Awards eligibility 2016

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So this is the time of year many SFF writers compose posts outlining what short stories (etc.) are eligible for nomination for awards. While more prolific writers than me usually have a long list for you to choose from, most years I only have two or three pieces you might consider. This year it is only one:

El Cantar of Rising Sun, which was published in Uncanny Magazine, issue 11, July/August 2016.

It is an unusual piece —a riff on epic narrative poems that follow the protagonist’s trajectory from birth to death with countless journeys and battles between … Only this epic takes place on Philly streets in 2014, and  at its heart is a very distinct set of journeys and battles.

A fast-moving, dizzying, tragic tale with magic tattoos, rhymes, love, friendship, and death. The language is powerfully alive, swaggering and moving to its own rhythm and its own beat. Original and skillfully crafted.

— from Maria Haskins’ monthly short fiction round-up.

If you believe it is worth nominating, El Cantar of Rising Sun is eligible in the short-story category for  Nebula, Hugo and Pushcart awards.

 

Let’s talk the Cubs, Tuesday’s election and stubborn hope

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Jason L. Vourvoulias

The World Series winner this year — improbably, against the odds and in defiance of a 108-year curse — is the Chicago Cubs.

My father, a lifelong Cubs fan, would have been stunned by the win. And elated. And stunned. All his wildest, most stubborn hopes were vindicated … this year.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad lately, and not only because of the Cubs. In his latter years my dad had become a political wonk, and he would have been riveted by this electoral season.

My father spent most of his adult life as part of multinational, corporate America. He rose through the ranks of Ray-O-Vac Company (at that time part of the multinational ESB), first in Mexico, then in Madison, and onto Thailand and Guatemala. He came to Philadelphia (where the international division had its offices in one of the Penn Towers) in 1975, to work as a vice president in charge of Latin American operations. Ultimately he led a management buyout of the international division and became CEO and chairman of the board of the resulting corporation.

My dad believed in corporate America, and he was loyal to it. He also believed in the Republican Party. He was a fiscal and social conservative — the quintessential first-generation American who had “bootstrapped” himself into success. And though he lived most of the first 48 years of his life “overseas,” he made sure to vote in every election. Most notably (at least for his liberal kids who never let him forget it), he voted for Nixon rather than JFK.

He loved being an American citizen in the way so many first-generation folks do — exuberantly and unabashedly.

My brothers and I were all born outside of the U.S. (Mexico, Thailand and Guatemala) but my dad made sure we were all American citizens  from birth (by jus sanguinis which accords nationality on the basis of a parent’s citizenship rather than birth place) because, he believed, why would anyone NOT want to be a citizen of this great nation?

So you are thinking right about now that my father, were he still alive, would be a Donald Trump supporter.

Not so fast.

“My father was a refugee’s son,” wrote my brother Alberto, in a brilliant and beautiful column published in June of this year at Fox News Latino. “Born in the U.S., he was proud to serve his country. […] in a frontline regiment with blacks and whites, Latinos and Asians, children of immigrants and children of the native-born. For him, this mosaic was the strength and promise of America.”

A mosaic which Trump has sought to pull apart at every turn of this campaign. Mexican Americans, Muslim Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans, immigrants and refugees  — time and again Trump has contrived (in word and proposed policy) to diminish and “otherize” the manifold greatness of America.

My father would have agreed with those who say that Trump knows nothing of real sacrifice: Refugees trying any way they can to keep their children alive; folks who have lost loved ones serving in the armed forces; he doesn’t even understand the sacrifice of veterans who have withstood torture and lived years as P.O.W.s… All of them have been fodder for hateful characterization and derision from Trump.

Trump knows nothing of the kind of hope that draws from the wellspring of love rather than hate.

