Hip Mama needs YOU and YOU need Hip Mama…just saying….

27 Oct

The new issue is here!
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Do you ever sit in doctors’ offices and see parenting magazines and think who the hell writes articles about $300 strollers?! And who the hell buys them?! Do you get called to the principal’s office because your kid exhibited critical thinking skills and the administration went crazy? Does your kid wanna go to school dressed as David Bowie circa Diamond Dogs but that’s just not gonna cut it and you aren’t sure whether you should support his efforts or warn him about bullies?! Is your parenthood not just about buying things and living in constant competition? Then, um we are for you.

I love Hip Mama. The magazine totally saved me. I live in a small rural mountain community in the Sierra Mountains. It’s the part of California where people sing a long to Tim McGraw songs and only five people in the county own a Prius and though half the county receives some sort of government assistance, it’s those same focus voting against their best interests. Why do I live here? Well, it’s freaking beautiful and everyone knows who my kids are and who they belong to and this is the place where kids still play outside instead of being glued to screens…and you know there’s always an apocalypse to consider… BUT ENOUGH ABOUT my family. Hip Mama made it okay to live here because even if they give me weird looks at the 4-H meetings I know that there’s an abundance of articles waiting for me that help me feel not so alone in my parenting weirdness.

So hey! Get a subscription already! Support the campaign to fund the printing of this fine magazine in 2015. You can take Hip Mama with you! I’ve left copies at doctors offices for the next bored mom who wants to take a lighter to that People magazine there. And Hip Mama isn’t just about having babies. Hip Mama takes you all the way through the parenting life. All the way to OMG I caught my tween doing what?! College and beyond. Seriously there’s some award-winning damn fine writing in this magazine and you are totally missing out. Not a mom? Support us anyhow and get that subscription for your local library.

Support the Hip Mama subscription drive!

Before You Barefoot Tickets on Sale Now!

27 Aug 10458320_10152612980354407_3118004136249743531_n

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Tickets are now on sale for the World Premiere of my new play Before You Barefoot. The show takes place in Quincy, California at the lovely West End Theatre at 8 pm on September 26th and 27th (a Friday, and Saturday night).

Tickets are available online at brown paper tickets at $15 a piece general admission. If you are in the Greenville area, stop by Lupine’s Natural Foods to pick up a ticket. If you are in Quincy you can pick them up at Feather River College Bookstore, Quincy Natural Foods, or Plumas Arts.

The play Before You Barefoot: A Black Comedy of Revenge tells the story of a foot fetishist who has made many a lover feel better about themselves and their foot deformities. Trouble is, all those lovers? He was seeing them all at once. There’s a Greek style chorus of these lovers on stage telling the tales of how he helped them. Only trouble is he’s just gotten married to a woman with perfect feet. Do they forgive and forget or do they get Greek tragedy on his ass? Coupled with the chorus’ penchant for sixties girl group songs of codependent woe and a cultural take down of the Little Mermaid and you’ve got a lively fun wickedly dark show.

Starring in our show is local Quincy and Greenville actors and singers (some from Feather River College and Quincy Dramaworks and some newcomers): Tina Terrazas, Julian Wells, Kim Carroll, Adrianne Vaughn, Michelle Fulton, Margaret Elysia Garcia, Diego and Paloma Garcia-Couoh, MacKenzie Brown, Josh Huddleston, Timothy Kauffman, and Hilary Sawyer.

Before You Barefoot is a joint venture between Writerchickmama Projects (Margaret Elysia Garcia) and Wretched Productions (Heidi Moore). Musical Direction by Art Garcia.

Come see the show!

My Son’s First Art Show

8 Aug

I mean, he’s had other local plumas county sort of things but never a curated show in the city. Good lord, what 11 year old does that?

We will be at this tomorrow The Bill Murray Affair Show with our son whose favorite things include Wes Anderson films, robots of all kinds, and Bill Murray. It seemed like this was a natural fit for his first show. What does he have in it?

