05 October 2012

this quality of coolness

Closing the sliding glass door behind her, the house hit Cecilia with a cool that she had nearly forgotten in the heavy humidity of the city. Even the city park could not provide this quality of coolness--cement blocks hovering around it on all fours. This was the kind of coolness that only grew from a ground not hollowed out by tunnels and steaming underground trains. Berkeley. It reminded her of the hills of Berkeley. The blend of drying jasmine and eucalyptus hot-whipped into a cloudless sky, the scent carrying itself out to the bay.

In Brooklyn, she still found it hard to believe she lived by the water. The tops of neighboring ships were to her merely another line of differently shaped structures rising up from the stiff water-floor. The real mother ocean was three thousand miles behind her.

Cherríe Moraga, "Pesadilla," in Loving in the War Years, p.33

Anatomy Lesson

A black woman and a small beige one talk about their bodies.
About putting a piece of their anatomy in their pockets
upon entering any given room.

When entering a room full of soldiers who fear hearts,
you put your heart in your back pocket,
the black woman explains. It is important, not to intimidate.
The soldiers wear guns, not in their back pockets.

You let the heart fester there. You let the heart seethe.
You let the impatience of the heart build and build
until the power of the heart hidden begins to be felt in the room.
Until the absence of the heart begins to take on the shape
of a presence.
Until the soldiers look at you and begin to beg you
to open up your heart to them, so anxious are they to see
what it is they fear they fear.

Do not be seduced.

Do not forget for a minute that the soldiers wear guns.
Hang onto your heart.
Ask them first what they'll give up to see it.
Tell them that they can begin with their arms.

Only then will you begin to negotiate.

Moraga, p.60

Corey Rusk

....since he was seventeen, Rusk had been promoting all-ages shows by countless bands, including the Minutemen, Black Flag, and the Misfits, and even though he delivered pizzas for a living, he never took a penny for his efforts--all he asked was to get reimbursed for expenses. It was a great deal for the bands--where the local rock club might have paid the bands about $300, they might walk away with nearly triple that at one of Rusk's shows.

Michael Azerrad, Our Band Could Be Your Life, p.281

Ian MacKaye

For MacKaye the Sixties counterculture and the early punk underground had furnished the blueprints for a better existence. Punk was not something to grow out of; it was something to grow with--it was a valid, sustainable way to live one's life.

Azerrad, p.378


On those long drives, they worked up some novel ideas about how they were going to conduct their business: they wouldn't do interviews with magazines they themselves wouldn't read; they would play only all-ages shows and tickets would be $5.

Insisting on all-ages admission and $5 tickets largely kept them out of even the hardcore circuit; most Fugazi shows were promoted by punk kids at impromptu venues--people's basements, community centers, vegetarian restaurants, even dorm rooms....

After Repeater the band was routinely selling out 1,000-capacity shows and yet still hauled their own equipment, booked their own shows, and slept on people's floors (and they still do)....

Azerrad, p.389, 391, 404

"Feminism As We See It"

Another attitude which might cause problems is basic racism of the mind. It is a disease, you know. What is stronger: racism or sexism? I believe racism. Anglo women must analyze their emotions and intellect and think clearly on this. Is the women's movement a move to place just another layer of racist Anglo dominance over minority peoples? Look at it through our peepholes. Minorities are working hard, pressuring the system for equal opportunity. Suddenly, the hereto silent Anglo woman emerges clamoring for her political, social, and economic rights. She, who has reaped the physical comforts, the physical pampering, suddenly is unhappy at the whole situation. So she wants equal opportunity. And is her cry one for intellectual liberation? No! It's 90 percent for political opportunity so she can have economic opportunity. This looks very, very suspicious to us...

Martha Cotera, "Feminism As We See It," in The Chicana Feminist, p.18

26 May 2012

Gerda Lerner

American women have also been denied their history, but this denial has not yet been widely recognized. History, in the past largely written by white male historians, has simply failed to ask those questions which would elicit information about the female contribution, the female point of view. Women as a group have been denied knowledge of their legitimate past and have been profoundly affected individually by having to see the world through male eyes.

