Friday, April 28, 2023

Closing out Poetry Month with Lori Anaya

Lori Anaya


Letter to My Face 

Lori Anaya 


I never liked how you were almond shaped 

A perfect blend of blue to green and flecks of gold, but 

Different from the rest 

Not as beautiful as my mother’s, 

Passed out on the table 

Day after day oozing innocent sleep 

And hate 

Instead of dinner 

Eyes, if only you could be dark 



Like Attila 

Or cafecito, morenito, abuelitos brown 

Guarding past, future, 

Now, guarding my tears 

Even those that do not fall 

Eyes, you watched 

Four sisters disappear 

To the house on the hill 

Without me 

Eyes, you turned away 

From sticker fields 

Fist fights and kick fights, 

From planting trees and beautiful things 

To the nowhere and the nothing 

Of searching for sweet crumbs 

Eyes, you left me to mend decades, and 

Places where the bears once fought. 

I’ve grown to love you, Eyes, 

Lizard hunting days 

Orange-pink dawns in soft sand 

Drawing horses 

And cloud portraits 

Watercolor dreams 

I’ve grown to love your place in my life 

On the mask that is my face 

Above the nose I didn’t want 


Even though you are perfect 


Sloped in a straight line like my father’s 

And not the beautiful strong nose of my mother 

You are the nose of stink and silences 

Of dank dungeon, unwanted 

Of people who claim to be family, 

Of refrigerated vodka, no ice cubes needed. 

I’ve grown to love how you smell sweetness 

Outside the door of childhood 

How you smell the young skin of Nephew’s daughter 

How you smell calmness and strength 

How you smell dead animal, pine trees, even rain 

Or fear... 

You fit perfectly in the oval face 

That is my mask 

Lips, hiding so many words 

Lies and truths unspoken 

And some you’ve had the courage to bring forth 

You are full and beautiful 

You are language 

And translations 


Catholic incantations 

Spanish trills 

Tewa hills 


English, Spanish 

Even problematic, sometimes, but 

You call forth words 

Help me greet the world 

And share my heart 

Eyes, Nose, Lips 

You were the unwanted face, of 

The unwanted daughter 

The unwanted words rang out 

When my father said he never loved my mother 

You make me glad you were a mask, 

Lone sentinel 

I never realized 

I could love you 


Dear Heart 

 Lori Anaya is a bilingual teacher, poet, writer, presenter, and one of five sisters. She is a Southcoast Writing Project Fellow and Young Writer’s Academy instructor. Published in short story and poetry: the Santa Barbara Literary Journal, Avalon Literary Review, and She is an active member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, a Summer Conference grant winner for middle grade, and picture book creator. When not writing, she rides a paint mare into The Land Conservancy where nature overlooks the fact that she is human. 

Thursday, April 27, 2023

The Docent



The New South

       Where did the slaves live? Really? It's my last shift, and they have to ask that.

     Look, I have as much respect for veterans as anybody else, but this is 2010 not 1910. The South has changed since he was here, what did he say, back in 1966? And to compare South Carolina to Georgia, where he said he trained in the Army; give me a break. Georgia’s more like Alabama and Mississippi. A soldier can't count the military the same as living in a state, hanging out in bars on a city's sleeziest streets. That’s like passing through.

     Slavery? This isn’t the antebellum South. This is Columbia, the home of USC. I can’t say we didn’t tell our new supervisor how visitors wanted to know about slavery. Ranger Evans said the best thing to do was avoid the subject. I tried to argue, but he said he didn’t want to hear any more about it.

     Where’s my camera? Here, okay, I’m ready. That creaky old door is still hanging on. Oh, it reeks in here. No wonder they don’t want visitors to see this place, brick and mud walls, algae growing through muck. Oh, that smell! Okay, I’ve got to get through this. There’s a rotted wood roof, nothing else, a couple of square holes in the walls for light, and a dirt floor, deep sludge from yesterday’s rain, and the smell. God! It reeks awful!

     See if I can get a good shot in the dim light. Damp, cold walls, leaking ceiling, well, not really a ceiling because, like I already said, it’s a rotted wood roof, and not the original. I heard the original wasn’t much better, just old slats covered with some kind of leaves and branches. I got to be ready, just in case they decide they want us to show it and talk about it. We heard visitors were starting to complain, like we aren’t really covering the real history.

     Well, still, only they asked about it, and wanted to see this place. Chicanos, from out west, they called themselves, Mexicans, I guess.

