Sunday, November 28, 2010


One of the most exciting things that is happening in our American literary world today is the increasing numbers of Latina bloggers. Many of these bloggers are published authors who utilize their blogs as additional forums for their creativity. In addition to posting a new poem or article, writers often discuss their books and other works, their writing routines, their book tours or speaking engagement calendars, their reviews of other authors' literary creations, and generally take time to show themselves to their public as fully-rounded folks with many interests and passions in addition to writing:  families and pets, authors they idolize, their travels far and wide, etc.  

Through these increasingly sophisticated and numerous blogs, authors are continually rediscovering themselves and sharing these journeys with us. In the pre-internet era, learning about the backgrounds and personalities of authors whose books we read could be challenging. When we found such information, it was often dry and locked in cement, brief and accompanied by faded black and white photos. Now, Latina bloggers (and a goodly number of male Hispanic authors as well!) are putting recognizable, amiable, respectable human faces on their literary selves and showing us the people they are in engaging, dynamic, constantly updated ways. What a delight it is to know the human spirit behind the artistry!

                  Mayra: A "Renaissance Woman" Among Writers

One of my favorites among this relatively new, evolving cadre of Latina writers is Mayra Calvani, a native of Puerto Rico and a longtime New Yorker. As I've read her blogs throughout this year and kept up with her publications, I've come to regard Mayra as the epitome of a “Renaissance Woman” regarding writing. When you think of a versatile writer, you might imagine someone who writes poems as well as novels. Or someone who creates dramas as well as short stories. And so on. Mayra goes beyond this.

She’s been writing since the age of 12, when she began creating paranormal stories. She majored in Creative Writing in college, where her passion for writing solidified, but she never limited herself to one genre of writing. In fact, as she has evolved as an author, so has her predilection for publishing in different genres.  She has written "literary" (as opposed to "commercial") short stories; parody/satire, as exemplified by her novel, Sunstruck; paranormal vampire fiction, represented by her novel, Embraced by the Shadows; nonfiction, focusing on book reviews and culminating in the recent award-winning book, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, which Mayra co-authored; and 6 children’s books.

Mayra is most enamored of children’s literature, which she describes thus: “I love writing for children. It’s like walking on a rainbow. A world of color where I can exaggerate and let my imagination run totally wild.” Her latest child’s book is Frederico, the Mouse Violinist, to be published this fall. She has six children’s books scheduled for publication in 2011-2012!  Mayra is also working on a young adult novel and is halfway finished.

Writing books in multiple genres is challenging enough for any author, and one might think that this keeps Mayra too busy for anything else. Not so. She has written over 300 book reviews, author interviews, and articles in the past decade, publishing these in print media as well as online. She reviews for The New York Journal of Books, the National Latino Books Examiner,, and Blogcritics Magazine.

In addition, Mayra maintains her two author websites and writes four blogs (addresses are below). She says: “It’s fun switching from one genre to another depending on my mood. I love it.” A lifelong high achiever, Mayra also speaks four languages: English and Spanish, of course, plus French and some Turkish. She lived in Turkey for a while and is now based in Belgium.

Visit Mayra’s websites at , . Her blogs include http://www.mayra’ , , and . Her book reviews appear most often in . Please drop by her sites and leave her your comments. It will be time well-spent for you!

In future posts here, I'll discuss other bloggers, male and female. Also, keep your eyes out for my upcoming book review of Mike Padilla's rousing, humorous, big-hearted novel, The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina. Take care, check out all these authors' wonderful work, and make literature an eternal part of your and your families' lives!
# # # #

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


So much has happened since my last posting. Here are two literary events in which I was honored to participate with fellow authors I've known or recently met. I am always filled with pride and delight when I meet new authors or get to reconnect with literary friends. In these past two events, I did both.

PALABRA Literary Magazine:
Reading in Los Angeles, October 23

Talented author and editor, Elena Minor, introduced Issue 6 of her prestigious publication, PALABRA: A Magazine of Chicano & Literary Art, 2010. It is packed with poems and stories by 25 Latino authors, including myself and three poets who attended the reading at the REDCAT Lounge at the Walt Disney performing arts complex. At the reading, the poets held us spellbound with their dramatic, heartfelt readings of their poems published in this issue. The talented group were:

     --Manuel Paul Lopez, author of Death of a Mexican and Other Poems. A secondary school teacher and resident of San Diego, CA, Manuel's poems in the magazine are "Brother, Sister," "The Hay Bales," and "How to Live with Rudy."
     --Yago S. Cura, co-author of the book, Odas a Futbolistas (Odes to Soccer Players); and  co-editor of the online literary journal, Hinchas de poesia. His poems have appeared in various prominent literary journals, including Borderlands, The New Orleans Review, and U.S. Latino Review. The poems that were published in PALABRA are "Los Namers" and "Angelinos."
     --Ricardo Lira Acuna, author of two books of poetry and photography:  Under the Influence; and Greetings from Heaven and Hell. A graduate of Stanford and Columbia Universities, Ricardo plans to publish his first novel, Prodigal Son, in the near future. His poem in PALABRA is "Narrow is the Gate."

I was the fourth reader at this event. I read my short story, "Paris," which will also be included in my second book of short stories, recently completed and aimed for publication in 2011. "Paris" is set entirely in my hometown of Pasadena, CA, and takes place in one day, from morning till night, with what some have called a surprise ending. 

All in all, this was a successful event for us all, and I was pleased to meet three more poets. Poets enrich my life...everyone's life! PALABRA Magazine can be ordered online at its website: .

