Monday, October 8, 2012

Maria Hinojosa Screens "America By the Numbers"

Futuro Media's "American By the Numbers" Documents the Changing American Demographic

Maria Hinojosa, the recipient of numerous awards for her journalism, introduced the film by explaining that she has always tried to give a voice to the voiceless, making her known as a journalist with an agenda, which no journalist wants because that means they're compromised.

(Hinojosa and I)
One of the things Hinojosa tries to do with her new show is to document the lives of the voiceless, beginning with a small town in Georgia with a drastically changing demographic due to an influx of immigrants. Something Hinojosa and her producers really tried to avoid in the documentary was to not paint the people in the film with a broad brush--Hinojosa chose people who did not fit into stereotypes or present too flat a portrayal of perspective, e.g. a tea party city council person was "sisters" with a refugee who would vote for President Obama.

(Hinojosa during Q&A)

 Citizenship became an issue for discussion following the screening--Hinojosa responded to one question by referring to an '86 path to citizenship that Ronald Reagan instituted that no longer exists today. Hinojosa explained that many educated Americans have asked her why undocumented people don't just go get their papers, to which she has had to explain that no path to becoming documented exists. She asked the rhetorical question, "If no one's going anywhere--how do we move forward?"

Someone asked about self-segregation and isolation, to which Hinojosa said she was under the impression that these self-selecting groups would be a minority of sorts. The idea of segregation reminded her of interviewing Joe Arpaio--he seems to isolate himself by yelling all of the time--he excused himself by saying that the jail was loud, but Hinojosa couldn't help wonder, 'but why are you yelling at me?'

Because of our context of Arizona and laws like SB 1070, the issue of illegality continued as a topic of the Q&A. A member of the audience asked Hinojosa to reprise what she had said in an interview about the label of "illegal."

Hinojosa explained that she chooses not to use "illegal" and that she learned from a holocaust survivor that 'no human is illegal' and that the use of illegal is the kind of discourse that was used to justify the holocaust.

With regard to breaking down a monolithic "white" America, Hinojosa mentioned the term the "creative class"--a group who identifies with openess and recognizes differences within white communities.

She addressed the idea of fear keeping people apart by saying that she learned from her Dominican husband how to "eat  fear" and not live with it, and push through and past it.

See the trailer for "American By the Numbers":
Trailer "America By The Numbers: Clarkston Georgia" from The Futuro Media Group on Vimeo.

Visit the Futuro Media Group

Maria Hinojosa's Frontline "Lost in Detention"

Watch Lost in Detention on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

Friday, October 5, 2012

"A Good Arizona Book Banning"

An Evening of Banned Literature Reading at the University of Arizona
The Dean of the Humanities introduced the event by pointing out that Banned Book Week originated in 1982, and since then 11,000+ books have been challenged.

Organizer Prof. Adela C. Licona explained that the ban of books in Tucson is about access to culture, freeing us of ignorance. Licona argued that Manuel Munoz, Helena Viramontes, and Sandra Cisneros write for those who know poverty, who know people experiencing these stories, and people who are learning about these stories.

Manuel Munoz began his reading by saying that the scrutiny of the books on the banned book list come from a fear of repercussions, further explaining that the term "banned" should be replaced by terms like challenged and contested because "banned" silences people through fear.

(Cisneros and I)
Munoz echoed the assertion of another Mexican American writer who had visited Tucson, who had stated that in Tucson these books are considered traitorous, whereas anywhere else they would be an AP English class. These texts include the lives and patterns of life that Munoz recognizes.

Munoz noted that no one knows how powerful can be if books are on the shelf because people need to be led to them. His knowledge about the craft came across as he stated that stories serve as a compressed act, and additionally that details should resonate with readers.

The stories in the MAS banned book list match, according to Munoz, the stories that parents say around the kitchen table, which in turn made parents players in the role of storytelling. After reading a selection from a short story, Munoz ended by saying that the writing of Viramontes and Cisneros brought them the world, and their writing serve as doorways to literacy and college access--their presence there that evening provided a moment for celebrating the power of reading in our lives.

 (Cisneros reading)
Sandra Cisneros began by jesting that a good ban in Arizona is a good reason for a reading. She said she'd been asked to read from House on Mango Street, but she told the audience that she'd written that 25 years ago and wanted to read something newer.

She read from a forthcoming piece called "Canto," in which she paid homage and evoked Dylan Thomas with a refrain along the lines of "rage, rage, do not go to bed nights in sensible whites and beige" [I apologize for not capturing the exact phrase, but the essence of the verse].

Cisneros thanked libraries and teachers. She said when she was younger she thought all books belonged to the state because they always read "Property of the State" across them. And then she shared a story about finding a beloved book at the Sears bargain basement when she was a child. From what I believe she said was Alice in Wonderland, which her mother paid 50 cents, Cisneros experienced poetry, magic and humor. Interestingly, she noted that she also believed that all literature was British.
(Viramontes reading)
Helena Viramontes began by noting that we often don't appreciate libraries until budget cuts close them, adding that they are incredible spaces for people from bookless homes like her own as a child.

She explained that she had two main influences as a young person when it came to reading: her father's encyclopedias and her sister's Bible. From these texts, she came to believe as a young person that literature was information and the truth of parables.

[Pardon any misspellings and/or other errors--written directly following event]

Tucson Weekly Story About Event Tonight

Banned Authors Reading During Hispanic Heritage Month
This is an article from the Tucson Weekly about an event I'll be attending this evening. I've had the chance to hear Munoz speak a couple times, and he's a great speaker, so I'm looking forward to seeing him with both Sandra Cisneros and Helena Viramontes.

From the article,
"The theme of this year's Banned Books Week is "Liberating Literature." The three authors will address literature as a tool to learn about our diverse cultural surroundings, and how having access to a variety of ideas strengthens us. Muñoz hopes the event will make people more aware of the empowering nature of books."

See the rest of the article at:

Manuel Munoz's Zigzagger
Sandra Cisneros House on Mango Street
Helena Viramontes The Moths and Other Stories

An article in Spanish about the event by Munoz and Adela C. Licona: