07.31.06

Amazing new novels

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:39 pm by webjefa

I just finished reading two of the best novels I’ve read in a long time. Both are classic coming-of-age stories, and both just slugged me in the gut. These are the kind of writers that make you grateful to be able to read, that make reading an all-sensory experience that doesn’t leave you for days.

In Leaving Atlanta, Tayari Jones writes from the perspective of three children living in Atlanta during the period of the Atlanta child murders. I found her portrayal of childhood, particularly the social aspects of elementary school, vivid and unromantic and painful and wonderful. Her portrayal of mothers, of poverty that doesn’t recognize itself, of bourgeois aspirations and costs, of the price we pay as humans in a fucked-up society….it’s just brilliant, and I can’t recommend it more highly. Jones also writes a blog (with a beautiful page design), but I don’t really want to read it right now, because I’m still carrying her characters in my head.

I loved Montserrat Fontes’ Dream of the Centaurs, and it’s the one Chicano novel I was able to give to my techie/bourgie brother that we both loved. It’s an amazing historical novel that absolutely entertains at the same time that it informs about Mexico’s ugly slave history in the henna plantations of the Yucatan peninsula under Porfirio Diaz. So I was thrilled to hear that she had an earlier novel, First Confession, published in 1992. I love reading an earlier title by an author I already respect – it’s fun to see the development of their style and talent in retrospect, to see more rough edges.

Like Jones’ novel, Fontes writes in the voice of a young girl, this time growing up on the Mexican side of the border in a relatively privileged family. It’s also a harsh and unromantic portrayal of childhood and a young girl’s coming into maturity. It feels autobiographical because the author is painfully honest and even judgemental about her protagonist. The portrayal pays off because it’s precisely the rupture of this childish egocentricity that marks her emergence as a young adult by the novel’s end. I can’t praise it enough. She brought to mind for me my sense of loss and shame for my mother’s father, who died at the age of 62 when I was only a preteen. I remember him largely in selfish, childish terms–he took us to fairs, bought us ice cream, always took us on walks. I will always regret that he didn’t live long enough for me to appreciate him in a more mature sense. And I will never understand why people insist on actively forgetting the selfishness and cruelty that is also a part of childhood.

Both novels brought to mind a second theme for me as well. The final mother-daughter scene in Leaving Atlanta choked me up completely, and made me think about how many people-of-color-written novels I’ve read that talk about separation. Written by brilliant people who portray some cost, some separation from home, a sense of home, a sense of self, in order to achieve in American society. The cost of “success” is particularly high for poc… still thinking about this.

Finally, two more new texts to write about soon: Angie Chabram-Dernersesian’s new edited collection, The Chicana/o Cultural Studies Reader, and Demetria Martinez’ latest, Confessions of a Berlitz-Tape Chicana.

07.21.06

Seeking WS instructor at SFSU

Posted in Uncategorized at 12:32 pm by webjefa

The Women Studies Department at San Francisco State University is
seeking an instructor to teach WOMS 160: Women, Politics, and
Citizenship for the Fall 2006 semester. This is an interdisciplinary
overview of central political tenets of the United States (democracy,
freedom, rights, equality, etc.) for general education students as well
as majors. It includes an emphasis on histories of immigration, and
ideologies of gender, race, and sexuality. We seek an advanced Ph.D.
student (ABD), or recent Ph.D. to teach this course. Would you please
forward this announcement to potentially interested instructors?
Applicants should send a c.v. to me at: lstec@sfsu.edu or contact our
office at 415-338-1388 for further information. The deadline is August 1st.

Thinking about options for living wages in agriculture

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:04 am by webjefa

What would it take so that the poor were less poor?  This article from Alternet discusses some strategies that folks have taken….

Poverty wages for farmworkers were the problem. As Dick Nogaj figured it, blueberries were the answer. On vacation in southwest Florida in 1997, Nogaj and his wife Florence heard about a hunger strike by migrant workers in Immokalee, an agricultural town 35 miles inland from Ft. Myers. The Nogajs immediately drove to Immokalee. They were appalled at how hard the tomato and citrus pickers worked and how little they got in return. The average farmworker in the area, according to researchers at the University of Florida, brings home from the fields an annual income of between $6,500 and $7,000. To boost these wages, Dick Nogaj put his faith in consumers. “We can end poverty in the agricultural sector if only 10 percent of the public pays 10 percent more for their food,” he says. That’s where blueberries entered the picture. The market for the anti-oxidant-rich fruit was growing, particularly among Florida retirees. A variety capable of prospering in south Florida would allow Nogaj to dominate the market for at least a month and possibly two, between the fading of Chilean imports and the ripening of more northern varieties. Higher prices for spring blueberries could translate into higher wages for farmworkers.

In 1999, having recently sold his Illinois engineering firm to its employees, Nogaj invested millions of dollars to turn 36 acres of Immokalee’s sandy soil into a blueberry farm. He took a risk on a new variety developed by University of Florida researchers. He waited two seasons before harvesting the first crop. These “leaps of faith” were motivated by Nogaj’s experience with Habitat for Humanity and a personal philosophy that is equal parts progressive Christianity and solid Midwestern liberalism. Today, he boasts of paying his workers $8.50 an hour, two dollars above Florida’s minimum wage, and his piece-rate pickers as much as $12 to $14 an hour. Nogaj thinks his blueberries, on sale at Whole Foods and other outlets, represent a new model for agriculture in Florida and nationwide.

Continues at http://www.alternet.org/story/385

07.20.06

test post plain text

Posted in Uncategorized at 11:14 pm by webjefa

Test post number one for the Chicanas.com blog….