In the 1970s the Mexican government acted to alleviate rural unemployment by supporting the migration of able-bodied men. Millions crossed into the United States to find work that would help them survive as well as sustain their families in Mexico. They took low-level positions that few Americans wanted and sent money back to communities that depended on their support. But as U.S. authorities pursued more aggressive anti-immigrant measures, migrants found themselves caught between the economic interests of competing governments. The fruits of their labor were needed in both places, and yet neither country made them feel welcome.
Ana Raquel Minian explores this unique chapter in the history of Mexican migration. Undocumented Lives draws on private letters, songs, and oral testimony to recreate the experience of circular migration, which reshaped communities in the United States and Mexico. While migrants could earn for themselves and their families in the U.S., they needed to return to Mexico to reconnect with their homes periodically. Despite crossing the border many times, they managed to belong to communities on both sides of it. Ironically, the U.S. immigration crackdown of the mid-1980s disrupted these flows, forcing many migrants to remain north of the border permanently for fear of not being able to return to work. For them, the United States became known as the jaula de oro—the cage of gold.
Undocumented Lives tells the story of Mexicans who have been used and abused by the broader economic and political policies of Mexico and the United States.
In line with scholarship, one of the core tenets of the LTC, this anthology is a collection of new Latinx plays and performances that emerged from the Los Angeles based Latino Theater Company’s landmark Encuentro 2014: A National Latina/o Theatre Festival, produced in association with the LTC. Encuentro 2014 was an historic event in which nineteen theatre companies were selected from a competitive, national application process to participate in a month-long residency to perform in the largest national Latinx theatre festival in over twenty-five years.
Encuentro 2014 Welcome Dance Party.
This anthology makes an important contribution as it chronicles not only the theatrical productions of Encuentro 2014, but also the impact of the festival as a whole on the field at large. Given that the plays and events within the festival included cultural ritual, political demonstration, and social practice, the anthology also provides a dynamic account of these intersections within US Latinx Theatre. Publication of these plays by Northwestern University Press serves not only as a testament to the diversity of Latinx artists, but also to the strength of the Latinx Theatre movement and its ever growing national network.
There is power in the communal experience of creating, witnessing, and participating in theatre festivals.
Encuentro means “an encounter,” and meetings form a core theme in these six groundbreaking plays, each prefaced by a critical introduction from a leading Latinx theatre scholar. The volume includes the following plays and critical introductions:
Aliens, Immigrants & Other Evildoers by José Torres-Tama; introduction by Dr. Tiffany Lopez
Dreamscape by Rickerby Hinds; introduction by Olga Sanchez Saltveit
La Esquinita, USA by Rubén Gonzalez; introduction by Dr. Jorge Huerta
Patience, Fortitude, and Other Antidepressants by Mariana Carreño King; introduction by Dr. Beatriz Rizk
Premeditation by Evelina Fernández; introduction by Dr. Grace Lopez
Zoetrope Part 1 by Javier González; introduction by Dr. Irma Mayorga
Playwrights Ruben C. Gonzalez, José Torres-Tama, Rickerby Hinds, Mariana Carreño King, Javier Antonio González, and Evelina Fernández exhibit a wide range of aesthetic approaches, dramatic structures, and themes, ranging from marriage, gentrification, racial and gendered violence, migration, and the ever-present politics of the US–Mexico border. There is power in the communal experience of creating, witnessing, and participating in theatre festivals. This anthology is a testament to that power and seeks to document the historic festival as well as to make these works available to a wider audience.
Aliens, Immigrants, & Other Evildoers by José Torres-Tama.