     I haven’t been to these quarters in a long time, not since I started working for the Park Service. Whew, depressing as ever. Why would anyone want to see this? Like why didn’t him and his friends ask more questions during the tour of the mansion and plantation? They didn’t speak up, even when I showed them the colonial front porch, the latticed eaves, high ceilings, hand-carved original 1800s French furniture, Dutch porcelains and China, Persian carpets, Spanish tapestries, or the classic paintings. Not a peep. 

     I studied so hard to make it informative and interesting, jokes and all. I could tell them everything about the Whites here at Lush Grove, their history going back to England. I researched more than the other docents. I mean, like, I wanted to be prepared for any questions visitors had, especially teachers and students.

     I made sure I told them about the clavinet, hand crafted in Paris, in the 1600s, even, and how it had belonged to William III and Mary of England. But no, not these guys, they wanted to know about slavery. Where did the two say they came from, El Paso, and the other, the veteran, from Los Angeles. 

     They dressed pretty nice, polo shirts and slacks, and I guess I’d call them handsome, not like the Mexicans out here, the ones who work on the farms and meat-packing plants. It surprised me they didn’t have an accent, not like our Mexicans. Heck, my accent is heavier but I’m trying to lose it. Actually, I liked the way they teased each other, kind of cool and hip, not like the older men down here, conservative and serious.

     I always get a little anxious during the end of the tour, when I know somebody will ask, “Where did the slaves live?” It’s like people think I’m trying to act like there weren’t slaves here. I tried changing the subject, like Ranger Evans told us, but they wouldn’t let it go. I could see even other people on the tour looked embarrassed. So, I pointed them here, this row of mud bungalows, the only remnant left of the slave quarters, dank smelling rooms, even when the sun’s out. Come to think, I'd like to know more about it, like how they did survive out here, even the worst stuff.

     It’s depressing here. I have no idea why, given the plantation’s five thousand acres, anybody wants to see this. We, docents, did suggest that if we couldn’t discuss slavery, the state should destroy these old buildings.

     I’m sensitive, okay. I have black friends, but I think some visitors ask about slavery to embarrass us, embarrass the South. We aren’t like that anymore, like, my first boyfriend was half black. I mean, I get it, but it’s time our schools teach the truth, no matter how bad it was, but our politicians just won’t wake up. We can deal with it. Heck, it might even help tourism.

    At the end, it looked like everyone enjoyed the tour, especially when I showed them Mr. White’s 4,000 book library, some original manuscripts, and pages of sheet music imported from Europe. That is part of it, right, our legacy? We appreciate culture. I know we were more cultured than the North, back in the day. The greatest of the founding fathers were southern, educated, enlightened, and believed France was more sophisticated than England. Thomas Jefferson, and even James Madison, loved the French court. They hung out at the salons and had a personal relationship with Louie XVI and Marie Antoinette. So, why can’t we talk about all of it, the bad with the good?

     It was in the dining area, when one of them, the veteran, asked, loud enough for everyone to hear, “What’s in this frame? You didn’t mention it.” 

     Now, anyone could see it was Mr. White’s ledger. It had the names of slaves, the date he bought them, how much he paid, and the cost for upkeep. At least he gave them names. That gets me. I point out all the beautiful objects, and they ask about that. I disobeyed Ranger Evens. Instead of dodging the issue, I told them, from my research, the Whites treated their slaves better than other plantation owners from around here. Some locals said the Whites had happy slaves, I mean, considering the circumstances.

     Uh, my allergies. I’m getting out of here. The smell is just awful, makes me, Ugg, want to gag. How could anybody live in a place like this? Whew! I guess it was better than sleeping out near the swamp with the mosquitoes, cottonmouth, and those razor-sharp weeds, out under the burning sun and pouring rain. That’s where the rebel slaves lived, the ones who were caught running away or tried stealing food. But come on. All of that was over a-hundred-and-fifty years ago—past-history.

     Gosh, the time, I’ve got to get back to the dorms and study. Wait! There they are, the Mexican men, dang, right next to my car. Just my luck. I wonder why they’re pointing at the gift shop.

     What? Oh, yes, of course I remember, hello, again. What’s that? Oh, Emma, Emma Marshall. Got it, Raul Armenta. Hi, Mr. Raul. Yeah, we still call our elders mister or sir, Southern manners. Cool. I’ll just call you Mr. Raul.”

     Sure, well, maybe they will include the slave quarters in the future. I guess there’s so much to see the supervisors want to keep everything moving, you know, to keep everyone on schedule. I’ll tell you a secret, just between us. The younger docents…we want to talk about it, a lot of history there, good and bad, like all states. What?

