Review: From the Edge Chicana/Chicano Border Literature and the Politics of Print

What is a book? The answer, at first glance, may seem apparent: printed material consisting of a certain amount of pages. However, when a printed item goes under the scrutiny of readers, writers, editors, scholars, etc., the discussion gets complicated. The matter is that, when read, discussed, or analyzed, a book is situated in a specific environment that creates additional layers for consideration; furthermore, a printed item itself shapes the environment, revealing and producing further developments and proliferations. In From the Edge: Chicana/Chicano Border Literature and the Politics of Print (Rutgers University Press, 2016), Allison E. Fagan invites her readers to explore not only a magic world of the literature that arises out of collaboration of national, ethnic, political, social, literary borders, but also multilayered networks produced by books, which infiltrate readers’, writers’, editors’, publishers’, and translators’ communication.

As the title prompts, From the Edge discusses border literature; however, Fagan makes a step further and includes in her analysis books which do not fall under the category of conventional border literature. Through this gesture, From the Edge broadens the area of inquiry and brings a wider scope of questions for the discussion: what is border literature and what borders do we (or should we) consider? The borders Fagan discusses and negotiates are connected with books as printed items. Outlining a theoretical framework which to some extent relies on the postmodern principles, Fagan seems to initiate a conversation about books as in-flux items: when printed and circulated among the participants of readership (understood in its broadest sense), books not only deliver different stories about writing, reading, and publishing, but also shape current discourses strengthening some aspects and weakening others.

From the Edge shifts conventional margins to centers. This research offers a detailed discussion of paratextual elements: glossaries, typography, editorial paratexts, readers notes. In “My Book Has Been the Light of Day,” Fagan brings attention to recovery projects: books that were re-discovered and re-introduced to readers. While the stories about books that were once considered lost are intriguing and captivating, an academic inquiry brings forth a wide range of discussions: How are books re-discovered? How is their readership established? What do recovered books communicate about the past and present reading environments? What is accomplished through recovery projects? In her research, Fagan initiates, among others, these questions and invites readers, writers, editors, critics, scholars, translators to shift the boundaries of the existing conversations about print cultures and communication, literary traditions and language, ethnicity and nationality, self and identity.

Allison E. Fagan is an assistant professor of English at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

 

Original post from Nataliya Shpylova-Saeed found here: http://newbooksnetwork.com/allison-e-fagan-from-the-edge-chicanachicano-border-literature-and-the-politics-of-print-rutgers-up-2016/

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Latino Studies Association CfP

Latino Studies Association meets every two years for a conference. In July 2018, the group will come together in Washington DC. Check out the call for papers…

Original post found here: http://latinostudiesassociation.org/lsa-biennial-conference/lsa-conference-2018/

 

Latinx Studies Now: DC 2018 + The 3rd Biennial Conference
Washington, DC: July 11 – 15, 2018
The Latina/o Studies Association’s 2018 National Meeting in Washington, DC, invites you to build on our prior Deliberations (Pasadena 2016) and Imaginings (Chicago 2014) by submitting proposals for papers, panels, and sessions for traditional and alternative conference platforms on the theme of “Latinx Studies Now.” The “x” and the “+” in our conference title graphically denote acts of resistance and dissent. The “x” in Latinx questions the traditional binary logic of gender and gendered language, enabling a new dispersion of identity across and beyond “genders.” At the same time, the “x” invokes a history of alphabetic challenge to naming and claiming in the Americas. The “+” following 2018 denotes whatever might be “next,” after and beyond the now of 2018 itself. The mark of the minus (“-”) slashing through the vertical line to make and unmake the “+” suggests that what’s “next” does not guarantee “more” or “better” in the way of conventional promises of progress in historical change but may, in fact, always mask an opposite threat. Always more and less than itself, the “+” is a compass that indicates the many directions Latinx subjects and Latinx studies often take. The “+” calls us to the necessary presentism and urgency of the now and to the equally necessary historicism demanded of our field and its practitioners in a contemporary moment saturated in crisis and emergency, danger and risk, resistance and resilience. LSA in Washington, DC, in 2018 considers Latinx Studies as an inter- and trans-disciplinary field that continues to rewrite traditional disciplines in the Humanities, Social Sciences, and STEM, as well as in traditional professions such as Business, Medicine and Law. Our DC location highlights the various degrees of stability and precarity we experience in university teaching, researching, scholarly and creative publishing, art-making, activism, and the shaping of policy. Bringing LSA 2018 to DC, we will situate the field within the context of looming political realities in the United States that impact our communities with regard to immigration and citizenship, law and justice, health care, education, policing, gender and lgbtq rights, as well as freedoms of speech, assembly and expression.

