Friday, May 09, 2014

The Latino Lit Syllabus - Required Reading

I minored in English Literature and some of my favorite books have been a result of required reading especially from my Multicultural Literature courses. I don't think I would have discovered Maxine Hong, Jean Toomer, or Lois-Ann Yamanaka otherwise.

Taking a cue from the recent airing of Junot Diaz' MIT Course Syllabus, I've decided to share some other notable required reading lists that you might find interesting:

Introduction to U.S. Latino/a Literature - Florida Atlantic University
José Martí. “Coney Island.” (1881)
María Amparo Ruíz de Burton. From The Squatter and the Don. (1885)
Jesús Colón. Excerpts from A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches. (1961)
Piri Thomas. Down These Mean Streets. (1967)
Oscar Zeta Acosta. Revolt of the Cockroach People. (1973)
Selections of Nuyorican Poets. (1960s-1970s)
Sandra Cisneros. The House on Mango Street. (1984)
Gloria Anzaldúa. Borderlands/La Frontera. (1987)
Cristina Garcia. Dreaming in Cuban (1992)
Ana Menéndez. Loving Che. (2003)
Junot Diaz. Drown. (1996)
Yxta Maya Murray. Locas. (1998)
Tanya Maria Barrientos. Family Resemblance. (2003)
Ernesto Quiñonez. Bodega Dreams. (2000)
Ilan Stavans. The Hispanic Condition. (1996)
Juan Flores. From Bomba to Hip-Hop. (2000)
Lisa Sánchez González. Boricua Literature. (2001)
Gustavo Pérez Firmat. Life on the Hyphen. (1994)
Román de la Campa. Cuba on my Mind. (2000)
Raphael Dalleo and Elena Machado Sáez. The Latino/a Canon and the Emergence of Post-Sixties Literature. (2007)

University of California, Santa Cruz:
Manuel Muñoz, The Faith Healer of Olive Avenue
Helena Maria Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus
H.G. Carrillo, Loosing My Espanish
Jaime Hernández, The Education of Hopey Glass
Héctor Tobar, The Tattooed Soldier

University of Nebraska Omaha:
The Squatter and the Don (1885) by Maria Amparo Ruiz de Burton
George Washington Gomez (Paredes wrote this novel in the 1940s and 1950s but it wasn’t published until 1990)by Américo Paredes
And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1987) by Tomás Rivera
Borderlands/La Frontera (1987) by Gloria Anzaldúa
The Rain God (1991) by Arturo Islas
So Far From God (1993) by Ana Castillo
Days of Awe (2001) by Achy Obejas
Acuña, Rudolfo: Occupied America: A History of Chicanos
Aranda Jr., Jose: When We Arrive: A New Literary History of Mexican America Extinct Lands,
Brady, Mary Pat: Temporal Geographies: Chicana Literature and the Urgency of Space
Paredes, Américo: Folklore and Culture on the Texas Mexican Border
Paz, Octavio: The Labyrinth of Solitude
Saldívar, Ramón: Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference
Torres, Eden: Chicana Without Apology

Introduction to Latino/a Studies:
Michelle Habell-Pallan and Mary Romero Latino/a Popular Culture (ed.)
Julia Alvarez, In the Name of Salomé
Rudolfo Anaya, Bless Me, Ultima
Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera
Black Artemis, Picture Me Rollin’
Angie Cruz, Soledad
Junot Díaz, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban
Ana Menéndez, Loving Che
Ernesto Quiñonez, Bodega Dreams
Piri Thomas, Down These Mean Streets
Esmeralda Santiago, When I was Puerto Rican
Helena Maria Viramontes, Their Dogs Came With Them

There are many of these online and I only posted some of the ones that didn't contain too many of the usual notables. Next time you are looking for some great titles to read and discover this might be a new avenue for direction.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Web Knows I'm Getting Married & It's Relentless

Over at Mashable, this weekend they covered the story of How One Woman Hid Her Pregnancy From Big Data, that woman being Janet Vertesi, assistant professor of sociology at Princeton University.

[There will be irony in this vent. You see dear readers, I am a marketer. I develop strategies and target audiences on the internet, all day long, every day]

Between a Bullet & a Target

It brought to mind my first run in with targeted advertisement on Facebook. I was researching a Kiehl's cream on Nordstrom, bought it and lo and behold the next time, I went on Facebook, I was served up a Nordstrom Ad for the same cream, which I snickered at because I HAD ALREADY bought the cream - get it right, folks.