Gerda Lerner, Black Women in White America: A Documentary History, p.xvii

14 May 2012

Vinoba Bhave

If India could find courage to reduce her army to the minimum, it would demonstrate to the world her moral strength. But we are cowards and cowards have no imagination.

Vinoba Bhave, quoted in Dave Dellinger, Revolutionary Nonviolence, p.298

08 May 2012

Agnes Iron

Each evening after supper, Agnes walked to the place where the Perdition River flowed into Lake Grand. She went alone, to think, she said, and to be silent. Always she returned, refreshed and clear-eyed, as if the place where two waters met was a juncture where fatigue yielded to comfort, where a woman renewed herself.

One night, from the porch, I watched her coming back through the first shade of night. She didn't see me as she came up the road. She was half a world away in the first evening dimness. She wore the fur coat wide open and she walked with something like a dance step, even in her heavy black shoes, turning a little this way and a little that. I still remember how strong and wide her thighs appeared that night, her awkward movement. She was singing, too. On her upturned face, she wore a look--half-rapture, half-pain. She was singing. I felt the song and I wanted to stay there and listen, but it was a private act, I knew. I didn't want to intrude upon Agnes' inner world, so I slipped indoors quietly, before she saw me, put water in the kettle and waited for it to heat. But all the time I smiled at her passion, her rocking movement, her bent knees.

She was still singing when she came in.

Linda Hogan, Solar Storms, p.44

"horses laugh at me"

I like the whole idea of horses, and the people who hack around the country's bridleways on them. In fact, there can be few more poetic sights on a winter morning than that of a couple of riders clopping along an Essex lane while the sun strobes down through the bare trees.

But the truth is that I'm only spiritually an equestrian. I've always meant to learn how to ride and it's to my eternal chagrin that I never have. Horses, you see, laugh at me. Whenever I've had any dealings with them it's almost like they know I'm a soft touch and that they can do whatever they want. I once had to help a woman walk two horses for a couple of miles through the lanes from one village to another. My horse kept leaning on me. The woman asked: "What's wrong?" I replied that the horse kept leaning on me. "Well lean back at him." she barked. I did. The horse leaned on me even harder, pushing me over. As I got up, I'll swear it was grinning at me. And ever since then, every horse that I ever meet, looks at me in a certain way. It's like my picture's been circulated around the county's stables and that I'm the subject of some well-known equine gag.

Martin Newell, "Buying A Winter Coat," in The Stars on a Tray, pp. 147-148

28 April 2012

Henry Rollins on U2

During lunch Bono and Paul McGuinness ask me about the poetry slams in New York. An increasingly popular entertainment in the East Village is for poets to get up and recite their verse while audience volunteers judge them on a scale of one to ten, a sort of Olympic Pentameter.

"You hear some good stuff and a lot of bad stuff," I say. "The obnoxious thing is that a lot of them are desperate to prove that just 'cause they're poets doesn't mean they're sissies. They try to act punk, they try to dress tough. It's like those classical violinists who think dyeing their hair green will make them connect to the kids. It's hard to listen to spoken word by people who are so horny to convince you they're macho."

"Like Henry Rollins," Paul says.

"Ah, no," I say. "Henry Rollins is good." And I immediately wonder if I've put my foot in my mouth. Rollins has a monologue on one of his spoken word albums in which he mocks U2's fans, rags on the band, and rants, "They could never fool me! We always had to see over and over again on any television channel that shithead climbing up and down the P.A. at Redrocks! That guy with the bubble butt waving a white flag! A white flag says, Aim your crosshair sights over here! Kill ME! The one with the flag. Pop that guy. And Edge doing that fucking fake-ass pilgrim gig like, I'm so pious and low-key with my millions. I'll just play this one Enoesque chord. They've been milking that same bassline and the same guitar change for like five albums and the world kisses their ass and it is the biggest pile of shite I have ever heard!"

The air hangs heavy over the lunch table for a moment and then Bono says casually, "Henry Rollins--is that the vegetarian?"

