Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Latino Family's Guide to Homeschooling


By Monica Olivera


  •             Paperback: 200 pages
  •             Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  •             Language: English
  •             ISBN-10: 1548594814
  •             ISBN-13: 978-1548594817



Homeschooling is quickly growing in popularity among minority families.

"The Latino Family’s Guide to Homeschooling" has been eight years in the making and is written by Monica Olivera, a Latina homeschooling mom. It is designed to help Latino and bilingual families get started on their homeschool journey.

Inside this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn the following:

• what is homeschooling?
• how to get started
• bilingual homeschooling
• homeschooling children with special needs or learning differences
• preschool & kindergarten
• homeschooling older children
• preparing for college

You’ll also read the stories of other successful homeschoolers, most from a variety of Hispanic or bilingual backgrounds. Learn about how and why they began homeschooling, and read their advice for teaching at home.

Filled with resources and tips for finding great curricula, as well as advice for daily learning, this book is a must-have for every Latino family considering homeschooling.


Monica Olivera is a Latina homeschooling mom and freelance education writer. She is dedicated to Latino children’s education and shares resources for parents who homeschool or simply want to be more involved in their children’s education on her website, MommyMaestra.com. Her articles have appeared on NBCNews.com, PBS Parents, FOX News Latino, LatinaMom.me, and many other sites.



Tuesday, August 15, 2017

YA Review: U of Doom. No Border Wall On-line Floricanto.

It's the U in DOOM That Counts

Review: Mario Acevedo. University of Doom. Erie, CO: Hex Publishers, 2015.
ISBN 9780996403986 (print. also in E-book 9780996403993)

Michael Sedano


Upon first reading Mario Acevedo's YA thriller, University of Doom--a real joy-ride of a novel--I had to stop and figure out how he does it, create the voice of a teenager in my head via the novel's omniscient narrator. Sabes que? Go with the flow and don't over-think stuff. Just enjoy the ride. Does anyone know what an E-Ticket ride is? University of Doom ia a whole book of E-coupons.

Wait! Don't judge this novel by its cover. The really heroic figures are two girls. A boy,  for sure is the lead--Alfonso Frankenstein, with a second fiddle partner, Greg Kaminsky. But behind this burgeoning mad scientist is a fearless, indomitable public school girl--Sarah--and a mad scientist-in-training, Lilith Vampira.

Acevedo packs a page with details, so many that a bare-bones outline does little to explain how much fun this book will be for teens and young readers.

Alfonso's dad, a descendant of that Frankenstein, gets booted out of his faculty spot at the University of Doom. Broke in spirit and money, father and son move into a real dump in a poverty neighborhood. Alfonso is totally immersed in his studies and knows nothing about girls, women, sex, and baseball.

Parents will be pleased at some of this. There is no sex, despite the author's reputation from his adult work for a no-holds-barred lubricity that makes his vampire/werewolf novels rare gems of adult speculative fiction. But there's baseball. Sarah introduces herself by flinging a catchable baseball Adolfo's way. He catches it with his face when he doesn't understand Sarah's friendly gesture, "catch!"

There's a jerk of a bully, a baseball star whose prowess makes him largely immune to rules. How does a kid deal with an overpowering bully? Stand up to him. Fight him. Beat him in baseball. Except for the latter, that's Alfonso's way. He takes no crud from the punk, but corking baseball bats with mad scientist gear is cheating, and cheaters never win. There's more than one lesson for kids here, and that's a big one. The author makes sure the argument doesn't disappear by placing the cheating baseball game at the early chapters, then reminding readers of that episode as the book begins to wrap up the plot.

The biggest cheater is dad's nemesis, make that deadly enemy, Dr. Moriarty. Of those Moriartys. The evil-doer's plan to steal children's brains to drive cyborgs is genuinely lethal, but in a "oh, no, Alfonso and Sarah are going to foil this plot" way. As thrillers will do, every time the kids get close to that goal, a monster or another cyborg mucks up the works. Or Moriarty captures them and it looks like the kids are goners. Maybe they are--University of Doom features that kind of plotting and this review ain't gonna say.

