Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New York Latino Book Club Blogger Highlights Latino/a Authors

Hailing form New York, Maria Ferrer is on a quest to promote Latino authors and literacy through The Latina Book Club. She established the Club in 2005, where members met monthly to discuss Latino books. In 2009, The Latina Book Club went online. The website features author interviews, chats with editors, book reviews, giveaways and the first ever National Directory of Latino Book Clubs. Please visit The Latina Book Club at and follow on Twitter.

Maria can be reached at

The Latina Book Club
Top 100 Latina Blogs
A Latina Blogger

Chuy Ramirez and First Texas Publishers would like to thank Maria Ferrer for her support and interview!
Thank you so much!

Mayra Calvani, Author and Interviewer

Mayra Calvani is an award-winning author of fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. She's had over 300 reviews, interviews, articles and stories published online and in print. Her work, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing, was a ForeWord Best Book of the Year Award winner. She reviews for The New York Journal of Books and and is the National Latino Books Examiner for
Visit her website at

For her children's books, go to

Chuy Ramirez and First Texas Publishers would like to thank Mayra for her support! It is imperative for all authors and artists to support one another.

Thank you so much Mayra!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Dr. Thelma Reyna, Author of "The Heavens Weep for Us & Other Stories" reviews Strawberry Fields

Thelma T. Reyna, Ph.D.

Dr. Reyna writes, "A native of Texas, I've lived in California most of my adult life. I received my first two college degrees (English major) in Texas, a second Master's in California, and my Ph.D. from U.C.L.A. I currently teach at California State University, Los Angeles, in the College of Graduate Education. My short stories, poems, essays and other nonfiction have been published locally and nationally, and I have edited others' published works. As owner of The Writing Pros (, I work one-on-one with writers on various projects as personal coach and editor. My first book, titled "The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories," was published in September 2009 and is available through your favorite bookstore or at and Read a sample from it and reviews of it on my author website at In addition, I write the blog, "American Latina/o Writers Today" and am also a guest blogger on Aurelia Flores' blog, "Powerful Latinas."
Chuy Ramirez thanks Dr. Reyna for her recent review of Strawberry Fields.

CHUY RAMIREZ, a Texas attorney and emerging Latino writer, devoted 10 years writing part-time to create his debut novel, Strawberry Fields (First Texas Publishers, 2010). What he has as a reward for his decade of effort is a marvelous, engaging, poignant book that strongly heralds him as a writer to watch.

Ramirez centers his book on Joaquin, who is the anthithesis of another Joaquin of Latino literary fame, the Joaquin in Chicano pioneer author Corky Gonzalez’ epic poem, “I Am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquin” (1964). Whereas the latter Joaquin railed against the oppression of Chicanos by Anglos and asserted his Mexican ethnic pride, Ramirez’ Joaquin, an American-born child of the 1960’s, feels strong ambivalence about his Mexican heritage. Strawberry Fields is as much an examination of a bi-cultural person’s inner struggles regarding ancestral and adopted homelands as it is of this particular character’s coming of age in America.

The book covers several decades of Joaquin’s life. We see him as a young boy trying to navigate the temptations and mischiefs of childhood under his mother Manda’s caring, watchful eyes and his father’s stern stare. We see him as an adolescent with years of experience under his belt as a migrant farm worker, traveling with his mother and siblings in caravans of trucks through the Midwest and other states with crops to harvest. We see him in adulthood as a successful attorney in Texas, his home state, haunted by recurring dreams connected to his adolescence and the strawberry fields of Decatur, Illinois. These fields thus become symbolic on many levels: symbolic of Joaquin’s family struggles with poverty and his disaffection with his lot in life; symbolic of the carefree childhood moments he salvaged in the migrant camps when he and his brother could savor moments of freedom and exploration; symbolic of his eventual rejection of his cultural roots and thus, of his father.

Throughout Joaquin’s life, his father, Benancio, looms as a figure that puzzles him, chastises him, and stirs elemental struggles between them involving love and hate, and culture clashes that cut to the bone. Benancio is a proud Mexican, his hubris and stubbornness turning him into a disapproving parent who beats his children for mild transgressions, who calls them derogatory names, and who can never be pleased. As a major antagonist in the book, Benancio represents to his sons the backwardness of a country and a culture they cannot embrace, as their father wants them to do. Their rejection of his culture, of his beloved Mexico, is ultimately their rejection of him, from which the unflinching Benancio can never recover, and for which he can never forgive them. He abandons his family, leaving them to wonder for most of their lives where he went and why he couldn’t love them.

