See You at the Death Rattle Writers Festival, and in the new Unchaste Anthology

See You at the Death Rattle Writers Festival, and in the new Unchaste Anthology

I’m excited to announce I’ll be a headliner next week at the Death Rattle Writers Festival in Nampa, Idaho. I’m excited to read with fellow northwest writers, including Jamondria Harris and Mike Young.

I have never been to Idaho, but I am eager to scratch my travel itch. There has never been anything more exhilarating for me than boarding an airplane, knowing that in a matter of hours I’ll be somewhere entirely different. I love the excitement of packing, of scrambling to get to the airport on time, of the cute snacks they hand out, of watching the world turn into tiny dots underneath you. Even more excited is traveling to a place where you are wanted – where people called on you to be.

Like many people I have often struggled with a sensation of not knowing where I belong. I think the sense is heightened for immigrants and refugees, and growing up a Salvadoran girl I never quite felt safe calling a place home. Traveling has always alleviated a lot of that for me. When I travel, I’m not obligated to be “from” that place. I’m allowed to just be a traveler, someone passing through, and maybe that’s the truth: my hometown is simply the sensation of being new. I am from a mixed feeling of exile, desire, loneliness, and excitement. That’s what it is like to be a refugee. It is like always being on a plane.

I know the writers running the Death Rattle Writers Festival because I met them when they invited me to read with them here in Portland. Thanks to Mike Young, someone who has always shown me the kindness of an old neighbor even though I feel like I’ve hardly known anyone for longer than two years in my life, I was able to read with Dig Reeder, Griffin Rae Birdsong, and Diana Forgione as they toured through the area.

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Unchaste Anthology, Volume I

I will be reading on Sunday, October 9th, at Lloyd Square in downtown Nampa from 5:30 to 7 PM with other Pacific Northwest writers.

I also have a few more exciting October and early November appearances ahead.

I’m excited to say I will spend my birthday this year reading with fellow Unchaste Readers for the new Unchaste Anthology launch – which will feature my writing along with dozens of other women. You can support the Unchaste Readers Series, along with its future anthologies, by backing its Kickstarter here. We’ll be reading October 22nd, with exact time and location to be announced.

Then, at Wordstock 2016 the Oregon Writers of Color is hosting a reading for Lit Crawl on Reparations. Stay tuned for more details as we get closer to the date!

I’m excited to be a part of a variety of readings that uplift voices that so often are not heard. When I read, I try my best to commit to reading new material whenever I can, because I know readers come out of the woodwork for a unique opportunity to make a connection with a writer and storyteller.

As I work on my next reading and prepare my travel bag for my time in Nampa, I continue translating for El Hispanic News and boosting Sankofa Collective Northwest through their relaunch. I also continue my weekly column at the Rumpus, Notable Portland.

 

 

 

A place to call home

A place to call home

October has been a very busy month for me – between my birthday, helping plan the Wordstock literary festival relaunch and interviewing authors, I’ve been behind in keeping this place updated.

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Zev Nicholson, organizing director at the Urban League of Portland, calls for housing solutions for renters as high prices and no-cause evictions are taking a toll on the community. The protest came during a rally outside City Hall before an Oct. 7 council hearing on the housing crisis.

Of the many things I’ve been writing about, Portland’s ongoing rental crisis is at the forefront of my work this fall. City Council recently passed some modest provisions for renters – including an extension to 90-days for no-cause evictions are rent hikes over 5%. I know it’s not enough. I am no stranger to the cruelty of the renters market, and am in a unique position to have seen quite the breadth of it here. Not so long ago, I was a resident of Portland’s illustrious Indigo 12 West apartments in the heart of Uptown. One of the first increasingly-common glass blue highrises I’d seen, my neighbors belonged to celebrity artists and financiers alike – Blazers, actresses, that guy from Portlandia, doctors, pilots, and many, like my husband, software developers and other tech new money. The software developer’s young wife, I was not sure how to navigate the situation, and soon forgot the sorrow of long-ago displacement, that old life of working two jobs for a small one-bedroom in outer southeast.

I watched the rent prices climb – and one day, the man I was married to urged me to find my own place, because I would no longer be welcome with him at the Indigo or among the blue glassy dream of downtown Portland.

I had no idea how bad it would be out there again.