Bill Flanagan, U2 at the End of the World, pp.333-334

Martin Newell on "Miss Van Houten's Coffee Shoppe"

This is a sort of Brian-Wilson-on-the-Village-Green thing. I really like cheerful pop songs and I hate nearly everything to do with rock and credibility. When I see some leather-clad wasted-looking gothic wretch posing in a club I always think, "Oh for God's sake go for a bicycle ride or something." I'm gradually becoming Julie Andrews....

from the liner notes to The Off White Album

"a more accurate national history"

In 1984, when I was asked by editors of the British journal Social History to write an article reviewing the field of American women's history, I was a young assistant professor with an agenda. Like most of my generation of feminist scholars, professional ambitions were fired by political awakenings. Converted, and I do mean converted, to anti-war politics and radical feminism as a first-year student at Smith College in the late 1960s, I became convinced that history offered a critical lever for opening the minds of women and men to the oppressive character of American military, political, and social institutions and attitudes. The American history survey course I took in my sophomore year, in which Dr. Allen Weinstein catalogued a national tradition of racism and militarism from the colonial era through the Vietnam War, convinced me that if Americans had truly understood their history, they would not continue to support U.S. interventions in the domestic and economic affairs of other nations. The consciousness-raising that would be provided by a more accurate--that is, antiracist, anti-imperialist, and feminist--national history was critical, I thought, to mobilizing movements for progressive social change.

Nancy Hewitt, "Beyond the Search for Sisterhood," in Unequal Sisters: A Multicultural Reader in U.S. Women's History (Vicki Ruiz and Ellen Carol DuBois, eds.), p.1

21 April 2012


"On the planet O there has not been a war for five thousand years," she read, "and on Gethen there has never been a war." She stopped reading, to rest her eyes and because she was trying to train herself to read slowly, not gobble words down in chunks the way Tikuli gulped his food. "There has never been a war:" in her mind the words stood clear and bright, surrounded by and sinking into an infinite, dark, soft incredulity. What would that world be, a world without war? It would be the real world. Peace was the true life, the life of working and learning and bringing up children to work and learn. War, which devoured work, learning, and children, was the denial of reality. But my people, she thought, know only how to deny. Born in the dark shadow of power misused, we set peace outside our world, a guiding and unattainable light. All we know how to do is fight. Any peace one of us can make in our life is only a denial that the war is going on, a shadow of the shadow, a doubled unbelief.

Ursula LeGuin, "Betrayals," in Four Ways to Forgiveness, p.1

16 April 2012

Ana da Silva

London, around Autumn 1976, was an amazing place to be. Gina had just arrived from Nottingham, and I had arrived from Portugal. The time leading up to our first album was really enjoyable regardless of predictable difficulties. It was a great period for learning and achieving the surprises that were our songs and our sound. The punk idea that you just needed to know three chords to start something, was a very encouraging concept, and I think it still stands. So, want to do something girls? Be bold, be cheeky, go for it. The efforts to open doors for women have been fruitful (though painfully slow) and we hope that, by having been there, we helped, not just ourselves, but others by means of inspiration.

Gina and I got our initial inspiration in 1976/77 from the groups we used to go and see--The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Subway Sect, Talking Heads, and particularly the women involved--Patti Smith, The Slits, Poly Styrene....They said it was easy, anyone could do it, so we decided to form our own group.

We felt amazed at our ability to write a S.O.N.G. with beginning, middle, and end. It sounded so miraculously complete that nothing would stop us from then on.

Ana da Silva, liner notes to The Raincoats

Kurt Cobain on The Raincoats

When I listen to The Raincoats I feel as if I'm a stowaway in an attic, violating and in the dark. Rather than listening to them, I feel like I'm listening in on them. We're together in the same old house and I have to be completely still or they will hear me spying from above and, if I get caught--everything will be ruined because it's their thing. They're playing their music for themselves. It's not as sacred as wire-tapping a Buddhist monk's telephone or something because if The Raincoats really did catch me, they would probably just ask me if I wanted some tea. I would comply, then they would finish playing their songs and I would say thank you very much for making me feel good.

Kurt Cobain, "From a Stowaway in an Attic," liner notes to The Raincoats

Steve Vai on his Audition for Frank Zappa's Band

So I was in that mode of being very hungry to rehearse and to learn, and that's really what you needed in a situation with Frank. Because with Frank you have to be on--I mean, it's a big boy's game--when Frank walks in, you just have to be on.

