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

Octavio Romano

Thursday, June 17, 2010

El Paso Writer Update #4: Alicia Gaspar de Alba; El Paso Writer Updates on Delgado, Morton, Gilb, Solis, Tony Payan

El Paso Writer Update  #4: 
Alicia Gaspar de Alba

We are postponing our Out of El Paso Spotlight for Thursday; I'm still working on it and switching it with out paseno writer update.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba is the author of two books of poetry, one short story collection, and three novels now. And what a critic she is, as you can find her articles on a tonada de journals and books. She is the current chair of the Center for Chicano Studies at UCLA. She received her B.A. at UTEP and her M.A. in creative writing at UTEP. She received her Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico.

In 2008, Gaspar de Alba won the Gold Shield Faculty Prize for Academic Excellence (UCLA); in 2005, the International Latino Book Award for Best English-Language Mystery; in 2000 the Latino Literary Hall of Fame for Best Historical Fiction; in 1998, Border-Ford/Pellicer-Frost Award for Poetry; in 1998, the Shirley Collier Prize for Literature (UCLA); in 1994, the coveted Premio Aztlá, and in 1989, the Massachusetts Artists' Foundation Fellowship Award in Poetry (1989).

As with our other recent updates, we have been including our last update from Pluma fronteriza (2007):

Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s mystery novel Desert Blood won a couple of big awards: Lambda Literary Foundation Award for Lesbian Mystery and the Latino Book Award for English-Language Mystery. Desert Blood is being translated into Italian as Il deserto della morti silenziose: I feminicidi di Juarez (which means Desert of The Silent Dead: The Feminicides of Juarez). Her new historical novel, Calligraphy of the Witch, is forthcoming.

Well that's the old news. The current news is that Gaspar de Alba released Calligraphy of the Witch: A Novel ( St. Martin's Press) in 2007.

Here's the publisher's description:

It's spirited indentured servant gets tangled up in the 17th-century Massachusetts Bay Colony witch hunts in this ambitious historical drama. Halfway through her 15-year indenture at a Mexico City convent, Concepción Benavidez escapes only to be captured by pirates and taken to Boston, where she's sold into slavery. 

Nathaniel Greenwood, a local merchant, is impressed that the papist slave can write and purchases her to help his disabled father-in-law manage his chicken farm. 

Renamed Thankful Seagraves, Concepción, who was repeatedly raped by the pirate captain, soon discovers that she's pregnant. Greenwood's barren wife, Rebecca, covets Concepción's newborn daughter, Hanna, and sets out to take her away. 

As their struggle over the girl unfolds, witch hysteria grips the colony, and Concepción is drawn into the fray when Hanna fingers her for a witch.

Description End

This is interesting because many feminist scholars have shown that witch hunts were largly targeted women for other purposes than witchcraft.

Forthcoming Books

Dr. Gaspar de Alba will be releasing Making a Killing: Femicide, Free Trade, and La Frontera (University of Texas Press Nov 2010) which she is editing with Georgina Guzmán.


Since 1993, more than five hundred women and girls have been murdered in Ciudad Juárez across the border from El Paso, Texas. At least a third have been sexually violated and mutilated as well. Thousands more have been reported missing and remain unaccounted for. The crimes have been poorly investigated and have gone unpunished and unresolved by Mexican authorities, thus creating an epidemic of misogynist violence on an increasingly globalized U.S.-Mexico border.

This book, the first anthology to focus exclusively on the Juárez femicides, as the crimes have come to be known, compiles several different scholarly "interventions" from diverse perspectives, including feminism, Marxism, critical race theory, semiotics, and textual analysis.

Editor Alicia Gaspar de Alba shapes a multidisciplinary analytical framework for considering the interconnections between gender, violence, and the U.S.-Mexico border. The essays examine the social and cultural conditions that have led to the heinous victimization of women on the border—from globalization, free trade agreements, exploitative maquiladora working conditions, and border politics, to the sexist attitudes that pervade the social discourse about the victims.

The book also explores the evolving social movement that has been created by NGOs, mothers' organizing efforts, and other grassroots forms of activism related to the crimes. Contributors include U.S. and Mexican scholars and activists, as well as personal testimonies of two mothers of femicide victims.

The book includes articles by Kathy Staudt, Maria Socorro Tabuenca,  Irasema Coronado, among others.

Another book she will be releasing with Alma Lopez is Our Lady of Controversy: Alma Lopez's Irreverent Apparition also on University of Texas Press. It will include a DVD with various interpretations of the Virgen de Guadalupe. This book contains essays about the use of the Virgen de Guadalupe in controversy; issues of censorship; with articles by Emma Perez, Deena Gonzalez, and more.