In spite of an explosion of Latinx plays and productions since the advent of the new millennium, few of these works have been published in a cohesive, systematic manner. The gold standard of Latinx play anthologies are mostly dated: Necessary Theater: Six Plays About the Chicano Experience (1989); Shattering the Myth: Plays by Hispanic Women (1992); Out of the Fringe: Contemporary Latina/o Theater and Performance (2000); Puro Teatro: a Latina Anthology (2000); and Fronteras Vivientes: Eight Latina/o Canadian Plays ( 2013). While these anthologies remain valuable works for educators, literary managers, and general reading audiences alike, they largely reinforce a dated view of Latinx identity. Encuentro is timely and reflects recent developments in the burgeoning Latinx theatre movement. More importantly, it updates the canon of Latinx theatre by reflecting not only the transnational character of Latinidad in the twenty-first century, but also by featuring the works of established artists alongside emerging ones while chronicling Encuentro 2014, a landmark event within the history of Latinx theatre in the twenty-first century.
Encuentro is timely and reflects recent developments in the burgeoning Latinx theatre movement.
One of the central goals of Encuentro ‘14—and the subsequent Encuentro de las Americas in 2017—was to revitalize a national network of Latinx theatres and artists to encourage the dissemination of their work nationwide. Exciting productions, tours, and professional partnerships have already sprung as a result. As these plays continue to be produced around the country and abroad, the demand to have these works in print will increase. Similarly, this anthology provides access to these works to scholars and artists who are currently and will continue to document this seminal movement within the field of American Theatre history.
It is the hope of the LTC and the co-editors of Encuentro: Latinx Performance for the New American Theater that volumes such as this are not exceptions to the rule, but, rather, become the gold standard for how we continue documenting the current Latinx theatre movement. As the work of the LTC has demonstrated since its advent in Boston in 2013, this work is only just beginning.
Check out this WONDERFUL piece by Alison Flood for the Guardian
Dominican-American Elizabeth Acevedo wins prestigious children’s award for The Poet X, while Jackie Morris takes illustration prize for The Lost Words
Dominican-American slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo has become the first ever writer of colour to win the UK’s most prestigious children’s books award, the Carnegie medal, which has a history stretching back to 1936 and includes Arthur Ransome, CS Lewis and Neil Gaiman among its former winners.
Acevedo, the daughter of Dominican immigrants, took the medal for her debut, The Poet X. A verse novel, it tells of a quiet Dominican girl, Xiomara, who joins her school’s slam poetry club in Harlem and is, according to the judges, “a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family and faith within a truly innovative verse structure”. Xiomara “comes to life on every page and shows the reader how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin”.
The book is dedicated to “all the little sisters yearning to see themselves”, and one of her former students in particular. Acevedo was an eighth-grade English teacher in Maryland when the impetus for the novel struck her: one of her students, Katherine, wouldn’t read any of the books Acevedo offered her, telling her : “None of these books are about us.”
So Acevedo set out to write “a story that sounds like and depicts the same kind of neighbourhood” she and her students are from. “When your body takes up more room than your voice / you are always the target of well-aimed rumors, / which is why I let my knuckles talk for me,” she writes in The Poet X. “I’ve forced my skin just as thick as I am.”
“This was a girl who physically seemed to be taking up so much space but felt she had to be withdrawn, she was afraid to push the boundaries,” Acevedo said. “Her body takes up so much attention it would be easy to forget all the things she’s thinking, things she won’t say. I wanted to be really close to those feelings and show the everyday magic and beauty that quiet folks can hold.”
Acevedo is no longer a teacher but she returns to the school where she taught every year, and knows that her former students, including Katherine, have read her novel. In her speech after winning the medal she said:“I felt like this student had given me a challenge, or at least permission to to write a story about young people who take up space, who do not make themselves small, who learn the power of their own words.”
Acevedo’s win comes two years after the prize instigated an independent review into its historical lack of racial diversity, following widespread anger at 2017’s 20-book, entirely white longlist. After interviews with more than 600 people, from librarians to children, the review concluded that the UK’s overwhelmingly white librarian workforce, who nominate books for the medal, were mostly unaware of titles by writers of colour. It also found a dearth of books by writers of colour were being published in the UK.
Tuesday’s ceremony also saw the illustrator Jackie Morris win the Kate Greenaway medal for illustration for The Lost Words, a response to the Oxford Junior Dictionary’s decision to remove everyday nature words such as “acorn”, “bluebell” and “kingfisher”, as they were not being used enough by children. The book, written by Robert Macfarlane, features his poems alongside Morris’s images of the excised words and has become a cultural phenomenon, with members of the public raising funds to ensure schools around the country have copies.
