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9 L.A. Poets Giving Latinos A Voice

It is National Poetry month and these are nine of the hottest poets in and around the L.A. area spreading the word like wildfire.

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One of the best poets with a knack for reciting raw emotional energy, Sedillo’s first book of poetry For What I Might Do Tomorrow, was published by Casa de Poesia in 2009. He is also a two-time national slam poet and was the grand slam champion of the Damn Slam in Los Angeles. If you see him ask him to recite “L.A. is full of Pigs.”

Felicia “Fe Evaone” Montes

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Not only is she is a co-founder and coordinating member of two important women’s collectives, Mujeres de Maiz and In Lak Ech, Fe has also been involved with her community since an early age. Like her peers, she maintains a deep rooted belief that art is a tool for education, empowerment and transformation. She self-published her own poetry book titled Ten Fe and is known for her innate ability to blend hip hop, poetry and spoken word.

David A. Romero

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Hailing from Diamond Bar, California, Romero is only the second poet to be featured on All Def Digital, Russell Simmons’ YouTube channel. He’s also opened for Ozomatli and La Santa Cecilia. Currently touring, Romero is often featured alongside his literary partner in crime, Matt Sedillo.

READ: New U.S Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, the Chicano’s Literary Rock Star

Iris De Anda

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Iris is a very punk poet who comes from Mexican and Salvadorean descent. She believes in the power and strength that comes with the word. You can find Anda, author of CODESWITCH: Fires from Mi Corazon, hosting “The Writers Underground Open Mic” every Third Thursday of the month at the Eastside Café in El Sereno.

BusStop Prophet

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Born Francisco Escamilla, BusStop Prophet is an East L.A. native. He is a teaching artist with the non-profit Street Poets. He can often be found at events reciting poetry on the topic of popular education.

Xitlalic Guijosa-Osuna

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Photo Credit: Xitlalic Guijosa-Osuna / Facebook

Guijosa-Osuna’s poetry varies from everyday happenings, domestic abuse, memories of old friends, lovers, to even guayabas (yes, the fruit) and their greatness. She is a firm believer that words help heal the mind and soul.

John Martinez

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Photo Credit: John Martinez / Facebook

Originally from Fresno, Martinez is a writer’s writer. He has held several readings throughout Southern California and Mexico. He is a regular contributing writer to La Bloga and Poets responding to SB1070.

Anna Ureña

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From South Central Los Angeles, Ureña writes prose and theatrical dramas. She authored Anhelo, a collection of Spanish language poems. She currently hosts a weekly podcast, Another Voice From The Crowd that features various writers from the Los Angeles literary scene.

Abel Salas

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Photo Credit: Abel Salas / Facebook

Salas is a native Texan who made East L.A. his second home. A former road manager for La Mafia, he is currently the editor-in-chief of print and online mag Brooklyn and Boyle. He has coined his style as “Literaloco–Literatonto.”

Here’s Why The Oprah Winfrey-Promoted Book ‘American Dirt’ Is Getting So Much Heat

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Here’s Why The Oprah Winfrey-Promoted Book ‘American Dirt’ Is Getting So Much Heat

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Whether or not you follow Oprah’s Book Club, you’ve likely heard about the controversy surrounding the most recent novel on her list: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins. The book follows protagonist Lydia Quixano Pérez, a middle-class Mexican bookseller who escapes Acapulco with her 8-year-old son, Luca, after a drug cartel massacres their family at a quinceañera. When Lydia and Luca flee to the US on a freight train, the story unfolds as a chronicle of two migrants’ dangerous journey across the border.

On the surface, American Dirt appears to draw much-needed attention to the experience of countless people seeking safety and prosperity in the US—and while many folks are debating whether or not the book actually succeeds in doing this, it was definitely marketed that way.

