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Dear Readers-- My good friend and colleague, Joy Castro, will be having her launch party and reading from her novel Hell or High Water this Tuesday at 6p.m. at Indigo Bridge Books (701 P Street in the Creamery Building in The Haymarket).  Time: 6p.m.  Date:  Tuesday, July 17, 2012.  If you are in Lincoln, Nebraska-- come join the celebration!

I spent time with Joy Castro last week, interviewing her on the writing of her thriller, how themes of identity and searching for place figure prominently in the novel.  It's a wonderful read and I invite you to click here to read the entire interview we did together, posted today on La Bloga (click here!).

My interview with Joy is also part of one of my chapters on Latina writers who are either writing "from" the Midwest or were born and raised in the Midwest. In Chicana and U.S. Latina scholarship, what is often discussed is identity that is either lost, recovered, or in constant flux of creation/re-creation.  Often the discussions tend toward the theoretical (leaning to Gloria Anzaldúa's Borderlands/La Frontera).  What I'm doing in this scholarly book is to look much more closely at writers who claim a U.S. Latina identity, to view the complex details of identity which make it such an individualized space (like a thumbprint), and the monumental challenges inherent in creating an identity in a country that seeks to place a packaged identity upon all of us.  

In Hell or High Water, the narrator, Nola Soledad Céspedes, has mere fragments of memory, of her mother's stories, a map of Cuba, and disparate objects from which to cull an identity, from which to understand and make sense of her class standing and her movement in the world with those who come from upper class backgrounds. Included, of course, are the effects of trauma. Joy's expert hand at description, at character development and dialogue make for a compelling novel.  Can't wait to also have her second novel out too (next year!).  

Thank you Joy!  See you all (hopefully) on Tuesday at Indigo Bridge Books!
And don't forget to read the "La Bloga" interview with Joy (Click Here).

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Left to right:  Joy Castro, Linda Rodriguez, Amelia Montes, 
Allison Hedge Coke and Ben Furnish (seated)  -- at Indigo Bridge Bookstore

This weekend was a celebration of Latina and Chicana writing on the Great Plains/Midwest.  At Indigo Bridge Books here in Lincoln, Nebraska, author Linda Rodriguez read from her novel, Every Last Secret and from her book of poetry, Heart Migrations.  She also read poetry from her new manuscript and discussed her writing and publishing journey with Every Last Secret.  
Other Midwest writers were there: Joy Castro was in attendance and she will soon be out with her novel Hell or High Water (pre-order it now!).  And how lucky we were to have Allison Hedge Coke (The Reynolds Chair of Creative Writing at UNKearney) with us.  Allison is a prolific poet, editor, and author of a memoir, Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer: A Story of Survival.  And check out Allison's edited volume of Indigenous poetry:  Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas!  

Dearest Readers-- I am just so happy to have the opportunity to read these works, engage in rigorous discussion regarding craft in novel, non-fiction, and poetry writing. As well, discussions regarding identity, Latinoization, native writing were so energizing.  This weekend went by all too quickly. My two hour interview with Linda was a success and I can't tell you how excited I am to be progressing on Corazon y Tierra:  Latinas Writing on the Midwest.*  

In between our literary readings and discussions, Linda and her partner Ben, Allison and I went to the Nebraska State Capitol for a tour.  Thank you to tour guide Jameson for an excellent information-packed and humorous journey through the capitol. The interior door with the carved wood (below) remains one of my favorites.  Note the otter at the bottom of the right door.  

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We did go up to the 14th floor (thank you Maija Burdic for the reminder!) to see the vista and the rotunda and an extra gift were the peregrine falcons who were calling and quite active while we were there.  They were flying back and forth above their nest just a few feet from us as we stood on the balcony section of the 14th floor.  Such splendor.  


Thank you Linda Rodriguez for your wonderful reading.  You ended with such a poignant poem regarding the importance of understanding oneself from where one emerges.  I am wishing all of you a most wonderful week!  What are you reading these days?   

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Linda Rodriguez and Amelia Montes at the Rotunda, Nebraska State Capitol

*Corazon y Tierra:  Latinas Writing on the Midwest is the title of my critical book on contemporary writing by Latina authors who are writing either about or from the Midwest.  

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Linda Rodriguez, author of Every Last Secret, which won the Malice Domestic Best First Traditional Mystery Novel award, will be here this coming week along with a number of other novelists, poets, memoirists. Linda Rodriguez will be reading on Saturday, June 16th from 7-8p.m. at Indigo Bridge Books (701 P Street, Creamery Bldg, Haymarket).