Pasadena Latino Authors:
Social Mixer & Panel Discussion--Pasadena, CA

On November 10, six Latino authors held their first communal public event. Many attendees felt this was a "historic" event for the city, since, to our knowledge, a contingent of six published Latino authors is a first for Pasadena. All the authors, born and raised in the United States, write in English; and five have published at least one book. Collectively, these authors have over 60 years of publication experience. All the authors are also community leaders, holding positions of leadership in Pasadena civic organizations, including city commissions, a city governmental agency, and local non-profits. In addition, the group of authors represents at least three different generations and five different literary genre. The authors are:

     --Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the memoir, Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran-American Experience. Randy is Executive Director of El Centro de Accion Social, a prominent Latino advocacy group. Randy's book has been praised by prominent civic leaders and numerous book reviewers and other authors. His book has been reviewed on this blog as well.
     --Victor Cass, author of three books:  Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000, a nonfiction book; Love, Death, and Other War Stories, his first novel; and Telenovela, his second novel. Victor's third book has also been reviewed on this blog. Victor's academic articles, columns, and opinion essays have appeared in a historical journal and in regional print media for over a decade. He has recently completed a fourth book and plans to publish it in 2011. He is a Pasadena police officer and loves his city: all his books are set in Pasadena.
     --Manuel Contreras, archivist and journalist/editor, who has devoted 20 years to compiling a history of Pasadena via newsletters, advertisements, articles, and other ephemera that trace the city's social evolution since the 1930's. An octogenarian, Manny's historical collections are housed in the Pasadena Central Library, where they serve as reference for many people, young and old. Manny is a former City Commissioner.
     --Sandra Gutierrez, author and co-editor of the award-winning book, Teatro Chicana:  A Collective Memoir & Selected Plays. Sandra's book has been used in university and high school classes throughout the United States since its publication in 2008. She and her co-editors, Laura E. Garcia and Felicitas Nunez, are often in demand as speakers regarding the historic Chicano feminist awakening that their book details. Sandra is active in various civic organizations, including Adelante Mujer Latina.
     --Roberta Martinez, author of Images of America: Latinos in Pasadena. This book has also been reviewed on this blog. Through carefully selected archived and personal-collection photographs and meticulous narration, Roberta captures the contributions that Latinas and Latinos made to the development of Pasadena. An independent historian, Roberta contributed significantly to the greater understanding of California history in general with her book. She is the Director of Latino Heritage in Pasadena and is also a City Commissioner.

I was the sixth Pasadena author at this event. My book, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories, was named a Finalist in the 2010 National Best Books Award by USA Book News. My writing has been published off and on since 1972 in literary journals, textbooks, anthologies, blogs, and regional print media. I also serve as a City Commissioner and Executive Board Member of One Community Think Tank in Pasadena.

The Pasadena Author event was attended by approximately 60 people: young and old, people of various cultural backgrounds, and also by community VIP's. Stay tuned for follow-up events! All the books by these authors are available through and other booksellers.

#     #     #     #

Sunday, October 24, 2010


October has been a literary feast for me and for many of my friends and colleagues who also happen to be authors. Here's the lineup of places I've been this month, plus some writers with whom I had the pleasure of appearing and who were great to talk to:

                                OCTOBER 2:  DUARTE (CA) FESTIVAL OF AUTHORS

Set in a beautiful senior residential complex, we were among tall pine trees, winding paths, and green patches of grass that define the parklike boundaries of the complex. Approximately 75 authors participated, but only about 7 are Hispanic. Two of us--my son, Victor Cass, and I--spoke on a panel. Our topic was "Mystery and Fiction." 

The following Latinos were participants in this well-regarded festival:
  • Alex Moreno Areyan, author of Images of America: Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles (Arcadia Publishing, 2010):  Through hundreds of archival photos and meticulous narrative, the book chronicles 100 years of contributions by Mexican-Americans  to the development of L.A., including iconic U.S. Congressman Edward R. Roybal. Alex also participated in the prestigious 13th Annual Los Angeles Latino Book & Family Festival (see below).
  • Victor Cass, author of Telenovela (Outskirts Press, 2009);  Love, Death, & Other War Stories (iUniverse, 2005); and Pasadena Police Department: A Photohistory, 1877-2000 (Herff-Jones, 2000):  Victor's newest book, Telenovela, is a fast-paced, engrossing romantic comedy/drama in which two beautiful daughters of immigrants form a deep friendship that withstands romantic troubles with a mutual love interest.
  • Randy Jurado Ertll, author of the memoir, Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran-American's Experience (Hamilton Books, 2009):  Randy's book details his hardships in violence-torn El Salvador and his rise to a better life when he emigrated to America as an adolescent, though he first had to survive life in a gang-torn section of Los Angeles. His journey is filled with political insights and courage.
  • Vanessa Libertad Garcia, author of The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive (Fiat Libertad Co., 2009): Vanessa's book details the angst of young, gay Latinas and Latinos in Los Angeles against the backdrop of the 2008 American presidential election campaign. She alternates between poetry and prose vignettes to capture her characters' desperation, romantic interludes, and realizations about life.
  • Roberta Martinez, author of Images of America: Latinos in Pasadena (Arcadia Publishing, 2009):  From the early unheralded pioneers, men and women, who helped found Pasadena, to the various leaders and community activists who helped shape Pasadena into the world-class city it is today, Roberta teaches us some modern history that is often ignored in local classrooms.
  • Philip Victor (Philip Victor Colon), author of Jaguar Spirit ; Soul Assassin; and other graphic novels (Aerosol Press: 2004, for these two):  A Puerto-Rican American writer from East L.A., Philip is an award-winning comic book writer who also produces and publishes his novels. His creations are based on Mayan mythology, are bilingual, and are appropriate for readers of all ages.
I'm the seventh Latino author at the Duarte Festival. My book, The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories (Outskirts Press, 2009), has been positively reviewed by various Latina/o authors. It is a compilation of 12 short stories set  mostly in Texas, California, and Chicago. You can learn more about it on my author website at, which includes its title story in its entirety, as well as samples of my other publications.

Victor Cass

Vanessa Libertad Garcia

Below: Randy Ertll & Roberta Martinez (l-r)

                                   LOS ANGELES LATINO BOOK & FAMILY FESTIVAL

 On the weekend of October 9 & 10, the campus of California State University, Los Angeles, became the stage for the largest gathering of Latina/o published authors in the history of the United States. Over 120 authors from all over America came together to serve on panel discussions, solo presentations, and booth displays of their books. Previously described on this site, the festival was a huge success with strongly established pioneer Hispanic authors, emerging writers, and everyone in between sharing their collective experiences and creativity with thousands of attendees that represented the spectrum of multicultural, multigenerational America. There were readings, signings, and Q&A's galore! Indeed, this was the literary feast of the year.

 Here are some photos of participating authors:

Working hard and having fun!

