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

Octavio Romano

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Events Today: Restore Cesar Chavez Holiday Rally and Ramon Arroyos reading

Restore César Chávez Day at UTEP

Where: Leech Grove in the UTEP campus
Time: 10:30AM Thursday, January 27th
Earlier this year a committee of the UT El Paso removed the Cesar Chavez Holiday from the UTEP Academic Calender.

Ramon Arroyos Reading Today

Writer Ramon Arroyos is guest speaker for the annual meeting of the Friends of the El Paso Public Library Membership Meeting. El Paso Public Library's Main Branch auditorium, 501 N. Oregon. Free.

Sangre de Indio (Floricanto Press) is written by El Paso Writer Ramon Ixtlixolotl Arroyos. Sangre de Indio: a Chicano Odyssey towards Mexica Spirituality details Arroyos personal account of growing up in the El Paso Lower Valley and his involvement in the Chicano Movement and his discovery and exploration of his native heritage. Sangre de Indio is currently being edited for publication.

He will read from his forthcoming book at the Friends of the El Paso Public Library Annual Membership Meeting on Thursday, January 27th from 7-9 PM at the El Paso Public Library (Main) in Downtown El Paso.

Ramon Arroyos is an official/minister of the Native American Church Teokalli Ketzalkoatl and retired director/coordinator of various nonprofit community organizations. He was the coordinator of the Semillas Youth Project, the Director of Teen Pregnancy and HIV Prevention programs. He was involved in the Chicano Movement, produced various TV and Radio Programs and was an editor of El Mestizo Chicano Newspaper.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Literary and Books News

Literary and Book News

Poet   Guitierrez y Muhs

Chicana poet Gabriella Gutierrez y Muhs was selected to be the featured American poet at this year's International Festival of Poetry, known as Kritya 2011, held in Nagpur, India. Check out this nice article on her. READ MORE.

Juan Felipe Herrera Photo: UC Riverside

Herrera on Board

Good news for our carnal Juan Felipe Herrera, he has been elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets. READ THE UC RIVERSIDE PRESS RELEASE.

Manuel Martinez reading

A lot of stuff on the web regarding Manuel Martinez (Day of the Dead)and his recent reading. READ MORE.

Finding one's self

A neat article on the Nation called "Languaging" in which one goes to find themselves in some third-world country. READ IT NOW.

Orhan Pamuk

What are we missing in English

Can we say that this is happening to Chicano Literature, too English. Check out Orhan Pamuk attacks 'marginalisation' of non-English writers. "The Nobel prize-winning Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk has complained that the majority of human experience is being ignored because the literature that describes it is not written in English. And he has criticised the response of British and American literary critics to his work, saying they perceive him in narrow terms defined by his nationality." READ MORE.

Probability of Writing and Acting a One-Man Show

The Onion reports the results of a study showing "Family History Of Alcoholism Raises Risk Of One-Man Show." Read It Now.

More than Auld Lang syne

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum opened recently. See this story on The Guardian: Robert Burns Birthplace Museum – in pictures.

Good Sentences

The New York Times has a story on how to write a good sentence focusing on Stanley Fish's new book How To Write A Sentence: And How To Read One. 

Sal This

J.D. Salinger still remains popular despite passing on. See NPR's "Mining J.D. Salinger's Reclusive 'Life' For Answers.": "The title of Kenneth Slawenski's biography, the first major work on the author since his death one year ago, is J.D. Salinger: A Life, but there is no easy way to approach the subject. The most famously reclusive of all American writers, Salinger's "life" is hardly as available to us as the myth, the one we've all been familiar with since adolescence: He lived in the woods; he drank bottles of his own urine; he was really Thomas Pynchon. The biographer has his work cut out for him." LISTEN/READ MORE.

Toyo Shibata Photo: The Guardian

Self-Published Best-Seller at 99

You too can be a best-selling poet at age 99. See this story in The Guardian on Japanese poet Toyo Shibata's self-published anthology, Don't Lose Heart, selling 1.5m copies in a market where 10,000 is seen as a success. READ MORE.

Harlem Renaissance A Memory

A nice book review on gentrification and Harlem, NPR review Sharifa Rhodes-Pitts Harlem is Nowhere looks at the Harlem Renaissance and Harlem's modern gentrification. READ/HEAR MORE.

Don't Stand on my Grave and "Piss"?

Jorge Borges grave got a tinkling recently. A book cover depicts Chilean writer Eduardo Labarca "apparently urinating on author's grave provokes outrage in Argentina." READ MORE.

Huck Finn and Jim: What a Promotion

See Hug Rawson's piece on the recent revisions of Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn: "Professor Gribbin has said that he believes the substitution of slave for n*gger will make it easier for teachers to teach the book. This change may confuse some students, though, since Jim has freed himself by running away from Miss Watson, and so is not actually a slave during most the book. And by making the substitution, many good teaching opportunities are lost." READ MORE.

