New Book: Volver: A Persistence of Memory

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Author: Antonio C. Márquez,  professor emeritus of English Language and Literature at the University of New Mexico

Born on the eve of World War II into a family of Mexican immigrants in El Paso, Antonio C. Márquez remains a child of the border, his life partaking of multiple cultures, countries, and classes. Here he recounts his life story, from childhood memories of movies and baseball and friendship with his Chinese Mexican American neighbor, Manuel Wong, to the turbulent events of his manhood. Márquez recalls the impact of immigration and war on his family; his experiences of gang conflict in El Paso and Los Angeles in the 1960s; enlisting in the Marine Corps; his activism in the civil rights movement, the antiwar movement of the Vietnam era, and the Crusade for Justice; and his travels to crisis-ridden Latin American countries. From a family where no one had the luxury of higher education, Márquez became a professor when universities hired few Chicanos. His is a story of survival and courage.


Rev. of Papi: My Story

David Ortiz, Michael Holley
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt – May
[from the publisher]
An entertaining, unfiltered memoir by one of the game’s greatest, most clutch sluggers and beloved personalities.David “Big Papi” Ortiz is a baseball icon and one of the most popular figures ever to play the game. As a key part of the Boston Red Sox for 14 years, David has helped the team win 3 World Series, bringing back a storied franchise from “never wins” to “always wins.” He helped them upend the doubts, the naysayers, the nonbelievers and captured the imagination of millions of fans along the way, as he launched balls into the stands again, and again, and again. He made Boston and the Red Sox his home, his place of work, and his legacy. As he put it: This is our f*&#ing city.

Now, looking back at the end of his legendary career, Ortiz opens up fully for the first time about his last two decades in the game. Unhindered by political correctness, Ortiz talks colorfully about his journey, from his poor upbringing in the Dominican Republic to when the expansion Florida Marlins passed up a chance to sign him due to what was essentially tennis elbow. He recalls his days in Peoria, Arizona, his first time in the United States; tense exchanges with Twins manager Tom Kelly in Minnesota; and his arrival in Boston. Readers go behind the scenes for the many milestones of his Red Sox career— from the huge disappointment of the Red Sox losing to the Yankees in 2003, ending the curse in 2004 with the infamous “band of idiots,” including his extraordinary clutch hitting to overcome a 3-0 series deficit against the Yankees, to earning a second title in 2007 and a third in 2013. Along the way, he was tainted by the infamous banned substances list in 2009; he used his passion and place to fortify a city devastated by the Boston Marathon bombings; and he dominated pitchers right up through his retirement season at age 40. Papi, as he became so affectionately called, gave his fans big hits when they needed them most. He was an even bigger presence: He was a champion who rallied a team, a city, and a sport in a way that no one will ever forget.

In Papi, his ultimate memoir, Ortiz opens up as never before about his life in baseball and about the problems he sees in Major League Baseball, about former teammates, opponents, coaches, and executives, and about the weight of expectation whenever he stepped up to the plate. The result is a revelatory, fly-on-the wall story of a career by a player with a lot to say at the end of his time in the game, a game to which he gave so much and which gave so much to him.

David Ortiz, nicknamed “Big Papi,” is a ten-time major league All-Star, three-time World Series champion, and the all-time MLB record holder for home runs, RBIs, and hits by a designated hitter. In 2015, Ortiz was voted as one of the four greatest players in Boston Red Sox history—along with Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and Pedro Martinez—by Red Sox fans. He lives in Boston, Massachusetts. 
 Michael Holley is the New York Times best-selling author of Patriot Reign, War Room, and Red Sox Rule. A former reporter and columnist for the Boston Globe and Chicago Tribune, Holley has also appeared on ESPN’s popular show Around the Horn and on Fox Sports Net’s I, MAX. He is currently a host of WEEI’s popular radio show Dale & Holley.