Any way, fast forward to the present. Here I am in full wedding planning swing. I was forewarned that I should make an alternate email address just for the wedding spam but I didn't listen. And now I being inundated but it's not just email anymore.

The data-collecting bots and cookies online, the services tracking credit card purchases and email scanners - all of it, collecting big data and aggregating my shopping behavior has resulted in a deluge of deluge of direct mail, email marketing, and targeted advertisements that are driving me bananas.

You can keep your Mason Jars & Mustaches

I was never one of those women who had their wedding plans laid out in front of them before puberty. In fact, the whole idea of planning a wedding gave me the heebie jeebies but it had to be done so I did it. I dealt with all the sales and peer pressure. We hunkered down and first we got a venue, then I bought a dress, made my own wedding website, then we hired a DJ, and next a florist and lastly a photographer/videographer.

I didn't know a lot about weddings but what I did know is that I wanted it to be my own. I didn't want it to be cookie cutter, out-of-control, traditional or follow the trend(s) of the year.
24/366: Gowns And Roses
 (Photo: camerakarrie)
Cheesefest

And what I saw at during my initial research terrified me. Lots of corny, cheesy, tacky-ticky, satin, sequin, iced, princess, heart-shaped, on and on, ad nauseam - ideas and lists of stuff. Stuff to make, stuff to buy, stuff to try, stuff to throw, stuff to giveaway. I mean non stop and one point, you just say to yourself: I had no idea the wedding industry had become this behemoth money gambit and you feel sullied. You feel exploited and slightly queasy. Because this was supposed to be about love, this one-of-a-kind, once-in-a-lifetime thing between you and this other person, not this endless game of dime a dozen, nickel and dimed negotiation nightmare.

Pressure to be "Perfect"

A lot of the messaging I am seeing is about the perfect day and the perfect wedding, the perfect dress and the appropriate etiquette. It's maddening and defeatist. Are we, as women, pressured enough to be perfect? Why should this day of all days carry such a burden of 'perfect?' What's if I am not perfect, just a normal, flawed human being? What if my day isn't perfect in the sense that it is mine, my version of perfect and therefore imperfect?

EE (Everything Everywhere) 

And because omnichannel marketing is tracking us from every angle available, the monstrosity of weddings is incessant. I open my mailbox to buckling loads of DJ & Venue postcards, Wedding Dress & Favor Catalogs and other "special" offers. On every single network, whether it's Facebook or Pinterest, again all I "see" is wedding related offers. My email, dear lord, my inbox,... David's Bridal - I am talking to you, how many times a day can you possibly email someone?

We are all well aware, there's a lot of noise on the web, a lot of broadcasting, a lot of (dare I say) marketers. But here's the thing, this megaphone broadcasting, spread and splatter, one size fits all, stuff isn't working.

There are ways to deter the onslaught. Like Janet, I could clear caches and make dedicated accounts for my wedding research but really why should I have to bear the burden of misappropriated marketing?

Do the Right Thing

Use those insights, that data smartly, don't drive your potential users/buyers away and don't market recklessly to people who've already made a purchase decision. I'm not just a target, a data source, a segment, a touch point, an opportunity...

I'll leave you with these parting words:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams
. --W.B. Yeats 

Friday, April 25, 2014

#FridayReads: Not for Everyday Use by Elizabeth Nunez

Tracing the four days from the moment she gets the call that every immigrant fears to the burial of her mother, Elizabeth Nunez tells the haunting story of her lifelong struggle to cope with the consequences of the "sterner stuff" of her parents' ambitions for their children and her mother's seemingly unbreakable conviction that displays of affection are not for everyday use.

But Nunez sympathizes with her parents, whose happiness is constrained by the oppressive strictures of colonialism, by the Catholic Church’s prohibition of artificial birth control which her mother obeys, terrified by the threat of eternal damnation (her mother gets pregnant fourteen times: nine live births and five miscarriages which almost kill her), and by what Malcolm Gladwell refers to as the “privilege of skin color” in his mother’s Caribbean island homeland where “the brown-skinned classes...came to fetishize their lightness.” 

Still, a fierce love holds this family together, and the passionate, though complex, love Nunez’s parents have for each other will remind readers of the passion between the aging lovers in Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera. Written in exquisite prose by a writer the New York Times Book Review calls “a master at pacing and plotting,” Not for Everyday Use is a page-turner that readers will find impossible to put down.

