Barbara Jane Reyes shares developments on her latest work “Chorus,” a colloborative piece from Pinay writers, including yours truly

The laughing poet
Image from Oakland Local

Chorus: A Poetry Manuscript in Progress is writer and professor Barbara Jane Reyes most current work in development, tentatively titled, and she shares her process as well as acknowledges fellow writers for their contributions in her post “Manuscript Process Notes” :

So much of my poetry to date has been an assumption of a Filipina American or Pinay voice, an academic assumption of Pinay concerns. The demand for me to be some kind of Pinay spokesperson has come to fill me with ambivalence, and so I needed to ask, to pass the mic, to step aside and let other Pinays speak, to listen to what they have to say, how they speak, write, and make art about what is important to them…

…A debt of gratitude to my collaborators: Kimberly Alidio, Olivia Ayes, Terry Bautista, Richie Biluan, Caroline Calderon, Rachelle Cruz, Niki Escobar, Diana Q. Halog, Rebecca Mabanglo-Mayor, Rashaan Alexis Meneses, Camille Ikalina Robles, Leny Mendoza Strobel, for lending me their words and stories. Maraming salamat, at Diyos ti agngina.

Looking forward to poring over the finished manuscript. Read Reyes’ entire post at her site.

Excerpt from “Recap on ‘The Places We Call Home’ Literary Event at Eastwind Books of Berkeley

"The Places We Call Home" at Eastwind Books of Berkeley, September 29, 2011

Here’s a sample of what went down at Eastwind Books of Berkeley on Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thanks to Veronica Montes, Bea & Harvey, Eastwind Books managers, who organized the event taking place Thursday, September 29, 2011, which kicked off the International Filipino Book Festival, where Cecilia Manguerra Brainard, Oscar Bermeo, Veronica Montes, Barbara Jane Reyes, Sunny Vergara Jr. and myself read to a packed house.

Bea had a pot of adobo to greet everyone, and the reading commenced with Oscar Bermeo reading from his chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn. Some lines that struck bone include the following:

…those born near the sea carry a sense of salt…

born near the Pacific Ocean

…mother and aunt clean the ocean harvest…

the Atlantic tried to wash its taste out of me

For a full report, check out Ruelle Electrique’s post here.

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, September 29, 7-9pm at Eastwind Books, Berkeley

September 29 not only happens to be my birthday, but this year Eastwind Books in Berkeley kicks off the Fil Am International Book Festival with a literary extravaganza:

“THE PLACES WE CALL HOME”

 a literary event in celebration of the upcoming Filipino American International Book Festival

 at Eastwind Books, Berkeley, Thursday, September 29, 7-9 pm,

So come out and celebrate!

Authors and Poets reading will include:

Oscar Bermeo was born in Ecuador and raised in the Bronx. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Anywhere Avenue, Palimpsest, Heaven Below and To the Break of Dawn.

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard is the award-winning author of eight books, including the internationally-acclaimed novel When the Rainbow Goddess Wept, Magdalena, and Vigan and Other Stories.

Rashaan Alexis Meneses earned her MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California’s Creative Writing Program, where she was named a 2005-2006 Jacob K. Javits Fellow and awarded the Sor Juana Ines de La Cruz Scholarship for Excellence in Fiction.

Veronica Montes
is the co-author of Angelica’s Daughters, as well as a short story writer whose work has appeared in Bamboo Ridge, Growing Up Filipino, and Philippine Speculative Fiction 5.

Barbara Jane Reyes is a recipient of the James Laughlin Award of the Academy of American Poets and the author of Diwata, which was recently noted as a finalist for the California Book Award.

Benito M. Vergara, Jr. was born and raised in the Philippines. He is the author of Displaying Filipinos: Photography and Colonialism in Early 20th-Century Philippines and Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City.

For more information about the October 1 to October 2, 2011 Filipino American International Book Festival visit http://www.filbookfest.info/

If you love literature, like supporting local authors and independent booksellers, and fancy celebrating my commencement into this world, please mark you calendars.

