Our book launch of Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology was released this week. We thank everyone who joined us to celebrate this wonderful literary accomplishment! Special thanks to all of our Madrinas y Padrinos who helped make this possible. It filled me with lots of joy to see everyone smiling as they walked away with their copy of our much anticipated anthology.
It was truly a beautiful blessing to come together to share our stories, tell a little chisme and drink some wine. We hope that those of you who have purchased the book will feel empowered to tell your stories.
For those of you that didn’t get a chance to make it out and want a copy of the book you can order it online via Paypal.
What makes this book unique is that it contains the writing and artwork of 26 Latinas and a cameo appearance by our Chisme Box. Some of the themes that appear in the book include: gender, sexuality, family, identity, culture and is written in English, Spanish and Spanglish. The writers included in this anthology range from women in their 20′s all the way to their 70′s reflecting a diversity of work being created by Latinas!
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I want to dedicate this La Neta post to the adventure of being a creative. It was at Proyecto Latina’s open mic Mondays that I first started playing my songs for an audience. Now I am playing out frequently with my band Tijuana Jai Alai. The ska and punk music scenes are heavily male dominated, and I have to wonder what it would look like if more women had access to a safe space like Proyecto Latina in which to share their creativity? My work of editing the upcoming volume Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology comes from my gratitude at having such a space. It is a compilation of poetry, art, prose, drama, chismes and reflections from the Proyecto Latina community and beyond, and happily it looks like we’re on track for a late summer release date.
My fear of sharing my art, and my relationship to this fear, is a long one. When my father was diagnosed with lung cancer in the second semester of my sophomore year, I withdrew from college to help with his care. He smoked two packs a day since he was a teenager, and led a swashbuckling life of non-stop community action and partying. He was now skeletal and bedridden, and relied on me for all his needs, but I still found him intimidating.
My father’s approval had always been elusive, but that summer I enjoyed an exciting victory: he was proud of a 120-page poetry collection that I had authored over the course of my second year at college. I called it The Chicana Who Built the Earth. Dad wanted me to read him something from my collection, but I knew that I had already read him the ones that he was most likely to enjoy, so I was challenged at that moment to choose from the ones that didn’t say something explicit about love or sexuality, and didn’t indict the way I was raised. Flipping through the pages of my book, I knew there were no more poems that fit these criteria, so I did what young and nervous performers do. I began to apologize for what he was about to hear.
You know what, he said. Get off it. Who are you to write a perfect poem? All that shy crap. It’s just ego to think anyone cares what you do.
There wasn’t much you could say after that. I read him a poem I had written about Grandma, how she lived her life on her knees in the kitchen, a model for the banality of domestic violence in our universe. It had images of Mission Indians escaping to “fornicate,” and a repeated refrain of, I feel a fever, I feel a fever. Dad liked some of it. Other parts he felt were too preachy.
Who are you to write a perfect poem?
I wanted to edit Rebeldes: A Proyecto Latina Anthology because I believe that the fear and awe and isolation that it takes to write and share our stories are what define perfection. Our rebellion is not in plucking the right verse, but rather in taking the risk to embrace our own danger and strangeness. The bad art is the sound of us apologizing for who we are.
*This post is part of La Neta: A Latina Guide to Losing it All
What is Blogtitlanistas Feminista Readings?
Wednesday April 17th a few of the women from Blogtitlan will gather to read a short selection of their work. Blogtitlan (a phrase I believe originally coined by Cindylu of Loteria Chicana) is a community of mostly Latino bloggers that came together in approximately 2003 and grew to support each other as we developed our individual identity politics. Read more on this event…
Why did you decide to organize this event?
I missed Blogtitlan despite our min-reunion in January of 2012 in San Diego, California. A lot of Latina bloggers are here in the Midwest, and I miss the discussions we had so what better place to organize than Chicago —an epicenter for many Latino bloggers. Plus, I love Chicago!
What do you want the audience to walk away with from this event?
I think we are all embracing to know we aren’t alone, and can identify with others. I want people to laugh, cry, and nod in an “ohh yeah! I know that feeling, I too feel it, it’s okay”
Why are Midwestern Latina voices important to you?
Midwestern Latinas are my own voice and a generally an unheard voice. I think people forget there are Latinos in the Midwest, we are a different bunch but still part of the movement. We have generational issues, language issues, assimilation issues, and historical issues just in different context than someone in the valley might have.
How has blogging impacted you as a writer?
