Fifty-nine

Sometimes, you just have to write what you feel.

September 14, 2019

Fifty-nine
Today you would have been
fifty-nine

I might have teased you

Practically six decades
I would have said

I can’t remember
if I called to wish you well
the day of your birth
in that final and forty-eighth year

I hope I did

A sister’s grief
is clear
as a threatening sky
A heavy blanket of gray
with a hole here and there
for the tears to fall through

We were never close
you and I

But
what if

I’d tried harder
to be the sister you needed

Could we ever have been friends
You my protector and wise counsel
Me a good listener with a sunny disposition

We were never close and
all that’s left
is a cloud of regret

heavy with
what should have been

Questions about what
could have been

about why you left us
without an occasion to ever again
wish you
a happy birthday

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Writing, Revising and Disappearing Letters

keyboard

Trying to get traction on the Evangelina Takes Flight sequel. While out on leave of absence due to foot surgery, I wrote 11 chapters in 2 1/2 weeks, which for me, felt almost miraculous. Since returning to work, I haven’t written any new chapters, just revised the old ones.

Hrrrmmmph! I think it’s time to stop revising (which can be a never-ending and maddening yet necessary process) and start creating again!

Here is an excerpt from one of the early chapters, in case you’re interested:

Not five minutes before I was ordered to get out, she squeezed my hand and called me a ‘godsend.’ All signs indicated a normal delivery. Doctor Morley, a man I had never seen until that day, delivered the baby boy and was present at the mother’s the death. I didn’t know until the next day when Sheriff Pearl arrived. You are hereby under arrest for witchcraft and the murder of Ramona Healy. My terrified family could do nothing but beg for an explanation and insist that it must be a mistake as he handcuffed and loaded me into the windowless police wagon and set off for the county jail. I heard my nine-year old brother, Tomás, running behind us, screaming my name. When the sound of his voice trailed off, the clip clop of the horse’s hooves, and the pounding of my heart joined together in terrifying rhythm.

PS: Can you tell which of the keys on this keyboard I use most?

PSS: I’ll probably revise the above numerous times before it goes to my publisher!

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Immersive & Experiential Learning

experiential learning

Passing along an excellent article I got wind of from my publisher, Arte Público Press. The article, by Tom Vander Ark in Forbes, chronicles the move from competencies that enable students to pass standardized tests to “immersive and experiential learning, strong guidance, a focus on success skills and becoming a contributing citizen.”

I’m no education expert, but in my view, as a mother, grandmother and YA author, this is exactly where we should be going.

 

 

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The Massacre at Porvenir

Texas Rangers

I am now busy researching and writing the sequel to Evangelina Takes Flight.  One part of history I am learning more about is the frequent and sometimes state-sanctioned barbarism and murder perpetrated against Mexicans and Mexican-Americans between 1910-1920. This article from the Associated Press characterizes the massacre in Porvenir, Texas in 1918 and many other instances of torture, lynching and terror.

MEXICAN-AMERICANS FACED RACIAL TERROR FROM 1910-1920

For more information, please go to Refusing to Forget. From their homepage:

Between 1910 and 1920 ethnic Mexicans living on the Texas-Mexico border were targets of state-sanctioned violence. Although historians estimate that several thousand Mexican nationals and American citizens were killed, this period of violence has received little public attention.
Refusing to Forget, an educational non-profit, hopes that in bringing public awareness to this often forgotten period, we can also raise the profile of a struggle for justice and civil rights that continues to influence social relationships today.

—————————————————————————————————————————————–

And, speaking of the sequel, it will more definitively be young adult than middle grade. The massacre of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans will be part of the story’s political backdrop. From chapter 1:

It’s been almost four years since we arrived in Seneca, hopeful but scared. Scared for my older sister, brother-in-law and grandfather whom we left behind, scared about what life in America would hold for us, scared about how the Anglos would treat us.

I loved my stable, predictable life in Mariposa and would have lived there forever, if it had not been so dangerous to stay.

 But, if we hadn’t come here, I never would have met Doctor Taylor or Selim.

And, I wouldn’t be in the Haller County Jail accused of murder.

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Sequel!

LunaI had foot surgery recently and have been laid up almost completely – no pressure on the foot for 4 weeks. Given that I’ll be in this rather potato-like state for a while, I decided to hold my breath, make a wish and dive in to an Evangelina Takes Flight sequel.

I’ve had some ideas floating around my head for a sequel but didn’t have enough, or in any order to make for an entire storyline, that is, until I found myself with all this time on my hands (not on my feet).

Writing a historical fiction is a serious commitment due to the amount of research that has to be done on top of the story development and writing itself. Four chapters in and I already love where the story is leading me. And the research – the surprising and illuminating research! There’s at least one thing on every page I have to check into.

The story is set in 1914.

  • When did the position of sheriff become an elected one?
  • When did murder “by degrees” come into being?
  • What kinds of food would have been typical in southwest county jails?
  • Who was the first female Mexican-American doctor in the US and what was her journey to success like?
  • What exactly was happening in the Mexican Revolution that year?
  • Are there any cases in US history of curanderos (or “healers”) from Mexico being tried for witchcraft?
  • What would a smart-looking and not too overdone ladies hat have looked like; what would it have been made of and adorned with?
  • Were there many (if any) female reporters in the newspaper industry and what did they write about?

Evangelina Takes Flight was bestowed with some notable awards due to its historical authenticity, and I pledge to take as much care with the research on the sequel. I have so much to learn, and oh, what fun it will be!