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Post Keynote Speech Write-up for Saint Mary’s College APASA Graduation Celebration

APASA Graduates

On Saturday, May 14, I had the honor and pleasure of delivering the keynote speech for the Asian Pacific American Student Associaion Graduation Celebration at Saint Mary’s College. Upon arrival, Hagerty Lounge was transformed into an elegant venue dressed in gold and purple with red and white table cloths laid out in the back for some fine dining that would take place after the speeches and ceremonies. An undergrad named Craig, immediately welcomed me and got me situated. Organized by Joan Iva C. Fawcett, the Director of the Intercultural Center, which sponsored the event, the celebration opened with an address from Jef Aquino, the MC. Alex Carbonel, a talented musician, singer, and basketball player performed throughout the celebration, and her beautiful music really added to the ceremony.

Trying to hold my own, I gave my speech, included below. Three awards were soon presented: the Student Scholar Award, the Student Leader Award, and the Dean Grace Cardenas-Tolentino Award then Brother Camillus Chavez gave the candle blessing, after which all attendees were invited to taste some delicious dishes from James Na and Jim Fawcett’s catering company as well as listen to the beautiful ukulele played by Eileen Lindley, a former student of mine.

This was a happy, tear-filled event, which I am very grateful to have shared, and I hope to attend more since these students are so wonderfully inspiring.

Here’s the keynote speech, a tribute to my family, speaking of inspiration:

APASA 2011 Graduation Ceremony Speech

Thirteen years ago, I sat in uncomfortable folding seats, just like you. Tipsy from excitement, thrilled to be sharing this moment of arrival with family and friends, eager to finally be an independent adult. With all frankness, I don’t remember the graduation speeches. I couldn’t tell you which prominent speaker said what, but I remember feeling like I could catch air and fly. I also distinctly remember hitting ground after graduation and crashing into the reality of life after college. There were the student loans, the string of jobs to pay the rent. I floundered between careers and learned more about what I didn’t want to do rather than coming to some instant grand destiny. Life after college was a process of elimination. Messy and confusing. What kept me sane, tethered to my dreams, and confident in my sense of self were my friends from college and my family.

https://i2.wp.com/www.rtspecialties.com/tobar/conex1/hedy4.jpg
Hedy Lamarr

Every once in a while, like today, we get to step back and survey what we’ve accomplished, celebrate the distance we’ve covered, and chart the new heights we hope to achieve. We are always arriving. In 1947, a newly married Filipino bride and groom, my grandparents, arrived in the U.S for the first time. Traveling by ship, they crossed the Pacific from Leyte, Philippines. You’ve probably heard similar tales such as theirs. Between the bride and groom they had two ten-dollar bills to serve as a nest egg for their new life in the States. The young woman carried a smile that could rival sunlight. She admired the ideals and beauty America stood for so much that she decided she wanted to be just as pretty and fair as the Hollywood actress, Hedy Lemarr. So my grandma got it in her head to turn her dark Pilipina skin to lily-white just. She basked on the rocks next to the river where she washed and dried her family’s laundry, thinking she could bleach herself the same way her brothers’ shirts and sisters’ linens were whitened in the heat of the sun. When she got home, she found herself darker than the earth she walked on. She learned an early lesson to just be yourself.

My grandpa had been encouraged at age eleven by his mother to make a living in the States. She told him that if he ever wanted to be someone he had to go to America because the tiny island of Limisawa didn’t offer the same opportunities he would find in the States. And, after she died, he went to California, all alone, at sixteen-years old to discover himself and a world that he’d make his home.

After serving in the Navy during World War II, he returned to the Philippines to marry his sweetheart and they sailed back to California. On their journey they met another Filipino who had no money but hefted a load of responsibility and promises that he also made to his family back home. This fellow Pinoy, asked my grandparents, if they could lend him some money, and my grandpa, being the overly generous soul he was gave the man one of his ten-dollar bills. Of course, grandma was furious. “Why did you do that?” she asked.

“Don’t worry, dear, we’ll be all right,” he answered.

Felipe & Ramona Napala, my maternal grandparents

My grandpa always knew whatever adversity he and my grandma would face they’d succeed. He hadn’t the smallest doubt that they’d find their way and be able to share their fortune, so he always took great lengths to help others. I look to each of you today, and I see you doing the same. You’re honoring community and family, supporting your brothers and sisters who journey into the unknown alongside you. I know that by your commitment to APASA, you each have stayed true to who you are and where you’ve come from.

With no safety net aside for their love for each other, my grandparents embarked on one of the scariest endeavors we could ever take, daring to make their way in a new country, living a foreign life among strangers. Imagine if they had Facebook, Twitter, or Skype to keep them connected to home and to warn them of the dangers they might come across.