Alison Brumwell, who chaired the panel of librarians who picked the winners, called it an “astonishing book which deserves the highest accolades”.
“The illustrations test our acuity and make us all think on a much deeper level about scale, colour and proportion; also, about representations of loss and absence. We are invited to ‘read’ on more than one level and to reflect upon a world in which change can mean irreparable loss, impoverishing both language and the environment,” said Brumwell.
Morris said that she believes the response to The Lost Words has been so strong because “instinctively, we know that we are not separate from nature, we’re part of it”.
“Certainly in urban environments, we’ve almost divorced ourselves from a close connection with it, and I think there is a hunger to return to those connections – and it’s also an enormous necessity,” she said.
Morris ended her acceptance speech on Tuesday with a call to her fellow authors and illustrators, artists and musicians “to help to tell the truth about what is happening to this small and fragile world we inhabit, to re-engage with the natural world, to inspire and to imagine better ways to live.
“Because there is no Planet B and we are at a turning point. And because in order to make anything happen it first needs to be imagined. And as writers and illustrators for children we grow the readers and thinkers of the future,” she said.
On May 14, 2019, in a collaboration between the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) Council 60, the University of Houston’s Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage/Arte Público Press, and SERJobs, members of the community gathered to celebrate the launch of the Alonso S. Perales Digital Archive. Among those in attendance was Perales’ daughter, Marta Perales Carrizales. This digital archive marks the first digitized collection on the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Archives site.
Alonso S. Perales was one of the most prominent US Civil rights leaders of the twentieth century. He was born in Alice, Texas in 1898. Perales served in the US Army during World War I. After his military service, he attended college and law school at the National University (which later became George Washington University). Upon receiving his law degree, Perales became only the third Mexican American to practice law in Texas (Olivas xi). Perales dedicated his life to Mexican American civil rights and empowering the working-class community through knowledge and education. In 1929, Perales co-founded of the League of Latin American Citizens (LULAC)–the first nationwide Mexican American civil rights organization, not to mention the largest and oldest US Latino political association. He served as the second LULAC national president from 1930 to 1931 (xiv). In addition to his work in the United States, Perales served as Nicaraguan Consul General for twenty-five years and as counsel to the Nicaraguan delegation to the United Nations in 1945. In addition, he helped draft the original Charter of the United Nations. Perales authored Are We Good Neighbors and two volumes of En defensa de mi raza. His writing stressed the need for anti-discrimination legislation and civil activism for the Latino community.
Alonso S. Perales Collection
The Alonso S. Perales Collection is Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage’s flagship online digital archive. In 2009, Marta Perales Carrizales and Raymond Perales donated their father’s extensive personal papers to the University of Houston’s Recovery Program. This collection, which measures over 40 linear feet, contains correspondence, photographs, newspaper clippings, civil rights writings, and foundational documents related to LULAC. The online digital collection includes a large sampling of these documents. To facilitate accessibility, the digital documents include full-text transcriptions and bilingual keywords for searches. In the future, more US Latino digital archives will be added to the Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage Digital Collections (available at: usldhrecovery.uh.edu). The original Alonso S. Perales Papers are housed at the University of Houston Libraries Special Collections.
Are We Good Neighbors? Mapping Discrimination Against Mexican Americans in 1940s Texas
Perales’ activism also included the empowerment of his community. He urged people to publicly share experiences of discrimination, including the names and addresses of businesses where they were refused service. Many of the testimonies sworn to him in his capacity as Notary Public appeared in his book, Are We Good Neighbors?
The digital mapping project, Are We Good Neighbors?, uses the information in these testimonials to locate these incidents on a map in an attempt to reveal the embodiment of racism. One after another, these accounts tell stories of everyday life: going out for dinner with family, spending time with friends, looking for employment, or moving to a new house. Yet, for people of Mexican descent, these activities were marked by disgust, hatred, shame, and even violence. This project highlights the personal history of racism, one that takes place in our own neighborhoods to real people, rather than distanced through abstract statistics.
