Discovery of a Latino Audience

So, it’s the end of week, and after a very merry birthday indeed, I’m tired and sad.

Anyhow, on to Literanista business:

From: The Monitor

Chicano author’s love of literature leads to young adult novel
by Martin Winchester

Carlos Flores knows the Chicano canon of literature well, having taught writing at Laredo Community College for more than three decades. He’s also a contributing member, with three published novels and several short stories to his credit. His latest work is a young adult novel set in El Paso, Our House on Hueco (Texas Tech University Press, $17.95).

“I wrote the first chapter, ‘Sweet Purple’ in 2002, and it was published in La Frontera, a student-teacher magazine at Laredo Community College. The reception among my students was surprisingly enthusiastic,” said Flores.

Teresa Cadena, English professor at the University of Texas-Brownsville, also was enthusiastic about early drafts of the novel, and invited Flores to speak to her students.

“The experience was electrifying,” said Flores. “Shortly thereafter, I knocked out the rest of the book in six months.”

When the book was published earlier this year, the Sabal Palms Writing Project of Brownsville bought the book for teachers in their in-service programs. Some 40 to 50 teachers attended, and the experience again was exhilarating for Flores

“Two things became obvious to me,” said Flores. “First, the discovery of audience can be intoxicating and energizing. Second, the hunger of people living on the U.S.-Mexico border for a conversation about our world must be fueling the current boom of Hispanic writers.”

A recent book tour of Texas and New Mexico further inspired Flores. “It’s an exciting time to be a Chicano writer,” said Flores.

Flores, 61, is by no means an overnight sensation, and his path to success has not been without struggle.

“After years of trying unsuccessfully to place my other manuscripts with publishers and literary agents, I grew desperate. My wife recommended I try writing something ‘inspiring and uplifting,’” Flores related.

“In the meantime my psychiatrist, who had been helping me recover from a lifelong struggle with depression, helped me see that at the core of my dilemma was ‘a rejection of my origins as a Hispanic and my parents, in particular,’” he said.

Remembering the house his father built for he and his family sparked the author’s imagination. “That’s when the “angel” first appeared, and I began writing the book,” he said.

Flores sites a long list of literary role models, including Tomas Rivera, Rodolfo Anaya, Oscar Hijuelos, Octavio Paz and Sandra Cisneros. He’s also impressed with the recent works of Rio Grande Valley writers David Rice, Rene Saldaña Jr. and Oscar Casares.

“While many opportunities to publish have opened, the competition has stiffened,” he said. Flores also thinks there are a lot of questions as to the direction of future Chicano writers. “Much discussion awaits us. As for me, I just want to be part of what John Gardener called ‘a great conversation.’”

In the meantime, Flores is enjoying the success of his latest book, described by one reader as, “a portrait of an artist as a young vato.” The novel’s title translated means, “Our house on the hollow or the hole,” which Flores sees as a metaphor for the Hispanic condition in the United States. “It’s a paradox of pain and promise,” he said.

Flores has seen both in his own life. His advice for young writers is to keep in mind what Carlos Ruiz Zafon once told him, “Just because you love literature, does not mean literature will love you back.”

Author

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