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