A Review of Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education

Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education is the memoir of a diasporican scholar who is one of our most respected and beloved teacher/educators in public education. Sonia Nieto’s memoir is also unusual because much of it draws on a personal diary she kept over the course of her life. Thus, the memoir is remarkably detailed in terms of names of people she was with and activities she engaged in, unlike those of us who piece together personal recollections with visual and written fragments to craft a story. The book is organized into three major parts that correspond to her development: Growing Up, Becoming an Educator, and Research and Writing; each section comprised of several chapters rich in details and historical context, with the theme of social (in)justice running across all chapters. The experiences she describes are unique because of who the author is, a Brooklyn-born Puerto Rican, the circumstances of her parents’ journey, arriving separately by boat and meeting subsequently in Brooklyn, in the early Depression years. However, some of the challenges the family experienced are common to other diasporican migrants, such as dealing with poor housing conditions and a special needs child.

Sonia assumed responsibilities as a young child that are common to im/migrant children. She served as the official family translator, and assisted her mother with the care of her physically and intellectually challenged younger brother. It was during those early years that Sonia’s journey into teaching began informally, but also formally as an undergraduate at St. John’s University, where she majored in elementary education. However, near the end of the semester she applied for and was awarded a scholarship to study in Madrid, where a casual encounter on a train would change the course of her personal life. Returning from her year abroad, Sonia was sent by the Board of Education to teach in a middle school in Ocean Hills-Brownsville, in the midst of its struggle for decentralization. Assigned to a 7th grade class due to a high attrition rate, Sonia confronts the unimaginable, that she is an ill-prepared novice teacher of 7th graders who have learned not to respect teachers because teachers have not respected them. It took about a year for Sonia to let the students teach her how to teach them, and while she eventually was successful, the experience taught her life lessons she would bring to her work as a teacher/educator. It so demoralized and exhausted her that she was determined to leave teaching, when she was offered a teaching position as a bilingual teacher in an experimental, bilingual elementary school in the South Bronx, where the majority of the students were Puerto Ricans. Assigned to a 4th grade class she was prepared to teach, and surrounded by supportive colleagues who shared in the excitement of being pioneers in a program where Spanish was as important as English, was a dream come true. After four years, now the mother of a toddler, she sought a position closer to home, and so she applied for a position as “curriculum specialist” and instructor in the Puerto Rican Studies Department at Brooklyn College. However, as she admits, her stay at Brooklyn was more about “political struggle and activism,” and less about teaching. Even so, she realized that she wanted to stay in higher education, but it required a doctorate. She applied for and accepted scholarships to study at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, an institution that offered a nontraditional, innovative interdisciplinary program she could not pass up. She completed her doctorate and worked briefly with state agencies until she was offered a full-time faculty position in the school of education. Once again, she was surrounded by a supportive community that included several New York Puerto Ricans, and so began that next phase of a scholarly life.

In the act of reading this memoir, it was inevitable to reflect on the trajectory of my own life, to gain a better understanding of it, and to learn from our similarities and understand our differences. That is the power of the memoir genre, and why Sonia’s memoir now serves as an inspiration to others who need to tell their own stories as community-conscious educators and scholars. Reading the chapter on studying in Spain, I paused to take in compelling insights, for example, that living in Madrid, Sonia became comfortable with and even “proud of” her Puerto Rican identity; and moved by reading about how she met, fell in love with, married and became equal partners in the struggle for social justice with her Angel. I could not help thinking about Che Guevara and what he says about the revolutionary being guided by great feelings of love. Sonia is a revolutionary compelled to do social justice work through her writing, inspired by her love for her community, with the inspiration and support of her life partner. As she says: “Teaching … is about commitments, service, courage and love” (pp. 130–1).

When I began to read Brooklyn Dreams, I thought I knew Sonia Nieto. She has been a mentor, a colleague and a friend since we met in the early 1990s. At the time, I was a new assistant professor, and she an established scholar. However, after reading Brooklyn Dreams, I realize how much I did not know. This 254-page memoir makes for substantive reading, with a distinctive style that is both pleasurable and informative reading. The narrative is interspersed with humorous anecdotes and poetry. The anecdote about Sonia’s mother seeking directions to the Borofel provides comic relief. Poetry is also interspersed throughout, allowing the reader access to the meaning conveyed through the economical use of words that evoke powerful imagery and emotions.  I recommend this book to all who think they know Sonia the human being, as well as those who only know her scholarship. You will walk away with new admiration and appreciation for the wonderful human being within the scholar.

The book:
Brooklyn Dreams: My Life in Public Education
By Sonia Nieto
Cambridge, MA: Hardvard Education Press, 2015.
ISBN: 978-1-61250-856-6