We invite submissions following these directions in all their compelling existential, material and symbolic meanings, including but not limited to:
+ Activism
+ Activist Histories of Naming
+ Environmentalism
+ Trans-Latinx Embodiments: Gender, Sexuality, Disability, Capacity
+ Non/Human Anima(lisms)
+ Age and Generation
+ Violence: Structural, Economic, Carceral, Political
+ Immigration, Depatriation, Citizenship
+ Mobility and Containment
+ Settler and Decolonial States
+ The Not National: Local, Regional, Continental, Hemispheric, Global
+ Labor and Capital: Production, Consumption, Abstraction
+ Art, Music, Literature, Performance, Media
+ Race and 2020 Census Classifications
+ Racial Imaginaries (and Realities)
+ Public Policy in the 21st century
+ STEM: Impact and Challenges
+ Latinx Studies and the University

Latinx Studies Now: DC 2018 + The 3rd Biennial Conference
Washington, DC: July 11 – 15, 2018

Proposal Submissions:
The program committee welcomes proposals in diverse formats: individual papers; paper panels with moderators or respondents; roundtable discussions; workshops emphasizing participation by all session attendees; professional development workshops for graduate program and academic job applicants; poster presentations; sessions devoted to work by graduate students and/or community activists; creative and performance presentations; sessions using online and other virtual platforms. We also welcome proposals for special events such as screenings, readings, and special exhibits. Proposals should be submitted through the conference software platform, which will be announced shortly.

Individual Paper:
Please provide name; contact information; position or title; institutional/organization affiliation; discipline (if applicable); 500-word
abstract.

Panel Proposals:
Please provide names; contact information for each participant; presenters’ positions or titles (listing organizer first, then each presenter/moderator); institutional/organizational affiliations, disciplines (if applicable); 500-word panel abstract; 250-word
abstracts for individual papers. Include the following for all proposal formats:
Description of format (e.g., panel, roundtable, workshop) including A/V needs and/or accommodations.

Proposal Deadline:

December 1, 2017, 11:59pm EST

Internship Opportunity at the Smithsonian Latino Center

Apply! Apply! Apply!

Internship opportunity. Fall 2017
National Museum of American History, Archives Center
Frank Espada Photo Collection.

Opportunity for two fall 2017 semester internships with stipend.
For the Espada Collection project, two interns will focus exclusively on assistance with collection cataloging and processing. The collection consists of photographs and negatives taken by Frank Espada, mostly comprised of images from his most well-known body of work, The Puerto Rican Diaspora Documentary Project; there are several hundred prints and thousands of negatives of Puerto Rican communities across the Unites States, as well as some accompanying documentation.

The interns will perform collection processing and/or cataloguing activities, in collaboration with the Archives Center’s processing coordinator. Several tasks include performing research in order to write introductory texts for finding aids, arranging and re-housing collection materials, and describing materials for finding aids and catalog records. The interns will receive instruction in reference standards and techniques, archival description (DACS and Archivists’ Toolkit), and collection care. Working knowledge of Spanish and Latinx history preferred but not required.

To apply you must use our online application system SOLAA – https://solaa.si.edu/solaa/#/public and upload the following qualifying documents:
• Résumé
• 2 letters of recommendation
• Transcripts (can be unofficial)
• Essay (1 page min./ 2 page max. — a summary of your knowledge skills and abilities demonstrated in your academic coursework, past internships, volunteer experiences or paid jobs; additionally you should express your learning expectations for the internship project).
* due July 1!

Contact Omar Eaton Martinez with questions. EatonMO@si.edu 202-633-3556

Book Review of Achy Obejas’s The Tower of the Antilles

It’s impossible to keep up with all the good literature coming out these days and Obejas is among the very best…

Original post by Michael Sedano found here: http://labloga.blogspot.com/2017/06/julys-eve-tower-of-antilles-wetback.html

Review: Achy Obejas. The Tower of the Antilles. Akashic Books, 2017.ISBN: 9781617755392
e-ISBN: 9781617755538

I’d move Achy Obejas’ book of short fiction, The Tower of the Antilles, to the top of my want-to-read list, if I hadn’t just read this intriguing gem of a collection from Akashic Press. Obejas’ deft hand and free-wheeling imagination craft ten stories to be read, then read again out of delight, perplexity, surprise, admiration.

As the title suggests, and Obejas’ prior works attest, Cuba occupies a central place in the stories and hearts of their characters. This is, after all, immigrant literature of the Cuban diaspora, with a generous sampling of eroticism.

Obejas’ characters don’t have a political axe to grind. Inured to hardship, leaving is a constant motive for people who are staying. The ones there find contentment in the way things are. Owing to the author’s U.S. origin, a majority of the characters are over here already. Some go back to visit, to connect with familia, uncover old resentments, party then hook up with a stranger.

Some of Obejas’ more singularly imaginative characters include a nightclub sex worker, a fellow whose imagination takes wing in a pile of flotsam, a book collector whose damaged roomie pilfers first editions. More quotidian characters populate accounts like an immigrant living in Chicago with her Cuban ex-lover, a traveler who returns to Cuba and gets hit hard by culture shock and Mayra’s laughing eyes, a brain tumor death sentence sends a woman to the Maldives to spend her final hours lying in bioluminescent water.

Readers will laugh at phonetic humor in “The Sound Catalog,” a character’s confusion over the expression, “Whenever you hear a bell ring, an angel gets its wings.” To the Cuban ex-lover’s ear, the words come out, “Whenever you hear a bell ring, anger turns on a swing.” This, and “Superman,” are the comic relief stories in a collection that leans toward the dark.

Interestingly, “The Sound Catalog” is one of the rare stories where characters have names. Most characters are “the man,” “the woman,” “we,” “I.” Absenting names is a way of giving these experiences an interchangeability, what happened to one person in a story could belong to a character a few stories later, or parallel any immigrant’s exigencies. Kimberly, the title character of the second story, is horribly unique.

