(Book Review) With the River on Our Face by Emmy Pérez

Original review by David Nilsen found here: https://fourthandsycamore.com/2017/01/24/book-review-with-the-river-on-our-face-by-emmy-perez/


Emmy Pérez’s collection With the River on Our Face is intimately tied to the territory of its origin. Taking as its muse the land, wildlife, and people in and around El Paso and the Rio Grande river valley, the book looks at the Mexican-American border as a place both painfully, powerfully real and yet mythical in its role as a gateway between two worlds. It’s a place where the nation’s xenophobic imagination plays itself out with raids and detention centers, but a place that is largely ignored and forgotten about by most of the country otherwise. As Pérez shows, it’s a place where impossibly delicate butterflies pull nectar from desert blooms, and a place where trained attack dogs savage undocumented immigrants out of sight of America’s conscience.

The river of the title is, of course, the Rio Grande. It’s a river that contains far more depth than mere water; it’s a border between two countries, and rife with symbolism. It meanders through this collection just as it does through the arid southwestern desert to the Gulf of Mexico, and it is shown as both a river of death and a river of holy cleansing. Both brutality and beauty are found here in this space where to be home is to be displaced. In “Rio Grande~Bravo”, Pérez writes of the invisible border line down the center of the river as

“An invisible caesura
On water
Where I want to apply stitches
Like skin healing
Into water

Pérez makes use of the language of waterways throughout the collection, even when she isn’t specifically speaking of the river she has lived so much of her life beside. In the title poem, she cleverly states,

“I want to oxbow lake

in this place where children still speak and lose
multiple tongues”

Beautiful, lyrical images like this are peppered throughout the often distressing poems of this collection, as in “El Valle” where we’re shown

“The tip of Tejas is an oriole’s
nest that whorls into

México like a galaxy.”

Pérez is excellent at blending the setting of urban El Paso and its surrounding cities with the harsh landscape of the neighboring deserts, placing both within one ecosystem with similar rules. These connections are made deftly, with subtle images that are none the less evocative, as here in “Siphoning Sugar”:

“cattle egrets white
treble clefs
flanking cattle exist

and a thousand tinsel triangles rippling
over used car lots”

With the River on Our Face is at its most powerful when it directly confronts the injustices of the U.S. immigration system, and the dignity that is stripped from the hopeful backs of undocumented persons who have jumped a fence, or crossed a river, or crawled under the desert sun only to be treated as subhuman if they’re found by border agents. She shows the pain, fear, humiliation, and grief of these situations unflinchingly, but some of the most heartbreaking lines in these poems are not violent. In “Exit Routes” she explains,

“Shelters do not allow pets

Infants exist         The elderly”

These quiet moments are, in some ways, more agonizing as images than those of overt aggression.

Throughout the collection, there is mention of poetry as sacred text, as spiritual salve and weapon. In “Rio Grande~Bravo”, Pérez laments “We can’t build poems faster / than the wall’s construction”, while in “Boca Chica~Playa Bagdad” she intones “When you said you read poetry like Bible verses / I stopped being suspicious of the world”. In “[Why]”, she displays her two muses–poetry and the river–together in one image:

“Diosita, diosito, you who
reads poetry and rivers

like they will save
you, not Jesucristo,

you prepare my daily bread.”

More than anything else, this collection is about documenting a place that most of white America only thinks about in terms of politics. It’s about describing the faces, the stones, the barrios, the lizards, the scrub plants, and, always, the river. Multiple poems in the book are scattered with lists of things that are real, things confirmed as real because this poet testifies to them, good or bad. Dreams exist… Swarms of snout butterflies / splatting on windshields exist… the hooded oriole exists… el Río Grande exists. This quiet insistence refuses to let this land and these people be ignored. While much of American might want to pretend it doesn’t exist, to build a literal wall on the border and a figurative wall around anyone perceived as different, Pérez will not allow it that dishonesty. This place of her home is real, and it contains both beauty and misery.

As she says in a poem titled “Upon Obama’s presidential interregnum a year before the opening of Anzalduas International Bridge, not named after Gloria Anzaldúa”, she concludes simply,

“The border, my home
(without you)
Is a real place.”

Emmy Pérez makes it real for us in these pages. Check out With the River on Our Face if you have the chance.


An oldie, but a goody. Here’s the original: https://therumpus.net/2017/07/the-rumpus-poetry-book-club-chat-with-erika-l-sanchez/


The Rumpus Poetry Book Club chats with Erika L. Sánchez about her new collection Lessons on Expulsion,pushing back against sexism and misogyny, being a troublemaker, and donkeys.

This is an edited transcript of the book club discussion. Every month the Rumpus Poetry Book Club hosts an online discussion with the book club members and the author, and we post an edited version online as an interview. To join the Rumpus Poetry Book Club, click here.

This Rumpus Book Club interview was edited by Brian Spears.


