Rambling On My Mind: 12th Annual Latino Book and Family Festival. Day 1 Recon

It was a beautiful day in the neighborhood. My home in City Terrace is but a twenty minute walk to CSULA. Grab my headphones, a notebook and we off. Gotta take some notes because I won’t remember all things literary at such an event.
Got there and I’m handed a program guide (how organized, no?)

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The set up was all right. I always have such low expectations at such events. Still, I wished it was overcrowded. Should they have served beer? Oh no I didn’t!

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I checked out the schedule and some familiar faces caught my eye

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but I focused on the panel topics. First up:

10:30 History Past and Present in the U.S. Latino Novel
Panelists: Montserrat Fontes, Reyna Grande, Ignacio Lopez-Calvo and Eduardo Santiago

During her introduction, Grande mentioned that as a child on her journey to the U.S. (she described her status as “illegal”) she injured her knee and it got as big as a… can you guess what she said? Well, like much of what she said, it was predictable. She said grapefruit, don’t you know? She wrote
Across A Hundred Mountains. Just not my style. Some had mentioned, “It’s in the vein of Rain of Gold.” Huh? That’s a compliment?! Rain of Gold? That one is almost 600 pages and it’s 500 too long. I gave AAHM a shot at the ELA library but chale. Publisher’s Weekly mispelled typical by calling it “topical.” It should be in the young adult section. Not that there is anything wrong with that.
She read an excerpt as did Fontes and Santiago. But I know how to read. I have an idea! How about a panel discussion? But what do I know?
Later Grande ended a comment with, “That’s what I like to write about.” WTF? She is a fellow UCSC Banana Slug, so I winced even more. Maybe her second effort will be better. The crowd was very attentive and some got up to speak to the authors. (How bout those olive green seats? State of the art. 1971!)

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Lopez-Calvo gave a powerpoint pres. It was probably from one of his class lectures but it was all right. He spoke that most foreign of lenguas: acadamese. “Cultural reproduction and the representation of reality carry with them an impetus of taking possession of social space in both its territorial and political manifestations.” He was losing me then he took a jab at TC Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain and Kate Braverman’s Palm Latitudes. He claimed those books suffer from racial guilt. He went on about Famous All Over Town and Revolt of The Cockroach People. Comparing “Santiago” to Acosta was somewhat of a reach, but he went on to his most interesting point: all those inane LA based apocalyptic films come from the fear that the “city of angels” is becoming browner every day. Maybe.

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Monserrat Fontes said her piece. She said “crap.” Can you be named Monserrat and say such things? Her First Confession is popular at Roosevelt High.
The moderator asked the authors about their subject matter. Grande said, “Women are complicated… women are intriguing… women are so different.” She kept picking up her book. “That’s what I like to write about… that’s what I like to do.” Huh?
Even the moderator couldn’t take it, “But it’s more than that,” he added. The look on Fontes’ face was priceless. Grande continued and ended with, “…and that’s what I do.” I swear. Hey, at least she has a book out, no? I guess.
Later, Monserrat mentioned a book she is working on and how her grandfather was actually executed in 1929. Now that’s interesting.
Off to the next one because Estella, a high school buddy, is working on a novel and was included in the anthology Latinos in Lotusland.

11:30-12:30 LATINOS IN LOTUSLAND
Panelists: Estella Gonzalez, Rigoberto Gonzalez, Melinda Palacio, Conrad Romo

During her intro Estella said, “I’m living on unemployment and I wish it could last forever.”

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There was silence. See, that’s why we’re friends. She mentioned her piece in the anthology was “inspired” by her divorce and she can now see her ex hubby does serve a purpose. She funny.
One thing should be clear: I like to concentrate, focus. I was at a movie recently and this couple kept making noises with their straws/ice and I wanted to exsanguinate em with a rusty butter knife. Here too. Opening their water bottles ever so slowly and that cap driving an anvil into my parietal lobe. I was just trying to listen. Then there were the few who arrived late. Did they walk around the panel? Fuck no! Right in front. Pencil at the ready, I was gonna stab somebody. I know she near 70 but she would have had to cancel Christmas if she had cut in front of me again.

