Sunday, May 27, 2007
A writer with an unparalleled literary style and attitude, Felicia Luna Lemus comes charging full force with her second novel, "Like Son" (Akashic Books, $14.95 paperback), a page-turning account of "a most unusual trinity" of characters navigating through the most universal of themes: love and heartache.
Friday, May 25, 2007
University of California Press releases The Farmworkers' Journey
Farmworkers' Journey by Ann Aurelia López
"This book tells a powerful and moving story of lives affected by agricultural and trade policies, migration, and the dehumanization of farm workers. The text is an eye-opening blend of academic research and testimonials of the people directly touched by the powerful market forces that have been unleashed by trade liberalization. "—Alejandro Nadal, Science, Technology and Development Program, El Colegio de México
Illuminating the dark side of economic globalization, this book gives a rare insider's view of the migrant farmworkers' binational circuit that stretches from the west central Mexico countryside to central . . .
For more information, click on The Farmworkers' Journey
Subjects: Anthropology; American Studies; California & the West; Economics & Business; Ethnic Studies; Latin American Studies ; Politics ; Sociology
978-0-520-25072-7, cloth $55.00
978-0-520-25073-4, paper $21.95
Join in solidarity with other mujeres from el valle y todo Tejas in organizing Mujerfest 2007, a day of workshps, music, film, poetry, and art. Mujerfest 2007: This Bridge We Call Home will take place on July 28th at Mercedes Civic Center in the lower Rio Grande Valley. A special zine honoring Gloria Anzaldua will be available. Submit your proposals for discussions, exhibits or platicas for Mujerfest now! Get info at www.caferevolucion.org/mujerfestinfo.html or contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
If I remember correctly, it was about 1997 when I published my first book review on a Chicano title. It was a very basic book review on Charlie Trujillo’s Soldados: Chicanos in
So began my busting out of reviews of Chicano(a) titles. I was not the first to contribute to the paper, but it was about that time that Ramon Reteria took over the book review page at the El Paso Times and he was looking for books that an
I grew tired of Chicano(a) Literature
I tend to like reviewing books by
I missed books in other genres of literature. I had strayed from many non-fiction titles I once devoured. In 2006, I intended to read only academic non-fiction works on Chicano(a)s. Though here and there, I threw in some creative literature, I mostly stayed the course. The books would come in the mail and still do, and I am hung, drawn, and quartered by the need to give these new writers exposure and my need to read works outside of our genre.
In 2007, we are seeing more and more reviews by Chicano(a) on Chicano(a) literature. Back in the late 1990s, there were some here and there, but nothing on the level that the El Paso Times provides. I began looking for other venues. I found some, but most have been low-key. Other writers have found better venues. The Los Angeles Times is one to mention.
Nevertheless, I cannot stop from feeling our books are still not making it into major newspapers. One here and there will pop up, especially if the review is on a book by a big-name Chicano(a) writers, however, with Latinos now being the largest “minority” group in the U.S., book reviews are not matching our output.
Do our books see the trash or moved to the back of the book reviewer’s closet. Are our books seen as too ethnic, something regular White readers will not like? Then again, there are those who say White readers are Chicano(a) Literature’s biggest reader base. I don’t think editors of book review pages have caught on to that though.
Still, university presses publish much of our literature. Second would be by middle presses. Third, the major presses. Fourth, the small presses. Then there are those that bypass all of them and go directly to the Internet or self publish. The major papers will look less at the small press and not at all at anything self published.
Many book review editors rely on the wire services that put out books reviews like Publisher Weekly. I still have an email from John Mark Eberhart of the Kansas City Star boasting that he would only publish reviews that made it into those publications. That reminds me, I need to dig that email up and comment and the various interesting comments Eberhart had on literature.
Writers reviewing writers/Non-writers reviewing Writers
On another note, most of the Chicano(a) reviewers are also fellow writers. Of course that brings up the old conspiracy theory that the reviews come as favors to other writers/friends. Just the same as some writers’ anthologies contain the same “friends” as the last anthology they edited. This brings up some of the allegations that foetry.com has brought up. Don’t get me started. That’s not the point I’m trying to make.
Writers’ reviewing other writers is a double-edged sword. It is basically a review from the inside. Someone who is not a writer also has a double-edged sword. She gives us a view from the outside. Unlke the writers, she is not meant to create, but to destroy, a real critic. Well, maybe not a real critic, but one you'd enjoy drinking Tecates with. However, unlike the writer, her literary knowledge may not be as keen as a writer. Transversely, some writers write more outside the mode. I can definitely see a difference in the MFA/English Major reviewers and those who are not MFA/English department trained.
On the other hand, that leaves a hole. I for example am not a good reviewer. I’ve found my literary knowledge quite low in how to really read novel, a short story, and fuck poetry. Especially in the poetry realm, I find my carnales(as) who have studied literature, are keener than I am in reviewing poetry.
