From her personal diaries to the portable Canon typewriter she used to create her work, noted author Sandra Cisneros’ archives are a literary treasure trove mapping out the career of one of America’s leading writers.
Now, the Sandra Cisneros archive at The Wittliff Collections will finally open with a free, scholarly symposium April 29-30 celebrating the works and career of the Chicana author who is often credited with helping boost Latino literature.
The symposium, which will be held from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the seventh floor of the Alkek Library, will feature speakers such as Texas poet laureate Laurie Ann Guerrero, Tey Marianna Nunn from the National Hispanic Cultural Center and Norma Alarcón from the University of California-Berkeley.
On April 30, The Wittliff Collections will present a reading by Cisneros as well as a conversation between her and author John Phillip Santos.
Cisneros’ 1984 novel “The House on Mango Street” has sold more than six million copies worldwide and continues to influence new generations of Latinos.
When Chicana feminist Gloria Anzaldúa released the groundbreaking book “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” she triggered an awakening among many Latinas, including me, struggling to find their place in the world.
Growing up on the border means having plural identities, a cultural fluidity that runs through the veins. When I left the borderlands to live in Austin more than a decade ago, I was confronted with my own multiple identities for the first time. Too Mexican for some and not Mexican enough for others. Anzaldúa taught us that existing between two worlds was not only OK, but it was powerful.
Anzaldúa’s work has been celebrated in everything from scholarly research to documentaries, and now her words have inspired the anthology “Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzaldúan borderlands,” edited by Austin-based poet Ire’ne Lara Silva (who was featured in our Emmy-nominated project “Austin Gente”) and poet Dan Vera.
The unprecedented collection, which showcases more than 50 diverse poets who reflect on the idea of borders and Anzaldúa’s work, will be the focus of a poetry symposium on Feb. 18 at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center. A free workshop on how to write poetry and essay hybrids starts at 3 p.m. followed by a reception and reading at 5 p.m. Visit austintexas.gov for more details.
‘Orange is the New Black’ star Diane Guerrero grew tired of interviews focused on her beauty routine and favorite lipstick. It was time, she says, to tell her real story.
Guerrero recently released the book “In The Country We Love: My Family Divided,” which reveals layers about the actress that go beyond the life of a television star. At a packed Texas Book Festival tent on Saturday, Guerrero shared parts of her personal journey as the child of undocumented Colombian immigrants who were deported when she was a teenager.
Guerrero will never forget the day when at 14, she came home from school and discovered that her family was gone. She remembers seeing her mother’s rice and beans in the kitchen, a sign that she had already started dinner. A neighbor told her that immigration officers had removed her family, and all of a sudden Guerrero’s world turned upside down.
The morning her parents were taken away, Guerrero remembers running late for school and arguing with her mother about eating breakfast. “It was a huge fight,” she says. “The whole day at school I was thinking about this fight, so when I got home I was going to say sorry.” But she never got the chance.
Guerrero’s father had prepared her for the possibility that someday the family might be deported, and so she went to stay with friends. “That day I made decision to stay,” she says. “People ask me why I didn’t go with my family, but I’m an American citizen. The U.S. is all I know. I decided to stay, so that I could eventually make my parents proud.”
As American readers keep pushing for diversity in literature, Austin360’s Cultura en Austin blog will continue to highlight works by Latino authors and books with Latino themes.
This roundup, which isn’t a comprehensive list, is based on advanced copies of books received in the last couple of months.
“Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me” by Ana Castillo
The Feminist Press at CUNY ($16.95), released May 2016
Celebrated Chicana writer and feminist Ana Castillo gives readers a glimpse into her life after the incarceration of her son. She weaves stories about her family’s history in Mexico and the U.S. and opens up about the love of her life who left her heartbroken. Castillo, who’s also a playwright, poet and scholar, is among the major voices in contemporary Chicano literature. Her classic collection of essays, “Massacre of the Dreamers” celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2014.
“The Clouds” by Juan José Saer
Open Letter at the University of Rochester ($14.95), released May 2016
Argentine author Juan José Saer’s faux historical novel gets translated from its original Spanish version in this latest release. Saer, who died in his adopted home of France in 2005, takes readers to present-day Paris in this novel where someone discovers a manuscript that could be either fictional or a memoir. In the manuscript, a nineteenth century physician takes five mental patients on an eventful trip to a new asylum.
