New Book: Cabañuelas by Norma Elia Cantú

Nena leaves Laredo, Texas, and moves to Madrid, Spain, to research the historical roots of traditional fiestas in Laredo. Immersing herself in post-Franco Spain and its rich history, its food, music, and fiestas, Nena finds herself falling for Paco, a Spaniard who works in publishing. Nena’s research and experiences teach her about who she is, where she comes from, and what is important to her, but as her work comes to a close, Nena must decide where she can best be true to her entire self: in Spain with Paco or in Laredo, her home, where her job and family await her return.Norma Elia Cantú is the Norine R. and T. Frank Murchison Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Trinity University. Her recent works include Transcendental Train Yard: A Collaborative Suite of SerigraphsCanícula: Snapshots of a Girlhood en la Frontera, Updated Edition (UNM Press), and the coedited anthology Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art.

 

 

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New Book: Ballad of a Slopsucker by Juan Alvarado Valdivia

Check out this new book from UNM press!

A young widower visits Chichén Itzá to honor his wife; family dynamics unravel at a child’s birthday party; the lead singer of a high school metal band faces his dreaded tenth reunion; a serial killer believes he’s been blessed by God to murder bicycle thieves—Alvarado Valdivia’s debut collection of short stories ranges from dark to light and is written with a storyteller’s skill and compassion. Based in Northern California and examining a variety of themes, including love, family, and masculinity, these stories offer an important new perspective on the experiences of Latinos and Latinas in the United States and complicate ideas of nationhood, identity, and the definition of home.

 

Juan Alvarado Valdivia was born to Peruvian parents and raised in Fremont, California. He is the author of ¡Cancerlandia!: A Memoir (UNM Press).

New Book: Where We Come From by Oscar Casares

You’re telling me Oscar Casares has a new book coming out? I’ve been waiting a while for this…

From the acclaimed author of Brownsville and Amigoland–a stunning and timely new novel about a Mexican American family in Brownsville, Texas, who reluctantly becomes involved in smuggling immigrants into the United States

From a distance, the towns along the U.S.-Mexican border have dangerous reputations: on one side, drug cartels; on the other, zealous border patrol agents–and Brownsville is no different. But to twelve-year-old Orly, it’s simply where his godmother, Nina, lives–and where he is being forced to stay the summer after his mother’s sudden death.

For Nina, Brownsville is where she grew up, where she lost her first and only love, and where she stayed as her relatives moved away and her neighborhood deteriorated. It’s the place where she’s buried all her secrets–and now she has another: she’s providing refuge for a young immigrant boy named Daniel, for whom traveling to America has meant trading one set of dangers for another.

Separated from the violent human traffickers who brought him across the border, pursued by the authorities, Daniel must stay completely hidden under Nina’s roof. But when Orly discovers Daniel’s presence, the two boys’ immediate kinship–and shared desire for independence–puts them all at risk of exposure.

Tackling the crisis of U.S. immigration policy from a deeply human angle, Where We Come Fromexplores through an intimate lens the ways that family history shapes us, how secrets can burden us, and how finding compassion and understanding for others can ultimately set us free.

Book Rev. of Carrie Gibson’s El Norte

check out this book review by Charles Kaiser for The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/mar/16/el-norte-review-carrie-gibson-epic-history-hispanic-north-america?fbclid=IwAR14Po233gYfVSp8UyPtlQ97yPaGNhw0QdShUQGSOhOxQc0swLmc_EZCwz8

The subtitle of Carrie Gibson’s book is The Epic and Forgotten Story of Hispanic North America. El Norte lives up to it.

These 437 pages are an important correction to centuries of American history which have mostly neglected the vital role of Spanish pioneers (and Native Americans) in favor of settlers from England, Ireland and Scotland. As the author quotes Walt Whitman, Americans long ago tacitly abandoned themselves “to the notion that our United States have been fashioned from the British Islands … which is a great mistake …

“To that composite American identity of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts.”

This book proves Whitman’s prescience in a hundred ways: the history of Hispanics in the US is indeed “not a separate history of outsiders or interlopers, but one that is central to how the United States has developed”.