His Bill Murray as Steve Zizzou as a Robot. Thank you. Yes, I know he’s brilliant. He’ll be there before the show with prints he made to sell for next to nothing. Buy a print from the kid, damn it. He’s trying to raise money for an iPad to do films he keeps story boarding sans camera or iPad. Really CONTRIBUTE TO THIS KID.

See you in San Francisco…

On Being THE ONLY LATINA on a Rural College Campus

22 Jul

To be honest, I didn’t move up to Plumas County thinking I was going to be the only Latina/o teaching on a rural college campus. It didn’t occur to me that there would be a shortage of us on campus because I’d never been on a high school or college campus where Latinas were that kind of invisible.

I’d gone to a parochial college prep high school that was 90% Latino. We didn’t walk around wondering whether we’d go to college after high school—we were wondering which college we’d go to. I’d lived a good deal of my life in Los Angeles and San Francisco. I didn’t think about being Latina because—everybody I went to college with was Latina.

My mother was retiring up in the mountains; I was expecting my first child and moving to the middle of nowhere and teaching at the local community college sounded like a great plan. I could teach after my husband came home from work. NO need for outside the family childcare. I looked up the demographics of the county. At the time? There were 200 Latinos—in the whole county.

200?! THere seems to be like 200 at one of my husband’s family’s gatherings. How was it even possible to have the numbers so low?

My husband and I surmised that food choices were probably not going to be great restaurant wise but our kids would know what fresh air was and what trees were and the rent would be cheap in the tiny dot of red in blue state California. And with that naivete, we drove into Plumas County and I took a job in the English department at the college.

I didn’t notice anything unusual about being a Latina on campus right away–perhaps that was cause I mostly taught at night. I thought wow. This is so cool.

And then it seemed after a couple of semesters things got a little strange. I was there during the day, you see. And I saw.

First of all? I’m the only Latina faculty member. There is one Latino faculty member. I’m English; he’s math. There are two African –American assistant coaches for football and basketball. The rest of our campus is all white all the time. All the people with PhDs who should be doing research at a four year university, are slumming it doing the one thing they weren’t trained to do: teach.

And then it started.

“Are you the Spanish teacher? Can you add me to your Spanish class?” This came from students, who on hearing my last name was Garcia assumed I must be the one who teaches Spanish. At first I was polite about it.
“No, sorry. I teach English. Ms. So and So teaches Spanish.”

But then it kept happening. And happening. And gradually my answers began to change.

“Nope. I don’t teach Spanish,” whispering like it’s a conspiracy, “They let us teach English now.”

But it wasn’t just the students. My department chair and division chair have both asked me if I can teach Spanish.

“Sorry. Third generation. My Spanish is horrible. I can speak to grandparents at best. I could actually teach Japanese…”

This lack of Spanish on my part then led my colleagues to believe I must not be Latina at all. Who’d ever heard of a Latina who can’t speak Spanish? Well, I certainly had, of course. I mean that’s my whole family, my friends, my colleagues in LA and SF. But my rural white campus could not get over it.

And then I was on a hiring committee and at the end when we were filling out what the demographics were for the committee the leader of the group sighed and said, “once again, it’s an all white committee.”

I looked at him and said, “Am I not here? Do I not count?”

“Oh. I thought you were just Garcia by marriage.”

“That’s my name.”

“But aren’t you married to a Mexican?”

“Yes—“

“And he does landscaping?”

Um, he’s the IT Co-ordinator for the school district….”

You can see where this was going.

I had a similar interaction in the town we settled in. A homeschooling family heard that we’d moved to town, looked us up and called.

“Hi. I heard you are new in town and that you’re Mexican.”

“Yes?”

“Didn’t your mother move here too?”

“Yes. We actually followed her up here.”

“Well, I’m homeschooling my kids and am looking for a Spanish speaker who can help my kids learn Spanish and clean my house at the same time. Would your mother be interested in coming to work for us?”