After igniting a bidding war between nine publishing houses, American Dirt was ultimately sold to Flatiron Books for seven figures in 2018. With its topical and pervasive subject matter, the publishers assumed that the book would be a hit—and at first, it was. It was endorsed by major writers and celebrities, from Stephen King to Salma Hayek, and it received glowing reviews from several Latina authors, including Sandra Cisneros, Reyna Grande, and Julia Alvarez. Preorders from booksellers were so abundant that Flatiron increased its first printing from 300,000 copies to 500,000. And, of course, Oprah announced that the novel would feature as her Book Club’s first read of 2020.

But with all the hype that preceded American Dirt’s January 21 release came questions about its validity.

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In May of last year, Flatiron held a book promotion dinner honoring the novel, and the event featured floral arrangements wrapped in barbed wire—an aesthetic choice that sparked a fair amount of early skepticism about the book (on Twitter, the decor was decried as “border chic”). Several prominent figures in the literary world are accusing Cummins—who referred to herself as “white” in a 2015 New York Times essay, but now identifies as “white and Latinx”—of cultural appropriation, asserting that she is capitalizing on the suffering of a group that she doesn’t belong to (though one of her grandmothers was Puerto Rican). Many Latinx writers have expressed disdain for the publishing industry’s tendency to support white authors telling the stories of marginalized groups, rather than elevating authors who actually identify with those groups themselves. Others are simply critical about the prose, lamenting Cummins’ clumsy reliance on racial stereotypes and use of a Spanish not typical of Mexico.

And although several Latinx folks are either actively critiquing or distancing themselves from the book, others remain optimistic about its effect on pop culture. Cristian Perez, a 25-year-old teacher who is Mexican-American, told the New York Times that he” had not heard about American Dirt or the controversy, but he was glad to see a writer using her ‘privilege’ to ‘bring light to the misfortunes of other people.’”

Mexican-American poet and novelist Erika L. Sánchez had initially said that the novel was written with “grace, compassion, and precision,” but recently mentioned in an interview that she wouldn’t have supported the book so fervently if she had known it would cause so much tumult. Still, she added, “I hope this book inadvertently opens up doors for people of color.”

Cummins insists that her aim was to do just that—to highlight the very real, very urgent plight of Latinx immigrants, though she realized she may not be the best person to do so. In the afterword to the novel, Cummins wrote that she wishes that “someone slightly browner than [her] would write” this story—another statement that has not sat well with her critics, as it seems to dismiss the many excellent Latinx authors writing this type of story every day.

Credit: Heather Sten / The New York Times

In regard to the controversy, Cummins stands by her book and the creative decisions she made while writing it. “I do think that the conversation about cultural appropriation is incredibly important, but I also think that there is a danger sometimes of going too far toward silencing people,” she told the New York Times. “Everyone should be engaged in telling these stories, with tremendous care and sensitivity.”

As the contention surrounding American Dirt runs its course, all eyes are on the publishing industry, which continues to fumble its attempts to make the literary landscape more inclusive. A 2015 study showed that white people made up 79% of the industry overall, with only 6% of the industry comprised by Latinx folks. Let’s hope that after the conversation sparked by American Dirt, 2020 looks a lot different.

And in the meantime, here’s a quick list of books by Latina authors that you should read right now! Thanks to our Instagram followers for the recommendations!

The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende

With the Fire on High, by Elizabeth Acevedo

In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez

Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, by Raquel Cepeda

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

Dominicana, by Angie Cruz

Malinche, by Laura Esquivel

In the Country We Love, by Diane Guerrero

Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez

 

Latina Writers On Twitter Her Upset About The POV The The Hunger Games Prequel Is Giving

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Latina Writers On Twitter Her Upset About The POV The The Hunger Games Prequel Is Giving

Lionsgate Films

When news that beloved dystopian Hunger Games series was getting a prequel novel, fans were thrilled. After all, it had been years since the last of the Suzanne Collins trilogy had ended leaving devotees of the series with quite a few questions and heartbreaks. Welp, an excerpt from The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, is finally here and fans on Twitter are– well- unsurprisingly nonplussed. 

The upcoming science fiction novel by Suzanne Collins has already caught some fire for its content. 

Due to be released on May 19, 2020, “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes will revisit the world of Panem sixty-four years before the events of The Hunger Games, starting on the morning of the reaping of the Tenth Hunger Games.”