The first surprise is the role of Spain in the revolutionary war. In Paris in December 1776, Benjamin Franklin met in secret with the Count of Aranda, quickly convincing him Spain needed to side with the Americans. Ships leaving New England already called at Spanish ports such as Bilbao and Cádiz to purchase cod and flour. Soon their holds were also bulging with millions of reales’ worth of bullets, gunpowder, bombs, rifles and tents. Three years later, the Spanish governor in New Orleans, Bernardo de Gálvez, sent 1,300 men to attack British outposts in west Florida.

Of course, Gibson’s narrative begins much earlier, when the Spanish began their forays into the New World. The author reminds us that the indigenous urban culture of what is now Mexico was much more advanced than anything the conquistadors left behind in Europe.

Tenochtitlan (on the site of Mexico City) had a population of 150,000, “far larger than any European city”. Hernán Cortés arrived there in 1519 and reported to the crown he could “not describe one-hundredth of all the things which could be mentioned”, including a market where “more than 60,000 people come each day to buy and sell, and where every kind of merchandise … is found: provisions as well as … ornaments of gold and silver, lead, brass, copper, tin stones, shells bones and feathers”. When he met Emperor Moctezuma, Cortés was taken to a “vast compound of palaces, apartments, libraries, warehouses, and even a zoo”.

With the typical solicitude of the invader, Cortés soon kidnapped Moctezuma. But he was forced to retreat in 1520, after a battle that killed 400 Spaniards and thousands of Tlaxcala soldiers. A year later, Cortés returned. A plague in the Valley of Mexico would eventually kill millions. The capital fell.

Gibson paints an extremely broad canvas over eight centuries, from early Spanish colonies in Florida and the founding of Louisiana to the battle between the US and Mexico over Texas and Hispanic settlements in California. She reminds us of the immense diversity of Native American culture before the arrival of all Europeans. There were probably 300,000 Native Americans in Alta California before the Spanish arrived, and they spoke “roughly 90 languages under the umbrella of seven broader linguistic families”.

A statue of the 18th-century Spanish missionary Father Junipero Serra at Mission San Juan Capistrano, in California.
 A statue of the 18th-century Spanish missionary Father Junípero Serra at Mission San Juan Capistrano, in California. Photograph: Mike Blake/Reuters

The natives offered resistance. In 1772, a priest in San Diego wrote that Spanish troops “deserve to be hanged on account of the continuous outrages which they are committing in seizing and raping the women”. Three years later, 600 natives attacked the mission with “so many arrows that you could not possibly count them”. The mission burned but it was rebuilt five years later, and by 1823 there were 21 such sites up and down the California coast, “almost all of them concerned with the conversion and subsequent labor of the Indians”. Los Angeles and San José de Guadalupe, on the southern edge of San Francisco, were established for civilian settlement.

Gibson also reminds us of the racism which has underpinned the Mexican-American relationship for at least 200 years.

“Whiteness in the United States,” she writes, “became bound up with the idea of manifest destiny and providence, that the Anglo-Protestants were somehow chosen to spread themselves across the continent.” In 1847, during the Mexican-American war, the American Review said: “Mexico was poor, distracted, in anarchy and almost in ruins” and asked: “What could she do … to impede the march of our greatness?

“We are Anglo-Saxon Americans; it was our ‘destiny’ to possess and to rule this continent … We were a chosen people, and this was our allotted inheritance, and we must drive out all other nations.”

This point of view persists. In the 2000s, the historian Samuel Huntington wrote that “America was created by … settlers who were overwhelmingly white, British and Protestant” – and therefore the arrival of Hispanics in large numbers remained a direct threat. Huntington denigrated such immigrants as people with “dual nationalities and dual loyalties”, because of their Spanish language and Catholic religion.

Of course no recent public figure has done more to stoke such prejudices than our current president. Gibson’s sprawling work makes a major contribution by reminding us of the falseness of Donald Trump’s xenophobic narrative. Her rich account leaves no doubt that America is a vastly more interesting place because of the millions of Hispanic immigrants who have been arriving on our shores for more than 600 years.

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

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.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is Getting Her Own Comic Book

This has made its way around the interwebz by now, but just in case:  Sam Stone for cbr.com reports: https://www.cbr.com/alexandria-ocasio-cortez-comic-book/?fbclid=IwAR2lrhT3kFx3QfSEx95zgX66tyo0tE3KvJDUHbMOUsz1RHP23xH9pF5HXJQ

In office for less than two months, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already making her presence felt throughout Washington, D.C. Now, she will star in her own comic book.

