Bookwaves – January 9, 2020: Michael Nava

Cool 37-minute interview with Michael Nava and Bookwaves. Head to the site for a listen!

Michael Nava, whose latest novel in the Henry Rios mystery series is titled “Carved in Bone,” is interviewed by host Richard Wolinsky.

When Michael Nava began writing his Henry Rios mysteries in the late 1980s, the only other mystery writer with a gay male detective was Joseph Hansen. But Henry Rios is more: one of the first Latino noir detectives in American literature.

Michael Nava finished the series several years ago, but when rights reverted, he chose to revise and publish the books himself. The first novel in the series, “The Little Death,” was completely rewritten as “Lay Your Sleeping Head” in 2016, and “Carved in Bone,” a new novel that serves as a sequel to that, as well as a bridge to the later Rios novels, was published in 2019.

Our Collective History: An Interview with Michael Nava Désirée Zamorano interviews Michael Nava

Désirée Zamorano with a great interview for Los Angeles Review of Books

MICHAEL NAVA IS the winner of six Lambda Literary awards for his Henry Rios mystery novels, the first of which, The Little Death, was published in 1986. Set in the 1980s, the series follows Henry, an openly gay, Mexican-American criminal defense attorney, as he excavates crimes and justice while grappling with his own conflicting identities. The latest in the Rios series, Carved in Bone, continues to tackle themes of identity and displacement, along with — like all good mysteries — a suspicious death and a cast of suspects. We chatted by phone, and talking to Michael Nava was like reading one of his novels: he was emotionally resonant, insightful, and provocative.

DÉSIRÉE ZAMORANO: The first thing that struck me in Carved in Bone was that the opening was so gripping, and so sad with its pervasive homophobia. I found that overwhelming. I was wondering, how do you emotionally deal with that as you are writing about it?

MICHAEL NAVA: It’s a very common story. I’m about to turn 65. I’ve been out since I was 17. I’ve had hundreds of conversations as a gay man and realize that Bill’s story is just not that uncommon. I think it’s changed a little since 1971, where the opening is set. It has improved for the LGBTQ community in those intervening 40-plus years, so I have some emotional distance from the rawness of the story. That’s what protects me from not being able to write about it.

I found it very compelling, and I assume that’s how you want it for the reader.

Yes, of course. I started writing this book the day after the 2016 election. That Wednesday I sat down and started writing. I wasn’t writing it as a direct response, but I just felt compelled. One of the reasons I did that was because I wanted to write people and remind them that there was another very, very dark time in our recent history. And for the gay male community there was a time in our history when it felt like we were going to be literally, physically exterminated. By this disease and by the indifference of the government. And we certainly believed that with every small advance we made in civil rights in the ’70s were going to be rolled back.

We survived that time, not without a lot of losses, but we did survive it. In fact, it made the movement stronger. I think that’s my message really.

I wanted people to understand the despair and the hopelessness that gay men were feeling at that time, because I think that mirrors a lot of the despair and helplessness of what people are feeling now.

But I also wanted to realize that this book is set 30 years in the past. Things can change, things can improve, not without a lot of suffering and loss.

That helps me understand why you stayed in this time. You’re reminding the readers that life has been shit, but you can get through it. And of course there’s a cost.

There’s a huge cost. An emotional cost, people are actually dying. Back in this period that I’m writing about, there were initiatives on the California ballot which would have quarantined people with AIDS — put them into camps. William F. Buckley proposed that people who were HIV positive would have tattoos. As if they were people in Nazi concentration camps. The level of violence against people with AIDS, especially gay men with AIDS, is comparable to the level of violence we are seeing at the border. The level of verbal violence and unparalleled unrestrained bigotry, there is a direct analogy between what was happening with gay men in the early ’80s with AIDS and what’s happening today with our Latino community.

I think what’s different today is that back in 1984 when gay men were dying no one cared, really. Certainly not the Reagan administration. People care now, passionately about what’s going on at the border. There’s a resistance to it. The demographics of the country have changed. We may not be able to stop it, but people are not indifferent to the suffering, the way that they were back then, and that’s a positive.