“The Other Slavery” by Andrés Reséndez
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt ($30), released April 2016
Professor and historian Andrés Reséndez shines a light on an eye-opening part of American history – the enslavement of American Indians across the U.S. dating back from the conquistadors to the early 20th century. Reséndez argues that “mass slavery was more damaging than the disease epidemics that decimated indigenous populations across North America.”
“The Inspiring Life of Texan Héctor P. García” by Cecilia García Akers
The History Press ($21.99), released April 2016
Cecilia García Akers, the daughter of influential Texan Héctor P. García, brings the accomplishments of her father to the forefront in this inspiring biography. In 1940, he was the only Mexican immigrant who graduated from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. García went on to become a physician and activist who served in World War II and then later founded the American GI Forum.
“Graphic Borders: Latino Comic Books Past, Present, and Future” co-edited by Frederick Luis Aldama & Christopher González
University of Texas Press ($29.95), released April 2016
From boundary-pushing comics created by Latinos to the Latino superheroes found in mainstream comics, “Graphic Borders” explores the creative ways comics can express Latino identity and culture. It’s the first volume in a series dedicated to world comics and graphic nonfiction.
“Raza Rizing: Chicanos in North Texas” by Richard J. Gonzales
University of North Texas Press ($29.95), released March 2016
From marches on immigration reform to inside a Fort Worth public school classroom, author Richard J. Gonzales takes readers to important historical and political events in recent history that helped shape the Chicano community in North Texas.
“Latino Young Men and Boys in Search of Justice: Testimonies” Co-edited by Frank de Jesús Acosta and Henry A. J. Ramos
Arte Público Press($16.95), released March 2016
This collection brings together moving first-person essays, poems and letters by Latino men and boys who have been or are incarcerated. In their writings they reflect on their past and future including writing letters to their younger selves. Some community advocates also write essays seeking criminal and juvenile justice system reform. Drawings and artwork are also featured.
“A History of Violence: Living and Dying in Central America” by Óscar Martínez
Verso Books ($24.95), released March 2016
Acclaimed Salvadorean author and journalist Óscar Martínez’ latest book chronicles the underbelly of some of the world’s most dangerous places. Martínez, who is also the author of the award-winning book “The Beast,” goes undercover to drink with narcos, rides in trafficking boats and hides out with a gang informer as part of his immersive account of the region.
“Verdict in the Desert” by Patricia Santos Marcantonio
Arte Público Press ($17.95), released March 2016
Former crime reporter Patricia Santos Marcantonio crafts a courtroom drama exploring race and class in 1950s America. Her latest novel also weaves in a tale of forbidden love as it tells the story of the unlikely meeting of an alcoholic lawyer and a college-educated Mexican American woman who are brought together by a murder case.
“Look into My Eyes: Nuevomexicanos por Vida” by Kevin Bubriski
Museum of New Mexico Press ($39.95), released March 2016
New Mexican photographer Kevin Bubriski captures stunning photos of life in the Land of Enchantment from 1981-1983. The striking black and white portraits document everyone from lowrider bikers to festival queens.
“Entre Guadalupe y Malinche: Tejanas in Literature and Art” edited by Inés Hernández-Ávila & Norma Elia Cantú
University of Texas Press ($34.95), released February 2016
More than fifty authors and eight artists make up the first Tejana literature and art anthology. The project, according to the editors, took nearly 20 years to complete. The book highlights everything from poetry, artwork and personal essays from some of the state’s most influential women including Pat Mora, the 2015 Texas Book Festival Texas Writer Award recipient and the late Chicana feminist writer and scholar Gloria Anzaldúa.
“The Coyote’s Bicycle: The Untold Story of Seven Thousand Bicycles and the Rise of a Borderland Empire” by Kimball Taylor
Tin House Books ($26. 95), released February 2016
Journalist Kimball Taylor grew curious when he first encountered abandoned bicycles across the Tijuana border. That curiosity led him to uncover the story behind a multi-million dollar business led by a coyote who brought undocumented immigrants into the U.S. on bicycles.