Brian S: About your wonderful book: I don’t usually ask this question, but I was intrigued by the title because it sets up an interesting push against what titles often try to do, which is welcome people in. Can you talk about where the title came from?

Erika L. Sánchez: The book has seen a few titles: Contraband, Fuse, and Kindness, none of which felt right. It wasn’t until I wrote the poem “Lessons on Expulsion,” that I finally found the perfect way to encapsulate the book. In many ways, the book is about rejection, exodus, and other forms of expulsion. In the title poem, I write about the female body and the ways in which women have controlled their reproduction by any means necessary. I actually never considered that the title might alienate people, likely because I don’t ever worry about being palatable. Haha. I like to disrupt. My mother would tell you that I’ve always been a troublemaker.

Brian S: Ha! It didn’t alienate me; I was thinking more of the word expulsion itself, of that pushing out and away, and I definitely caught that issue of control in the poem. And then you follow it with “Hija de la Chingada” about this girl who is surrounded by people trying to control her sexuality. And even when she has control herself, there’s an internal pushback.

And I’ve never met a writer worth reading who wasn’t a troublemaker in some way. 🙂

Erika L. Sánchez: Haha. I see. Yes, much of the book is about women trying to push back against many different forms of sexism and misogyny. The world often tries to define us and control our bodies. It’s so utterly exhausting to constantly reaffirm your humanity. Unfortunately, we are living in a time in which we have to steadily resist and challenge. Our own president is a sexual predator, for instance. I really wish the themes in my book were no longer relevant.

Brian S: I’m a father to three daughters, one grown and a pair of three-year-olds, and I wish we were past those themes as well.

Erika L. Sánchez: One of my favorite signs at marches is, “I can’t believe that we’re still protesting this shit.”

Brian S: And that pushing against is one of the many things that drew me to your book, because those problems don’t go away or even reduce in number on their own.

Erika L. Sánchez: It’s a never-ending process. I recently read Hope in the Dark by Rebecca Solnit, and it truly inspired me. Many people think it’s pointless to resist because the system is rigged against us. It certainly is, but we have the power to fight back in whatever way we can. That mode of thinking, however, is lazy. There’s no sense of responsibility if we just fold our hands and say it’s too hard. I know I won’t see a just society in my lifetime, but I will continue to imagine what that looks like and chip away at oppression in any way possible. I’m in it for the long haul.

Brian S: I mean, it starts so young. In that poem you have men catcalling the speaker when she’s thirteen. And I was just thinking about that NBC article about the archaeological dig at Monticello and the headline writer used the word “mistress” to describe Sally Hemings—she was a slave, but also she was fourteen and Jefferson was three times her age, and there were no end of people online trying to defend that use of mistress, even when those two things were pointed out, just to “protect” Jefferson.

Erika L. Sánchez: That’s disturbing on so many levels. Not only was she a literal child, but she was also a slave. There’s no way a girl in that situation could consent.

Brian S: Yeah, I agree, we may never see a good society but we can see one that’s better than we have, but only if we make it happen.

Erika L. Sánchez: Right. We can’t sit back and let the world implode.

Brian S: Can you talk a bit about “Donkey Poem”? It’s such an empathetic look at an animal that seems to either be abused or mocked most of the time.

Erika L. Sánchez: That poem began when I went to Mexico about five years ago. I was riding the bus into the city and saw a dead donkey lying on the side of the road. It’s mouth was open. Something about that kept haunting me. I began thinking about the beauty of donkeys. They are strong and sweet creatures, yet they are ridiculed and abused. Thinking about that broke my heart and reminded me of the terrible things human beings do to each other.

Brian S: I know the look you’re describing. I’ve lived in rural areas more than once in my life, and had to bury animals, and it’s heartbreaking, no doubt. It was also interesting to me the way you started the poem, “Gentle beast, you carry Jesus / to Jerusalem,” which is kind of a punch, right? Like, here’s this animal you mock but it’s the animal that Jesus specifically asks for in the Gospel account, right? It’s been a while since I read it so my memory might be foggy.

Erika L. Sánchez: I honestly don’t remember where exactly it came from in the Bible. Haha. I was never a good Catholic. I forgot where I found that, but when I wrote it, I fell into a rabbit hole of research about donkeys and that detail struck me. The entire collection deals with the varied manifestations of cruelty and exploitation.

Brian S: One of the other things I really enjoyed about this book is the way you occasionally move between Spanish and English and you refuse to set the Spanish off. You don’t other it, I mean. Like, the expectation of me as a reader is that I’m either going to know this language that’s not English or I’m going to hit up Google Translate and do some work, like poems are supposed to do, make us work some.

That famous William Carlos Williams quote comes to mind: “I wanted to write a poem that you would understand for what good is it to me if you don’t understand it. But you got to try hard”

Erika L. Sánchez: Right. I’m very much against italicizing Spanish in my own work. I don’t do it in my novel either. The reader has the choice to look it up or use context clues. That’s how many bilingual people think. It’s a constant back and forth and sometimes you’re not conscious of the code-switching. Also, Americans often go out of their way to pronounce French words, so why can’t they do that for Spanish? I find that annoying.