 Also see The Daily Show's Senior Black Correspondent Larry Wilmore on the Mark Twain controversy: "Congratulations on the promotion Jim. Wow, this is a huge upgrade from n*gg*r to slave. That's like a show going from the WB to UPN." SEE MORE.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Mark Twain Controversy
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire Blog</a>The Daily Show on Facebook

Junot Diaz Photo: San Francisco Chronicle

 Junot Diaz and "in-betweeness"

From The Guardian, "Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Díaz are among the works chosen by the US-based Nigerian author that best reflect the existential "in-betweenness" of the immigrant." READ MORE.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Beyond Chicano El Paso: New and Almost New Books from Our Non-Chicano Brethren


Beyond Chicano El Paso

Okay folks, this post is not on Chicano writers of El Paso, but on writers from EPT that have recently (don't take "recently" so serious) put out a book

Benching Jim Crow: The Rise and Fall of the Color Line in Southern College Sports, 1890-1980
(Sport and Society Series) Hardcover University of Illinois Press; 1st Edition edition
August 2010 ISBN-10: 0252035518 ISBN-13: 978-0252035517
Charles Martin

Chronicling the uneven rise and slow decline of segregation in American college athletics, Charles H. Martin shows how southern colleges imposed their policies of racial exclusion on surprisingly compliant northern teams and explains the social forces that eventually forced these southern schools to accept integrated competition. 

Martin emphasizes not just the racism prevalent in football and basketball in the South, but the effects of this discrimination for colleges and universities all over the country. Southern teams such as the University of Alabama, University of Mississippi, and the University of North Carolina were obsessed with national recognition, but their Jim Crow policies prevented them for many years from playing against racially mixed teams from other parts of the country.

Devoting special attention to the Southeastern Conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference, and teams in Texas, Martin explores the changing social attitudes and culture of competition that turned the tide and allowed for the recruitment of black players and hiring of black coaches. 

He takes a close look at the case of Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso), the first major white university in an ex-Confederate state to recruit African American athletes extensively. Martin skillfully weaves existing arguments and documentation on the integration of college sports with wide-ranging, original research, including previously unpublished papers and correspondence of college administrators and athletic directors uncovered in university archives.

Mouthfeel Press
Jessica Miller

 Take a dive into the terrifying ocean of mind as Jessica Miller crashes into Skylla and Charybdis and cannot help but heed the siren call of her visions, both benign and sinister. One cannot help but admire her bravery in the face of a prognosis, which, like Cassandra, has that shadow of doom and truth to it. No matter which shore of identity she washs up on....
– Robin Scofield, author of Sunflower Cantos

Insides She Swallowed
Paperback West End Press; 1st edition 2010
ISBN-10: 0981669387 ISBN-13: 978-0981669380
Sasha Pimentel Chacon

Passionate and sensuous to the limit of synesthesia, these poems address both the mind and body of the reader. A verbal magician, a show-stopping performer, the author educates, stimulates, and moves us through her realization and empowerment of images. 

Her love of family, familiarity with death, sexualization of everyday life, politics of liberation - these themes are transformed before our eyes into kindling and fed to a flame of such intensity as is rarely to be found in contemporary poetry...in the Philippines, during People Power, when, marking I's on their foreheads, the boys cried Laban! Laban!, laying their thin brown bodies down as a road of bones before tanks, simple only as boys who believe can be, their hair tangling together and black, a twisting mass, moist as kelp.

Literary El Paso
(Literary Cities Series) Hardcover Texas Christian University Press
Bilingual edition 2009
ISBN-10: 0875653871 ISBN-13: 978-0875653877
Marcia Hatfield Daudistel, editor

The latest addition to the successful literary citieis series by Texas Christian University Press, Literary El Paso brings attention to the often overlooked extraordinary literary heritage of this city in far West Texas. El Paso is the largest metropolitan area along the U.S.–Mexico border and is geographically isolated from the rest of Texas. It is in this splendid isolation surrounded by mountains in the midst of the beautiful Chihuahuan Desert that many award-winning writers found their literary voices. Literary El Paso features bilingual selections to reflect the bi-cultural environment of the region and the state. 

Daudistel uses her years of publishing experience in El Paso to gather the works of past, present, and emerging writers of the Borderlands. Historical essays, fiction, journalism, and poetry portray the colorful history and vibrant present of this city on the border through the works of sixty-three writers.

Once a backdrop to the Mexican Revolution, El Paso was also home to infamous outlaws. Historians C. L. Sonnichsen and Leon Metz write on the gunmen and lawmen of El Paso including John Wesley Hardin, Dallas Stoudenmire and Bass Outlaw. There are feature stories from award-winning journalists Ruben Salazar early in his newspaper career, Ramón Rentería with the last interview of poet Ricardo Sánchez, and Bryan Woolley on the 1966 University of Texas–El Paso Miners and lively South El Paso Street.