It is positive, compared to the past. When I was younger, AIDS was a joke, a sick punch line to many, many jokes out there.

Anally Injected Death Serum.

People did not care. I remember that. There’s a lot to unpack in this book.

I write very complicated books. I have a friend who also lived through that period. He said, “This is a beautiful book, but I just can’t bear to read it.” But it’s something that needs to be said.

Which makes me think, who is your ideal audience, who do you want to be reading this book?

I have two audiences in mind. The first, queer people of my generation. I want them to read this book because it’s part of our collective history. Only now are we far enough from the epidemic that we are able to look at it with some emotional distance. It’s important that those of us who were there record this, before it turns into history. The other audience is those who are feeling powerless in the current regime, who are feeling desperate. I want them to read this and have the experience of this earlier time of comparable despair and hopelessness.

On top of all that, I hope I wrote an interesting mystery!

Of course! What I also found fascinating in the novel were the different Mexican gay identities that you portrayed.

Yeah, Nick’s family and Henry’s experiences. Henry’s experiences are similar to my own experience — growing up in the ’60s and ’70s and knowing that I was gay at a young age and just being terrified about to disclose it in the Mexican-American culture I grew up in, because I knew I would literally not be safe.

That’s one aspect of it, but I also have heard stories of gay/lesbian Mexican-American families who accepted them because family trumps everything else. They don’t reject their children. It was important to me to put that in too, to give a broader perspective of the responses families have when their children come out as gay or lesbian.

Which is great, because no single story is the story. Our experiences are not monolithic — but just as varied as the mainstream population’s.

I wanted to make clear that Nick’s father, as a Mexican immigrant laborer, who loves his children so much, who loves his son so much, that he’s preparing to accept the fact that his son likes to play with dolls. Mexican fathers are often portrayed as distant and abusive. That was true in my case, but it’s not true in every case.

I also wanted to portray really strong Mexican women, which is why his sister is the lawyer in the family. It’s the sister who is driven, motivated, and powerful. She’s the one that really runs the siblings, and sets the tone. I’ve met a lot of Latinas who’ve had that power and authority. I wanted to pay homage to it.

What is your experience as a lawyer?

I graduated from Stanford and I was a prosecutor in Los Angeles for four years, because I was committed to public service, then I spent most of my career as an attorney in the California court systems. The last 15 years of my career I worked for the California Supreme Court. The last five years at the court I worked exclusively on death penalty appeals. I basically practiced law at the highest level of the California court system for most of my 30 years of practice. During that I wrote seven novels and one work of nonfiction.

As Gustavo Arellano says, you’ve got the Mexican hustle down! As well published as you are, what was your road to creating Persigo Press and self-publishing Carved in Bone?

The series was being published by this conglomerate called Open Road Media. We got to the end of our five-year licensing deal. They would have published this as an ebook, but I decided at that point I wanted my books back. I wanted to control the books, control my legacy. I decided I would publish these myself. I’ve done the New York dance, I’ve had reviews in The New York Times and The New Yorker. But you basically give up control of your work. Economically, you always get screwed. This was me saying, I want to control my work.

A while back, you gave a talk about the lack of representation of Latinx people in the publishing world. Tell me about that.

I’m a lawyer, and I’m a researcher. I went in and did the research about our actual statistical numbers in the case of the publishing industry on interns, agents, editors, the people who basically run that world. What I found is that we’re essentially nonexistent in New York. There are very few or no Latino editors. I couldn’t find statistics on agents, for example. Many MFA programs don’t even keep those statistics, so we’re invisible to the industry. There’s a direct line between our invisibility in the industry and the difficulty that so many of us have getting published by the big houses.

There’s an assumption in New York, because they’re so ignorant about the Latino community, that there’s no audience for our books. That was typified for me by The City of Palaces. My historical novel, which is set about the time of the Mexican Revolution, was rejected by a dozen publishers. One of them said, “I just don’t see an audience for this.” I said, “There are 33 million Americans of Mexican descent in the U.S.” What he meant was he didn’t see a white audience for this book.