Award-winning nonfiction author,
Laura Contreras-Rowe (r)

I served as moderator on a panel with the following
engaging authors, from l-r:
David Bueno-Hill, Vanessa Libertad Garcia,
Manny Pacheco, & Ed Rodriguez 

I felt very honored to meet Chuy Ramirez, Texas author of Strawberry Fields,
a very thoughtful, poignant novel about a family of migrant workers
whose children rise above their poverty and come to understand
the dichotomies of their bi-cultural world.
    Here are the wonderful women of Teatro Chicana:
A Collective Memoir & Selected Plays--
(l-r) Felicitas Nunez, Delia Rodriguez, &
Laura Garcia with me, their fan!
(Felicitas, Laura, & Sandra Gutierrez, not shown,
were the editors of the book.)
                                                                                                                                                                                                           *                *                 *
One of the highlights of this year's Latino Books & Family Festival was the presentation of the First Annual "Latino Books into Movies Awards," an exciting new venture. Two or three books were chosen in several different movie categories (Action & Adventure; Animation; Comedy; Documentary; Drama; Kids & Family; Romantic Comedy; and Suspense & Mystery). Professionals in the entertainment industry served as judges and selected winners and runners-up. Click here to read all about it:
Congratulations to these authors whose works we may someday see on the "big screen."

 All in all, these two author festivals gave our Southern California community ample exposure to some of the greatest literary talents in Latino literature today. I was humbled and honored to have been included in their company and came away inspired and motivated to learn more about my colleagues. Kudos to author Reyna Grande and to Cal State LA Professor Roberto Cantu, Ph.D., for their leadership in organizing and staging the Latino Book & Family Festival, with the collaboration and support of their outstanding team of volunteers, including Latino Literacy leader, Jim Sullivan.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


We Latino authors are so fortunate to live in Southern California. Other than the remarkable weather, access to culture, wonderful population diversity, forward-thinking mindset, artistic ambience, etc. etc. that Californians usually rave about, there is one even more important reason to celebrate California:

American literary history will be made in Los Angeles on the weekend of October 9 and 10, 2010, at the 13th Annual Latino Book & Family Festival (LBFF).

Why? More than 130 of us Latina/o published authors will come together at this event to present workshops and panel discussions, do book readings and signings, and dialogue with readers and fans. This is one of the largest literary festivals in America, but definitely the one with the largest contingent of Hispanic authors.

This public event is free and highly popular with mult-cultural and multi-generational audiences growing in number each year. It will be held at California State University, Los Angeles. Though a large number of the Festival's writers live and work in California, several are coming from other parts of our country, such as two Texans--Chuy Ramirez, whose new book was recently reviewed on this site; and Daniel Chacon, a lauded fiction writer who teaches at the University of Texas, El Paso--and a novelist and short fiction writer from Arizona, Stella Pope Duarte.

Great Diversity of Publications

The Festival authors represent the spectrum of genres in literature: novels and novellas, short stories, poetry, drama, screenplays, children's literature, young adult literature, memoirs, essays and other nonfiction, graphic novels (comic books), scholarly writing, and so on. Many of the Festival's writers are prize-winning authors, such as:
  • the Festival's Director, novelist Reyna Grande
  • novelist Montserrat Fontes  
  • Pulitzer-Prize finalist Sonia Nazario
  • emerging historian and longtime radio personality, Manny Pacheco
  • poet and fiction writer, Melinda Palacio
  • New York Times best-selling "chick lit" author, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez.
Many more award-winning writers will be present at the festival, including established, renowned authors such as Daniel Olivas; and emerging young adult literature author, Sandra Lopez. You'll learn more about this exciting pool of talent at the Festival. Read on....

Some Latino Literary Icons: Luis Rodriguez & Victor Villasenor

One of the early modern Latino writers in our country, author of 14 books and countless other writings--including fiction, poetry, and nonfiction--Luis Rodriguez'  astounding literary career has spanned over 30 years. He has published in every major genre, and has conducted countless workshops and book talks in venues spanning academic settings, community settings, prisons, and Native American reservations. Luis is perhaps best known for his 1993 memoir, Always Running: La Vida Loca, which has sold more than 300,000 copies; has won numerous awards, including the Carl Sandburg Literary Award; has been adapted into plays performed across America; and was performed for two years as a play at Los Angeles' famed Mark Taper Forum.

Luis' website ( details the many media appearances he has made, including appearances on PBS and the Oprah Winfrey Show. He has been interviewed and his works have been reviewed by major media, including the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, Entertainment Weekly, LA Magazine, and La Opinion. Luis is often considered one of the leading Chicano writers in the United States today.

Another literary icon who will be present at the LBFF next month is Victor Villasenor, best-selling, Pulitzer-Prize nominated author of Burro Genius. Victor's highly-acclaimed Rain of Gold, a book inspired by his family that took him 16 years to research and write, will be part of an HBO mini-series scheduled for filming in Spring 2011. His website ( ) also talks of his "nine novels, 65 short stories, and 265 rejections" prior to selling his first novel, Macho!, which has been compared to the writing of Nobel-Prize winning American author, John Steinbeck.

Victor's long literary career has been an inspiration to many generations of Mexican-Americans and others. His works are studied in schools across America, and he was featured as an "American Latino TV Hero" in May 2010. In addition to his novels, Victor has written short stories, nonfiction, and the screenplay for "The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez," which starred Edward James Olmos.

The Authors in Action: Workshops and Panel Discussions

On Saturday, October 9, panel discussions (with almost all of them having 5-6 authors) will begin at 11 a.m. and end at 6 p.m. Then, on Sunday, October 10, the same timeframe will be followed, with these panel presentations lasting one hour each. In almost every time slot, four panels will be going on simultaneously in different rooms of Salazar Hall on the campus. See the website for a map of the Festival's location.

The weekend will be filled with literary fun and enlightenment, with a total of 53 presentations scheduled. The audiences will have the opportunity to ask questions of the authors and engage in discussions of their work. Topics of panel discussions range from children's literature, poetry, filmmaking, self-help, short stories, novels, getting literary agents, self-publishing, to history of folklorico dancing and cartoon books. It's a buffet of literary delights!

When we aren't presenting, many of us authors will be available on the festival grounds at our own booths to sell and autograph our books and chat with fans. What a great opportunity to meet your favorite authors or to meet new ones to expand your horizons!

More Information at the Website

Go to the festival's website at  to see photos of last year's festival, photos of this year's author participants, bios of these writers, their websites, and the schedule of the panel presentations. See you at this historic festival!

Thursday, September 16, 2010


One of my goals in this blog is to bring attention to the writings of emerging Latina/o authors. In today's blog, I am reviewing the newly-released book by Texan author, Chuy Ramirez. According to fellow blogger, Maria Ferrer, whom I will highlight in an upcoming blog in the near future, Chuy is presently hard at work on his next literary project, a novella about the relationship between a terminally-ill woman and her attorney as they make final preparations for her death. Enjoy the review, and check out this gem of a debut book!