I tried to picture my mother—a Latina Virgo who keeps an immaculate house and was the manager of the local hospital working as a domestic for a woman who wanted to teach her kids Spanish so they could vacation in Cabo.”

“I’ll let my mom know, but I thinks she’s pretty busy these days running the hospital. Thanks.”

They did need a Spanish teacher on campus and I recommended my husband since he is a native speaker of Spanish be considered for the position, but since he never took Spanish classes from a university as he was too busy speaking it in his home, they wouldn’t hire him.

I started wondering just what my role on campus was. Am I just an English teacher like all the English teachers? Am I some sort of ambassador or diplomat. Am I supposed to be explaining the basics here? And why is it my role to do any of this?

For awhile, I decided to remain silent on all things related to ethnicity. I didn’t want to sound defensive or like a broken record. Sometimes I got snarky or perhaps funny, but I left it at that. It was under my breath. The doormat approach. I wouldn’t make waves and hope when a full time position opened up, they’d consider me. I didn’t think I could be a one-woman committee.

But then? Students started coming up to me. Through the grapevine and reputation they’d found out a few things and started talking to me.

They were the students with the Spanish surnames.

They were the students who were the first in their families to go to college—just like I was.

They were students who’d come here to play soccer or came to get away from it all and had no idea there was a pocket of California untouched by fast food restaurants and time.

A homeboy from LA once lifted his shirt after class to show me his Old English tattoo of the his name and mine GARCIA across his chest.

“I can hook you up Ms. Garcia” he smiled proudly.

“That’s okay.”

“I never thought one of us would be my English teacher.”

Once? A group of young women cornered me after class and said, “We just wanted to tell you we’re so excited to see you on campus. We feel like maybe we could do it too someday.”

It hadn’t occurred to me that I could be a role model until I was one.

And more things happened.

There was last Spring when a flyer was circulated with a drunk Speedy Gonzales dancing with drunk jalapeno peppers for a carwash fundraiser for the softball team. I couldn’t bite my tongue. I’d just done an event where every little inch of a flyer had been scrutinized and here this was going out in our email system to everyone.

I emailed the office that handles such affairs.

She said: “It’s Cinco de Mayo.”

I said: “Racist much?”

I then was treated to a lecture on how it wasn’t intended as racism. I decided to try and be the diplomat here. I googled papers on Speedy Gonzales and forwarded them since my word on the matter would not have the value a peer reviewed article on Speedy would have.

I forwarded my concerns about drunk jalapenos as representations on a college campus of the Mexican experience.

The all-white diversity committee hauled me in for a meeting. Could I please explain what was wrong with the flyer.

If you have to ask…….

Maybe I was in a generous mood that day but I decided not to just smile and take it anymore. Nor did I decide to let them see the full rage of Latina passion (though I admit, throwing a chancla at the committee had really tempting value to me).

I chose their approach.

I gave up and went with powerpoint logic.

They were of course, apologetic.

It hasn’t ended the discussion on our campus regarding the treatment and depiction of Latinas on campus but it’s a start in our rural area. I have to, in my mind, strike a balance between bridging the gap between their limited knowledge and my frustration. But I’m no longer the silent doormat.

It was Women’s History Month. The diversity committee put up a display of women in American history to celebrate for various achievements. Not a single panel had a Latina or Asian American. Diversity to the diversity committee is literally about white and black.

So with a heavy sigh I went back to the committee and politely diplomatically informed them of their omission.

Perhaps this is what they need from me. Perhaps I’ll be the thorn in their collective side. But more importantly my students, our students will benefit from my work to improve the conversation for all of us.

It isn’t like me and it doesn’t feel good to have to be the watch dog. I want to teach. I want my students to learn. I want it to be 2014 California not 1960 Alabama.

When I make suggestions in my department, the female co-chair talks louder to me as if I’m hard of hearing. She explains basic concepts of 20th century literature to me as if I’m stupid. She has no real Latinos or Latinas on her book list. EVER.