He certainly knows nothing of the hope and promise of America that prompted a young man to serve his nation in two wars; that gave him the drive to go to college on the G.I. bill; that got him through jobs so ill-paid some weeks he could only afford to eat bread; that taught him to scrimp and save so someday he might be able to afford a radio on which to listen to a ballgame …

My father was targeted as an American while he was working for Ray-O-Vac in Guatemala, and was kidnapped. The details are terrifying, and throughout the time he was held his kidnappers made clear to him that my mother (a fierce and amazing Mexican-Guatemalan who would have been especially infuriated by Trump’s vitriol against immigrants and his entitled attitude toward women) and my brothers and I were next.

My father told me years later that he didn’t have time to despair while he was held, he was too busy trying to figure out what he needed to do to negotiate his release so he could whisk us all to safety. My father’s hope was as stubborn and resilient as he was — no kidnapped American had been released alive during that time in Guatemala — and, remarkably, he eventually succeeded. He managed to convince his kidnappers to release him and  for the ransom to be paid over a 12-month period. He also talked them into cutting the ransom by a third. (When I hear Trump describe himself as a wonderful businessman, I can’t help but think his negotiation skills have never truly been tested.)

Despite the ordeal I never heard my father speak of his kidnappers in the foul and hateful terms Trump has used to describe citizen and non-citizen, public figure and private, colleague and ally, during this electoral season.

Later in life, when board upheaval ousted my father as CEO of the company he had bought out and an equivalent position was slow to emerge, my father took on jobs at Wawa and Target to be able to pay bills and to fulfill his financial responsibilities to the country he loved and believed in.

Others were embarrassed for him, but he was not. He believed there was dignity in all work, and he witnessed that his coworkers labored as hard and as loyally at their low-income jobs as his executive colleagues did in their more exalted positions. By the time he returned to his next CEO position, he had reluctantly become a Democrat — because his beloved Republicans seemed out of touch with the economic challenges and realities of so many Americans.

My father would have been horrified that Trump has not only deliberately avoided paying income taxes that sustain everything from our nation’s armed forces to education to a fraying safety net, but that the billionaire business magnate has repeatedly welched on paying hard-working, ordinary people for the work they’ve performed for him.

I think most people are more like my father than like Trump.

I believe most of us will choose to act honorably rather than dishonorably when it comes to our obligations to our fellow citizens, and to the America we love.

And during those moments when I panic that the upcoming election may be as much of a nailbiter as the final game of the World Series was, I imagine my father as a young man in Chicago, listening to the Cubs game on his precious radio.

He never gave up on his wild, stubborn hope for the best.

And neither do I.

I believe most of us will vote against hate.

I hope we will.

I come by that honestly.

City & State PA: Immigration’s impact as seen through a trip to the supermarket

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When my parents moved us from Guatemala City to Chester County in the mid-1970s, we were the first Latino family to move into our neighborhood – and, undoubtedly, the first people to chatter with each other in Spanish at the annual oxtail roast at the local firehouse.

The area we moved to was rural, within hailing distance of the towns of Downingtown, Coatesville and Exton, and my mother haunted the supermarkets in each of them, searching for a way to make frijoles volteados, the refried black beans that are part of every Guatemalan meal. It is hard to imagine now, but those stores didn’t stock black beans back then. My mother resorted to scouring the canned soups, looking for Campbell’s black bean soup, with which she could (ingeniously and magically) replicate a passable version of the bean dish she used to call “the Guatemalan caviar.”

But had my mother lived long enough, she would have witnessed a sea change on those Chesco supermarket shelves. Because even more than the sudden (and gratifying) proliferation of small ethnic food shops, there is no easier way to mark demographic changes than by walking into a “general interest” supermarket and noting what is offered in its produce section.

Read the rest of this column at City and State PA.

On the Day of the Dead, join me for a reading at Brooklyn Commons

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The NY Review of SF Readings
presents our first
Margot Adler Memorial Reading
with
Terence Taylor (guest curator)
Sabrina Vourvoulias

WHEN:
Tuesday, Nov. 1st
Doors open at 6:30 — event begins at 7

WHERE:
The Brooklyn Commons Cafe
388 Atlantic Avenue (between Hoyt & Bond St.)