Besides his father, the key figures in Joaquin’s life are his mother Manda and his two siblings: Bennie, his younger brother; and his sister, who is simply called “Sis” in the book. Manda is a strong, patient woman born in America but closely attached to immigrants through her family’s business. She is attracted to the tall, taciturn, handsome Benancio, whom she meets while at work one day and eventually decides to marry. Despite her children’s conflicts with their father, and his seeming lack of tenderness toward her, Manda is devoted to Benancio, even after he abandons his family. As the matriarchal touchstone, Manda is defined by the extreme sacrifices she makes for her children in the name of progress, their progress, their future. Her gentleness and understanding are but an undertone throughout the book; but toward the end, we realize the extent of her sacrifices for her beloved family.

Bennie, who is very close to Joaquin, grows up to become a school principal, a man with a vivid memory that serves as Joaquin’s link to his past. The studious Sis, sheltered from the hardships of the migrant life once she reaches adolescence, is largely in the background but serves as a stabilizing voice of reason and neutrality. She becomes a teacher and, in her adulthood, reminisces with her brothers about their father’s whereabouts and their checkered family history.

The book shifts continually between the present and the past, taking us from Joaquin’s struggles as an adult, to those of his childhood, to those he survived as a teenager, and so on in loops and flashbacks that keep the book non-linear throughout. Dreams and nightmares are strategically interwoven into key interludes, so that the reader’s curiosity is piqued, and the pace of the narrative is kept brisk and exhilarating. As the book marches toward its climax, the chapters are even more non-linear, with scenes alternating between the past and present more rapidly as Joaquin gains clarity and insights about his experiences in the strawberry fields and about his identity as a man and as a son.

A compelling sub-plot involves a beautiful, blonde girl of mixed heritage named Belinda who, early in the book, has disappeared. She then is absent for a good portion of the book until the adolescent Joaquin and his family are preparing to travel to the Midwest for harvesting. Joaquin sees her from a distance in one of the migrant workers’ groups and develops a crush on her, but his memory of her fades with time. We catch glimpses of Belinda throughout the book, but these are surrealistic scenes, chopped up and fuzzy, as incomplete memories can appear to be in reality. When the adult Joaquin is haunted by dreams of Belinda, which depict her with bloody wounds and missing eyes, he fears that he is somehow connected to her disappearance, and this may be why his mind has blocked out recollections of her.

But this is another piece of the puzzle that Joaquin must solve. Belinda’s fate, on a subconscious level, is another reason that the adult Joaquin journeys from his home in Texas to the strawberry fields of Illinois, to revisit them, to seek something that even he is unaware of. In the final chapters of the book, with the strawberry fields drastically changed 30 years after he worked them, and the migrant workers’ camp by the fields totally gone, Joaquin can only rely on his faint memories, his emotions, his dreams, and the present scenes that repel him to derive meaning from his experiences. What happened to Belinda? Why did his father abandon him? Two burning questions—distinct from one another but critical to understanding who he, Joaquin, is—come together upon his revisitation of the strawberry fields. In a climactic epiphany, Joaquin discovers the answers to both questions.

The author’s language in these final scenes and throughout the most critical scenes is poignantly vivid and sometimes heart-rending. Ramirez is deft with his descriptiveness, particularly in the second half of the book. In describing the Michigan of the 1960’s, for example, the first time Joaquin’s family migrated there to harvest crops, Ramirez writes:

...where life seemed almost perfect among the solitude of a spacious rural America, where topsoil was measured in feet and little boys dreamed of playing high school basketball and little girls dreamed of becoming homecoming queens....a land inhabited by fattening cattle and red barns and grain elevators, and uniquely confident, stoic men...whose canvases were the sky and the open spaces on which they never tired of creating green and lush symmetry (p. 218).

It is as if Ramirez warms up exponentially as the book unwraps and reveals its treasures to us. One wonders if the beginning parts were those writtten by Ramirez at the start of his decade of birthing this book. One wonders if the latter chapters indeed came later in the decade; and, if so, the beauty of the language, the depth of the insights in the final chapters, the power of Joaquin’s catharsis are rightfully the end products of much labor...not lost, as Shakespeare wrote, but of labors reaching their fruitful, magnificent conclusion.

Ramirez calls his work “a book of Short Stories.” If these are indeed stories (rather than chapters of a novel), then they can be said to employ intertextuality, or the literary technique of repeating characters and places from one story to another. This technique marked pioneer Chicana author, Estella Portillo de Trambley’s, short stories in her classic book, Rain of Scorpions and Other Stories (Bilingual Press, Revised Edition, 1993), as scholars Vernon E. Lattin and Patricia Hopkins described in their Introduction to that edition.