Today you have so many tools and means to keep you informed and stay linked to your family and friends. My grandparents had only the relationships they’d make along the way and the ambitions their families inspired within them. Still, you’re every bit the pioneers my grandparents were. They, like you, embraced a new world, unsure of the next step or the step that would follow after the first one. Faith, hard work, and commitment  to family, friends, and their heritage kept their nerves steeled, helped them grit their teeth, and hold fast to their dreams. I have every confidence you’ll be doing the same on your journey.

You’ve navigated some deep and choppy waters in the different classes you’ve taken at Saint Mary’s, and the different activities you’ve participated in. I’m thinking now of Collegiate Seminar which has given you the rare opportunity to reflect honestly and deeply about some of life’s most important ideas. Rarely will you get a chance to just sit and discuss some of our most muddiest concerns.

At the same time that you’re drawing upon your college education as a foundation for what’s ahead be sure to also remember the stories, experiences, and advice that your family and friends have shared. Think of all the challenges your grandparents, aunties, uncles and cousins, and parents have faced to help you get where you are now. Keep learning and shaping your own wisdom, which rests on the wisdom of your loved ones. Honor their words and memories.

Delivering the keynote speech, can you tell my hands are shaking?

I’ll leave you with a couple life’s lessons and you can do with them as you will. Firstly, try with all your might to avoid debt or try not to get into any more debt. Credit cards are bad. Stay away. I learned that the hard way. Don’t be me.

Secondly, stay hungry and keep your thirst for knowledge and experience. Read everyday of your life. Always be inquisitive. Try to see the world from someone else’s eyes and walk in their shoes.

Thirdly, and lastly, keep engaged and connected to your communities. Don’t forget about us here at Saint Mary’s because we’ll miss you and we want to chart your success. Stay close to family and friends as you scale your ambitions and make your way in this world. Keep your communities close to heart because each of you inspire us.

Let’s take a moment to thank and congratulate one another for arriving here, celebrating all that we have accomplished and wishing only success and good fortune for what’s to come. Today is your day, and I wish you many successes. Peace and blessings!

Wishing all the grads many successes!

Big thanks to APASA for including me in such a grand event!

All photos, except the pic of Hedy Lamarr, are courtesy of PJ Sanders.

Revving up for the APASA Keynote Graduation Speech at Saint Mary’s College

Honored to be delivering the keynote speech at Saint Mary’s College of California’s for the following ceremony:

Asian Pacific American Graduate Celebration
Saturday, May 14th
2-4 p.m.
Hagerty Lounge (Please note the change in location; it was originally scheduled in LeFevre Theater.)

Here’s a taste of the speech, an excerpt from an essay written in response to a call for Fil-Am literature:

“Barbie’s Gotta Work”

Unlike my mother who grew up in an old Army barrack tacked to the dusty farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley or my father who sometimes had to sleep in the chicken coop because his family’s house off of Franklin Boulevard in Sacramento was over-crowded with six other siblings, not only did I enjoy a spacious suburban room of my own, but I also had full governship of a pink and white miniature estate. At four feet, the Barbie Townhouse towered over my seven-year old frame. First released in 1975, my three-story edition boasted a blush bedroom suite with a lace canopied bed and matching pink armoire on the top floor. The second level living room afforded Barbie and her friends a cozy space to converse and enjoy tea while lounging on white wicker furniture. On the bottom floor, Barbie hosted small dinner parties and cooked in a cramped kitchen that lacked a stove, an oven, and a sink but offered instead a mini-refrigerator. The townhouse also featured a canary-colored pull-string elevator, which ended up stalling dramatic storylines. Between unspooling the pulley and positioning Barbie just right so her limbs wouldn’t catch as she was towed between floors, she eventually bypassed the elevator, so she could continue her arguments or flirtations uninterrupted.

***

Inspiration for this particular essay was partly borne out of that plastic pink dream we call Barbie. Before I fell hopelessly in love with Louise Erdrich’s tales or stumbled trying to follow the footsteps of Woolf, I wove stories and created characters using the most pink and most traditional of mainstream narrative tools.

