Amada Irma Perez, Books, Latina writer, Latino culture, Writing

A Book’s Quinceñera

 

Traditional Quince Dress-flickr.com
Traditional Quince Dress-flickr.com

Leave it to my friend, Amada, to throw a Quinceñera for her first published book, “My Very Own Room/Mi PropioCuarito.She’s creative and fun like that.

The book, which teaches a valuable lesson about the strength of family and the importance of dreams, turns 15 in April 2015. Five children’s books later, Amada is still writing and teaching.

Fifteen years. That’s a lengthy publishing career and double long when you consider the years it takes before you’re published.

One must love to write more than anything to persevere as a writer, to endure sore wrists, critiques, missed events, questioning ourselves, and a mound of rejection letters. 

That’s why one must celebrate and what better way for a Latina to commemorate 15 years of publication, why a Quinceñera, of course.

There is a myth the traditions of quinceañeras originated in ancient Aztec culture when girls around the age of 15 were placed in the hands of elder women to teach them the duties of a wife.

On the day of marriage, this elder would carry the girl on her back while others lit the path, to the groom’s house. The bride wore a decorated cape, and when the bride and groom united, the two capes were tied together to signify the marriage bond.

Celebrations today vary significantly across Latin American countries, but the theme is the same. La Quinceañera recognizes a girl’s journey from childhood to maturity with a ceremony that highlights God, family, friends, music, a waltz, food, and dance.

En otra palabras, it’s a big ole’ party after the serious ceremony.

It is traditional for the Quinceañera to choose special friends to participate in what is called the Court of Honor. The females are called Damas. I’m excited to be in Amada’s court, especially since I never had a Quince myself. Hopefully, she’s not expecting us to learn the waltz. Knowing her, it would be a Tango, as she loves the dance.

The fun has already begun, with one of the damas posting her Quince dress online. A comment said it reminded her of the Portuguese Man O’War.

A Quince dress possibility.
A Quince dress possibility.

I don’t know about that choice, I’m partial to traditional gowns myself. But whatever we wear, I’m just happy to be at the Quince, celebrating friendship, family, and writing. And, of course, the big ole’ party.

 

Books, Chingonas, Inspiration, poetry, Strong Women, Writing

Michele Serros- Author, Poet, Friend

Michele Serros, Mrs. Antonio Magaña, author, poet, friend.
Michele Serros, Mrs. Antonio Magaña, author, poet, friend.

 

My friend died two days ago.

Cancer.

I knew she had it for several months.

Pinche cancer.

I really thought she’d survive.

Damn it.

She married the love of her life, a short three years ago. He was by her side when she left this world.

My heart holds a special spot for Michele Serros, or as she liked to hear, “Mrs. Antonio Magaña.”

A confusion of feelings surround death.

Why? Why her? Why didn’t prayers work?

I see her smile, lively eyes, texts at odd hours,

her words expressing identity, small towns, and individuality

a literary landmark

stories like my life and unlike my life

resonate with scenes only she could paint

Why?

She found love, at a vegan restaurant,

with a Berkeley chicano, a mexican, from her home town,

from her own high school, the same alma mater, so long ago

ecstatic with love, a new family

sharing her life.

That’s the way she was, loving, giving, living

daring to say the unsaid,

with wit and unique style,

inspired to write by Judy Blume.

A Medium Brown girl,

A Taco Belle,

Mucha Michele,

who wrote outside of ‘barrios, borders, and bodegas,’

defining herself and the question of identity

to a mess of other men and women

boys and girls

high schoolers to old schoolers

on what is mexicano, chicano, americano.

A writer of handwritten notes,

handcrafted cards of

glitter and glue,

inspired,

memorable,

unique,

like her.

 

Michele was the first writer I knew, personally, and from my home town. I attended her readings back in the late 90’s. Her writing inspired me to think that I could be a writer. When I first met her, we clicked. She had that kind of personality-she clicked with everyone.

A giver of advice, affection, and friendship, Michele was a humble person who stayed grounded and a strong woman who was soft on the outside, tough on the inside. A chingona.

She was a long distance member of the writing group to which I belong, sometimes sending us articles to review.

I often felt inadequate, a published author asking me for feedback? But that was the way she was, as real as real can get.

An excerpt from her book, “Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard,” struck me, long ago. Her mother died, from cancer, and Michele wrote the obituary. When she described her mother as an artist, someone questioned it, “it isn’t like she sold anything.”

Definitions always played a big part of my life: a true Mexican versus a fake Mexican…a true artist versus a wannabe. Nonetheless, my mama would have been crushed knowing she left this earth not remembered as an artist. It was her fear and lack of confidence that kept her art stuck on an easel, hidden away in the corner of our family’s garage…it was her death that gave me the courage to finally share some of my own poems and stories. The purpose? to make someone happy, inspired…I just couldn’t bear the thought of questioning what my own obituary would say. 1994

There is no question that Michele was an artist, who made millions of readers happy, who inspired thousands of Latinas, Latinos, and others who rarely read anything that resonated with their lives. Her books are here.

