Authors, Book Review, Books, Boycotts, Cesar Chavez, Family, Latinos in film, Uncategorized

América and Anthony Quinn

America's Dream

Ever since I figured out how to use the Goodreads widget I’ve been posting reviews on books I’ve read.

Either the widget is dead, malfunctioning or my brain is on overdrive and I’ve forgotten how to use the darn thing, but the widget is not working. Hence, here are reviews on the two latest books I’ve enjoyed in the last month.

América by Esmeralda Santiago

América Gonzalez is a hotel maid at an island resort off the coast of Puerto Rico. She cleans up after wealthy foreigners who look past her as a non-entity. Her married boyfriend, Correa, beats her and their fourteen-year-old daughter thinks life would be better anywhere but with América. When a wealthy, too busy, family asks her to work for them in the United States, América plans her escape from Correa and her old life.

Domestic violence, family dynamics, fear, and choices are themes in this novel. The ongoing violence that América endures is sometimes difficult to read. One feels like yelling at her to drop the bastard and make better decisions, however the author illustrates that this is no easy task. 

Reading about a character who makes poor choices can often be a turn-off, however the author engages the reader by describing the protagonist and her backstory effectively.

Beautiful descriptive prose keeps you reading but the redundant descriptions on setting is sometimes too much and the eye wants to scan for the forward movement in the story.

I love the dialogue, the emotional reactions, and interplay between the maids. I loved how the author gave us the dialogue between the mother and protagonist. The villain in the story was well played.I learned some things about Puerto Rico, the culture and language which is a plus in my opinion.

I didn’t like the way the daughter’s character was written. She had the same extremes of reaction over the entire book.

These glitches may be because this is the author’s first novel (1996). I would definitely read Esmeralda Santiago’s other books.

one man tango

One Man Tango by Anthony Quinn and Daniel Paisner

Description from publisher:

“While bicycling near his villa in Ceccina, Italy, veteran actor Anthony Quinn begins a remarkable journey of self-discovery through a varied and colorful past–and delivers one of the most fascinating star biographies ever written. Resonating with Quinn’s own passionate voice, an infectious zest for living, and a wealth of juicy anecdotes, One Man Tango is by turns resilient and caustic, daring and profound. It is a memoir as bold as the man who wrote it. Includes a 16-page photo insert. HC: HarperCollins.”

Anthony Quinn was a hero of many Latino’s, being that he was a well known actor in the ’40-’70’s when few Latinos were on the big screen. Not only did he come from Mexico, but he grew up in East Los Angeles. He was associated with the Kennedy’s, Catholics, Cesar Chavez, laborers, and California politics which further endeared him to the Mexican American community.

I couldn’t help loving this book.When I read the memoir it was as if Anthony Quinn himself was in my family room recounting his memories. He lived as passionately as his many love affairs.

Remember Zorba the Greek? Well, Anthony Quinn had that enthusiasm for living. His early life was one of extreme poverty in Mexico, with his Mexican Irish father who fought in the Mexican Revolution, and his Mexican Indian mother. 

The memoir is as fast paced as his bicycle ride through the hills of Ceccina, giving the reader an insight into the hills and valleys of the actor’s life, which is fascinating. Besides being an actor he was a laborer, boxer, artist, vintner, writer and philanthropist.

His memory of the movie stars, producers, and directors that he worked with is fascinating, juicy and very entertaining. He worked with Marlon Brando, Laurence Olivier, Mickey Rooney, Carole Lombard, Maureen O’Hara, Rita Hayworth, and numerous other memorable actors. His memoir reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood and the world, with all the side dishes that go along with these characters.

Particularly interesting was his experiences and conflicts with mobsters, politicians, and movie moguls, including his father-in-law, Cecil B. De Mille. Their family dynamics were extremely interesting.

Anthony Quinn often reminisces about his poor choices, the emotional turmoil he put his wife and family through, and looking back it seems he regrets some of his decisions. But what also comes through the memoir is that he loved his family like a ferocious lion.