Poems are work. I think that’s why some people are afraid of them. They perceive them as a code to be cracked, which I think has a lot to do with how poetry is taught in school. I always tell young people to first appreciate the language. It’s okay to revel in the mystery. You can read the same poem throughout your life and interpret it differently each time. What matters is the effort, I believe. You have to engage with it.

Brian S: Eduardo Corral has been talking about it a lot, and Barbara Jane Reyes has been doing that with both Spanish and Tagalog in her books for years now. And I agree—it’s on the reader to do work. I mean, poets raise hell about poems being too accessible right? So this is less accessible to English-only speakers. Take a minute; look something up.

Erika L. Sánchez: Exactly. We live in the US, where over 17 percent of the population is Latinx. If people don’t know any words in Spanish, or refuse to look them up, that says a lot about them.

Brian S: What poem(s) do you always read when you’re doing a reading? Or has that come up yet since the book is just out?

Erika L. Sánchez: It always depends on my mood and which poems I’m excited about at the moment. Recently, I’ve been reading “A Woman Runs on the First Day of Spring,” because it’s one of my few hopeful poems. It makes me feel good to read it aloud. Also, “Saudade” is fun for me because of the lack of punctuation. I meant for it be rushed and almost breathless. “Crossing” is a very old poem I wrote in grad school and I have been reading that one because I’m really concerned about immigration and border issues right now.

Brian S: “Crossing” is such a powerful poem. And a donkey appears in it as well! Maybe that’s a sign. 🙂

Erika L. Sánchez: I do love me some donkeys.

Brian S: The political ones disappoint very often, though.

Erika L. Sánchez: And yes, political donkeys are such cowards. They are a perpetual disappointment.

Brian S: Who are you reading these days? Anything we should be on the lookout for?

Erika L. Sánchez: I recently read Bestiary, by Donika Kelly, and good Lord, it was stunning. The vulnerability and craft was so exquisite. I’m also reading Rapture by Sjohnna McCray, which is also pummeling my heart. I’m writing essays at the moment, so I’m really into nonfiction these days as well. The Wrong Way to Save Your Life by Megan Sielstra is excellent. Oh, and YA: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and Dear Martin by Nic Stone. I always read a bunch of books at once.

Brian S: Thanks so much for joining us tonight, and for this amazing book.

Erika L. Sánchez: Thank YOU. So glad the book resonated with you.

Brian S: Here’s hoping it gets the audience it deserves. Good night!

New Exhibit: Califas: Art of the US-Mexico Borderlands

Anyone near the Richmond Art Center between now and November 16th? This looks like it’s worth checking out.


Califas: Art of the US-Mexico Borderlands / El Arte de la Zona Fronteriza México-Estados Unidos explores representations of the US-Mexico ‘borderlands’ in contemporary art, with a special emphasis on the Bay Area.

This exhibition comes at a moment when the current nationwide immigration crisis has once again focused attention on the border between Mexico and the United States. Californian communities, activists, politicians, and artists have been especially vocal in this crisis.

Featuring works by 21 contemporary artists and collaborative groups, Califas explores the origins of migrant memory, the consequences of boundary line fortifications, the mixing of border cultures, responses to injustice and inequality, and solutions to advance the borderlands and its peoples.

The exhibition adopts a unique lens to re-examine the past, grapple with understanding the present, and connect with the future of a distinct cross-border culture. The name Califas is commonly used to refer to California by Chicanos wishing to emphasize the deep histories, memories, and identities that existed in the state long before the international boundary was created in 1848. Adapted for use in this exhibition, Califasprovides new ways of seeing California and Baja California – as borderlands before walls, when people understood the border as a connecting tissue not a line of separation.

Featured Artists: AGENCY (Ersela Kripa & Stephen Mueller), Chester Arnold, Jesus Barraza, Enrique Chagoya, CRO studio (Adriana Cuellar & Marcel Sánchez), Ana Teresa Fernández, Nathan Friedman, Guillermo Galindo, Rebeca García-González, Andrea Carrillo Iglesias, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Richard Misrach, Alejandro Luperca Morales, Julio César Morales, Postcommodity, Rael San Fratello (Ronald Rael & Virginia San Fratello), Fernando Reyes, Favianna Rodriguez, Stephanie Syjuco, David Taylor, Judi Werthein, Rio Yañez

Califas is guest co-curated by UC Berkeley professors Michael Dear, author of Why Walls Won’t Work, and Ronald Rael, author of Borderwall as Architecture: A Manifesto for the U.S.-Mexico Boundary.

The exhibition is made possible with support from the Zellerbach Family Foundation, Susan Chamberlin, Matt and Margaret Jacobson, and anonymous donors.

