Adulthood

Adulthood brings with it the pernicious illusion of control, perhaps even depends on it. I mean that mirage of dominion over our own life that allows us to feel like adults, for we associate maturity with autonomy, the sovereign right to determine what is going to happen to us next.

– Juan Gabriel Vásquez, The Sound of Things Falling

Radikal Readings: The Sound of Things Falling

Almost everything I read about Colombia prior to my trip there was about the narcos, drug trafficking and Pablo Escobar. I have read Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but was looking for a novel set in every day, true life stories of Colombians. Juan Gabriel Vásquez was the first name that came up other than Marquez when I did a search of Colombian authors and I am so glad I decided to pick up his novel The Sound of Things Falling.

The novel is set in Bogotá and centers around Antonio Yammara. The entire story is tied closely to Colombia’s past and how it effected past and current generations of children. It’s a deeply personal story that makes you almost feel uncomfortable at times. When Antonio’s life changes after witnessing a friend – Ricardo Laverde’s murder (and getting injured in the process), the novel takes you on a harrowing journey through his PTSD, grief, the past, and lives falling apart. The tale takes you through Laverde’s past – one that Antonio is compelled to uncover.

A review I read said it perfectly: This is a quiet novel depicting the solitary interior life of a ruined generation. It’s intimate and eloquent. Heartbreaking and so lonely. One can’t help but feel melancholy after finishing this book. It gave me the story of Colombia’s people (in fiction) that I was craving. I’m looking forward to reading more of Vasquez’s work that is already awaiting me on my bookshelf.

Song of the Day: Masese

The Fijian-Indian community maybe very small, but we are all tied together by certain traditions that are immediately recognizable by all. That includes music and today’s song of the day Masese by Kapena (originally by Fijian artist Sakiusa Bulicokocoko). 

Masese instantly transports me to the parties, weddings, and pretty much any get together that involved music when I was growing up. Forget growing up – this song is still played at every big family function.

It may not have always been the case, but I’m so intensely proud of my heritage and this song brings back so many fond memories of my childhood, family and island every time I hear it. I hope you enjoy it. Bula binaka!

Radikal Readings: A House of My Own

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I count my sophomore year of high school as a turning point in my life. Although I didn’t realize it until much later, it was that year in Ms. Padilla’s English class that I discovered just how much writing meant to me. Hers was the first English class I took that taught from books on the techniques and love of writing. I was hooked without knowing it. Of course she also had us read novels, one of which was Sandra Cisneros’ infamous The House on Mango Street. I loved it instantly, so it’s a wonder why it has taken me this long to pick up another one of Cisneros’ works.

A House of My Own: Stories from My Life is a newly released memoir in essay form which is full of personal stories about family, travelogues, political issues, and nonfiction pieces from Cisneros’ life as a writer and woman journeying solo. The jacket describes it as: With this collection–spanning nearly three decades, and including never-before-published work–Cisneros has come home at last.

I savored every page of this very heavy book – seriously, it’s glossy pages complete with personal pictures are so heavy that it was hard to carry on public transportation. Each chapter chronicles Sandra’s life and development as a writer struggling to find her “home.” Her writing style is so beautiful that I caught myself stopping at times to admire the way she composed sentences, wishing I could to the same. It’s comes as no surprise though, as her with her novels, her writing style has an element of lyrical magic in it.

I can’t believe it’s taken me fifteen years to read a second piece of work by Sandra Cisneros, but this time I’m sure there will not be as long of a gap. What a special writer.

Song of the Day: Nota de Amor

Happy 2016! Yes, I know it’s three weeks into the new year, but I swear I have a good reason for the delay. The past couple weeks were spent traveling through Colombia in what turned out to be an amazing trip (more details coming soon). Among the many wonderful things about the trip was the music. Everywhere we went cars, restaurants, bars, and more were full of lovely music.

I already have a deep love of Latin music and today’s song of the day, Nota de Amor, was something I had already heard prior to this trip. However, what I didn’t know was that one of the singers, Carlos Vives, is one of Colombia’s most famous artists. It felt as if Nota de Amor was following us and pretty much became the soundtrack to the trip. I haven’t been able to get it out of my head since. Now that I’m back in rainy cold San Francisco, whenever I listen to it I smile and think of those wonderful weeks in Colombia. I hope you enjoy it as well!

Narcissistic Obsession

The only reason we write—well, the only reason why I write; maybe I shouldn’t generalize—is so that I can find out something about myself. Writers have this narcissistic obsession about how we got to be who we are. I have to understand my ancestors—my father, his mother and her mother—to understand who I am. It all leads back to the narcissistic pleasure of discovering yourself. In writing this book, I have to do a lot of deep meditation into stories I couldn’t possibly know, that I have to go back and invent. It’s like an archaeologist discovering little scraps of preserved fabric, and you have to re-create what they were wearing by looking in a microscope at little fibers.

– Sandra Cisneros

Does This Make You Uncomfortable?… Good

Yes,
I want to talk at length about Men-
struation. Or my period.
Or the rag as you so lovingly put it.
All right then.

I’d like to mention my rag time.

Gelatinous. Steamy
and lovely to the light to look at
like a good glass of burgundy. Suddenly
I’m an artist each month.
The star inside this like a ruby.
Fascinating bits of sticky
I-don’t-know-what-stuff.
The afterbirth without the birth.
The gobs of a strawberry jam.
Membrane stretchy like
saliva in your hand.

It’s important you feel its slickness,
understand the texture isn’t bloody at all.
That you don’t gush 
between the legs. Rather, 
it unravels itself like string
from some deep deep center—
like a Russian subatomic submarine,
or better, like a mad Karlov cackling
behind beakers and blooping spirals.
Still with me?

Oh I know, darling,
I’m indulging, but indulge
me if you please.
I find the subject charming.

In fact,
I’d like to dab my fingers
in my inkwell
and write a poem across the wall.
“A Poem of Womanhood”
Now wouldn’t that be something?

Words writ in blood. But no,

not blood at all, I told you.
If blood is thicker than water, then 
menstruation is thicker than brother-
hood. And the way

It metamorphosizes! Dazzles.
Changing daily
like starlight.
From the first 
transparent drop of light
to the fifth day of chocolate paste.

I haven’t mentioned the smell. Think
Persian rug.
But thicker. Think
cello. 
But richer.
A sweet exotic snuff
from an ancient prehistoric center.
Dark, distinct,
and excellently
female.

– Sandra Cisneros, Down There