There’s a signal example of parallelism in the piles of flotsam characters in the book’s opening and closing stories assemble. “The Collector” builds an assemblage of rafts and floating craft that brought people from the island to the Florida shore. “The Tower of the Antilles” could be an imaginary assemblage of collected vessels, existing in the mind of a woman in a coma, or being tortured. That’s one of the stories that will make you read it again, then turn back to “The Collector” and look back and forth for explanations.

Order The Tower of the Antilles from your local independent bookseller, or publisher-direct here.

New Book: Mayanito’s New Friends

Tato Laviera is doing children’s literature now? Too cool. Move over Silverstein!

 

Written by Tato Laviera

Illustrated by Gabhor Utomo

Translated by Gabriela Baeza Ventura

  • Hardcover: 32 pages
  • Publisher: Pinata Books; Bilingual edition (October 31, 2017)
  • Language: English/ Spanish
  • ISBN-10: 1558858555

 

A young Mayan prince goes on an exciting journey

through the rainforest in this bilingual picture book.

From his perch high up on a mountaintop, a young Mayan prince watched as raindrops formed in the clouds below him. Suddenly, within each drop, there was a child! The raindrop children landed gently on the ground and Mayanito raced down the mountainside to play with them. They were from Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica and other countries in the Americas, but as the sun warmed the land, they evaporated and turned into flowers!

Mayanito was sad to lose his friends, so he decided to go find them. Thankfully, the animals of the jungle including Pablito the snake, Teresa the crocodile and Rafael the jaguar helped him. In this adventurous romp through the rainforest, monkeys pulled him from quicksand and carried him over a waterfall in a hammock made of vines! Riding on a flamingo’s back, he landed in the village far below his mountaintop home and finally found his new friends. Together, they rode an inchworm train back up the mountain. And when Mayanito was named king, he declared all the children of the hemisphere members of his tribe!

Gabhor Utomo’s gorgeous illustrations of the lush rainforest, its flora and fauna complement the boy’s fantastical journey in this bilingual picture book for children ages 5-10. Parents and teachers will find this beautiful book provides a good introduction to basic concepts of jungle creatures, geography and even musical instruments from different regions.

TATO LAVIERA (1952-2013) was a poet, playwright, novelist and community advocate. Born in Puerto Rico, he was raised in the Manhattan’s Lower East Side. His books include Mixturao and Other Poems; Mainstream Ethics; AmeRícan; Enclave, winner of the American Book Award; and La Carreta Made a U-Turn. His plays have been produced in Chicago and New York City, and have been staged at The New Federal Theater, The Public Theater, the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, Circle in the Square and Teatro Cuatro. He lived and worked in New York City until his death. Mayanito’s New Friends / Los amigos de Mayanito is his only children’s book.

GABHOR UTOMO was born in Indonesia, and received his degree from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco in 2003. He has illustrated a number of children’s books, including Kai’s Journey to Gold Mountain (East West Discovery Press, 2004), a story about a young Chinese immigrant held on Angel Island. Gabhor’s works has won numerous awards from local and national art organizations. His painting of Senator Milton Marks is part of a permanent collection at the California State Building in downtown San Francisco. He lives with his family in Portland, Oregon.

Database of Latino Book Presses in the U.S.

In an effort to promote and expose contemporary Latin American literature, it is important to recognize the book presses that focus on publishing Latino literature. The following is an ongoing list that will function as a growing database of Latino book presses in the U.S. We ask the general public to help Latino Book Review continue building this database by providing the names of Latino presses that should be included on the comment section below. In order to include a book press, we will consider the following criteria: 1) The press must be Latino focused or have a high number of Latino authors, 2) Must be currently active, 3) Must have a website and 4) Must have a minimum of at least 5 books published.

In This LA Exhibit, Queer Latinx Artists Show There’s More Than One Way to Be an Empowered QTPOC

Original post by Yara Simón found here: http://remezcla.com/lists/culture/mirame-expressions-of-queer-latinx-art/

When a group of 11 queer artists and LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes’s Erendina A. Delgadillo brainstormed names for an exhibition exploring identity issues in the LGBTQ Latinx community, they wanted something that was unapologetic and at the same time spoke to their need for visibility. They wanted something that encapsulated their experiences. After two weeks of going back and forth in a Google Doc, the California-based artists and Delgadillo landed on mirame – a word that says it all.

“It was actually (the artist) Julio Salgado who came up with mirame, and the reason that he suggested it was because it’s a Jenni Rivera song,” Delgadillo, who curated the recently launched exhibition titled ¡Mírame! Expressions of Queer Latinx Art, told me in a phone interview. “She was sort of like a champion of the LGBTQ, queer Latino/Latinx community and her sort of unabashed attitude and sort of ‘I am who I am’ really resonated with all of the artists, so they ended up choosing that one.”

Everything about ¡Mírame! has been a collaborative process between the staff at LA Plaza de Cultura y Artes and the artists. After Delgadillo identified a group of artists that represented as much of the queer Latinx community as possible, she asked them to choose what works they wanted to display and where they wanted their work to appear. With institutions like museums having a history of attempting to impose respectability politics on queer Latinx artists, it became important not to stifle these artists’ voices. “There’s a long history of art being excluded from display, from public display, for different reasons,” Delgadillo added. “But to me, the fact that we can talk about that openly and we can discuss the role of an institution in that kind of … process … is inspiring to me and it sort of shows both how far we’ve come and how far we have to go. But it’s absolutely, to me, a positive sort of first step.”