     Well, thanks very much. It’s so nice of you to say. All of us work hard to learn the little details. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Are you visiting South Carolina long? Oh, an educator's conference, and ending today? You did. Great. Great.

     Well, bye, now. What’s that? Oh, no, no, this is just a part-time docent job. I’m a student at USC. What, Southern California? No, not that one, the other one, the University of South Carolina.

     What? Oh right, we’re the Gamecocks. Yup, pretty good at football. What’s that? Starting my senior year. A June graduation. I’d like to go to grad school. Sure, I’ll apply, but I’ll probably need a job. Dad’s a mechanic and Mom teaches elementary school, not a lot of expendable income. Ha! Thanks. I studied quite a bit to learn it all. You are all so kind.

     Ah…sure, Dr. Armenta, I mean Mr. Raul. Yeah, sure, hello. Dr. Reza, Dr. Arias, oh, Dr. Avila, and Dr. Sales…? Oh, with an A, Salas, excuse me. Well, I’m glad to have met you all. What’s that, Mr. Raul, your card? Well, sure…yes, sir. I’d love to study at UCLA. A vice-chancellor, in Admissions. I mean I thought about it, but, well, my parents just don’t have that kind of money. What? Oh, my God, sure! Scholarships? Is that possible, me being an out of state student and all. Yes, yes, sir, about a 4.0. Okay, I will call you, for sure.

     And thank you for your service, Mr. Raul. You did see it, great, our Veterans’ Memorial in Columbia, my dad says is one of the most beautiful in the country. We are proud of it. That’s right, we get a lot of visitors to Lush Grove. Thanks again, so much, and it was nice meeting you all. What’s that? Oh, yes, sir, I will send my transcripts. No, I won't forget. Okay, now, bye.

      My keys, where are they? I hope this piece of crap starts. One day I will afford a reliable car. What are they doing now, still looking at the gift shop. What a strange thing to ask, if there’s a souvenir shop at Auschwitz?

     Thank God…it started. I’m out of here.


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Macondo Celebrates National Poetry Month

The Macondo Celebrates National Poetry Month is taking place this Friday, April 28th at 6:30pm CST!  

Here is the link to sign up for the webinar:

This virtual reading and scholarship fundraiser will support writers attending the 2023 Macondo Writers Workshop in San Antonio this summer.  Please support your fellow Macondistas by attending, donating and spreading the word far and wide.

Thank you so much,

Board Members

Norma Elia Cantú

Olivia Mena

Charles Rice-Gonzalez

Pat Alderete, Applications Administrator

The Macondo Writers Workshop is an association of socially-engaged writers working to advance creativity, foster generosity, and serve community. Founded in 1995 by writer Sandra Cisneros and named after the town in Gabriel García Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, the workshop gathers writers from all genres who work on geographic, cultural, economic, gender, and spiritual borders.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

PALMAM QUI MERUIT FERAT: Melinda Palacio, Poet Laureate

PALMAM QUI MERUIT FERAT: Melinda Palacio, Poet Laureate 

Michael Sedano

It’s such a mark of progress when a city gets something so right as Santa Barbara has, in naming Melinda Palacio the city’s Poet Laureate for the next two years. 

The City knows what it’s doing; its Laureate webpage acknowledges Melinda as the first Chicana laureate. La Bloga shares our joy that our Friday colleague has earned this honor.

The Laureate read her inaugural eponymous poem in City Hall. Santa Barbara Is A Poem is the first Chicana poetry to grace that auditorium.

Melinda's but the first of her writers group to stand up there and read. 

WOmen Who Write, WOWW, Palacio's writing group, includes several up-and-coming writers whose work has begun gaining some of that qui meruit notice. 

Órale, Amada Irma Pérez on your extensive work with children's literature and writers; órale Mona Frazier on the upcoming YA Garden of Second Chances; órale Florencia Ramírez on the provocative Eat Less Water and a recent Earth Day recognition. Please click the links for additional information.

Women Who Write, Santa Barbara's writers group

Melinda’s inaugural poem, “Santa Barbara Is A Poem,” begins as paean to the city’s wondrous climate, a first stanza not speaking its placename, instead offering this place “Aztlán” noting “Chumash land” is just past the city limits. 

“Jacaranda”---not Jack-a-rand-a—flowers add to the city’s colorful arboreal fiesta in the next stanza. 

The City Fathers won’t get it, but the code-switched line, “Santa Barbara eres una poema” is the most Chicana line of all. And at the end, the poet reminds paradise's gente not everyone lives flawless lives in this Eden.