Per NYRSF:

November 1st is All Soul’s Day, and an appropriate date to conjure up the first of a pop-up sub-series within the NYRSF Readings: the Margot Adler Memorial Readings.

Before her passing two years ago, Margot had been a speaker and guest host at a number of our readings, particularly if they involved one of her more recently acquired passions, vampire stories. Her interests ranged far and wide, and any of these diverse interests will be the subject(s) of these readings. They might be journalism (she was a producer/host for Pacifica Radio and NPR), Wicca (she was author of Drawing Down the Moon, a book which introduced hundreds of thousands of Americans to neo-Paganism), psychology (she was granddaughter of the eminent psychotherapist Alfred Adler), vampires (she was author of Vampires Are Us: Understanding Our Love Affair with the Immortal Dark Side), or anything sf/f (she was a Clarion graduate).

For the inaugural edition of the sub-series, we’re most happy to present two other friends of the NYRSF Readings, a journalist/spec fic writer, and a producer/vampire and spec-fic writer.

Sabrina Vourvoulias is the author of Ink (Crossed Genres, 2012), a novel that draws on her memories of Guatemala’s armed internal conflict, and of the Latinx experience in the United States. Her stories have appeared at Uncanny magazine, Tor.com, Strange Horizons, Crossed Genres, and in a number of anthologies, including Latino/a Rising, upcoming in 2017. She is an op-ed columnist at Philadelphia Magazine, City and State PA and The Guardian U.S., and is the Project Editor for the Philadelphia Reporting Collaborative on Prison Reentry. Find Sabrina on the Web at sabrinavourvoulias.com or on Twitter @followthelede.

Terence Taylor is an award-winning children’s television writer whose work has appeared on PBS, Nickelodeon, and Disney, among many other markets. After years of comforting tiny tots with TV, he turned to scaring their parents. Terence is also author of the first two books of his Vampire Testaments trilogy, Bite Marks (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2009), and Blood Pressure (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2010) and has returned to work on the conclusion of his trilogy, Past Life.

Find Terence on the Web at terencetaylor.com, Twitter @vamptestaments, or walking his neighbor’s black Labrador mix along the banks of the Gowanus Canal and surrounding environs.
The New York Review of Science Fiction Reading Series provides performances from some of the best writers in science fiction, fantasy, speculative fiction, etc. The series usually takes place the first Tuesday of every month, but maintains flexibility in time and space, so be sure to stay in touch through the mailing list, the Web, and Facebook.
The Cafe has excellent food, a coffee bar, beer and wine. The Jenna freebie table will offer books and goodies, as will the raffle for any who donate.

After the event, please join us as we treat our readers for dinner and drinks at the cafe.

Jim Freund is Producer and Executive Curator of The New York Review of Science Fiction Readings. He has been involved in producing radio programs of and about literary sf/f since 1967. His long-running live radio program, Hour of the Wolf, broadcasts and streams (most) every Wednesday night/Thursday morning from 1:30-3:00 AM. Programs are available by stream for two months after broadcast. An audiobook collection of 15 hours of his interviews, Chatting Science Fiction, is now available for download at iTunes and Audible.com, as well as a 13-CD set from Amazon.com and Downpour.com. In addition, Jim is Podcast Host and Post-Production Editor for the twice-consecutive Hugo Award-winning Lightspeed Magazine.

The Brooklyn Commons Cafe at 388 Atlantic Avenue is an open and collaborative movement building space, only minutes away from the Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Atlantic Avenue subway stops in downtown Brooklyn. The Commons provides resources to the progressive community including affordable office and meeting spaces as well as an event venue that can host anything from parties and benefits to forums, performances, films and workshops. If you are interested in meeting or event space, please contact them at info@thecommonsbrooklyn.org.
LINKS:
http://hourwolf.com/nyrsf
https://www.facebook.com/groups/NYRSF.Readings

At Philly Mag: Why Donald Trump Keeps Coming to Philly

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Cartoon by DonkeyHotey (CC BY-SA 2.0) 

In what is becoming something of a tradition, the night before a Donald Trump Philly visit, something media-memorable happens.