Image: Julio César Morales, Day Dreaming Series (detail), 2018. Courtesy of the Artist and Gallery Wendi Norris, San Francisco

Latinos Remain Largely Excluded By Smithsonian Institutions, New Report Finds

original article by Mikaela Lefrak can be found here: https://wamu.org/story/18/09/10/latinos-remain-largely-excluded-smithsonian-institutions-new-report-finds/

The Smithsonian Institution has failed to achieve most of the goals it set for itself nearly a quarter of a century ago to improve Latino representation in its workforce, leadership and programming, according to an outside progress report released Monday.

The report, titled “Invisible No More,” details the ways in which the Smithsonian has overlooked Latinos in its executive ranks and budget priorities. It was released by UCLA’s Chicano Studies Research Center and the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.

“There’s been a consistent pattern of Latino exclusion,” said Chon Noriega, a co-author of the study and the director of the Chicano Studies Research Center.

In “Invisible No More,” Noriega and his co-authors evaluate the Smithsonian’s progress on 10 goals the institution set in 1994 in a report called “Willful Neglect.” “The Smithsonian…displays a pattern of willful neglect toward the estimated 25 million Latinos in the United States,” wrote the authors in 1994. “It is difficult for the Task Force to understand how such a consistent pattern of Latino exclusion from the work of the Smithsonian could have occured by chance.”

The report included 10 recommendations for improvement, included supporting the development of a Latino Museum on the National Mall and increasing Latino representation across the Smithsonian’s workforce.

The findings of the new report from UCLA aren’t all bad. Two of the most promising growth areas are the curatorial and archival departments, which have added significant numbers of Latino specialists. In 1994, there were only two Latino curators. The Smithsonian established the Latino Curatorial Initiative in 2010, and between 2012 and 2016 there have been an average of 7 Latino curators per years.

However, the proportion of Latinos working at the Smithsonian still lags behind that of the total Latino population in the U.S.: Latinos made up 17.8 percent of the country’s population in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 1994, 2.7 percent of the Smithsonian’s workforce was Latino. In 2018, it’s only at 5 percent, according to the Smithsonian.

In terms of executive leadership, Latinos remain severely underrepresented. No Latinos served on the Smithsonian’s main governing body, the Board of Regents, before 1994, and only four have served since. There has been no Latino representation since 2016.

“When you look at leadership, the Smithsonian is on par with other major cultural institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Getty and the Chicago Art Institute, which have almost no minority leadership or governance,” said Noriega. “This is something that’s endemic to the field at large and really needs to be tackled.”

According to the Smithsonian, 3% of senior level leadership is Latino. A spokesperson said they are in the process of reviewing the report and its findings.

The report shows progress in other key areas, including Latino-centered collections, exhibitions and scholarship. The Smithsonian notes that the National Portrait Gallery has increased its acquisition of Latino subjects and artists by 90 percent, and the National Museum of African American History and Culture has recently begun to collect object related to the Afro-Latino experience.

However, the study’s authors point out that progress in these areas could be at risk due to inadequate federal funding for Latino-focused initiatives. The Smithsonian counters that it doubled its funding for Latino-related positions and programs in 2015 from $1 million to $2 million per year.

The Smithsonian has also failed in its goal to support efforts to establish a National American Latino Museum on the National Mall, according to the report. While private groups and Congressional leaders have repeatedly pushed for its creation, the authors say they could not find any mention of a Latino museum in any of the Smithsonian Institution’s annual reports from the last 23 years.

“Latinos remain largely excluded from participation in arts and cultural institutions that tell the American story,” Noriega wrote in the report’s foreword. “The Smithsonian has an opportunity to play a leadership role for the field.”

CfP: Border-lines: Journal of the Latino Research Center


Gloria Anzaldúa in her germinal works describes the borderlands as a material place and as a space that shifts to the metaphorical and symbolic. Borderlines delineate systems in which our societies are also arranged and dispersed. Borders and the borderlands are emotional, mental, psychic, spiritual, and material. Border-Lines is a journal of the Latino Research Center housed at the University of Nevada, Reno. As a journal entering a new decade of its publication, the Border-Lines continues a legacy of publishing scholarly excellence with a commitment to offer space to interdisciplinary and intersectional studies. We do not build walls when we are afraid. We do not erect borders between identity categories, scholarly traditions, art, or activism. Border-Lines is a journal that blurs the spaces between and betwixt identity, theory, and disciplines. This call for papers requests interdisciplinary research that analyze, describe, or make interventions at the boundaries of what constitutes border theory, research in/on the borderlands, and/or the people who live in these spaces and places. Some suggested areas of interest (but not limited to those listed here):