Image from Celebrity Baby Blog

The Barbie Townhouse circa 1970’s release was my cardboard and plastic play-stage where I could re-enact and revise plot-lines from One Life To Live and All My Children with an ethnic twist. Instead of Barbie as the lead her friend, Island Fun Miko, was lady of the house and the center of all my Barbie narratives.

Image from Jemboy’s World

“Tropical Island Fun with Barbie and Miko” January 26, 2009

The Barbie Travel Agent Set was a surprise gift from Santa who, ironically, had designs to usher and initiate me into Third Wave Feminism:

Image from The Henry Ford Museum, “Happy 50th Birthday, Barbie!” March 2009

Latest Muse: The Art of Mario De Rivera

Reading up on the Center for Babaylan Studies site, Babaylan Files, I stumbled upon the stunning art of Mario De Rivera whose work is reminiscent of Klimt and Kahlo. Someday, one of his pieces will hang on a brick and mortar wall of mine. For now, virtual admiration will have to do. For more on De Rivera’s paintings, check out the online thumbnails to his exhibit, “Fragments of Incantations” opening in June at the Hiraya Gallery in Ermita, Philippines.

 

Fragments of Incantation, 122 x 122 cm . Oil, Acrylic, Modeling Paste and Photo Transfers . 2003

 

Perfect Age: 121.5 x 121.5 cm . Oil, Acrylic, Modeling Paste and Photo Transfers . 2003

Holiday Shopping with Head, Heart, and Hands

Still scrambling for holiday gifts? Tis the season to celebrate family, friends and community by supporting local businesses. Consider shopping with head, heart, and hands with some of these favorite local purveyors:

BOOKS

Anvil Publishing – Just released Angelica’s Daughter, “A Dugtungan Novel, a collaborative work written by five established Filipino and Filipino American women writers.  The five authors came from different countries during the creation of the novel: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Veronica Montes lived in California; Susan Evangelista and Erma Cuizon were in the Philippines, and Nadine Sarreal was in Singapore.” This publisher has a wide range of Pin@y literary selections that should be in every savvy reader’s library.
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Continue reading “Holiday Shopping with Head, Heart, and Hands”

Book Release: “Angelica’s Daughters”

PLEASE MARK YOUR CALENDAR – Saturday, Nov. 6, 5:30-7 pm, Angelica’s Daughters in San Francisco–  a reading/signing of ANGELICA’S DAUGHTERS, A DUGTUNGAN NOVEL, in a PAWA sponsored event, Saturday, November 6, 5:30-7 p.m. at the Bayanihan Community Center, 1010 Mission Street, San Francisco, California.

ANGELICA’S DAUGHTERS, A DUGTUNGAN NOVEL

Released by Anvil Publishing during the Manila International Book Fair last September, was a landmark novel entitled, Angelica’s Daughters, A Dugtungan Novel, a collaborative work written by five established Filipino and Filipino American women writers.  The five authors came from different countries during the creation of the novel: Cecilia Manguerra Brainard and Veronica Montes lived in California; Susan Evangelista and Erma Cuizon were in the Philippines, and Nadine Sarreal was in Singapore.

The five writers were members of an Internet writing group since 2003. After a few years of writing exercises, the group sought greater challenge and decided to write a dugtungan novel. A dugtungan is a genre of Tagalog novel popular early in the 20th century, in which each writer creates a chapter and hands it off to the next, who writes another chapter without direction.

The result is a novel about a diverse group of modern Filipinas – among them a FilAm whose marriage has disintegrated, an even younger Cebuana involved in a forbidden love affair, and a ballroom dancing Lola – who share a common ancestor, Angelica.

The novel has received praise from noted Filipino critic, Isagani Cruz, who says, ““This tale of two women living a century apart (and the women and men in their lives) told sequentially by five women is truly an ensemble performance worth a standing ovation.”

Award-winning Filipina writer, Felice Sta. Maria describes the novel as follows:

“Chick lit with a comfortable dose of smartness and historical verve. Angelica’s Daughters celebrates audacious heroines primed by deep passion and fairytale romance! Set in the heat of a 19th-century Asian revolution and what its setting becomes by the 21st Century, Angelica’s Daughters beguiles with its mythic splendor, threat of a generational curse, masterful betrayals, and female leads readers can fall in love with.
The story is a delightful read by five writers who cherish their Hispanic, Filipino, and American cultural roots.”