Excitement reigns in this YA page-turner. YA and younger readers will thrill at Acevedo's wildly imaginative critters, and they'll learn a few things: some Latin, a handful of powerful vocabulary words, that Krakens and other monsters exist, that imagination, knowledge, and kid power overcomes all. That's not a spoiler because every step of the way comes with a montón of danger. Sarah is captured by a grizzly shark, but when Alfonso goes to save her, Sarah's baseball arm saves them by tossing a capsaicin-producing toad into the beast's gorge. No, that's not a spoiler. After that escape, they get captured again and... buy University of Doom. Read it. Give it to a kid. Once that kid gets into this absolutely fun novel, the kid will devour the pages like a furry land octopus devours anyone who moves near the campus quad.

University of Doom is 364 pages of puro fun. Let it be the last summer read before school starts. Kids will be back to school with a different perspective on rules, bullies, pendejas in the front office, pendejos behind the big desks, and will want to ace those SATs to qualify for matriculation to the University of Doom.

My copy of University of Doom arrived with a cool decal to mount in my car's rear windshield so I can pretend to be a degreed alumnus. Fight on for ol' UD.

Read Ernest Hogan's review of University of Doom (link)




Have You Volunteered Today?

Here is information from Reading Partners, a nationwide organization that helps community members volunteer to be reading tutors in a local school, to increase the potential of a nation's most valuable asset: literate people.




Click here to view the Full Impact Report.

Unities, Imperatives, and Regeneration: Getting Involved in Your Future

Organizers invite adults and 17 or older teenagers to this modern teach-in. Community, educators, student activists, parents will find value in the meeting and take home effective strategies to launch or support programs of relevancy and inclusiveness in their communities.






No Border Wall On-line Floricanto: First In A Series In Alliance With Resistencia en la frontera: Poets Against Border Walls
Brenda Nettles Riojas, Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Rodney Gomez, Priscilla Celina Suárez,

Two Lands Kissed Into One, Brenda Nettles Riojas
Hands,  Odilia Galván Rodríguez
Rio Grande Valley Litany, Rodney Gomez
McAllen: Our Rinconcito, Priscilla Celina Suárez
Struggle in the Borderlands, Celina A. Gómez

The camera captured the beautiful landscape made more beauteous by the line of determined figures who headed for sites along or near the Rio Bravo. There, subversives intend to destroy wildlife habitat by bulldozing miles of earth through pristine riparian environments. Government-sponsored terrorists act entitled to erect a wall there. The line of people heading to the site will use the force of their character and the content of their poetry to erect a spiritual wall constructed of soul, heart, mind, and tears. There will not be a wall through here, unless evil has its way.

La Bloga invites you to join with those poets at la frontera, wherever you are. Today, and in following weeks, La Bloga-Tuesday takes you to the border to share in this vital resistance, in a special and particularly useful manner. Poetry performed by the poets, accompanied by the poems themselves, comprises one of the best ways to enjoy a poem. Please enjoy the video reading as you accompany the reading in your voice. The magic of media means you can repeat the experience as many times as you wish, so long as there's electricity feeding your computer. With each audition you'll find something new, in the video, in the lines, in yourself. Multiply the experience by sharing this column or a favored reading with friends and allies. You'll find links after the poets' biographies.


Two Lands Kissed Into One
By Brenda Nettles Riojas



Aquí crecí en la frontera,
wearing Singer sewing machine dresses
cut from yards of itching polyester;
tomboy play climbing mesquites,
daring, reaching the next branch;
Skateland Saturdays, sunsets,
fishing on Boca Chica Beach;
siempre protegida con una bendición.

Aquí comí
platillos, enchilados con chile piquin
y salsas hechas en el molcajete,
Fruity Pebbles breakfasts,
fideo y tortilla lunches,
steak and potato dinners,
guayaba and mango desserts.

Aquí oi
stories of La Llorona followed,
con miedo de dormir, or listening
for La Sirena or El Gallo
to fill Chalupa spaces, ansiosa de ganar.
Other nights, classics read out loud;
knights and pawns maneuvered
across a chess board.