I remember my audition because he asked me to come down and learn all these songs--and obviously when I got there we didn't play any of the songs that he told me to learn, but I got through--but then he says to me, "Okay, play this," and he picks up his guitar and kind of cryptically plays a line--because Frank had a particular style and it wasn't of the virtuoso-type nature, you know what I mean? It was more visceral.

So he plays through something and says, "Now play it at this tempo," and snaps his fingers. And I'm watching closely because you got to get it right like that or you're out of there, and I say "Okay" and play it--and there's all these guys around and everything, and I'm 20 years old, and he says, "Now add this note here," and he plays a note, so I say "Okay" and I thought about it and I add the note, and he says "Now play it in 7/8," so I say "Okay" and play it in 7/8, and he says, "Now play it in 7/8 reggae," and I thought for a minute and I say "Okay" and I play it in 7/8 reggae! And it's this ridiculous line that should never be played on a guitar, and then he goes, "Now add this note," and he plays a note, and I thought for a minute and I look up at him and say, "It's impossible"--because it was! Nobody could do it, you know? And he puts his hands on his hips and goes, "Well, I hear Linda Ronstadt is looking for a guitar player...."

To watch this clip, go to Steve Vai Audition with Frank Zappa

Bruce Springsteen on Guitar Lessons

Well, I did take a lesson or two, but lessons were horrible in those days because the first thing they wanted to teach you was to read music and I needed instant gratification--I needed to rock now, not later, not after I learned the scales, not after I learned those notes and what their names were, not after I stopped the buzzing on the B string....I needed to make a horrific noise right now, and if you couldn't teach me that--and no one could in those days! Mike Diehl, the guy at Diehl's Music, was clueless as to the power of the instrument he held in his hands, and had no way of transmitting its significance to an incoherent nine-year-old. So the whole thing was ass-backwards and wasn't going to work.

from the interview with Steven Van Zandt on Little Steven's Underground Garage, April 4 2011

"we were there"

The settlement of the Farah strike in 1974 had, for many women, come at great personal cost. Few activists would enjoy the benefits since many of the most vocal were fired after a few months, ostensibly for failing to meet inflated production quotas; union representatives blithely refused to generate any grievance procedures to protect and retain these women. Mexican women have not fared well in their affiliation with mainstream labor unions even though they have contributed much of the people power, perseverance, and activism necessary for successful organization. As in the case of Farah, they typically have been denied any meaningful voice in the affairs of the local they had labored so valiantly to build.

Elsa Chávez is one of these women activists. After she was fired, Chávez began to work at another clothing factory, but came to the realization that she wanted--and could achieve--a college education. I first met Ms. Chávez when she was a student in my Chicano history class at U.T. El Paso; two former strikers had enrolled in the class, a fact I discovered as I lectured on the Farah strike and noticed the two reentry women, both bilingual education majors, sitting in the front row winking and giggling to each other. "Oh, we're sorry, Dr. Ruiz, but we were there." A bit nonplussed, I turned the class over to them.

Vicki Ruiz, From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, pp.131-132

La Nueva Chicana

She that lady protesting injustice,
Es mi Mamá.
The girl in the brown beret,
The one teaching the children,
She's my hermana.
Over there fasting with the migrants,
Es mi tía.
These are the women who worry,
Pray, iron
And cook chile and tortillas.
The lady with the forgiving eyes
And the gentle smile,
Listen to her shout.
She knows what hardship is all about
All about.
The establishment calls her a radical militant.
The newspapers read she is
A dangerous subversive
They label her name to condemn her.
By the FBI she's called
A big problem.
In Aztlán we call her
La Nueva Chicana.

Viola Correa, "La Nueva Chicana," in Ruiz, pp.169-170

28 March 2012

I Looked Up One Day (1973)

I looked up one day
and began
to see.

I looked up and began
to see
where I was
where I fit.

I began to suspect
that what I was doing
and what I wanted to do
to develop me
more completely

And I began
to watch,
to listen,
to observe
all those activities that stifled
this growth.

And I became more particular
how I spent my time
who I spent it with.