Sounds all fun and good but fans are proving to be the exact opposite of tickled by news of the prequel which was confirmed back in October. At the time,  author Suzanne Collins said that “With this book, I wanted to explore the state of nature, who we are, and what we perceive is required for our survival,” she said in a press release. “The reconstruction period 10 years after the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days — as the country of Panem struggles back to its feet — provides fertile ground for characters to grapple with these questions and thereby define their views of humanity.”

Set 64 years before the first Hunger Games novel, the book won’t see characters like Katniss Everdeen.

In fact, as readers learned on Sunday, via the excerpt shared by Entertainment Weekly, the protagonist for the prequel ill be the villainous President Snow.

According to Entertainment Weekly, at the start of the book Coriolanus Snow is “a teenager born to privilege but searching for something more, a far cry from the man we know he will become. Here, he’s friendly. He’s charming. And, for now anyway, he’s a hero.”  In the excerpt shared by EW, Snow is seen becoming a mentor to a girl tribute from District 12,. 

Of course, the concept for the book has not boded well with fans on Twitter. 

Fans of the original series are expressing their outright contempt for the book which erases all of the work the original series did to inspire young female action heroes. Author Aiden Thomas of Cemetery Boys summed up the sentiments best saying  “I couldn’t be more disappointed by the next HUNGER GAMES being about f*cking President Snow and trying to paint him as a ‘misunderstood hero’ are you kidding me. the very last thing i’m interested in is humanizing a fascist dictator because he has a tragic past.”

Welp. That’s it for the prequel, here’s hoping that it all turns out way better than we had expected. Until then, at least we can ohh and ahh at the hope of one day seeing one of our very own represented in the series.

When Hollywood doesn’t have the courage to cast women or people of color in new films, they make reboots of older box office hits starring women or a more diverse cast. While we’d like to suggest that Hollywood simply make original films starring Latinos, especially since Latinos buy the most movie tickets than any other demographic groups in the US, but we also wouldn’t mind seeing a few reboots with a full Latino cast and not just playing token roles. The Hunger Games, a movie about children who grow up in extreme poverty who are taken from their families to a an opulent city that appears to be full of happiness and promise, but where they have to fight for their lives, is a good start, especially if Yalitza Aparicio played Katniss Everdeen.

Katniss Everdeen (originally played by Jennifer Lawrence)

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Little girls all over the world wanted to be like Katniss, played by Jennifer Lawrence, after The Hunger Games released in theaters. Vulnerable, tough, and caring, Katniss was the female hero we all needed in 2012, but as a young Xicanita, my niece wanted to be Katniss years before when she read all the books all the books in the The Hunger Games series written by Suzanne Collins

Katniss played by Yalitiza Aparicio

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Freshly nominated for an academy award, Yaltiza Aparicio who can rock a braid like no other, could easily inhabit the role of Katniss, who volunteers a tribute when her sister Primose’s name is drawn at the reaping, is a great shot with a bow and arrow, and is no nonsense about doing what’s right. We can’t wait to see Aparicio in a less quiet role, and playing the scrappy Katniss shouldn’t be a stretch for her at all.

Gale Hawthorne (originally played by Liam Hemsworth)

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Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth, is Katniss’ faithful friend who also, of course, has romantic feelings for her, which complicates matters when she allows to go along with the fabricated love story between her and Peeta to gather attention from viewers.

Gale played by Juan Pablo Di Paci

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Juan Pablo Di Paci’s smudge-print eyes alone are enough to get him the role, but he also resembles Liam Hemsworth, the square jaw, the thick head of hair, the movie-star good looks. His looks, however, won’t be enough to win Katniss over who ultimately winds up marrying Peeta. None of this will hurt, Di Paci, the Argentinian actor who played Fernando on Fuller House and who can also sing, dance, and direct.

Primrose Everdeen (originally played by Willow Shields)

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In order to protect her younger sister, Primrose, or Prim, Katniss volunteers to fight in her place. The sensitive Prim is spared fighting at a young age, but is still tormented by the fact that her older sister and stable member of the family must leave her side and go to the capital.