Elizabeth Nunez immigrated to the US from Trinidad after completing high school there. She is the author of eight novels. Boundaries (PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award and nominated for the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Fiction); Anna In-Between (long-listed for an IMPAC Dublin International Award and starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Library Journal ); Prospero's Daughter (2010 Trinidad and Tobago One Book, One Community selection; New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice, 2006 Florida Center for the Literary Arts One Book, One Community selection, and 2006 Novel of the Year for Black Issues Book Review); Bruised Hibiscus (American Book Award); Discretion (short-listed for the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award); Grace; Beyond the Limbo Silence (Independent Publishers Book Award); and When Rocks Dance. 


English: Elizabeth Nunez at the 2008 Brooklyn ...
Elizabeth Nunez at the 2008 Brooklyn Book Festival. (Photo: Wikipedia)
Most of Nunez's novels have also been published as audio books, and two are in translation, in Spanish and German. Nunez has also written several monographs of literary criticism published in scholarly journals, and is co-editor of the anthology, Blue Latitudes: Caribbean Woman Writers at Home and Abroad. 


Nunez was co-founder of the National Black Writers Conference, which she directed for eighteen years with grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Reed Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. She was executive producer for the 2004 Emmy nominated CUNY TV series, Black Writers in America. Her awards include 2013 National Council for Research on Women Outstanding Trailblazer Award; 2013 Caribbean American Distinguished Writer Award; 2012 Trinidad and Tobago Lifetime Literary Award; 2011 Barnes and Noble Poets and Writers, Writers for Writers Award. 

Nunez is a member of several boards, including the Center for Fiction, and CUNY TV. She is a judge for several national and international literary awards, including the Dublin IMPAC International Literary Award, and gives readings of her work across the country and abroad. Nunez received her PhD in English from New York University. She is a Distinguished Professor at Hunter College, the City University of New York, where she teaches creative writing, fiction.

Friday, April 18, 2014

#FridayReads: Greenwich Village Stories

A love letter to Greenwich Village, written by artists, writers, musicians, restaurateurs, and other neighborhood habitues who each share a favorite memory of this beloved place. The sixty stories in this collection of Village memories are exuberant, poignant, original, and vivid-perfectly capturing the essence of the Village. 

Every corner of the Village is represented in the book: recollections of jazz clubs and existentialism on Bleecker Street, rock music at St. Mark's Place, folk singers in Washington Square Park. There are stories of Hans Hofmann teaching modern art on 8th Street and Lotte Lenya performing in The Threepenny Opera on Christopher Street. Decades later, Brooke Shields muses on renovating a brownstone and finding history behind its walls; and Mario Batali lyrically describes a Sunday morning walk through the food markets of Bleecker Street. 

The stories are complemented by a wide range of photographs by iconic figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Rudy Burckhardt, Berenice Abbott, Saul Leiter, Ruth Orkin, and Weegee. Paintings depict elegant red-brick facades and raffish Hudson River piers, now restored; theater posters spotlight Karen Finley and John Leguizamo

This is a book for those who are already beguiled by the Village as well as those just discovering this fabled place.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

My Body, Myself

So like every other Bride-to-Be who's had to grapple with reality versus the crippling weight of pressure of a perfect wedding day and looking amazing in the most expensive dress she's ever owned, I have started dieting and working out in hopes of losing 25-30 lbs by the end of this summer when I have my first dress fitting.

A bride in an elaborate wedding dress from 1929.
Elaborate wedding dress from 1929.
(Photo: Wikipedia)
The initial 2-4.5 lbs came off pretty easily and felt amazing. You see, readers, I'm only 5'2." My frame is small and not meant to carry a heavy load. I lost only 4 lbs and already my Fiancee noticed a difference in my waist, my brother remarked on my cheekbones, my coworkers told me I looked skinnier and my suit's slacks felt roomy at the waist. My body felt amazing again. I felt at peace with this treacherous outer shell that been uncooperative so many times.

For those of you who don't know Roxanne Gay, she is an amazing writer whose Tumblr I follow weekly. She recently wrote an xoJane post about the Biggest Loser, "MY BODY IS WILDLY UNDISCIPLINED AND I DENY MYSELF NEARLY EVERYTHING I DESIRE," which Ta-Nehisi Coates commented on "Wow. It's so hard to get naked on the page. It's one of the hardest things to convey in my essay classes. You must be naked. You must understand that clothes are the illusion, and  your readers are naked too. Humans are at war with themselves. Once you can accept this, your own wars become less shameful. I don't mean exhibitionism. I mean honesty. The clothes are the illusion."

