Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Pedacitos y Pedazos

Chicano Lit in Texas

I’ve used up a lot of cyberspace on La Bloga for Califas events, authors, etc. This time it’s Tejas. Next time, Nuevo Mejico? ¿Quién sabe? This could turn into a literary journey through Aztlan, or is it Atzlan?

The Tenth Annual Latina Letters Conference on Latina Literature and Identity will take place July 14 - 16, 2005. This major conference is sponsored by St. Mary’s University and the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center in San Antonio. This year’s theme is: Ten Years of Latina Letters, Three Decades of Latina Literature. Announced guests include Sandra Cisneros, Pat Mora, Ana Menéndez, Lourdes Pérez, and Alicia Gaspar de Alba. The Conference has issued a Call For Papers. The topic for papers is open and proposals for panels and other conference activities are welcome. Deadline for abstracts of papers is April 29, 2005. Online registration (beginning March 1, 2005) will be available at www.guadalupeculturalarts.org. More information: LatinaLetters@wingspress.com.

You should notice that the information center for the Latina Letters Conference is Wings Press. The next time you are shopping for a book, do yourself a favor and check out this publisher. Don’t let the fact that it is a “small press from Texas” deter you. The website is www.wingspress.com. Here you can find books by raúlrsalinas, Joy Harjo, Cecile Pineda, and several other emerging or established Chicano/a, native and women authors. You can even get John Howard Griffin’s famous classic Black Like Me as well as Street of the Seven Angels, a previously unpublished novel by Griffin. As the Bloomsbury Review noted: “Wings Press [is] the best little publishing house in Texas. Led by the indefatigable publisher Bryce Milligan, a true San Antonio hero and literary wizard, Wings Press has ventured beyond its south-by-southwestern borders to launch a series of original publications and reprints that deserve as much national recognition and distribution as possible.” For years Bryce Milligan was the driving force behind the San Antonio Literary Festival and Book Fair, an event sorely missed by anyone who ever participated or sat in the audience.

Left Coast Crime 15 is the 2005 version of this popular crime fiction conference. Each year in a different location dozens of writers and hundreds of readers and fans get together to talk about crime fiction and have a good time. This year’s conference takes place in El Paso, TX, from February 24 - 27. The International Guest of Honor is Paco Ignacio Taibo II, the celebrated mystery writer who calls Mexico his home. Taibo has authored several novels, many of which have been translated into English. He has a series that features the one-eyed private detective, Hector Belascoaran Shayne, who was killed off in one novel but brought back by popular demand in the next, with only a minimal explanation from Taibo. Taibo’s books are filled with action, leftist politics, nostalgia, atmosphere, numerous social and cultural references and, quite often, a subtle surreal quality. I enjoy them immensely and recommend him highly.

Taibo’s current writing project is a serialized mystery for the Mexican newspaper La Jornada, in collaboration with Subcomandante Marcos of Los Zapatistas. Taibo and Marcos are writing alternate chapters of the book, entitled Muertos Incomodos, which already is set to be published across the Spanish-speaking world and Italy. An English version of the book may follow. The series of chapters has reportedly boosted La Jornada's Sunday sales by 20%.

I will have the pleasure of appearing on the same Left Coast panel with Paco - a panel entitled : "Authors With Social Consciences: Society's Problems in Detective Fiction.” Other panelists include Denise Hamilton and Betty Webb. Man, with that title we could take the discussion almost anywhere.

I also will participate in a second panel, "Que Pasa Con Latino/a Detectives", with Steven Torres, Michele Martinez, and Alicia Gaspar de Alba. Torres writes the Precinct Puerto Rican series that features his hero Sheriff Luis Gonzalo. The three books in the series have caught a lot of good attention. If you like police procedurals, especially those set in Puerto Rico, Steven’s your man. Michele Martinez is brand new to the publishing game. For eight years she was an Assistant United States Attorney in the Eastern District of New York, and if you check out her website you can learn about her tough background growing up on the East Coast and her exciting life as a prosecutor. Her first novel, Most Wanted, hits the streets officially on February 15. Alicia Gaspar de Alba is well-known to anyone who has had even the smallest interest in Chicana Literature. She’s at Left Coast Crime to promote her soon-to-be released novel, Desert Blood. This sounds like a real must-read. It deals with the hundreds of apparently unsolved murders of women in Juárez over the past decade or so. Alicia has been involved with this issue for some time so there’s no doubt that the book will ring with authenticity.

I’m always up for good conversation about crime fiction, any kind of crime fiction but especially Chicano crime fiction, so if you make it to the conference, let me know who you are and what you like to read.

Manuel Ramos