Just. One. Book. Part 3

indian falls Indian Falls.

So my original post about the Just. One. Book. Library project hit 2K views on facebook. As I’m normally a literary writer that appears in tiny micropresses and alternative spaces, that was kind of scary. It’s probably why I left the birthplace of Los Angeles and the tech take over of San Francisco and headed up here in the first place.

Yes, we are a POOR county in the way northeastern corner of the state. We make nothing wage wise compared to the rest of the state. We are also beautiful. No matter how I’m feeling financially  and no matter how horrid the library is in its current state, I realize that we are also lucky.

IMG_7459 This is what my daughter and her friends did after school yesterday. Yup. Hung out at their favorite watering hole.

So while we do not have books in our school library that go beyond the date of 1991. With most having been purchased in the 1960s. And while we have had no librarian in 10 years and our children weren’t even allowed to check out the books we did have.

We do have this.



Just. One. Book. Part 2

Thank you all for your responses. Because of you we are putting together an Amazon book list. But I do want to also say I think it’s perfectly wonderful to send Just. One. Book. That’s your favorite from your teen years. Im sure one might duplicate now and then but we can always share with other nearby schools in the same predicament. THANK YOU! I love to stories people have been sending behind their favorite books.

So I’ll share a few of my favorites that sustained me over time.

A Child’s Illustrated Book of Poems–came out in the 1970s and everything I knew about poetry as a kid came from that book. I was an army brat however so I have no idea where that book is now.


When I was in sixth grade we moved to West Germany and I’d just read a Wrinkle in Time –which is still one of my favorites and needs to be in the library along with all Madeleine L’Engle books.

Over one summer I read all the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, all the Oz books, all the Louisa May Alcott, and all the Narnia books.  I hope to get a set of Narnias.

Then in 7-9th grade I discovered Alice Walker, Ana Castillos, Flannery O’Connor, George Orwell, Paul Zindel, and of course J.D. Salinger.

This project is getting nicely nostalgic.

Monday we’ll have a booklist. THANK YOU!


Just. One. Book.

Just. One. Book.

I live in a town of 1200 people in the Northern Sierra Nevada –where it meets the Cascade Range near Mt. Lassen National Park and about two hours drive northwest of Reno, NV.  Two hundred of that population is students. Over the years as the population dwindled after mills closed, then –nothing except tourism and retirement have emerged as ‘industries.’ Many businesses have closed down and with it many things we take for granted—like libraries.

The local junior/senior high school has not been able to purchase new books since the 90s. Some of the “check outs” for old books are in the 1970s-1980s. There are no books by people of color in the library. Hardly any books by women are in the few book cases except your standard Austen and Lee. It’s an uninviting place. There hasn’t been a librarian for nearly a decade. And volunteers weren’t allowed. The last eight years students couldn’t even check out books.


But all that is changing now.

Greenville Junior/Senior High School and Indian Valley Academy, which share the library space have new leadership which are welcoming the idea of revamping the library. Both principals want to see the area’s students supported and reading. Like most of rural America we have no budget for such things as books, film, music , and other media and arts.

I’ve lived here 13 years. I’ve watched kids succumb to despair. Our suicide and alcohol abuse is rampant as it is in many small rural communities. 75% of our county is beautiful national forest. 44% of jobs are government jobs—mostly forest service. There used to be mills but they closed down in the 90s. So much of that other 56% is underemployed and unemployed. It’s a beautiful place to live but it’s also a scary place for the mind to atrophy. We have a median income of under 30K. At the local elementary school 2/3 of students qualify for free lunch. Getting the picture?

What we’re good at:

Because we live in a forest we do have great resources about natural resource management, forestry, conservation. We have a number of environmental organizations that help with a good deal of education and hands on learning experiences related with the great outdoors. We also have organic farms and sustainable ranches. Yay! So there’s the silver lining.

What we’re lacking is pretty much everything else.

We need racially diverse books. We need graphic novels. We need women’s studies. We need science. We need series. We need film. We need comics. We need music. We need biographies of important people. Looking for Young Adult. Classics. We want zines! Contemporary. Poetry. Everything that would make a difference in a young person’s life. Writers send us YOUR BOOK. We have many non-readers who we’d love to turn on to reading. We need a way to take this tiny area and bring it into the 21st century. We have a whole bunch of kids who don’t like to read because all they’ve ever been given is things that are either dull , dated, or dumbed down.

The students who excel are doing so because they have supportive parents at home and access to books and tablets elsewhere. But most students are without.

So here’s what I’m asking. Will you donate a book? A real book. Something literary or fun—something that speaks to your truth, their truths. Something that teaches them something about the world. Makes them feel less alone?

I’m asking for you to send a new book or film or cd to us to help us build a library we can be proud of.

We want things that will make a difference and get kids wanting to read and wanting to create. We want to engage.

