Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Noelle’s Treasure Tale

Review by Ariadna Sánchez

While exploring the amazing Children’s Literature Department at the Central Library in downtown Los Angeles,  a book caught my attention. Noelle’s Treasure Tale is written by the first Hispanic woman to be named BMI songwriter of the year Gloria Estefan and splendidly illustrated by Michael Garland.

Noelle is a lovely and smart brown bulldog with a playful spirit. Noelle’s determination is crucial in order to search for the treasure that will change her life for good. Estefan’s brilliant and melodic verses engage children page by page for an awesome journey. Vivid illustrations, peculiar characters, and energizing rhythms welcome you in Noelle’s world to discover the Queen’s gold crown.

Noelle’s magical and mysterious adventure has an exclusive CD single inside “See With Your Heart” heavenly interpreted by Gloria Estefan for an unforgettable reading experience.

Visit your local library for more incredible stories. Reading gives you wings! Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Get Out of Line

Michael Sedano

Get out of line. Go back.

I couldn’t hear the others—if they said anything at all. I struggled to make out forms and faces in the dim light that peopled the blackness now with row upon row of assembled figures whose numbers built crowds filling the blackness with a finite infinity of spirits. I wasn’t sure I could see them at all. They were ignoring me.

Except for that message. Go back. I did not know the voice.

I knew them, however. The ancestors. I’d seen them before, that day they’d gathered in the shadows of my mother’s hospital room. Her shallow breaths and motionless form filling my awareness with a different pain. That day the antepasados told me take her home with me, give her a final year of respite and peace.

Today I could not escape the pain burning through me, sending me past the edge of awareness out of the light and into that blackness so total I did not know was I crawling, flying, standing still? But I knew They were out there, and whether I was in a tunnel, a cloud, a concrete nothingness, I persisted toward them.

I expected to see my Dad and my Mom, and groups of gente I didn’t know but instantly recognized as familia. Dimly, the figures began to emerge from blackness. I glimpsed seated and standing souls where there had been none. Groups of little kids played silently around family circles. I ached to hang in the Mora branches and listen to that group of adults telling stories. A face smiled in laughter, a palm slapped a lap as the group shared their favorite jokes.

There wasn’t enough light. I pulled and pushed and clawed my way toward them but made no advance. I began to thirst for light.

My fingers lifted a heavy drape and the ancestors disappeared. The sounds of my distraught familia now gathered around me in the ICU emerged from blackness and cried for illumination. I wanted my family in this world to hear the message I brought.

I had no voice. I was crying for light.

One of the men recognized what my fingers were doing. “He’s spelling Morse Code! From the Army a long time ago. Look!”

I tapped three times. “S” he said. I held up a finger, that’s right it was screaming. I tapped short and long, but no one recognized ‘A’. Dah-dah-dit. Dit.

One of the women said, “is he dyslexic? He’s making letters in the air backwards!” They read the letters together:


I wanted to scream what the ancestors told me on the other side. We would have to begin again.

“Sage,” I whispered and after a few seconds they heard it.

I’d been told to get out of line and return to my people in this world. My people in this room in Huntington hospital, my precious grandchildren in their beds who did not know they’d almost lost grampa. Now we will come together and start again, and I will tell them.

I had died but been turned away by the ancestors.

I’ve been hospitalized for 12 days now, and will remain here another week. When I finally get back home, we will gather outside and I will tell them. We buried Pete and Helen with sage; as my grandmother would have said they were the last of our tribe.

We begin again. We will gather, burn sage, and tell stories. In my ears I’ll remember the voice, “mi’jo, go back.”

FYI: Two weeks ago I went to the ER with a perforated gut that got cut out. Three days after that my spleen exploded.

Now an extended recuperation begins. I'll read a lot, write a lot, remember all this.

Western medicine is a marvel. Not just the technology and medicines, the people. Wondrously caring gente attending to sickness throughout the night. Incredibly smart, all the top students in their classes showing how their teachers were right: these are top notch scientists and care-givers, the best our modern culture creates. So many immigrants.

Still, el cucui--the spirit world--looms large in gente with traditional experiences and values. Without the antepasados to keep me here with their powerful medicine, I wouldn't be able to tell you more.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Three questions for Sheryl Luna regarding her poetry collection, “Seven”


Sheryl Luna earned a PhD in contemporary literature from the University of North Texas and an MFA from University of Texas, El Paso. Her first collection, Pity the Drowned Horses, received the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize and was published by the University of Notre Dame Press in 2005. Luna’s poems have appeared in Georgia Review, Poetry, Poetry Northwest, Notre Dame Review, Puerto del Sol, and other magazines. She has been awarded fellowships from Yaddo, the Ragdale Foundation, CantoMundo, and the Anderson Center.  In 2008, Luna received the Alfredo Cisneros del Moral Foundation Award from Sandra Cisneros.