Aquí conocí dos sures.
Mama Pepa in Matamoros,
preparando su tesitos de manzanilla;
vendiendo coronas para los difuntos.
Mama Lucy in Charleston,
birthday cards delivered by mail.
Hablando español con mi mami,
English with my dad.

Aquí estoy.
Two lands kissed into one.

Dos mundos se unieron con un beso.


Previously published in La Primera Voz Que Oí 


Brenda Nettles Riojas is the host of Corazón Bilingüe, a weekly radio program. She is a CantoMundo Fellow and earned her M.F.A. from the University of New Orleans. La Primera Voz Que Oí is her first collection of Spanish poetry. She is the Diocesan Relations Director for the Diocese of Brownsville and editor of The Valley Catholic newspaper.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3WFVGPpohno&app=desktop




Hands
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez


we storm
the border between
here and there

the border
has been replaced
by people

holding hands
outstretched
a human chain

across the Southlands
our hands joined
our hands holding

our hands sharing the power
from one palm to the next
a chain of energy

thousands of hands
held in hope
held in love

holding and sharing
in solidarity
for a new world

made possible
in positivity
in visions

of other realities
our hands
thousands

of our hands
red, yellow, black, and white
hands

unmarked
undocumented
legal hands

just because
they are human
hands

sending out
a message
hands

sending out
love hands
saying basta ya!

hands
holding
out the hate
hands


Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet, writer, editor, educator, and activist, is the author of five volumes of poetry. Her latest book, The Nature of Things, is a collaboration with photographer Richard Loya, Merced College Press, 2015. She is co-editor, along with
the late Francisco X. Alarcón, of the award-winning anthology Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, University of Arizona Press, 2016. She has worked as the editor for several magazines, most recently at Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba and Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal online.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qB5Q-0f_jis&app=desktop





Rio Grande Valley Litany
By Rodney Gomez



Not the wealth
Not the census place with all the wealth
Not the thousand among the million
Not the wealth of the thousand
Not the segregated place
Not the segregated classroom, the segregated desk
Not the punishment for the brown mouth that says zarzamora
Not the amnesiacs and the enablers
Not the old Harlingen
Not the place with all the wealth
Not the pristine verandas, Mexicanized lawns
Not the land grants
Not the wine tastings
Not the platinum wedding package
Not the brown bodies who forget the people who live among the huisache
Not the brown bodies who forget the salt that was here before them
Not the Dallas Cowboys
Not the charcuterie, not the opera cake
Not the sons and daughters sent off to St. Edwards and St. Mary’s
Not the Playboys of Edinburg
Not the vanity press
Not the ranches and farmland passed down from one thief to another
Not the bayside condos
Not the interlopers, drawn from one wealth to another
Not the Island and the lesser islands
Not the vanity boutiques and treasury bonds
Not the poet laureate
Not the elsewhere degrees and certifications
Not the royal decrees
Not the Brownsville Raid
Not the lineage
Not the noble stock
Not the breeding
Not the ennui
Not the payday loans
Not Kris Kristofferson
Not the brownfields
Not the real estate swindlers
Not the poetry of the visible
Not the trivial mention of tacos and enchiladas
Not the opportunistic use of the mariachi
Not the classroom Spanish
Not the museum director, not the conductor, not the doctor, not the writer, not the poet (especially not the poet)
Not the free time to write
Not the free passes for this and that crime
Not Saint Joseph Academy
Not the power brokers
Not the educated patriarch
Not the insouciance
Not the inheritance
Not the car dealerships
Not the mayor
Not the city council
Not the exclusion
Not the wealth in the hands of the few
Not the priest who drives a Benz
Not the cotillion
Not the "founder" of this city or that city
Not the maleness
Not the white beauty pageant
Not the high school peacocks
Not the teeth-whitening agent
Not the antibiotics
Not the after-Mass mimosa
Not the tax write-offs
Not the estate planning
Not the luxury hotels
Not Vail, not Breckenridge, not Copper Mountain
Not the microbreweries
Not the bistros
Not the Broadway show tunes
Not the private collections
Not the garden party
Not the real estate ventures
Not the nonprofit boards
Not the doctor-owned hospitals
Not the baroque revivals
Not junkyard chic
Not pioneer, not Confederate
Not any name like Shary or Stillman
Not the inability to distinguish migas from chilaquiles
Not the brown Republicans
Not the owner's box
Not the "small" business owner
Not molon labe
Not the casual sexism
Not the business done on a golf course
Not the public golf manager's salary
Not the lighted tennis courts and pitch black soccer fields
Not the Polo shirts
Not the starched khakis
Not the smugness
Not the Ray-Bans
Not the Lexus
Not Noah, not Liam, not Mason
Not the central air
No the paved roads
Not the Duck Dynasty clones
Not the ones who disown the ghetto in their hearts
Not those who leave and never return
Not the indoor plumbing
Not the redesigned garages
Not the comfort
Not the comfort
Not the comfort
La taqueria