Rose Marie Roybal, "I Looked Up One Day," quoted in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings (Alma García, editor), p.233

13 March 2012

Rosario De Leon

I can't be a mother. Not now. Maybe never. Not for me to choose, like I didn't choose being female. Like I didn't choose being artist--it isn't something you choose. It's something you are, only I can't explain it.

I don't want to be a mother.

I wouldn't mind being a father. At least a father could still be artist, could love something instead of someone, and no one would call that selfish.

I leave my braid here and thank you for believing what I do is important. Though no one else in my family, no other woman, neither friend nor relative, no one I know, not even the heroine in the telenovelas, no woman wants to live alone.

I do.

Virgencita de Guadalupe. For a long time I wouldn't let you in my house. I couldn't see you without seeing my ma each time my father came home drunk and yelling, blaming everything that ever went wrong in his life on her.

I couldn't look at your folded hands without seeing my abuela mumbling, "My son, my son, my son..." Couldn't look at you without blaming you for all the pain my mother and her mother and all our mothers' mothers have put up with in the name of God. Couldn't let you in my house.

I wanted you bare-breasted, snakes in your hands. I wanted you leaping and somersaulting the backs of bulls. I wanted you swallowing raw hearts and rattling volcanic ash. I wasn't going to be my mother or my grandma. All that self-sacrifice, all that silent suffering. Hell no. Not here. Not me.

Don't think it was easy going without you. Don't think I didn't get my share of it from everyone. Heretic. Atheist. Malinchista. Hocicona. But I wouldn't shut my yap. My mouth always getting me in trouble. Is that what they teach you at the university? Miss High-and-Mighty. Miss Thinks-She's-Too-Good-For-Us. Acting like a bolilla, a white girl. Malinche. Don't think it didn't hurt being called a traitor. Trying to explain to my ma, to my abuela, why I didn't want to be like them.

I don't know how it all fell in place. How I finally understood who you are. No longer Mary the mild, but our mother Tonantzín. Your church at Tepeyac built on the site of her temple. Sacred ground no matter whose goddess claims it.

That you could have the power to rally a people when a country was born, and again during civil war, and during a farmworkers' strike in California made me think maybe there is power in my mother's patience, strength in my grandmother's endurance. Because those who suffer have a special power, don't they? The power of understanding someone else's pain. And understanding is the beginning of healing.

When I learned your real name is Coatlaxopeuh, She Who Has Dominion Over Serpents, when I recognized you as Tonantzín, and learned your names are Teteoinnan, Toci, Xochiquetzal, Tlazolteotl, Coatlicue, Chalchiuhtlicue, Coyolxauhqui, Huixtocihuatl, Chicomecoatl, Cihuacoatl, when I could see you as Nuestra Señora de la Soledad, Nuestra Señora de los Remedios, Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro, Nuestra Señora de San Juan de los Lagos, Our Lady of Lourdes, Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Our Lady of the Rosary, Our Lady of Sorrows, I wasn't ashamed, then, to be my mother's daughter, my grandmother's granddaughter, my ancestors' child.

When I could see you in all your facets, all at once the Buddha, the Tao, the true Messiah, Yahweh, Allah, the Heart of the Sky, the Heart of the Earth, the Lord of the Near and Far, the Spirit, the Light, the Universe, I could love you, and, finally, learn to love me.

Mighty Guadalupana Coatlaxopeuh Tonantzín,

What "little miracle" could I pin here? Braid of hair in its place and know that I thank you.

Rosario (Chayo) De Leon
Austin, Tejas

Sandra Cisneros, "Little Miracles, Kept Promises," in Woman Hollering Creek and other stories, pp.127-129

10 March 2012

The Brotherhood of Lizards

A typical Brotherhood of Lizards session would involve lots of swearing and cursing about leads not working. It also involved a lot of cycling. Nelson and I lived a few miles away from each other and we both liked cycling a lot. Sessions were fairly laid-back and involved a lot of laughter. There was an old bantam chicken in my garden and she used to get a bit miserable if it was cold and rainy so we'd let her sit in the recording room while we worked sometimes. Other times, the rabbit or one of the cats would be up scrabbling around under our feet while we were putting vocals down. It was all a bit rural with us Lizards. When we finished a session, we'd have a pint or two of home-brewed beer if I had a barrel on, or we'd wander round the twisty streets of my village to a pub. By late summer we had an lp and Andy McQueen said, "I don't suppose there's any chance you'll tour is there?"