                                               *     *     *     *     *

CHUY RAMIREZ, a Texas attorney and emerging Latino writer, devoted 10 years writing part-time to create his debut novel, Strawberry Fields (First Texas Publishers, 2010). What he has as a reward for his decade of effort is a marvelous, engaging, poignant book that strongly heralds him as a writer to watch.

Ramirez centers his book on Joaquin, who is the anthithesis of another Joaquin of Latino literary fame, the Joaquin in Chicano pioneer author Corky Gonzalez’ epic poem, “I Am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquin” (1964). Whereas the latter Joaquin railed against the oppression of Chicanos by Anglos and asserted his Mexican ethnic pride, Ramirez’ Joaquin, an American-born child of the 1960’s, feels strong ambivalence about his Mexican heritage. Strawberry Fields is as much an examination of a bi-cultural person’s inner struggles regarding ancestral and adopted homelands as it is of this particular character’s coming of age in America.

The book covers several decades of Joaquin’s life. We see him as a young boy trying to navigate the temptations and mischiefs of childhood under his mother Manda’s caring, watchful eyes and his father’s stern stare. We see him as an adolescent with years of experience under his belt as a migrant farm worker, traveling with his mother and siblings in caravans of trucks through the Midwest and other states with crops to harvest. We see him in adulthood as a successful attorney in Texas, his home state, haunted by recurring dreams connected to his adolescence and the strawberry fields of Decatur, Illinois. These fields thus become symbolic on many levels: symbolic of Joaquin’s family struggles with poverty and his disaffection with his lot in life; symbolic of the carefree childhood moments he salvaged in the migrant camps when he and his brother could savor moments of freedom and exploration; symbolic of his eventual rejection of his cultural roots and thus, of his father.

Throughout Joaquin’s life, his father, Benancio, looms as a figure that puzzles him, chastises him, and stirs elemental struggles between them involving love and hate, and culture clashes that cut to the bone. Benancio is a proud Mexican, his hubris and stubbornness turning him into a disapproving parent who beats his children for mild transgressions, who calls them derogatory names, and who can never be pleased. As a major antagonist in the book, Benancio represents to his sons the backwardness of a country and a culture they cannot embrace, as their father wants them to do. Their rejection of his culture, of his beloved Mexico, is ultimately their rejection of him, from which the unflinching Benancio can never recover, and for which he can never forgive them. He abandons his family, leaving them to wonder for most of their lives where he went and why he couldn’t love them.

Besides his father, the key figures in Joaquin’s life are his mother Manda and his two siblings: Bennie, his younger brother; and his sister, who is simply called “Sis” in the book. Manda is a strong, patient woman born in America but closely attached to immigrants through her family’s business. She is attracted to the tall, taciturn, handsome Benancio, whom she meets while at work one day and eventually decides to marry. Despite her children’s conflicts with their father, and his seeming lack of tenderness toward her, Manda is devoted to Benancio, even after he abandons his family. As the matriarchal touchstone, Manda is defined by the extreme sacrifices she makes for her children in the name of progress, their progress, their future. Her gentleness and understanding are but an undertone throughout the book; but toward the end, we realize the extent of her sacrifices for her beloved family.

Bennie, who is very close to Joaquin, grows up to become a school principal, a man with a vivid memory that serves as Joaquin’s link to his past. The studious Sis, sheltered from the hardships of the migrant life once she reaches adolescence, is largely in the background but serves as a stabilizing voice of reason and neutrality. She becomes a teacher and, in her adulthood, reminisces with her brothers about their father’s whereabouts and their checkered family history.

The book shifts continually between the present and the past, taking us from Joaquin’s struggles as an adult, to those of his childhood, to those he survived as a teenager, and so on in loops and flashbacks that keep the book non-linear throughout. Dreams and nightmares are strategically interwoven into key interludes, so that the reader’s curiosity is piqued, and the pace of the narrative is kept brisk and exhilarating. As the book marches toward its climax, the chapters are even more non-linear, with scenes alternating between the past and present more rapidly as Joaquin gains clarity and insights about his experiences in the strawberry fields and about his identity as a man and as a son.

A compelling sub-plot involves a beautiful, blonde girl of mixed heritage named Belinda who, early in the book, has disappeared. She then is absent for a good portion of the book until the adolescent Joaquin and his family are preparing to travel to the Midwest for harvesting. Joaquin sees her from a distance in one of the migrant workers’ groups and develops a crush on her, but his memory of her fades with time. We catch glimpses of Belinda throughout the book, but these are surrealistic scenes, chopped up and fuzzy, as incomplete memories can appear to be in reality. When the adult Joaquin is haunted by dreams of Belinda, which depict her with bloody wounds and missing eyes, he fears that he is somehow connected to her disappearance, and this may be why his mind has blocked out recollections of her.

But this is another piece of the puzzle that Joaquin must solve. Belinda’s fate, on a subconscious level, is another reason that the adult Joaquin journeys from his home in Texas to the strawberry fields of Illinois, to revisit them, to seek something that even he is unaware of. In the final chapters of the book, with the strawberry fields drastically changed 30 years after he worked them, and the migrant workers’ camp by the fields totally gone, Joaquin can only rely on his faint memories, his emotions, his dreams, and the present scenes that repel him to derive meaning from his experiences. What happened to Belinda? Why did his father abandon him? Two burning questions—distinct from one another but critical to understanding who he, Joaquin, is—come together upon his revisitation of the strawberry fields. In a climactic epiphany, Joaquin discovers the answers to both questions.

The author’s language in these final scenes and throughout the most critical scenes is poignantly vivid and sometimes heart-rending. Ramirez is deft with his descriptiveness, particularly in the second half of the book. In describing the Michigan of the 1960’s, for example, the first time Joaquin’s family migrated there to harvest crops, Ramirez writes:

        ...where life seemed almost perfect among the solitude of a
        spacious rural America, where topsoil was measured in feet
        and little boys dreamed of playing high school basketball and
        little girls dreamed of becoming homecoming queens....a land
        inhabited by fattening cattle and red barns and grain elevators,
        and uniquely confident, stoic men...whose canvases were the
        sky and the open spaces on which they never tired of creating
        green and lush symmetry (p. 218).