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Palacio wasn’t too riveting but one of her poems was ok. “It’s about visiting my father in Folsom Prison. It’s a family story…” I’m in. It was called “Folsom Lockdown.” Then she ruined it by talking about her “chapbook” and “I won a prize” blah blah abba zabba rikki tikki tambu. The moderator was touched by everything read. Sensitive freak or just yakking because he edited the book? After the panelists read, he might as well have kicked me in my scrotisserie. From out of nowhere, he said, “Well, my novel, which comes out in 2011, University of Arizona Press…” Doh! Baphomet help me! I should have stood up, went over to him and…

Time for a a break. I was hungry. And what do you know? Homeys came through with the veg options. Don’t get me wrong, there were still plenty of dead animals to be had, but thoughtful to keep us tree huggers in mind.
I had some vegan tamales and some horchata. “Vegan tamales?” you bellyache. STFU! Manteca = 666. Pork? 666 x 2. That would be 1332. That is evil. Tradition dictates that…blah blah. I got your tradition right here!
The Oaxacan folks were more than happy to tell me that their horchata didn’t contain cow excretions. Those kind folks are with Oaxacalifornia at the Mercado Paloma. Those “gourmet” “euro mex” tamales were 3 fuckin bills each. This ain’t the South Pas or Monrovia farmers markets! Those damn euro mex!

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I sat and ate when Ana, a friend and festival volunteer, joined me and wondered about the discussions. Hmm, it hadn’t crossed my mind, I lied and laughed. I noticed Lopez-Calvo walking by. I stopped him and introduced myself. Very forthcoming. We traded emails. Later someone mentioned some of the problems he faced at CSULA. He is a Spaniard (oh no!) and some hardcore aka knuckleheaded Xicanos could not respect him. Some saw him as Cortez incarnate. How silly. These are probably the same aholes who look down at ELAC cuz it’s a jc. Poindexter, please. Most universities are overrated. Once ELAC is all upgraded, it will be CSULA that is left behind. Say what? You heard. In fact, I found it hard to concentrate at times during some panels. I was distracted by the handball court passing itself off as a classroom hosting a panel at a book fest. You want proof? Have some.

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Ana had to go but I managed to catch one of the festival’s organizers, and all-around literary force at CSULA, Professor Roberto Cantu. The festival can only get better with him involved. Was he busting some rhymes, doing the hokey pokey or just being interviewed?

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Stomach satiated, I was ready for more. Up next was

2:30 – 3:30 Border Stories
Panelists: Alicia Alarcon, Reyna Grande, Graciela Limon, Ruben Martinez

Grande said that part of her writing is “to speak for the voiceless.” About twenty minutes later, Graciela Limon, one of the nicest people I have ever met, commented, “I just want to paraphrase Demetria Martinez who said, ‘this giving voice to the voiceless is nonsense. Everybody has a voice. The question is, who is listening?'” KaPow!

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Limon’s description of her latest novel, The River Flows North, was interesting. I have several friends who really liked Song Of The Hummingbird. Many students at RHS dig Memories of Ana Calderon. Her confident humility is a breath of fresh air.
Alarcon was funny and blunt. When asked what should be done about the disgusting and accepted bullshit hurled against the “undocumented,” she responded, “You really need to be more drastic, naked and creative, attract attention.” What could that mean? Oh, the infinite possibilities. I haven’t heard her radio show, but I might check it out now.

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4:30-5:45 LATINO LA: The City of Angels Through Poetry, Journalism and Fiction
Panelists: Gustavo Arellano, Julio Martinez, Ruben Martinez, Marisela Norte, Hector Tobar

Who named these panels? Latino LA? What is this, sixth grade? I even looked around for Laura Diaz and Henry Alfaro. Gustavo Arellano read his shit too. WTF? Did he offer any interesting anecdotes or maybe something spontaneous? Please. Maybe those who read did so because they didn’t plan anything. Hmm. It’s like going to a gig and instead of the band playing, they played cds. Orange County is the title of his book. Again, not with it. We all have our tastes, mine tend toward…(see video at top). I got the book at the ELA lie berry. The back cover read: “witty” and “sassy” and “wickedly funny” and “picante.” The inside flap claimed Gustavo is the “spiciest voice of the Mexican-American community” who “offers sharp, caliente (italicized, of course) insights…” Spiciest!! Caliente!! Who wrote the blurb? Lou fuckin Dobbs? Surprisingly, in his foto he is not on a donkey wearing a sombrero. Or grinning while holding up a tamal…. damn, homey. Yes, he did.

