As a mentally-intense, mixed-blood Xicana teenage weirdo rooted in San Anto but formally coming of age in Bumfuck, TX, long before I encountered any sort of community for either political resistance or critical inquiry, poetry was the first form of political agency accessible to me and also the first theoretical work I produced. But it’s equally the case that, once I found communities where my interests and impulses made sense, I could never really get away from creative writing either in my scholarship or in my activism. I was too much of an activist to stay in academia, too much of a writer to give myself fully to community organizing.
My two main in-progress projects bear out these tensions—they’re both hybrid, cross-genre texts that can’t quite (and ultimately don’t really want to) extricate poetry, storytelling, and autobiography from sociological documentation from direct, on-the-ground struggles for justice. I’m currently working at getting them published, along with a couple other smaller projects simmering on the backburner.
Luz at Midnight: A Novel
Luz is part cli-fi (climate change fiction) but mostly a doomed love story, set amidst the ferment of anti-extraction struggles in South Texas and starring a wily dog named Luz. Here’s the back cover blurb I wrote a few years back, which still holds up pretty well:
When Citlali Sanchez-O’Connor meets Joel Champlain―the “Champ,” as the city knows him through his cynical online column for a muckraking San Antonio newsweekly―she is struck by a love as powerful as the electrical storm that birthed the unearthly element which has thrown them together. But Citlali, married with a child, stands poised to leave her home city to accept a job on the other side of the country. And Champlain, a manic-depressive desperately seeking stability and community, has one eye trained heavenward as he contemplates leaving his position at the paper, waiting for a sign from God that will point him toward the sense of grounding and purpose he longs for.
An urban political history as environmental whodunit in the guise of a love story, Luz at Midnight tells the story of the crossings, intersections, and perturbations that reveal the shadowy shape of the organizing―and disorganizing―forces of life, love, and political struggle. Along the way, the novel is also about the humorous (and not-so-humorous) inner workings of the nonprofit industrial complex; about Newtonian and Quantum theory; about academia and its discontents; about birds and about dogs. It is also about what we call mental illness and the possibility that love may be pathology, while madness may open some important window into the nature of reality.
Read an excerpt here: Luz Sample Chapter – Sludge Ponds and Sacred Dances
The Bird Church
I write a lot of poems about birds for some reason–birds and my daughter and San Antonio–so many that at a certain point it made sense to roll em all up into one book. Actually, until a friend forwarded me a call for poetry manuscripts, it had never even occurred to me that I could try to do anything at all with the chingos of poetry I’d written and stashed away over the years. In submitting The Bird Church to a couple of small presses, I’ve described it like this:
This manuscript is a collection of mostly poems (with some prose) written in the six years since returning home to San Antonio. While much of this manuscript attends to urban microfauna (birds, roaches, cicadas, turtles, wasps) as a way of considering what survives amidst the occupations of colonial history and contemporary “development,” the center of the manuscript is a series of documentary poems that tells the story of the displacement of Mission Trails—a mobile home community on the banks of the San Antonio River that in 2014 was cleared to make way for luxury apartments. Based on interviews with nearly half of the families displaced from Mission Trails, I wrote these poems as I was working with the group Vecinos de Mission Trails to produce a case study analysis of the impacts of displacement on the families removed from their homes. Fearing we would not be taken seriously, the group decided against including poems in the report, but I have placed them at the center of this manuscript as a way of telling the story of a displacement that tells the larger story of place, of San Antonio.
Read a sample here: The Bird Church Excerpt – Big Sky
Catpoints is a children’s book I’m writing with my daughter, based on a simple game we play while driving or walking around the neighborhood (spot a cat? One catpoint. Spot a kitten? 20 catpoints.) The text is complete, and we’ve created a kind of DIY, zine-form mock up. The next step is to acquire a good graphics app for tablet so that my daughter, who is preternaturally good at drawing, can finalize and digitize the illustrations.
If we can get Catpoints finished and published, I’d like to collaborate with her on two other children’s books: Cobra Salon (also based on a game we played when she was little) and I Write the Words of Cicada.