  • Family separation policies and procedures
  • Latina/o/x Issues in Nevada
  • Indigenous Studies of Nevada
  • Jotería cultura, theory, activism, and art
  • Arts-based approaches to research methodology
  • Engaged and/or participant action research
  • Chicana feminist theory and praxis
  • Latinidad in the current political climate
  • Interdisciplinary border studies International borders outside U.S. context
  • Chicana art, spirituality, and activism Latino/a cultural and media representations
  • Testimonios from the borderlands (material, mental, emotional, spiritual, metaphorical)
  • Monstrosity in Popular Culture
  • Educational Pipelines for Latinx and Chicanx student and faculty
  • Rhetorical deconstructions of border discourses and texts

This issue will be published in the Late Spring of 2019, and all submissions should adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Submit manuscript to Dr. Robert Gutierrez-Perez, rgutierrezperez@unr.edu with the title: “Border-Lines 2019 Submission” by midnight on November 15th, 2018
  • A Cover Page in .pdf format that lists the title of your manuscript, your name, affiliation, mailing address, and email contact information.
  • Manuscript should adhere to the latest Chicago style guide and should be between 5,000-7,000 words. Please make sure to remove any identifying information from your manuscript.
  • Submissions will undergo a peer-review process after editor review. Any questions should be directed to the editor: rgutierrezperez@unr.edu

If You Are Looking To Grow Culturally, Here Are 23 Books Worth A Good Read

credit: “Corazón.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018. / epicreads / Instagram

When powerful, influential people try to write Latino stories for us, we rise up. Not only is it important to support Latino writers, but reading the words and alchemy they put down is truly a gift for us. There is nothing more profound that being able to deeply relate to the struggle to be seen, to feel different, to celebrate our curves, to unlearn religious-driven lessons of shame around sex, and to fill in the gaps of our white-washed history, told in full-color by Latinos, for Latinos.

Por favor, disfrute our round up of Latino authored books to feed your soul throughout 2018.

1. “The Poet X” by Elizabeth Acevedo

CREDIT: @epicreads / Instagram

This young adult fiction book has only been on the shelves since March 6th and it’s topping chart. Renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo tells the story of a young Afro-Latina girl growing up in Harlem and discovering her world and voice through slam poetry.

Follow @acevedowritesis on Instagram to see her actually perform!

2. “Getting Off” by Erica Garza

CREDIT: @ericadgarza / Instagram

Erica Garza’s memoir is at the top of my list. This Mexican-American author shares her candid experience of understanding how girls are disproportionately taught shame around sex from a young age and how it led her down a path of porn addiction. This one seems like a life-changer.

3. “You Have the Right to Remain Fat,” by Virgie Tovar

CREDIT: “You Have The Right To Be Fat.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Preach. Set your countdown for August 2018, when #bopo activist Virgie Tovar will be feeding brown round girls’ souls with her Mexicana guide to unlearn fatphobia, dismantle sexist fashion and reject diet culture. Because we’re more than our friggin bodies (and our bodies are fine as hell as is).

4. “Goddess of Anarchy: The Life and Times of Lucy Parsons, American Radical,” by Jacqueline Jones

CREDIT: “Goddess of Anarchy.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

When white male property-owners write most of the history we learn about in school, we don’t hear our ancestors stories.

That’s why award-winning Jacqueline Jones does some digging to uncover the stories of Texas’ most mysterious activsts: Lucy Parsons. She was African American, Native American and Mexican and she made waves for labor, women’s, racial and prison movements.

5. “The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary,” by NoNieqa Ramos

CREDIT: “The Disturbed Girls Dictionary”. Digital Image. ReadDisruptRepeat.com. 4 April 2018.

Another YA fiction to add to your list (no me importa how old you are, k?). The Puerto Rican writer follows Macy, a normal Bronx girl dealing with your not-so-average incarcerated father issues, your brother being kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and all the other joys of being a teenager in America. Spoiler alert: you’ll want to beg her school to stop calling her “disturbed” already.

6. “Together We Rise: Behind the Scenes at the Protest Heard Around the World,” The Women’s March Organizers and Condé Nast

CREDIT: “Together We Rise.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

On it’s one year anniversary, Chicana Carmen Perez and Colombian Paola Mendoza teamed up with Condé Nast to publish never-before-seen images of the largest protest in U.S. History: The Women’s March. And yes, you’ll find essays from activists America Ferrera, Roxane Gay, Congresswoman Maxine Waters and more. Let this baby carry you through 2019.

7. “Bruja Born,” by Zoraida Cordova

CREDIT: “Bruja Born.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

If you haven’t read the first YA installment, “Brooklyn Brujas,” you have until June 5, 2018 until “Brujas Born” comes out. Ecuadorian author focuses on two teen bruja sisters living in the Bronx.

I swear this sounds like all our tias own memoirs.

8. “Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century,” by Iris Morales

CREDIT: “Latinas: Struggles & Protests in the 21st Century.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Edited by Puerto Rican activist, Iris Morales, “Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century” aims to collect the voices and experiences of today’s leading Latina voices, including Aurora Levins Morales, Jennicet Gutíerrez, Ariana Brown and mitú’s very own Raquel Reichard.