The Alonso S. Perales Collection Twitter Bot (@AlonsoSPerales) also strives to bring attention to his activism. This Twitter account automatically posts quotations (in English and Spanish) from Perales’ writing and allows his voice to continue to advocate for education, equality, and justice.
The Perales Collection is extremely important for our understanding of the historical trajectory of US Latinx civil rights. The documents in this collection reveal the ways our community refused to remain silent, even in the face of persecution. Civil rights leaders such as Perales fought for justice long before the 1960s Civil Rights Movement. The history embedded in this collection is not readily available in K-12 history books. We hope that digital projects such as these can empower our community through education and help Latina/o/x schoolchildren see themselves reflected in US history in a positive light.
LULAC is the largest and oldest Hispanic Organization the United States. LULAC advances the economic condition, educational attainment, political influence, housing, health and civil rights of Hispanic Americans through community-based programs operating at more than 1,000 LULAC councils nationwide.
Arte Público Press is the oldest and largest Hispanic publisher in the United States. Established in 1979, it is the principal provider of cultural materials on Latino life in the United States for general and educational audiences.
SERJobs is a nonprofit community organization that educates and equips people in the Texas Gulf Coast Region who come from low-income backgrounds or who have significant barriers to employment.
The festival co-founded by Edward James Olmos will take place July 31 to Aug. 4 at the TCL Chinese Theatre.
Latin American filmmakers have earned much critical acclaim (and several Oscars) in recent years, but the 2019 edition of the Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival, which takes place July 31 to Aug. 4 at the TCL Chinese Theatre, will put the spotlight on Latinx talent from the United States.
“LALIFF has become the preeminent destination for Latinx storytellers and this year we want to spotlight our homegrown U.S. community of filmmakers, musicians, students, TV writers, visual artists, digital producers and podcasters,” said Edward James Olmos, who co-founded the festival in 1997 with independent producers Marlene Dermer, George Hernandez and Kirk Whisler. In its early years, it has premiered short films from Alfonso Cuaron, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro G. Inarritu; today, the festival is run by executive director and Jane the Virgin writer Rafael Agustin.
In 2013 LALIFF took a five-year break from holding annual festivals (it returned last year); the organizers instead focused on the Youth Cinema Project, an outgrowth of the festival’s youth program. This year YCP launched its first-ever scholarship for high school students who demonstrate academic progress and filmmaking prowess. The inaugural recipient attends Santa Ana High and will complete a paid internship with LALIFF as part of the program.
Both LALIFF and YCP are part of the Latino Film Institute, which this year added Ana-Christina Ramon, director of research and civic engagement at UCLA’s Division of Social Sciences and co-author of the annual Hollywood Diversity Report, to its board of directors. “As the largest minority group in the U.S. and one whose buying power outpaces other groups, Latinos are still severely underrepresented in film and TV,” Ramon said in a statement. “My goal is to provide the data necessary to enact meaningful change and motivate those in the industry to make content that is authentic and representative of how the majority of Latinos and other people of color live and work in America.”
Submissions for LALIFF 2019 are now open at latinofilm.org. The festival is programmed by artistic director Diana Sanchez (a TIFF international programmer) and director of programming Dilcia Barrera (Sundance feature films programmer).
LAS CRUCES – She stands proudly, wind blowing through her hair, dressed in indigenous regalia: a maroon top with orange, yellow and white stripes, a blue, beaded necklace and a feather in her hair.
Her fist raised, she’s screaming with every strength of her being: “NO MORE STOLEN SISTERS!”
You’ve seen her
You may not have known who she is, or why she’s there, but chances are if you’ve driven Lohman Avenue recently, you’ve seen her.
Painted by artist Sebastian VELA Velazquez, she is part of the mural being painted on the Cruces Creatives building, 205 E Lohman Ave.
The mural, created in conjunction with the eighth annual “Illegal” graffiti art show, hosted each year by Las Cruces artist Saba, sends a powerful message.