Rodney Gomez is a member of the Macondo Writers’ Workshop and the proud son of migrant farmworkers. He is the author of Citizens of the Mausoleum (forthcoming) and the chapbooks Mouth Filled with Night, Spine, and A Short Tablature of Loss. His work has appeared in Poetry, Rattle, Blackbird, Pleiades, and Puerto del Sol. He was awarded the Drinking Gourd Chapbook Prize, RHINO Editors’ Prize, Gloria Anzaldúa Poetry Prize, and Rane Arroyo Prize.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T1-qTmAiKbk&app=desktop





McAllen: Our Rinconcito
By Priscilla Celina Suárez



Dancing on bare feet
as I jump into my car, I hear ama
remind me
not to forget the pan dulce
before heading to wela’s house.

KTEX slowly drowns outside noises
as I slip on my chanclas
and Bo Garza’s I’m home
catches my attention – “I’m home, everybody I’m home”.

The air-con on full blast
competing with the 105° heat index
Tim Smith predicted. ¡Ay, que calor!

There’s nothing like a blue coconut raspa
from Young’s Snow Wiz
to cool off with during the Dog Days of summer.

Driving off from my parent’s home in McAllen
the scent of citrus groves
swims in through my car windows.
A quinceañera’s baile
drumming tunes from a neighboring dance hall.

De Alba’s bakery is but a moment’s drive
the scent of fresh corn tortillas
and empanadas hitting me as I walk in.

Los Tigres del Norte on the intercom
belting out Golpes en el Corazón.
“Pero tu que me has dado golpes en el corazón...”
Golpes en el corazón
are sometimes the memories
that have brought my familia closer.

A viejito pays for his tamales
and asks for extra salsita. With his accent
and sombrero, I cannot help but think of my abuelo.

I slip back into my car
and change the station –
Ramon Ayala sings about Un Rinconcito en el Cielo…

A little piece of heaven
is belonging. It is listening to cumbias and corridos
while studying at the library – knowing the best taquitos
and papas asadas can be served from a food truck – it is
using dichos and getting your point across.
Being an English speaker
and somehow having a strong ‘che’ accent -
it is looking forward to the fall
because our Winter Texan friends come home – this little piece
of heaven is acknowledging your roots
will always holds on.

It is remembering our home
is a community that warms
memories
because it forever embraces us.

This is our rinconcito.



Priscilla Celina Suárez is the 2015-17 McAllen Poet Laureate and has been a recipient of the Mexicasa Writing Fellowship. A RGV native, her poetry is a hybrid of rancheras, polkas, pop, rock, and musica internacional. A past contributor to the American Library Association’s YALS magazine, she has also authored the Texas State Library’s Bilingual Programs Chapter – allowing her an opportunity to gain experience in writing poetry, rhymes, and tongue twisters for children and teens. Most recently, Lina released an eBook titled Cuentos Wela Told Me: That Scared the Beeswax Out of Me!. Her poetry was included in ¡Juventud!: Growing up on the Border and Along the River III: Dark Voices from the Río Grande. In 2003, her work was selected by the Monitor staff as ‘The Best Poetry of the Year’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nznahng4hjk&app=desktop




Struggle in the Borderlands
By Celina A. Gómez


Today, I pulled up from the earth, in handfuls, thigh-high weeds, plentiful from weeks of rain. Some came up from the roots bringing rings of soil, soft and littered with shell and worms that stiffened into curls of black dotted yellow. Snails crack under feet packed dirt. No breeze from outstretched wings of the kiskadee.