Devil’s Due Comics has announced Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force, a one-shot special commemorative issue, will be released on May 15. Featuring an all-star lineup of creators, including Jill Thompson (Scary Godmother) and Jose Garibaldi (The LEGO Movie 2), the issue will feature an anthology of short stories as the Congresswoman takes on the GOP in heroic, satirical adventures. The variant cover illustrated by Tim Seeley (Hack/Slash) is below:

 

“It’s no secret that AOC has become the unofficial leader of the new school, and has sparked life back into Washington and that’s reflected in the enthusiasm on display by the men and women contributing to this project,” Devil’s Due Publisher Josh Blaylock observed. “While we all don’t agree on everything, we share a common excitement for the breath of fresh air the new Congress brings. I hope this is as much a cathartic release for readers as it has been for us creators.”

A portion of the proceeds will go to support the USO and RaicesTexas.org, a nonprofit organization committed to providing legal services to immigrant families and refugees.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force by Jill Thompson, Dean Haspiel, Jose Garibaldi and more is scheduled to go on sale on May 15 from Devil’s Due Comics.

David Bowles on order among chaos and lifting the voices of Mexican Americans

“The real heroes are groups of people—families and communities—that stand in solidarity against great odds and use their love and collective will to enact change.”

 

Author David Bowles has published fourteen books since 2009, and his latest, They Call Me Guero, is winning ALL the awards, it would seem. Lone Star Lit caught up with David via email to get all (well, almost all) the scoop.

 

LONE STAR LITERARY LIFE: They Call Me Güero is EVERYWHERE right now: it’s the 2019 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award winner, a Pura Belpré Honor Book, an honor book for the Walter Dean Myers Awards for Outstanding Children’s Literature in the Young Readers category, a National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Notable Poetry Book for children, and a Best Book of 2018 at Shelf Awareness.  Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico is on the best YA of 2018 list at Kirkus.  I follow you on social media, and you seem genuinely blown-away as the awards are stacking up.  What has this been like for you?

David Bowles: It’s definitely a dream come true. I’ve received awards before (for The Smoking Mirror and Flower, Song, Dance), but the reception of this little book has been humbling and energizing. Above all, I’m excited that the additional exposure will mean that it gets into the hands of more children—both Latinx and non-Latinx kids—which is ultimately the goal.

Why do you see the book as important to both those groups of young people?

For Latinx kids—especially Mexican American ones—it’s really important that they see themselves, their families, their culture as important subjects of literature, as worthy of being depicted in positive, uplifting ways. The present climate makes this need frankly poignant. When so many messages in society around you indicate that you’re a problem, a crisis, an unwanted burden … well, you need books, you need poetry, to counter that despicable depiction.

And frankly, that’s why non-Latinx students need books like this. They need to see the reality of their Latinx peers, to see them reflected in literature as three-dimensional, engaging individuals whose lives are rich and meaningful. Right now, an average of 3500 books are published each year for kids. Only around 100 are centered on the Latinx experience. That needs to change.

You are focusing on writing for young people. Was that a conscious decision on your part or a general metamorphosis in your work?

Definitely a conscious decision, though partially a metamorphosis that occurred before my first book was published. Throughout the late ‘90s and early 2000s, I was working on an adult science fiction series, but my experiences as a teacher of middle- and high-schoolers, retelling the legends my grandmother Marie Garza had told me when I was a kid, set me on the path to reaching out to young people through literature. My first book, The Seed, arose from that desire to craft YA fiction that tapped into our shared cultural traditions and spooky stories.

Of course, I have been writing for a general or more adult audience as well. There are stories I want to tell that don’t always fit the strictures of kid lit. But my main concern is writing for Mexican American youth and their peers.

The Smoking Mirror, a 2016 Pura Belpré Honor Book, is the first in your super-hero series about the Garza twins, Carol and Johnny. Since then, two more books in the series have been published, A Kingdom Beneath the Waves (2016) and The Hidden City (2018); two more are in the works,Wings Above the Burning Earth (2020) and The World Tree (2022). What challenges will the twins face in the next installments in the series and how have they developed to meet those challenges? Do you know if their story concludes with the fifth book?