Get this anthology of poetry and prose and prepare to feel rooted in this bat-shit crazy world.

9. “The Line Becomes the River” by Francisco Cantú

CREDIT: “The Line Becomes a River.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

The true life story and memoir of Francisco Cantú’s employment with Border Control and ethical dilemma of when doing his job causes so much personal harm.

You can also listen to an excerpt on This American Life’s “OK, I’ll Do It” Act One: “Line in the Sand.”

10. “Blanca & Roja,” By Anna-Marie McLemore

CREDIT: “Blanca Roja.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Prepare yourselves: this is the dark Latina retelling of the classic fairytale “Swan Lake” and it’s coming out October 9, 2018. Mexican-American award winner Anna-Marie McLemore shares your classic story of two sisters haunted by a curse that will force one of them to live as a swan if they can’t break the hex. Bless.

11. “Broken Beautiful Hearts,” by Kami Garcia

CREDIT: “Broken Beautiful Hearts.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

She’s a New York Times-bestselling author whose latest novel is a mix of romance and mystery when a high school senior athlete learns her boyfriend’s dark secret and coincidentally falls down a flight of stairs, ruining her pro career and begging the question: who pushed her?

12. Corazón by Yesika Salgado

CREDIT: “Corazón.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Description: “Corazón is a love story. It is about the constant hunger for love. It is about feeding that hunger with another person and finding that sometimes it isn’t enough. Salgado creates a world in which the heart can live anywhere; her fat brown body, her parents home country, a lover, a toothbrush, a mango, or a song. It is a celebration of heartache, of how it can ruin us, but most importantly how we always survive it and return to ourselves whole.”

13. “In the Country We Love: My Family Divided” by Diane Guerrero

CREDIT: “In The Country We Love.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

You know Diane Guerrero from “Jane the Virgin” and “Orange is the New Black,” and her new addition to her activism for immigration reform. She was just fourteen years old when she came home from school to find her parents suddenly vanished…deported while she was in school.

14. “Empty Set” by Verónica Gerber Bicecci

CREDIT: “Empty Set.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

A self described “visual artist that writes,” Bicecci writes a beautiful, fragmented story, told with black and white drawings, diagrams and text about loneliness in breakups and families.

15. “The Friend” by Sigrid Nunez

CREDIT: “The Friend.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Your heart will break and fill back up again with this book. Chinese-Panamanian author, Sigrid Nunez, shares the story of a woman mourning her close friend’s suicide and the aftermath of taking in his grieving, massive Great Dane.

16. “Honor Among Thieves,” by Ann Aguirre and Rachel Caine

CREDIT: “Honor Among Thieves.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

If you like sci-fi YA fiction thrillers, then new release “Honor Among Thieves” is for you. The story is about Zara Cole, a petty criminal selected by aliens to explore the outer reaches of the universe as their passenger. Difrute!

 17.“Just Sit: A Meditation Guidebook for People Who Know They Should But Don’t,” by Sukey Novogratz and Elizabeth Novogratz

CREDIT: “Just Sit.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

It’s 2018. We all need to work a little extra to find zen this year and Boricua Sukey Novogratz tell us in the lamest terms how to make it happen in our day to day.

18. “Love Poems” by Pablo Neruda

CREDIT: “Love Poems.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

If you weren’t forced to recite Pablo Neruda poetry in front of your class, then I wish I went to your school. This sweet, pocket sized book gives you both the English and Spanish versions of his best love poems.

Life hack: be like my girlfriend and give this to yours so they can hear how much you love them in all the ways. I know, I’m crying.

19. “The First Rule of Punk” by Celia C. Pérez

CREDIT: @girlsreadtheworld / Instagram

Mexican-Cuban author, Celia C. Pérez, shares the untold, yet ubiquitous, story of young punk Latinos in America. Follow the story of 12-year-old María Luia O’Neill-Morales, or as she prefers to be called, Malú. She’s half-Mexican, half-white and she’s angsty af, partly because her mother wants her to be “less punk rocker and more señorita” and partly because…why tf not?

20. “Sabers and Utopias: Visions of Latin America” by Mario Vargas Llosa

CREDIT: “Sabers and Utopias”. Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Ok, so you’ve read through 19 books, and have found another Nobel Prize winning author. This one is a deep dive into Latin American history told by one of the most talented, brilliant Latino minds alive today.

21. “Sidewalks” by Valeria Luiselli

CREDIT: “Sidewalks.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Born in Mexico City, Luiselli, “Sidewalks” is the translation of “Papeles Falsos” and a collection of essays about Mexico City, Manhattan, and a dizzying array of graveyard-esque stories in between. Read it to see what I mean.

22. “A Psalm for Us” by Reyna Biddy

CREDIT: “a psalm for us.” Digital Image. Amazon. 4 April 2018.