Palacio has told gente she’ll probably correct the grammar to make poema masculine, but “una poema” mirrors la chicanada’s fluid relationship with our heritage tongue. 

What the City’s Laureate selectors get is Melinda’s work spans public service to publication. 

Melinda’s been a tireless volunteer at the Santa Barbara Writer’s Conference as well as a long-ago winner of its poetry prize. 

The lively local poetry (pre-GOPlague) scene in Santa Barbara shared lots of reading events where Melinda would shine as spotlight performer. In Santa Barbara, Melinda Palacio is famous all over town in the best way. 

Out-of-town critics validate Santa Barbara’s choice, Palacio the qui meruit of numerous awards for a literary resumé that includes both poetry and fiction: 


Folsom Lockdown

How Fire Is a Story, Waiting 

Bird Forgiveness (review in link)


Ocotillo Dreams 

Casa Sedano hosted Melinda for a reading featuring Melinda’s Bird Forgiveness in a special afternoon for my wife, Barbara. 

Dementia stole poetry from Barbara. I cherish a day Barbara was struggling to read Bird Forgiveness, unable to decode the marks on the page. I read to her. We laughed at the poem about Elvis the scrub jay. 

Elvis, and Bird Forgiveness, are the final acts of poetry my Barbara lived with. I requested a reading of the poem at Melinda's post-reception reception. My Barbara was smiling with joy hearing it from the poet's lips. Barbara loved birds and is why I photograph them.

I don’t have a recording of Elvis but back in 2010, Melinda read for the 3-day Festival de Flor y Canto: Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow  held at the University of Southern California (whose motto reads, "Palmam qui meruit ferat").

Melinda read in the festival's “tomorrow” schedule y mira nomás, tomorrow she's become Santa Barbara City Poet Laureate. Do enjoy Latinopia’s video of three readings. The second, “Arizona,” is puro Palacio, insightful, clever, superbly performed. 


Sabes que? I look forward to Santa Barbara’s Old Spanish Days Fiesta for the next two years. The Poet Laureate needs to be heard, attention must be paid. Microphones qui meruit ferat.

Let the poet remind the City Fathers their pueblo hasn’t been Spanish since 1821, pero hijole, it’s always been Indio, Mestizo, Chicanx, and una poema.

Santa Barbara Is a Poem 
by Melinda Palacio 
City of Santa Barbara Poet Laureate 2023-2025 

One winter she shows off like a child playing dress up in a white cape. From the ocean, admire her gentle powdered peaks, a rare dusting. Rejoice as water droplets turn to hail, to snow, a rarity in Aztlán. Chumash land impossible to reach when mud or fire threatens. 

Evergreen Pear blossoms fall like feathers, peaceful and soft. A slight breeze on a Jacaranda and it rains purple. Add leaves, golden hands, sometimes, bright red, and it’s a fiesta, nature’s party. Coast Live Oaks grow twisted, rooted like guardian angels. In the wind King Palms sway, drop fruit from a canopy of prickly crowns.

A blessing, shrouds of gray clouds hide the sky and I put hands in the earth, pull weeds and prune roses. Stay still as a rufus hummingbird motors past my ear. Walk at dusk and the moon rises over Sycamore Canyon ridge. Wait for the twinkling. Greet the Archer and Seven Sisters.

Santa Barbara eres una poema. 

Speaking Spanish in Santa Barbara means home, negates every time someone has told me to go back where I came from. I was born in this Golden State, 100 miles south of this paradise. 

Santa Barbara, you are a poem. 

It’s easy to want it all in this idyllic land. In my neighborhood known as San Roque, fruit rolls down: limes, oranges, persimmons, avocados course around a cul-de-sac, named Lucinda. When I meet her, the woman named after the street, she offers me flowers. 

My neighbor calls to her young daughter, tells her to bring a sprig of rosemary from the box marked free, a year-round bounty. An abundance of treasures from the land soured by our inability to provide an Eden for all: Housing, mental health services, jobs for all who flock to this land we call home. 

Santa Barbara is a poem.

Monday, April 24, 2023

Poema “50” por Xánath Caraza

Poema “50” por Xánath Caraza




Mueve su remo.


En silencio hiende

la densa agua del Hudson.


Oscuras melodías.


La luna llena marca

un hilo de plata.


Titilantes espejos llevan

el dolor de la gente.


Caronte sigue su camino.


Desde el fracturado tiempo,

se pierde en la niebla.





He moves his oar.


Cleaving in silence

the dense water of the Hudson.


Dark melodies.


The full moon marks

a thread of silver.


Twinkling mirrors carry

the pain of the people.