From the moment I started the first book, I knew how the series would end. I have the very last chapter of the fifth book sitting in my head, and everything the Garza twins go through is pushing them to a particular point, to a decision that frankly will surprise many readers.

Without giving it away, I’ll say this: I’m convinced that individual power is not enough to combat chaos and destruction in our lives. The real heroes are groups of people—families and communities—that stand in solidarity against great odds and use their love and collective will to enact change.

Raw, naked power—the godlike abilities that Johnny and Carol will continue to accrue in books 4 and 5—is ultimately dangerous to wield at all. Like nuclear weapons, all such superpowers ensure is mutual destruction. And now I’ve probably said to much.

There will be lots of incredibly cool things along the way, mind you. Mesoamerican giants and elves and harpies. Gods, both dark and light. Betrayal, love, sacrifice. All a young teen could ask for from a fantasy series.

You are one of the authors working with Adam Gidwitz on a new middle-grade series from Penguin Dutton called The Unicorn Rescue Society.The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande will be published in April.  How did this collaboration come about, and what has that process been like for you?

Once Adam had decided to use his position and power to craft a series of books co-written with writers from marginalized communities, he knew he wanted to do one set on the border (he has a great relationship with students in Laredo), featuring chupacabras as the cryptid (each book has a different creature in need of rescuing). When he approached Matt de la Peña, wondering who might be the best collaborator for that book, Matt immediately said, “Mexican American? Border? Chupacabras? Middle grade? You need to talk to David Bowles.” Or words to that effect, heh.

So Adam reached out to me and I agreed! Working together was really fantastic. We hit it off well, and once I’d outlined the story and we’d revised that outline with the rest of the team, we set about alternating two to three chapters. Writing that way helped us to maintain a rhythm and voice that was true to the other books. But ours was indeed quite different, more politically charged by virtue of its setting. Early on we realized we couldn’t avoid talking about the border wall and misconceptions about border folk, so we took a different tack: we centered that controversy and met it head-on in a compassionate way that kids will be able to understand.

They Call Me Güero and Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Myths of Mexico were both published by Texas institutions, the Byrd family and Cinco Puntos Press, in El Paso. How did your relationship with the Byrds and Cinco Puntos come about and what is it like to work with the publishers of such beloved authors as Benjamin Alire Sáenz?

Given the fact that they published four of Luis Alberto Urrea’s early books as well as many by Ben Sáenz, I am tempted to call them kingmakers. Both those men are role models for me, both as humans and as writers, and they are respected on an international level for their beautiful, important prose and poetry.

Cinco Puntos is one of the most important advocates of marginalized voices. Their books for kids have transformed lives in the Rio Grande Valley and can be found in so many classrooms. The Byrds are delightful, simple, loving people. Accomplished authors and translators themselves, they approach each project not just from a marketing or editorial vantage point, but as creative minds seeking to maximize the beauty and relevance of the work.

They are also really damn funny.

You were inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters (TIL) in 2017 and currently sit on the board. The newly elected TIL inductees were announced in January. What was it like for you to take part in the process of selecting new TIL members?

Humbling and exciting! Getting to know authors that I’ve perhaps heard of or whose work I’m somewhat familiar with, diving into their writing and background, realizing just what luminaries our state produces … it’s quite amazing. I feel so fortunate, and I take my responsibilities seriously. Of course, the joy you feel upon seeing them react to the announcement is also a rush. And given the diversity of the new crop of nominees and inductees, I’m not indifferent to the weight of helping to reshape the TIL so that it more accurately reflects the state of Texas letters in the 21st century.

You’re an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. What are your goals in teaching Mesoamerican literature and, hopefully, the next generation of writers?

My goals in teaching kid lit and Nahuatl language and literature intersect with my goals as an author: to lift the voices of Mexican Americans, celebrating our culture in the US, its origin in Mexico, and Mexico’s roots in Mesoamerica. I want to normalize this long and storied heritage for students who have not been exposed to it in US schools, even those just scant miles from the border in communities that are majority Mexican American. We need more writers, yes. And we need more teachers using the books those writers craft. We need more Chicanos learning indigenous Mesoamerican languages, decolonizing their minds, integrating some of the highly developed pre-Colombian philosophy and science into their daily lives.

