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October 30, 2006

Rare bilingual Latino literature conference at UCSC on Nov. 10-11

By Scott Rappaport

A distinguished group of writers, editors, and critics will converge on the UCSC campus November 10 and 11 for a bilingual conference on Latino literature, “Latino Literature/La Literatura Latina: Writing, Publishing, Reading.”

Conference poster

Photo: Juan Poblete

The conference is designed to explore the variety and diversity of Latino literature, said one of the organizers, Juan Poblete, associate professor of literature. Photo: Dana Rohlf

In addition to a series of academic panels, the conference will feature eight nationally recognized writers who will read from their works in two evening sessions titled “Latina/o Writers Read.” Admission is free and the public is encouraged to attend.

“It is rare to find a conference about Latino literature of this magnitude,” noted associate professor of literature Juan Poblete, who organized the event along with his colleagues in the UCSC Literature Department, professor Norma Klahn and associate professor Kirsten  Silva Gruesz. “This is not something that happens on a regular basis for the Latino community or for those who are interested in Latino literature.”

“In fact you don’t find many conferences on Latino literature at all in the U.S.,” Poblete added. “It’s usually just a small part of conferences on minority literature featuring one or two Latino writers.”

Poblete said that the conference was organized to explore the variety and diversity of Latino literature, noting that it is an umbrella term covering writing that spans a broad range of possibilities--from Spanish to English with all the hybrids in between, such as Spanglish. “We don’t want to homogenize Latino literature or obscure that there are multiple projects and a wide spectrum of writers that fall under that heading,” he explained.

Poblete added that the conference will also include the participation of editors and booksellers.

“We have a full panel on Saturday morning about the process of publishing and circulation,” said Poblete. “We will discuss questions such as: What makes a book Latino? What gets published and distributed? What are the constraints that publishing companies and nonprofits are faced with when trying to publish Latino literature?”

Another panel will talk about the audiences for Latino literature, discussing the possibilities of opening up the perception of the genre from just fiction to other forms of writing such as nonfiction, screenwriting, radio, and television writing. Panelists will also examine the history of Latino literature in the U.S. “There is a long tradition of Latino writing that goes against the popular perception that it is the ‘new kid on the block,’” noted Poblete.

Guest writers and panelists at the conference will include:

• Francisco Goldman, author of three award-winning novels, The Long Night of White Chickens, The Ordinary Seaman, and recently, The Divine Husband. His short fiction and journalism have been published in Harper's, Esquire, the New York Times Sunday Magazine, and the New Yorker. The Ordinary Seaman was a finalist for the IMPAC Dublin International Literary Prize and was named one of the Hungry Mind One Hundred Books of the Century.

• Alfredo Vea, a former migrant farmworker who is now a practicing criminal defense attorney, is also the author of three novels, La Maravilla, The Silver Cloud Cafe, and Gods Go Begging, which was named one of the Best Books of 1999 by the Los Angeles Times. Vea has been described as "a cross between John Steinbeck and Gabriel Garcia Marquez."

Nina Marie Martinez, the author of Caramba! A Tale told in Turns of the Card, holds a bachelor’s degree in literature from UC Santa Cruz. The San Francisco Chronicle said of her book:  “A triumph of whimsy and imagination–Monty Python meets One Hundred Years of Solitude . . . Wow! This is something absolutely and authentically new! This author is going to be a star.” Martinez is currently at work on her second novel.

Tino Villanueva, the founder of Imagine Publishers, Inc., and editor of Imagine: International Chicano Poetry Journal. Author of the book-length poem Scene from the Movie GIANT, Villanueva has published three other volumes of poetry, Hay Otra Voz Poems, Shaking Off the Dark, and Chronicle of My Worst Years/ Crónica de mis años peores. Villanueva won the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation for Scene from the Movie GIANT in 1994.

Reyna Grande--author of Across a Hundred Mountains, her first novel, of which People magazine said: “Grande’s spare, elegantly written tale of a young Mexican girl searching for her farmworker father, missing since he left to seek his fortune in ‘el otro lado’, is a timely and riveting read.” A graduate of UC Santa Cruz, Grande was named a PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Rosenthal Fellow in 2003.

Alicia Alarcón, the author of La Migra me hizo los mandados, moved to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico, where she began her journalism career with La Opinión, serving as both a reporter and an editor. She later became the West Coast reporter for Univisión and was contracted by CNN as a Latin American radio correspondent. Alarcón eventually became the first woman to host a radio news and opinion program during prime time; her program currently airs on Radio Unica (1580) in Los Angeles. She is also working on projects for television.

Susana Chavez-Silverman, specializing in gender and sexuality studies, Latin American and U.S. Latina/Chicana literature, and poetry, has published numerous essays on these topics and coedited several books. Her most recent book, Killer  Crónicas: Bilingual Memories, was published in 2004 after she was awarded a fellowship by the National Endowment for the Humanities for a project on contemporary Argentine women's poetry.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba won the Premio Aztlan Award given by Rudolfo and Patricia Anaya for her book of fiction The Mystery of Survival and Other Stories. Her first novel, Sor Juana's Second Dream, won First Place in Historical Fiction in the Latino Literary Hall of Fame in 2001, and has been translated into Spanish and German. Her latest novel, Desert Blood: The Juarez Murders, was released in 2005 by Arte Publico Press. Gaspar de Alba describes Desert Blood as "a mystery novel based on the 12-year crime wave of murdered, raped, and mutilated young Mexican women on the El Paso/Juarez border."

For more information and a detailed schedule of events, plus directions for the conference, go to www2.ucsc.edu/raza/litconference.shtml or contact Juan Poblete at jpoblete@ucsc.edu or (831) 459-5734.

      
                                            

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