I carry this land as each fingernail is filled with dirt, still damp from the midday rain—dense and bitter with the raising of the sun. Today, I became part of the earth, part of Tejas—covered in rain and shreds of green splintering into small cuts on the inside of my fingers, forearms, and wrists. Bloodless and scarless but proof of the land’s fight to remain serpented and circled, universe and chaos, roped and rooted. But I am not part of this land’s history—a history hidden from its people, untaught and ignored. This fight is fruitless and my hands are sore from pulling in the borderlands—into me.

The soil has hardened and the sun has dried remains piled in mounds across the barren patch of earth. Everything grows back lush around the Rio Grande. For now, stubborn roots remain with tendrils roping themselves to a rusted post once used as a lasso. Roots forged on the divide between lands, languages, and selves. Foraged but forked in their resolve—stinging when pulled. Today, I pulled from the earth hunched over with hands gripping my heart that yearns to remain.



Celina A. Gómez is a high school and college teacher and performance poetry coach. Her work appears in Ostrich Review, Outrage: A Protest Anthology for a Post 9/11 World, and numerous chapbooks and conference proceedings. The reigning Ultimate Poetry Boxing Champion of South Texas, she received her MFA with a certificate in Mexican American Studies from the University of Texas Pan American.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6PMtuaEkguU&app=desktop


Monday, August 14, 2017

Book launch of "The King of Lighting Fixtures"



As writers know, birthing a book is hard. Not as hard as the many things that life throws in front of us, but artistically speaking, it ain't easy. Why? Well, we toil in the privacy of our studies, kitchens, dining rooms, or wherever else we write our books. Then we spend time (sometimes years) trying to place our manuscript with a publisher who will respect our vision and produce a nice looking physical and/or electronic version of our words.

And if all goes well and your manuscript finds a home, it will go through further editing, then designed and typeset. And after you've done all that in collaboration with your publisher, you fill out the author's questionnaire and turn over your master list of potential reviewers and bookstores that might carry your book and host a reading.

Oh, I almost forgot: BLURBS! If you're lucky enough to know several writers who are willing to read the galleys of your book and offer some kind words of praise that will adorn the back cover, you must confirm blurb writers. I am very blessed in this regard.

Then you and your publisher will decide on a birthday for your book.

Well, I've done this nine times so far. I've written seven books, and edited two. Each one made its way into the world with the help of many, and they each hold important and mostly good memories for me as a writer.

This year, I will birth two books. As shown by the lovely flyer that heads this post, my latest short-story collection, The King of Lighting Fixtures (University of Arizona Press), will come into this world on Mexican Independence Day at Other Books in Boyle Heights. As a lifelong Angeleno who grew up in Koreatown and whose father lived in Boyle Heights for a portion of his childhood, the venue for the launch is particular special. 

The book launch is co-presented by The New Short Fiction Series which is run by the talented, hardworking Sally Shore. This means that actors will be reading a few selections from my collection, so this will make the evening that much more special. And the event is FREE!

I paste below the blurbs for The King of Lighting Fixtures (thank you, blurbers!).

In November, I will be launching my debut poetry collection, Crossing the Border (Pact Press), which Melinda Palacio wrote about last Friday in a thoughtful review. More on that birthday later.

For other updates, visit my website.

PRAISE FOR THE KING OF LIGHTING FIXTURES

“A sharp, smart collection punctuated with inventiveness and wit: in the ongoing effort to depict Los Angeles as lit by something other than the glare of Hollywood, Daniel A. Olivas reminds us that the vast topography of the entire city and its neighborhoods are vibrant with their own unique electricities.” 
—Manuel Muñoz, author of What You See in the Dark

“Comic, wry, very Angeleno, and essential Southern California.”

—Susan Straight, author of Between Heaven and Here

“The short story is a delicate artifact and Olivas knows it: the right balance is achieved only if what is said is in harmony with what is left unmentioned. His Los Angeles is not only from bottom up but from east to west and from south to north.” 