Many groundbreaking Chicano writers began their work in El Paso, such as José Antonio Burciaga, Abelardo Delgado, Estela Portillo Trambley, and Arturo Islas. The works of Tom Lea, Amado Muro, Dagoberto Gilb, Rick DeMarinis, Pat LittleDog, the inimitable word sketches of Elroy Bode, and the poetry of Benjamin Alire Sáenz, Pat Mora, and Bernice Love Wiggins, one of the first African American female poets published in Texas, explore the experience of life in El Paso.

In addition, previously unpublished works from John Rechy, Ray Gonzalez and Robert Seltzer are included. For the first time in the series, Literary El Paso features bilingual selections to reflect the bi-cultural environment of the region and the state.

Winner of the Southwest Book Award

Lone Star Noir
Akashic Noir Paperback 2010
ISBN-10: 1936070642 ISBN-13: 978-1936070640
Bobby Byrd (Editor), Johnny Byrd (Editor)

Includes brand-new stories by: James Crumley, Joe R. Lansdale, Claudia Smith, Ito Romo, Luis Alberto Urrea, David Corbett, George Weir, Sarah Cortez, Jesse Sublett, Dean James, Tim Tingle, Milton Burton, Lisa Sandlin, Jessica Powers, and Bobby Byrd.

Bobby Byrd is the co-publisher of Cinco Puntos Press in El Paso, Texas. As a poet, Byrd is the recipient of an NEA Fellowship, the D.H. Lawrence Fellowship awarded by the University of New Mexico, and an International Residency Fellowship.

John Byrd, co-publisher of Cinco Puntos Press, is co-editor (with Bobby Byrd) of the anthology Puro Border: Dispatches, Snapshots & Graffiti from La Frontera. He is also a Spanish-to-English translator and a freelance essayist.

I Am South
Donna Snyder

Donna Snyder is the founder of The Tumblewords Project, a non-profit poetry workshop in El Paso, Texas. Her work has appeared in various journals and on her blog Raw Poetry. We're pleased to present Donna's collection of poetry I am South.

Donna Snyder elegantly begins what will be an examination, or traipse through her voice and vision with "A Pastel Study in Shadow." The poem opens as a painting created with colors of beautiful wordplay:

"Dress the color of morning glory minutes before dusk" that
seems to be about loss
caught up in shades of mourning
all grays and blacks and purples
and closes with certain resignation and resolution for
when the light fades
the shade will eat
the lilac dust.
"Cloud Travel by boat" is another that continues with this imagery use and reads with tones of mystery and suppressed alarm:
I woke up just a nasty specter in someone else's anxiety nightmare
Animated computer graphics and acid dream gave me a headache.
The poem even transcends this:
The dead wander in and out of the mirror's frame of reference
I founder lost among random reveries of unspecified dead
There is an electric heart sharp red against the bruised autumn sky
an electric cloud hulas around the scarlet shape like a nimbus
The weather warns me that shadows approach always and soon.

There are many other poems that present the majestic elegance of this raw, impassioned verse. The "dreaming" series is also worth note and include the poems "Dreaming in Cards," a jarring poem of contrasts, "Dreaming of Torture," an alarming tale of love and lust internalizes these contrasts while "Dreaming in Mother of Pearl" answers in resolution and confidence of spirit and self. There is a familiar hint of storytelling in some of Donna's work, with a southern charm all it's own that displays her love for its culture:

South is where I learned to swallow Neruda like rum
South is where time stretches out like a bus trip in exotic lands
and South is where I can both swear and sweat in Spanish
There is antiquity here everywhere and I have become part of it.
I Am South does what most good poetry books do: create insight and satisfy the senses. 39 Pages.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Lunes con Lalo: Some Not Too Objective Observation on the Movement's Effect on America

Abelardo B. Delgado

Lunes con Lalo Delgado
The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observations

The Movement – Its Effect on American

by Abelardo "Lalo" Delgado

It is with arrogance that some movement leaders humbly claim that the movement is a healthy phenomenon in our country by which most likely, the country as a whole, will benefit.

Those outside, particularly White complacent middle classists, view this with distrust and fear our every move.

Another attitude is the apologetic, one shared particularly by White students who welcome our struggle and seek to help and identify themselves with it. The sociologist burst with anxiety at our every move to record our behavior and once in a while even inject a few additional phrases of their own as they record our disenchantment with the American Dream.

It is presumptuous of me, and many Chicanos, to think we have made an impact on the whole country for in the East, not only could they care less about out Movement, but they have no idea that we Chicanos exist. They still ask if we are really American citizens -- those that ask.

Others, more directly for clashing with the Blacks, have their hands full even to consider that another minority does inhabit the land of the free. Yet, almost as if by design, Chicanos now surround the U.S. I mean the mobility of our increasing populations into every state in the Union is something that will be pointed out in the recent census.

What role the movement plays in the cleansing process of America's social ills, is, of course, of immeasurable significance. It is the Chicano finger that diagnose in communities, those symptoms of decadence and neglect, in time for correction, we may add. But the real contribution and the one I would like to elaborate upon is the antidote effect it has on the materialistic venom that is presently killing our country.