It is as if Ramirez warms up exponentially as the book unwraps and reveals its treasures to us. One wonders if the beginning parts were those writtten by Ramirez at the start of his decade of birthing this book. One wonders if the latter chapters indeed came later in the decade; and, if so, the beauty of the language, the depth of the insights in the final chapters, the power of Joaquin’s catharsis are rightfully the end products of much labor...not lost, as Shakespeare wrote, but of labors reaching their fruitful, magnificent conclusion.

Ramirez calls his work “a book of Short Stories.” If these are indeed stories (rather than chapters of a novel), then they can be said to employ intertextuality, or the literary technique of repeating characters and places from one story to another. This technique marked pioneer Chicana author, Estella Portillo de Trambley’s, short stories in her classic book, Rain of Scorpions and Other Stories (Bilingual Press, Revised Edition, 1993), as scholars Vernon E. Lattin and Patricia Hopkins described in their Introduction to that edition.

The technique was successful for Trambley’s purposes and won her admiration for her work. Similarly, Ramirez has woven his separate “stories” into a loosely-unified book, a hybrid novel to some, but clearly a tapestry of humanity that we can all relate to and embrace.
To learn more about Chuy Ramirez' book, go to

Saturday, August 28, 2010


In an effort to better use my time and to stay focused on my abiding interest in literacy, I have terminated one of my former blogs ("LatinaWriter99") and have created a new one that speaks more directly to how writing impacts our everyday lives. I'm calling this new blog, which I instituted tonight, "The Literary Self" ( I will continue writing "American Latina/o Writers Today," since my deep interest in the works of fellow Latina/o writers is very much a part of my own writing life...or my "literary self." Stay tuned, and thanks for reading my blogs!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


The increasing depth and breadth of Latina/o literary talent in America today was on display at a recent Los Angeles event co-sponsored by a vaunted group called Latino Literacy Now, among many other supporters. Approximately 20 Latina/o writers were introduced and honored for their work. The onstage ceremony was filmed and broadcast by the Global Broadcasting.

This all occurred on August 7 at "An Evening of Literature and the Arts" held at the Pan American Bank in East Los Angeles. The authors, part of a contingent of over 130 Hispanic writers, are scheduled to appear at one of the biggest Latino literary events in the nation, the 13th Annual Latino Book & Family Festival (LBFF) to be held at California State University, Los Angeles, on October 9 & 10, 2010. The event at the bank was a preview of sorts.

This year's LBFF boasts the largest number of authors in the history of this festival, which has also been held in Chicago, in addition to L.A., in prior years. For the entire weekend in October this year, many of these authors will present panel discussions and workshops on literary topics, read from their works, and answer their audience's questions about their writing.

The festival is attended by thousands of people from diverse cultures, ages, and backgrounds and is a joyous event that includes food, music, and dancing. Renowned actor, James Edward Olmos, a major sponsor and supporter, is often the master of ceremonies on opening day. Two of the leading organizers and coordinators of this event are author Reyna Grande and Cal State LA professor, Roberto Cantu.

You'll hear more on this blog about this major literary event as we approach October. Stay tuned!


The writers at the special event received special commendations and certificates from the California Senate, the County of Los Angeles, U.S. Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, and Speaker of the California Assembly John A. Perez. Each author was also interviewed onstage by Armando Sanchez, founder and head of Global Broadcasting. Armando is also leader of the Raise Literacy Campaign.

Here are the honored authors:
  • Lalo Alcaraz, renowned cartoonist for the Los Angeles Times and author of 3 books, including the iconic La Cucaracha (1976, 2004); Cartoon History of Latinos in the United States (1999); Latino USA (2000); and Migra Mouse: Political Cartoons on Immigration (2004).
  • David Bueno-Hill, an Honorable Mention Winner of the 2009 Latino Book Awards and author of the young adult novels, Mr. Clean in the Barrio and Mr. Clean's Familia.
  • Daniel Cano, Associate Professor at Santa Monica College, and longtime author, most recently of Death and the American Dream (2009).
  • Victor Cass, a decorated police officer in Pasadena, CA, and author of 3 books, including the novels Love, Death, and Other War Stories (2005), and Telenovela (2009).
  • Philip Victor Colon
  • Kathleen Contreras, author of the children's books, Braids/Trencitas and Pan Dulce.
  • Randy Jurado Ertll, a community activist and civic leader in Pasadena, CA, and author of Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran-American Experience (2009).
  • Montserrat Fontes, a teacher of literature and journalism in Los Angeles, and a much-praised author of the novels First Confession and of Dreams of the Centaur.
  • Reyna Grande, whose first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains, won the venerable Premio Aztlan Literary Award (2006) and an American Book Award (2007); and who also wrote the celebrated novel, Dancing With Butterflies (2009).
  • Javier Hernandez, cartoonist and creator of comic books including El Muerto and Weapon Tex-Mex; also the Associate Producer of the award-winning film adaptation, El Muerto (1997), starring Wilmer Valderrama and Tony Plana.
  • Laura Lacamara, author of children's books, including the newly-released Floating on Mama's Song (2010).
  • Rene Colato Lainez, author of several children's books in English, Spanish, and bilingual, including The Tooth Fairy Meets El Raton Perez (2010); My Shoes and I (2010); and Rene Has Two Last Names (2009).
  • Rolando Ortiz
  • Mike Padilla, who won a Chicano/Latino Literary Prize and a California Arts Council artist fellowship; who wrote the short story collection, Hard Language; and author of the recently-published novel, The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina.
  • Melinda Palacio, whose poetry chapbook, Folsom Lockdown, won Kulupi Press' Sense of Place Competition in 2009. Also, she is a PEN USA Emerging Voices 2007 Fellow. Her debut novel, Ocotillo Dreams, will be published this Fall.
  • Amada Irma Perez, author of several English, Spanish, and bilingual children's books, including My Very Own Room (2009); My Diary from Here to There (2007); and Nana's Big Surprise (2007).
  • Michele Serros, popular "chick lit" (or, as it's sometimes called, "chica lit") writer; author of books in English and Spanish, including Honey Blonde Chica (2007), How to Be a Chicana Role Model (2000), and Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories (1998).
I felt very privileged to be onstage with this group and to listen to their engaging stories about what inspires them and how their careers evolved. I look forward to reviewing some of their books for this blog in the coming months.

I was also happy to see other authors in the audience, including emerging writer Vanessa Libertad Garcia, author of The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive (2009); and Roberta H. Martinez, author of Latinos in Pasadena (2009). Both of these very talented authors have previously been profiled and their books reviewed in this blog.