It’s important that minority students see themselves on college campuses not just as the maids and the landscapers (I’m the first college graduate on my mother’s side, my grandfather was a gardener with a sixth grade education). It’s important that they see us teaching subjects other than Spanish. It’s important they have examples of contributions they can make. It’s also important that minority students do not see minority instructors being milquetoast and bowing down to white English department demands as if we are their servants.

But my department can’t get beyond the basics. The basics being? This Latina is smart. And I’m not here to make your bed. I’m not here to take your kids for a walk or get them off to school. I’m here with my Masters to teach and to learn. I’m here to expose my students to a wide variety of literature. I’m here to show them what can be possible. But sometimes what should be possible isn’t possible for me.

Let me do my job.

Pool Girl

18 Jul

My daughter is
Swimming laps and laps
She is darker than dark in her
mid-summer tan
and her Copper-toned ass.

She’s nine and proud
Of her accomplishments:
Gliding under the water
on one breath half-way down the pool,

Doing handstands,
cartwheels,
headstands
under the chlorine blue.

Watch me, mama, watch me!

This morning she didn’t even
want to come here,
didn’t want to swim today.

Once again in the monotony of the midday heat,
she is full of splashes,
and confidence and she emerges from the water

nine year old perfect body
of muscle and tone and baby fat

Of baby body leaving
and girl body coming on

Two piece confidence

and she informs me

She’s going for ice cream
at the town market down the street,

she leaves in nothing
but flip flops and bikini and
a couple of dollars

I’m waiting and I don’t mean to.

Waiting for the end
when the world
Starts to tell her,
that that body of hers
That sweet smile,
That brown skin,

isn’t good enough…

All Too True

14 Jul

I actually don’t post many videos or links to other things on my page, but when I saw this– this morning it instantly rang true. This is almost exactly the experience of being one of the few Latinas living in red state California and working on a rural college campus as a –god forbid — educated Latina!

Notes from the City

19 Jun

I’ve been in San Francisco for five days now. Going home sometime tomorrow night. I’ve come out here with one child instead of the usual two. Mostly I’m here this week to deliver child one to camp. Because when you live in the mountains your kid doesn’t do summer camp to make wallets and go fishing. Your kid’s summer camp is in the City because the City is what you’re missing.

I used to live in San Francisco. If it had been an affordable City where one could raise children without a 200K a year income, I’d have stayed. But the idea of having to raise two kids in a one bedroom apartment and lugging strollers up flights of stairs got the better of me. And so 12 years ago, I left. There are many things I still love about San Francisco, but the competition for decent affordable housing will never be one of them.

But it’s not a unique story. Most of my friends who don’t make 200K a year—that would be all but my two friends who own houses here and one who became the last woman standing on her rent controlled apartment–have left too. For me, it really can be a City of ghosts. Friends died here too in the 80s and 90s. It is after all, San Francisco.

I usually feel quite smug and justified in my decision to move to the Sierras, but the City offers a counter narrative; she makes me feel like a loser for giving up so easily. I am reminded while I’m here why I liked here in the first place. What the Sierras have lacked and will always lack.

How is it that rural places never have decent cuisine? Or a decent book store? Or a record store? Or a theatre that shows great plays and films? They are stupid questions. We expect rural to be void of culture. What if we raised our expectations? Why does the beauty of the state, the country really, belong instead to those who decorate front lawns with flags and gun casings? To tri-tip and mayonnaise salads? Why are the two worlds so mutually exclusive.

This morning I will deliver my son to the 4th day of Lego iMovie camp. He is with other nerds around the Bay Area.I will meet a friend in North Beach for coffee and lunch and I know already whatever I eat will be fabulous. I will bother with hair and makeup. I will be self-conscious about my unshaved legs no one will see.

In truth I miss this place. If she would have me back, I would be back in SF in a heart beat.

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