When New York thinks of Latinos, they think of Puerto Ricans, Dominicans, and Cubans. Those are the people they see. They don’t think of Mexican Americans, and we’re the majority of the Latinx population. I’m not knocking our brothers and sisters in those other communities, I’m just saying, we’re the biggest group and we’re practically nonexistent. I call it the polite racism of white liberals. We’re all for diversity — except we hide behind the “there’s no market for it.”

Do you have thoughts on the current generation of LGBTQI?

I think that the progress has been uneven; certainly there are places in this country where you’re pretty safe being queer, to use the word young people have reclaimed for our community. The fact is that most states in this country still don’t have laws to protect us from discrimination. In many states, you can still be fired from your job for being gay or lesbian or bi or trans, and you will have no recourse. I think we should not overemphasize the progress that we’ve made, while we should certainly value it.

The binary of sexuality and gender is really in service to the patriarchy. Because if we allowed for gender fluidity, that undermines the claim of male supremacy. That’s why trans women are so violently attacked. They’re perceived as gender traitors, in a way. It’s all related to the patriarchy, and to misogyny, and keeping women in their place.

What I see among younger people that I find so encouraging is that being queer is not an issue for them. There’s a lot of fluidity in sexual orientation and gender identity. I think that’s fantastic. I really look forward to the day when who you love is just your own damn business, and no one else cares!


Désirée Zamorano is a California-based short story writer, novelist, and playwright. She is the author of the novels Modern Cons, Human Cargo, and, most recently, The Amado Women.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba in Austin on May 2nd   RSVP here – seats are limited!


“This is about resistance:” The Feminist Revisions of Alicia Gaspar de Alba

Thursday, May 2, 2019, 4:00pm – 6:00pm

The University of Texas Libraries, The Center for Mexican American Studies, the Center for Women and Gender Studies, and LLILAS Benson Latin American Studies and Collections invite you to commemorate the acquisition of the Alicia Gaspar de Alba papers. The multifaceted Chicana queer feminist scholar will be reading from her works and discussing her career with MALS lecturer and community organizer Lilia Rosas. Archival viewing and reception to follow remarks. 

9 queer Latinx books you have to read before you die

Check out the original article by Vania Castilla for Borderzine here:

Last summer I had the opportunity to work alongside filmmakers Angie Tures and Henry Alberto as a production assistant on a project that brought the work of noted poet and author Benjamin Alire Sáenz to life on film.

Sáenz and I spent most of the day together talking about film, poetry, and really just about how funny life can be. He gave me a copy of his book, “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe.” I opened the book and didn’t put it back down until the last page. I laughed, cried, found love, lost love. I had never experienced reading a book whose story was so similar to my own.

Knowing that there were books like this, I set out on a quest to find other books written about the queer Latinx experience. Knowing there must be others looking for similar books, I’m going to make life a little easier for you. Here’s my list of essential reading of queer Latinx books you have to read before you die.

1. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Queer 1.jpg

At the top of any queer reading list, you’ll find “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe”. One of the many reasons it’s at the top of mine is the book is written by El Pasoan and award-winning author Benjamin Alire Sáenz. The coming-of-age story is set in El Paso and follows the lives of two Mexican-American boys and their unique friendship. The book is currently being adapted for the screen and being directed by Latinx filmmaker Henry Alberto.

2. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa


Gloria E. Anzaldúa is one of the most prolific and influential theorists in Chicano Studies. Redefining the Chicanx experience by giving a voice to its women, she spent her life documenting the Chicana experience. In her semi-autobiographic book, she writes about her experience growing up brown, queer and a woman in Texas. The book is written in both Spanish and English – many times living in the in-between of both languages.

3. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera


If finding representation of the queer identity in literature is difficult, finding a character like Juliet is as close to a miracle as it gets. Juliet is getting ready to leave the Bronx and head to Oregon to pursue an internship with her favorite writer. Afraid of how her family might react to her being queer, she decides that because she’s leaving it’s the perfect time to come out to her family. One of the biggest takeaways is how the book tackles white feminism and the need for women of color to have a voice.