—Ilan Stavans, author of On Borrowed Words

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Valerie Rangel - A Paper Tiger



I first encountered the work of Valerie Rangel when I had a short-lived gig as the editor of the Santa Fean magazine. While out on a break, I went into a frozen yogurt shop and was blown away by the papel picado of the artist featured today. 

I fell in love with one calavera and crows piece, but what intrigued and impressed me was her eclectic interest in, and use of popular culture icons.  Valerie represents what I think is the heart of Chicansima - strong roots and and ability to glean what can be used from the dominant culture and transform it into an artistic touchstone. 



Valerie Rangel, Santa Fe papercut artist and professor of earth science at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, grew up in close proximity to graveyards and knives.
“Maybe this,” says Rangel, who is acutely aware of how interconnected different aspects of her life are, “is really how my interest in papercutting arose. I grew up by a graveyard, and used to cut the spines out of cacti for my mother. My brother and I would throw knives for fun. These early experiences are surely connected to my interest in making artwork by cutting paper as well as the themes that I like to show in that work.”
Rangel started making papercut art in high school as a hobby, using an exacto knife and black paper to create silhouette images from her own sketches.“I have always been an introvert,” she says. “My friends in high school were all Goths and rejects. Papercutting takes a lot of alone time, and it was a healthy way for me to channel some of my darker energy into something creative and positive.”After high school, Rangel was showing some of her papercuts to the owner of the restaurant where she worked as a hostess—he thought he could help her find somebody to help her commission her artwork—when she was stopped by a customer. The man was film director and actor Lou Diamond Phillips. The two started chatting, Rangel says, “because he is also native, and an artist.” 
Phillips told Rangel that he wanted to buy one of her papercuts: an image of a man with his ankles and wrists bound hanging upside down from a tree over a fire. It was the first papercut Rangel had ever made. Six months later, he contacted Rangel to tell her that he had hung the piece in his LA home, and he didn’t ever want her to think that her artwork was trash.
In 1999, Rangel moved to New Mexico to study the Navajo language, Native American studies, ethics, and green environmental science at UNM.
“I was interested in studying my own heritage, history, culture and language,” says Rangel, “and this was a place where these could all come together with my interest in the natural sciences.”
 “My papercuts are all one contiguous piece of paper,” she explains, holding up a cut of the Buddha. “When you hold it up, it all holds together. Nothing is taped or pasted. When I papercut images of the Buddha, or Jesus, or St. Francis, it is about how they are all wise fools—they were all outsiders, who worked for what they believed in—and for me, about how interconnected they are. I have come to realize that art is not just about creating something because you feel like it, it is about finding meaningful images and communicating something.” True West Gallery

Valerie's work can be found at the True West Gallery in Santa Fe.
To purchase work you see online or commission a piece, 
contact her directly at: suqae@yahoo.com























                              Something I've been thinking about....

The Life of Death, Love and Death, After Life

I watched the animated short, The Life of Death, featuring a lonely masked Death, who falls in love with one of the deer in the forest.The animation is spare and graceful and the score, tender, romantic.  

It's a story capturing the numinous beauty in every moment, the grace of life itself. It's this evanescent beauty that touches the heart of Death, how could he resist? 

He follows her season through season, both of them growing closer, until it’s clear the deer loves her dark suitor as well. There's a heartrendingly beautiful scene where they walk together side by side in a wintry forest. And so it goes season after season

One  summer day, the deer longingly gazes at him, beckons Death to come close, to embrace her. At first, he resists, tries to discourage her, but her gaze captures it with its tenderness. And slowly, Death comes to her, touches her, and of course, she dies. And Death lingers, but must leave, alone again.

This never fails to bring me to tears, tears even as I write this. This story, this romance with Death is one that follows us all of our days. He waits patiently for us to see him, fall in love, and if there is grace, allow our hearts to break open, call him to touch us, to take us, ready for all to fall away.

I am sixty now, and I cannot say I am ready to be held by him but I pray that my my bravery grows over the time I am still here. I want to have full heart, a naked soul, unafraid to have the last love affair.