Chicanos can be said to know not only how to survive and remain intact under the most adverse conditions, but also how to live. This close relationship with life makes Chicanos a valuable commodity in our times, and most Movement Chicanos who know this, naturally try to capitalize on it. What this closeness to life actually means is an ability to celebrate even the economic disasters under which we grow up, raise a family, and die. Close to this ability is our ability to laugh at our meagerness and misery, and to weather pain and suffering so well. Just so you do not mistake the last part of the statement, let me clarify that we do not necessarily seek suffering, misery, poverty, and pain, or enjoy them for that matter, but the historical force which has imposed these things as neighbors has also gone ahead and immunized us again them.

This has a particular advantage in dealing with the dominate society, which in spite of its prosperous affluence, seems to crumble from within at the sight of minute problems. Teachers and timely answers on how to cope with the mounting historic dilemmas are all Chicanos to America at large, and therefore, these rare Chicano qualities are presently at a premium.

When a Chicano loses these inherited abilities to emerge above the situation and to brandish a set of values which baffles the materialistic Anglo mentality, he has, in fact, become an Anglo himself, a trader of real fulfillment for emptiness. Movement people have, as part of their educational efforts, warned against this trade, and they remind us how beautifully strong and serene we people are. We are, as the now jargon would put it, a people that are “all together.”

To summarize: our influence on the country of necessity will be noticed and increased as most of the stereotypes imposed on La Raza crumble and we become a more visible and audible citizenry in our own country. The Movement is not an end in itself, but a vehicle for mobility in that very direction.

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Other parts of this series:

Part IV Goals 
from The Chicano Movement: Some Not Too Objective Observations by Abelardo B. Delgado, (Denver: Colorado Migrant Council, 1971), prepared by the Colorado Migrant Council. Published with permission from the Delgado Family. Special thanks for Dolores Delgado. (c) Abelardo Delgado 1971, all right reserved. This may not be republished with out the permission of the Delgado estate.

Writer Saint Day

St. Francis de Sales
Patron Saint of Writers and Journalist

I'm not really sure why Francis de Sales is one of the patron saints of writers. He was a lawyer, so most likely he wrote a lot. His corresondence were many and many survive. Saints.SQPN.com states, "The value of his writings led to his being declared a Doctor of the Church by Pope Blessed Pius IX in 1877, and a patron of writers and journalists by Pope Pius XI in 1923."

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

El Paso Writer's Update: Jan. 23 News on Carlos Morton, Luis J. Rodriguez, Ramon Arroyos, and more

El Paso Writers Update

UT El Paso Cancels Cesar Chavez Holiday
Ironic in being one of the top universities for "Hispanics" and top awarder of diplomas to "Hispanic" students that the Faculty Senate should vote to cancel the Cesar Chavez holiday on campus. READ MORE.

Morton and Stavans take Zeta Acosta to the Stage

Oscar Zeta Acosta

Carlos Morton let us know he and Ilan Stavans are co-authoring a play about the life of Oscar "Zeta" Acosta entitled ZETA which will have it's first staged reading Feb. 19 at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater in Cape Cod, MA. If I remember, it is a one-man show. 

Also, Morton has been invited by the U.S. Embassy to a two week residency at the University of Malta in March 2011.

Poet Assassinated in Chihuahua

Susana Chavez, "(t)he activist and poet who inspired the slogan "ni una mas" was murdered in Cd. Juarez, Chihuahua. Susana Chavez, 36, was killed Jan. 5. Her body was found on Three Kings Day (Jan. 6) at 12:30 a.m.  READ MORE.

Ramon Arroyos to release book

Sangre de Indio (Floricanto Press) is written by El Paso Writer Ramon Ixtlixolotl Arroyos. Sangre de Indio: a Chicano Odyssey towards Mexica Spirituality details Arroyos personal account of growing up in the El Paso Lower Valley and his involvement in the Chicano Movement and his discovery and exploration of his native heritage. Sangre de Indio is currently being edited for publication.

He will read from his forthcoming book at the Friends of the El Paso Public Library Annual Membership Meeting on Thursday, January 27th from 7-9 PM at the El Paso Public Library (Main) in Downtown El Paso.

Ramon Arroyos is an official/minister of the Native American Church Teokalli Ketzalkoatl and retired director/coordinator of various nonprofit community organizations. He was the coordinator of the Semillas Youth Project, the Director of Teen Pregnancy and HIV Prevention programs. He was involved in the Chicano Movement, produced various TV and Radio Programs and was an editor of El Mestizo Chicano Newspaper.

Texas needs money and more graduates

Raymund Paredes
With Texas' ever growing budget crisis, higher education may take a hit and Commissioner for Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Raymund Paredes has been in the news a lot Check out this story "Pressure building on faculty to boost graduation rates." Also see "New Rules will improve Texas grants."