¡Mírame! launched on June 3 – at the beginning of LGBT Pride Month – and runs through December 9, 2017. Though the exhibition provides some necessary historical context about queer Latinxs in Los Angeles, Delgadillo wants ¡Mírame! to do more than teach audiences about the past. She wants the exhibition to evoke something in visitors. And very importantly, she hopes that through the 11 artists, visitors are able to see that there’s more than one way to find empowerment as a member of the Latinx LGBTQ community.

Learn more about a few of the artists participating in the exhibition below:


¡Mírame! Expressions of Queer Latinx runs until December 9, 2017 at 501 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, California 90012. For more information about the exhibition, visit LA Plaza’s website here

1

Joey Terrill

Joey Terrill, former director of VIVA arts collective, has made art for the last 30 years. Terrill, who is in his 60s, knew he’d represent an older generation of artists – something he welcomed. “I already knew that I would be representing the ‘elder’ community, given many of the other artists were younger, which was fine with me,” Terrill said over email. “I think a show about queer Latinx artists’ work that provides a range of identities (Chicano, Mexican, immigrant, Spanish speaking, pocho, Latin American lesbian, non-gender conforming, age, and etc) makes for a richer exploration of the queer experience within the Latino diaspora.”

The LA native – who draws inspiration from Romaine Brooks, Frida Kahlo, and Mexican retablos – has used his art to explore the ways in which being gay and Latino intersect and clash. The exhibition is featuring two issues of Homeboy Beautiful magazine from 1978 and 1979. The magazine is a satirical art pieces that mixes elements from House Beautiful and Cosmopolitan to depict the world around him.

Homeboy Beautiful was done in a magazine format as a parody of upper-middle class magazines like House Beautiful or Cosmopolitan with their benign [racial] bias … while at the same time critiquing the misogyny, violence, and homophobia I found ithin the gang or homeboy culture around me,” he said. “It was all done tongue-in-cheek and without any nod towards political correctness. In the first issue, I play a ‘journalist’ [named] Santos who ‘exposes’ a homo-homeboy underground party network. In the second issue, we expose a secret homeboy terrorist network that kidnaps a white family and tortures them by forcing them to eat menudo and watch Spanish-language television. But in the second issue, we [also] document a protest of homo-homeboys and takeover of the editorial offices of Homeboy Beautiful. [They] are upset with what they feel was an exploitative photo essay in the first issue. Each issue contains a ‘makeover,’ advice column, hair, makeup, and fashion tips.”

His Still-Life series, which depict what it’s like living with HIV, is also featured in ¡Mírame! Joey began Still-Life in 1987, and he said he will continue working on the series until he no longer requires medication or when he dies. He began the series because he had mixed feelings about the drugs he had to take to stay alive. While he needed them to survive, he also realized how much his dependency benefited the pharmaceutical industry.

“My intent was to borrow the trope of the Tom Wesselmann still lifes from the 60s, which presented graphics from American advertising combined to create skewed compositions that critiqued American consumerist values – or lack thereof,” he said. “In my series, I always place the items on a Mexican blanket/serape as a tablecloth to firmly place them within my Chicano context. From that premise and template, I can ‘play’ with the items indicated and juxtapose things that people may find familiar but also strange. I wanted to place HIV medications in a domestic setting where they compete visually with Cheerios, Coca-Cola, and pan dulce. I remain an HIV advocate and work to address the incidence disparities among communities of color, especially gay male youth.”

2

Alma Lopez

UCLA lecturer Alma Lopez has shown her work at more than 100 solo and group exhibitions. Using Mexican figures like La Llorona and La Virgen, Lopez highlights lesbian Chicana identities. One of her most controversial works is a piece called Our Lady, which features a young Latina woman as La Virgen de Guadalupe.

According to her website, Lopez has archived nearly two decades worth of emails that people have sent her as a result of the Our Lady. The responses range from those who call the piece “classic, timeless, current, cutting edge, alive, honest, amazing” to those who call Alma “human garbage and sewer slime” for “[desecrating] the image of the Virgin Mary.” But the reason Alma gathers all these emails is because she believes it’s an important debate that can’t be avoided.

Ixta, a digital photograph that interprets Jesus Helguera’s La leyenda de los volcanes, will be on display at Mírame! With Helguera’s work serving as the backdrop, Lopez’s piece includes the Los Angeles skyline and the US-Mexico border. In this version, she replaces lovers Ixta and Popo with two young women. “Growing up in El Sereno, a neighborhood in northeast Los Angeles, I would see this image of Popo and Ixta on murals, lowrider cars, and Lowrider Magazine,” she said. “As an artist, I asked my two friends to help me recreate this familiar myth however, the two princesas are on the US/Mexico border. This image is important to me in that it addresses and challenges images that I grew up with in my neighborhood.”

3

Julio Salgado

On his website, Julio Salgado describes himself in three words: Artivist. Lecturer. Queer. Through his art and his work at DreamersAdrift.com and CultureStrike, he highlights these identities. While his work is inspiring up and coming artists, for Julio, the exhibition places him in the same room as some of the creatives that were important during his formative years.