Twenty two-year-old Reyna “Biddy” Mays is mitad Mexicana and is gifting us this collection of prose, self-affirmations, spoken word poems, and short stories that question faith, marrying the intellect’s acceptance of feminist principles and dragging her heart to the fullest expression of self worth.

This book will opens your soul up.

23. “Islandborn” by Junot Díaz

CREDIT: “Islandborn | Lola.” Digital Image. JunotDiaz.com. 4 April 2018.

Dominican writer, Junot Díaz, has gifted us all vivid stories intermingled with our own childhood memories. Today, he’s gifting our world’s youngest story-lovers a tale of Lola, a Dominican girl living in the Bronx, asked to share her family’s story. As her imagination and memories swirl together around serious topics (i.e. dictator Rafael Trujillo), she learns about the heroes of her island, and the story of her family.

I’m 100 percent gifting this to my nietos.

UCLA Fall Forum

Anyone going to be in Los Angeles on October 18? Check out this fall forum!

3 – 5 pm, Thursday, October 18, 2018

UCLA James West Alumni Center

325 Westwood Plaza, Los Angeles

Refreshments will be served

Followed by UCLA Alumni Association Professors in the Pub

Register at https://uclainstitute-of-american-cultures-fallforum-oct18.eventbrite.com

Hear directly from four scholars – one representing each center – about their innovative work, ideas, and goals. Each will be interviewed by a mentor.

Josen Diaz, Ph.D., IAC Visiting Scholar, Asian American Studies Center
Topic: Memory as Anti-History: National Culture and Other U.S.-Philippine State Fictions
Interviewer: Victor Bascara, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Chair, Dept. of Asian American Studies

Yatta Kiazolu, Ph.D. Student, Department of History, Bunche Center for African American Studies
Topic: Black Women’s Transnational Activism in the Era of Decolonization
Interviewer: Brenda Stevenson, Ph.D., Professor and Nickoll Family Endowed Chair in History, Dept. of History

Nancy Mithlo, Ph.D., Professor, Gender Studies, American Indian Studies Center
Topic: Seeing American Indians
Interviewer: Stella Nair, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Indigenous Arts of the Americas, Dept. of Art History

Roy Pérez, Ph.D., IAC Visiting Scholar, Chicano Studies Research Center
Topic: Proximities: Queer Configurations of Race in Latinx Literature and Performance
Interviewer: Joshua Javier Guzmán, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Dept. of Gender Studies

Book rev. of Phantom Tongue

Original book review by Rodney Gomez for one of my favorite sites, latinobookreview, can be found here: https://www.latinobookreview.com/steven-saacutenchez—phantom-tongue–latino-book-review.html

One of the more exciting things about Phantom Tongue, the first full-length collection by Steven Sanchez, is how skillfully it grapples with the big question of silence. How does a person create in a language not their own? How does someone claim the language of their ancestors? How does someone discover their own language and break their silence?

As the book tells the reader, a phantom tongue is unable to speak the language of its heritage. It is also unable to speak in the language of its own desire. It must remain hidden, either because it believes it cannot speak as it should, or because it risks its own destruction if it does. The fear and frustration of being unable to speak are clearly visible in the nostalgia of “Past Tense”:

“At 10:30, we’d brush our teeth, rinse
our mouths, and she’d sing in Spanish
until I closed my eyes, imagining
small pigeons flying from her tongue,

carrying rolled R’s like small parcels
I’ve never been able to unwrap.”

Here, the speaker’s grandmother is pictured as a source of incredible beauty and wonder. Later, the extended speaker of the collection describes himself, by contrast, as clumsy and dangerous: “my thick accent breaks the legs / beneath each letter and leaves my words // disfigured like that first martyr” (“Joshua Tree”). The reader feels pity for the speaker’s plight—he cannot say what he wishes to say.

The title poems places him in a vulnerable position, under the drill of a racist dentist who both literally and figuratively silences him as he praises a mother who had beat her son when he had protested for equal rights in Baltimore. In this poem, the mouth that is unable to speak the language of its ancestors is silenced at the very moment it starts to strike out. The collection builds on this and other episodes of discovery. Memory and nostalgia weave in and out of the present day to expose truths—how casually, for example, a boyfriend’s prior embrace intertwines with his grandmother’s singing. Religious images and themes are recast in the context of developing new identities. Creation, however surreptitious, becomes a sensuous act forced out of necessity. By constructing new images out of the old, the extended speaker claims himself.

The collection ends with the glorious affirmation of “What I Didn’t Tell You”

“I used to feel guilty swallowing
the pulse of another man,
but now I know there are many
ways to pray.”

Here we have a speaker who has moved nearer to claiming/creating his own language. The urgency that animates the collection closes with the possibility of further opportunity for discovery. It is an illuminating end to an exciting book. 