The types of writing represented by this group of authors covers the gamut from poetry, short stories, novels, young adult books, "chick lit," children's books, memoirs, and scholarly nonfiction, to social commentary/political cartoons. All of these authors write in English, so their literature is widely accessible to all cultures. Some of their works--such as that by Reyna Grande--are indeed taught in school settings. Several of these authors write in Spanish and bilingually as well as in English.

Many, if not all, of the authors honored at Pan American Bank have author websites. See the LBFF site for a full listing of these sites. Visit them, enjoy, and read the works of these dedicated writers!

Monday, June 28, 2010


There is no shortage of Latina literary talent in America today!

One of my aims in this website is to highlight the writings of Latinas who came to the United States from different origins—often from families, and with families, who spoke little or no English. Yet these Latinas not only learned their adopted land’s tongue, but they mastered it in ways that reveal their giftedness, their artistry, and that set them apart as literary leaders in a nation that values creativity and innovation.

These Latina authors have contributed, and continue to contribute, greatly to the richness of our American literature—and they should be acknowledged as examples of newcomers to our nation who enrich our lives and our society with their intellectual gifts. Two such amazing authors are Caridad Piñeiro and Reyna Grande. These Latinas are widely different in their genres and backgrounds, yet both are masters of their art. These talented writers are the first to be honored in this section.


Caridad was born in Havana, Cuba, but was raised in Long Island, New York, where she quickly distinguished herself as a scholar, academic leader, and pioneering attorney (first woman partner in the Abelman, Frayne & Schwab law firm). Caridad recently said: “My family and I always watched scary movies, so the paranormal element always intrigued me. I was a science major in college and decided to blend that love of science with the paranormal.”

Luckily for all of us readers!

Author of 24 paranormal/suspense romance books, Caridad is often considered one of the superstars of this writing genre, distinguishing herself as a bestselling author on the New York Times and USA Today lists. In one year alone (2007), Caridad published six books and was honored with the Golden Apple Author of the Year by the New York City Romance Writers association. Other awards and honors bestowed upon her include: the Best Short Contemporary Romance of 2001 in the NJ Romance Writers Golden Leaf Contest; the Top Fantasy Books of 2005 and 2006 by Catalina magazine; and Top Nocturne of 2006 by Cataromance.

One of her newest romance novels is Sins of the Flesh (2009), in which a beautiful, terminally-ill musician, Caterina Shaw, who is of mixed ethnic heritage, becomes a guinea pig for medical experimentation that turns deadly. After she escapes from the tortures she’s being subjected to in the lab, she is targeted for death. Lonely, sardonic bounty hunter Mick Carrera is hired to kill her, but—as he learns more and more about Caterina—Mick switches his loyalty...and goes on a different mission. His loving Latino family, especially his physician sister, play a pivotal role in the plot. Caridad’s skilled weaving of mystery and suspense, spiced with scientific, futuristic possibilities of the medical world, keep the reader in suspense throughout.

Caridad’s dialogue is very realistic, and her descriptive prowess in depicting Caterina’s other-worldly transformations due to the drugs forced into her system fill the pages with excitement. Each character reminds us of someone we know, or of someone we could know; yet each character is unique in his or her presentation. Mick is a detective who rivals the classic good guys of commercial fiction for many decades past, yet Mick’s Latino heritage distinguishes him from other heroes.

At last, Latino readers have romantic heroes and heroines we bond with, we admire and root for, and these Latinos are, ultimately, the universal heroes everyone can relate to. Caridad reminds us that—even as we celebrate the cultural uniqueness of ethnic heroes—in the end, we are all the same, striving for the same dreams, feeling the same emotions, fighting the same fears.

Sins of the Flesh is available, along with Caridad’s other books, at or from your favorite bookstore. Visit her website at


California author Reyna Grande was born in Mexico in 1975 and came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant when she was 9 years old to reunite with her parents. In Los Angeles, Reyna quickly flourished in school and bonded with books at an early age. She became the first in her family to attend college, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/Film/Video from the University of California, Santa Cruz; and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Antioch University.

Reyna shares her deep love affair with literature with schoolchildren across the state and with college students across the nation, who study her books in their coursework. In addition, she teaches creative writing workshops in Los Angeles and volunteers in other literacy efforts, such as judging prominent literary competitions and coordinating the prestigious annual Latino Book & Family Festival in Los Angeles, which is slated for October 9-10 this year.

Reyna’s first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (2006), won substantial critical acclaim, resulting in her winning El Premio Aztlan Literary Award (2006) and an American Book Award (2007). Her second novel, Dancing with Butterflies (2009), has also received wide praise and promises to become another literary pick for college course reading lists. It was selected by Las Comadres Book Club for January 2010, and it won a 2010 International Latino Book Award in its Best Women's Issues category.

In Dancing with Butterflies, four very different women, whose commonality is their affiliation with a folklorico dancing company, take turns narrating their lives. The women—Yesenia, Elena, Adriana, and Soledad—represent different generations with distinct challenges: a poignant struggle with middle age and its theft of vigor and beauty (Yesenia); the immense loneliness of widowhood and difficulty of fighting sexual temptation (Elena); the woundedness of growing up ignored and unloved (Adriana); and the sadness of severing cultural and familial roots for the sake of economic survival in a foreign land (Soledad).

Though Reyna’s characters are distinct from one another in their talents, goals, and needs, collectively they represent the suffering that surfaces in everyday life as we tackle demons we don’t always know we carry inside us. Reyna also underscores the interconnectedness of our lives, the webs that join us to one another to bring us solace, to heighten our pain, or to remind us that, for better or worse, all humanity is one.

Reyna’s language sweeps us from wherever we are while reading her book. We suddenly find ourselves on the edge of the stage as the swift, fluttering movements of butterflies, in all their color and grace, are recalled in the movements of folklorico dancers. Reyna writes: “Your feet seem to float over the floor as you twirl and twirl around and around before jumping into the arms of your partner....The stage is a flurry of dancers whirling and stomping. The audience breaks into a rhythmic clapping as they follow the lively song in 2/4 beat.” The fluidity and beauty of this iconic dance ultimately contrasts with the starkness and gracelessness of issues that litter our day and force our attention away from the grander things in life, away from love, serenity, confidence, and hope.

Reyna Grande is just getting started in making a memorable mark in our literary world. She is currently at work on a memoir. Both of her books can be purchased at your favorite bookstore or through Visit Reyna’s website at .