Brian Roley, Filipino American award-winning author likewise praises the book by saying, “Part of the pleasure of reading Angelica’s Daughters is seeing how deftly the authors deal with the challenge of writing in this resurrected literary form. The result, in this case, is an ensemble performance that contains something of the exhilaration of theatrical improv. One watches these accomplished authors inventively weave a historical romance, creating gripping heroines and turns of plot, crossing decades and national boundaries, tapping into cultural roots of the Philippines, Spain and America. Reading Angelica’s Daughters is a gripping experience.”

In the Philippines, the book is available from Anvil Publishing (www.anvilpublishing.com); in the US, the novel is available from PALH (www.palhbooks.com) and Philippine Expressions (linda_nietes@sbcglobal.net). Arkipelagobooks.com in San Francisco also has copies.

The novel has a site at www.palhbooks.com/cbrainardangelica.html, and a blog at http://angelicasdaughters.wordpress.com.

At the Salon: GoodReads Review on the anthology “Growing Up Filipino II”

Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults Growing Up Filipino II: More Stories for Young Adults by Cecilia Manguerra Brainard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
**DISCLAIMER: This review is written by one of the contributors from the anthology. Please read with discretion.**

In her Borderlands/La Frontera, Gloria Anzaldúa writes of the mestiza consciousness: “The new mestiza copes by developing a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity. She learns to be an Indian in Mexican culture, to be a Mexican from an Anglo point of view. She learns to juggle cultures. She has a plural personality, she operates on a pluralistic mode–nothing is thrust out, the good, the bad, and the ugly, nothing rejected, nothing abandoned. Not only does she sustain contradictions, she turns the ambivalence into something else.” The Filipino-ness, as discussed by Rocio G. Davis in his introduction and depicted by the twenty-plus authors in this anthology, develops more than a tolerance for contradictions but zeroes in on the good, the bad, and the ugly, drawing strength, voice, character, and meaning out of the ambiguity that lies at the inherent core of Filipino and Fiilpino-American experiences. Filipino history is Pluralism, and Cecilia Manguerra Brainard through her keen compilation and organization of these deceptively simple tales shows readers the complexity of individual experiences and stories in this beautifully orchestrated anthology.

Read entire review here at Ruelle Electrique

“Into the Woods”: a faculty retreat reading list

Jenifer K. Wofford’s “MacArthur’s Nurses” (2008)

Your Salonniere has organized the reading list for this summer’s Collegiate Seminar Faculty Retreat for Saint Mary’s College of California. The theme of this retreat, “Into the Woods,” focuses on perception and consciousness of the Unknown, the Other, and the Wild. Inspired by the advocacy work of poet and professor Barbara Jane Reyes, who also introduced me to Jenifer K. Wofford’s art, these selections, juxtaposed together, will hopefully reveal surprising similarities among artists who might otherwise seem disparate. I’m looking forward to seeing how the faculty respond to the works individually and as a collective.

Schedule for the Neville and Juanita Massa Institute

at Huntington Lake, Summer 2010

July 29- August 1

“Into the Woods”

Thursday, July 29

8:00 – 10:00pm, Session I:  Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Mont Blanc” (poem), 1817.

Friday, July 30

10:00 am – noon, Session II:  Trinh T. Minh-ha, “The Language of Nativism” (46-64) (essay excerpt), from Women Native Other, 1989 [facilitator TBD].

7:30 – 9:30pm, Session III:  E.M. Forster, “Introduction” and “Other Kingdom” (short story) from The Celestial Omnibus and Other Stories, 1947 [facilitator TBD].

Saturday, July 31

10:00am – noon, Session IV:  Carlos Bulosan, “The Growth of Philippine Culture” (115-123), “My Education” (124-130), “Freedom from Want” (131-134) (essays) from On Becoming Filipino: Selected Writings and Jenifer K. Wofford, “MacArthur Nurses” (painting) 2008, and MacArthur’s Leyte Landing, (photo) October 1944 [facilitator TBD]

7:30 – 9:00pm, Session V:  Louise Erdrich, “The Good Tears” from Love Medicine (novel excerpt) 1984.

Sunday, August 1

10:00am – noon, Session VI:  Slavoj Zizek, “The Communist Hypothesis” (111-125) (philosophy excerpt) from First as Tragedy, Then as Farce, 2009.