Friday, August 11, 2017

Long Awaited Poetry Book by La Bloga's Daniel Olivas

Melinda Palacio


New poetry book by La Bloga's Daniel Olivas


A good day is when writing comes easy and the book you've been waiting for makes up for the world turned upside down. It's a frightful sight outside my office, where the act of scribbling words on a page, erasing them, then transferring said words to a computer happens. What with a tweety, trigger-happy narcissist in charge of our country, it's easy to get lost in the rabbit hole of internet distraction, such as the biggest time suck of them all, facebook and posting a picture that documents your current situation or wishing one of your online friends a happy birthday or placing a heart or happy face emoji next someone's cute cat picture. It's hard to believe that a whole block of writing time can slip away doing theses things. It's a miracle any work gets done in the real world. At least, there are some professions left where dipping into the virtual world is not allowed on the clock.

One person who is not on facebook is one of the most prolific writers I know and he has a taxing day job as an attorney in the California Department of Justice's Public Rights Division. His job as a lawyer doesn't include the many volunteer positions he holds in the literary world as editor and board member and weekly blogger at La Bloga. Daniel Olivas is the force.

When Daniel offered an advanced copy of his new book of poems, Crossing the Border, I eagerly held up my hand. This collection of poetry, his first, is long awaited. I recall the book was going to debut in 2010, but the contract fell through due to the publishing house's financial problems. However, Daniel persisted and kept the collection intact and, lucky for us readers, the book will be available the fall, through a new publisher, Pact Press, as its debut title. Here's to exciting beginnings. Pact Press is an imprint of Regal House Publishing.

Some of the poems were published almost 20 years ago, as early as 2000, but the stories and sentiments are timeless. Honoring your personal narratives never goes out of style.

In "Papa Wrote," the poet describes a scene familiar to all writers, that moment when you are in front of a small audience, but you want to wait for that special person who promised they would show:  "we waited in awkward/silence, the espresso machine's/ hissing offering the lone/commentary." And when Daniel's father showed, during the Q&A, his father revealed Olivas's birthright as author.

I especially enjoyed reading, "Hidden in Abuelita's Soft Arms." As cliché as the grandma poem is, I personally cannot stop writing about my grandmother. It also takes hutzpah and skill to pull it off. Daniel's Abuela poem is a poem dedicated to children. She is "wrinkled and brown like an old paper bag" with "her too-perfect white teeth," and lives in a house "Painted yellow-white like a forgotten Easter egg."

Many of the poems in this collection cross their own border of poem as witness. As a lawyer, Olivas has the ability to see both sides of an argument and write in diverse voices and personas as in the title poem "Crossing the Border" or the last poem, a personal favorite, "La Tormenta at the Lost Souls Café" After the paintings by Gronk, where "La Tormenta ponders her identity--/Even her name's origin is hidden/In fog and memories of East L.A."


Fall back into poetry with Daniel A. Olivas's eighth book, Crossing the Border; official pub date is November 17, but you may pre-order today. 

Daniel Olivas

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Bowing Before Nature

Daniel Cano

I try making it up (or down) to Kings Canyon and Sequoia every couple of years. I’ve been doing this since 1975 when my kids were still toddlers; though I may have gone as a child. Each year, my outdoorsman uncle, Mike, would take us into the mountains fishing, and we may have camped along the Kings River when my cousins and I were kids.


To reach the canyon, I first drive up from Fresno to Sequoia National Park, reach the 7500-foot level, and drop down into the canyon on a two-lane winding road as sheer canyon walls rise taller and appear to close in on me as I reach the canyon floor, where the wild Kings River tumbles outward, following its jagged path over waterfalls and through shale canyon walls on its way down into Kingsburg, crossing Highway 99, and filling the myriad of man-make canals, until it hits the All American Canal, which carries the icy water to the reservoirs, and into our homes, of course, with more complexity than I’ve described here.

A two-hour drive out of Kings Canyon to the east sits Sequoia National Park, home to the General Sherman tree, the oldest living creature in the world, and the largest, as well. Some scientists estimate that when Buddha and Jesus walked the earth, the General Sherman was already 1200 years old. Looking down a mountainside at the General Sherman, another mind-numbing sight unfolds before me, a near mystical experience, an entire forest of giant Sequoias.