And here is what she exposes to world:
Part of disciplining the body is denial. We want but we dare not have. To lose weight or maintain our ideal bodies, we deny ourselves certain foods. We deny ourselves rest by working out. We deny ourselves peace of mind by remaining ever vigilant over our bodies. We withhold from ourselves until we achieve a goal and then we withhold from ourselves to maintain that goal.

My body is wildly undisciplined and I deny myself nearly everything I desire. I deny myself the right to space when I am public, trying to fold in on myself, to make my body invisible even though it is, in fact, grandly visible. I deny myself the right to a shared armrest because how dare I impose? I deny myself entry into certain spaces I have deemed inappropriate for a body like mine—most spaces inhabited by other people.

I deny myself bright colors in my clothing choices, sticking to a uniform of denim and dark shirts even though I have a far more diverse wardrobe. I deny myself certain trappings of femininity as if I do not have the right to such expression when my body does not follow society’s dictates for what a woman’s body should look like. I deny myself gentler kinds of affection—to touch or be kindly touched—as if that is a pleasure a body like mine does not deserve.

Punishment is, in fact, one of the few things I allow myself. 
This excellently written post goes into our fat shaming culture, where getting thin is equated with happiness, it goes into the discipline required to actually lose weight, self-entitlement and denial, and the fact that "there are so many rules for the body—often unspoken and ever shifting," and it seems like society is dictating them.

La fiancée du Nil (M. Moukhtar, IMA)
La fiancée du Nil (M. Moukhtar, IMA) (Photo: dalbera)
Most people are shocked when I tell them my weight loss goal, that's too much they say or they ask why, explaining they don't think I need to lose so much. But what they essentially misunderstand is that it's my assessment to make. I know my body best. Because of my small frame, according to the BMI scale, I am under the "overweight" category and no one would ever be any wiser. Sometimes I fit into a size "4." Buy I know, I know myself.

You will disappear, they warn, but what they don't understand is that when you put on weight the world no longer see you anyhow.

It's not your place to tell me how much I should weigh.

Friday, April 11, 2014

#FridayReads: With My Dog Eyes by Hilda Hilst

Book list material:

A short, stunning book by a Brazilian master of the avant-garde.

Something has changed in Amos Keres, a university mathematics professor—his sentences trail off in class, he is disgusted by the sight of his wife and son, and he longs to flee the comfortable bourgeois life he finds himself a part of. Most difficult of all are his struggles to express what has happened to him, for a man more accustomed to numbers than words. He calls it "the clearcut unhoped-for," and it's a vision that will drive him to madness and, eventually, death. 

Written in a fragmented style that echoes the character's increasingly fragile hold on reality, With My Dog-Eyes is intensely vivid, summoning up Amos's childhood and young adulthood—when, like Richard Feynman, he used to bring his math books to brothels to study—and his life at the university, with its "meetings, asskissers, pointless rivalries, gratuitous resentments, jealous talk, meglomanias." 

Hilst, whose father was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, has created a lacerating, and yet oddly hopeful, portrayal of a descent into hell--Amos never makes sense of the new way he sees things, but he does find an avenue of escape, retreating to his mother's house and, farther, towards the animal world. A deeply metaphysical, formally radical one-of-a-kind book from a great Brazilian writer.

HILDA HILST was born in 1930 in Jaú, Brazil. Hilst was a prolific author whose work spans many different genres, including poetry, fiction, drama and newspaper columns. Born the heiress to a coffee fortune, she abandoned Sao Paolo and promising law career in the 1960s, moved to the countryside, and built herself a house, Casa do Sol, where she lived until the end of her life with a rotating cast of friends, lovers, aspiring artists, bohemian poets, and dozens of dogs. She received many major literary prizes over the course of her career, including Brazil's highest honor, the Premio Jabuti. Her work has been translated into French, German, and Italian. She died in 2004, at the age of 73. 

ADAM MORRIS is a PhD candidate in Latin American literature at Stanford University.  An excerpt from his translation of With My Dog-Eyes won the 2012 Susan Sontag Foundation Prize for Literary Translation.
 
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