Primrose Everdeen played by Juliana Gamiz

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Up and coming child actor, Julianna Gamiz, would make a great Primrose, and hermana to Aparicio’s Katniss. A role in the Fierce by Mitú production of The Hunger Games could help Gamiz, who plays the adopted child of a white couple inInstant Family, broaden her roles.

Peeta Mellark (originally played by Josh Hutcherson)

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Peeta, also from District 12, is the male tribute chosen to fight in the Hunger Games with Katniss. As per the cruel Hunger Games’ rules Peeta and Katniss should have fought one another until the death, two teens from the same district, but they outsmarted the Capital with their manufactured love story.

Peeta Mellark played by Diego Boneta

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Diego Boneta from Rock of Ages and Pelé could play Peeta Mellark, whose name we’d have to change to Pedro Mellark because this is our reboot. Like Hemsworth and Di Paci, Boneta and Hutcherson look similar, Boneta the Mexican version.

Cinna (Originally played by Lenny Kravitz)

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Lenny Kravitz is great in the role of Cinna, Katniss’ stylist and confidant who makes it possible for the taciturn Katniss to be likable by the masses.

Cinna played by Oscar Issac

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With the kindly, wise Cinna, it’s all in the eyes, and as Oscar Isaac, certainly has the eyes. As much as we’d hate to replace Lenny Kravitz, especially when he wears leather pants, replacing Kravitz for the internet’s favorite boyfriend totally works for us.

Effie Trinket (originally played by Elizabeth Banks)

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Elizabeth Banks’ Effie Trinket is a great character, frivolous and self-absorbed but also a shrewd business woman and no nonsense.

Effie Trinket played by Salma Hayek

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Salma Hayek, who isn’t afraid to fully inhabit a role, would make a great Effie Trinket, she looks great in pink and pastel pallets and is great at no-nonsense characters. Like Hayek, Effie Trinket has penchant for fashion and having moved to Paris and married a François-Henri Pinault who heads a company that represents luxury designer clothes, Hayek has plenty to choose from.

Haymitch (originally played by Woody Harrelson)

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Mentor to Katniss and Peeta, a former winner of the games, Haymitch, now an alcoholic, seems to believe that it’s futile to train young people to kill when they have very little chance of winning. Clearly scarred by his own experiences, Haymitch vacillates between apathy and wisdom

Haymitch played by Eugenio Derbez

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Eugenio Derbez has been making Latinos laugh for years, but he can also play it straight like he does as the skeptical Enrique in the Latinx favorite Under The Same Moon. Enrique’s skepticism in Under the Same Moon, is not unlike that of Haymitch toward Katniss and Peeta and the whole barbaric process that is the annual Hunger Games.

President Snow (Originally played by Donald Sutherland)

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President Snow is a classic totalitarian who believes he knows better than his citizens and has no care for the will of the people. His primary concerns are power and his image, sound familiar?

President Snow played by President Trump

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Let’s face it, the current state for Latinos in the US, or those hoping make the US a home in order to escape extreme poverty, violence, and failed states, is pretty dystopian. As much as we hate his face, Trump would make a great President Snow, especially because Snow says this:  “Why do we have a winner? Hope. It is the only thing more powerful than fear. A little hope is effective. A lot of hope is dangerous. A spark is fine as long as it’s contained.”

Portia (originally played by Latarsha Rose)

Credit: The Hunger Games/Lionsgate

In The Hunger Games, Portia is Peeta’s stylist. While she does not speak many lines in the first movie of the trilogy, the distinctive style of her make-up and costumes cause her to jump off the screen, so to play her we choose Tessa Thompson, duh.

Portia played by Tessa Thompson

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Tessa Thompson’s Afro-Latina beauty and smoldering eyes are perfect reasons to put her in the role of Portia. In our Latinx version, Portia will definitely rebel against The Capital by using her knowledge of the inner workings of the games to dress Peeta in items that will send messages of hope to District 12.