We also are getting students onboard to design their new space. Students are actively reimagining and recreating their library space.

So who is with us?

Send us one book.

GHS/Indian Valley Academy

Library Project Attn: Margaret Garcia

117 Grand Street  Greenville, CA 95947

Thank you!

We now have an Amazon wish list up:  Amazon Wish List






A Trip to Carmel Valley, Part 1

Ever not realize until perhaps almost too late that you need to get away?  That’s kind of where I was earlier this month. I needed to go somewhere and not think about long term projects looming over my head. So I headed to Carmel Valley for the first time in at least 16 years. My mother and step father were stationed in Ft. Ord in the late 1980s. And then my mother lived in Salinas for 17 years. So I’m quite familiar (or was) and have quite a few memories of the area.

So…it was a beautiful few days….and while there were a few places long gone that I missed (the paper store in Carmel-by-the-Sea was the first place I ever bought blank books back when I was 16), I embraced the new and the newly rediscovered.

My companions and I had a lovely time exploring Holman Ranch. How could we not? Beautiful weather, beautiful walking.

IMG_20160516_172349 (1)


And wine tasting. Oh my goodness. Is there anything better than drinking wine in the middle of a week day afternoon? The height of decadence really. Here’s Nick at Holman Ranch offering up some of their finest.


Here we are in the Holman Ranch wine cave. We did eventually leave the cave but I was happy there. Taking notes on which ones we liked so we could hit the tasting room on Carmel Valley Road on the way out.




Apparently the state’s oldest swimming pool. Six feet in the shallow end. I liked to think about how Charlie Chaplin used to hang here frequently.


And then I fell in love with the Hacienda on the premises and just wanted to stay forever and re-read A Hundred Years of Solitude in a corner with wine. Perhaps some coffee and chocolate. No wait. Mole. On everything. I’m a sucker for inner courtyards.

IMG_20160516_173033floorozHow could you not want to go beyond the door?

and yes, I know I’m not Catholic anymore. (Catholic free? Well one is never really Catholic free) but the hacienda at Holman’s Ranch was exquisitely beautiful and peaceful.


…and more wine. It’s estate wine  you know—grapes used are strictly just what grows on the property itself.


At long last we settled into our rooms. And yes. I have a thing for tile. Can I live in the shower, please?


Holman Ranch just had an amazing relaxing effect on me. I savored and enjoyed every minute of it.  I loved knowing that silent film stars used to roam about the grounds. As anyone who knows me knows—I’m all about the silent film era–well vintage everything really. Part of me just wants fashion to end at about 1964. Glad I also was able to break out the new bathing suit, retro in itself , to hang out at the Holman Ranch.


It goes without saying that I want to come back. Holman Ranch guest cabins and rooms are available through either joining their wine club or by hosting and attending a private or corporate event. So please. Someone have something there again soon and invite me. Just deliciously relaxing.

Do I have to come home?



After the throw…

It took me awhile to figure out just what throwing chanclas should be. At first I thought parenting parody but perhaps the joke would be far too on the inside. Also. There’s other places for that.

But then I thought I’m looking at things all wrong. I always responded to the chancla as a kid. That is um ducking and hoping the wrath of my mother went to my brother’s ass instead. But hey, I’m a parent. And I love my chanclas. I also love my peace and quiet when those little cochinos are in their rooms or outside. Hmmm…

So instead? I dedicate this site Throwing Chanclas to the moment after it’s thrown. No regret. Everyone out of the house and I can watch my endless Project Runway episodes in peace and if one of those horrible whiners make fashion week? Well I’ll throw a chancla at the screen (actually I won’t–I love that screen).

It’s that moment when they just ate all your food and it’s better than your mother-in-laws but those *&^%$ kids didn’t throw the trash or unload the dishwasher and no shame they didn’t even say thank you. So throw the shoe. Get them out of there. Clean up listening to whatever band you like and not what your daughter is forcing you to listen to.

In the peace of that moment is time for the mother of the house. It’s the time when I dress for me. It’s the time when I put on lipstick because I want it on. The husband comes home. Who is all this gussying up for? Me, damn it. It’s for me.

Because I might be 47? But I don’t want to look like I gave up, because I haven’t. And why should any of us? I mean we Gen Xers are squeezed out as it is.

So I re-dedicate Throwing Chanclas to all those moms who are still rocking their look and don’t care if they embarrass their kids by doing their own thing.



No, I don’t want to watch YOUR children

One of the best parts of getting older is recognizing what your boundaries are. Not that Latinas always recognize that very gringa word. But knowing what you should and can say yes to and what you can’t say yes to is such a big step in becoming the grand vieja you were meant to be.

Here’s a big boundary for me: watching other people’s children–or even more precisely–watching dominant culture raised children–because I don’t have time to deal with kids whose parents raised them to be entitled brats and since in a mixed room of goodly and badly behaved children you can’t pick and choose, I just flat out don’t watch other people’s children.