Luna’s second collection, Seven, was published by 3: A Taos Press in 2013, and was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award. It is an exhilarating poetic expression, one that both disturbs and centers the reader, sometimes with the same piece. Sheryl Luna kindly agreed to sit down with La Bloga to discuss this latest effort.

DANIEL OLIVAS: Seven is your second collection of poetry after Pity the Drowned Horses which won the Andrés Montoya Poetry Prize.  What differences, if any, were there between the writing of your first book as compared with the second?

SHERYL LUNA: Writing Seven was more difficult because I was dealing with more intense personal issues including recovery from trauma and PTSD. The book was a long process of facing my own demons and hoping to share that recovery is possible. I was more aware of language and linguistic play and the poems are more playful and surprising. Pity the Drowned Horses dealt with place and home where Seven deals more with psychological space and topics such as homelessness and cultural trauma. Both books take a feminist stance and both took years to write.

DO: You divide your collection into seven sections (hence the collection’s title). Why did you decide to do this and how does this structure affect the rhythm and meaning of the collection as a whole?  

SL: The seven sections are based on the seven sins, as well as the seven charities: lust, chastity, gluttony, temperance, greed, charity, diligence, sloth, patience, wrath, kindness, envy, humility, and pride. I tried to blur the sins with the virtues as sometimes a sin can actually be a virtue and vice versa. Each section explores what is deemed good and what is deemed bad and how that can sometimes be blurred. Also, themes such as abuse and violation are examined through language that I hope is compelling. 

DO: “La Chingada” is one of my favorite poems in Seven which begins: “She collected branches for her burning, limping / on a once broken ankle. Cortez advised we cook / in the stillness before sunrise….”  One of the elements I enjoy about it is your conflation of historical figures of the conquest (Cortez and La Malinche) with contemporary imagery and vernacular. Could you talk a little about this particular device and what it allows you to do within a poem?

SL: I think the historical is always related to the present. Human nature has not changed much over the centuries. We are still torn by our complex instincts and emotional responses. By exploring La Malinche I could examine both personal trauma, as well as cultural trauma. Utilizing a historical figure allows me to criticize the historical and the consequences that has for the present. The present is connected to the future as well. Looking through the lens at the past is tied to the present in that we can hopefully change the future for the better, whether that is personal or cultural.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

La Bloga "in person" in Chicago: Celebrating 10 years and over 1 million Readers

Our La Bloga "PREZI" digital presentation for the audience
(Thank you to Mitch Christopher Hobza for creating the PREZI)
La Bloga writers presented in Chicago this past week (July 18th) at "Imagining Latina/Latino Studies: An International Latina/o Studies Conference." The conference, at The Palmer House Hotel in downtown Chicago, marked a major stride in working toward the formation of a Latina/Latino Studies Association.  Kudos go to a large community of professors, students, and staff who made this happen.  (CLICK HERE for more information.

Business Meeting to vote to establish a Latina/Latino Studies Association
Latina y Latino Studies:  vibrant and strong!
Maria Hinojosa, Award winning journalist, anchor & producer of Latino USA on National Public Radio
Maria Hinojosa was the plenary moderator for "Perspectives on the State of Latina/Latino Studies"
It also marked the first time that the majority of La Bloga writers came together to speak about "La Bloga" and to celebrate our ten year anniversary in person.  Many of us write our La Bloga posts in solitude and communicate with our La Bloga members through e-mail, texting, Facebook, and Twitter.  What a thrill it was to finally meet in person.  It was also exciting to meet some of our readers and to hear what they had to say about our blog site which reaches over 1 million readers within and outside the United States.  Here is a pictorial of some of the highlights: 

La Bloga writers (left to right): Daniel Olivas, Olga Echeverria, Amelia Montes, Xanath Caraza,
Manuel Ramos, Lydia Gil, Rene Colato

Audience "paparazzi" taking photos of us
The picture above occurred right after the La Bloga writers presented. These audience members had stayed after we finished our panel.  They simultaneously took out their phones and began to photograph us.  I suppose this is what it feels like to have paparazzi approaching you all at once for a photo.  So we decided to make it interactive and we took photos of them taking photos of us!  

A note on those taking photos of us:  many of them were archivists and librarians, telling us (reminding us!) that our work is an important record of Latina and Latino culture, art, music, literature, health, and personal commentary.  It was quite a revelation to hear how audience members work in libraries and classrooms, consulting our La Bloga book reviews for literature to list in their course curriculum, to include in their book, film, and music purchases.  They also include our posts in their classroom lectures and presentations. They also gave us quite an overwhelming task to consider:   to archive ten years of work!  

Dear La Bloga Reader: Thank you for your support these ten years. The beauty of La Bloga is that we bring a diversity of perspectives to you regarding contemporary (and past) fiction, film, art, music, culture, food, topics on politics, health, and the latest national and international events.  Because we bring our individual perspectives, we illustrate the diversity within Latinidad.  

