"Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind." -- Seneca
Oh, boy, did my mind need some invigorating! A little getaway is good now and then. It doesn’t have to be far. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It does not have to be long. There’s a pandemic, after all. But a change of scenery can be unexpectedly restorative.
I was missing the mountains. I am always missing the mountains. So we decided on a road trip to New Mexico. It was great. Despite Covid restrictions and a serious heatwave, we were cool, relaxed, and seeing sights we'd never seen before.
I'll share a few of those sights, along with quotes, thoughts, and/or relevant info, in some upcoming posts. There's also a travel blogger I want to thank.
Where books and movies are concerned, I might seem the shallowest, biggest chicken anyone will ever meet. In my defense, I'm not shallow. I'm pretty much a tank of sympathy/empathy. Sad or scary plots bother me not for weeks, but usually for months. Possibly forever. Horror completely creeps me out. The subject of war (another horror) breaks my heart. And I don't like stories with unhappy endings. I also don't really like stories that are unhappy until the ending. I mean, why?
It's not that I haven't been exposed or exposed myself. Even for Tremors, I had to dip my toes into research about the Black Death. It's just that a little goes a long way with me. I don't need more.
But I -- The Great Chicken -- the one who likes reading about happy people in happy places during happy times and absolutely RELISHES happy endings -- have recently begun looking into books about the Great Plague/Bubonic Plague/Black Death. I'm hoping to find words of encouragement and hope from those very dark times. Were they darker than now? Personally, I'm not convinced that they were.
And, as always, some well-written fiction concerning the subject is also most welcome. There are so many lists currently out there. I like this short one from Book Riot. It's crazy because it's not even a new list. It's from 2018. Still, it covers the basics and is less painful than some others.
I'm not sure which book recommendation I'll start with. Please share if there’s one you’ve found especially moving or interesting. I'll keep you posted!
This morning my niece and I sat together, sipping coffee and chatting. It was a nice, little visit. We talked of family, current events, her art, my writing.
I told her that I felt I should write something about the current state of unrest in this country, about racism. My blog, after all, is called “Crossing Cultures.” But, I maintained, I just don’t know what to say. I know my voice and how I feel. That’s not the problem. But everything that should be said has been said, over and over again, and better than I can say it. No one needs my quiet musings.
“Well…” She gave me a look. “You have to stop thinking like that. You have to use your own voice. We all do.”
Thank you, Jessica.
The thing is, racism and bigotry shake me at my core. I don’t understand them. I can’t. How can you look into another person’s eyes, the windows of the soul, and see everything but the soul?
How can you disregard another person’s soul?
Are you just not looking?
But no, if you are looking enough to discriminate, you are looking.
Do you just not care? But to not care is to be indifferent. That’s not a good thing, but indifference doesn’t act.
Love acts. So does hate. But how can you hate what you do not know, what you don’t see? How can you hate the other’s soul if you don’t know it, don’t see it?
Maybe you will ask, then, by the same token, how can you love what you don’t know or see? But our souls are love. It is our own hatred that distorts and destroys them.
The other’s soul is there, looking back at you, and you’re not seeing it. Why can’t you see it? What have you done to your very own soul? What garbage have you filled it with?
It’s no wonder that you’re afraid. You’re stumbling around in so much garbage -- within and without – stuck in a deep, dark pit of your own filth. You’re stinking, uncomfortable, jealous, fearful, vengeful. You’ve become a monster.
But the pure, clean light (of love) is there, never dimming. Hands are reaching out, willing to pull you out of the awful curse you’ve created for yourself, towards healing, enlightenment, life.
Concentrate! Do you see it? Do you feel your soul reaching for it?
Or do you just prefer hell?
"How long? Not long, because 'no lie can live forever."
"How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." -- Martin Luther King Jr., Selma, Alabama 1965
God help us.
George Floyd, RIP.
May 21, 2020
I suppose it calls as much for worldwide intrusion as it does cooperation, but surely with the best of intentions. UNESCO adopted the Universal Declaration of Cultural Diversity in 2001. The following year, the United Nations General Assembly declared May 21 to be World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development. According to the United Nations website, the day advances the four goals of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions adopted on October 20, 2005:
For more information, visit the United Nations website: https://www.un.org/en/observances/cultural-diversity-day
Right. This isn't my romance blog. But the author's books aren't strictly romantic. Today, I’m pleased to interview author Sandra Lopez, voted one of the Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch. Her first two books, Esperanza, A Latina Story and Beyond the Gardens follow the young life of Esperanza Ignacio, a girl from the barrios. Esperanza was voted as an inspirational favorite by teen readers. Beyond the Gardens is a romance, which I, of course, read. I liked the main character so much that I’m now reading Esperanza. They’re wonderful, down-to-earth stories, full of grit and hope. See my review of Beyond the Gardens here. Her latest book, Single Chicas, is very different from the other two. I’ll leave it to Sandra to tell us more about it.
Welcome, Sandra. Thanks so much for joining us. Please, tell us about your books. Hi.