Which isn’t the same as saying I wont have my kids’ friends over because thankfully they know who to bring over and who not to (which really translates into they bring over quiet, respectful kids who I don’t need to entertain). Even if they aren’t quiet, they know to go outside.

My daughter is in a community theatre musical at the moment. Which is awesome. I love that she’s branching out; l love that she’s having new experiences. But there’s at least 10 children in this production and she’s the only one I’ve ever seen sit still for five seconds and listen to the director. The stage moms of these minions seem unbothered by their children’s boisterous behavior, and that’s fine for them. It appears that come showtime, those moms are taking shifts backstage and wanted to know what day I wanted a shift. I had to tell them. Sorry, I don’t watch other people’s children.

I’ve been around these rehearsals enough these last few months to know that most of those kids are unruly and need a chancla thrown at them. I can’t imagine any worse way to spend the evening than in a green room with the cast of Fame wannabes who don’t know how to shut the fuck up because no parent has ever told them to (I just dated myself). Watching dominant culture children brings out the worst in me. I want to tell them with TED talk powerpoints about poverty and hunger and flies on children’s faces how very entitled they are with their trivial issues.

I want to make them suffer and to be—well, less entitled dominant culture Americans. But that’s not socially acceptable. One of the mothers was pressing me and I finally just said, “Well, you see, I hate children.” “But you have children.” “Yes, but mine are well-behaved and don’t need a babysitter backstage. I’ve trained them.”

She looked horrified. And of course, that was judgmental on my part. It always comes as a big surprise to these mothers when normal people are like you know what? I don’t really like to hear kids screaming indoors and jumping off counter tops. They aren’t being creative like you think they are. They’re just being assholes. I’m sorry, I don’t care if little Ashley and Cody are the center of your universe. They just look like future oppressors to me. I saw them not wash their hands before delving into the snack food tray.  You are raising them to be extras on a Disney channel sitcom pilot that never airs and I want no part of that.

So I compromise. I promise to bring homemade cookies and healthy snacks and leave them behind the Green Room so they can snack while they pretend to be Siamese children speaking uncomfortably broken English for the King and I. Oh colonialism, you never die, do you?

So no. This Latina mama wants no part of watching your children–especially for free. It’s not an even trade when yours are bouncing off walls and mine is sitting reading a book. But if you want to pay me to coach you on how to be a Latina mom with kick ass well-behaved and respectful and smart children, my rate starts at 50 an hour. You can give me a call.


The Gardener

My Mexican grandfather was a gardener. He was one of those men who pulled up to white men’s houses in an old aquamarine Chevy truck filled with three different kinds of lawn mowers, all sorts of clippers, bag to cart stuff away. He worked in threadbare button down shirts and old pants, not jeans. To see him hunched over working on a landscape he looked more Yaqui than Spanish, his skin leathered and reddened by the sun. But when he came inside his own house and took off his shirt and stood there old Mexican man style, his skin where the sun couldn’t reach was alabaster white. The space between the box spring and his mattress was stuffed with 20s and 100s dollar bills and he often grinned a wry smile at what he was able to pull off.

He had some of his clients for over 30 years by the time he retired. He didn’t speak much, which led them to think he couldn’t speak English—which wasn’t true at all. He was born on this side of the border after his family made the trek north from Juarez. The aquamarine truck was the only one he ever bought for his business and long after the paint job faded and a few rust spots formed, he still drove it steady, working on the engine on the weekends. The white people mistook the truck for poverty and wanted to help him out from time to time.

One sold him a Cadillac for cheap when his wife tired of it.

One gave him a bedroom set when his wife ran out.

He brought back in his truck all sorts of things that the rich men in Sierra Madre and Pasadena didn’t want. Sometimes it was as simple as stuff with the tags still on them, still wrapped in their plastics, items that were no longer fashionable and never needed in the first place. He let the broken things go to the dump. I always had the idea that they watched him from their windows and felt good about themselves giving their stuff to the needy, feeling like they did good deeds. He was probably illegal and you know how they have those huge families.

My Mexican grandfather was a gardener whose wife never worked a day in life; they had three children—one of which, my mother—hadn’t spoken much to them since 1978, married a white guy, didn’t speak Spanish anymore. It’s a thing that happens. One of his girls was a good one—she and her husband drove the two hours from the Inland Empire to do old neighborhood things like rosaries for old dead neighbors, and sit in waiting rooms for the dying the way Mexican families do. The third did her best to keep the white people smug in their stereotypes: seven kids, signs of the cross, unwed mothers, a stint in jail. But no one ever needed a hand out.