She had been working on a new novel, An Unmarried Mexican, a title she borrowed from one of her favorite books and movie, An Unmarried Woman.

As you could imagine, medical expenses soared, especially for a self employed person. Give Forward has a campaign to assist Michele’s family. The fund is halfway to its goal.

To read more about this wonderful person, see “An Unexpected Heirloom,” at Huffington Post and this article in the Los Angeles Times.

Rest in love, Michele.

Siempre.

Books, Family

20 Ways to Celebrate Before Christmas

 

Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com
Christmas Hearts by Tiraz, Flickr.com

We haven’t put up one Christmas bulb or decoration yet, but I am thinking of how to make Christmas more special this year.

When I say special, I mean remembering that “Christ,” is in the word “Christmas.”

The wheels began turning last night when I wandered through department stores looking for Christmas cards that ‘spoke’ to me. And I found them too, at Hallmark.

There are 20 days to Christmas and they’ll blur by if we forget to take the time to slow down and enjoy the hours and days of the holiday season.

This list is just a beginning. Perhaps you can share your ideas in the comments.

How to spend the remaining 20 days to Christmas:

 

1-Carry on a tradition and share. Mine is to make tamales and champurrado.

2-Hug more and not just your spouse or significant other. Smile too.

3-Spend time with your parents or anyone over 70 that has a story to tell you about a Christmas memory.

4-Scent your home with the inviting fragrance of cinnamon, pine, or sugar cookies. I like to stick cloves in oranges.

6-Decorate your home or someone else’s with a living plant. I found this colorful gem at Lowe’s.

 Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

Christmas Cactus alvaradofrazier.com

7-Send out Christmas cards with a handwritten inspirational quote.

8-Forgive. Apologize. Try to understand.  

9-Read a Christmas book to your own or someone else’s children. No kids? Read to yourself, aloud. One of my favorites is Olive the Other Reindeer.

10-Wear something ‘Christmasy,’ even if it’s that not so pretty holiday sweater someone gave you. 

11-Buy or make a new holiday ornament for someone else.

12-Share a holiday drink with someone: Peppermint Mocha, mulled wine, champurrado.

13-Sing along to holiday songs, wherever you may be.

14-Try a new holiday food from a different culture: France, Spain, Germany, Italy…

15-Get out in nature. Taste falling snow. If you’re in Southern California, like me, find yourself some shaved ice or a raspada as we call them in Spanish. This year I’ll be in Denver for Christmas where I’m sure I’ll find snow.

16-Bake a holiday sweet that you’ve never baked before and share.

17-Visit a church or place of worship for their holiday message, choir, or play.

18-Say “I love you,” “I appreciate you,” “Thank you,” twice as often.

19-Donate coats, sweaters, gloves to those in need. Drop your coins into the Salvation Army kettle. Contribute to Toys for Tots or similar program.

20-Pray and work for peace.

Enjoy your weekend!

#WeNeedDIverseBooks, Art, Books, Illustrators, poetry

Reading is the Best Way to Relax

pabloneruda_poetofthepeople      

      “A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic,” Carl Sagan 

The week has flown by, riddled with the everyday happenings, participating in the writing challenge of NaNoWriMo, and revising an old manuscript.

Like many of you (I’m assuming) I love to read: poetry, YA, Adult, and Children’s Books. I read during my down time, which is literally when I’m in bed, for an hour or two before I drift off to sleep.

I’ve read some extraordinary books lately: Jean Rhys “The Wide Sargasso Sea,” and Helena Viramontes’ novel, “Their Dogs Came With Them.”  Both five star books, IMHO. These highly emotive, descriptive books had an intensity to them that I loved, but that also exhausted me—in a good way.

Reading doesn’t just keep the mind sharp, possibly stave off Alzheimer’s, and help you sleep better (not if you read horror), but research says reading is the tops in relaxation. Really—they did studies. Here’s the conclusion from the UK-University of Sussex: 

Reading worked best, reducing stress levels by 68 per cent, said cognitive neuropsychologist Dr David Lewis.

Subjects only needed to read, silently, for six minutes to slow down the heart rate and ease tension in the muscles…it got subjects to stress levels lower than before they started.

Listening to music reduced the levels by 61%, have a cup of tea of coffee lowered them by 54% , taking a walk by 42%, and video games, 21%. 

So today I was delighted to come across a children’s book I think I will enjoy. Maria Popova said this about the book she featured for the week:

I was instantly smitten with Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, with absolutely stunning illustrations and hand-lettering by artist Julie Paschkis 

Go have a look at the gorgeously illustrated pages that Popova has on her website: Brain Pickings. The colors delight the eyes, the illustrations and words relax the body.

An instant chill pill.

I’ve added this book to my public library list, which has grown now to 10 books on hold.

So relax everyone. Take time out to enjoy your favorite activity to help you gather yourself together and take on the coming week.