4. We the Animals by Justin Torres


There are few books that can capture what it’s like to grow up in an abusive home. Three brothers form a formidable bond as they navigate through their childhood. The narrator must follow a different path as he discovers his queerness. The dark and fragile story was recently released as a film last year and directed by Jeremiah Zagar.

5. America Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez by Gabby Rivera


Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an openly queer superhero! This is the “book” for people who don’t like to read. Gabby Rivera does it again but this time partnering with Illustrator Joe Quinones and bringing America Chavez to life. America Chavez is the latest superhero to join the Marvel Universe. She’s not your average superhero and this isn’t your average comic.

6. Chulito by Carlos Rico-Gonzalez


Chulito is a 16-year-old boy growing up in the South Bronx who starts realizing he might have more than just friendly feelings towards his best friend Carlos. When Carlos is ostracized by the neighborhood for being gay, Chulito has to decide between his community and his best friend. “Chulito” is a work that challenges the idea of gender norms and what it means to be a “man.”

7. The Rain God by Arturo Islas


Another author El Paso can be proud to claim as their own is Arturo Islas. He was one of the first Chicanos to be signed by a major publishing house. The Rain God is one of only two books completed by the author before he died in 1999, due to complications brought on by AIDS. The book tells the story of a Mexican family struggling to adapt to the “American” and the immigrant experience.

8. More Happy than Not by Adam Silvera


Aaron Soto, a 16-year-old Puerto Rican kid from the Bronx struggles to find happiness. Aaron hears of the Leteo Institute – a company that promises to erase painful memories so people can move forward – and decides it would be best if he could forget he’s gay. What follows is an honest portrayal of struggling with depression and mental illness.

9. Gulf Dreams by Emma Perez


Published in 1996, “Gulf Dreams” is considered one of the first Chicana lesbian pieces of literature to be print. It tells the story of a young girl growing up in a rural and racist town in Texas. The narrator telling a gripping and heartbreaking story of her childhood and of the first girl she ever loved.


Gaspar del Alba’s latest book belongs in the Latinx literary canon

Original article by Daniel Chacón for Borderzine to be found here:

In 1999, the Mexican poet Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz began her transformation into becoming a Chicana.

The 17th century Hieronymite nun, one of Mexico’s best poets, was already dead by about three hundred years before the term Chicana came to be used, but nonetheless, with the publication of Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s ground-breaking novel, Sor Juan’s Second Dream, she became a Chicana feminist icon.

Today Chicana intellectual activists know who she is and how important she is to Chicana identity and resistance. She was too brilliant to want to get married to some “hombre necio.” She wanted to develop her mind and resist convention.

Gaspar de Alba’s novel may have been part of a late 20th century Zeitgeist that liberated feminine images from male historical narratives and redefined their socio-political significance, like Sandra Cisneros did for La Malinche, but it is certain that de Alba’s book influenced Chicana feminist interpretation of Sor Juana’s life. Her story became about self-determination, empowerment, the narrative of a mind so great she could not be held down by the confines of patriarchy.

Sor Juana became a Chicana.

In her latest novel, The Curse of the Gypsy: Ten Stories and a Novella, Gaspar de Alba may very well do the same thing for a relatively unknown historical figure, the Catholic Saint Liberata Wilgefortis, the bearded woman.

This novella within Gaspar del Alba’s new book has the epic title, “The True and Tragic Story of Liberata Wilgefortis Who, Having Consecrated Her Virginity to the Goddess Diana to Avoid Marriage, Grew a Beard and Was Crucified.”

It creatively takes place during the Roman empire, when Christianity was still emerging as a rebellious religion. The legend, as Gaspar de Alba tells it, starts with a rich and powerful woman, the Governor’s wife, who gives birth to nine daughters, all of them born with “birth defects;” for example, two of them without hands, one of them a hermaphrodite, and one with fur all over her body.