The first time I stood under the massive arms of the General Sherman tree, I was eleven. My friends and I had joined the Boy Scouts, and to earn a merit badge, we had to hike into Sequoia’s backcountry for three days. For suburban kids, it was a humbling experience, trekking up to alpine lakes, cooking over an open fire, and sleeping in pup tents or beneath the stars.

I haven’t forgotten it, so each time I leave Kings Canyon, I take the long way across Sequoia, just so I can stand in the shade of the giant Sequoias, take in their energy, and listen to visitors from around the world “ooh” and “ahh” as they lift their heads to see into the branches, many the size of large city trees.
Sometimes I travel into the canyon with family or alone. This year I met my son, granddaughter, Celia, and my son’s friends, who stayed two days while I stayed a week. Once everyone has departed, I notice some campers who stare inquisitively at me, an elderly mestizo with a white beard and campesino hat, sitting alone in front of a campfire, stirring the embers with a long stick. I smile at them, but it’s only the flickering flames that burn my imagination. The crowds have grown and changed since 1973, a lot more raza crowding into the canyon, but the mountains and river have remained the same


I’ve travelled into the canyon to make some of the most important decisions of my life. Corny as it sounds, I’ve let the sounds of the warm wind, rustling leaves, and rushing water provide the answers I’ve sought. I sat on huge boulders beside the rambling river after I returned from Vietnam and needed mother nature’s purifying power to, if not heal me, at least offer a helping hand in my spiritual restoration.
This is my 70th birthday. I set up camp on a hill where I have a view of the solid rock canyon walls peeking through the tall pines and cedars. There I sit, sometimes for hours, and ponder God’s wonder. It’s difficult to be an atheist or agnostic before an artistic creation unimaginable by the human mind. Even our greatest art is but a bleak imitation compared to nature’s handiwork.

The greatest human minds, from our wise indigenous ancestors to the most ingenious among us, from Moctezuma to Sitting Bull and from Galileo to Einstein, bow before the Creator’s canvass. If I remember correctly, many of our greatest thinkers and artists admitted to rejecting theologians’ view of religion and God, but passionately believed in a higher power, a grand creator of the universe. How could I do any less.

Evening falls. Billions of stars appear. The wayward ones shoot across constellations and galaxies of which I possess little knowledge but an abundant appreciation. Tonight, they put on another dazzling performance.



Wednesday, August 09, 2017

The Only Road




By Alexandra Diaz


  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 - 7
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1481457500
  • ISBN-13: 978-1481457507


PURA BELPRÉ HONOR BOOK
ALA NOTABLE BOOK

“Powerful and timely.” —Booklist (starred review)
“An important, must-have addition to the growing body of literature with immigrant themes.” —School Library Journal (starred review)


Twelve-year-old Jaime makes the treacherous and life-changing journey from his home in Guatemala to live with his older brother in the United States in this gripping and realistic middle grade novel.

Jaime is sitting on his bed drawing when he hears a scream. Instantly, he knows: Miguel, his cousin and best friend, is dead.

Everyone in Jaime’s small town in Guatemala knows someone who has been killed by the Alphas, a powerful gang that’s known for violence and drug trafficking. Anyone who refuses to work for them is hurt or killed—like Miguel. With Miguel gone, Jaime fears that he is next. There’s only one choice: accompanied by his cousin Ángela, Jaime must flee his home to live with his older brother in New Mexico.

Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.

En Español


En esta absorbente y emocionante novela juvenil, Jaime de doce años emprende el peligroso y traicionero viaje que le transforma su vida de su hogar en Guatemala a Estados Unidos para vivir con su hermano mayor.




Alexandra Diaz is the author of Of All the Stupid Things, which was a ALA Rainbow List book and a New Mexico Book Award finalist. Alexandra is the daughter of Cuban refugees and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but got her MA in Writing for Young People at Bath Spa University in England. A native Spanish speaker, Alexandra now teaches creative writing to adults and teens. Visit her online at Alexandra-Diaz.com.