“As a queer and undocumented Mexicano who grew up in LA, I was honored to be part of a show with artists that I grew up admiring,” he told me in an email. “I remember seeing Hector Silva’s work and how it reflected our Mexicanidad and queerness at the same time. During a Chicanas and feminism class at California State University, Long Beach, Professor Anna Sandoval introduced me to the amazing work of Alma Lopez and my political artwork was instantly influenced. I am the results of those queer artists that came before me and sharing space with them [is] truly an honor.”

Julio – whose bright, acerbic art is instantly recognizable – chose to feature pieces from his Because Frida Told Me So series.

“In [this] series, I follow Frida’s tradition of the self portrait and open myself and all my feelings,” he added. “As an undocumented immigrant, the current narratives out there go back and forth between the good and bad immigrant story. But we are more than that. Similar to my friend Yosimar Reyes, who is also part of the show, I wanted to focus on the undocumented joy and the things that make me happy and angry and sexual and beautiful. You know, feelings that humanize me.”

4

Yosimar Reyes and Walter Thompson Hernandez

 

Yosimar Reyes is a poet originally from Guerrero, Mexico. His work has appeared in the collection Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry. He also published a chapbook of poetry called For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly. Reyes teamed up with photographer Walter Thompson Hernandez for Acts of Resistance, a series looking at queer brown intimacy.

“As a poet and writer that happens to be queer and undocumented, participating in this exhibit was my opportunity to present a project that celebrates queer browness,” Yosimar said. “When I was growing [up], there was a huge amount of shame that I felt for not being masculine enough. Now that I am older, I see myself as someone [who] is redefining masculinity into something more tender and vulnerable. The piece I created with Walter Thompson Hernandez was dedicated to honoring what queer intimacy looks [like] in public spaces, specifically queerness of black and brown people.”

Both Reyes and Thompson Hernandez – who documents the Blaxicans of Los Angeles – tell the stories of resistance through their work. So this project was a natural progression for them.

“By centering the experiences of QTPOC couples in public spaces throughout Los Angeles, we hope each image challenges popular notions of love, romance, and space in a time of increasing political, racial, and gendered inequality,” Thompson said. “AOR is titled after Reyes’ influential poem, Acts of Resistance, and urges viewers to think about the beauty and complexity of QTPOC couples in a way that creates continued resistance in Los Angeles and beyond.”

5

Hector Silva

For the past 30 years, self-taught artist Hector Silva that is sometimes divisive. But as he said on his website, “If no one’s trying to censor you, the you’re probably not doing anything that important.”

Silva doesn’t create work for those who go to museums, because that can be limiting and it can exclude different groups of people. His work heavily focuses on the cultural identity of the Latino community, which is oftentimes erased. “And then when you add being queer to that, we can really disappear,” he stated. “But I also think that the ‘positive image’ strategy can be a trap, and as an artist, I feel responsible for showing art that is not only beautiful, but more importantly, it should be truthful.”


¡Mírame! also features the works of Laura Aguilar, Ben Cuevas, Xandra Ibarra, Dalila Mendez, Jessica Gudiel, and Benni Quintero.

Fight Over Mexican-American Studies Ban Is Back, But So Is Arizona’s Beloved Banned Book Smuggler

Original post by Yara Simón found here: http://remezcla.com/culture/mexican-american-studies-back-in-court/

The fate of Mexican-American studies in the state of Arizona once again rests in the hands of the judicial system. Back in 2010, the legislature banned the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican-American Studies program through House Bill 2281, according to the Tucson Weekly. HB 2281 makes it illegal to teach classes that “promote the overthrow of the United States government,” “promote resentment toward a race or class of people,” “are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group,” or “advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils.” The bill’s legality has faced challenges since then, and in 2015, the Ninth Circuit Court found parts of the statute unconstitutional.

Now the case is headed back to court starting on June 26, and once again Tony Díaz – a fierce defender of Mexican-American Studies – is gearing up to promote the importance of ethnic studies, but he needs your help to make it possible.

In response to the trial, Díaz is relaunching the Librotraficante Caravan. In 2012, when officials went into classrooms and confiscated books, TUSD students documented it all on social media. Their struggle to keep ethnic studies in their school caught the attention of Díaz and other librotraficantes – that is, members of the nonprofit literary organization Nuestra Palabra: Latino Writers Having Their Say. Díaz, Liana López, Bryan Parras, Laura Acosta, and Lupe Méndez organized the 2012 Librotraficante Caravan, smuggling the banned books back into Arizona. Realizing that it could just be a matter of time until more states banned ethnic studies books – especially given that other states had adopted Arizona’s anti-immigration law (SB 1070) – they also set up underground libraries across the southwest.

The 2017 caravan will follow the same blueprint. As Diaz and a group of ethnic studies proponents travel from Houston to Tucson, they will also restock their underground libraries.

“At the most practical level, we want to raise awareness about the trial against Arizona’s banning of Mexican-American studies,” Díaz told Remezcla. “We will also study the tactics and strategies used by Arizona to suppress Mexican-American studies. And we must make people aware that if this law is upheld, [the] ban [could be used] to prohibit not just Mexican-American studies, but also African-American, Asian-American studies and women’s studies in every state.”

In 1968, San Francisco State University students known as the Third World Liberation Front began striking in an effort to push their university to initiate an ethnic studies program. The Third World Liberation Front succeeded, with ethnic studies eventually spreading across the country. But even with all the gains achieved in the last five decades, it continues to face an uphill battle. Lawmakers in Arizona and Texas, for example, have outright banned the studies because some believe they promote reverse racism and welcome leftist ideology in schools.