These things make us better people. They enrich and complicate the variegated traditions of North America, combat and interrogate the dominant US narrative.

The banner at the top of your website reads, “order amidst chaos.” Why did you choose that phrase to headline your website? What is particularly chaotic for you personally, and how do you attempt to impose order? Are you successful in the attempt?

For ancient Mesoamericans, the principal conflict in the cosmos wasn’t good versus evil. They would have found such a notion naïve. All things contain good and evil. Even the gods. Instead, chaos and order were the crux of things. The point of life wasn’t, however, to eliminate chaos. Without it, order was meaningless. Without destruction, nothing can be created. Without creation, there is nothing to be destroyed. Existence itself requires both. The conflict becomes a search for balance between them.

This sophisticated indigenous conception of the universe deeply moves me. All around us, deliberate destruction and inexorable entropy pull at the foundations of our lives. Being a human means not fighting that, but not giving in to it, either. Instead, we bend that entropy, repurposing the destruction into new creation, new order.

Every book I write is a reshaping of fading ideas into bright, novel configurations. They, too will darken and crumble. Before they are lost to oblivion, however, I trust—I must believe—that another will fan those embers and use the fleeting flames to forge something even more enduring.

This struggle happens within us as well. Gloria Anzaldúa wrote of the Coyolxauhqui process, the reassembling of broken selves. My book of poetryShattering and Bricolage delves deep into that remaking of the self. One of the poems got quoted recently on Criminal Minds, in fact: “When wounds are healed by love / The scars are beautiful.” The poem’s title is “Kintsukuroi,” the name of a Japanese artistic technique in which a finished ceramic piece is deliberately broken and the pieces rejoined with silver or gold solder so that the brokenness becomes part of the object’s beauty.

When I first contacted you, you teased that there is big news on the horizon; are you ready and able to spill on it yet?  If not (DRAT), what else do we have to look forward to?

While there is big news coming about a new series for young readers, that’s as much as I can say at present. But I do have a graphic novel coming from Tu Books in 2020: Clockwork Curandera, a YA reimagining of the Frankenstein story that blends indigenous magic with steampunk technology, set in an alternate northern Mexico/South Texas called the Republic of Santander in the year 1865. I also have a second graphic novel coming out in 2020 … that will be announced pretty soon.

I should also point out that the University of Arizona Press is re-releasing Francisco X. Alarcón’s Snake Poems in March, twenty-five years after its original publication. I helped fulfill the late poet’s dream by translating his work into Nahuatl for this special edition.

 

My mind is blown with all you have accomplished and are accomplishing. I need to ask some fluffy questions to decompress. Commence the Lightning Round…

Favorite book? Right nowThe Tale of Genji. Answer changes each year.

Number of books on your nightstand? eReader? A dozen.

Strange habit? Plucking stray long hair from my beard.

Interesting writing ritual? Listening to electronica and drinking coffee.

Funniest flaw? My kids assure me it’s my “dad jokes.”

Favorite quote? “I change myself, I change the world.” ―Gloria Anzaldúa

Something interesting that few people know about you? I’m a musician and singer with several independently released albums.

Pet peeve? Uh, very few trivial things bother me. But I do wish people would set off direct address with a comma.

Most underappreciated author/hidden gem author? Juan Sauvageau (Stories That Must Not Die)

Team Oxford comma? Not unless it eliminates possible ambiguity.

A Mexican-American author from deep South Texas, DAVID BOWLES is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Recipient of awards from the American Library Association, Texas Institute of Letters and Texas Associated Press, he has written a dozen or so books, including Flower, Song, Dance: Aztec and Mayan Poetry, the critically acclaimed Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Mexican Myths, and They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems. In 2019, Penguin will publish The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande, co-written with Adam Gidwitz, and Tu Books will release his steampunk graphic novel Clockwork Curandera. His work has also appeared in multiple venues such as Journal of Children’s Literature, Rattle, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Nightmare, Asymptote, Translation Review, Metamorphoses, Huizache, Eye to the Telescope, and Southwestern American Literature. In April 2017, David was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters for his literary work. Visit David Bowles on his website.

