-age story that’s also a journey of Mexicanidad, pushing the limits of the YA/Young Adult category, that’s really just a marketing gimmick (I remember when it was weird new thing, that seemed too dominated by church youth counselors, that in recent years focused on introverted high school girls of all races). 

I also remember when fantasy wasn’t considered an Anglo thing. It is the intellectual property of the entire human race, but in the Nineteen-Sixties of my childhood, it wasn’t considered proper for someone over age 12 to be interested in such things. Then Lord of the Rings became popular. I first read it around 1970 in high school, jocks would see the cover and accuse me of being a sissy, then I would show them one of the gorier passages . . . In a few years sword&sorcery invaded the paperback racks; it rapidly devolved into a commercial formula that got so Anglo I wanted to scream. This was while I was studying (on my own, school was no help) pre-Columbian, African, and other cultures, and getting inspired.

At one point I wrote an angry letter to Amazing Stories (where I would later make my first fiction sales) asking WHY IS FANTASY SO DAMNED ANGLO? (yeah, in all caps, just like that). It didn’t seem to do much good. And it took the publishers decades to begin to stop thinking that all marketable fantasy worlds were based on distortions of medieval England.

Things have changed a bit, though I must note that Chicxulub was not published by a New York publisher. And mainstream publishing is all the poorer for it.

Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub really is a major achievement. Not just an exercise in regurgitating undigested pop culture like most YA, we’ve got more than a typical Jungian monster fighting tale here. There is a lot more going on—the Dragón, la Muerte Blanca, is not just a threatening beast, she is a fully realized character and  a creation that stands out in global pop culture that has become crowded with such things. Fans of more conventional fantasy and science fiction will be impressed. She also grows out of pre-Columbian mythology.

To make it all the better, the book contains a lot of reality. The best fantasy is always intimately connected to realism. It’s set in a time and place that can be recognized as our modern world. There is a quest that goes from New Mexico, to Mexico City, to Chichén Itzá and the Yucatán—places I’ve been to on my own quests—that all ring true.

And the characters! The primary protagonist, Miguel Reilly is an Irish-Mexican (like me, though he isn’t at all like me) going against the usual stereotypes about the Latinoid Continuum. Maritza Magdelena, the leading lady, who is more of co-hero, a Maya medical student who can hold her own in a supernatural battle. And then there’s Tomás, the shaman, who is going to be compared to Carlos Castaneda’s Don Juan, but is much more interesting and inspiring.

I have always found Castaneda entertaining, but somewhat lacking, and suspect. I knew some people who went to one of his “magical passes” retreats back in the Nineties. Their descriptions of what went on did not change my mind. People who buy Death Song of the Dragón Chicxulub will be getting more spiritual bang for their bucks.

This is a big step toward the de-Angloization of fantasy. And a helluva good read. Something to buy and give as a gift during Hispanic Heritage Month. 

Ernest Hogan, has a story in Speculative Fiction for Dreamers: A Latinx Anthology (on sale now). He also will be judging Somos en escrito’s Extra-Fiction Contest--the deadline is September 30, hurry mi gente!

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Los Angeles Libros Festival


For more information visit,



Read, dream and celebrate… en dos idiomas


Friday, September 24 • 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Saturday, September 25 • 10 a.m. - 2:30 p.m.


Streaming live on Facebook and YouTube




L.A. Libros Fest ofrecerá dos días de programación en vivo vía Facebook y YouTube con cuentacuentos, autores locales e internacionales, talleres de arte, conciertos y mucho más.


Participa en el reto en línea para acumular insignias virtuales y la oportunidad de ganar libros.


Explora el calendario de eventos del festival.


Llévate a casa los libros del festival con tu tarjeta de biblioteca o compra tus copias en la LA librería.


Lee el blog del festival.


Aprende más sobre los autores, artistas y narradores orales que participarán este año.


Los Ángeles Libros Festival es un festival literario bilingüe gratuito para toda la familia. L.A. Libros Fest es una colaboración entre la Biblioteca Pública de Los Ángeles, LA librería y REFORMA Los Angeles Chapter (La Asociación Nacional para Promover Servicios Bibliotecarios y de Información a Latinos e Hispanohablantes). 

El arte para el festival fue creado por el galardonado ilustrador Leo Espinosa.



A Free Bilingual Book Festival for the Whole Family


Los Angeles Libros Festival will offer two days of entertainment for all ages featuring Spanish-language and bilingual storytelling, performances, workshops, and award-winning authors.


Join the online challenge for the opportunity to win digital badges and books


Browse the festival schedule


Check out festival books from the library collection or purchase your own copies from LA librería


Read the festival blog


Learn more about this year's authors, artists, and performers.


Los Angeles Libros Festival is a free bilingual book festival for the whole family. L.A. Libros Fest is a collaboration between the Los Angeles Public Library, LA librería, and REFORMA Los Angeles Chapter, The National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking. The artwork for the festival was created by award-winning illustrator Leo Espinosa.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Small Piece of a Global Event: My Best 2 Minutes

Aside from the ability to think up something and write it compellingly, a writer’s most important skills are reading aloud, and marketing the work. Gotta be able to write, que no? Equally, if you want your writing to find an audience, a writer needs to read aloud effectively.