This question makes me chuckle. I’ve never thought of myself as a writer, but blogging has given me the self-esteem to think of myself as someone who can write, and occasionally have the privilege of influence.
What kinds of content will we find on your blog and how long have you been blogging?
I have been at www.elenamary.com since 1999 but I believe I only have archives up since 2004. I mostly write personal stuff and when I get political it tends to be about something dealing with my world in Ohio or in regions of Mexico where my family still lives.
What are your top three tips for blogging?
Not sure, I should be giving any tips but here goes, blog from the heart, and don’t regret. The don’t regret is the hardest. There will be times you write things and think I can’t believe I used to think like that, or I can’t believe I used those words, or made those mistakes. But you did and they are who you were. We are changing and if you aren’t changing you aren’t growing, allow yourself that process.
Lastly, I love this quote and I think it embraces the blog from the heart idea:
“Sometimes I write drunk and revise sober, and sometimes I write sober and revise drunk. But you have to have both elements in creation — the Apollonian and the Dionysian, or spontaneity and restraint, emotion and discipline.”
What are some of your favorite blogs?
What have you learned about Latina bloggers that has surprised you?
They can be shy! I always imagined bloggers as generally very out going people but for example Cindylu of Loteria Chicana can be quiet and shy. Also, once I actually get to meet bloggers, it is amazing how instantly we can connect.
Final thoughts? Whenever I say “Proyecto Latina”, I think of the band Proyecto Uno jajajaja. Get more details on the reading on April 17th.
About Elena Mary (EM) - She is a Xicana that is happily creating her own space where one kind find awesomeness and failure. Like a good “American” EM has race and cultural identity issues which she blogs about quite a bit. Having trouble focusing on anything for too long, she has run for political office, been a union organizer, fostered half dozen children, studied medicine, urban geography and queer feminist performing artists, is competing for a slot at the world championships for triathlon. Most importantly EM loves days with no set plans because she is stubborn, adventurous and hates being told what to do. Read her blog…
Here is Proyecto Latina’s installment of the self-interview project “NEXT BIG THING” is online. Thanks to poet/writer Xanath Caraza for tagging us.
I’m tagging writers Xenia Ruiz, Ulises Silva and Linda Rodriguez
Next Wednesday they’ll each publish a self-interview based on the 10 questions and tag other writers.
What is the working title of your book?
We are currently huddling with the illustrious and sassy Chisme Box to kick around a few names. Some working titles we’ve come up with include:
Hola Chola: A Collection of Proyecto Latina Writings, Art, and Chismes
Snake Effect: Collected Proyecto Latina Writings, Art, and Chismes
Presentation: Proyecto Latina Writing, Art, and Chisme
If you suggestions at email@example.com
What genre does it fall under?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
Last year, writer Paloma Martinez-Cruz made the suggestion and we encouraged her to take the lead on the anthology project. Since then, Paloma has been amazing at gathering the stories and giving thoughtful edits to the writers who will be published in the anthology.
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
This anthology chronicles the stories, poems and chismes of Latina women living in Chicago and have come to the Proyecto Latina Reading Series to share their work in primera voz.
How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? At this time, all of the writers included in the anthology are in the editing process and in March we will be in phase two of compiling all of the edited stories.
Who or what inspired you to write it?
This anthology reflects the voices of women that were featured at Proyecto Latina Reading Series. Their work chronicles and honors the diversity of stories being told in our community. It is meant to inspire other Latinas to take responsibility and generate new work.
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
The anthology will be self-published and is supported by madrinas and padrinos who believe in the voices of Latina women and have generously contributed to the publishing of the anthology. We are still looking for madrinas y padrinos for the book. If you are interested learn how you can get involved read more…
What other works would you compare this book to within your genre?
I have to say the Latino Writers Collective of Kansas City kicks ass when it comes to cranking out books reflecting diverse Latino voices. I think are intentions are similar in that we both strive to amplify the stories of Latino writers in the Midwest. Two of my favorite books they have published and are sitting on my bookshelf include:
Primera Pagina: Poetry from the Latino Heartland
Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland
What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?
There are many different stories and poems in this anthology representing the Proyecto Latina community so obviously I can’t speak for their work. For my own story, Of Pulque, Pilgrimages and Goddesses, I would cast Will Ferrell in a wig or Scarlett Johansson to play the lead protagonist. Cringe, I’m kidding but isn’t that how it works in the movies?
