EL PASO – Airbnb customers have more than 300 houses to choose from in this city on the edge of Texas. Some may pick a place to stay based on location. Others may select a spot for its price or amenities. And book lovers may find themselves drawn to a cozy bungalow just to the east of Downtown that has stacks of quality reading material. “I have books hiding in some of the kitchen cabinets.
An article in The Atlantic reported last year that nearly a third of Americans had not read a book in the time span of a year. From paperbacks to the now ever so popular e-book, Atlantic says that the number of people who do not read books at all has tripled since 1978. With a little research into the world of books myself; it wasn’t hard to notice that the lack of diversity in the publishing realm is probably not helping. Books and literature in general, that appeal to people of color and LGBTQ+, has also seen a steady shortage. According to the Center for American Progress, in 2014, people of color made up 40 percent of just 13 states.
EL PASO – A little stubble on his face, a fedora hanging on an empty microphone to his right, Daniel Chacon is ready to record Words on a Wire, a KTEP-FM weekly radio show that showcases some of the best in creative writing. The show, in its fourth year, is attracting listeners throughout the borderlands and beyond. That’s no surprise to the creator of the show, Chacon, a University of Texas at El Paso associate professor of creating writing and novelist who has a reputation around campus as being somewhat eccentric. A lover of reading and books since childhood (his favorite book as a child was “Danny and the Dinosaur”), several years ago Chacon began thinking about doing thought-provoking radio interviews with accomplished writers. After discussing the idea with then chair of the UTEP creative writing department, Benjamin Alire Saenz, they agreed to approach El Paso’s public radio station KTEP-FMA with the idea.
EL PASO — In a casita lined with windows looking out over the high desert landscape of Taos, New Mexico, eyes filled with space and light, poet Leslie Ullman’s mind cleared. “I found myself sketching out poems that questioned the sovereignty of the mind, sometimes making fun of it, sometimes sympathizing with its limitations and treadmill existence, and often turning it into a character.”
These verses of clarity found themselves collected in Ullman’s latest book, Progress on the Subject of Immensity, probing inner and outer spaces, questioning conventional notions of “knowledge.”
Ullman is scheduled to read from her new book at UTEP’s Rubin Center Thursday, April 24 at 7 p.m. She is professor emerita of creative writing at the University of Texas-El Paso (UTEP) and currently teaches at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Ullman says that content with not finding answers, the poems instead linger, with calm alertness, in the realm of speculation. “This spirit of inquiry nudged subsequent poems into larger questions—an exploration of spaces inside us as well as outside us: the rhythms of seasons, the earth suspended in its matrix of space, the life of the body, the limitations of conventional Western religion, the nature of desire, and the pleasures—often the sensuous pleasures—of inquiry itself.”
As she wrote, she considered how “…in our youth we are naturally inclined to drive forward with all the powers of mind and body that we can muster—something that we continue to do as we build lives, families, and careers.” But she recognized that at some point, ambition—that willed effort—ceases to work. Ullman is the author of three poetry collections and her poems, reviews and craft essays have been published in a number of magazines and literary journals.
EL PASO – At noon on a recent Saturday, 16-year-old Jasmin Flores sits at a round table in a downtown storefront gallery and stares at a picture of a man wearing a tee shirt raising his two fists into the air. After thinking for a few minutes, she uses her imagination to write in longhand on a piece of paper a story about two boys playing together with a ball. These and many other activities are practiced each Saturday during a “ForWord” workshop that helps teenage students develop their creativity when writing from short stories to essays. Flores is been attending the workshops, sponsored by a local non profit organization, since the January sessions started. She said each workshop has been different.
EL PASO – The old man is color blind, but as he converses with the younger man he brings to life the contrasts and dilemmas they must go through in order to understand la vida. A person’s rite of passage from childhood to adulthood is a powerful theme in Roberto Perezdíaz’ writing. He describes how maturity makes people more adept at walking the paths to life and he places them in the desert of the borderland. With the release of his new book Más sabe el diablo, Perezdíaz has assembled a collection of short stories that explore themes of innocence and maturity through a collection of funny, insightful stories. “Every story with the exception of El papalote and Tomasito are independent ideas. But I noticed that one of the themes bubbling through the surface of the stories is that of oneself and the more you mature, the more knowledgeable you become,” Perezdíaz said.
EL PASO, Texas — It’s well documented that John Ross has made his way into the literary world. A New York City native, Ross destroyed his draft card in 1957 and moved to México, from where he has spent the last 50 years covering Latin American issues. As an American Book Award winner and the winner of the Uptown Sinclair prize, Ross is the author of more than 20 volumes of fiction, non- fiction and poetry books. His latest book, El Monstruo, brings praise to a city known to many as one of the most tainted in Latin America. It has been selected as “book of the year” by the San Antonio Express News.
EL PASO — Hay personas que se pasan la vida entera anhelando ser escritores. Para ellas, el prestigio de la palabra ‘escritor’ es enorme y ensombrece todo lo demás. Incluso la actividad de escribir. Porque se trata —esto no lo razonan: lo sienten— de aparecer ante sí mismos y ante los demás como escritor, cuanto antes, mejor, y sin que deba mediar ningún otro esfuerzo más que el necesario para lograr una buena apariencia. Son, pues, las encarnaciones de frases ingeniosas que pretenden hollar la imaginación de sus oyentes con la imagen de genio incomprendido.