She stands front and center of the mural, a reminder that indigenous women are going missing and being murdered.
“The news gets turned off and Facebook gets put down and turned off, and those issues kind of disappear, and everything that comes with it. Having that piece up there, and why we sponsored it, is because you can’t really turn off a mural. It’s there every day and every night,” Saba said.
The issue and reason for awareness
The National Indigenous Women’s Resource Center reports that Native women suffer from violence at a rate two and half times greater than that of any other population in the United States.
Earlier this year, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed a bill to develop a task force to investigate the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women in New Mexico.
New Mexico has the highest number of cases involving missing and murdered indigenous women, Rep. Andrea Romero, the bill’s sponsor, told the Farmington Daily Times.
Saba said he wants the community to remain aware of this issue.
“It does happen everywhere, and I’m speaking for Mexican people and Mexican women as well, because they’re also indigenous,” he said.
A part of a larger mural
But she’s just part of a large-scale mural wrapping around the entirety of the building.
To her right is another woman, wearing a hoku lei and holding a dove; and to the left of the indigenous woman is a vein-like creature wearing a helmet and surrounded by flowers.
Also a part of the mural: The word “CREATIVE,” which will eventually be filled in with collages.
The enclosure for the business’s dumpster is being beautified, and around the back of the building, there’s a mural of a woman surrounded by butterflies and clouds.
Hub Bike Shop is in the Cruces Creatives building. Now, you can’t miss their shop entrance, which is now adorned by a mural of bicycles.
Also in the mural: A calavera portrait and hot air balloons.
The eighth annual “Illegal” graffiti art show
This is the eighth year Saba has hosted the “Illegal” graffiti art show. Annually, about 75 to 100 artists from across the country participate.
“Art is medicine to people of color. I think aerosol art is a healing method, rather than a criminalizing method,” he said.
This article by Jennifer Caroccio for Comicosity is super interesting!
In 1980 Ana Mendieta was the first Cuban-American artist to return to Cuba after the 1961 Cuban revolution. In 1971 Benjy Melendez held one of the largest meetings of New York City Gangs in the Bronx to discuss a peace agreement. Have you heard of either of these significant Latinx people in a history class or popular media? If yes, then kudos to you. If not, then you like many others, I suspect, are learning their names for the first time. II learned about Ana Mendieta and Bengy Melendez from reading their comic biographies.
Specifically, the graphic narratives Who is Ana Mendieta? written by Christine Redfern and illustrated by Caro Caron, and Ghetto Brothers: Warrior to Peacemakerwritten by Julian Voloj and illustrated by Claudia Ahlering. Both Redfern and Voloj, later with the help of artists Caron and Ahlering, set out to recover the memory of Ana Mendieta and Bengy Melendez; using the graphic form to tell their story.
Biographies are big business in the United States. From the multi-volume works of U.S. presidents to the vast bio-pics at the box office, we love to tell history from the perspective of the individual. So, it makes sense then for biography and comics to merge.
These two books are not the first. There is a large selection of comic biographies out there. However, many of them, like with the rest of comics, lack a focus on people of color.
That is why I have spent the past four years collecting and studying comic biographies about U.S. Latinx people. They make readily accessible the rich Latinx history in the United States. Comics have long been a way to engage different types of readers. Comic biographies offer stories to new comics and history readers alike.
Who is Ana Mendieta? tells the artistic journey of Havana-born artist Ana Mendieta. She came to the United States as a child after the Castro revolution through Operation Pedro Pan (an agreement between the U.S. State department, the Catholic Welfare bureau and the Cuban government that allowed thousands of Cuban minors to immigrate to the United States in the early 1960s).
Caron’s hyperbolic illustrations show Mendieta as she comes of age in Iowa, developing her artistic techniques: first painting then moving on to body and performance art, then later land art—which is her most iconic work: “Siluetas series.” The comic biography shows Mendieta reclaim her Cuban heritage in her work as she moves away from the mainstream white feminist art movement to incorporate more Latin American and Caribbean traditions in her art.