We hope to reunite again in the future.  Here's hoping we see you next time!

La Bloga celebrates at Zapatista Restaurant in Chicago.  (Left to Right: Daniel Olivas, Rene Colato, Olga Echeverria, Manuel Ramos, Xanath Caraza, Amelia Montes)
Celebratory dinner at Zapatista Restaurant:  La Bloga and friends!
There was also a bit of time to have a look at Chicago's beauty:

Gorgeous echinacea (pale purple cornflower) growing in one of Chicago's botanical gardens
Echinacea (pale purple cornflower)
culver's root (midwestern native perennial plant)

Flo Ramos made these beautiful cards for the audience!  Thank you, Flo!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Puños de Gaza and mestizo children on our border.

I am in Taos for the weekend, for the Fiestas de Taos, surrounded by histories of peoples going back tens of thousands of years. I'm eating well, staying in the great Casa Taos facility, anticipating sitting down with one of America's greatest writers, advocate of Chicanismo--and I should be primed to do a worthy posting today.

I'm not.

My head buzzes with bits and scenes, descriptions and words about 50,000 children attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexican border, niños you've read and heard about for weeks. Children that certain heartless Americans don't want here, don't want to take in, not considered good enough to be taken care of, like adults are supposed to treat children. Hatred, racist epithets and the basest behavior of my species featured on headlines and newscasts, every day.

I could say or write thousands of things about that, but I can only manage a few.

Because, also buzzing in my head is the running casualty list coming out of Israel. A number that's passing 200. 200, including children, Palestinians who are being attacked by technologically superior armed forces led by Israeli generals, directed by the Israeli government and supported apparently by the majority of Israeli citizens who do have civil rights. And paid for by my taxes.

My gov't says we support "the right of the Israelis to defend themselves." [Last I heard, at least one Israeli had been killed during the time that the 200 Palestinians were slaughtered.]

The Israeli's actions remind me of a conversation I once had with a Jewish woman. She said she agreed with the Chicanos' Aztlán, the lost location of the Aztec's original homeland in the U.S. Southwest. That for Chicanos to gain their civil rights, their rightful place in this country, retaking Aztlán was an honorable goal. And that that's all the Israeli's were doing in Palestine.

If the Chicanos were to retake Aztlán like the Israeli's are disenfranchising Palestinians, like they are dismembering the Palestinian homelands, like they are dislocating families, like they are strafing kids on beaches, with missiles, then the Chicanos would be guilty of crimes against humanity, of genocide, of neo-apartheid. Yet, somehow my President says, the Israeli's "have a right to defend themselves." I agree with him no more than I agreed with that blinded Jewish woman.

What the Israelis, particularly the Zionists, have done and continue to do in Palestine is not about being Jewish. The "Jews" are not the problem; the Zionist apartheid is. I've noticed some Chicanos getting sloppy in the heat of their anger and disgust about this crisis. Don't get sloppy. All Anglos do not support the mistreatment of the border mestizos. Nor are all Jews responsible for what goes on within Israel. Many within both countries actively oppose their governments' inhumanitarian actions.

There's so much more to say, but my head's too buzzed.

I'm in no mood to review a book, post some of my fiction, share pics of my trip to Taos. Because there are children on opposite sides of the world--around the U.S. southern border and behind concrete walls and barbed wire in Gaza--children who are an embarrassment to my government, forming two humanitarian crises that the American people, as a whole, are not buzzed about.

Two humanitarian crises that make it difficult for me to enjoy myself in Taos.

I believe, that's how it should be.

Not just for me.


Go to Border Angels if you can aid the Border children. Do what you feel you can about the children in Gaza.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Open Letter to the International Latino Studies Conference in Chicago

Melinda Palacio

La Bloga represents at the International Latino Studies Conference in Chicago this week. Since my plans to join La Bloga's panel and reunion were squashed by my broken leg, Amelia asked me to write a short statement, one paragraph, she could read as mediator of our panel. My short statement turned into a long letter, which I decided to post today.  Everyone may read my contribution to La Bloga's panel, even if you are missing out on the conference.

July 18, 2014

First, I'd like to thank Dr. Amelia Montes and my fellow members of La Bloga for this opportunity. This conference, celebrating the past, present, and future of Latino Studies is very important. Had I not broken my leg, I would certainly be amongst you. I was looking forward to connecting with academics from my past and those who have recently hosted me in my present role as author, poet and speaker. Furthermore, in my role as teacher, I've had the privilege to teach Fiction through the online MFA program of theUniversity of Arkansas at Monticello. In my role as author, my novel, Ocotillo Dreams, has been included in a scholarly book by Dr. Cristina Herrera, Contemporary Chicana Literature: (Re) Writing theMaternal Script (Cambria Press 2014).  