The hairy one is Liberata Wilgefortis, and she is the only child the Governor’s wife lets live. She orders her midwife to drown the other eight. She would have killed all nine of the girls, but the midwife, Basilia, pleads with her to let at least one of them live. Basilia then prays to the goddess Diana about the fate of the other eight, asking her for direction in making the fateful choice that will drive the story.

The goddess Diana is, of course, a Roman God, but she has remained a relevant deity for goddess worship even today, taking the role some indigenous women might give to Tonantizin, the Magna Mater, the Mother God.

The fact that the protagonist of the story, Basilia, a midwife –a profession that is itself an archetype of feminist spirituality – is close to the goddess Diana suggests that this is a story of female spirituality. There were many other Roman gods, masculine deities like Jupiter, Saturn, Mars, but they have little or no place in the story of Wilgefortis and Basilia.

In fact, Basilia feels close to a trinity of world goddesses, Bridget (Ireland), Isis (Egypt), and Minerva (Etruscan), which reflects her mystic strength in that she was not tied to a national or regional religion. Instead, she feels connected to goddesses that she believes rule and influence the various worlds, birth, love, and death. Well into the story, a man witnesses Basilia’s wisdom and charity, and he suggests that she should become a member of the new religion, Christianity, but she responds, “I shall never give up on my goddesses, sir.”

The governor’s wife orders the midwife to kill all nine of the girls, but Basilia convinces her to keep the most “normal,” the hairy baby, and she promises to drown the other eight in the river, which she does not do, even though she is commanded to do so by her spiritual leader, the MAGE, a patriarch. She finds families for the girls, who grow up to be happy young women. They will never marry, because of their deformities, but this does not seem to impede them from living full and meaningful lives. All is well, for a while.

I won’t tell what happens to the girls, but the story comes to an inevitabile, heartbreaking conclusion. The narrative of course is focused on Liberata Wilgefortis, whom the governor’s wife raises as her daughter, although she mostly hides her from the governor, who would kill the girl if he saw how hairy she is.

The midwife feels an affinity for little hairy Wilgefortis. But her Mage condemns her to isolation from other humans for letting the other girls live. The two are separated for 12 years.

During that time, Basilia lives in a cave. She eats nuts and berries and placenta from the birth of the nine girls, and studies mysticism and science and the occult, reads all night long, and takes walks in the forest during the days, sleeping on rocks.

To find wisdom in a cave is of course a powerful and oft-evoked symbol of great mystic narratives, like Moses de Leon, who in 1213 in Spain found the Zohar in a cave, the primary text of the Kabbalah, not to mention the cave of Nietzsche’s Zarathustra.

In fact, an important aspect of the book is its references to different mystical and spiritual incantations and rituals. The stories provide us with details that could only come from painstaking research, or like the writer Tim Z Hernandez tells me, “Geeking out on the research.” There are specific and accurate details about Roman and Gypsy spiritualty, customs, and language. 

 As Basilia was living like a mystic for twelve years in the cave, Wilgefortis grew up, and the hair on her body disappeared, but she was skinny and ugly, and for that the father hated her. He wanted to marry her off as soon as possible, but who would marry her? He finds the only man willing to do so – a decrepit old man, decades her senior, who just wanted a young woman with whom he could breed.

Like Sor Juana Ines, Wilgefortis does not want to get married. She may lack the intellectual vigor of Sor Juana, but she has an incredible insight into the spiritual world, and even communicates on a regular basis with the spirit of her dead brother. She, like her midwife, has access to the spirit world.

After 12 years, Basilia emerges from the cave and becomes the nurse for Wilgefortis. And they become very close. When the father tries to marry her to the old man, she resists, and the midwife cannot help but help her.

Through incantation or prayer to the goddesses or simply through fate itself, Wilgefortis grows a beard, so no man will ever want to marry her. The beautiful irony surfaces that in a time when women only wanted to get married, Wilgefortis only wants to NOT get married. Like Sor Juana, she wants to determine her own fate.

 What makes this book an important part of the Latinx literary canon is that it reinterprets this mythical Catholic figure through a Latinx feminist perspective. Wilgefortis becomes Chicana.