"Pastures of Heaven" play to be read at festival

The Area State in Washington, D.C. is the venue for Octavio Solis "Pastures of Heaven" based on the novel by John Steinbeck. Developed by California Shakespeare Theater in collaboration with Word for Word Performing Arts Company, this is a new play celebrates the art of storytelling as it depicts comic and heartbreaking characters in search of happiness in the seemingly idyllic landscape of Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley.It will be staged Jan. 29 at 2pm. MORE INFO AND TICKET INFO.

Pat Mora at School Visits

Check out photos and other media from Pat Mora's visit to Jones Elementary. SEE THEM NOW.

Benjamin A. Saenz Recommends

Check out Ben Saenz read his poetry on youtube.com on a posting by the American Library Association. Ben makes recommendations to libraries. 

Luis J. Rodriguez Photo: Kansas City Public Library

Luis J. Rodriguez readings, tomorrow in Highland Park, and Chicago in March

Again, Luis J. Rodriguez will be in Chicago for a Poetry Foundation event on March 16 at 5:30pm. The reading will be at Jane Addams Hull-House Museum, Residents’ Dining Hall at 800 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL Google Map.

Rodriguez writes about other hatreds in Arizona in The Progressive. Check out Arizona contains other hatred: "The shooting rampage in Tucson, Ariz., occurred against a backdrop of hatred against brown-skinned people that we must address." READ NOW.

Also, if you read this by tomorrow morning:

Poetry Behind the Fence: Poets Prison Panel: Luivette Resto will host an evening of readings by Robert Juarez, Rolando Ortiz, Hugo Machuca, Melinda Palacio and Luis J. Rodriguez. The Avenue 50 Studio, 131 N. Avenue 50, Highland Park. 3 p.m. Free. (323) 258-1435.

Existence of Ray Gonzalez and Mayo's List

Blogger Both Both has questioned Ray Gonzalez' existence in one recent post. READ IT NOW.

Check out C.M. Mayo's list of Top Ten Books Read in 2010.

UTEP Professor Receives Award from Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts

Carol Brochín Ceballos will be named Outstanding University English Language Arts Educator by the Texas Council of Teachers of English Language Arts at its annual conference  to be held this weekend in Galveston, Texas. Carol Brochín Ceballos will be recognized by the council as the "Outstanding University English Language Arts Educator" She is a member of the English Department at UT El Paso.

From the conference program: 
"Dr. Carol Brochin Ceballosis described by her students as one who “epitomizes excellence in teacher education.” Having taught middle school in Laredo, Dr. Ceballos understands the need for quality educators who reflect the demographics of their schools, and, therefore, she encourages minority students at the university level to pursue degrees in teacher education. She was recently chosen as one of six Early Career Educator of Color Leadership Award recipients to participate in intense leadership training by NCTE. Hispanic literature for young adults is Dr. Ceballos’s expertise, and as she embraces the tenets of literacy in her own classroom, Dr. Ceballos encourages her students to read a wide variety of literature before entering their own classrooms.

Possessing a strong literacy knowledge base, pointing minority students toward teacher education, and continuing her own learning through leadership initiatives are qualities that make Dr. Carol Brochin Ceballos an example of what an English language arts educator should be at any level."

El Pasoens at AWP Conference

The AWP is around the corner, so take out your wine and cheese. Here are some panels of interest that we listed last August. Sergio Troncoso, Rich Yanez, Carolina Monsivias,  will be partaking in panels. So if you attend, beside taking your warmest coat, check these out:

AWP Panels

Below are several panels of interest featuring Chicano(a) and Latino(a) writers at the next AWP conference in Washington, D.C.:

Meta-Fiction Latino: Beyond Magical Realism
Daniel Olivas, Kathleen Alcalá, Xánath Caraza, Susana Chávez-Silverman, Salvador Plascencia
Meta-Fiction Latino: Beyond Magical Realism. The novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez, is the seminal work of magical realism that has cast a long -- and sometimes constraining -- shadow over Latino writers. Yet meta-fiction, (which acknowledges the reader’s role in literature and often breaks the wall between fiction and memoir) has emerged from this shadow to stand on its own. The panelists will share their own works of meta-fiction and discuss its role in contemporary Latino literature.

Memoir and Latinidad
Joy Castro, Esmeralda Santiago, Luis Rodriguez, Gustavo Pérez Firmat, Rigoberto González
U.S. Latina/o memoir has developed a rich contemporary tradition that spans the political and stylistic spectrum from Richard Rodriguez to Gloria Anzaldúa. But what makes a memoir Latina/o? Does latinidad influence aesthetics and craft as well as content? Do Latina/o memoirists see themselves as inheriting the life-writing techniques and traditions of the U.S., Latin America, or both? How do writers navigate mainstream expectations that their memoirs will represent whole cultures and nations?