Charon continues his path.


Out of fractured time,

losing himself in the fog.



Poem “50” is included in Hudson (2018).

Original in Spanish by Xánath Caraza

Translation into the English by Sandra Kingery

Friday, April 21, 2023

New Books for Spring

 Here we go.  Presenting new literary titles for your enjoyment and education, including the latest from a friend of La Bloga who happens to be a great writer, Luis Alberto Urrea.  


La Tercera
Gina Apostol
Soho Press - May 3

[from the publisher]
Rosario, a Filipina novelist in New York City, has just learned of her mother’s death in the Philippines. Instead of rushing home, she puts off her return by embarking on a remote investigation into her family’s history and her mother’s supposed inheritance, a place called La Tercera, which may or may not exist. Rosario catalogs generations of Delgado family bequests and detritus: maps of uncertain purpose, rusted chicken coops, a secret journal, the words to songs sung at the family home during visits from Imelda Marcos.

Each life Rosario explores opens onto an array of other lives and raises a multitude of new questions. But as the search for La Tercera becomes increasingly labyrinthine, Rosario’s mother and the entire Delgado family emerge in all their dizzying complexity: traitors and heroes, reactionaries and revolutionaries. Meanwhile, another narrative takes shape—of the country’s erased history of exploitation and slaughter at the hands of American occupying forces.

La Tercera is Gina Apostol’s most ambitious, personal, and encompassing novel: a story about what seems impossible—capturing the truth of the past—and the terrible cost to a family, or a country, that fails to try.


Hector Tobar
MCD - May 9 

[from the publisher]
"Latino" is the most open-ended and loosely defined of the major race categories in the United States. Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of "Latino" assembles the Pulitzer Prize winner Héctor Tobar's personal experiences as the son of Guatemalan immigrants and the stories told to him by his Latinx students to offer a spirited rebuke to racist ideas about Latino people. Our Migrant Souls decodes the meaning of "Latino" as a racial and ethnic identity in the modern United States, and seeks to give voice to the angst and anger of young Latino people who have seen latinidad transformed into hateful tropes about "illegals" and have faced insults, harassment, and division based on white insecurities and economic exploitation.

Investigating topics that include the US-Mexico border "wall," Frida Kahlo, urban segregation, gangs, queer Latino utopias, and the emergence of the cartel genre in TV and film, Tobar journeys across the country to expose something truer about the meaning of "Latino" in the twenty-first century.


Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Riverhead Books - May 9

[from the publisher]
The Colombian film director, Sergio Cabrera, is in Barcelona for a retrospective of his work. It’s a hard time for him: his father, famous actor Fausto Cabrera, has just died; his marriage is in crisis; and his home country has rejected peace agreements that might have ended more than fifty years of war. In the course of a few intense days, as his films are on exhibit, Sergio recalls the events that marked his family’s unusual and dramatic lives: especially his father’s, his sister Marianella’s and his own.

Growing up in Colombia as the children of famous actors, Sergio and Marianella were privileged and artistic, until their parents became disillusioned with bourgeois conventions and moved the entire family to China. Mao’s Cultural Revolution was underway and the family lived in an entirely ex-pat hotel where they learned Chinese and joined the revolution, became members of the Red Guard, and trained as guerilla fighters. When they returned to Colombia to support the revolution there, they were sent into the countryside to join the guerilla force, were shot at and nearly died. Out of these lives molded by ideology and zealotry, came an artistic second life for Sergio as he escaped the movement and became his country’s most celebrated film director.

From the Spanish Civil War to the exile of his family to Latin America, and from the Cultural Revolution in China to the guerrilla movements of 1960s Colombia, Sergio and his family’s experience is extraordinary by any standards. Equal parts family saga and epic historical novel, Retrospective reveals the story of one man and his family — based on real people and events — and a devastating portrait of the forces that shaped their lives, and for half a century turned the world upside down.


Luis Alberto Urrea
Little, Brown - May 30

[from the publisher]
In the tradition of The Nightingale and Transcription, this is a searing epic based on the magnificent and true story of courageous Red Cross women.

In 1943, Irene Woodward abandons an abusive fiancé in New York to enlist with the Red Cross and head to Europe. She makes fast friends in training with Dorothy Dunford, a towering Midwesterner with a ferocious wit. Together they are part of an elite group of women, nicknamed Donut Dollies, who command military vehicles called Clubmobiles at the front line, providing camaraderie and a taste of home that may be the only solace before troops head into battle.