Last week it was Marco Gutierrez, the co-founder of Latinos for Trump, on MSNBC warning that one of the dire consequences of continued immigration would be “taco trucks on every corner.”

Then last night — in advance of Trump’s scheduled appearance at the Union League today — Trump’s social media team allowed a tweet to go out marking anti-feminist Phylllis Schlafly’s death … only it was spelled “Phillies” Schlafly.

Uh, oh. Guess the Donald’s got Philadelphia on his mind — and probably not because of the ho-hum season the fourth-place NL East team is having.

 
Read the rest of my column at Philly Mag.

 

My column at Philly Mag: When Philly Woman Reported Sexual Assault at the DNC, She Got Little Help

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Photo courtesy of Gwen Snyder

Gwen Snyder hopes to transform her experience into a movement toward justice.

The U.S. Department of Justice defines a sexual assault as any kind of sexual contact or behavior that occurs without the explicit consent of the recipient. Snyder, 30, the executive director of Philadelphia Jobs with Justice and a Democratic committeewoman in the 27th Ward, said she knew she had just been sexually assaulted — what she didn’tknow was what exactly she could do about it.

“I just kept asking party leaders from Pennsylvania what the process was to address the attack and get my attacker’s credentials pulled, and no one knew how, or even if there was an official process,” Snyder said. “I was never put in touch with anyone trained to deal with sexual violence. After a reporter gave them the heads-up about me, a couple of DNC staffers did contact me to take a report, but didn’t make any commitments and didn’t seem willing to involve me in discussions about assault policies moving forward.”

Read the rest of the column here.

Latinxs as agents of change

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So this year’s theme at the Latinos in Tech Innovation and Social Media (LATISM) conference in October is “Latinxs as change agents.” LATISM, for those who aren’t familiar with it, is a non-partisan organization dedicated to the empowerment of the Latino community in the areas of education, health, technology and business through the use of tech innovation and social media. Throughout the years I’ve met many Latinx media folks, bloggers, creatives and entrepreneurs, and am blessed to have forged enduring friendships with people I’ve met at its conferences and Thursday night twitterchats.

This year’s conference theme is a resonant one, perhaps especially so this electoral season when Latinx civic engagement may be a deciding factor in the presidential race, as well as countless congressional races at the state level.

Just about the time I was being notified that I had been selected to attend LATISM’16 as a top influencer, I was also getting a crash course on Latina agents of change at the Latina Leadership Breakfast sponsored by LatinasRepresent (in collaboration with the Labor Council for Latin American Advancement and the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda) during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

The Latina speakers at the event (Dolores Huerta, Elianne Ramos and Sara Manzano Díaz, among others) spoke principally about the underrepresentation of Latinas in political office, but also, significantly and movingly, about Latina leadership and mentorship. (You’ll see some memorable quotes from event speakers scattered throughout this post.) Audience member after audience member stood up at the end of event to thank the speakers, and to let them know how invigorated and inspired they were by the conversation. Many of them revealed a desire to run for public office, to really and truly effect change ….

How are Latinx agents of change created? Are they individuals born with the personal attributes that make them leaders?

“I’m a chingona, I’m a fighter.”

— Delia García (Kansas House of Representatives, 103rd district)

Are they community influencers?

“Our elected leaders are people just like you and me.”

— Nellie Gorbea, Secretary of State of Rhode Island

Are they people who understand in their bones the commonality in our diversity?

“You have to have consciousness. It’s not about ‘you,’ it’s about ‘us.'”

— Sara Manzano Díaz, Mid-Atlantic Region Administrator for the U.S. General Services Administration

Or are they people convinced by role models and mentors (and that still voice within) that they have something to contribute?