Steven Sánchez is a recipient of fellowships from CantoMundo and the Lambda Literary foundation. His two chapbooks include To My Body and Photographs of Our Shadows. His poems have appeared in Poet Lore,NimrodNorth American ReviewMuzzleCrab Creek Review, and other publications. 

Phantom Tongue is published by Sundress Publications. Click here to purchase

FEIPOL (Festival Internacional de Poesia Latinoamericana) 2018 in McAllen, Texas

Make your travel reservations now people!


Come and join us at the  International Latin American Poetry Festival in McAllen, TX., organized by Latin American Foundation for the Arts and celebrate with us the marvelous Latin American arts and culture through spoken word.

On the 4th, 5th & 6th of October FeIPoL will hold its poetry festival and showcase a wide selection of Latin American writers to the international community. The readings and visual art exhibits will take place at the McAllen Public Library on 4001 N 23rd St, McAllen, TX 78504. On Friday October 5th from 7:00 PM – 10:00 PM Noche FeIPoL will take place at the Art Village, 800 N Main St, McAllen, TX 78501.

FeIPoL is the result of a successful collaboration between international artists and sponsors dedicated to widening and promoting Latin American arts and culture around the world.  We welcome writers to participate in readings, discussions, workshops, and book signings over the course of the festival. In doing so, this event brings together both acclaimed contemporary artists and emerging talent from various countries. It aims to present quality poetry written in English or Spanish to an international audience, encourage the exchange of the Latin American experience with other world cultures, and foster an international community of poetry readers.

These events are open to the public and free of charge.

Welcome to the world of La Borinqueña: The Puerto-Rican superhero you need to know

Anybody near North Carolina? This would be worth it!

Original post by Zach Goins found here: http://www.dailytarheel.com/article/2018/08/marvel-comic-0827


It’s a bird… it’s a plane… it’s… La Borinqueña!

UNC will get a taste of the Marvel universe when comic book artist and writer Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez visits campus on Sept. 14.

As a part of the John and June Allcott Gallery, Miranda-Rodriguez’ artwork will be on display in the Hanes Art Center from Aug. 27 until Sept. 21. Miranda-Rodriguez’ visit to campus will also kick off the University’s month-long Latinx Heritage Month.

Miranda-Rodriguez has worked with Marvel for 11 years, previously focusing on superheroes of African descent, like Black Panther, Luke Cage and Storm, but after writing his first story for the anthology series “Guardians of the Galaxy: Tales of the Cosmos,” Miranda-Rodriguez recognized the larger role he could play.

“Writing that story gave me the exposure I needed to realize there was a strong need for people of color to write stories,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “The reception to my first Marvel book was so strong that I decided to use that attention I was garnering to bring awareness to the humanitarian crisis affecting Puerto Rico.”

Enter La Borinqueña – a superhero of Miranda-Rodriguez’ own creation.

La Borinqueña, also known as college student Marisol Rios De La Luz, spends a semester abroad in Puerto Rico, where she encounters the island’s spirits and gains the power of superhuman strength, flight and the ability to control storms.

La Borinqueña has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon for the people of Puerto Rico, representing the island’s traditions, heritage and struggles that are often overlooked in pop culture.

For Mario Marzan, an associate professor of art history, Miranda-Rodriguez’ commitment to social work in addition to art made him an obvious choice for the Allcott Gallery.

“His comics are really bringing attention to some of the issues that are impacting Puerto Rico right now,” Marzan said. “I myself am originally from Puerto Rico, so his topic was close to home for me personally.”

When Miranda-Rodriguez first created La Borinqueña, he knew he could use his platform to not only share his artistic abilities, but to promote some of Puerto Rico’s most pressing issues, too.

“It is truly humbling to see the cultural impact that La Borinqueña has made internationally,” Miranda-Rodriguez said. “I initially set out to develop this graphic novel series to bring to light the need to decolonize Puerto Rico as it has been a colony of the U.S. for 101 years now. I also want to make those of us here in the U.S. aware that there are 3.5 million U.S. citizens also living in Puerto Rico who have always been treated as second-class citizens. They can serve in the U.S. military but cannot vote for their commander-in-chief.”

Josmell Perez, the director of Carolina Latinx Collaborative, worked together with Marzan to organize Miranda-Rodriguez’ visit, said he’s excited for Latinx students to see superheroes that look like them.

“I’ve been at Carolina for over 10 years, so I’ve seen the Latinx community grow in both size and prominence,” Perez said. “I think it’s important to create these learning opportunities for all of our communities to be able to show the richness of our cultures, because Edgardo’s work is the perfect example of what it means to have pride in one’s culture.”

Miranda-Rodriguez, Marzan and Perez all hope that La Borinqueña and her visit to UNC-Chapel Hill result in one thing: awareness.

“I want students to walk away feeling and knowing that Puerto Rico is just as much of the U.S. as Texas, North Carolina and New Jersey,” Perez said. “They just want what we all want — to be seen and to be heard.”