Saturday, March 10, 2012

Aztlán Reads

      If there's anything we here at Cypress Park Branch Library believe in it is the importance of promoting literacy and strengthening our community. We wanted to take a minute and acknowledge a group who shares our mission. The name of the group is Aztlán Reads. They are a strong online presence with a website and Twitter account. Aztlán Reads was started by friends who all met online and were connected by a common love for literature and respect for their people's talent.

For those (few) who aren't familiar with Aztlán Reads, please tell us first , who and what is Aztlán Reads .

Anne: @AztlánReads came to be when @xicano007, David Cid, a graduate student from California State University, Los Angeles was tweeting titles & covers of his books. I was enjoying the tweets and suggested he add a hashtag.

LettyThat meant that after every comment about reading Xicana/o publications (fiction or non-fiction) or after every recommended title one would type #aztlánreads immediately following. What that did was create a tool to be able to go back and search for what other people were saying.

David: Eventually, a separate and more accessible twitter feed, @aztlanreads, was created  to continue our endeavor.With the encouragement and support of several friends:  @GinaRuiz, Art Meza (@Chicano_Soul), @SJRivera, and Leticia Manzano (@MexicanWoman), a website was created.

Art: I remember Gina took Aztlán Reads from a hashtag to Twiter and then a Wordpress acct. on a Thursday. I was so excited about it that I mentioned it during a job interview I had that same day. I was on the phone back and forth with David bouncing ideas off each other and people were already following the account like crazy. *That was an exciting weekend.

S.J.Rivera: Aztlán Reads has really touched a nerve with people. To me, Aztlán Reads is a way to reach out to gente and let them know about our literary achievements and goals. It's a way to collect and promote literacy among our people and to encourage Xican@s to see that we do read and we are writers, teachers, professionals, activists and bibliophiles! It has become a tool for activism as well, which I think is great.

Letty: You should have seen the out-pouring of love that went into what people shared. Some people said that such and such book changed their life. Ahem, maybe that was me (Shout out to This Bridge Called My Back and the late Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga)

What motivates you to keep Aztlán Reads going?

LettyTo be honest, it’s the people who are involved.  It’s not because they call me or tell me to keep it going.  It’s because when I see them on Twitter posting and sending out calls for submissions, it reminds me what a great forum we created.

Anne: It's just so cool. I'm honored to be part of a community dedicated to Chican@ writing.

David: One goal for this Aztlán Reads is to promote literacy within the Twitter community and beyond. Another goal is to let the world know that Xicanas and Xicanos are reading and thereby asserting that we are not an uneducated group of people. My most important goal is that Aztlan Reads is a constructive response to the censorship and educational genocide that is occurring in Arizona with the dismantling of Xicana/o Studies at the K-12 level.

S.J. Rivera: The positive response from everyday working people and from young people is a big motivator for me. The ability to do something positive and to help promote literacy in each of our communities is rewarding. This is cutting edge stuff! The ability to reach out across the country and even the globe and tell someone, listen, we are readers and writers too! I love helping and promoting something that a kid might see and find inspiring. That kind of stuff is sorely lacking in our community.

LettyThe other thing that keeps me motivated is meeting people on Twitter that are writers and helping them to get their poetry/essays/prose/art-work published.  There is no reason to feel alone as an artist.  There is a community of Xicana/o supporters on Twitter from all over the country to engage with.  And we have created a space to make those connections and to remain connected. “La Fuerza Unida, Jamás Será Vencida!”

Art: I'd have to agree with what Letty said. Twitter is all about sharing information. We all know that information of every kind gets passed around the internet every day. Why not share something worth teaching? Each one teach one. You know what I'm saying? We can and should all learn from each other.

So Aztlán Reads recently passed the 400 follower mark on Twitter. How does that make you feel to be a part of something like that?

