Jean Guerrero’s first memory is of her father opening the window of a plane and running his hand through a cloud, while giving her courage to do the same. She vividly remembers how airy and empty the cloud felt. In Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir (320 pages; One World), Guerrero reveals there are still many things she doesn’t know about her father. She doesn’t know when, exactly, he began showing symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia. She doesn’t know if his conviction that the CIA was stalking him was entirely delusional, rooted in truth, or indicative of shamanic powers. “What I do know […]
Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases
by Julie Chinitz
President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban—an executive order targeting Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Somalia, and Libya, and reducing the number of refugees allowed into the country from 110,000 to 50,000 people—was to have taken effect today. The order was met with legal challenges in three states, challenges in which groups such as the ACLU and the Northwest Immigration Rights Program argued that it remained, among other things, a thinly disguised ban on Muslims. But yesterday, as the New York Times reported, Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii issued a nationwide order blocking the ban.
In April 2015, ZYZZYVA published Julie Chinitz’s essay “Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases” in its Spring/Summer issue. Chinitz, who volunteered with the Northwest Immigration Rights Program in the early ’90s, carefully considers in her piece the ideas of borders, of immigration, of refugees, of what it means to come to this country and what it means to be an American. Her insights remain significantly relevant, given the objectives of the Trump White House. The fifth section of the essay—”Borders and Bodies”—especially so, as she looks at the case of United States v. Montoya de Hernandez. Because of that Supreme Court ruling, she writes, it’s “why to this day people can find themselves locked up at the border, hours on end, with no idea what they’re suspected of having done wrong. … In his dissent in Montoya de Hernandez, Justice Brennan raised a warning about this kind of abuse … ‘Indefinite involuntary incommunicado detentions “for investigation” are the hallmark of a police state,’ he wrote, ‘not a free society’.”
She further notes: “In legal terms, border points such as those at airports are called the ‘functional equivalent of the border.’ They also include territorial waters, spots where roads coming from the actual border converge, UPS sorting hubs, etc.: places that aren’t exactly the border, but close enough.”
We believed at the time of publication that Chinitz’s essay was important, and the weeks since Inauguration Day have only confirmed our view. The following is “Shiftiness: The Border in Eight Cases” in full. We urge you to read it.
Love (and Lives) on the Balance: ‘Lucky Boy’ by Shanthi Sekaran
by Devan Brettkelly
In her new novel, Lucky Boy (472 pages, Putnam), Shanthi Sekaran plunges readers into the drastically different yet irrevocably intertwined lives of two women, and in doing so explores facets of motherhood, immigration, and the American experience. Solimar Castro Valdez is eighteen when she leaves the impoverished cornfields of Santa Clara Popocalco in Oaxaca for “the promise of forward motion” in California. Her journey north is nightmarish; she is nearly forced into drug smuggling, she survives a rape, witnesses the horrific death of a boy, and for days rides in the bed of a truck, gagging on the stench of […]
ZYZZYVA Interview Series: Vanessa Hua
Vanessa Hua (whose stories “The Third Daughter” and “River of Stars” appeared in ZYZZYVA No. 91 and No. 98, respectively) is the author of the story collection Deceit and Other Possibilities, named a “searing debut” by O, The Oprah Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in the Atlantic, Guernica, and elsewhere, and for nearly two decades she has been writing about Asia and the diaspora, filing stories from China, Burma, South Korea, Panama, Abu Dhabi, and Ecuador. A Visiting Editor in Creative Nonfiction at Saint Mary’s College this fall, she is also a columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle. Hua spoke to […]
The ‘Adverse Gift’ Leading to a Full Life: ‘The Child Poet’ by Homero Aridjis
by Paola Vergara
Homero Aridjis is renowned for his poetry throughout Latin America, his work having received the praise of such titanic contemporaries as Octavio Paz, Juan Rulfo, and Luis Buñuel, But Aridjis is also known for being one of Latin America’s most distinguished and conscientious environmental activists. In 1985, he founded the Group of 100, gathering together artists and academics to promote environmental justice in Latin America and leading to such accomplishments as legal protection for migratory monarch butterfly communities, gray whale sanctuaries for gray whales, and a reduction in Mexico City’s air pollution. Aridjis served as Mexico’s ambassador to Netherlands, Switzerland, […]
The Inescapable Presence of the Border, and the Desert: Don Waters’s ‘Sunland’
by Joseph Bien-Kahn
Sid Dullaney, the protagonist of Don Waters’s first novel, Sunland (University of Nevada Press; 200 pages), is thirty-three, newly single, and unemployed. He has moved from Massachusetts back to his hometown of Tucson to care for his widowed grandmother. Nana lives in Paseo del Sol, an old folks’ home Sid struggles to afford. To pay the exorbitant cost, he starts making runs across the border to buy her medication, and gradually, medications for almost all of Paseo del Sol’s residents. “I began introducing myself to Nana’s neighbors and friends, showing off my best smile. The business, born from necessity, grew.” […]
A Cowboy Crosses the Border in Silence
by Diego Enrique Osorno
Diego Enrique Osorno is the author of El Cartel de Sinaloa: Uno Historia del Uso Politico del Narco (The Sinaloa Cartel: A History of the Political Use of the Narco) and La Guerra de Los Zetas (The War of the Zetas). Osorno was awarded the Proceso International Journalism Prize in 2011, and his nonfiction on Mexico’s drug war, “The Battle of Ciudad Mier,” was published in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue.