Today, I am honored to discuss my work as a team member of La Bloga. I often cover the writing life. For this year's conference, I chose to present a past blog post from 2010 that documents my process as a "low-tech writer." Even though we, at La Bloga, take advantage of high-tech tools, such as our online web log or La Bloga you are used to reading everyday, some, such as myself, first sit down with pen and paper and draft what will become a dynamic non-fiction article or personal account, complete with links and photos for the world wide web archives. Writing for La Bloga has made keeping up my author website rather easy. I often add photos, events, and blog entries after they have been up on la bloga. In other words, I steal from myself. This open letter to the conference will be up on La Bloga today and later next week, on my author website. All of our La Bloga posts remain in the web archives for future perusal by our readers and study by professionals in the fields related to Chicano and Latino Studies.

            In documenting the writing life, I also feature other writers in forms of interviews, Q&As, and guest columns so that my blog posts represent a larger, mostly Latino, but global (or world wide) writing community. However, sometimes, I simply document events from my life, such as taking a stroll through Audubon Park in New Orleans, where I live part-time, or the events of my broken leg and subsequent operation (see my blog post from July 4). Today, if you didn't hear all of this letter, you can read it on La Bloga.

Gracias! I hope to see everyone next time. If you have specific questions for me that this open letter does not answer or if you wish to invite me to speak to your students, please email me at You can also find me on twitter at LaMelinda or on Facebook or on my website.

Thank you, again,

Melinda Palacio
author of the novel Ocotillo Dreams (Bilingual Press) and the poetry collections Folsom Lockdown (Kulupi Press) and How Fire Is a Story, Waiting (Tia Chucha Press). 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Carlos Contreras y su tiempo cumplido

El poeta Carlos Contreras explora las prisiones físicas, emocionales y espirituales en su reciente poemario "Time Served" (Tiempo cumplido).

Contreras, nacido en Albuquerque, comenzó a escribir poesía cuando tenía 17 años, descubriendo en el verso una manera de canalizar ansiedades y retos.

Desde entonces se ha destacado no solo en el verso escrito, sino también como declamador en el ámbito de la poesía slam.

Su experiencia como campeón de slam le infunde una cierta oralidad a la poesía de Contreras, destacando el carácter narrativo de sus textos sin sacrificar los elementos líricos.

Contreras despliega imágenes vívidas de la vida diaria y la cultura popular, escritas en un lenguaje escueto y coloquial, lo cual favorece la lectura dramática del texto.

La colección mezcla poemas en verso y pasajes narrativos que el poeta concibió con la representación en mente.

Tras su publicación en abril, Contreras ha representado el texto como monólogo poético en varios escenarios de su natal Albuquerque.

La primera parte del libro, titulada "Invencible", está dedicada a la experiencia de su padre como soldado durante la guerra de Vietnam.

Contreras se considera heredero directo del conflicto ya que, según afirma, el trastorno de estrés postraumático marcó su vida familiar durante su infancia y adolescencia.

"Debí haber sentido y heredado algunas de sus ansiedades, porque de vez en cuando siento un poco de mi padre dentro de mí", confiesa Contreras en el prólogo.

"Es como si algo dentro de mí provocara el mismo dolor", escribe. "El dolor mi padre, mi padre invencible".

Los poemas de esta primera parte entremezclan recuerdos de la infancia y adolescencia del poeta con los de su padre como soldado de 18 años tratando de sobrevivir el infierno de las selvas de Vietnam.

En el poema "Alone" (Solo) Contreras se remonta a un recuerdo de adolescencia: la advertencia de su padre de nunca dejar el auto sin gasolina porque si se quedaba a mitad de camino, su padre no lo iría a recoger.

El recuerdo se yuxtapone a uno ajeno, el de su padre, quien pasaría una noche solo con su arma en la selva, habiéndose quedado sin gasolina y bajo órdenes de nunca abandonar el vehículo.

La segunda parte del libro recoge la experiencia de poetas encarcelados. Durante cinco años, Contreras se desempeñó como maestro de inglés y de escritura para adultos detenidos en el penal metropolitano de Albuquerque.

Esa experiencia se traduce en versos que cuestionan los múltiples significados de la libertad y del tiempo y cómo transcurren dentro y fuera del presidio.

Los poemas de esta segunda parte son más escuetos en lenguaje y más desgarradores en contenido. La esperanza intenta colarse entre los versos, como la luz entre las rendijas de una celda.

El poema "Dream Deferred" (Sueño pospuesto) imagina la salida, cuando la luz de afuera parecería un "caleidoscopio de esperanzas".

Los 22 poemas de "Tiempo cumplido"  exploran cabalmente las múltiples interpretaciones del verbo "cumplir", sea por necesidad, deber o condena.