We run this funny line, my mother and I. We’re the workers that take work to heart. People employ us and we bust our asses to prove that we are worthy of respect. My mother keeps her world meticulous and orderly so she’ll never hear the words, “dirty Mexican” again like she heard them in elementary school and sometimes by hear teachers. My Mexican grandfather instilled work ethic and a sense that it is necessary to travel around with your own hot sauce because of American family restaurants. We are proud of this heritage, I think.

And then there’s the other part—the part of us that doesn’t want to admit peasant stock. The part that doesn’t want to admit that we’re not descendants of kings on the road to the kingdom but on the side of the road with dirt and dust in our faces incapable of reading the signs.

We’ve mired ourselves in this education we’ve opted for. This English language. This moving of 744 miles away. We are a Mexican gardener: a man used to being ignored and talked down to, a man who keeps his many lives private from anyone he works for. A man whose pride is always in check.



An Afternoon @ the Pool

            So, first off, I live in like one of the whitest corners of California: Plumas County the northeastern corner of the state. White people who are on welfare vote Republican here. Yeah, no shit. White people up here believe that the United Nations is coming for their ranches and are going to force them to go live in the Castro with gay people and the Mission with Mexicans (they don’t know that there are Central Americans and white guys with too much facial hair and Pabst Blue Ribbon there too). Lately since the Tea Party isn’t new anymore, they’ve all switched to flying the green and yellow flag of the ‘State of Jefferson’ –a movement of southern Oregon and northern California Anglos who don’t like to pay taxes but use government services and think that somehow this area could become a 51st state without any infrastructure or industry except meth labs and pot farms. This is often where dull tools get put in the shed.

They aren’t all like this of course. But I happen to be taking my kids—a couple of the few Mexican-American kids in the area—to the pool in Taylorsville, CA and you can’t even sit at the pool up here without hearing about the UN coming in with trucks to take property away from ranchers and someone taking our guns from us and everyone forcing us not to say the ‘N’-word. That political correctness is evil, they say. I hate to tell them that the term political correctness hasn’t been relevant since Glen Beck went off the air and Rush Limbaugh finished his first stint in rehab.

It’s weird in northern California. Like we do have an ingrained live and let live mentality, which means we are slow to call the cops and people light up their joints like it’s nothing. It means I always eat fresh vegetables and fruit and breathe fresh air and I’m able to go in on killing a cow and we split the beef in fourths and eat all winter. It means I’m really close to the water source (you know we’ll fight you for water and have a history of blowing shit up in small town California [see Owens Valley]. It means we breathe the only air in California that doesn’t hurt your lungs and can make you dizzy it’s so pure.

But it also means I hear some stupid shit at the pool.

We are a five-hour drive from San Francisco. I lived there for seven years. It’s still my city to go to if I want to buy a book or a cocktail or look at art that’s meant to say something instead of just matching the couch. I love this corner of the world for its quirkiness but I admit wanting to throw a chancla or two at the white mothers at this pool who meet the world with an idea that the world is out to get them.

So far they’ve told my kids erroneous information on what primary elections for, that the UN has taken over American liberties, and I think somewhere in there Obama became the anti-Christ.

We just don’t think this way and we certainly don’t say these things in public. I mean, manners, hello.

My kids know they will be lectured on the way home. They can feel it coming on.

Aye, don’t listen to that mom at the pool. First of all, she had no fashion sense whatsoever and secondly, she’s wrong!

I can feel their eyes start to roll. Mom, shush! Someone will hear you!

I keep as quiet as I can at the pool. I just smile. I’m wearing a polka dot two-piece plus size retro style bathing suit with a flower in my hair. I swam 20 laps like a bad ass and then dried off and got out my lipstick and my laptop. The crazy conspiracy theory moms are swimming in mix-matched swimwear. Just sayin’.

So that’s where I am and where Throwing Chanclas is– at the pool and spying on your ill-informed ass and then blogging about it.


How One Might Use a Chancla

The Many Uses of Chanclas had me laughing! This is so true. Thanks Latina-Ish for posting this.


You’re Kids are So Good

I get this all the time. Someone is always coming up to me on the street, in the market, on trains, airplanes, and commenting in overwhelming relief about how good my children are. Apparently American culture is so used to disrespectful children that they are flummoxed at the possibility of young children not being jerks in public.

Are my kids some sorts of weird freaks of nature? Did I take drugs when pregnant with them? What accounts for their pleases and thank yous and their ability to sit still?

Well for one, we talk to them like they’re people. We don’t sugar coat anything. And when they’re acting like jerks, we let them know it. Why tolerate in your children what you’d never tolerate in a friend?

So with that in mind…..and the fact that my sister in law called her daughter who was acting like a bratty little b***h, a bratty little b***h.. I’ve started a new blog.Throwing Chanclas —dedicated in a fun way to the non-helicopter parent (read non-white parent). Who wants to raise a respectful interesting child instead of one raised in a bubble of participation trophies.