“Perfect Days” by Raphael Montes
Penguin Press ($25.00), released February 2016
One of Brazil’s rising crime novelists brings a twisted tale of suspense that’s been described as creepier than “Gone Girl.” In his psychological thriller, author Raphael Montes tells the story of unrequited love between a loner and an aspiring screenwriter who’s his exact opposite. When she rejects him, he kidnaps her and attempts to retrace a bizarre road trip she wrote about in one of her screenplays.
“Blood Sugar Canto” by Ire’ne Lara Silva
Saddle Road Press ($16.00), released January 2016
Award-winning Austin poet Ire’ne Lara Silva explores the struggles of diabetes in uniquely personal prose. A masterful wordsmith, Silva opens her heart with readers and shares stories about her own diagnosis and the healing process. Silva also co-coordinates Austin’s Flor De Nopal Literary Festival.
There is a street corner in the city of Laredo, known as the doorway to the United States and Mexico, where two streets converge like the history of the Tejana writers. It was upon the sight of this corner sign, Malinche and Guadalupe, that the writers and editors of the first ever Tejana literature anthology, Inés Hernández-Ávila and Norma Elia Cantú, decided upon the name for their book. On Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th, the editors, along with other of the participating writers, will present their book “Entre Guadalupe y Malinche” and hold a literature symposium at the Emma S. Barrientos Mexican-American Cultural Center.
The symbolic meaning of these two iconic figures, for which the streets are named after, synthesizes the identity of the chicana woman. It is here, where the “root of the tejana reality is found, deep within the history and the contemporary reality,” explains Cantu, professor of Latina/Latino Studies and English at the University of Missouri in Kansas City.
La Malinche, the native woman who betrayed her people by aiding Hernán Cortez, the conqueror, is the symbol for the creation of a mixed race. She also represents the oppression and colonization, of women, culture and history. Guadalupe, the virgin who appeared to the indigenous people, carries with her all what is divine. She embodies passion, love, and commitment to the less fortunate.
Both women serve as inspiration to analyze the role that history, culture, language, and political events have had in the work of the more than 50 Tejana writers and eight visual artists that take part in this anthology.
The symposium offers an opportunity for other writers and the public in general to come and celebrate this book, explore as a community the topics presented, and delve in the art of writing, said Ire’ne Lara Silva, organizer of the event. Lara Silva, a poet and published writer, with five years of experience organizing the Flor de Nopal literary workshops, is also featured in the book along with other local chicana figures like Susana Almanza, and our own Statesman contributor and poet Liliana Valenzuela.
Other very well known authors in the book are Gloria Anzaldúa, Emma Pérez, Alicia Gaspar de Alba, Carmen Tafolla, and Pat Mora, and artists such as Carmen Lomas Garza, Kathy Vargas, Santa Barraza, and more.
“There are many writers coming from all over the state and even from Norway to attend this symposium,” said Lara Silva. There will be a reading with the authors on Friday at 7 p.m., and on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and until 6 p.m. there will be writing workshops, poetry readings, and the opportunity to have a dialogue with the writers, she explained. All the events are free and open to the public.
Many feel intimidated by the terms feminism or chicana identity, however, Cantu explains that “the equality that feminism calls for affects all, including men. Similarly, the topic of tejana may be culturally focused on Mexican Texans but it speaks to all of us, and not just those in Texas!” The work presented by this anthology, and by the authors who will attend the symposium cover a more universal topic, “it speaks about how to survive everyday hardships and how to imagine new futures as individual and as a society,” said Lara Silva.
This is an opportunity “to appreciate the diversity and talent that exists in our community,” said Cantú. “It took us almost twenty years to finish this book,” but the effort has taught her that “you can’t deny or abandon the work that matters, as Gloria Anzaldúa said ‘Do work that matters.” Bringing together all this talent and giving Austinites and Texans the opportunity to explore the life experiences of tejana writers at the ESB-MACC this weekend, is an experience that matters.
(To check out the Spanish version of this blog, click here.)
IF YOU GO…
WHAT: Entre Guadalupe y Malinche book presentation and symposium (in English)
WHEN: Friday 26, 7 p.m. and Saturday 27, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
WHERE: Emma S. Barrientos Mexican American Cultural Center, 600 River St.