A Broken Thing: Poets on the Line
Emily Rosko, Raza Ali Hasan, Evie Shockley, John Gallaher, Emmy Perez, Cynthia Hogue
So much in poetry depends upon the line--one of the most contested and central topics in 20th-century poetics. This panel extends the discussion of this poetic fixture into the 21st-century. The concept of the line so often emerges as a kind of poetic and critical blank check--an aesthetic, socio-political, and metaphysical variable. Embracing this variability, the panelists will discuss how the line remains a crucial and generative force in their poetic work and thought.

CantoMundo: Building a Community of Latina/o Poets
Pablo Miguel Martinez, Carmen Tafolla, Deborah Paredez, Emmy Perez, Cynthia Cruz, Eduardo C. Corral
CantoMundo, a master workshop and retreat, strives to cultivate a community of Latina/o poets by providing a culturally-grounded space for the creation, documentation, and critical analysis of Latina/o poetry. In this session, founders and fellows will reflect on launching the retreat-workshop and will discuss the significance of CantoMundo's efforts to connect training in craft with a focus on Latina/o aesthetic and social concerns. The session will also feature a reading by panelists-fellows.

From the Home Front: Civilian Poets Writing on War
Juan J. Morales, Raza Ali Hasan, Laren McClung, Khaled Mattawa, Maria Melendez, Faisal Siddiqui
Six poets from different walks of life will read and discuss how warfare enters their daily lives and how they navigate their roles as writers, witnesses, the relatives of veterans, and as civilians. They will discuss the complications of taking a stance, the daily life of combat zones, the plight of the refugee, PTSD, the longing for peace all while reflecting on how poems depicting recent and past wars help them better scrutinize present representations of warfare composed on the home front.

Race in the Creative Writing Workshop
Cynthia Cruz, Michelle Valladares, J. Michael Martinez, Suzanne Gardinier, Thomas Sayers Ellis
Teaching in writing workshops, what allowances ought to be made for the artists, individually, and where do we draw the line? At what point do stereotypes of race get addressed? How does it feel to be the lone writer of color in a college writing workshop? What balance and/or added perspective can a teacher bring to the workshop experience? When does ‘teaching teaching ones race’ begin to interfere with one’s own opportunity to discuss craft?

Behind the Brown Wall: Chicana and Chicano Voices Rise Up
Richard Yañez, Kathleen Alcalá, Eduardo C. Corral, Carolina Monsiváis, Paul Pedroza
A reading by authors who declare the U.S.-México Border a part of their creative identity. The poetry, stories, novels, and essays of these respected Chicana and Chicano voices are rooted on both sides of the international boundary. In their publications, the borderlands symbolize a more complex portrait of America’s boundaries than sensationalized headlines of drug smuggling and illegal immigration. Come witness these talented writers and poets who celebrate people more than mere politics.

Camino del Sol: 15 Years of Latina and Latino Writing
Rigoberto Gonzalez, Marjorie Agosin, Kathleen Alcala, David Dominguez, Gina Franco, Sergio Troncoso
This reading panel is a celebration of the recently-released anthology that gathers the best selections from fifteen years of the University of Arizona Press' Latino literary series, Camino del Sol. During its tenure, the press published 100 titles, shaping the Latino literary landscape and becoming the most important Latino literary series in the country.

Caribbean Diaspora and Diegesis: Cristina Garcia and Irene Vilar
Fred Arroyo, Cristina Garcia, Irene Vilar
Cristina Garcia, prize-winning Cuban American novelist and editor of two Vintage Latino literature anthologies, and Irene Vilar, controversial non-fiction writer from Puerto Rico and editor of The Americas book series, combine brief readings from their works and discuss the Latino Caribbean Diaspora as it continues to find expression in new literary narratives. Moderated by Douglas Unger, co-founder of the UNLV Creative Writing International program.

A Reading by Junot Diaz
Junot Diaz
Junot Díaz was born in 1968 in the Dominican Republic and raised in New Jersey. He is the author of Drown and The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the John Sargent, Sr. First Novel Prize; the National Book Critics Circle Award; the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award; and the 2008 Pulitzer Prize. Díaz has been awarded the Eugene McDermott Award, a fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation, a Lila Acheson Wallace Reader's Digest Award, the 2002 PEN/Malamud Award, the 2003 U.S./Japan Creative Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is the fiction editor at the Boston Review and the Rudge (1948), and Nancy Allen Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

We Wanted to be Writers: Lessons from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop
Eric Olsen, Glenn Schaeffer, Sandra Cisneros
A reading from We Wanted to be Writers, edited by Olsen and Schaeffer. This is a collection of interviews with 27 of the editors’ classmates and teachers from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the mid-70s. The interviews are arranged into conversations on topics including the creative process, our years in the Workshop, and survival strategies after. Those interviewed include TC Boyle, Jane Smiley, Jayne Anne Phillips, Sandra Cisneros, Allan Gurganus, John Irving, Marvin Bell, and Jack Leggett.