But perhaps even more important for the reader of fiction is that at the root of these stories, one can sense the love of the writer has for writing. Along with the story of Wilgefortis, Gaspar de Alba writes interconnected stories about a gypsy girl named Margarita, who is impregnated by the poet Garcia Lorca in Granada, Spain, a story which organically ends up years later in El Paso, TX.

Gaspar de Alba loves to tell stories. Every detail is packed with the desire to welcome the reader into this real world of the imagination, every detail bursting with the spirit of sharing:

“Once her house (Basilia’s) had been a free-standing dwelling, a round house in the Celtic style, the woven branches of the round walls daubed with clay and dung, and a high sloped roof touched with rye.”

And if a writer loves to tell a story, the reader is going to love to listen to this one.

¡Wáchale! Film Fest in Phoenix

(Español abajo)
Running from August 14 – October 27, 2018, ¡Wáchale! FilmFest brings new and classic Latin American films to Latinx neighborhoods in Phoenix.

********************NEXT SCREENING********************
Saturday, September 1st @ 6pm
Trans Queer Pueblo, 1726 E Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, AZ 85006.

We believe in the power of seeing people who look like us on the big screen, so we center the narratives of queer/trans people of color from the Third World. For the most up-to-date festival info, follow us on Instagram at @WachaleFilmFest

#ConSaborAJusticia is selling Mexican street food at all screenings to support LGBTQ folks recently released from detention.

“You are what you wacha, so ¡Wachale!” – Guillermo del Toro


Trans Queer Pueblo x FilmBar presentan el CineFest ¡Wáchale!

*****************LA PRÓXIMA PROYECCIÓN*****************
El sábado 1 de septiembre @ 6pm
Trans Queer Pueblo 1726 E Roosevelt Street, Phoenix, AZ 85006.

Nosotrxs en Trans Queer Pueblo, creamos el @WáchaleFilmFest porque creemos en el poder de vernxs reflejadxs en la pantalla grande. Viajamos más allá de Hollywood para centrar las historias de las personas LGBT+ de color del tercer mundo. Para más detalles de los próximos estrenos, sintonízate al @WáchaleFilmFest

#ConSaborAJusticia tendrá a la venta antojitos mexicanos para apoyar a personas LGBT+ liberadas de los centros de detención.

“Eres lo que wachas, así que ¡Wáchale!” – Guillermo del Toro

Catching up with Gabi Mendez about Lemonade Summer

Original post by Jameson Hampton found here:

Comics are a great medium to get stories in front of kids and Lemonade Summer is a new comics anthology that’s hoping to make the most of that. Currently running a kickstarter campaign, this anthology by Gabi Mendez features seven stories about queer, transgender and non-binary youth coming of age, learning important things about themselves and fostering friendships with each other, all while going on summer adventures. The premise is sweet, the art is cute and the project itself is important — there just aren’t enough stories for queer kids about queer kids.

Even better, Cow House Press realizes how important it is to get these stories in the hands of the kids that need them. That’s why this kickstarter features a number of pledging options that will allow backers to donate additional copies of the book to libraries and youth centers, at discounted prices!

We had a chance to have a short chat with creator Gabi Mendez about her intentions for this adorable anthology.

Rogues Portal (RP): Is this your first major comic? What else have you worked on in the past?
Gabi Mendez (GM): I’ve never worked on anything so big! A few of the stories have been self-published and sold at smaller events. I’ve done this with stories that aren’t in the book as well; one an eight page sci-fi about hope for humanity, the other a story I made as a companion to another friend’s story that had to do with a monster stealing panties from a summer camp as tribute for protection from the goat man. This book is the majority of my finished comics though!

RP: What inspired you to focus on queer stories for kids? What do you hope to accomplish with this book?
GM: I think representation is very important. The LGBTQ stories that reach major media honestly tend to be tragedies, and the stories for queer youth tend to be about the struggle of being closeted and coming out. This is absolutely a reality most of us go through, but while I don’t want to shy away from those narratives, I think we deserve more. Queer kids deserve to see themselves as pirates, as witches, as the kids we were just trying to navigate adolescence with the happy endings we seek.