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Somebody could write a thesis just on the book jacket. Even with all that, I still gave it a shot. Here I am in my office, trying. To no avail.

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Bueno, como escribía, queremos Energía, no anuncios. ¡Hablen con el público! Sé que para muchos la escritura es un negocio pero, damn, pensaba que éramos una comunidad no un mercado. Quiero que todo sea gratis. Qué poco realista de mí. ¿Qué sé? Tengo una idea.

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Hector Tobar continued, another fellow Banana Slug. LA Times columnist. I wouldn’t know, I don’t read that. He also read. Way too long. I heard “pecadillos” and “Sherman Oaks Galleria.” Shit! Do they have any sense of time? I swear he went on for 15 minutes. He even said, “quotidian chatter.” Say huh? Crowd was half asleep and when he finished, everyone politely collapsed/clapped. Thought I heard snoring.

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Marisela Norte is a poet known for not ever having a driver’s license. Said, “Never had one, don’t need one, don’t want one.” Didn’t seem as pretentious as the other “writers.” During her intro, she mentioned she grew up near Brooklyn and someone said, “Cesar Chavez,” and she repeated “Brooklyn.” What could she mean? Hmm. Julio Martinez read a long story about his dad and it had a great ending. Ruben Martinez said some things, and they were just some things.
Alrighty then. That was a glimpse into the panel discussions. No quarter from this pen. The way it should be, que no?
He has left the building! I stretched me arms and said good-bye to some. Looking over some vendors wrapping up their wares, I thought of the skimpy attendance and hoped tomorrow would have much more support. Also, at a Latino Book Fair I had hoped to discover some Literature, with a capital fuckin L, and maybe I did, I just always want more. In the words of that great Venetian poet, Mike Muir, “Cause me, me I want more!” A lot more. Well, there is always Day 2.
I leave you with some sage advice, so obviously they are not my words. Such self-deprecation, no? Maybe some of these pinche so-called writers should try it some time. Or some humility. But maybe not, since both are free.

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14 thoughts on “Rambling On My Mind: 12th Annual Latino Book and Family Festival. Day 1 Recon

  1. Toma! Thanks for taking the bullets to inform us of the doings and dontings of the LBF.

    BTW, my next post will be published by LA Eastside sometime in November, look for it!

  2. Damn Señor CT your reviews hit hard! I’d have to say that my favorite part was when you broke down the book flap from Gustavo Arellano’s book. Seriously, it’s as though they were describing food and not writing (and very stereotypical at that). Why does being “latino” naturally equate into some “spicy paradigm.” Why are people of color so often defined by their food and they allow it! Why aren’t those non-POC (hehehe) not described by their food!

    And man, hating on someone just because of their nationality (i.e. Spanish) is ridiculous and part of why identity politics will always fail. The reign of false dualities/dichotomies. How WESTERN/OCCIDENTAL of them.

    And I too often go to this events wanting some Literature with a capital “L” but too often the writers are content with rehashing themes already stale and old (boring). Great writing is not just a mirror but A HAMMER!

  3. That was some entertaining potshotting! Can’t wait to read about day 2!

    I’m gonna defend Gustavo for a sec. He recently visited my class at RHS and was gracious as ever, and did speak off the cuff, or at least didn’t read from his book. Clearly he’s appropriating these stereotypes for humorous purposes, and also as a way of highlighting their absurdity and offensiveness. Maybe it doesn’t work for you, but I think it wouldn’t be fair not to acknowledge the intended irony there.