LaChiPo and the New Latino Poetics/Politics
John-Michael Rivera, Rodrigo Toscano, Valerie Martinez, Roberto Tejada, Danielle Cadena Deulen, Carmen Giménez Smith
LaChiPo, an online forum for the Latino Diaspora, is the Latino’s 21st century answer to ‘new’ movements like Flarf and Conceptual poetics. Devoted to developing Latino letters, LaChiPo invites AWP attendees to resituate how they read, to relearn how identity is spoken, expanding their articulation of history, art and modernity. LaChiPo presents writers discussing Latino conceptions of internet community, identity and the avant-garde, reading individual and their collective poetry works.

Poetry of Resistance: Poets Take on Reasonable Suspicion (Arizona SB 1070)
Francisco X. Alarcón, Lorna Dee Cervantes, Odilia Galván-Rodríguez, Scott Maurer, Abel Salas, Meg Withers
On April 2010, in response to a controversial law in Arizona, a Facebook page, Poets Responding to SB 1070, was created. It is now literally a public forum for lively mixing of poetics & politics. Its poet moderators will discuss the political imagination of multicultural poetic expressions in support of a resurgent Civil Right Movement for comprehensive Immigration Reform. Come & see accomplished poets read some cutting edge poems posted on the FB page as well as from their acclaimed works.

Walt Whitman Award: Readings and discussion by past and present recipients
Eric Pankey, J. Michael Martinez, Nicole Cooley, Alison Hawthorne Deming, Ben Doller
The Academy of American Poets presents the Walt Whitman Award each year to a poet’s first collection of poems. Five poets at varying stages of their writing lives will read from their work and discuss the impact of the award, which publishes the book, distributes it nationally, and provides a prize of $5,000 cash and a month-long residency. The poets will examine the significance each element has had on their subsequent trajectory as writers and will address concerns of unpublished poets.

We(a)ve: Inter-Indigenous Sovereign Poetics
Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, James Thomas Stevens, Lisa Suhair Majaj, Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, Elaine Chukan Brown, ku'ualoha ho'omanawanui
Sovereignty is both inherent, internally asserted by Native Nations, and inter-nationally recognized and affirmed by other Indigenous peoples. It is not only a political process, but also a continual act of Indigenous re-creation. A collective of womanist and queer Indigenous poets have been writing to each other, sharing writing prompts and assignments, engaging in experiments. The collective will share the poems that emerged, and discuss the collaborative process that wove them together.

Spanish American Poetry in Translation: from Post-Avant-garde to Postmodernism
Víctor Rodríguez Núñez, Forrest Gander, Katherine Hedeen, Gary Racz, Michelle Gil-Montero
In Spanish America, the terms Avant-garde and Modernism connote approaches to poetry remarkably distinct from what those terms generally mean to North Americans. And yet these approaches define the major literary works of a continent. This panel highlights the shift from Post-Avant-garde to Postmodernism, celebrating the last 60 years of Spanish American poetry and introducing some of the region’s best poets, read and commented on by their translators.

Trading Stories with the Enemy: Navigating the Cuban/American Literary Landscape
Patricia Ann McNair, Ruth Behar, Kristin Dykstra, Achy Obejas
The relationship between the US and Cuba is complex and ever-evolving, and this evolution is reflected in the stories and publications of Cubans and Cuban-Americans. While the two governments grapple with politics and policies, writers and editors continue to cross borders and boundaries in order to collect and share these stories. Our panelists have been actively engaged in this process for years, and will speak about the challenges and rewards of this work.

One Poem Festival Celebrating Rane Arroyo
Francisco X. Alarcón
A diverse selection of friends, fellow writers, and former students each perform a poem by poet, playwright and professor, Rane Arroyo, to celebrate his life and work. The session will open with an invocation by Chicano poet and educator Francisco X. Alarcón.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Interview with the Author of Smeltertown: Monica Perales


Collective Memories
An Interview with the Author of Smeltertown: Monica Perales

Raymundo Eli Rojas (Rojas): Dr. Perales, for those who are unfamiliar with you and your works and research, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? Where were you born and raised? Education? Where are you living now? Anything else you want to share.

Monica Perales: I was born in Tucson, Arizona, spent my childhood in Phoenix, but El Paso was always a big part of my life. Since my grandparents and much of my extended family lived in El Paso, we spent a lot of our time there – holidays, summer vacations. My family moved back to El Paso in 1986, just before I started high school, and it is the place I consider to be “home.” I now live in Houston – I’ve been here 7 years now – and teach at the University of Houston.

I graduated from Coronado High School in 1990, and received my BA (in Journalism, 1994) and MA (in History, 1996) from UTEP, before moving on to get my Ph.D. at Stanford (2004).

Rojas: What made you want to become a historian?

Perales: I guess I was always interested in history. I had excellent professors at UTEP who inspired me, and taught me that history was more than a collection of dates and names. One of my professors defined history in this way: “History is the stories people tell to give themselves a sense of identity.” It is something that motivates me to this day.

Rojas: Which scholars have been your mentors?

Perales: I hate to single any one person out, because I have been really lucky that some great scholars have really taken an interest in mentoring me over the years. 