Ghetto Brothers gives readers a glimpse of what it was like to come of age in the Bronx in the 1960s when it was left to burn. Ahlering’s delicate, watercolor drawings show a young Melendez and his Puerto Rican family moving to the Bronx like many other poor and working-class families displaced from lower Manhattan. The reader sees how he navigates everyday violence by entering the protection of a neighborhood gang. He later forms his own interracial gang called the Ghetto Brothers. But it after the death of his friend that he takes up the task of uniting many of the rivaling gangs to curb violence in the city.
The narrative also includes the broader history of city planner Robert Moses, who designed many of the bridges, parks and beaches in New York City and Long Island. Much of Moses plans treated communities of color as disposable—often bulldozing straight through neighborhoods to build expressways that allowed wealthier and white New Yorkers access to the suburbs and beaches.
When read side-by-side these comic biographies not only recover Latinx social actors in history, but also provide alternative histories that show you cannot tell U.S. history without also telling Latinx history.
David Steinberg back at it again for ABQ Journal with another solid book review. This time for Barely Missing Everything by Matt Mendez.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — There are a lot of painful “ifs” in the rocky life of Juan Ramos, a high school senior who lives in an El Paso, Texas, barrio. Maybe too many for Juan to juggle.
If he can stay away from a street gang, he’ll survive another day.
If he can avoid a jail sentence after getting busted fleeing a party, then he might aright himself.
If he can pass algebra, he’ll graduate.
If his rolled ankle heals – he injured it while running from the cops – Juan may have a shot at a college basketball scholarship.
If he could only meet a man named Armando on death row he believes is his father, then it would put him at ease. Juan’s mother, Fabi, has long delayed an explanation of her son’s paternity.
Juan is the protagonist in Matt Mendez’s absorbing debut novel “Barely Missing Everything” that produces anguish and loss.
Fabi and Juan’s longtime best friend JD Sanchez are additional principal characters. JD is also on the basketball team, but he dreams of being a filmmaker. As a sign of interest, he buys a pocket-sized video camera from a thrift store for $20. He also owns a collection of bootleg movies on DVD.
Fabi is a flashy, self-centered presence. She’s currently with Ruben, the owner of a used car dealership and the latest in a string of boyfriends.
At her son’s high school basketball game, Fabi embarrasses Juan, shouting “¡Mijo! ¡Oyes, Juan! ¡Mijo! We’re going to meet you outside. … Novio wants a cigarito. This game’s over anyways.”
Juan abhors his mother’s novios, “recognizing them for what they were: cheap nobodies
The book captures the struggles of several Chicano families, some who live in the central El Paso barrio, and of one upwardly mobile family who lives in another neighborhood.
“It’s a stretch to call the novel autobiographical but I drew on experiences I had growing up. I grew up in that exact same neighborhood (as Juan did),” Mendez said in a phone interview from Tucson, Ariz., where he lives.
“It’s a tough neighborhood to be from. There aren’t a lot of jobs. People work long hours.”
The author also wanted his characters use the language that is actually spoken in the barrio in order to convey the real flavor of the community. The book is chock full of Spanish street slang but not so much that it would slow English-only readers. However, the dialogue is spiked with obscenities.
Mendez injects his own creative metaphors, sometimes humorously, in the narration. In this passage, for example, Juan and JD are trying to figure out what car they’ll “borrow” to drive to see Juan’s assumed biological father in prison. Juan suddenly changes gears, first needing to know if he passed his algebra test. That upsets his buddy: “JD stopped short and looked ready to fight, his whole body tense. Like a really pissed-off giraffe.”
Though the novel is aimed at young adults (ages 14-18), it should be of interest to readers of all ages.
Mendez’s first work of fiction was “Twitching Heart,” a collection of short stories released in 2012. A review of the collection described Mendez as “one of the new stars in the next generation of Chicano literature.”
By day, Mendez is an aircraft maintenance superintendent with the Arizona Air National Guard.