After D-Day, these two intrepid friends join the Allied soldiers streaming into France. Their time in Europe will see them embroiled in danger, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Buchenwald. Through her friendship with Dorothy, and a love affair with a courageous American fighter pilot named Hans, Irene learns to trust again. Her most fervent hope, which becomes more precarious by the day, is for all three of them to survive the war intact.

Taking as inspiration his mother’s own Red Cross service, Luis Alberto Urrea has delivered an overlooked story of women’s heroism in World War II. With its affecting and uplifting portrait of friendship and valor in harrowing circumstances, Good Night, Irene powerfully demonstrates yet again that Urrea’s “gifts as a storyteller are prodigious” (NPR).



Manuel Ramos writes crime fiction. Read his latest story, Northside Nocturne, in Denver Noir, edited by Cynthia Swanson, published by Akashic Books.

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Hey, Writers with Wild, Latinoid Imaginatons!


  by Ernest Hogan

Are you a writer in the Latinoid continuum with a wild imagination? Then you need to know that the deadline for signing up for Papí Sci-Fi's Ancient Chicano Sci-Fi Wisdom at the 2023 Palabras del Pueblo Writing Workshop is May 1st, and it's coming fast. 

 It's online, so you can experience it from the safety of your own home.

 Click here for more information, and to sign up.

Ernest Hogan is a very busy Father of Chicano Science Fiction this year.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Rafa Counts on Papá

By Joe Cepeda



Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers 

Language: English

Hardcover: 40 pages

ISBN-10: 0316540897

ISBN-13: 978-0316540896


For fans of Guess How Much I Love You? and Just Me and My Dad comes a heartwarming story perfect for Father's Day about a son and his papá who love to measure everything, including their love for each other.


Rafa and his papá love to count and measure together. They know how many branches they climb to their favorite spot, they know how high their dog Euclid can jump, and they know how far they can run. But there’s one thing Rafa can't count or measure because it is infinite: the love that he and his papá share.


Pura Belpré Honor illustrator and author Joe Cepeda celebrates curiosity and shows the tender and playful relationship between father and son on every inch of the page. With a subtle nod to introducing concepts, from real objects to the abstract, readers feel the immeasurable love of this Latinx family as Papá delights in spending time with Rafa.



"With a dearth of stories showing the camaraderie between father and son, this book deserves a place on the shelves."―School Library Journal


"This colorful picture book is a love letter to math as well as to the immeasurable beauty of love. Readers will have a blast identifying the many items on each page, from an abacus to a drawer full of pocket watches and a bucket full of baseballs."―Booklist


"The pleasure that this father-son duo take in being together is palpable…. A charming book to remind kids that they are loved."―Kirkus Reviews


“Cepeda offers a STEM-inspired spin on the connection between a Latinx-cued father and son in this appealing, measurement-oriented picture book.”―Publishers Weekly





Monday, April 17, 2023

Orlando Ortega-Medina, in conversation with Daniel Olivas, discusses "The Fitful Sleep of Immigrants" at Book Soup on April 27

DATE: Thursday, April 27, 2023 - 7:00 p.m.

ADDRESS: BOOK SOUP, 8818 W Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA 90069


“A riveting yarn with a charismatic tempter.” –Kirkus Reviews

ABOUT THE BOOK: Attorney Marc Mendes, the estranged son of a prominent rabbi and a burned-out lawyer with addiction issues, plots his exit from the big city to a more peaceful life in idyllic Napa Valley. But before realizing his dream, the US government summons his Salvadoran life partner Isaac Perez to immigration court, threatening him with deportation.

As Marc battles to save Isaac, his world is further upended by a dark and alluring client who aims to tempt him away from his messy life. Torn between his commitment to Isaac and the pain-numbing escapism offered by his client, Marc is forced to choose between the lesser of two evils while confronting his twin demons of past addiction and guilt over the death of his first lover.

Inspired by events that forced the author and his partner to emigrate from the United States because of marriage inequality, TheFitful Sleep of Immigrants is an extraordinary and timely tale about the value of family and friendship, loyalty, and love in the face of adversity.

And check out my Los Angeles Times interview with Orlando Ortega-Medina that was published online on April 18.



I am delighted to announce that Forest Avenue Press has acquired my novel, Chicano Frankenstein, for publication in fall 2024. This is a description of my book:

Chicano Frankenstein addresses issues of belonging and assimilation through a modern retelling of the Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley classic. An unnamed paralegal, brought back to life through a controversial process, maneuvers through a near-future world that both needs and resents him. As the United States president spouts anti-reanimation rhetoric and giant pharmaceutical companies rake in profits, the man falls in love with lawyer Faustina Godínez. His world expands as he meets her network of family and friends, setting him on a course to discover his first-life history, which the reanimation process erased. With elements of science fiction, horror, political satire and romance, Chicano Frankenstein confronts our nation’s bigotries and the question of what it truly means to be human.