[This blog was originally posted on my other blog, LatinaWriter99, in June, 2010.)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Sandra Lopez, the author of the newly published young adult novel, Beyond the Gardens (2009), is a literary force to watch. She has been precocious for most of her life: reading books at the age of two, being the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, being one of the youngest emerging authors today. She recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton, and is ready to take on the literary world.

Her first novel was published before Sandra graduated from college. This debut book, Esperanza: A Latina Story (2008), depicts a teenager from a poverty-stricken home marked by domestic abuse, alcoholism and other drug abuse, gangland connections among her father and other relatives, and a saddening absence of hope for the future. Her barrio, Hawaiian Gardens in Los Angeles, could easily defeat her, as a friend tries to tie her down to early marriage at the cost of her education. When Esperanza enters high school, she faces bullies, peer pressure to meet low expectations, and the tremendous possibility that she, too, will become just another Latina dropout. Esperanza has no role models, no home support, but she finds strength she did not realize she had and fights against obstacles to fulfill her dreams.

In her new book, a sequel, Esperanza is now 18 years old and enrolled in an art college, pursuing her dreams with financial aid. Her life is upended when friends from her past re-enter: Carlos, who is now interested in her romantically, and his sister, Carla, who had urged Esperanza to marry her brother while in high school. Esperanza also contends with her roommate, a rich Chicana; and with Jake, a hunky mechanic who seems to be her soulmate. Life becomes complicated for Esperanza as she constantly wonders what is “beyond the gardens” of her barrio, and what life can possibly hold for her.

Both of Sandra’s books are available through You can visit her website at .

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


Sometimes "new writers," or those who have not yet attained name recognition, have been writing for years. Such is the case with Los Angeles native Vanessa Libertad Garcia, who has been filling journals with poems, stories, and screenplays since she was 11. She now has over 30 of those journals and is mining them for her second book, which will be a collection of poetry.

Vanessa's first book, The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive (Fiat Libertad Co., 2009), is a slim volume of 23 short pieces, some of them poems, many of them first-person or third-person vignettes that capture a few minutes or hours of a given character’s “despicable, embarrassing, or repulsive” life.

Gritty and unflinching, the tone of the book is one of desperation and starkness as each character depicted—Marta, a young, disenchanted lesbian; or Diaz Diaz, a gay fashion designer, for example—speaks to us of their heartbreak, alienation, and sometimes of suicidal plans. The personas that Vanessa invokes are products of a society that is too fast-paced, too materialistic, and too shallow for twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings trying to find a meaningful niche in life, as they struggle simultaneously to pay bills, be successful in a career, find true love, or simply forge a connection to someone or something outside of themselves that can make their lives fulfilling. Welcome to the underbelly of Los Angeles.

The voices of each persona is poignant and heart-wrenching. Vanessa describes “sweet-scented one-dimensional images that pop out at you like an early Warhol painting” (in “Longing”). There is little self-pitying though, no sugarcoating of the raw emotions that spill from her characters, many of whom are gay addicts who have seemingly accepted their sex orientations but nevertheless struggle to navigate life.

Matter-of-fact language, which contributes to the non-judgmental tone of the book and its authenticity, is often balanced against poetic descriptions or observations that catch the reader by surprise. For example: “Parasites of the night, dressed to the 9[‘s]/living off the small pints of love/stored in our words” (from “The Dead End Days”). Or: “The sun shuts its lids and the moon clocks in.” “Sadness already home invites guilt in for coffee” (both from “Lament”).

Yet, amidst the jadedness and sadness are subtle beams of hope for these young lives. In “Compassion,” toward the end of the book, Vanessa writes: “We are curious children/ with adult powers/that clumsily break the china.” She ends her book thus: “The crumbling world/ is always pieced together by time/and space....Justice eventually finds its place in line.”

Vanessa gives us a glimpse of lives in torment but also reminds us that lives are not frozen in time but are forever evolving, and we must stay open to the possibilities of change.

This book is available at I'll let you know when Vanessa Libertad Garcia's second book is published.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Introducing: Some New Names and Books

The goal of this blog is to recognize the literary work of current Latina/o authors, most of whom were born in the United States.
  • In my early blog posts a few years ago, I discussed some "pioneers" of modern Hispanic American literature, authors such as Richard Vasquez, Rudolfo Anaya, Estela Portillo de Trambley, and Tomas Rivera. It's vital that our country recognize and honor the writers who led the awakening of this modern literature in the 1960s and 1970s and paved the path for generations of Latina/o authors to contribute to the greatness of American literature in all its genres. (See my archived posts.)
  • I've also enjoyed writing about prominent authors and their continuing achievements, folks such as Sandra Cisneros, Pat Mora, Daniel Olivas, and Gary Soto. The present cadre of accomplished Latina/o authors are changing the literary landscape; are making their presence and influence felt in literature classrooms across America; and need our support and attention so they may continue thriving.
  • At other times, I introduce writers making their debut on the literary scene, or folks who have not yet attained name recognition...but their merits and efforts warrant our recognition and discussion of their work.
In the spirit of the latter...


Sandra Alonzo is the author of a new young adult novel titled Riding Invisible: An Adventure Journal, to be officially released on March 2. I'm looking forward to reading it and talking about it on this blog. Just for you to know, however, this will be Sandra's second book. Her first, Gallop-O-Gallop, was published in 2007 and has received warm praise from her readers, who laud Sandra's "very accessible verse" and "wonderful and evocative picture book," which was illustrated by Kelly Murphy. The lovely, lyrical poems are brief enough for young readers to understand and enjoy, yet equally delightful for adults. One educator praises Gallop-O-Gallop thus: "This book is excellent for the classroom! ...The author weaves a beautiful tapestry of equine tales that's soothing for both young and old." Read more reader reviews of Sandra's book on

Sandra, who grew up near Los Angeles, always loved horses and had them as a child. As an adult now living in Central California, she still owns a horse and relishes nature by exploring the mountains near her home on horseback. Get in line for your copy of Riding Invisible, which is actually already posted on for sale. Both books are available through that website. Sandra's website is


Daniel A. Olivas, another fellow Californian, is an example of an author who has made a mark on the literary scene. His five books have received wide praise from other renowned authors, and his writing is studied and analyzed in classrooms across America. He has just released his fifth and newest book, a collection of short stories titled Anywhere but L.A. This work includes stories Daniel wrote earlier in his career ("Gordon," a whimsical story about a talking dog, e.g.) as well as new ones ("Blue" and "The Jew of Dos Cuentos," e.g.).