PS: the photo is of Luna (and Diego in the background). They’ve been good company while I recuperate and type, type, type.

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The Raiders are Coming! ~Book Review~

Somehow I missed this review of Evangelina Takes Flight, posted in October 2018 on the site Books YA Love. The *reviewer did an excellent job capturing the suspenseful elements of the novel.

The raiders are coming! Evangelina Takes Flight with her family, by Diana J. Noble (book review)

book cover of Evangelina Takes Flight, by Diana J. Noble, published by Pinata Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com Pancho Villa‘s rebels are coming!
Carry what you can and flee – or be killed!
But refugees aren’t welcomed when they cross into Texas…

So much for 13-year-old Evangelina to cope with now – a girl trying to steal her suitcase on the train (with grandfather’s secret box inside!), store signs in the Texas town that say “No Mexicans” (where can they buy food?), and wondering if they can ever go home to Mexico (is anyone safe there?).

The story is set in 1911, but many things still resonate today in the borderlands.

Book info: Evangelina Takes Flight / Diana J. Noble. Pinata Books/Arte Publico Press, 2017.

My book talk: Pancho Villa and his rebel soldiers are coming? As big sister celebrates her quinceanera before the family flees their northern Mexico rancho, Evangelina worries about little Tomas’ recovering so slowly from a scorpion sting, whether grandfather can travel north with them, what they will find at her aunt’s house in Texas.

By mule wagon, with the men herding their best cattle on another trail, Evangelina’s mother gets the children to the crowded train station, but the journey onward is anything but smooth, and the Texas border town holds no welcome for refugees.

Why is wailing woman La Llorona coming into her dreams?
Will the townspeople’s prejudice keep her and Dr. Taylor from saving lives?
What is in the box grandfather gave her for safekeeping?

Evangelina might even be brave enough to attend the town meeting where rich white people are demanding that only white children can attend the school!

 

*Katy Manck, MLS Librarian-at-large & independent book reviewer recommends great books beyond the bestseller lists, rather than reviewing every YA book she reads.

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“I don’t speak Mexican…”

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo Map

I just got back from a wonderful vacation in Maui with friends. Like most Hawaii tourists, we spent time on the beach, by the pool and at a few cultural sites, if you can call the Ocean Vodka and Rum Distillery a cultural site.

One evening, we hung out with a nice group of folks at a barbecue. I enjoyed the band (dancing!) and meeting new people. The speedbump in my otherwise fun evening? The conversation with a gruff-looking but affable guy who told me, “I  tried to get a job in Texas, but no one would hire me because I don’t speak *Mexican. This is America!”

You might think I got my knickers in a twist over that, but I didn’t. More like I did an eye roll (an inside sentiment rather than an outward facial expression) and let out a heavy sigh.

I was the guest of a friend, the guy had clearly downed a few too many beers (local vodka or rum from the distillery?), and I didn’t know him from Adam, plus he was the size of a brown bear, the kind that ripped Leonardo DiCaprio to shreds in that movie, so, I chose to keep my mouth shut except to say, “Uh-huh.”

You have to pick your moments. Unknown big drunk dudes do not make the best verbal sparring partners. And to be honest, he otherwise seemed like a really nice fellow.

Given people’s relative absence of knowledge about Mexico’s history and its MAJOR impact on the US, I wonder how many know that a large swath of the US was originally part of Mexico?

From the Library of Congress:

The first Mexicans to become part of the United States never crossed any border. Instead, the border crossed them.

Spanish-speaking people have lived in North America since the Spaniards colonized Mexico in the sixteenth century, and Mexicans have always played a crucial role in the continent’s culture and history. Mexican culture brought many firsts to North America: The first Thanksgiving took place in either New Mexico or El Paso; the first university in North America was founded in Mexico City; the first printing press on the continent arrived in Mexico in 1538, more than a century before printing came to New England.

Mexicans first arrived in present-day New Mexico in 1598 and founded the city of Santa Fe in 1610. By 1800, Spain had governed Mexico as a colony for almost 300 years. Although Spaniards held positions of power, the people of Mexico were primarily mestizos–people of both Spanish and indigenous heritage.

The northern sections of Mexico, especially the lands north of the Rio Grande, were lightly populated well into the 19th century. Mexican government officials, merchants, and a few trappers and hunters from the U.S. lived in small settlements, mostly around a series of mission churches. This arrangement remained largely undisturbed after Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821.

In 1846, everything changed. War broke out between the U.S. and Mexico over the U.S. annexation of Texas. Mexico was defeated, and in 1848 the two nations signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. This treaty gave the victorious nation an enormous amount of land, including what would later become the states of California and Texas, as well as parts of Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Nevada, in exchange for a token payment of $15 million.

One more important piece of land changed hands in 1854, when the U.S. bought what is now southern Arizona and New Mexico from the Mexican government for $10 million. This land deal, known as the Gadsden Purchase, brought the U.S. a much-coveted railroad route, and helped open the West to further expansion.

With two strokes of a pen, the larger nation had expanded its size by one-third. And almost overnight, tens of thousands of Mexican citizens had become residents of the United States.

Regarding the use of the Spanish language by those who were once Mexicans and became North Americans by way of a war, treaty and real estate deal between the two countries, I find this article by Pamela Oliver to be an excellent source of information and fodder for discussion.

Perhaps if I ever see that man again, I will ask him to read the article and meet me for coffee and a friendly debate.

*For goodness sake! There is no “Mexican language.” It’s called Spanish.

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