You may read the official announcement here

Friday, April 14, 2023

From Bloguera to Poeta Laureada de Santa Barbara: Breaking News

La Bloga Celebrates Poetry Month with Good News from Santa Barbara County 

photo by Nell Campbell

Palacio will serve as the City’s 10th Poet Laureate


(SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.) –The Santa Barbara County Office of Arts and Culture is pleased to announce that Santa Barbara City Council is anticipated to install Melinda Palacio as Santa Barbara’s next Poet Laureate. 


Ms. Palacio, an internationally-lauded poet, author, and speaker, will serve as Santa Barbara’s first Chicana Poet Laureate. She was nominated by several community members, and recommended to Council for appointment by the City Arts Advisory Committee. A long-time resident of Santa Barbara, Palacio noted, "Santa Barbara itself is a poem. Santa Barbara is the city that made me a poet."


Her poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won Kulupi Press’ Sense of Place award. Her novel, Ocotillo Dreams,received the Mariposa Award for Best First Book at the 2012 International Latino Book Awards, as well as a PEN Oakland-Josephine Miles Award for Excellence in Literature. Her full-length poetry collection, How Fire Is a Story, Waiting, received First Prize in Poetry at the International Latino Book Awards. Her work has also been featured on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Program. Locally, Palacio received first place in Poetry at the 2003 Santa Barbara Writers Conference.


Lee Herrick, who was appointed by Governor Newsom in 2022 as California’s Poet Laureate, has described Palacio as “a marvelous talent at the top of her game.” Herrick praised her book, Bird Forgiveness, writing, “Melinda Palacio masterfully explores confinement, liberation, freedom, and flight. Abundant joy and wonder run through the poems – and they examine human behavior and relationships with wisdom and grace.”


Palacio will serve as the City of Santa Barbara’s 10th Laureate; The City established the position in 2005 to expand community engagement in City activities, and increase the visibility, presence, and accessibility of poetry for all. In 2017, the Santa Barbara Public Library became the official home of the Poet Laureate, joining as a major steward and program partner. Palacio succeeds a number of deeply-impactful Poets Laureate, including late Barry Spacks, Perie Longo, David Starkey, Paul Willis, Chryss Yost, Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle, Enid Osborne, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, and Emma Trelles. 


As Poet Laureate, Palacio hopes to offer new platforms for community members, especially those who have been historically underserved, to connect with poetry. One program would be, “pop-up readings at some unusual places, such as laundry mats, parks, and beaches.” Palacio, who is bilingual, said that she has been inspired by community members to create connections. “My neighbor from Ecuador, whose first language is Spanish, says she would like to write poetry but doesn’t know where to start, I imagine there are many more people in Santa Barbara who feel the same way. I would take a lead role and increase participation and exposure to poetry by connecting cultures within our own communities in Santa Barbara and beyond.”






Thursday, April 13, 2023

Home Boys: Who Are They and How Did They Get Here?



Homies reach Aguascalientes' back streets

     Growing up in the 50’s and 60s’s on L.A.’s westside, neither my friends nor I ever used the term “Home Boy.” It wasn’t in our vocabulary. In fact, I still don’t think I have ever called another human being “Home Boy.” Most of my friends were into sports, music, and the arts, in some form, like arts & crafts, as kids, or photography in later years. We called each other by name, George, Sammy, Mike, Arthur, Mark, Jesse.   

     Come to think of it, in those days, not even the remnants of the pachuco generation referred to each other as “Home Boy.” I say “remnants” because WWII had pretty much decimated the pachucos, drafting them in large numbers. When they returned home from Europe and the Pacific, it didn’t take them long to acculturate into honest, law-abiding, working-class Americans.

     They married, bought homes, and raised families. I remember a few of my dad’s friends even tattooing over the cross they’d tattooed on their hands during the days they ran the streets. The hardcore (or unlucky) pachucos had gone off to prison, were still trying to scam their way through life, or had become “winos,” another term you don’t hear used anymore. Still, I never heard any of my dad's friends use the term “Home Boy.”

     In the western part of Los Angeles, out closer to the Pacific, where Anglos, Chicanos, and Japanese had begun to integrate in school, the mid-1950’s were something of a limbo for pachuquismo. The “Eses,” “Orales,” and “Vatos,” of the pachuco generation sounded kind of silly and outdated. Hardly anybody spoke Spanish, anyway, except at home.