Hi. Thank you for inviting me. Esperanza: A Latina Story follows the story of a 14-year old Mexican-American girl trying to get out of the barrio and make something of her life. It’s full of humor and refreshing dialogue. Shortly after that, I wrote the sequel entitled Beyond the Gardens, published in October 2009 and has recently undergone a cover re-design. In the second book, the lead heroine gains new confidence and strength as she learns the hard way that “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.” My most recent and bestselling book is Single Chicas, a collection of humorous short stories about zany chicas.
That sounds fun! Are the short stories romances? Do you have a specific purpose/mission/agenda for your stories?
Single Chicas is all about enjoying the single life! It’s about loving and accepting who you are without the pressure of finding that “special someone” to tie yourself down to forever. The purpose for my stories is that readers get an enjoyment from them, that they see themselves in them and maybe learn a little something from them.
Like you, Esperanza is an artist. Without giving too much away, how much do you have in common with your heroine?
Although her story is fictional, Esperanza’s character and family were inspired by me and my real-life situations. Like Esperanza, I was intellectually gifted and had developed a love for reading at a young age. However, also like her, I came from a single-family household (one mom) and grew up in a poor barrio neighborhood.
Do you consider yourself first and foremost a writer or an artist? Or are you equally passionate about both?
I am a reader, writer, and an artist, and I am equally passionate about all that I am.
Do you listen to music when you create? Do you have separate spaces for writing and visual art?
I find music to be way too much fun, especially when listening to one of my favorites, so that wouldn’t be too productive in the whole writing thing. I share the same space (my room) for my writing and art.
Before we close, I absolutely must mention your book review blog, Sandra’s Book Club. It’s fantastic! Will you tell us more about it? What made you decide to do it?
Like every published author, I was emailing book bloggers, asking them to please review my book. But, like querying to a publisher, most of them were unresponsive and some weren’t interested. And, of course, I used paid services that would list my book in their newsletters, reaching potential readers that may or may not review my book. That worked out okay. But let’s face it: getting reviews is tough. It’s hard when your book isn’t well publicized and no one is willing to give it chance. That’s what started my book blog. Initially, it started as just a blog for my own personal reviews on books that read. At that point, I started taking requests from authors and publishers. My own personal review would be free, but, of course, like every other blogger, I only chose the ones that I wanted. Yes, my readings tastes are pretty open in a wide variety of genres, but there are some that just don’t really interest me (i.e. westerns, political, sports, etc.) So that’s when I came up with the idea of starting a review program to supply authors with more reviews besides the one that I give them. It’s a simple, easy, and convenient program. For 3 months, a book can reach a growing list of reviewers that actively post on Amazon and/or Goodreads. And it’s working! And here’s the best thing: While most review services charge to list your book in their program, I offer a free option for those with limited budgets. About 85% of participating authors have received at least 1 – 2 reviews on Amazon. Many authors have participated so far, and more and more readers are signing up almost daily. For more info, check it out at: http://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/
One last question -- is there another book in the works?
Of course! I am currently working on the next installment of the Single Chicas series called Holiday Chicas. Release date coming soon!
That title makes me smile. I wish you all the best with your zany chicas and in all your endeavors. Sandra, thank you for sharing your time with us.
A friend shared this book with me a few days ago. It reminded me of how much I love poetry and how spectacularly romantic Latin American writers can be. I thought I’d share with you one of my favorites from this sweet volume. Pablo Neruda – soooo romantic.
Take bread away from me, if you wish,
take air away, but
do not take from me your laughter.
Do not take away the rose,
the lance flower that you pluck,
the water that suddenly
bursts forth in joy,
the sudden wave
of silver born in you.
My struggle is harsh and I come back
with eyes tired
at times from having seen
the unchanging earth,
but when your laughter enters
it rises to the sky seeking me
and it opens for me all
the doors of life.
My love, in the darkest
hour your laughter
opens, and if suddenly
you see my blood staining
the stones of the street,
laugh, because your laughter
will be for my hands
like a fresh sword.
Next to the sea in the autumn,
your laughter must raise
its foamy cascade,
and in the spring, love,
I want your laughter like
the flower I was waiting for,
the blue flower, the rose
of my echoing country.
Laugh at the night,
at the day, at the moon,
laugh at the twisted
streets of the island,
laugh at this clumsy
boy who loves you,
but when I open
my eyes and close them,
when my steps go,
when my steps return,
deny me bread, air,
but never your laughter
for I would die.
-- Pablo Neruda
Every person, every culture is, of course, unique. Isn't that a relief? If we were all the same, a uni-culture -- what fun would that be? But we also need to remember that we have things in common -- important, fundamental, elemental things. We all have hopes and dreams. Souls. We share humanity. We share this world.
Surely, the past, present, and future connect in this miraculous state we call life. In this light, history and all human experience are ever-present.
Wouldn't it be nice, then, if we could enjoy each other, if we could appreciate and celebrate our differences?
Let us love! Let us have fun. Let us toast each other and wish each other well. Now,
in our awareness, is the time to be happy, to live to our purest, highest standards.
We're all in this together.