Monday, November 16, 2009

A Week To Remember

Last week was quite a week for me. I read with Reyna Grande at the famed El Museo Del Barrio, and loved meeting Reyna for the first time. Aurora Anaya-Cerda of La Casa Azul Bookstore arranged the East-meets-West reading of Latino writers.

I hope the readers of Chico Lingo enthusiastically support Aurora’s online bookstore: independent bookstores like hers offer a much-needed perspective in literature, a multicultural voice for variety and quality. Aurora is also one of those people who simply lights up a room with her enthusiasm for books, authors, events for the people, la comunidad. She’s a treasure, and I think of her as mi hermana.

Also last week I read at La Junta, an event presented by the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute and La Menta Collective. Let me just tell you, I was blown away. I had been invited by Glendaliz Camacho, who knew Aurora. The place was packed, the walls were covered with the eye-catching artwork of Alta Berri and Adrian Roman, poets Mundo Rivera and J. F. Seary mesmerized the crowd, and Glendaliz and I read our stories. At the end, the band Mona Passage rocked the roof off the joint.

The La Junta evening was one of those nights you keep replaying in your head. I loved the people I met there, into literature, music, and art. I marveled at the setting, a beautiful brownstone dedicated for decades, behind the new Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle, to promoting the cultures of people of African descent. It was a place where I knew the people “get it,” that is, they understand that literature and art should be not for a self-selected elite but for la gente.

I also received an invitation to the Guadalajara Book Fair (all expenses paid) for a panel entitled, "Literatura y Migracion." So I’ll drag my bones to Guadalajara on December 2, and force myself to have the time of my life in Mexico. Finally, Literary El Paso came out, and the Texas Observer gave it a great review in which they featured my story, “The Abuelita,” the first story I ever wrote.

I know, I know, I’m bragging a bit. But weeks like these are few and far between. It’s usually struggling alone to write, and failing. Or cursing yourself for being no good. Or nursing another rejection. Or simply not measuring up, in my eyes, as a father or as a husband. You might be surprised, if you possessed a kind of moral or psychological vision, to see the hundreds of invisible, but permanent scars on me. Many self-inflicted.

So forgive me, dear reader, if I rejoice in this good week. I just don’t try to hide anymore behind a fa├žade that always advertises all-is-ill or all-is-well. That’s one of the reasons I started writing Chico Lingo a year ago. I didn’t care anymore what people thought, what imagined or real restrictions constrained this writer’s life, or whether ‘this’ or ‘that’ would be best for my career. I wanted to tell it like it is. I wanted to write about it. Period.

So I had a helluva week. It will keep me going for a while, during the tough, 51-other weeks in the year. I will never stop trying to capture that astonishing presence of life, and that’s what I can do to honor each day.

(The La Junta picture, with the Puerto Rican and Dominican flags behind me, was taken by Vivien I. Perez, VIPhotos.)