SJRivera: It makes me feel great and I hope that it continues to grow and attract more people and inspire people. The people involved in this project are fantastic and I'm honored to be among them. I am always in awe of people that help and give back to their communities. These guys are gifted and have a lot of heart.

David: Its great to see the positive response and, of course, the growing interest in contributors to Aztlán Reads.  With acclaimed Xicana/o historian Dr. Rudy Acuña and Xicana/o indie author SJ Rivera frequent contributors to the website, this has encouraged several twitter friends/allies to contribute their own personal work. Aztlán Reads is forum that gives voice to our community in a non-academic setting.  Aztlán Reads is Xicana/o self-determination at its most basic level.

Anne: Aztlán Reads seemed the logical idea. It gained traction fast. I think because we all hear so often that there aren't Chican@ authors, books or readers. It goes to show how hungry people are for Chican@ writing.

Art: "Aztlán Reads" was WAY over due. I mean for so many kids, teens and adults who have ever felt inferior to others because of the color of their skin and what they've been taught to believe, I believe Aztlan Reads gives us all that reinforcement of knowing our people can and do produce some of the best writing out there and unfortunately some of the best writing we haven't seen yet.

What does the future hold for Aztlán Reads? Which direction would you like to see it go?

David: Those of us supporting Aztlán Reads hope that our endeavor becomes one of the largest databases of Xicana/o Studies fiction & non-fiction work. It is made available by a community of readers and therefore sacred. We invite you to join us by contributing your recommendations and reviews. This website will eventually be a site for community book readings and discussions, as well as a forum for Xicana/o authors to discuss their own personal work.

Letty: I'd like to see a few things. I'd like to see interviews with other writers much like the one I saw on your blog with S.J. Rivera I would like to see more Artwork. I think that artwork is a form of self-expression and sometimes we can communicate and relate to others in a non verbal way.
I would like us to be able to hold writing workshops and maybe even a full scale conference someday, like Hijas Del Quinto Sol. There's no limit to what we can do.

SJRivera: I would like to see it continue along the path that it is on and reach out to more people,authors, students and professionals and activists authors. This project is nothing but positive energy and we all need that in our lives. A conference would be amazing as would more community outreach across the country.

Anne: Looking at the issues of race & the digital humanities, in the future I see AR becoming a resource for all Chican@ texts and readers.

Art: Aztlán Reads is going to continue to grow. I personally would like to see it branch out into music and film. They're are many people on Twitter that I have in mind right now as I answer this. Nobody's making any money off this site. "Aztlán Reads" is for our younger brothers, sisters and children who want to write, who want to draw or sing but maybe need that extra encouragement to believe they can

S.J. Rivera: I see great things in Aztlan Reads future. This is an exciting time to be participating in a project like this. 
David Cid is a third generation Chicano currently completing his Master’s degree in Chicana/o Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.

Annemarie Pérez is an Angelena living in Santa Monica, Annemarie recently finished her Ph.D. in English (specializing in Chicana literature) from USC.  Her interests are Chicana feminism, cooking and Chicana/o editorship.  She hopes to be an English professor when she grows up.
Leticia Manzano is a Mexicana born and Xicana raised Radical Feminist living in, working in and changing Houston, Texas. She is an activist in the movement to end all forms of oppression with over thirteen years of professional experience as a counselor and advocate for victims of sexual and domestic violence.

S. J. Rivera is a Xicano writer, indie publisher and stranger in a strange land. Originally from Denver, Colorado, Rivera now calls Northeast, Florida home. He is the author ofDemon in the MirrorAmeriKKKan Stories, and Alcohol Soaked & Nicotine

Art Meza is a third generation Chicano born and raised in Los Angeles. He is married and a father of two. Every @Chicano_Soul has his story. This one is his
How can people contribute to Aztlán Reads
Anyone can contribute poetry, prose, short stories, artwork, literary criticism, etc. to Aztlán Reads. Interested contributors can send in their work with short bio to Siempre Adelante.

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