More than ever American readers are seeking books that reflect the communities around them. The national We Need Diverse Books movement, which children’s book authors launched in 2014, has grown to include a demand for multicultural books of all genres. It’s sparked conversations in the literary world about everything from inclusion of diverse characters in books to a lack of diversity in publishing.
Wings Press, ($18.95), released Oct. 2015
The best of San Antonio Express-News poetry columnist Robert Bonazzi’s work are woven together in “Outside the Margins.” Over the years, his essays and criticisms have been praised by literary giants including Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Octavio Paz. “Thanks to Robert Bonazzi for writing so enthusiastically about the poetry of Latin America, especially for his insightful essay on (Peruvian poet) César Vallejo,” Paz wrote. In this book, Bonazzi focuses on poets and writers from Texas, the Southwest, Mexico and Latin America. “A Fighting Chance” by Claudia Meléndez Salinas
Piñata Books, Arte Público Press, ($10.95), released Oct. 2015
In her debut novel for young adults, award-winning multimedia journalist Claudia Meléndez Salinas brings us the story of 17-year-old Miguel Ángel. He dreams of becoming a boxing champion one day – it’s the only way his mother and five siblings will be able to leave his gang-ridden neighborhood. But his life gets complicated when he’s faced with temptations that threaten his future.
Arte Público Press, ($17.95), released Sept. 2015
Greed, barbarism and feminism. They’re all themes that internationally renowned Mexican novelist and essayist Carmen Boullosa explores in her latest book, which examines the issues that unite and separate Americans and Mexicans from the 19th century to the present. Her collection of 29 thought-provoking essays include subjects such as Occupy Wall Street and the lack of recognition for the work by female artists. The book includes both Boullosa’s Spanish version and the English translation by Nicolás Kanellos.
University of Texas Press, ($24.95), released in July 2015
As founder and director of the Austin-based Voces Oral History Project (formerly the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project) Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez has helped bring the stories of Latinos throughout the decades to the forefront. Her latest book highlights three little-known advancements in Mexican American civil rights including the launching of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).
Texas Tech University Press, ($39.95), released in July 2015
What was life like for women in the borderlands during the 1700 and 1800s? Author Amy M. Porter, an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University-San Antonio took an interesting approach to answering that question by examining the wills of women in the Spanish and Mexican colonial communities of places such as Santa Fe, El Paso and San Antonio. These wills and testaments revealed details about everything from religion and family to economics and culture.
Author Nelson A. Denis tells the intriguing story of the Puerto Rican independence revolt of 1950, when the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico launched an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the U.S. Denis dug into de-classified FBI files, congressional testimonies, oral histories and more to bring this little-known history to light.
The first time that legendary Brazilian artist Caetano Veloso, a founder of the Tropicália movement, was booed on stage was when he plugged into an electric guitar at a show. The left-wing intellectuals, he says, wouldn’t stand for it. Rock ‘n’ roll music was considered too vulgar. Decades later, Veloso would learn that a similar incident happened to Bob Dylan, an artist who he’s often compared to.
The celebrated musician, often hailed as one of the world’s greatest songwriters, recounted moments from his storied life from the stigma of rock ‘n’ roll in the early 1960s to his forced exile from Brazil.
During the 1960s, Veloso reimagined popular Brazilian music by experimenting with new sounds and incorporating musical influences from near and far. While he grew up listening to American music like Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald, it wasn’t until 1965 that he fell in love with rock. “I was one of those pretentious people, not interested in rock ‘n’ roll, but then I started listening to rock with different ears.” The Tropicalía movement was born, but its political nature wasn’t tolerated by the oppressive military dictatorship that ruled Brazil at the time.
Veloso, along with fellow Tropicália movement musician Gilberto Gil, was forced into exile in London from 1968–1972. When he met Gil, he said it was like “love at first sight.” Veloso had seen him on television and adored his music, and credits Gil with elevating his musicianship. “I looked at his hands and tried to reproduce what he was doing,” Veloso said.
