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An audio documentary on migrant deaths on our border

By Guests

Catherine Komp, radio producer at Virginia Currents on NPR (locally WCVE 88.9 FM,) recently sent me the audio documentary below. Created by her colleagues for a show called Making Contact, it examines migrant deaths on our borders. When I was writing The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, I struggled many times as I wrote scenes of unspeakable violence.   Should I write such gruesome things for young people?  Was it necessary or gratuitous? In the end, I chose to include the awful details, leaning toward telling fiction as honestly as I could. I hope you’ll carve out a little time to listen to the audio. January ushers in a new Congress and a fresh immigration battle. The debate will be heated on both sides, a healthy – if painful – exercise. What I continue to ask is that we remember that, in the end, we are talking about people, about human beings, and about the ethics of addressing suffering.

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Contra Tiempo in RVA: Where Salsa and Hip Hop Meet Activism

By Community work, Latino Life

It’s a great week for fans of Latin music and dance. Buy your tickets right now for ContraTiempo who will be performing Tuesday, Nov. 19, 7:30 PM at CenterStage. Their name literally translates to a “rough patch” in a situation, but this Los Angeles-based Urban Latin dance theater company offers nothing but joy. The music is irresistible and the dancing is first-rate. On Tuesday, they’ll perform Full, Still Hungry, a contemporary piece that examines food and consumption. It’s art, it’s activism, and it’s fun. I got a taste of their work this past Saturday at ART 180, where they did a free community workshop. Sponsored by the Modlin Center at  the University of Richmond, the company has been in town for about a week, working – as is their mission – in schools and communities to use dance as a tool in transformation.  Within an hour, we were stepping, dancing salsa, and moving in a “rueda” (wheel) that featured cues like “talk on the telephone” and “catchers mitt”  to make us pose and move as if we knew what we were doing. I danced with men, with women, with kids in third grade, with teens, most of whom I’d never met. The crowd was wonderful, and the dancers broke down their step routines so that we were all in synch and making music and movement together. To me, dance is another way of telling story, and story is a way of coming together. Check them out. See you there! Tickets $22; U of R students, free.

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Some music for Yaqui Delgado

By Appearances, The Writing Life

So I’m putting the finishing touches on the launch events for Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass which comes out next month. And because it takes hours to work out all the details, I’m listening to music that puts me in the mood. Yaqui Delgado takes a shard of truth from my personal life. I wrote this novel white-knuckled some days, thinking back to when I was an early teen facing down a schoolyard bully. I was learning everything about everything back then: learning about lousy adults, learning what it meant to be a Latina, learning how to really take care of myself when others couldn’t. It was a scary time, but all these years later, I find myself thinking a lot about all I took away from that experience. It was a Puerto Rican girl, Aida, I remember most. She lived upstairs, cut school, and had bad acne but a hot boyfriend nonetheless. More importantly, she taught me to salsa. Sometimes she gave parties in her hot apartment with Celia Cruz and the Fania All Stars (Johnny Pacheco, Hector LaVoe, etc) blasting out of her mother’s stereo until the walls shook. When I think back to that time in my life, the soundtrack belongs to those old masters. So, here’s a little YouTube gem of the late Celia Cruz fronting the band in Africa. And then, a more recent piece by Celia – Sin Clave– to get you in the spirit via Cuban music that (like a tough…

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Hispanidad Meets First Fridays: Helene Ruiz at Art6

By Community work, Guests, Latino Life

This month you’ll find celebrations of Hispanic heritage in all sorts of corners of the city – and that’s thanks in part to the efforts of Helene Ruiz. The Bronx native lives in Mechanicsville VA these days, but nothing has slowed her commitment to artists, culture and the community. Before we launch into the quick Q & A, here are two events to keep track of: Sabor Feminina (Female Flavor) at Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center through November 2. The free show features Ruiz’s Goddesses series, with nods to Cuban Yoruba spiritualism.   Mon – Fri 10 – 7 pm. Saturday 10 am – 2 pm. ¡Azucar! at Art6 Gallery, Oct 5, 5 – 10 pm. Ruiz ushers in First Fridays doing what she does best: gathering artists together to celebrate in one voice. This multimedia event will feature the work of several Latin visual artists as well as the Latin Ballet of Virginia and Cuban percussionist (click to listen) Melena la Rumbera. Five questions with Helene Ruiz What’s a nice Bronx girl like you doing in Mechanicsville? My parents moved to Virginia almost 30 yrs ago. My father passed back in 2001, my mom is getting old and my sister suffers from MS, so I figured, why not move there, help out with the house and help them? After all, art is everywhere anyway! I can always get back and forth to NYC whenever I need, it’s not that far away. Why did you think it was important to pull together ¡Azucar! in…

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How do Latina moms and teens talk about stuff that matters?

By Latino Life, Random howls into the world

This came across my desk this morning, and I wanted to pass it along.You know that I’m big on strong girls, so this seems like a painless way for real people to add to the body of information we have about how we encourage Latina girls to have healthy relationships. If you have a couple of hours to spare and you care about girls and Latino families, contact Carla (info at bottom). She’s the study coordinator and graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University who can answer your questions. Interviews can be conducted in English or Spanish. In addition, interviews can take place in the Richmond or DC metropolitan area. Flyers in English and Spanish here. Study Title: Talking with Adolescents About Healthy Behaviors   We are looking for Latina teenagers (14-17 years old) and their mothers to participate in individual interviews about healthy relationships and behaviors. Who can participate in the study? – Latina adolescents who are 14-17 years old – Mothers of Latina adolescents who are 14-17 years old What will I receive if I am in the study? – If you participate in the interview, moms and daughterw will each receive a $20 gift cerfificate to Walmart What do you need to do? – Mothers will need to agree to participate in an interview – Latina adolescents will need to agree to particpate and they will need to get their parent’s permission to be interviewed – Particpate in an interview that will take about two hours – Share what you…

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Hate Crimes, YA Lit & Latinos: An interview with Caroline Bock, author of LIE

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA

LIE Caroline Bock St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011 978-0-312-66832-7 I can’t say it’s a pleasure to read a book about hate crimes by teens. But since hate crimes against Latinos have seen  the highest spike in more than a decade – according to the FBI, over 66% of hate crimes in 2010 targeted Latinos – I was intrigued to find LIE by Caroline Bock. This debut novel tackles the topic by taking us inside the minds of both victims and victimizers. Ten lives intersect one horrible night when two brothers – one an immigrant from El Salvador, one a natural US citizen – are brutally assaulted by a group of Long Island teenagers. The novel lays bare the land mines of power groups among teens, racism, and ineffective adults. Mostly, though, I admire this powerful book for making us consider the bigger question of how hatred this dark can take root in people who are young, bright, and at the beginning of everything. I’m honored to introduce you to Caroline Bock in my first Q & A feature, where we’ll talk about both craft and content. Congratulations on a great debut, Caroline. To start us off, would you tell us a little bit about yourself in terms of what brought you to writing? What made you move from film and marketing to the world of writing for young people?   Thank you so much, Meg. I feel like I’m in terrific company with you and your readers! I’ve always had dual career…

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When Characters Muscle In

By Awards and news

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind releases through Walker Books in the UK as a gorgeous paperback next month — and review copies are going out with their own milagro. Nice!  Here’s a post I did for Under Cover Books about the unexpected pleasures of surrendering to your characters. In life and in fiction, I’ve found that it’s always the quiet ones that surprise you. At least, that’s how it happened in this book. P.S. Love the cover? Me gusta tambien. Check out Olaf Hajek’s other beautiful work.  Here’s a teaser.

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