Rojas: Can you tell us about your new book Smeltertown: Making and Remembering A Southwest Border Community (University of North Carolina Press)?

Perales: My book explores the birth, evolution, demise and collective memory of Smeltertown from the perspective of those who built it: generations of Mexican and Mexican American workers and their families. What I argue is that Smeltertown was not a place that just “existed,” but rather was a place that had to be made and remade by different groups of people, at different points in time. 

My goal was to explore the multiple meanings of this place, and how people created a sense of community through local institutions like the church, the schools, the workplace. At its heart, it is a study of community and families, one that I hope is honest as it also honors the place that so many people have such strong ties to, even today.

Part of Smeltertown

Rojas: I was a fan of your of both your masters thesis and your Ph.D. Dissertation, how much of you life have you devoted to getting this book to print?

Perales: The very first paper I wrote on Smeltertown was for a class on the American West in 1995. Of course not all of my coursework was directly related to Smeltertown research, but it has been with me for the better part of 15 years.

Rojas: Smeltertown and the Buena Vista community remain one of the most connected despite the diaspora of it residents. Why do you think this has occurred?

Perales: I think a lot has to do with the very long and deep roots people have to those places – we’re talking about generations of families that are related by blood and kinship. Additionally, we have to consider what community means to people. 

It isn’t proximity to one’s neighbors that makes a community, but rather experiences, commonalities, and sometimes conflicts define communities. Communities are also support networks, and these networks were essential for survival, particularly for working-class families in the early years of the 20th century. 

These days you hear a lot about “planned communities,” but you can’t manufacture the kinds of ties folks from Smeltertown and Buena Vista share historically.

Rojas: Your book is one of the first books to focus on Chicanos outside of the Segundo Barrio. I'm not downplaying Segundo with my question, but why do you think it is important for us to write about the histories of our barrios?

Perales: Segundo Barrio is a vital part of El Paso’s history, and it is important that we not forget that. It was the largest Mexican neighborhood, and it has such rich stories to tell. 

But what I think Smeltertown shows us is that the experiences of El Paso’s mexicanos were incredibly diverse. Segundo Barrio had all of the hallmarks of urban barrio life and was so close to downtown – Smeltertown was essentially a company town on the far outskirts of town for many years. Their (Smeltertown residents) lives were shaped by the immediate proximity of industry. Add that to the different experiences of folks living in Stormsville or Ysleta or the upper valley . . . this only makes El Paso’s history more interesting. Mexican life in the borderlands was not just one thing.

Rojas: Do you have any feature research project regarding El Paso?

Perales: My research interests remain connected to the border. My current project evolved from my work on Americanization in El Paso at the turn of the 20th century, and looks at perceptions of Mexican mothers on the border. I think El Paso will always be a part of my work.

Dr. Monica Perales. Photo: University of Houston

Rojas: What does your family think of your writing?

Perales: My family has been my greatest support. Three of my grandparents were born in Smeltertown, and a fourth moved there when she was a child, at the height of the Mexican Revolution. They all appear in the book. They never had the chance to read what I wrote, but writing this book gave me the chance to know them in ways I could never have imagined. 

My parents and sister all contributed in countless ways to the project itself, but also in just encouraging me along the way. They all told me that they enjoyed reading the book and said it wasn’t as dry as some history books can be – and I didn’t even pay them to say that! 

My husband was really supportive in the closing stages – he’s not from El Paso, but says that when we visit, he appreciates the city more, now that he knows a little more about its history.

Rojas: What can you tell us about Recovering the Hispanic History of Texas (Arte Publico Press)?

Perales: This book I edited with my colleague and good friend Raul Ramos, who also teaches at the University of Houston. It is a collection of essays initially presented at the Texas State Historical Association Annual Conference in Corpus Christi in 2008 (The TSHA will be meeting in El Paso in Spring 2011). There are pieces by established and up and coming scholars. 

We are really proud of the collection, which represents some of the most cutting edge work on Mexicans in Texas. The authors are really pushing us to think about Texas history in a new way, asking new questions, and using fresh perspectives.

Rojas: What are you currently reading?

Perales: These days I’m gearing up for the Spring semester, so my reading is focused on preparing for my upcoming classes. I’ve just started reading Cynthia E. Orozco’s history of LULAC, No Mexicans, Women, or Dogs Allowed: The Rise of the Mexican American Civil Rights Movement (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2009). 

I also recently started Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, a beautifully written and highly acclaimed book on the African American Great Migration. I think that it will really help me think about my own research interests in new ways.

Rojas: Can you share with our readers your favorite TV show and the last movie you saw?

Perales: I probably watch more television than I should admit to. I’m a huge fan of smart writing. I was really happy to see "Glee" win best comedy series at last night’s Golden Globes. It has been a long while since I’ve been to the movies. The last one I saw might have been "The Kids are All Right."

Rojas: Dr. Perales, thank you for this interview and congratulations on the recent books.


For previous posts on Smeltertown, La Calavera, Buena Vista, check HERE.

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