RP: From what did you draw inspiration for these stories specifically? Are there references to your own childhood?
GM: There are many many references to my own childhood, yes! Even from the tiny details, like the neighborhood Ro an Ella walk through; that’s my neighborhood down to the coffee shop with the old men. And in the case of Witching Hour, being distressed and finding solace in a long bike ride. A lot of them are based on experiences I think we’ve all had. Falling out with friends, not wanting to be who we’re told we have to be, making new friends, missing old ones before they’re even gone. Chole (from the story Aventurera) and I share the issue of having a nickname people rarely pronounce right (those are Hispanic vowels!)

RP: Do you have a favorite (or two) of the 7 stories that are included?
GM: I think Aventurera and Ro & Ella are my favorites, though I’m very attached to all of them. They are both the oldest and the newest stories in the collection. I think I relate most to those main characters. As a kid I was like Ro, wanting to be friends with everyone and jumping in to things too fast, speaking too soon. Meanwhile, Chole’s identity is based off my own, especially as a teenager; she’s Latina and bisexual, not good at talking about her feelings but feeling way too much. Both stories are very positive slice-of-life type stories, which are my favorite to make and read.

RP: What are some of the overarching themes that span multiple of the stories? What are you really trying to say with this anthology? What do you want people to take away from it?
GM: The biggest themes in Lemonade Summer are friendship and finding the places you belong. What I really want people to take from this book is that queer people exist everywhere, trying to navigate life just like everyone else. No matter how different people may seem, there will always be things we have in common with each other. The most important thing we can do in life is have empathy for each other, it’s easier than you’d think.

RP: What’s next? Do you have any other interesting projects in the works?
GM: I am working on a series of stories with a magical realism bent for a slightly older audience, which is new for me! Have you ever looked at the path the sun makes on the ocean at sunrise or sunset and thought that maybe you could cross it? That maybe it leads somewhere else? I definitely have. So perhaps I’ll publish those stories together, but for now I’m just trying to survive grad school.

RP: Is there anything else I didn’t touch on that you’d like to share?
GM: Lemonade Summer may be my art and my stories, but it’s a project that a lot of really cool and talented people came together to make happen. Cow House Press is made up of and supported by the best people, all with a vision to populate the world with fun diverse books!

Kickstarter Project: Lemonade Summer by Gabi Mendez


I am in no way affiliated with this project, but it seems like a good cause and it’s running out of time. If you agree that it seems like a good cause and have some extra scrila to spare, go for it!



Lemonade Summer by Gabi Mendez is an all-ages graphic novel about queer children, adolescents, teens and young adults coming of age in positive environments and finding supportive communities. The book is 136 pages with full color covers and chapter covers. Each story is a monochromatic color scheme mirroring the sun from noon to dusk, reflecting the characters’ growth in the book. The stories feature young, queer characters who grapple with the conflicts of their own worlds.

New Book: I Love My Women, Sometimes They Love Me

Korima Press, a California-based independent publisher dedicated to putting out Chicanx and Latinx LGBTQ voices, has teamed up with Cathy Arellano for a new collection of poems. You can order the book here:

In these pages, Cathy Arellano portrays the lovers we’ve been and the lovers we’ve had. We haven’t always been fair; they haven’t always been kind. Arellano leads us through much travail, often with playful rhythm and rhyme, as she illustrates desire and disaffection in lesbian relationships. These poems do not guide how to do relationships as much as warn against the obvious and the ambiguous landmines embedded within. These poems compel us to consider what we keep at bay, for the poet knows actions and feelings must be acknowledged if they are to be altered, if we (and our liaisons) are to be transformed. In this collection, Arellano rips off her máscara and removes ours stanza by stanza.