     As the 50’s came to a close, each Westside town still had Chicano gangs, but they were something of an anomaly, like caricatures of their past glory days. Really, it was the era of biker and car clubs. “Man” and “Dude,” were the more accepted terms of hipster identification. Images of James Dean and Rebel without a Cause stole the show, and a cool car was more glamorous than a zoot suit. Our Chicano fathers had moved out of the barrios and integrated the “White” suburbs, post WWII tract homes built over the old beanfields where their parents once labored, depleting barrio life.

     In the 1960s, there was a “pachuco” renaissance, and even though it didn’t look like the 1940’s pachucos, we all called them “pachucos,” for lack of a more accurate term. Obviously, pachuco didn’t mean zoot suitor. It meant something more specific: guys in a gang who used drugs, fought guys from other towns, and were always in trouble with the police. They didn’t call each other “homie” or “home boy.” They used the ubiquitous “Ese, “Vato,” or even "Loco." For some reason, a few cooler kids and athletes in town got caught up in the “life”. Even though many couldn’t even speak Spanish, they’d say “Ese,” “Vato,” and “Orale” with heart, if not always with the correct accent.

     Collectively, they had no given moniker. The term “cholo,” even though it had been around since before the 1930s, usually to designate a poor or working-class Mexican Indian, hadn’t yet been applied to them. Probably, people didn’t start referring to gangsters as “cholos” until the 1970s, just about the time they started calling each other “Home boy, “Homes,” or “Homie.”

     Maybe the terms might have had their roots in prison, when two guys from the same town found themselves “locked up” together. They might have spread in prison among Chicano, black, and even white inmates, who brought the "home boy" back to the neighborhoods once they were released.

     A google search says, somewhat vaguely, "Home Boy” goes back to Mexico, a translation of the word, “Hombre,” which the pachucos called each other in their day. That sounds like a bit of a stretch, though, since a direct translation of “hombre” is “man” or “dude” and has nothing to do with one’s hometown. I don't even recall Chicanos using it in the 1960's military when guys from the same hometowns were always meeting up.

     Others say it’s an African American “urban” term whose origins go back to the 1900s, which makes sense. After Emancipation, when former slaves moved from the same towns in the South and ended up together in the North, they would have seen each other as a “Home Boy” or a “Home Girl.”  

     It seems the term really took off in the late 1970’s – 80’s when hip-hop and rap became popular among urban youth of all ethnicities. Chicano gangsters throughout Los Angeles were already referring to each other as “Homeboy, “Homes, or “Homie,” so it wouldn’t be a stretch for black gangsters to use the term, as well.

     Even middle-class Chicanos, college students and professionals, started calling close friends “Home Boy,” of course, with their tongues placed firmly in their cheeks, with nowhere near the reverence gangsters used the term.

     By the mid-80’s, in urban Los Angeles, where East, Central, and South L.A. shared borders, it would have made sense for rappers to pick up the term “home boy” from Chicanos, who by then had begun to use it regularly, as well a listen to rap music. Rappers were the first to portray life on the urban streets of Los Angeles, so why not appropriate and glorify the language of the streets, right along with the “64 Chevy” and the baggie khakis and Pendleton’s, which Chicanos had been wearing since the early ’60’s.

      When Reagan’s War on Drugs and his Iran-Contra scandal flooded L.A.’s streets with "crack," gangster rap became a cultural phenomenon, reaching across the United States and to the far corners of the world, where even Japanese youth began referring to each other as “Home Boy” and their cars as “low riders.” 

     By 1988, the term “home boy” had become such a powerful personal identifier that even Father Greg Boyle named his gang prevention movement “Homeboy Industries.” In his book Tattoos on the Heart, Boyle calls the kids he worked with, collectively, not gangsters, cholos, or pachucos, but “Homeboys,” and individually – “…a home boy.”

     Then there’s artist David Gonzales “Homie Toys,” small figurines depicting home boys dressed in gangster clothing. He received some push back for glorifying gang life and lost some sponsors, but Gonzales doubled down saying it was "real" and a part of his culture. He knew people who looked that way and called each other by “Homie.” So, you can understand the surprise I felt as I came upon a "homie" souvenir store as I walked the back streets of Aguascalientes checking out the scene.

     Well, I guess all of this is fun speculation. I don’t really think there is an answer as to who first used the term, or when, kind of like the word Chicano, a lot of good ideas as to its origins but no concrete evidence, just more speculation, and the search for the holy grails of Chicano culture continue.