Michelle Ruiz Keil’s YA fantasy debut about love, found family, and healing is an ode to post-punk San Francisco through the eyes of a Mexican-American girl.
Seventeen-year-old Xochi is alone in San Francisco, running from her painful past: the mother who abandoned her, the man who betrayed her. Then one day, she meets Pallas, a precocious twelve-year-old who lives with her rockstar family in one of the city’s storybook Victorians. Xochi accepts a position as Pallas’s live-in governess and quickly finds her place in the girl’s tight-knit household, which operates on a free-love philosophy and easy warmth despite the band’s growing fame.
But on the night of the Vernal Equinox, as a concert afterparty rages in the house below, Xochi and Pallas perform a riot-grrrl ritual in good fun, accidentally summoning a pair of ancient beings bound to avenge the wrongs of Xochi’s past. She would do anything to preserve her new life, but with the creatures determined to exact vengeance on those who’ve hurt her, no one is safe—not the family Xochi’s chosen, nor the one she left behind.
A Barnes & Noble Most Anticipated #OwnVoices YA Book of 2019
A Book Riot Most Anticipated LGBTQ Read of 2019
A Book Riot Must-Read Debut Book of 2019
Praise for All of Us With Wings
“Keil’s ambitious debut is jam-packed with twists and depth and froth and function . . . [this is] a book about embracing everything—people, lifestyles, beliefs, experiences—and, in so doing, finding your own distinct power.” —The New York Times
“A spellbinding tale about finding magic in the mundane and hope in the unknown. Filled with dizzying danger and electrifying music, All of Us with Wings left me breathless.” —Ruth Ozeki, Los Angeles Times Book Prize-winning author of A Tale for the Time Being
“Michelle Ruiz Keil creates a vivid and original novel full of music, rage, and characters that sing with purpose. Keil is a new voice to keep an eye on.” —Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of Labyrinth Lost
“A love letter to live music, a poem to a city in novel form, and a poignantly nuanced examination of the ways in which performance impacts life on and off stage. In equal parts realistic detail and surreal vision, All of Us with Wings bursts off the page and goes with you into real life.” —Anna-Marie McLemore, author of Stonewall Honor Book When the Moon Was Ours and Blanca & Roja
“All of Us with Wings is a decadent slice of post-punk rockstardom that will have you begging to stay at the party till sunrise. This gorgeous debut looks unflinchingly into often unexplored experiences of adolescence—abuse and addiction, lust and desire, found families and chosen homes—finding beauty and redemption even in the darkest places.” —Tehlor Kay Mejia, author of We Set the Dark on Fire
“I’m convinced that Michelle Ruiz Keil has woven a magic spell into these pages. All of Us with Wings is gorgeous, gritty, and utterly transfixing.” —Sara Holland, New York Times bestselling author of Everless
“Michelle Ruiz Keil puts exquisite language and wild imagination to the fierce onslaught of sensation and doubt that is adolescence. This is a story for young adults, but perhaps it is also a deeply poetic tale of what is lost in the transition to adulthood.” —Joanna Rose, author of Little Miss Strange
“The writing soars . . . This tale of found family and recovery weaves an unforgettable punk rock-infused spell.” —Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
“[An] atmospheric debut . . . Keil plays with prose and imagery, interweaving the dreamlike language of Francesca Lia Block with a Latin-American sensibility. The frank inclusion of sexual exploration and drug use adds an extra level of maturity to this thoughtful story about trauma and vengeance, adult decision making, and recovery.” —Publishers Weekly
“This intricately constructed urban fantasy is complex and beautiful, blending folklore, San Franciscan history, the music scene, vampires, magic, and the intertwined lives of characters, including a cat named Peasblossom who sees and understands more than the humans . . . Fantasy fans will find this book appealing, fun, and hard to put down.” —School Library Journal
“Intriguing and well-crafted.” —YA Books Central
“Keil is at her best playing with the magical realism element . . . using lush, imagistic prose to cast a dreamy (sometimes nightmarish) pall over the scenes.” —Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books
“Magical realism that hits hard.” —Cultura Colectiva
“All of Us with Wings is a book about trauma in all its forms and the price others pay for us accepting, rejecting, or ignoring our pain. But it’s also about found families and not letting your past define your future. Every library with a young adult section should buy this book—you never know which of your teens will need it as much as I did.” —Alex Brown, Punk-Ass Book Jockey blog
“A fascinating story about growing up.” —Rich in Color blog
“A stunning re-imagining of Jane Eyre, set in San Francisco and exploring themes of found family, processing trauma, and growing up . . . With her magical setting, lush prose, and unforgettable characters, Michelle Ruiz Keil has created a world that you won’t want to leave.”