Below are Gaspar de Alba's other books:

Arte Publico Press, 2005

It's the summer of 1998 and for five years, over a hundred mangled and desecrated bodies have been found dumped in the Chihuahua desert outside of Juarez, Mexico, just across the river from El Paso, Texas. The perpetrators of the ever-rising number of violent deaths target poor young women, terrifying inhabitants on both sides of the border.

El Paso native Ivon Villa has returned to her hometown to adopt the baby of Cecilia, a pregnant maquiladora worker in Juarez. When Cecilia turns up strangled and disemboweled in the desert, Ivon is thrown into the churning chaos of abuse and murder. Even as the rapes and killings of "girls from the south" continue--their tragic stories written in desert blood--a conspiracy covers up the crimes that implicate everyone from the Maquiladora Association to the Border Patrol.

When Ivon's younger sister gets kidnapped in Juarez, Ivon knows that it's up to her to find her sister, whatever it takes. Despite the sharp warnings she gets from family, friends, and nervous officials, Ivon's investigation moves her deeper and deeper into the labyrinth of silence.
From acclaimed poet and prose-writer Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Desert Blood is a gripping thriller that ponders the effects of patriarchy, gender identity, border culture, transnationalism, and globalization on an international crisis.

La Llorona on the Longfellow Bridge: Poetry Y Otras Movidas, 1985-2001

In the introduction to Gaspar de Alba’s collection of poetry and essays, she writes, "I can always tell when parts of a poem start to synchronize in my head...when the images keep rolling around on my tongue." And through the letters spilling from her pen, the reader experiences the same connection, as Gaspar de Alba’s words thread through the mind and stay rolling on the tongue long after the book is closed.

In sections divided into each of the places she visited in her travels, Gaspar de Alba incorporates the Mexican archetypal wailing woman who wanders in search of her lost children. La Llorona is more than an archetype: she is a tour guide through the ruins of love and family, the constant presence of the poet’s voice. She transcends time, place, and gender.

The lines of the poems breathe that haunted spirit as they describe her journeys, or movidas,-both geographic and figurative, in search of the lost mother, the absent father, the abandoned child, the lover, the self. These essays track other movements of thought: reflections on identity, sexuality and resistance.

As a leading interpreter of border life and culture, poet, storyteller, and essayist Gaspar de Alba explores the borders and limits of place, body, and language through a painful series of moves and losses. She prevails and becomes the forger of her own destiny, her own image on the landscape, the interpreter of her own dreams and history.

Velvet Barrios: Popular Culture and Chicana/o Sexualities  

Palgrave Macmillan 2002

 Alicia Gaspar de Alba (Author), Tomas Ybarra Frausto (Author)

In Chicano/a popular culture, nothing signifies the working class, highly-layered, textured, and metaphoric sensibility known as "rasquache aesthetic" more than black velvet art. The essays in this volume examine that aesthetic by looking at icons, heroes, cultural myths, popular rituals, and border issues as they are expressed in a variety of ways.

The contributors dialectically engage methods of popular cultural studies with discourses of gender, sexuality, identity politics, representation, and cultural production. In addition to a hagiography of "locas santas," the book includes studies of the sexual politics of early Chicana activists in the Chicano youth movement, the representation of Latina bodies in popular magazines, the stereotypical renderings of recipe books and calendar art, the ritual performance of Mexican femaleness in the quinceañera, and mediums through which Chicano masculinity is measured.

Sor Juana's Second Dream

Library Journal

In her first novel, poet and Chicano studies scholar Gaspar de Alba brings to life Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, a prolific, brilliant, and complex author and nun of 17th-century Mexico.

Although Sor Juana left behind several volumes of published writings, the more personal details of her life remain sketchy. Gaspar de Alba has artfully combined excerpts from the writings with explicit, fictionalized journal entries to create a vibrant, if sometimes anachronistic, account of a complex life.

Long adored in Mexico, Sor Juana has only recently become popular in the United States. She is often considered North America's first lesbian feminist writer, and Gaspar de Alba clearly shares this view.

Eminently readable, this book is recommended for larger public libraries; readers desiring a more conservative biography might prefer Nobel laureate Octavio Paz's Sor Juana; or, The Traps of Faith (LJ 9/1/88).--Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

Chicano Art Inside/Outside The Master's House  
University of Texas Press, 1998

In the early 1990s a major exhibition--"Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985"--toured major museums across the United States. The exhibit attracted both praise and controversy. This book presents the first interdisciplinary cultural study of the CARA exhibit. Alicia Gaspar de Alba shows how the exhibit reflected, and serves as a model for, the cultural and sexual politics of the Chicano Movement. 20 color and 58 b&w photos. (from the publisher)  

The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories 
  (Bilingual Press, 1993)
In The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories, Gaspar de Alba considers the boundaries between sexes, lovers, cultures, generations, and beliefs and presents a body of work that allows her characters to both defy and celebrate these borders. This collection is peopled by those tenaciously exploring their places in the world: an ambitious young Mexican American reporter who quietly comes to understand the profound impermeability of this boundary as his Anglo editor refuses to see him as anything but an underling; a young woman haunted by the memories of her childhood along the United States/Mexico border; a boy who crosses the brittle line his parents have drawn between each other and chooses to show his allegiance to his mother. Gaspar de Alba reveals characters who, by exploring these boundaries, learn to define themselves and, ultimately, discover not just how to survive, but to flourish. (from the publisher)

"Beggar on the Cordoba Bridge," 
collection of poems in Three Times A Woman: Chicana Poetry  
(Bilingual Press, 1989) 

Bueno, what a resume. I emailed the professora a few days ago to see what else is happening, so Pluma Fronteriza hopes to update you soon.