New Book: El Norte by Carrie Gibson

https://groveatlantic.com/book/el-norte/

About the Book

Because of our shared English language, as well as the celebrated origin tales of the Mayflowerand the rebellion of the British colonies, the United States has prized its Anglo heritage above all others. However, as Carrie Gibson explains with great depth and clarity in El Norte, the nation has much older Spanish roots—ones that have long been unacknowledged or marginalized. The Hispanic past of the United States predates the arrival of the Pilgrims by a century, and has been every bit as important in shaping the nation as it exists today.

El Norte chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present—from Ponce de Leon’s initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start but which are unresolved to this day: language, belonging, community, race, and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.

In 1883, Walt Whitman meditated on his country’s Spanish past: “We Americans have yet to really learn our own antecedents, and sort them, to unify them,” predicting that “to that composite American identity of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts.” That future is here, and El Norte, a stirring and eventful history in its own right, will make a powerful impact on our national understanding.

New Book: Latinx Literature Now Between Evanescence and Event

Latinx Literature Now engages with a diverse collection of works in Latinx literary studies, critical theory, and the philosophy of history, as well as a wide range of Latinx literary texts, in order to offer readers an alternative model of how Latinx literary scholarship and Latinx literary criticism might go about doing their work. It encourages practitioners in the field to reflect on literature and latinidad together as both parallel and intersecting historical-cultural formations, and to assess from that reflection how literary works might uniquely condition and depict latinidad as something other than a fixed, stable category of identity, as instead an ongoing process of becoming, one always capable of promise, but also always vulnerable to risk, threat, precarity and even disappearance: that is, as always more prone to the performative flash of an evanescence than to the ontological solidity of an event.

 

About the author: Ricardo L. Ortiz is Associate Professor of Latinx Literature and Culture at Georgetown University, USA.

With A New Book, Louie Pérez Of Los Lobos Is Master Storyteller

Check out this NPR article by Felix Contreras and Marisa Arbona-Ruiz. If you go to the site, you can even here an interview: https://www.npr.org/sections/altlatino/2019/01/18/686408433/with-a-new-book-louie-perez-of-los-lobos-is-master-storyteller

 

“There is no such thing as Chicano hippies! And playing Mexican music??”

That was my father’s reaction when I described seeing five honest-to-goodness Chicano hippies with beards and ponytails playing mariachi music at a Chicano student leadership retreat at UC Davis in 1975. Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, the group called themselves.

Three years later, there was a bright yellow album cover with a drawing of a nopal plant and an inlay photo of those very same Chicano hippies that proclaimed themselves as ‘Just Another Band from East LA.’ They were still playing Mexican folk music and that record was a staple of Chicano activist parties during my college years in Fresno, Calif.

Then, nothing. For five years. Until they came roaring out of the LA punk scene with electric instruments turned up to 11 rocking corridos, a Ritchie Valens song and the first three originals by David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, a song writing team that would redefine Chicano musical expression and win legions of fans around the world.

Good Morning, Aztlán : The Words, Pictures and Songs of Louie Pérez (published by Tia Chucha Press) has just been published and it is a breathtaking examination of Pérez ‘s masterful storytelling in the name of sharing the lesson that we have more in common than we are different.

This week, Pérez sits down for a wide-ranging interview about the book, his own story, his creative bond with David Hidalgo that stretches back to the 11th grade and his commitment to telling the stories of the world as he has seen it from countless tour buses.

Good Morning, Aztlán has songs as well as short stories, poetry and philosophical riffs all written by Pérez and we selected a few to include in the show. Big thanks to Alt.Latino contributor Marisa Arbona-Ruiz‘s multi-talented acting skills for the dramatic readings on the show this week. Get your tissues out for her reading of “Little John Of God” one of Pérez ‘s most powerfully emotional songs.

With David Hidalgo as his writing partner and the rest of Los Lobos as the vehicle that brings those stories to life, Louie Pérez has created an imaginary world full of real life joys and pains and wonder that seems worlds away from the hippie mariachi I saw. But the through line going back to 8-year-old Louie Pérez of East LA has been his fascination with the written word. And we all have benefited from that.

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