  4. You are harsh. Particularly about the two panels I moderated! Even though I disagree with much of what you said, I will defend your right to rip me a new one. But I do have one complaint about you: It’s clear that you have strong opinions about how the LBFF should have been run, but it would have been helpful for you to make your comments during the question and answer portion. That way, you could have made your points known and allowed us (and audience members) to respond to you in real time. Blogging about it later in the safety of your home seems cowardly. Next time, say something at the panels, just don’t write little notes to yourself that eventually end up on a blog. Man up. But keep on writing.

  5. Keep on blogging City Terrace, we enjoy your observations and commentary. Its a new media world baby!
    I do not see fear or timidity in your writing, so NO you are not “cowardly”.
    If “it” says you were “harsh” then you must of hit a nerve of truth.
    Como dicen- “si te queda el saco pontelo”
    You saw his fleas and pointed them out and now hes “itching and scratching” lol

    “it” is old enough to know better- that you got to take the criticism, not just the praise.

    San Fernando Valley is not the LA Eastside.

    – my two cents, im just saying. 🙂

  6. I was there on the 2nd day with the GF and as you succinctly wrote in this here review, it was aight I guess. I wanted to meet Graciela Limon because I’m one of those Roosevelt kids that read Humming Bird and Ana Calderon. I love those books !!! I was disappointed when I realized she was only there on day 1. Wack. Anywho, the best thing that came from that day was that I got a new man bag to replace my old one and I think I even saw you walking around tambien, but wasn’t sure so I just looked on. So I’m with you, less talking and more books.

  7. nothing like female wrestling to serve as an exclamation point! spicier than arellano writing any day (gustavo, if you’re reading, you’re still the picante-ist).

    ct, you’re writing here has supplanted connecticut in my mind for use of those letters together. i hope you find that a compliment. if not, well, i’m sure connecticut is insulted.

  8. El Chavo,

    My pleasure, for the most part. I like these events, esp when i learn sumpin. That´s funny. Yeah, thought homey was gonna say, “As a matter of fact, I have an excerpt right here.” we were spared.

    Julio,

    Hard-hitting is good. that book flap is crazy. really threw me. thought they were reviewing a gloria estefan disco. maybe such words are to let future consumers know it´s ok to buy this book b/c it won´t hurt or offend. the writer is “one of those good mexicans, he won´t bother you. in fact, if you need your pool cleaned…” those “reviews” are beyond stupid. sure, it´s a sales thing, but fuck, i know some writers who would never allow such words to be used in describing them or the books. they´re actually pejoratives, and they don´t even realize it. or maybe they do.

    no shit about that culinary type of review. we are not product. imagine milan kundera described as “the ghoulashiest” or Jorge Franco as “the plantainiest.” it´s bullshit. even more, it´s lazy, inane and insulting to the 33rd degree.
    as for that prof, guy was cool as hell, and even dropped some funny anecdotes. i could give a shit if he catalan, nebraskan or queretano. it´s about ideas and sharing,no?
    yeah, fools moan about borders but live by plenty of them. plus to bring it into a classroom, not good.
    “rehashed” and “stale” is pretty good in re to some of the “discussions.” how could it not be when the audience is treated like fuckin idiots who should be read to. this is not an expo! literature should be many things, boring is not one.

    bentro,

    entertaining? ok. potshotting? I don´t think so. Potshots are cheapshots for the undeserving. one deserves to hear a cry from one of the masses when mofos don´t bring their A game. we deserve that. how you gonna be in east los, representing, with some, as julio wrote, “stale” “rehashed” attempt at “discussion?”
    defend g.a. all you like. that book cover, those 2 pages of his book i tried to read and his choice to read at a discussion is what caught my attention.
    when i brought luis rodriguez or john valadez or isabel martinez to RHS, kids loved em. at rhs and at public events, these artists are the same. there was no “now it´s time for sales mode.” just be. it´s rude.
    you descibe his stuff as “humorous.” now that´s humourous. you also used “absurd” and “offensiveness.” with that, i´ll agree. “intended irony.” i did not read his book. i tried. That basic bio fodder is not ironic. it´s not that his stuff “doesn´t work for” me, it just doesn´t work.
    hey, at least you were entertained. Day 2 Coming Soon.