Portland’s summer of evictions crashed around me, with black single women I knew leaving the city faster than any other time I’d seen in my history here. I watched one of my best friends grow heavy with pregnancy alone – asking if anyone had a bed or couch where she could lay her head down. Only a year ago I could have given her my couch in the Indigo – now I was helpless next to her, unsure where I too would go each month or how I would make rent.

Portland rent has driven out so many artists that this week, after a reading an article over at the Willamette Week by Carye Bye on the creative class fleeing the city, I decided to start my own patreon account to hopefully support myself staying here.

While I am still here though, I’m working on two wonderful interviews I had with Reneé Watson and Sandra Cisneros, both of whom are women and authors of color who are reading and headlining this year’s Wordstock literary festival.

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Elsa Mengis of Portland (left) fights to keep her adult son from being deported out of the country because of his immigration status, drawing support from a family friend, Sonya Damtew, in front of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in Portland.

Another wonderful story I recently got to work on was the story of Thomas Amanuel, an Eritrean refugee who is stuck in detention limbo. His mother Elsa Mengis has worked tirelessly to bring attention to his plight and hopefully keep him here.

The Center for Intercultural Organizing has done outstanding work advocating for Amanuel and his family, and I think his story is part of the larger narrative going on here: people of color are being pushed out of Portland, whether it’s through rising rents, no cause evictions, predatory lending and bad mortgages, deportation and laws that unfairly target dark-skinned and foreign people – there is something brewing here that needs to be addressed.

I hope I can continue to write for Portland and create content that’s accessible to people of all means and backgrounds, and I hope every update I provide, every story I share, gets to your hands and informs and enlightens you.

And as if that weren’t enough, I’ll sign off with a link to this week’s Notable Portland, my literary events calendar for the local area. I’m most excited to hear North Korean refugee and human rights activist Yeonmi Park at Powell’s on Tuesday night. I hope to see some of you there, or at Basic Rights Oregon’s halloween gala, Ignite! this Friday, where I’ll be volunteering as a social media intern and catching the city’s best costumes and quotes.

The Week of Monae

The Week of Monae

This week I scored free tickets to a Janelle Monáe concert – and so did seemingly half the city of Portland. Over 900 people attended Monday’s concert at the Roseland Theater. She spent the day at a Don’t Shoot PDX rally.

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Despite intense differences activists from all over the spectrum attended the Monday rally and school supply fundraiser and later that night, all of us pushed to get in. I saw black and latino writers, musicians, dancers, activists, students, standing in the massive round-the-block line to witness Wondaland join Monáe for her Portland tour.

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I took a massive amount of photos, all which are available here. My full front page article on her civil rights anthem and national tour here.

My other major piece I’ve been working on is a story about a major problem facing the nearby city of Vancouver, Washington. There is currently no women’s shelter service the city, which is a major threat to the safety and livelihood of women throughout Clark County. Women are the face of poverty in the United States and across the world.

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When they don’t have devoted women’s shelters, they are liable to being attacked, raped, and killed in co-ed and men’s shelters. Vancouver needs your help. Read my article to sign a petition and donate to a future women’s shelter in Vancouver, Washington.

Finally, this week’s Notable Portland is out – meaning it’s a great time to follow allow along with the local literary community.

I’ll have more information on this year’s Wordstock soon but suffice to say it’s time to clear your calendars and plan ahead to attend one the west coast’s most unique literary festivals. Being on the advisory board means I can’t tell you WHO is coming, but I got some tastes recently and I am excited for you to get the news when they finally release information to the public. RSVP on their facebook page if you want to join me there this year.

Notable Portland, Notable You

Notable Portland, Notable You

Notably in Portland this week: Rebecca Makkai reads at Powell’s Books on Hawthorne, Deborah Reed celebrates her book launch party at Ristretto Roasters, you can catch a Saturday afternoon poetry reading at Glyph Cafe & Arts Space, and Stonehenge Studios hosts its monthly reading followed by an open mic, featuring Paulann Petersen, Laura Lehew, and Liz Nakawa. More as always at The Rumpus.

Notable Historical Events that I wrote about these past two weeks:

Aside from this, I’d like to let you know about my next reading, set for Sunday, July 26th @ 5 p.m. at Valentine’s in downtown Portland. More info here.

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