Yet, a Stanford University study released in 2016 found that ethnic studies benefit students. They miss fewer days at school, they get better grades, and even graduate at higher rates. This is especially true for Latino and male students.

With ethnic studies under threat, the librotraficantes hope to give students books that teach them about their own culture through the underground libraries. “They are important because our community’s access to our history and culture must never be at the whim of administration again,” Díaz added.

The ethnic studies advocate recently wrote and submitted The Mexican American Studies Toolkit to the Texas State Board of Education. As the board considers whether to adopt the text in Texas high schools, Díaz will hand out previews of the textbook.

However, to accomplish these goals, Díaz needs the public’s support. At the moment, Díaz has found a crew of 10 who are willing to make the 1,000-mile trip, but they need to reach their target $8,000 goal. After other donations and a generous discount by Autobuses Flores, Díaz is about $3,000 away. The caravan kicks off on June 21 at the Casa Ramirez Folk Art Galley in Houston. You can donate to this very important campaign here.

A Promise Fulfilled: A Conversation with Virginia Sanchez-Korrol, Historian and Author of “A Surprise for Teresita / Una Sorpresa Para Teresita”

Original post by Marilisa Jimenez García found here: https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/centrovoices/reviews/promise-fulfilled-conversation-virginia-sanchez-korrol-historian-and-author

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Virginia Sanchez-Korrol about her new picture book published by Arte Público Press, A Surprise for Teresita / Una sorpresa para Teresita (2016). The book centers on the story of a little girl and her family, experiencing the everyday joys of life in a Puerto Rican diaspora neighborhood. Sanchez Korrol, a renowned historian, told me why she wrote the book and reflected on the power of children’s books for providing young audiences with an important sense of history.

MJ: I always like to ask writers and scholars what they read growing up because I think those early experiences with reading have such an important impact on our understanding and growth. What were your favorite stories growing up?

VSK: I loved the “Dick and Jane” readers we had in school. I still remember them, and all the adventures those children would go on. They opened the world to us coming up in school. I always saw them as a magical world. But, we [Puerto Ricans] weren’t there. We were not in stories. You could imagine yourself in the story, but you were not part of the story. In writing Teresita, I really think I am showing that Puerto Rican kids and Latinxs kids are not outsiders or the other, they are the one.

MJ: When did you write Teresita? What were the origins of the story?

VSK: I wrote the story 45 years ago. All of my experiences growing up were in an urban area. It was an age of innocence-but that didn’t mean we were poor or that there weren’t drugs and other problems in our neighborhood. When I moved to Long Island with my family and my daughters, I realized that growing up in this new neighborhood would mean that they would know absolutely nothing about their heritage. Their neighborhood was very “Dick and Jane.” I wanted them to have a sense of how I grew up and who our Puerto Rican community was. Of course we would always read books to them. But, none of the books showed us. I wanted to write a story that showed us Nuyoricans. At that point, when my daughters were younger, I had been a high school teacher, and an English major, so I had a sense of how stories work for young children. And I sent the draft of Teresita to Golden Books publishers. They rejected the story. When I got the rejection of the story, I was so embarrassed. I kept asking, “How is it that I don’t know how to write a children’s book?” It is interesting because in many ways this caused me to think I need more education and more preparation before I could try again with the book. This led to my decision to go to grad school and become a historian, something I hadn’t thought about until now. I put the manuscript in an envelope and addressed it to myself. So, this little book rested in my desk drawer.  Until three years ago, when I moved again and had to dismantle my office. At this point, I had been a full professor at Brooklyn. And I found the envelope. I said, “This is a damn good story.” Now, thinking about all that is going on with these conversations about diversity in children’s literature, I realize Teresita was ahead of it’s time.

MJ: You have written historical novels before for example, Feminist and Abolitionist: The Story of Emilia Casanova (2013). This book is more specifically for younger readers. Why did you write a children’s book? In particular, as a historian, what relationship do you see between history and children’s literature?

VSK: Going back to the “Dick and Jane” basal readers, I loved literature. I loved stories. I learned history through stories. But, I have always wondered, “Can that be my story?” I even asked a colleague about this once about the history of the founding fathers. I said, “That story about the founders, can it be my [as a Puerto Rican woman] story?” He just looked at me a bit confounded. My focus in my research in U.S. history had always been on inclusion, on bringing our experience into the textbooks into history. From Colonia to Community (1994) does that in the same way. I emphasize the positivity and complexity of our community. I had done all this work, and I find this little story of Teresita and it was almost as if it was symbolic. The time is now. I believe that what we, as a Puerto Rican community and also in scholarship, have accomplished in the last 30 years is evident in the story of Teresita.

There is a clear connection in my mind between writing the history I wrote and children’s books. The history that most interested in me has been our experience in the United States. It is to me a lost subject. Everything I have done has been to restore a sense of history to our communities and to a broader audience. Clearly, the hardest thing for me has been to go from being a historian to being a storyteller. With some of the historical novels I have written, it has been challenging to go from being overly historical to suddenly writing a story where the history is subordinate. Yet, anything I have ever done as a historian can be told in other mediums. Children’s books give our young people an opportunity to see themselves in stories sooner. We don’t reach our young people early enough that they can begin forming an image of themselves as people with a past in this country.

