"Chicano writers from El Paso are the most progressive, open-minded, far-reaching, and inclusive writers of them all."

Octavio Romano

Sunday, September 27, 2009

El Paso Writers: Bad Link

Pluma will be updating our links on our blog. Send us a note if the link we have for you is bad.

La Rana

I caught this after the fact, but it looks good.

POETA Griselda Munoz "La Rana" is presenting a play titled "Monios DeBatalla," Un Cuento Revolucionario, written by her and directed by Ernesto Tinajero, TODAY, Saturday, September 26th, 7pm @ SacredHeart Gym, 602 S. Oregon ($5 in...cludes an enchilada plate). Proceeds goto the Centro Cultural Los De Abajo. All ages welcomed.

Arise Chicano! Angela de Hoyos passes

Angela de Hoyos, grande dame of Chicano poetry, dies in S.A.

Chicana poet Angela de Hoyos, considered the "grande dame of Chicano poetry," died Thursday in San Antonio. In the 1970s, her poet fueled the Chicano Movement and her work continued to inspire generations of poets.

"Angela and her partner Moses Sandoval were always there as the Chicano Movement grew," says fellow poet and artist Ramon Vasquez y Sanchez. Her poem, "Arise Chicano," is credited with giving the movement its push, he said. "She was the 'Frida' of the Chicano cause."

She's credited with mentoring poets such as San Antonio's Carmen Tafolla. During a visit to San Antonio, Rudolfo Anaya, author of the Chicano classic, "Bless Me, Ultima," praised de Hoyos contributions to the canon.

Funeral arrangements are pending. Look for an obituary in the Sunday Express-News.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Book Review: Benjamin Alire Sáenz novel follows climb out of despair


Benjamin Alire Sáenz novel follows climb out of despair

El Paso Times Staff

"I've lived eighteen years in the season of sadness where the weather never changed," says the protagonist, from the deep well of his isolation, in "Last Night I Sang to the Monster" (Cinco Puntos Press, $19.95 hardcover), Benjamin Alire Sáenz's most devastating and exquisite novel to date.

Zachariah Johnson Gonzalez -- Zach to his friends -- is the son of an alcoholic father and a manic-depressive mother "who was allergic to the sky," and with an older brother whose drug-induced rages inflicted fear and violence on the family. So it was only a matter of time before Zach ended up in a rehabilitation facility after a near-fatal drinking binge -- his way of numbing the pain of witnessing the ills of his loved ones.

In "trauma camp," he's the therapist's most challenging patient. The path toward healing begins with the exploration of the past. Zach doesn't like to remember: "Remembering makes me feel things. I don't like feelings things." Instead, his sessions are hostile dialogues of evasion and disassociation from his emotions.

But weeks into such programs, even the toughest case can crack, and Zach slowly begins to realize that "maybe living is supposed to be more than survival."

The strength to overcoming his nightmares is fueled by interactions with his roommates in Cabin 9: Sharkey, a 27-year-old drug addict and smart aleck with a conflicted relationship with his parents, and Rafael, a 53-year-old alcoholic and child-abuse survivor coping with the loss of his

son. These men become Zach's surrogate family, helping him reconnect with such sentiments as affection, sympathy and love.

But the greatest challenge is yet to come: taming the monster that pushes him toward the self-destructive act of forgetting. If he is to move on to the next stage of recovery, Zach must come to terms with a devastating personal tragedy that left him "dead even though I was still alive."

Sáenz, a writer of great skill and precision, reels the reader into a place of such personal sorrow without slipping into tearjerking sentimentality, though it's difficult not to respond with tears to Zach's hard-won rehabilitation.

The testimonies that come out during Zach's group therapy sessions are relentless but convincing portraits of humanity at its most vulnerable, and they prepare both the reader and Zach for the shocking revelations at the conclusion of his stay.

And to allow the dark prose further flecks of light, Sáenz has Zach collect the sensory details of his smallest pleasures -- the therapist's green eyes, his high-school teacher's trumpet-playing, Rafael's lullaby -- a happiness-building exercise that echoes the plot's shift from anxiety and grief to poetic justice and victory song.

"Last Night I Sang to the Monster," with its impressive characterizations and heart-wrenching storyline, is the must-read novel of the year.

Rigoberto González is an award-winning writer living in New York City. His Web site is www.rigobertogonzalez.com, and he may be reached at Rigoberto70@aol.com.

Missed another event yesturday

I kept getting posts from Rich on Facebook yesterday. I was all set to get my self to El Paso Community College, but I did not make it. But from what I hear, the Literary Festival went well.

I must admit, that during law school I had more time to put out Pluma Fronteriza and post on this blog than I do now. Leading an immigrant advocacy center has take an toll on my time, especially during this recession. I think also that I was reading so much Chicano/a literature since 2002, mostly for book reviews and Pluma Fronteriza purposes, that I got a bit exhausted. Throw in the fact that as a reviewer one has to read some bad stuff at times.

I've been throwing the idea of resurrecting Pluma Fronteriza soon. So I'm wondering what our Chicano writers and El Paso writers think. Plus, what direction should we run to.

Our resurrection probably will not be the PDF style newsletter we use to do. It just takes to much time to layout. Most likely, we will not go in the hardcopy direction.

Well, Chucenos and pachucotas, let me know your ideas.