—Cecilia Cackley, East City Bookshop (Washington, DC)
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The heart of Jimmy Santiago Baca’s new book is the epic narrative poem “When I Walk Through That Door, I Am – An Immigrant Mother’s Quest.” It packs an emotional and political wallop.
The poem is written through the yearning voice of a woman named Sophia, a heroic immigrant from El Salvador. Her husband, Tonal, had been the victim of a gang murder. She musters the strength to head north to the United States with her 4-year-old son, Joaquin. U.S. border authorities separate them.
Placed inside a southern New Mexico detention center, Sophia is raped. Yet she holds her head up and perseveres. She thinks of her late husband. She hopes her son is alive and they can be reunited: “I feel like I am walking up a mountain/meditating on you my sweet Joaquin,/where are you? are you safe? do you have nightmares?/do you cry at night, are you eating, are you sick?”
Repeatedly, Sophia wills herself to ascend a metaphorical mountain. She struggles to overcome fear and the unknown, suppresses memories of death and still has the will to go on. She shows the courage of Athena.
Baca, a widely honored Albuquerque poet, said he had been initially thinking about different individual battles. “I was bemoaning the addictions of kids. I was sick of it. With ‘walking up the mountain,’ I thought of the cross those kids bear. And it turned into Sophia’s cross,” he said.
Baca said in an author’s note that he created the character of Sophia soon after helping a real-life undocumented Burmese refugee named Sae-Po. Catholic Charity Services announced it was seeking sponsors for refugees; Sae-Po was one. Baca gave him a job at his ranch outside Santa Fe until Sae-Po and his family were arrested.
“Everything we know about (refugees) is wrong, and yet they come at just the right moment in time, to define for us what Democracy is,” Baca argues in the author’s note. “They come giving, not taking. They create community. They believe in justice. They seek peace. How much more simple can that get for our muddle-brained minions who create insane immigration policies? Refugees enrich, not deplete.”
Baca’s other new book is “Feeding the Roots of Self-Expression and Freedom,” written with Kym Sheehan and Denise VanBriggle. Baca said that book is for high school students who can’t manage the conventional framework of school. “It’s geared to help students and teachers in alternative learning environments – those sequestered in juvenile facilities, for young, unwed mothers or for kids who don’t fit in the public school system,” he added.
Baca has won the American Book Award for Poetry, the Hispanic Heritage Award for Literature and the Pushcart Prize.
Jimmy Santiago Baca reads from, discusses and signs “When I Walk Through That Door, I Am” and “Feeding the Roots of Self-Expression and Freedom” at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 2, at the Farmington Public Library, 2101 Farmington Ave., and at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 10, at Collected Works, 202 Galisteo St., Santa Fe.
The film “A Place to Stand” will be screened at 1:30 p.m. Friday, April 12, at the Octavia Fellin Public Library, 115 W. Hill St., Gallup. At 3 p.m., Baca will give a free 90-minute Writers Workshop on “How to Write Great Stories and Poems!” in Room 200, Student Services Tech Center, University of New Mexico-Gallup campus. A live stream of the workshop will be in the public library.
At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, April 13, Baca will give a talk in the library on “Moving Ahead in Your Life.” The screening, workshop and address are part of Gallup’s Biennial Authors Festival – “Story, Telling & Conversation.”
The sixth annual Jimmy Santiago Baca Writing Retreat will be held in Albuquerque on June 19-20. Register at jimmysantiagobaca.com.