His nonfiction piece about his beloved deaf-mute uncle Geronimo, “A Cowboy Crosses the Border in Silence,” appears in the Spring/Summer issue of ZYZZYVA. It’s a thoughtful examination of a singular life, and a rare look into the world of deaf Mexican immigrants and their community in the United States. The work is translated by Emma Friedland, who is the editorial director of the website the Borderland Chronicles. The following is an excerpt.
by Cristina Rivera Garza
Cristina Rivera Garza is a Mexican novelist and two-time winner of the Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz Prize (the only writer to have won the prestigious award twice). A professor at the University of California at San Diego, she writes a weekly column for the newspaper Milenio in Mexico.
“Keep Writing,” her essay in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue, originally appeared in Milenio in October 2010. Translated into English by John Gibler, the piece tries to answer the question, What is the point of being a writer amid times of madness, whether it be Mexico’s drug war or other, similar episodes of violence and despair? Garza Rivera offers as many reasons she can, not least among them being, “Because through that rectangular artifact that is the book, we communicate with our dead. And all dead are our dead.”
The following is an excerpt from her essay.
Get In And Toss the Gun in Back
by Mauro Gallardo
Mauro Gallardo is a writer and ukulelist living in Monterrey, Mexico, and recently completed his first novel, I Liked You Better When You Were A Junkie.
In Gallardo’s short story in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue, “Get In and Toss the Gun in Back,” translated by ZYZZVA Managing Editor Oscar Villalon, we encounter a narrator who relies on good humor and quick thinking to deal with the mayhem that has come to define his city. (Monterrey is Mexico’s third largest city and one of the hardest hit by the ongoing drug war.) Coming back from a disastrous date, he diverts a carjacking into something like a joyride. Funny and surprising, Gallardo’s story could be viewed as one young man’s way of staying human amid a wretched situation.
The following is an excerpt from his story.
In a Way That Satiates
by Daniel Sada
The writing on Mexico’s drug war in ZYZZYVA’s Spring 2012 issue featured some harrowing pieces of reportage by young authors and journalists Diego Enrique Osorno and Marcela Turati. (You can read their pieces in full here and here.) But it also featured impressive pieces of fiction, such as this short story by the internationally-acclaimed Mexican author Daniel Sada (1953-2011).
Translated by Katherine Silver, “In a Way That Satiates” tells of a narco-party that goes sideways when three heads are discovered in an ice chest otherwise full of beer. It’s a striking piece of fiction, both funny (“At first the drinks were cola sodas: Coca and Pepsi, each according to his preference, but then they brought out the Fantas, Mirindas, and Orange Crushes. Not a lot of diversity, one might say.”) and sinister (“Female wake-weeping that waned with time, it had to; especially because the mental always ends up defeating the sentimental. That’s the way of the world.”).
On the Drug War in Mexico: An Introduction
by John Gibler
From mid-August through mid-September, the Caravan for Peace will wend its way across the United States, having started in San Diego and eventually arriving at Washington, D.C. Part of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity, an organization in Mexico “dedicated to giving voice to the families of victims of [the drug war] and to publicizing the real costs of this war,” the MPJD believes “it is the Mexican government’s responsibility to provide justice and reparations” to the thousands upon thousands of victims of the drug war and is doing what it can to hold that government accountable.
The Caravan for Peace seeks the same from the United States, and will be traveling the country, meeting with various folks and organizations that agree several urgent issues must be addressed here, too, to help end the chaos. They are “the need to stop gun trafficking; the need to debate alternatives to drug prohibition; the need for better tools to combat money laundering; and the need to promote bilateral cooperation in human rights and human security in two priority areas: promotion of civil society and safety, as well as protection and safety for migrants.”
With that in mind, this month ZYZZYVA will run excerpts from our section on the drug war in the Spring 2012 issue. (The section is available as an ebook, too, from Byliner.) We begin with journalist and author John Gilber‘s introductory essay, presented in full. Gibler’s essay gives context to the various works appearing in the section (a couple of which he also translated). Published in April, the themes of the essay still hold true (though you can read an update to the essay here.) The statistics are grim, but they do not occlude the fact that there are valiant people–among them, poets, writers, and artists–peacefully seeking a change.