We have this huge Latino population in this country and we aren’t reflected in the mainstream movies we consume. We remain invisible except when we are cast as gangbangers, maids, janitors or prostitutes. This is why it is so important to cultivate diverse Latino writers to challenge and change those narratives. If I had my way I would cast local actor Stephanie Diaz Reppen or funny lady Claudia Martinez because they get my writing and I trust their skills to interpret the work.
What else about your manuscript might pique the reader’s interest?
At this time, it’s the only Latina anthology being published spotlighting the work of Latinas living and writing in Chicago. The Chisme Box will also be sharing some of her funniest bits of gossip that mujeres have shared over the years. It’s definitely a literary blue print for women in other communities to either create their own anthology or start their own reading series. My hope is that readers will be inspired and challenged to generate new work and create their own print or online platforms to share their stories with the next generation of Latina writers.
You can read more about the anthology in a recent article written by Lucia Anaya, The Gate Newspaper. Read more…
Next week, expect self-interviews from these writers and poets:
In 1979, my grandmother took me to Guatemala for a short visit, which ended up stretching to a full year, and would have continued indefinitely had my fed-up mother not boarded a plane and personally retrieved me. According to her, I had insisted on wearing full native costume for the trip home: corte, huipil, faja, trenzas piled on my head interwoven with ribbons and festooned with pom-poms. She says I sang the Guatemalan national anthem as I deplaned. I have a vague memory of this; I remember my huipil was from Cobán. I was five years old.
I remember many things about my life in Guatemala: living in the Zona 1, walking with my cousins to school at San Vicente de Paul, all of us in our green-and-white uniforms. I remember going with Abuelita or Tía Sheny to buy tortillas down the street, and the strange dark room in our house that was curtained off, that nobody ever went into.
I remember the student store at school, the kindly pàrroco who never smiled –“Padre Shuco” to my cousins, because he apparently never bathed—and Maria Luisa Rey, my kindergarten/1st grade teacher, whom Tìa Sheny had dubbed “Señorita Tamalita” because she was round and compact. I remember marching in the Independence Day parade as the abanderada, but as I was too small to carry the flag—I walked in front of it, wearing white knee socks on my arms because I had deemed the wrist-length gloves I’d been offered not formal enough for the occasion.
I remember my fifth birthday party, with all my cousins and the neighborhood kids, and my Penèlope Burro piñata, and the stupid clown whom I instantly hated when he informed me I had incorrectly answered a Guatemala trivia question (I promptly and tearfully informed him that there would be no more need for his services at my party, while my uncles wept with laughter).
I remember buying green mango with chile, sal y limón from the street vendors –eating so much of it one day that I got a sour stomach as Abuelita clucked, “te dije!”– and drinking purple Fanta from a baggie with a straw. I remember the procesiones in the streets and making my primera comunión in a white dress and veil with what seemed like hundreds of other, identically-dressed little girls. Learning to write in cursive. Going to misa with Abuelita and feeding the pigeons in the plaza, sitting on the fountain. Fireworks and sparklers para la Noche Buena. The entirety of my other childhood memories is virtually eclipsed by this one year, this singular window into the world of my mother’s upbringing.
This one year in my young life became the cornerstone of my very identity (particularly when I returned to the U.S. with no recollection of how to speak English, and was promptly treated as Other). When I went away to Guatemala, I became –in my mind and heart—Guatemalteca, and lived much of my life thinking of myself that way, despite the fact that I would not return again for many, many years; too many to admit.
Most of these memories make appearances in my current short story collection, and they are easy to work into the narratives—they are mine, and mine only, and their idyllic nature makes them a relative joy to fictionalize. But they’re not the only memories serving as a basis for my book: my mom’s stories of her life in Guate, her political activism, her emigration to the US, her life in New Orleans in the ‘60s and her service in the US Marine Corps during Vietnam all figure prominently as well, as do secondhand tales of various other family members.
These stories are not mine… and when I went to Guatemala last fall to try and supplement my Mom’s versions of them (and maybe pick up a few new ones!), I was presented instead with a tangled snarl of resentments, estrangements, conflicting accounts and never-to-be-solved mysteries. Most of all, I was confronted with a painful truth, one that brought my work on the stories to a screeching halt for months: I am not Guatemalan anymore. And, worse– maybe I never really was.
This story is PART ONE of writer Stephanie Diaz Reppen’s journey going to Guatemala to do research for her writing. Stay tuned for part two of her story.