Dagoberto Gilb's Secrets

The Digital Dunes blog put out a post on Dagoberto Gilb: "Last month, I wrote about "Uncle Rock"" by Dagoberto Gilb and the reader complained that there was "no impact." READ MORE 

We also caught this post from "Secrets for Dagoberto" on cheerleading? Que?, check it out: Secrets for Dagoberto. I got to hand it to the vato, his two stories in the New Yorker and Harper's respectively, have been getting a lot of internet spin.

Lalo Delgado's bugs

I caught this video by Hektor M performing the poem "Bugs" by Lalo Delgado. Check out by clicking HERE.

Also, the following article was published in April: "Honoring the 'grandfather of Chicano Poetry." Of course they are talking about the Poet Laureate of Aztlan, the Chicano Santa Claus -- Lalo Delgado. “His poetry is said to have reflected the struggles, hopes, feelings and desires and dreams of the Mexican-American people,” Jordan said. “He believed fervently in the power of the pen to educate and restore justice — a principle I believe benefits all of us.” READ MORE.

El Paso continues its battle with Denver to claim Lalo Delgado. Unfortunately, I think Denver is winning. We had the mural put up in Segundo recently, but I think Denver is still ahead. Nevertheless, Lalo would admit that he's big enough for both cities.

I saw on Gloria Velasquez mention her reading at the Lalo Delgado Poetry Festival on her blog recently. Check it out at: http://gloriavelasquez.com/blog.html

I spoke with one of Lalo daughters yesterday. Please keep Lalo's widow Dolores in your prayers.

Octavio Solis and The Waltons?

Another review on Solis' recent premier of "Pasture of Heaven." This review is by Chris Jensen for All Shooked Down, "New Cal Shakes Show is Far from 'Heaven': "Imagine an episode of The Waltons that just won't fucking stop, and you'll have some idea of the horror that awaits you with The Pastures of Heaven." READ MORE OF JENSEN'S REVIEW. 

Ejole, critics... pinche gringos. What Chicano watched The Waltons? Good night John Boy and all that...shit, I just gave myself away.

Also, caught that Solis will be directing The Brothers Size September 9-October 17. Check it out.

Carlos Morton wins

I got an email from Dennis Bixler-Marquez that Carlos had won some award. Carlos emailed me yesterday that he was returning from Mexico, so I'll get the lowdown from the horses mouth. Nay.

Tony Payan on CNN

You can catch an op ed by UTEP's Tony Payan, "Border killing a symbol of failed policy." 

"....a dehumanization plays out at the border, where some lives are worth more than others -- a calculus that usually runs along wealth lines, as those with money can afford visas to cross over the bridge and the poor have to stay out or risk their lives by crossing under it." READ MORE.

Libros, Libros Reborn: Let us keep you up to date on Raza publishing

Friends, for almost 6 years we published the most up-to-date list of Chicano(a) and Latina(o) literature twice a year. It had short 50-word description on what new our Raza letters, from publishing by Chicanos on Grove with gold-lettering and inscriptions from God to garage-printed chapbooks on construction paper.

The newsletter was a monstro, like 50 pages of new books. You had to be a bibliophile to love it. Manuel Ramos and Rigoberto Gonzalez told me once that they read it at least once, so I know at least two people like it.

The good news is that we will put out a new issue this month, but we need you to let us know what's been published.

If you published a chapbook or other book, and you think your book will fall off the radar (ay don't be so pessimistic) -- might fall off the radar -- or just will not get all the attention a gold-plated Chicana(o) novel off a New York press would get, do this: Send me the title, the press name (if self published, let me know, the ISBN (if you have one) and a 50-word description.

I saw Rich Yanez on Facebook complain of breaking down a novel to 200-300. Well, sorry carnalas and carneles, to make room for everyone's book, and to make sure the thickness is mas or menos if you use Libros, Libros as a coaster or to level your shaky table -- we need you to stick to 50 words in describing your book. Email this to rayerojas AT gmail.com.

Oh, and it has to have been published in 2010 or is forthcoming in 2010. Don't worry, well put out another issue in the fall so that Santa Claus can check it out.

The link we share with you today is Rafael Jesus Gonzalez' blog:

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