The technique was successful for Trambley’s purposes and won her admiration for her work. Similarly, Ramirez has woven his separate “stories” into a loosely-unified book, a hybrid novel to some, but clearly a tapestry of humanity that we can all relate to and embrace.______________________________________________To learn more about Chuy Ramirez' book, go to

Once Again......Thank you Thelma......for your insight....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Chuy Ramirez descends on Longhorn Country "A Guest Speaker to CHLSA-Chicano and Hispanic Law Student Association"

First Texas Publishers

Immediate Release

(Austin, Texas) UT Law School – Ex, Chuy Ramirez will address the Chicano and Hispanic Law Students’ Association at UT Law School on Monday, September the 27th, at 11:30am at Townes Hall Room Number 3.125. Author will be signing books following the event.

Ramirez’s topic will be Counsel to the Corporate Entity, A Lot of Law and a Little Bit of Politics. He will also be reading brief excerpts from his book, Strawberry Fields, A Book of Short Stories, published earlier in the year by First Texas Publishers. A Class of 83’ UT law school grad, Chuy Ramirez, served as Articles Editor for the International Law Journal. He published a note entitled, “Altering the Policy of Neglect of Undocumented Immigration from South of the Border, Vol. 18 in 1983. In law school, Ramirez was an active participant in the Chicano Law Students Association, served as a director on the Legal Research Board, was invited to join the Criminal Law Journal, and initiated the publication of Rio Rojo newsletter, a student publication. He was also a semi-finalist in the Johnson –Swanson Mock trial competition.

Ramirez’ address will focus on the attorney’s ethical standards in representing both public governmental bodies and corporations. Currently, Ramirez’ practice focuses on commercial transactions and public finance. As a bond attorney, he has represented many governmental units in South Texas in connection with their issuance of tax-exempt bonds. He is currently corporate legal counsel for a local south Texas bank, a Texas national bank with branches throughout South Texas and in San Antonio.

Recent reviews of Ramirez’ book highlight Ramirez’s unique style and sensibility through the eyes of the adolescent main character, a successful attorney who reflects on his past through a reflexive journey. Boston University professor, Dr. John Hart, writes, “Strawberry Fields is a beautifully written, well-told tale of remembrance, reflection, and renewal. Strawberry Fields is a very important book for its insightful portrayal of Chicano culture, values, and hardships, of lingering impacts of racism and economic deprivation, and of continuing efforts by Chicanos to be accorded respect and dignity in the twenty-first century…and beyond.”

University of Texas Pan American professor, Dr. Genaro Gonzalez, an author of four novels himself writes, “Chuy Ramírez’ description of harvesting strawberries while living in a squalid labor camp is at once lyrical and sober. There is an adolescent’s sense of adventure on experiencing the world beyond his barrio, yet the wonder is tempered with a more mature portrayal of the hardships of camp life. He incorporates those experiences into the emotional crisis of Joaquín, now a successful attorney, who senses that his spiritual tumult is somehow linked to that long-ago summer.”

For more information regarding the association or this event contact the president of the Chicano and Hispanic Law Students’ Association, Jennifer A. Gillespie. She can be reached at

For more information on dates of upcoming events check out,, and FACEBOOK. To book this author you can also contact Mrs. Espinola at 210-394-1254.

Chuy Ramirez travels to California to the LA Latino Book Festival

Chuy Ramirez will be taking part in the 2010 LA Latino Book Festival this October 9th-10th. A list of attending authors can be found on the LA Latino Book Festival website. Chuy will be taking part in the author panel, Beginning, Middle, and End, The Art of the Short Story at 12pm on Sunday, October the 10th. He will be joined by other panelists Jenny Hicks, moderator ( Cal State L.A.), Stephen D. Gutiérrez, Thelma Reyna, Stella Pope Duarte, and Alex Espinoza.  
Actor, Edward James Olmos is the Co-Producer of Latino Book & Family Festival. This festival is held in various heavily populated Hispanic cities in the United States. The weekend promotes culture, literacy and education.

Launched in 1997, the Latino Book &Family Festival was first held in Los Angeles to provide an opportunity to celebrate multicultural literature to communities in the United States. The Latino Book Festival is being hosted in Chicago and Los Angeles currently, but in 2011 there are plans to bring the Festival to Texas.

We invite everyone in Los Angeles and the surrounding cities in the area to attend.

We will see you there!

Welcome to the Chuy Ramirez Blog

Works of Fiction:

Strawberry Fields, A Book of Short Stories

Toy Soldiers-to be released

Joaquin's Journey-to be released


Altering the Policy of Neglect of Undocumented Immigration from South of the Border, Vol. 18 in 1983

Igualada: Exploring The Gloria Anzaldua Link Between Powerlessness and Chicano/a Self-Expression



Chuy Ramirez at STC Pecan Library Campus