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Sunday, March 9, 2014

Book Review: LoWriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories from the Chicano Soul


"I have said many times in public and in print that I enjoy publishing books that I would like to read."-Santino J. Rivera in the Editor's Note to LoWriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories from the Chicano Soul.

That's something you have to appreciate about Rivera and his indie publishing house, Broken Sword Publications. When you're publishing things that you would like to read, chances are there are going to be a whole lot of other people who will want to read it as well. I can't think of any book that has combined pictures of lowriders with Chican@ prose. That, in and of itself makes this book unique in a market trying to cater to the masses. You have to appreciate the creative risk taken, but even more so, you have to appreciate Art Meza's photographs and the collection of poetry and short stories in this collection.

The photographs and the flair Meza adds gives the viewer much to appreciate, whether its capturing an image of lowrider from an unexpected angle, to an image of a brightly colored hood ornament. The images are varied, and offer different aspects to be admired, be it in the aesthetics of the vehicle itself, or the aesthetics of Meza's photography skills. One of my personal favorites is "On the Boulevard, San Diego." Its black and white, with the words, "The Boulevard," in neon pink. Other favorites are the "38 Special - '38 Chevy Pickup," "Redrum - '64 Chevy Impala," and "Goddess of Speed - '38 Packard." There are of course too many to name, but I find myself drawn more to the images that capture an aspect of a vehicle, where Meza will take a picture of an old stereo in the lowrider, or the front seat; these images for some reason draw me in, possible due to the prominence of that one specific feature of a lowrider that Meza shows his audience. Meza's photographs are worth the price of the book alone.

Then of course there is also the writing collected within the book. The audience is treated to a great variance of pieces, poetry, short stories, an interview, and essays. There was some feminist ideology in Gloria Morán's piece, "Cruising into the Future." You're treated to some barrio magical realism in "Guero's '49 Chevy Black Bomba and the Hand of God," by Benjamin Quiñones Reyes. Humor in "Chilidogs and Homeboys, To Go Please," by Jim Marquez. The creative writing range was such, that there were plenty of pieces in this collection, that made me to think to myself, "I wish I would have thought of that!" The poetry, of course made me wish I had some skill in writing poetry, and theres plenty of it, like "Chimayó Chevy Pickup, Step Side '69" by Anna C. Martinez; and "The Way I feel" and "Ode to a Cholo," by Tara Evonne Trudell. It could be that I'm just being biased because I have a piece in this book, and as a result I'm giving this book a positive review, but that's not it. The work in this book from the photographs to the prose is quality.

"We all know anyone can buy a lowrider but pride is something you trade your blood, sweat and tears for. I hope what I have done with my camera here conveys that same pride." Art Meza in the Preface: Low and Slow: Keeping the Tradition Alive in LoWriting: Shots, Rides, & Stories from the Chicano Soul.

Yes, it does show, Meza's pride that is. LoWriting is Chican@ voices and Chican@ pride.

I don't think it needs to be said, but just in case, buy the book, and request it at local libraries and universities. Especially those universities that have Chicano/Latino literature sections, their collections won't be complete without this book, or other books by Chican@ indie publishers for that matter.

A Podcast Interview with Art Meza on Echo Park Forums
Art Meza on Twitter
Art Meza on Instagram
Santino J. Rivera on Twitter
Broken Sword Publications Website

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