Daniel's effortless writing style and ability to capture a character in broad, descriptive strokes engage readers as they switch from story to story in his new book. No two stories are the same stylistically or rhetorically, and this diversity of presentation keeps the reader on his or her toes. Consider "Let Me Tell You a Story," which is told in first-person narrative by an aggressive, rough-talking young man whose family is destroyed by his carelessness. The story's language is raw and effective, and readers can "hear" the urgency of this character as he defends what he did. On the other hand, "Blue" is told cryptically by a young woman in ten distinct little segments that describe, in her words, certain seemingly innocuous events and people in her life, but these anecdotes are highly nuanced and poetic; and the reader must be careful not to miss anything between the lines. The events are not chronological, and the non-linear telling of her life story makes "Blue" mystical, poignant, and fragile.

At a recent book reading in Pasadena, California, Daniel explained how he often uses music as a means of stirring up his creativity. "Blue," he said, was inspired by Joni Mitchell's music. Daniel also discussed the challenge of balancing his everyday profession as an attorney with his great love of writing. He also visits public school classrooms and advocates for all children's literacy. Daniel Olivas is an important presence in our literature, and his works touch all people, from all backgrounds, because he portrays men, women, and children with simple but complex authenticity. Buy his books through, and visit his award-winning blog, La Bloga, at .


If you want to read a lot of Sandra Cisneros' work in one place, check out Vintage Cisneros (Vintage Books, 2004). Though this is not a new book, it is exceptionally handy and inspiring. Readers not familiar with Sandra's writing can get satiating doses of her talent in this slim paperback volume. It includes excerpts from five of her books, such as The House on Mango Street,  her seminal work; and from her newest one, Caramelo. Poetry, short stories, and novel excerpts are alternated through this book, keeping the pace lively and totally engaging. This book, like almost all the ones mentioned in my blog, is available through


Have you heard about Reyna Grande yet? You should, because her fame is spreading, and her talent is increasing quickly. I'll discuss her and her new book, Dancing With Butterflies, which was published a few months ago, in my next blog. Her star is on the rise!

Tell your friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and anyone else you can grab about this website. Tell them they need to keep up with what our American Latinas/os are writing about and teaching us. There are many insights to gain, much wisdom to absorb! 

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What Will 2010--the Proverbial "New Decade"--Bring for American Latina/o Authors?

Here's my wish: inspiration, perseverance, exposure, recognition, and continued melding into mainstream American "publication" in all its manifestations: print, electronic, and entertainment venues.

Of course, dearest to my heart is the literary arena, because this involves schools and classrooms, literature and composition courses from grade school through universities, and this is where quality is presented, analyzed, discussed, and worked with, in projects, plays, panel discussions, role-playing, etc... year after year, decade after decade, and even through centuries.

  • Literature endures and forms part of a nation's cultural foundation.
  • Literature creates an identity for large groups of people, and helps people understand one another: our histories, our struggles and achievements, our universality and brotherhood across racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural divides.
  • Literature is the finest expression in words of our hopes and dreams...of our souls!
So my strongest wishes for the New Year are:
  • that the literary creations of American Hispanics--men and women, young and old, across all genres, across our nation--shall ever more strongly integrate into the tapestry of AMERICAN LITERATURE;
  • that our literary contributions shall not only be recognized and published, but that our creations shall be of such quality, they are respected, quoted, cited, and spoken of in the same breath as are the literary works of other respected "mainstream" authors today;
  • that our literary creations shall be read in classrooms across America and will be discussed and analyzed with all the attention and valuing that traditional authors have received in English classrooms throughout time;
  • that students of all colors and all ages shall be exposed to the literature of American Hispanic authors so that, in time, our literature will be--quite simply--AMERICAN LITERATURE, with all the cultural respect that term carries.

To my knowledge, no American Hispanic (Latina/o born in the United States, which is the focus of my blog) has ever won a literary Pulitzer Prize. They may have been nominated, and they may have won other respectable prizes...but not the Pulitzer. I welcome my readers to correct me. Write me an email and set me straight!

Yet the literary Pulitzer Prize is the strongest affirmation that our country bestows upon its authors. It brings with it the credibility and admiration that authors generally want. It helps to insure the longevity of that author's words, the weight these words carry, the meanings that generations of readers will dissect and reflect upon. The Prize helps authors be inducted into the realm of AMERICAN LITERATURE.

May 2010 be a year in which an American Latina/o writer is not only nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, but the year in which the Prize is won. And if this is not to be, may 2010 be the year in which many American Latina/o authors begin seriously laying the groundwork to deserve and win such an honor.


U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt spoke movingly about "the man in the arena"--a person who has the courage to put himself/herself "out there," to take risks, to take action to pursue his or her dreams, to make things happen. The man in the arena might get knocked down, might fail, but this person continues to actively pursue whatever goals he or she has set, continues striving toward success.

May 2010 be the year in which American Latina/o writers today shed our fears of literary rejection. May it be the year in which we shed our doubts about our abilities to make the written word sing. May it be the year in which we create, create, and create some more and send our writings by the thousands to literary journals, magazines, newspapers, and editors all over America!

May 2010 be the year in which vaunted literary journals like Glimmer Train and Tin House are swamped with story and poem submissions by American Latinas/os in numbers unseen before! May it be the year in which they--and other prominent literary venues that rarely publish Latina/o authors--realize our critical mass and take notice that our literature needs to take its place in mainstream literature...that our writings are highly worthy of being published by the best and read and adored by the best.

May 2010 be the year in which prestigious, highly exclusive annual anthologies--such as Best American Short Stories of 2009, or Best American Poems of 2009, for example--include a respectable number of American Latina/o authors in its pages...or, at least, the year in which our Hispanic authors lay the groundwork for this happening next year.

Let's put ourselves "in the arena." Let's show, in large numbers, what has been hiding in the literary shadows of America. And may it make us all proud!

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In a recent blog, I spoke about Pasadena author, Randy Jurado Ertll, who has recently published his first book, a memoir titled Hope in Times of Darkness. Randy is a Salvadoran-American, and his book is doing well, I'm very happy to say. Here is some information about an upcoming reading/discussion that Randy will hold in Pasadena. All are invited.

WHEN: Friday, January 8, 2010 12:00 p.m.
WHERE: La Pintoresca Public Library
1355 North Raymond Avenue, Pasadena , CA 91103-2235