MJ: The story of Teresita is really one of a child finding hidden treasures in the lives of the people she knows the most. I was struck by the simplicity of the story and also the day to day joys of being a Latinx child in your neighborhood with your family. How is the story distinctive as story of Puerto Rican children growing up in New York? Also, how did you collaborate with Gabi Baeza, the Spanish translator and Carolyn Dee Flores, the book’s illustrator?

VSK: It takes a village to produce a child’s book. Carolyn Dee Flores is my favorite illustrator and when I saw the first prints I was just overjoyed. Teresita looks so much like kids I knew at that age, and so much like my grandniece does today. I wrote Carolyn a fan letter telling her how much I love her work.

The next hurdle was the translation. When I initially received the Spanish translation, I found it was too perfect. I gave it to my sister. She said, “There is nothing wrong with it. It just is not Puerto Rican Spanish.” I wrote to the translator and expressed my concerns and ideas for how the book could reflect, in the small details, Nuyorican Spanish. For example, instead of “cuadra,” “bloque.” Phrases like “brincando soga/jumping rope” were important or “jugo de china/orange juice.” When Teresita goes on the fire escape, I did all kinds of research to find the best word for “fire escape” in Nuyorican Spanish. I asked my family, I went over Ana Celia Zentella’s work. And lo and behold, there was no better phrase than “el fire escape.” So, that is how it read in Teresita.

Finally, I gave the book to my daughters. I dedicated it to them after all, saying “A promise fulfilled.” In my family, we are all writers. Everybody added a little something. I look at it as a story I wrote for two little girls, and it is now going to be for so many children.

New Book: A History of Puerto Rican/Black Coalitions in New York City

Original post by Rose Muzio found here: https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/centrovoices/reviews/history-puerto-ricanblack-coalitions-new-york-city

In the middle decades of the twentieth century, New York City’s Black and Latino population increased dramatically. Thousands of Blacks fled from poverty in the Deep South and tens of thousands of Puerto Ricans sought job opportunities as economic restructuring and rural displacement in Puerto Rico generated massive structural unemployment. The newcomers found jobs predominantly in light industry and the racially segmented service sector where low wages, long hours, discrimination, and disrespect prevailed. These shared conditions among Blacks and Puerto Ricans formed the basis for multiethnic worker solidarity, especially in the city’s municipal and private hospitals where federal laws protecting workers did not apply. Beginning with this vital historical context, Frederick Douglass Opie in Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office takes readers on a journey through three decades of Black-Puerto Rican coalitions that achieved significant improvements in labor conditions, challenged institutional racism in education and reformed higher education curricula, and produced electoral victories for Black and Puerto Rican candidates throughout New York City, including the election of David Dinkins as the first African American mayor.

In Upsetting the Apple Cart, Opie intertwines oral histories with archival research to uncover many of the grassroots mobilizations, protests and strikes, and electoral strategizing based on common cause throughout New York City’s Black and Puerto Rican communities. The coalitions, comprised of varying blends of labor leaders, students, community organizers, mainstream and Left political leaders, and elected politicians, did not always achieve their goals. On the whole, however, Opie shows that the protest tradition of Black-Puerto Rican/Latino coalitions gave voice to thousands of workers and students, reduced the power of entrenched elites, and transformed local Democratic Party politics in the city.

Opie’s book stands prominently within the recent wave of studies that lays to rest the unexamined assumption that Black and Puerto Rican activists in New York rarely united because they perceived disparate economic interests. Each story provides rich description of the conditions that gave rise to coalition making, the individuals and institutions involved, and the often-complex and varied outcomes. Moreover, Opie weaves a historical narrative with threads that bind the decades and reveal the continuity not only in the solidarity between African American and Puerto Rican communities, but also among many of the dedicated players themselves who appear and reappear in the struggles for racial and social justice.

The first of the sustained coalitions of Blacks and Puerto Rican discussed by Opie involves the successful campaign led by SEIU Local 1199 from 1959 to 1962 for union representation and collective bargaining rights in the city’s municipal and private hospitals. At the time, 80 percent of hospital service workers were Black and Puerto Rican/Latino. They worked in an environment of racial hierarchies, as janitors, nurses’ aides, orderlies, and some LPNs, whiles whites dominated supervisory and management positions. The 1935 Wagner Act did not cover hospital workers at the time, and workers were not easily persuaded to openly support unionization for fear of losing their jobs. Despite these obstacles, organizers in Local 1199 set their sights on uniting health and hospital care workers throughout the industry. Following a victory at Montefiore Hospital, which won union representation and resulted in immediate salary increases, Local 1199 moved on to organize all 35,000 employees in voluntary hospitals and nursing homes across the city. The prolonged effort involved determined workers who risked their jobs, rallies and strikes that defied court injunctions; and gradually the support of community residents, civil rights leaders, and Democratic Party political clubs. By the mid-1960s, New York State passed legislation that protected unionization for hospital workers and doubled the minimum wage in the state.