Their music, though, got them arrested and the two eventually ended up in Portugal, Paris and then London. “We never thought of coming to the U.S. because the country was in turmoil with students protesting the Vietnam War,” he said. Tensions in Paris at the time were high as well, and Veloso says he had to show his passport at every corner. He followed advice to head to London, where the atmosphere was calmer and the music scene was strong, but Veloso never felt at home.
“I found it dark and gloomy,” he said. “I missed Brazil enormously. I hated that Brazil had become my enemy because it was one of the things that I loved most in my life.” While life in London was miserable at first, he eventually warmed up to the country more by his second year there.
When he returned to Brazil, he had found that his exile had changed him in many ways, but one especially surprising outcome for him was his yearning to be a father. He and his wife had originally planned on not having children.”I have three boys now, and it was because I went back to Brazil.”
The Modern Language Association’s annual convention, which gathers in Austin through Sunday, highlights Latino culture in numerous featured sessions and presentations of academic research. The gathering of more than 7,500 scholars includes more than 800 sessions on language and literature, among other topics.
Latin American writers and musicians such as legendary Brazilian artist Caetano Veloso are among the featured speakers. Presentations focus on everything from the legacy of Gabriel García Márquez to Latino/a comics.
At a Friday afternoon session on Materiality and Mexican Culture, Nicholas Cifuentes-Goodbody of Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar presented the paper “Like a Virgin: Distroller and the Mass Production of the Virgin of Guadalupe,” where he explores the holy image of the Virgin and how its been replicated as well as the role of kitsch and camp objects. He introduced audiences to a popular cartoon version of the Virgen de Guadalupe, called Virgencita Plis.
Other papers featured the poetics of Nahui Lin and the pyramids and stones of late 18th century Mexico. In the paper “Talking Furniture: The Human Science of Psychopedagogy and Hygiene in Postrevolutionary Mexico” by Susan Antebi of the University of Toronto, Antebi looked at the roles of school medical inspectors in the first decades of the 20th century in Mexico who, she says, had the job of simultaneously observing the health of the school children and the conditions of school buildings.
Many MLA sessions are free and open to the public. Here’s a complete list for the rest of the conference.
At a time when readers are demanding more diversity in books from all genres, it’s important to watch how our own Texas Book Festival seeks ways to boost the festival’s diversity. The popularity of the We Need Diverse Books movement, which was launched last year, keeps growing and has sparked conversations about everything from inclusion of diverse characters in books to a lack of diversity in publishing.
At this year’s Texas Book Festival, it was meaningful to see the festival’s top honor, the Texas Writer’s Award, recognize the work of Pat Mora. As a prolific author and founder of the children’s literacy program Día de los Libros/Día de los Niños, Mora has been breaking barriers for decades. She shared some lessons with the crowd including how we need to value bilingualism, the importance of perseverance, and the growing need for diverse role models.
Various other featured Latino authors, including Carmen Tafolla and Luis Alberto Urrea, spoke about everything from poetry to boxing. As festival organizers aim to increase diversity at the festival, it’ll be interesting to see how the event evolves.
Canadian writer and filmmaker Brin-Jonathan Butler spent more than a decade in Cuba where he examined the life-changing decision that boxing champions there face – stay in Cuba or defect to America and enjoy a huge payday?
This question, which grew out of his own search for world-class boxing training, led to the boxing memoir “The Domino Diaries: My Decade Boxing with Olympic Champions and Chasing Hemingway’s Ghost in the Last Days of Castro’s Cuba.”
Butler interviewed both boxers who turned down millions of dollars to stay in Cuba as well as boxers who defected to the United States. He says he realized it wasn’t that one decision made someone bad or good.
“The villain is that you have to make this choice,” he said at a Texas Book Festival panel on Sunday.
Some of the boxers who now led lives in Miami with big houses, pretty girlfriends and swimming pools, often stayed behind the walls of their mansions because they thought their new world felt dead and missed their street back home, he said.
“All these people had great stories about why they turned down the money,” he said. “I had heard what Fidel said and what ‘The Miami Herald’ said, but I wanted to hear it from the boxers themselves.”
Butler, an amateur boxer, has spent time in boxing gyms around the world. “They are a lifeline for many people,” he said. And contrary to what some may think, Butler says it’s also where you can find the most humble and gentle people.