Every Last Secret takes place in a small college town outside of Kansas City.  The college newspaper's student editor has been murdered.  Marquitta "Skeet" Bannion is on the case.  Her journey to find the killer leads to unravelling college secrets and her own personal familial struggles. The reviews for Rodriguez' first novel have been stellar:  "Skeet's debut introduces a strong, intelligent woman detective with both a knack for solving crimes and a difficult personal life.  The next episode can't come too soon" (Kirkus Reviews), and "Fans of Nevada Barr and Sara Paretsky will relish Linda Rodriguez's stellar debut.  Her sleuth, Skeet Bannion, is a keeper.  Every Last Secret is a triple crown winner; superb writing, hell for leather plotting and terrific characters" (Julia Spencer-Fleming, New York Times bestselling author of One Was a Soldier).  

But much before Linda's anticipated reading is The Nebraska Summer Writer's Conference.  
Click HERE to check out the full schedule for this week. So many wonderful writers will be reading from their work and admittance is free to these readings and panels! Tonight, for example, poet and recent Guggenheim winner, Kwame Dawes will be reading new work inspired by the plays of August Wilson (6:30p.m. at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Union Auditorium, 2nd floor).  

The title of my blog post today: Every Last Secret:  seeking order out of a mess is actually a line from Rodriguez' novel.  The grandmother says this and it refers not only to the situation in which Skeet finds herself, it is also referring to all of us and our interpersonal struggles with ourselves and with each other.  It is all the more appropriate that "Gran," the elder, says this (and Rodriguez deftly avoids the oft stereotyped grandmother).  Gran also says, "If you're waiting for things to be perfect in life . . . you'll be waiting a long time."  This line reminds me of Sandra Cisneros' story "My Name" from her book, The House on Mango Street.  In that story, the character of Esperanza is explaining the meaning of her name: "In English my name means hope . . . It means sadness, it means waiting."  And then later she compares it to her grandmother who always waited:  "She looked out her window her whole life, the way so many women sit their sadness on an elbow."  I've always liked that phrase:  "sit their sadness on an elbow."  Brilliant.  Rodriguez's "Gran" is the opposite of Cisneros' grandmother in "My Name."  Rodriguez's Gran and granddaughter Skeet demonstrate women who are out in the world, who are unafraid to be and to name their vulnerabilities and insecurities which then transform them to self-actualized, powerful women.  Fearless!  Nice to have such strong and ethical characters in novels.  

The Kirkus Reviews definitely have it right:  "The next episode can't come too soon!"

See you at the readings!  Sending you all powerfully positive energies, dear readers!  

Wangari Maathai PRESENTE!!

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Nobel Laureate Wangari Maathai, 1940-2011

We have lost one of the most important voices of our time.  The loss is great at this critical moment in history. Wangari Maathai, a Kenyan environmental and political activist was the first East and Central African to receive a doctorate.  Her degrees are in biology and anatomy. 


Two of Maathai's books I've read, Unbowed:  A Memoir (2007) and Repleneshing the Earth: Spiritual Values for Healing Ourselves and the World (2010) describe a passionate, brilliant woman who disobeyed the law in order to make significant changes in the environment and significant changes in society for women. And she gives us such innovative and powerful suggestions to replenish the earth, to heal ourselves. In 2010, she was in Mexico for the UN Climate Summit and said the following:

"[G]overnments must do what they have promised: take concrete action to reduce their emissions; deliver finance and work together to make low-carbon development a reality; and protect those least able to cope with the impact of climate change . . . 
If we truly want to tackle climate change, poverty, and conflict, we need to think holistically.  We need to, as Ban Ki-moon said at the launch of the UN global sustainability panel, "think big, connecting the dots between poverty, energy, food, water, environmental pressure and climate change."  

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During the UN''s 3rd global women's conference in Nairobi in 1985, Maathai introduced her organization, The Green Belt Movement and this connection greatly aided her efforts in setting up countless programs in various countries (including Mexico) to combat deforestation, water crises, rural hunger.  May her efforts continue even though she is no longer with us!  Que Viva The Green Belt Movimiento!!  Que Viva la Profesora Wangari Maathai!

There is a wonderful award-winning documentary about Professor Maathai's life and environmental work.  It is entitled, Taking Root:  The Vision of Wangari Maathai.  I strongly recommend seeing it!  And you can order it from The Green Belt Movement website (just click on the title above).  

Gracias Profesora Maathai, for your courage, your tireless work, your constant smile in the face of adversity, your willingness to stand up and question, to stand up and disobey. Dissent!  Gracias.  Your efforts will not be forgotten.  Wangari Maathai:  PRESENTE!