I replied, "Yes. But only by bicycle." At first the record company thought we were joking but I'd already drawn up a plan. I'd worked out that with full busking-kit and rucksack frames converted to hold guitars, we could average thirty-five miles a day, hit a small town, do a radio station, a busking session, talk to the local press and maybe do a gig as well.

Thanks to a very bright and hard working pr woman called Caron Malcolm, the Green Tour was born. In early October we commenced our cycle tour around the southern part of Britain. Unknown to us, Britain and its media were on the brink of an uncharacteristic wave of eco-conscience. The press and t.v. seized upon us like hungry wolves. We had so much publicity we didn't believe it. Of course there was some cynicism. Were we really as Green as we looked? The answer was yes. We were both long-time vegetarians and lifetime bicyclists, so we came up squeaky green.

We were out on the road for a month and kept meeting t.v. crews. Because we were always on the move, we didn't realize how much attention we'd gathered until the end of the tour. We were lucky with the weather too--apart from the wind which resolutely turned against us whichever direction we cycled in. By the time we finished the tour, a large chunk of Britain knew who we were. At one point Eurythmics' Dave Stewart rang up our record company to ask, "Are those two lunatics on bikes anything to do with you?"

Martin Newell, liner notes to Lizardland by The Brotherhood of Lizards

las femenistas

If the focus of the Chicano male-dominated movement with regard to women had to do with family issues, the feminista zeroed in on the very core of what those issues meant. For instance, the feministas believed that women would make use of birth control and abortion clinics if in fact they felt safe going for these services; that is, if they were community controlled. Birth control and abortion are pertinent issues for all women, but they were particularly significant to the Chicana who had always been at the mercy of Anglo controlled institutions and policies.

Nonconsenting sterilizations of women--poor white, Spanish speaking, welfare recipients, poor women of color--women in prison among them--during the 1970s were being conducted and sponsored by the U.S. government. One third of the female population of Puerto Rico was sterilized during that period. The case of ten Chicanas (Madrigal v. Quilligan) against the Los Angeles County Hospital who were sterilized without their consent led to activism demanding release of the Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) guidelines for sterilizations. During that period, HEW was financing up to 100,000 sterilizations a year.

Ana Castillo, Massacre of the Dreamers, quoted in Chicana Feminist Thought: The Basic Historical Writings (Alma García, editor), p.311

Cherríe Moraga

A writer will write with or without a movement; but at the same time, for Chicano, lesbian, gay, and feminist writers--anybody writing against the grain of Anglo misogynist culture--political movements are what have allowed our writing to surface from the secret places in our notebooks into the public sphere. In 1990, Chicanos, gay men, and women are no better off than we were in 1970. We have an ever-expanding list of physical and social diseases affecting us: AIDS, breast cancer, police brutality. Censorship is becoming increasingly institutionalized, not only through government programs, but through transnational corporate ownership of publishing houses, record companies, etc. Without a movement to foster and sustain our writing, we risk being swallowed up into the "Decade of the Hispanic" that never happened. The fact that a few of us have "made it" and are doing better than we imagined has not altered the nature of the beast. He remains blue-eyed and male and prefers profit over people.

Like most artists, we Chicano artists would like our work to be seen as "universal" in scope and meaning and reach as large an audience as possible. Ironically, the most "universal" work--writing capable of reaching the hearts of the greatest number of people--is the most culturally specific. The European-American writer understands this because it is his version of cultural specificity that is deemed "universal" by the literary establishment. In the same manner, universality in the Chicana writer requires the most Mexican and the most female images we are capable of producing. Our task is to write what no one is prepared to hear, for what has been said so far in barely a decade of consistent production is a mere bocadito. Chicana writers are still learning the art of transcription, but what we will be capable of producing in the decades to come, if we have the cultural/political movements to support us, could make a profound contribution to the social transformation of these Américas. The retort, however, is to remain as culturally specific and culturally complex as possible, even in the face of mainstream seduction to do otherwise.