Meet the Author: Sarah Rafael Garcia

Original post by La Casita Grande found here:

1. Could you explain your style and approach to telling this story?

Similar to my stories in SanTana’s Fairy Tales, I’m using magical realism and inanimate objects to illustrate social commentary in A Womyn’s Place…. It was actually this collection that led me to write SanTana’s Fairy Tales to begin with. I deconstruct contemporary narratives from media headlines and historical quotes that impose gender roles on women. My goal is to create more complex female characters and play with magical realism, ultimately providing readers with a new feminist outlook on the “traditional” fairy tales. Each story begins with a female-centric epigraph and includes a familiar female narrative. Some fables don’t shy away from hot-button issues like abortion and violence against transwomen. The title itself is taken from a story based on a single-woman owning a house. It is narrated by the house, which uses its old views to judge its owner, even casting wicked spells to turn unfit suitors into cockroaches. In another tale, a young Chicana becomes an object of obsession for a mischievous Mexican duende, he follows her through life by possessing her prayer candle and combating against a replica Frida self-portrait, each displayed as cultural icons. Both inanimate objects narrate the story while illustrating how materialism has come to replace culture in our society. Together, the stories celebrate all women.

2. What ideas drove you to write your story and what do you hope readers take away from your book?

The initial idea started in my MFA experience. I wrote a story to mock what workshop readers had ridiculed in other feminist and cultural pieces I had submitted. Indirectly I accredit misogynistic, white spaces for motivating me to find solace outside of the mainstream literary world. I realized I became a stronger writer when I reinstated and accepted my identity as a female, writer of color. I do not desire to compete with or become my “white male” counterparts or even accept a literary hierarchy. I aspire to write for me. To offer a counter-narrative for my gender and culture, while I play with words and narrative structures without the constraints imposed by society—or a MFA program.

I wrote a story from a house’s point of view, an attempt to return the white male gaze onto society, making society responsible for perpetuating gender roles and stereotypes. Since then, I added more stories depicting/calling out gender roles imposed on women. I hope A Womyn’s Place… is instrumental in bringing life to feminist and cultural narratives…and critical dialogue.

3. What character/section/story challenged you the most and why?

There are two stories I struggled writing since they focus on the transgender community. One in particular led to the development of the SanTana’s Fairy Tales multimedia project—Zoraida & Marisol. Initially I heard of Zoraida’s death through social media in 2014. I was still living in Austin completing my MFA degree at Texas State University. I had met Zoraida in passing during a couple of community events in Santa Ana. I was familiar with her work in the undocuqueer and trans communities. I met her through a mutual friend and writer, Alexa Vasquez. When I thought about writing the story I was apprehensive to do it without permission. Being that I was facing microaggressions and witnessing cultural appropriation in my MFA experience, so I sought out Alexa for her opinion and guidance. That conversation naturally turned into an interview and I continued to converse with Alexa through various versions of the story. I also continued to research stories published in the media and using their point of view to offer a counter-narrative and publish Zoraida’s name, as it should have from the beginning. Prior to publication, I proceeded to share the story with more folks who knew Zoraida too. I still feel apprehensive reading it aloud, I can’t say I’m the voice for Zoraida, nor do I want to be. But I do hope this version of her story and the transman story I include in this collection inspires other folks in the trans community to share their writing and for the writing industry to include transgender narratives across all genres.

4. What is your literary philosophy?

After attending a MFA in Creative Writing program, I quickly learned I wasn’t the common voice celebrated in the MFA workshop. I assimilated just to cope with the alienation. Eventually, I realized it wasn’t necessarily my gender, Spanish language or cultural pride that kept me from obtaining approval from faculty and peers. My feeling of displacement was due to the lack of diversity in faculty and curriculum. Therefore my focus as a writer is best summarized by Toni Morrison, “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”

5. What is your advice for young writers?

As writers who have to challenge stereotypes daily, I advise youth to be their own mentors and rise above the microaggressions and dismissals from any part of society that seems to be an obstacle to reaching life goals—as so many have done before them. I tell youth to push through, to write in any shape or form they desire, to adapt critical-thinking in daily life, to share their culture whether it be based on race or just your love for a particular type of music, to speak assertively, “Your voice is your weapon!” Don’t just be the bigger person, role model to those younger and older than you. I also remind them to find their support in their community. And if they can’t find it, then create it—begin your own community to empower others like you.