  9. Daniel Olivas,

    I’m harsh? I’d like to think honest. They are often confused. But you are funny. I write about the LBF and somehow it’s all about you. Go figure. It’s about “the panels I moderated.” Yes, of course, you are always in charge. Yes, sir.

    Then you “disagree with much of what (I) said.” Hmm. The horchata wasn’t good? G. Limon isn’t very nice? A. Alarcon wasn’t honest and gracious? J. Martinez’s story didn’t have a good ending? Tobar didn’t read for way too long? M. Fontes wasn’t funny? Grande wasn’t trite and stale? You even had to check her. Did I not compliment you for that? Maybe you just disagreed with everything critical of YOU. I really didn’t say much about you. Were you the main attraction? I missed that notice.

    Rip you a new one? Huh? Did you not yap after every panelist read? Huh, yeah. And, of course, that silly plug for your book. That was brutal.

    You also claim to have 1 complaint about me. Just one? I have many about me. This is not the place, nor do we have the space… you write I have strong opinions. Thank you. Aren’t those the only kind worth having? But about the LBF? You’re wrong. In fact, I thought it was run very well. I stepped on the scene and BAM, I get a program. Plus, the change from panel to panel was very smoove, for the most part, esp when dealing with the overly… cough cough… verbose/writers. In my Day 2 post, I’ll mention more on that.

    “It would have been helpful blah blah…that way yawn…respond to you in real time yakkety yak.” What is this, the principal’s office? Real time? Ain’t nothing real, least of all time! What makes you think I didn’t comment in other panels? Oh, those don’t count, because those were not YOUR panels.

    “Blogging about it later…” What the fuck is blogging? I don’t blog, I write! In fact, I would dare to say that 2 of the best writers in this city are here: El Chavo and chimatli. Do you recognize that, Mr. Editor? Oh wait, they only “blog.”

    “… in the safety of (my) home…” Have you seen my house? If it is anything, it isn’t safe.
    “Cowardly.” Oh no you di int! You, you… son of a… gun? Now this is bordering on the rigodamnedicluous. You with your passive aggression, nauseating condescension (“I will defend your right to blah blah…”), orders and directives (“Next time, say something…”). Now, THOSE things are for the ranks of cowards and bad college professors, no? But, I’m the coward? Me, with my “little notes” to myself “that eventually end up on a blog.” This shit DOES NOT “END UP ON A BLOG!” It was written specifically for this site. AKA published, no?

    How do you know I write notes to myself? Were you peaking? Did you see the one that read, “this editor guy is gettin on my last fuckin nerve”? Did you see that one?

    “Man up,” you order. There you go again. Did you like to hurt kitties when you were younger? Were you teased by the football team? Man up??!! How dare you! Treat me like a lady! Then you try and pat me on the head, “But keep on writing.” Sucka, please. To end this “little note,” we suggest you get off your pedestal, they make for weak foundations

  10. G. Arellano,

    Guess you are funny. You probably read as much of my post as I did of your book (by my memory, bout 1.83 pages). But please don’t you dare claim I read it in it’s entirety! That is bordering on slander, mister. Look, I know some lawyers who… what? what do you mean how? I just know them, you see. Hmm, look. I was young and I needed the money. End of story. Back to my point: do not dare give thanks for something I did not, could not, will not do. Ever! Your claim is mean and untrue. Why, the nerve of you. Maybe I’m being too… let me think of a word…hmm…harsh, yes, harsh. Ok Ok, go ahead and thank me all you want, but it didn’t happen. Nor will it.

    LNHLA,

    Your words are appreciated. It is a new media world but some heads still be living in only 3 dimensions. For shame.

    This pen don’t play, except when it’s playing. What did that Japanese writer say, “To Live and To Write, isn’t that enough?” Oh shit! All we want is respect and it’s all good. Why? Just cuz we’re alive, that’s why! Condescension and mocking tones get no play here. We are real, virtually or otherwise, so we don’t play.

    ERH,

    G Limon is seriously a kind person. Met her several years back in Riverside at some conference. Don’t ask. She grew up in the Maravilla Projects and when she found out I grew up in City Terrace, immediate bond.

    As for the authors, they can talk all they want, just hoping some of them remember to talk with and not talk to, y know?

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