Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sudden Fiction Latino: what can be done in 1500 words or less



My complimentary copy of Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America arrived in the the mail last week, just before I left for four days in the desert, a pilgrimage to the annual wildflower bloom. My story "Cielito Lindo" appears there, alongside such notables as - gulp - Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Jorge Luis Borges, Junot Diaz, Sandra Cisneros, Roberto Bolano, Ana Castillo, Dagoberto Gilb and many others - thus furthering my so-called literary career which is really about the size of a postcard or a matchbook. Still. It's something.

And the book - well. Wow. Buy it - not for me, but for these other voices.

Here's an excerpt from one of the stories that just took me there, the way some stories can:

Everyone’s Abuelo Can’t Have Ridden With Pancho Villa by Andrea Saenz


Mexicans are always making things up, Grandma Jefa told us the week before she died. Don’t ever believe these family legends people have. It’s like how white people like to say their great-grandmother was a Cherokee princess, but worse. Isn’t that funny, she cackled, getting sidetracked. A Cherokee princess, que menso.

We were at El Dorado Park in Long Beach for a family party like always, the area with the barbecue pits and the good covered picnic tables that Aunt Silvia had paid a cousin $10 to sit on since 10 am so another family wouldn’t take them. It was someone’s birthday, Emma’s baby’s first, not that he understood any of it. All the cousins were sitting drinking Sprites and eyeing the cake while Grandma Jefa held forth on the storytelling abilities of Mexicans. I was home for spring break and feeling pleasantly sleepy in the heat, my belly full of Aunt Marta’s chili beans.

You take this old guy, Grandma Jefa says, waving a hand at Grandpa Lalo sitting in the sun. He rolls his eyes at her and tugs his cap down. Can’t keep a story straight to save his life. When we were young he used to say that the Aguilars were 100% Spanish, Basque even, that’s where we got the skinny nose and the long ears. Being from Spain was high-class back then, you know, se creen la muy muy. Then twenty years later everyone’s saying Chicano this and Raza that and it’s better to be indígena so now he’s saying the Aguilars are half Hopi and the whole tribe came down to Mesilla, New Mexico, to dance at his father’s funeral. Ridículo, ¿que no?

Grandpa Lalo cranes his head up. Qué dices de mi, Jefita? he yells. What are you saying about me?

Ay, nothing, nothing, she yells back, and he shrugs and closes his eyes to the April warmth. Grandma Jefa turns back to us, black eyes sparkling through the soft tan folds of her face.

It’s not just your abuelo, she says. Everyone’s family is like that. Everyone’s grandmother drank with Diego and Frida. Everyone’s tios were at the March on Washington and struck with Cesar Chavez. She’s counting the lies on her hand now, pointing at each of her thick fingers. Everyone’s tias acted in Teatro Campesino and saw Bobby Kennedy get shot, and everyone’s grandfather rode with Pancho Villa. Everyone’s abuelo can’t have ridden with Pancho Villa, mijos. The Mexican army would have seen them coming ten miles away!


To read the rest, in the pages of The Mississippi Review, where it first appeared, click here.

Or, you can buy the book. $15.95.

4 comments:

Anima Umbrae said...

Dude. That is an exemplary short story, humorous but not without resonance. I am definitely tempted to purchase this anthology.

--David K.

Leightongirl said...

I can't wait. And a BIG congratulations!

madness rivera said...

Lisa, mama, wow, you're a revelation to be rubbing paper elbows with Garcia Marquez & Allende, and totally deserving. I'm proud to be your friend.

WesterLies said...

And why can't we buy it for YOUR story "Cielito Lindo," hmmmm? C'mon, how about posting a teaser from your story - Amazon does! Left me hanging on p 267, so I had to order a copy of my own. May we rename your Cañon "Alvarez" in your honor?

 
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