My explanation follows. I entered reviewing to give light to struggling writers. That’s basically been my main mission with Pluma Fronteriza, Libros, Libros, and the Pluma Fronteriza blog. But since then, I think others have taken the rein, others who are much better reviewers than I. I mostly gave a short summary of the book, made few comments, made some comparisons, and that’s about it. Not great reviews, maybe a few unpolished gems here and there.
I never thought I really review(ed) books critically. I think other writers did it better. Furthermore, it was hard for me to write a bad reviews -- still is. I have a host of bad reviews of book in the crevices of my computer files, which I never sent out. I felt guilty for the writers. I feel sorry for the writers. Months later I’m screaming, “That book got an award.” Then I’m thinking, am I insane? Was it only me? Was the selection committee insane?
I think other writers have this feeling as I have observed in the comments that other reviewers put in their emails when they send me a review.
So who knows? I’m just asking questions. Is the review better from the outside or inside?
Our need for courageous critics
What it gets down to is that Chicano(a) Literature needs critics. You see really good critics in the literary criticism area of our literature. However, their reviews have slowed down increasingly since the 1970s. These guys and gals, didn’t hold anything back. They were not there to create, but to destroy the lifelong dreams and works of writers.
Will our literature improve if we were more critical? Maybe. I have to admit, I saw some zanty titles in the last two years, some of which I started to read but never finished knowing I would write a bad review. I get that guilty feeling again like squirming because you have to take a piss but you are listening to someone speak to you and can’t leave the room.
Reviews on the internet
Most of my thoughts above regard reviews in newspapers. Though our reviews have increased, we are still getting a blind eye.
However, I think the real future of reviews of Chicano(a) Literature is on the Internet. No editors. No word limits (I frequently get the scream of an editor who can’t get his university-trained writer to write a review in 400 words). You can say anything you want on the Internet, especially on blogs.
No editor and no publisher to mettle in your thoughts. The rise of blogs like La Bloga and ours have expanded the criticism of literature and I think that is where the future of book reviews lie as newspapers slowly start their death rattle.
That book that took you 20 years to write, a reviewer can destroy or save in 400 words.I take the middle ground. Sometimes we need favors. We still need to help our struggling writers.
Nevertheless, I am still waiting for the reviewers who will be a critic and nothing else. Won’t pull punches. Won’t do favors. Like the caveman in Mel Brooks History of the World, Part I, who critically looks at the cave art in Lascaux caves in southwestern France and pisses on it. So easy, a caveman can do it.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
It has been a few weeks since the Virginia Tech Massacre and I guess one of our off-the topic post is due.
I saw many of the articles that floated around on the web dealing with race and the massacre.
My focus is on how the media covered the event. Many times, especially on NPR and CNN you heard the following statements:
“The worst mass shooting in the nation’s history."
“The worst mass killing in US history.”
Journalist should be careful when making such statements. Most likely, many of these general statements were made without any historical research into their validity or else were made off hand. However, it also shows us how White culture looks at the mass killing of people of color. Although people of color were victims of the VT massacre, our history shows many other events in
Let us just look at mass killing since 1776, the birth of our nation. In 1778, the
On May 29, 1780, the Waxhaw Massacre took place in Buford, South Carolina as British killed some ‘Americans’ as they attempted to surrender. Again, many of the deaths were in battle so it hard to say this was the worst, but the British killed an estimated 113 and mortally wounded more than a hundred.
Though not part of the
However, in 1852
On Sept. 7 (11?), 1857, Mountain Meadows Massacre took place. Here Mormons killed between 100 and 140 men, women, and children from
There was also the Memphis Riot,
Another one that would surpass VT is the January 23, 1870 Massacre on the Marias in which U.S. soldiers slaughtered 173 Blackfeet men, women, and children on the Marias River in Montana in response for the killing of Malcolm Clarke and the wounding of his son by a small party of young Blackfeet men.
Another one that would surpass VT is the
The next would definitely be the worst “mass killing” or “mass shooting,” however you want to look at it: On
I think I made my point, but remember these:
April 1866. Circleville Massacre. Mormons massacred 16 Native Americans.
July 36, 1866.
"Six killed and five wounded" is that the daily papers said, but from an eyewitness to the whole transaction we learn that Whites killed no less than 35 African Americans. Lame men and blind women shot; children and hoary-headed grandsires ruthlessly swept down! The Negroes offered no resistance; they could not, as the killing was unexpected. Those of them not killed took to the woods, a majority of them finding refuge in this city.
Zinn, 2004; http://www.dougriddle.com/essays/sk20021220.html, retrieved
Therefore, the main message here is journalist should be careful in use of their words. Journalists can call the VT Massacre the “worst school mass shooting” or “university killing” or “university gun killing,” or even “worse mass shooting by a lone gunman,” but they should not commemorate one massacre by stepping on the victims of another, especially when they are mostly Native Americans and African Americans.