Cherríe Moraga, The Last Generation, quoted in Chicana Feminist Thought, p.291

14 February 2012

Salvador Late or Early

Salvador with eyes the color of caterpillar, Salvador of the crooked hair and crooked teeth, Salvador whose name the teacher cannot remember, is a boy who is no one's friend, runs along somewhere in that vague direction where homes are the color of bad weather, lives behind a raw wood doorway, shakes the sleepy brothers awake, ties their shoes, combs their hair with water, feeds them milk and corn flakes from a tin cup in the dim dark of the morning.

Salvador, late or early, sooner or later arrives with the string of younger brothers ready. Helps his mama, who is busy with the business of the baby. Tugs the arms of Cecilio, Arturito, makes them hurry, because today, like yesterday, Arturito has dropped the cigar box of crayons, has let go the hundred little fingers of red, green, yellow, blue, and nub of black sticks that tumble and spill over and beyond the asphalt puddles until the crossing-guard lady holds back the blur of traffic for Salvador to collect them again.

Salvador inside that wrinkled shirt, inside the throat that must clear itself and apologize each time it speaks, inside that forty-pound body of boy with its geography of scars, its history of hurt, limbs stuffed with feathers and rags, in what part of the eyes, in what part of the heart, in that cage of the chest where something throbs with both fists and knows only what Salvador knows, inside that body too small to contain the hundred balloons of happiness, the single guitar of grief, is a boy like any other disappearing out the door, beside the schoolyard gate, where he has told his brothers they must wait. Collects the hands of Cecilio and Arturito, scuttles off dodging the many schoolyard colors, the elbows and wrists criss-crossing, the several shoes running. Grows small and smaller to the eye, dissolves into the bright horizon, flutters in the air before disappearing like a memory of kites.

Sandra Cisneros, "Salvador Late or Early," in Woman Hollering Creek and other stories, p.10

13 February 2012

The Rose Gregory Houchen Settlement

Americanization programs have come under a lot of criticisms from historians over the past two decades and numerous passages and photographs in the Houchen collection provide fodder for sarcasm among contemporary readers. Yet, to borrow from urban theorist Edward Soja, scholars should be mindful of "an appropriate interpretive balance between space, time, and social being." Although cringing at the ethnocentrism and romantic idealizations of "American" life, I respect the settlement workers for their health and child care services. Before judging the maternal missionaries too harshly, it is important to keep in mind the social services they rendered over an extended period of time as well as the environment in which they lived. For example, Houchen probably launched the first bilingual kindergarten program in El Paso, a program that eased the children's transition into an English-only first grade. Houchen residents did not denigrate the use of Spanish and many became fluent Spanish speakers. The hospital and clinic, moreover, were important community institutions for over half a century.

Vicki Ruiz, "Confronting 'America'," in From Out of the Shadows: Mexican Women in Twentieth-Century America, p.40

07 February 2012

Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre

Ron Drummond brought the composer Elisabeth-Claude Jacquet de la Guerre to my attention. In an early draft of the story, I made the inexcusable error of assuming--just because no women composers were mentioned in scores of reference works--that no women composers existed at the court of the Sun King. In fact, Versailles was practically crawling with them. But even Jacquet de la Guerre, who was among the foremost composers of her time, who was a great influence on baroque music, and who was permitted to dedicate her work to Louis XIV (a rare honor for anyone), rates only half a line in an entire modern reference work about music in Louis' court. I am only surprised that I was surprised by this.

Vonda McIntyre, afterword to The Moon and the Sun, p.419

30 January 2012

Dr. Simon Jordan

"Hush," he murmurs, stroking her hair. "Hush, Rachel." This is what he's wanted Grace to do--this trembling and clinging; he's pictured it often enough, though, he now sees, in a suspiciously theatrical way. Those scenes were always skilfully lit, the gestures--his included--languid and graceful, with a kind of luxurious quivering, as in the death scenes at the ballet. Melting anguish is a good deal less attractive now that he actually has to contend with it up close and in the flesh. Wiping the doe-like eyes is one thing, wiping the doe-like nose quite another. He rummages for his pocket hankerchief.

Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace, p.408

19 January 2012

One Art

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

--Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

Elizabeth Bishop, "One Art," in Geography III, p.40