Reading your stuff to an audience forms the central role in marketing the work. Marketing is the part after publication when the publisher or more often, the writer whip up interest in buying the poem. A reading in a bookstore is the heart of marketing: it churns up interest and produces sales.

A sale is the sole measure of good marketing. If you read well, someone's going to buy your product.

Standing in that bookstore, looking out at three people, looking out at twenty people, the writer needs to read out loud as compellingly as they wrote those words. Do that, and people will buy the book right there, reinforcing the bookstore’s hosting readings.

Some day, ojalá, After we’ve licked the plague and returned to normal public readings, video readings will continue to hold an important place in marketing your work. For writers whom expression itself measures all the satisfaction the writer needs, video is the right tool to document the moment.

This Saturday, September 25, One Hundred Thousand Poets For Change  (link)  stages a global event linking people around the world in a demonstration/celebration to promote peace, sustainability and justice, and to call for serious social, environmental and political change.

As our contribution to the global event, La Bloga made an open call to writers to share a "my best 2 minutes" video of the writer reading their own work.

What is “my best 2 minutes”? Not what you might think. Oracy comes in all flavors and volumes. 

Public speaking is organized civilization’s oldest educational curriculum. Back in ancient Athens, when society practiced unsophisticated problem-solving with swords, Aristotle said it was equally unthinkable a person could not defend themselves with words, or sword. Words civilized the world.

Every presentation is your “best” 2, or 5, or 15 minutes. Right here right now, it’s all the audience gets, there’s no good better best. 

Video you can edit and make stuff better. You get to confront yourself on that screen. Identify and name the reader’s skills. Plan to keep those next reading. Identify a single skill that needs eliminating or changing next reading. Work on that in rehearsal, and re-record.

Oral presentations have consequences. No one wants their audience on a death bed to be angry at you for wasting two minutes of their lives with a lousy presentation. They will want those two minutes back, so make that unnecessary. Think about your words, then give a good two minutes to that angry at you dying listener.

“I am Cinna, the Poet!” the character in Julius Caesar tells the angry mob. Someone who attended his readings says, “Kill him for being a bad poet!” Consequences, gente.

Whatever your gave us in that two minutes is your best.

Today, La Bloga-Tuesday takes pleasure sharing the work of Augie Medina and Lisbeth Coiman with you as La Bloga’s contribution to the global event.



Augie Medina

George Cried ‘Momma’


When the angry white man

Called young George the “N” word

George cried “Momma”


When the security guard

Constantly dogged him in the store

George cried “Momma”


When the teacher said to George

College was probably not for him

George cried Momma”


When the prospective employer

Asked him if he was a felon

George cried “Momma”


When the city librarian

Asked what he was doing in a library

George cried “Momma”


Each time the police stopped him on the street

Because he looked like “someone we’re looking for”

George cried “Momma”


With the assassin’s knee

On the back of his neck

George cried “Momma” --

for the last time


Now a nation cries for George

Why wasn’t George heard before?

He had to die to gain respect?


George only wanted to feel

Like “all men are created equal”

In the land he called his home



Guanajuato Sunrise


I was there before dawn’s bleary eyes opened 

to reveal the sun lifting from night’s repose.

I felt glorious seated in my little canoe

watching the palm trees along the bank 

sprout a glow of orange


The river rippled gently underneath 

a refrain to the call of the unfolding sunrise

the river thanking Helios for another day

in the land of the Aztecs

land of an orange cast


The outstretched warmth of the sun

coaxed fragrance from the palms

calling to memory

the same fragrance 

that perfumes my hometown’s air

where sister palms grow

and memories fuse




Lisbeth Coiman

Lisbeth Coiman reads "Above Sea Level," from her just-released collection, Uprising/Alzamiento. Please listen to Lisbeth via the Facebook link below.


16,076 Feet Above the Sea


16,076 Feet Above the Sea

By Lisbeth Coiman

Single file march  

plastic bags wrapped around bodies  

Hope and oxygen is scarce above the tree line

But Papa Bolívar knew how

Paramo Berlin, Colombia

16,076 feet above sea level

A two-way road along through this stretch in the Andes

121 miles between despair and uncertainty

On the perilous stretch

Marchers discover death by hypothermia

Between Cucuta and Bucaramanga

Accept food and clothes from the Samaritans of the mountains

On the way down to an unknown future

Bodies regain heat despite starvation

And litter the road with broken promises

Single file march out of inferno

4900 metros sobre el nivel del mar

By Lisbeth Coiman

Marcha en fila india

Cuerpos envueltos en bolsas de basura

Esperanza y oxígeno escasos por encima de la línea de los árboles

Pero Papá Bolívar supo qué hacer

Páramo Berlín , Colombia

4900 metros sobre el nivel del mar

Una carretera doble vía atraviesa este estrecho andino

194 kilómetros entre la desesperación y la incertidumbre

En este trecho peligroso

Los caminantes descubren la muerte del mal de páramo

Entre Cúcuta y Bucaramanga

Aceptando bondades de samaritanos de montaña

Cuesta abajo en camino a un futuro desconocido

Los cuerpos comienzan a recobrar el calor 

Incluso en la frialdad del hambre

Desechando una estela de promesas incumplidas

En su marcha fuera del infierno