“Sometimes you need someone to believe in you before you can believe in yourself.” — Nora E. Vargas, board chair of Hispanas Organized for Political Equality

The answer, of course, is that Latinx agents of change are created in all these ways — and more.

And their influence isn’t simply limited to the sphere of politics and public office. The programming tracks for LATISM 16 recognize that there are many paths to becoming an agent of change for the Latinx community.

Our Civic Engagement panels focus on how technology and social media can create, impact and change individual and collective actions [and are] designed to identify and address issues of public concern in our communities.

In addition to the Civic Engagement track, there are tracks about Business and Tech Entrepreneurship, Diversity and Inclusion, Education, Health and Policy. Read more about the conference here. (If you are interested in attending the conference, use the INFLUENCERS16 as a promotional code to receive a 30 percent discount.)

Meet more Latinx agents of change from various walks of lives in upcoming posts…

At Philly Mag: These DNC-Week Art-and-Politics Events Make a Real Statement

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L to r: Allan Edmunds, SOAPBOX for Cultural Equity; Tayyib Smith, Truth to Power; Juntos community members working on the message side of the portable mural.

Never mind the painted donkeys. Art is supposed to do more than just mark that the Democrats are in town.

Let’s be honest, those painted donkeys parked around the city in advance of the Democratic Convention are colorful but make no statement, no demand.

Well, that is they didn’t, until anti-fracking activists added fake droppings to them to protest the silence on fracking in Democratic Party’s platform.

Those “statements” and “demands” were quickly cleaned up (no party poopers here!) and the donkeys were restored to their emblematic “glory.”

Sigh.

As the daughter of a sculptor who participated in the Sao Paulo Art Biennial twice, and won the Grande Prêmio Latino-Americano Francisco Matarazzo Sobrinho (the top honor for Latin American artists) in 1975, color me unimpressed. 

Art is supposed to do more than just mark that the Democrats are in town. 

I inherited a funky pin from my mother that says “Arte Salva Vidas” — “Art Saves Lives.” An artist who created work in Guatemala during the terrible 36+ year undeclared civil war there, my mother understood that statement in her very bones.

And though my art and circumstance are quite different than hers, I understand it too.

I wear that pin, from time to time, to remind myself that the real power of any (all) of the arts isn’t represented by marketing ploys or branding campaigns, but resides in art’s ability to transform lives, ways of thinking and seeing, and society itself.

Art prompts participation, demands engagement, razes barriers and the walls between us.

I’m happy to note that a number of organizations and artists in our city have scheduled events during the week of the Democratic Convention that — in diverse, unique and very real ways — highlight the formidable transformative power of the arts.

Read the rest of the column and take a look at SOAPBOX for Cultural Equity, Truth to Power  and Juntos’ portable mural and march events by clicking here.

Meet the New Class of Latinx Political Leadership

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The next wave of Latinx politicos in Philly is in the wings, laying the groundwork for the future.

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times for wonkish Latinx folks like me.

With the Democratic National Convention just two weeks away, there’s a certain amount of exhilaration at the prospect of the Party’s P-A-R-T-Y in Philly.

But it’s also depressing. No, I’m not talking possible SEPTA nightmares (though there is that). It’s just that, as a Latina, I’m unlikely to be seeing more than a handful of mi gente among the ranks of the party’s top pols.

The sad reality is that I’d have a better chance of that at the Republican National Convention. Chew on that for a while (especially given the GOP’s not-so-friendly-to-Latinxs policies). From rising star governors Susana Martinez and Brian Sandoval to former presidential contenders Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, the GOP has cultivated a deeper Latinx bench — where top pols are concerned — than the Dems.

Oh, sure, cabinet members Thomas Perez and Julian Castro and Congressman Xavier Becerra have been named as potential VP picks for Hillary Clinton, but nobody — not even representation-starved Latinxs — are betting that any of them will actually be selected for the number two post.

[But a] new Latinx political class is still in the wings, laying the groundwork for the future from within the party, behind the scenes, and at the grassroots.

Read the rest of this column at Philly Mag.