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https://events.attend.com/f/1383788945#/reg/0/ RSVP here – seats are limited!
Check out the original article by Vania Castilla for Borderzine here: http://borderzine.com/2019/03/9-queer-latinx-books-you-have-to-read-before-you-die/?fbclid=IwAR1Ajzi4cxJ5JPfUrQMrY-UzaUDDcvhiHmjiAb-MqrLeRq4BTF9VE-koVOg
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
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.
Original article by Daniel Chacón for Borderzine to be found here: http://borderzine.com/2019/02/gaspar-del-albas-latest-book-belongs-in-the-latinx-literary-canon/?fbclid=IwAR1m_yMrRifFfIy1hiQNQNFNwYmflH7bxmlP76ZMvU2RD7HxGmvAQtaWmYM
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.
Running from August 14 – October 27, 2018, ¡Wáchale! FilmFest brings new and classic Latin American films to Latinx neighborhoods in Phoenix.
A FANTASTIC WOMAN (Chile, 2017)
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*****************
UNA MUJER FANTÁSTICA (Chile, 2017)
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
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!
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.
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: http://korimapress.com/i-love-my-women/4594044921/UoUgZ/PKXfZ/
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.
Original post by La Casita Grande found here: http://www.lcgeditores.com/blog/2017/6/1/meet-the-author-sarah-rafael-garcia
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.