Summer is Here, Bring on the Sun and Literature

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the awesomeness of April’s National Poetry Month, highlighting my extreme gratefulness to have the kind of life where I get to take part in multiple poetry-related events and programs, not only during that special month, but all year round. The post is about two pages of premier, unadulterated, teeth-stinging Maple sap-sappiness, as I was once again looking back on recent events through the eyes of my 14-year-old and 24-year-old selves. They are both still incredulous as to the kind of life I have built through hard work, determination, and a good bit of luck in finding amazing literary communities.

Anyhow, I’ve decided it will be best for everyone involved if I not share all that gushy grossness. Instead, I will provide some pictorial and video-based proof of the cool poetry events from April, then I will move on to share my summer plan. Because, despite the fact that it is a gloomy and damp 50 degrees outside and I’m wearing a flannel and a cardigan in mid to late May, and multiple blankets are still required for comfortable sleeping, the spring semester is over and summer break is at hand.

A collage of my English 377 poetry writing class giving their very own reading! A first for most of them. As expected, they rocked it!

A pic of my panelmates from the Association of Writers and Writing Program (AWP) Conference. Our panel? "How Gay Is This Book: Teaching Queer Literature in the 21st Century. (I talked about teaching queer POC poetry)

A pic of my panelmates from Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation and Witness. What was our panel? "And the Earth Did Not Devour Us: Farm Labor Poetry"

Me reading my poem "At Night My Body Splits and Splits" for the Macondo 20th Anniversary Reading in Los Angeles, CA

Now, onto summer. Despite popular belief due to the negligence and misrepresentation of teaching in film and television, summer is not a time when teachers (at any grade level) get to just kick back with mojitos on sandy beaches.

  1. Few of us can afford to travel for fun (at least if you’ve had to spend your own money on professional travel, as I have)

  2. Mojitos are gross (they are, I’m sorry if you like them. I mean, I’m truly sorry that your taste buds are so jacked-up)

  3. There is soooo much work to be done to prepare for the coming fall semester: book ordering, re-reading those books, finding supplementary reading for all the classes, and lesson planning. And if you are also a writer, and publishing and research are part of your job, then you have hours and hours and hours of researching and writing that need to be gotten to since you don’t have time for that during the semesters.

I will admit, at least for me, there is the privilege of being able to do a sizable portion of that work from my generously-windowed home office wearing sweatpants and slippers. This perk is one of the reason I endured seven extra years of higher education.

One of the classes I’m slated to teach next fall is a multiethnic literature class that will be organized around the issue of “oppositional identity,” a term I initially became familiar with in graduate school reading Ramón Saldívar’s Chicano Narrative: The Dialectics of Difference (1990) and Rafael Pérez-Torres’ “Ethnicity, Ethics, and Latino Aesthetics” (2000). These publications and this term did and do a great deal to help readers think about the formation of identity. Certainly finding this term did a great deal for me personally in being able to think about my own sense of self and identity. Since my young tween years, I’ve often been able to articulate what I wasn’t or what I didn’t want as a way to shape my choices. It was never about wanting to be pretty, it was about not wanting to be ugly. I never thought “I want” to do well in school, I thought, I “didn’t want” to fail. I’ve been told before that this is a negative way to view the world or myself, that it denotes a combativeness, but that is an over-simplified understanding of opposition. Like the relatively young Latin@/Latinx/Chican@/Xicana community, there was no successful role model who looked like me, came from my situation, had a clear sense of what success even meant. How could I know what I wanted to be, when I had no pre-paved options? Sometimes being able to name what you aren’t, is a necessary first step.

While the class will be reading texts from the “big four”: Latin@/Chican@, Native American, African American, and Asian American self-identified writers, we’re still going to frame our discussions with this term associated with Latin@ literary and cultural theory. As I was looking through the usual suspects of Latin@/Chican@ books that get taught/that I have taught, it dawned on me that most of the texts were at least 20 years old. Why would I do that? I mean, I love these books. L.O.V.E., but if the point is opposition and U.S. identity, why not provide 21st century representations? Especially since these texts are not only building identity in opposition to dominant Anglo culture, but to early versions of Latino/a/Chicano/a identity as well.

Here’s where I get to the summer goal part: I realized that though I have in my possession books from (and have personally met a healthy number of) 21st century, young(ish) Latin@/x/Chican@/x authors – I have not read many of them in full. This is an embarrassing confession, a problem I plan to rectify.

So among the many other goals that reawaken at the end or beginning of a semester (because that is how I measure my time): do yoga more regularly, eat better, go for more walks, manage time more effectively; I’m adding the goal – read at least one book I have not already read, by a Latin@/x/Chican@/x author that was published in the last 10 years. The goal starts this week and will end in three months (12 weeks). I know for some of you one book a week doesn’t sound like much, but keep in mind that I’ll also be reading for other classes, and besides, I believe in starting small and then surprising myself by doing well, rather than set a grandiose goal that I will then beat myself up for not completing.

Here is the list of books I plan to read and roughly the order in which I’ll read them, though that might shift a bit. How I chose these books was almost entirely based on convenience; I already own most of them. A few were bought at Half Price books three years ago, some were published by a friend or colleague and was gifted or I purchased a copy, others by nefarious means (j/k. I would never steal a book. Anymore). Please feel free to read along with me! And if you do, message me or respond on Goodreads where I plan to keep track of finishing the books. I may also post the occasional book report on the blog. Unlike the goal of doing 30 squats every morning before breakfast, I will enjoy this challenge.

Week 1: The Wind Shifts: New Latino Poetry, edited by Francisco Aragón, foreword by Juan Felipe Herrera

(the first Chicano Poet Laureate of these great Estados Unidos!)

Week 2: The People of Paper, by Salvador Plascencia (2005)

I know, cheating; it’s one year too old. But listen, one of my favorite people gave me this book and if I don’t read it soon, he’ll murder me. By withholding love.)

Week 3: Faith Run, by Ray Gonzalez (2009)

Week 4: Across A Hundred Mountains, by Reyna Grande (2006)

Week 5: The Shallow End of Sleep: Poems, by José Antonio Rodríguez (2011)

Week 6: Solstice, by Emmy Pérez (2011)

Week 7: Toys Made of Rock, by José B. González (2015)

Week 8: Blood Sugar Canto, by ire’ne lara silva (2015)

Week 9: The Space Between Our Danger and Delight, by Dan Vera (2009)

Week 10: A Cup of Water Under My Bed, by Daisy Hernández (2015)

Week 11: Where the Reckless Ones Come to Die, by Vincent Cooper (2014)

& Stereo. Island. Mosaic., by Vincent Toro (2015)

(I’m squeezing the two Vincents in the same week to up the challenge at the end)

Week 12: Light in the Dark⁄Luz en lo Oscuro: Rewriting Identity, Spirituality, Reality, by GloriaAnzaldúa (2016)

(this one will be a bit of a cheat since I’ll probably be reading it slowly throughout the summer. Not only is it a theory hybrid and quite a bit longer with indexes and supplemental info, I just can’t read La Gloria quickly. Every word must be treated like the last sweet strawberry.)

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