This memoir is one of the most well-written, insightful, and candid story I’ve ever read. There are many beautifully written phrases and visuals that make you feel you are on that bicycle ride through the towns and cities of Mexico, East Los Angeles, Hollywood, and Italy.

as Eufemio Zapata with Marlon Brando's Emilian...
as Eufemio Zapata with Marlon Brando’s Emiliano Zapata in Viva Zapata! (1952) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Books, Encouragement, Uncategorized, Writing

NaNoNaNo

NaNoWriMo-Ambulance Debbie R. Ohi
NaNoWriMo-Ambulance Debbie R. Ohi

Writing, like old age, is not for wusses. It takes patience, resilience, strength, and a little bit of crazy to keep on keeping on with your stories. It takes a whole lot of crazy, and love, to participate and finish NaNoWriMo. This year 303, 754 people signed up for NNWM. Stay out of their way until December.

Are you all sufficiently tired, stressed and behind on your NNWM goals. I’m not participating this year, made up my own thing-but back to this later.

In November 2011, I participated in NaNoWriMo. I remember clearly how I went through the roller coaster of excitement, joined a NaNo support group, rah-rah when word count met, and satisfaction.

Cool ride until mini emergencies happened, then I plummeted when I couldn’t make the time. I talked bad about myself. Did all that, ‘I’m not a writer,’ what the hell am I getting carpal tunnel for, who cares, waa-waa.

The next day I put on the big girl chones and rode again. Up, up until I broke through my own NaNo glass ceiling.

Again, I slide further below my word count. Now I didn’t want to make time. I threw out word count goals for the day, tried to relax and wrote when I felt like it (but I made myself feel like it six times a week). Sometimes I wrote for 10 minutes, other times for three hours.

I got it done. Got the badge and everything. I spent a couple of months in 2012 completing the story and then I let the manuscript sit for two more months.

Time passed while I got busy revising a previous manuscript, creating queries, and struggling through writing the synopsis for two manuscripts. I parked the NaNo manuscript in a folder on my desktop-until last month.

This year I created my own writing challenge. I did NaNo Revision Month or NaNoReMo. The ms word count is 65,000 so I divided that number by 26 days (no work on Sundays). My goal is to revise 2,500 words each working day. So far, so good.

This infographic is very helpful. You can find a printable list to use as a checklist when you decide to do your own NaNoReMo.

25 editing tips from thewritingcafe.com
25 editing tips from thewritingcafe.com

Writers know that revisions come in rounds, like a boxing match, a heavyweight one. Someone I find extremely helpful is Holly Lisle. She has a bunch of information on revising your manuscript. She calls it the One Pass Manuscript Revision.  I found it challenging but helpful.

Good luck to all you NaNo’s and keep writing. You can catch up on sleep in December.

Latino culture, Latino family tradition, Uncategorized

The Icons of Day of the Dead

La Catrina- Jose G. Posada etching, 1910 Mexico
La Catrina- Jose G. Posada etching, 1910 Mexico
November first begins the Day of the Dead (Dia de los Muertos) festivities and whose roots can be traced back to indigenous cultures. The Aztecs had a celebration in the ninth month of their calendar with a celebration to their goddess Mictecacihuatl, the Queen or  “Lady of the Dead.”

 

Souls did not die, they rested in Mictlan. Her role is to keep watch over the bones of the dead and she presided over the ancient festivals for the departed. She and her husband, the King of Mictlan, were depicted as skeletons and lived in an underworld of bats, spiders and owls.

The calavera, or skeleton is an icon of the DDLM. It has now evolved to stylized and colorful versions of the skull or skeleton figures. You’ve probably seen hundreds. You can find the history of the sugar skulls here.  Many times you’ll see skull shaped breads, cookies or candy. I had these delicious cookies last year:

IMG_0322
Another icon of  DDLM is La Catarina. She is originally found in a 1910 zinc etching by Jose G. Posada, Mexican printer maker and cartoonist. Later La Catrina was stylized as a female skeleton dressed in a hat befitting the upper class outfit of a European of her time. Her hat originally is related to French and European styles of the early 20th century. She is meant to portray a satirization of those Mexican natives who the artist, Jose Posada, felt were over embracing European traditions of the aristocracy in the pre-revolutionary era.
La Catarina
DIego Rivera’s  “portrait” of Catarina popularized her in this 1946 mural.
The Kid-Diego Rivera. Wiki Creative Commons Lic.
The Kid-Diego Rivera. Wiki Creative Commons Lic.
The spirits of the deceased are thought to pay a visit to their families during DoD and the families prepare an altar, another icon, for them. The altar is used to hold offerings, or ofrendasfor the departed. Their favorite foods, photos, and mementos are often placed on the altar together with items the deceased enjoyed:  toys, candy, liquor, hobbies, etc. A bar of soap, towel, bowl of water and other grooming items are traditionally left at the altar with the belief that the dead have been on a long journey and would like to refresh themselves. 
Day of the Dead Altar-Mexico, Wiki Images
Day of the Dead Altar-Mexico, Wiki Images
An icon that celebrates the indigenous roots are the Four Elements: wind, water, earth and fire are often represented on the altar. Wind is sometimes signified by papel picado that moves in the breeze. Candles depict fire, food represents earth, and liquids represent water. The cempasuchitl (Mexican Marigold) is an Aztec tradition, and another icon, which says that the twenty-petal flower attracts souls to the altars.
In the last ten years, Day of the Dead celebrations include both traditional and political elements, such as altars to honor the victims of the Iraq War. There are updated, inter-cultural versions of the Day of the Dead such as the event at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery, (a very cool website). This year the Smithsonian Institute has a celebration-on 3D! 
Smithsonian Institute
Smithsonian Institute Dia De Los Muertos
The DDLM’s has become more widely known and accepted. Although I didn’t grow up with DDLM’s, I did grow up with small altars in our home, where we did have statues and prayed for the departed throughout the year. This was more in the tradition of Catholicism.

This year, like the last three years, I’m attending a DDLM party at the Ventura County Museum, which features crafts, altars, drinks and dancing. Whichever way you honor your loved ones and those who have departed, may you have a memorable Dia de los Muertos.

Chingonas, poetry, poets, Uncategorized

Braiding Words into Poems

gettyimages.com
gettyimages.com

It was at the AROHO retreat when words began to jam the inside of my head, seeking the way out, like never before. I wrote my first poem while I was in a workshop with Jillian Lauren , who taught “Writing on the Edge.” Two days later I had two more poems. I thought in verse without knowing or trying.

Maybe it was the gorgeous landscape around me, coupled with the synergy of wise wonderful women (bien Chingonas) attending the retreat, or maybe it was the spirit of Ghost Ranch and the motto of New Mexico: “The Land of Enchantment.”

Since returning from New Mexico, five weeks ago, six more poems have leaked out of me. The one below came to me in the middle of the night, a few days after I returned from AROHO. My critique group, Women Who Write, helped me form the poem into something a little more coherent.

The original name of the poem was Braids, but today, in honor of National Poetry Day and NPMonth, I retitled it to post on a blog I happened to stumble upon, Poetic Bloomings. The task was to write a poem about composing a poem. The prize is a book of poetry (and you know I love free books).

Poems

Braid words
to reach across
expanse of experiences

Pull together strands
of pain, joy
sadness, hope,
wisdom, love
bit by bit, strand by strand

Form strength
tighter, stronger, thicker
criss cross
hand over hand
fingers nimble
fast, slow

Pull together
thick cords
ropes of strength

Sycamore trees, Oxnard, CA
Sycamore trees, Oxnard, CA

On my walk yesterday,  I came upon a Sycamore, usually the only trees in the whole neighbor and my coastal city, which give evidence that autumn has arrived. Among the palm trees and drought resistant plants, the Sycamores stand out in their demise, brilliantly. A red leaf dropped in front of me and ‘walked’ like a starfish across my path.

Starfish on Asphalt
Starfish on Asphalt

Starfish on Asphalt

From the depths of an ocean

coastal winds blew you near

a starfish on asphalt

for me to see.

Crawling,

moving towards others,

huddling in the cold,

dying in color.

A fish out of water

to return

next spring

huddled leaves
huddled leaves