In moving from labor to student activism and solidarity, Opie recalls the central role that young people played in the 1960s in tearing down elitist walls, especially in higher education. Nationally and locally, Black and Latino (Chicano and Puerto Rican) youth were fed up with the institutional racism of universities whose Eurocentric curricula, costs, and selective admissions practices obstructed minority enrollments and discriminated against those in attendance. They were outraged, too, by the assassinations of civil rights leaders and no less by U.S. support for repressive regimes abroad. Some joined the Black and Brown power movements of the period, which were the inspiration for others. They supported liberation movements abroad and the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. Puerto Rican activists in particular brought the case of U.S. colonial rule in Puerto Rico to the issues on the table. In New York, from 1965 to 1969, Black and Puerto Rican youth collaborated throughout the city to demand greater working class access to higher education, more Black and Puerto Rican faculty at all levels of education, and curricula that included Black and Puerto Rican studies. They joined other activists to oppose the Vietnam War and successfully thwarted Columbia University’s development initiatives that would have accelerated gentrification in Harlem. Under pressure from Black lawmakers, New York State established the SEEK program in 1967, which significantly increased Black and Puerto Rican college enrollments by 1969. In Opie’s words, they “worked collaboratively to hold these all-white institutions of higher learning to account and, by so doing, shift the racial consciousness of the entire nation” (p. 55).

As Opie thoroughly documents, some of the veterans of the student movements of the 1960s became members of the Latino—mainly Puerto Rican and Chicano—Left organizations of the 1970s. In New York, groups like El Comité-MINP, the Puerto Rican Socialist Party, and the Young Lords, along with organized labor, were places where future Puerto Rican “Progressives learned political strategy and how to run a grassroots campaign” (p. 87). Although the organizations on the Left tended to stay away from electoral politics, Black and Puerto Rican activists fought together for access to decent jobs and against union exclusion and, especially at the start of the Reagan-era neoliberal onslaught and rising militarism, opposed “supply side economics” and aggressive foreign policies. At the same time, in the mainstream political arenas, Black-Puerto Rican cooperation declined in the 1970s, especially among emerging local leaders who competed for limited leadership positions in antipoverty programs, jockeyed for political patronage in Albany, and differed on electoral strategies in Democratic Party primaries.

One of the most interesting and unique contributions of Opie’s book is his enlightening treatment of the progressive electoral coalitions that formed in the 1980s in the wake of the dissolution of the Black and Brown power movements and conservatives’ consolidation of power within the Republican Party. Many progressives embraced Jesse Jackson’s National Rainbow Coalition as an opportunity to create an insurgency within the Democratic Party and push a program of change for the working class. Although the effort had shortcomings at the national level, Opie notes that veteran activists at the local level learned two important lessons from Jackson’s presidential bids: minority candidates can do well at the polls with adequate support, and registering minority voters was vital to overcoming the Koch-controlled machine in New York (Ch. 6). Opie’s interviews with former members of the Puerto Rican Left reveal the extent to which they were involved in David Dinkins’ mayoral campaign. Utilizing their mobilization and networking skills, they formed Latinos for Dinkins and united with Black political leaders and communities to ensure Dinkins’ election as New York City’s first African American mayor. While Opie thoroughly explores the key roles played by highly regarded strategists like Bill Lynch, among others, he concludes that the Dinkins’ mayoral campaign “grew out of the rich protest tradition in New York City’s black, Latino, and labor communities” (p. 196).

For students, academics, and general readers alike, Frederick Opie’s book is widely accessible. An innovative surprise, especially for a book authored by a social scientist, is the inclusion of recipes of traditional foods of various Puerto Rican, Latino and African American cultures interspersed among the stories of activism. Opie argues that food is a central component of family and community and historically has been a routine ingredient in grassroots mobilization. Readers will surely appreciate, if not personally recall, the role of plentiful, delicious food-to-share in nurturing community and solidarity.

Upsetting the Apple Cart—a phrase Opie notes was once used by Malcolm X—is a major contribution to Puerto Rican, Latino and Black studies for the history it recovers and the analysis it offers of the structural and historical conditions that produced, and continue to produce, a shared identity and common political and economic interests among working-class people of color—against police violence, institutionalized racism, and racial and class inequality. Frederick Douglass Opie suggests that in the twenty-first century, with union membership at a historic low and City Hall still controlled by an abundance of unresponsive politicians, “developing strategies to mobilize black and Latino working-class voters seems the most cogent way of electing a candidate responsive to the Progressive coalition that put him or her in office” (p. 246). It is true, as Opie acknowledges, that the election of the first African American mayor in New York was a progressive step in itself. But the moderate agenda of the Dinkins’ administration was, in part, a reflection of the consequence when coalitions dissipate, as well as the handiwork of entrenched elites (including much of the popular media) that exacerbated racial hostilities and aimed to further divide-and-conquer. Even with the election of self-proclaimed progressives like Mayor Bill de Blasio, unless the financial and real estate sectors that grip New York are held accountable by sustained, mass mobilizations, it is unlikely that electoral strategies alone stand a chance at achieving deep, social transformations. This is all the more true when elected “progressives” aspire to higher office and must contend with a campaign finance system that dissuades them from taking principled stances. Frederick Douglass Opie’s Upsetting the Apple Cart is a powerful testament to what has been and has yet to be accomplished by alliances that seek democratization from below.


The book:
Upsetting the Apple Cart: Black-Latino Coalitions in New York City from Protest to Public Office
By Frederick Douglass Opie
New York: Columbia University Press, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-231-14940-2
312 pages; $30.00 [cloth]
To purchase the book from the publisher click here.