CSUMB staffers unleash social-justice book 'Fire and Ink'.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
A burly San Quentin inmate falls into a pit of rage upon news of his grandmother’s death. A Vietnamese social worker appeals to soldiers to save 11,000 civilians. A Japanese mother breaks her silence about internment.
These are some of the dramatic takes from Fire and Ink: An Anthology of Social Action Writing, which was edited by CSU Monterey Bay professors Frances Payne Adler, Debra Busman and Diana Garcia. “These retrieved stories of injustice and resistance not only give heart,” they write, “they remind us that we are not alone in the struggle, that others are outraged at injustice too, that others are working in brilliant and compassionate and creative ways to forge a more equitable future.”
Six years in the making, the book represents a perfect complement to CSUMB’s Creative Writing and Social Action Program. The anthology, which was published in October by the University of Arizona Press, features more than 100 writers, including political and fiery works by Gloria Anzaldúa, Adrienne Rich, Alice Walker, Sharon Olds, Gary Soto and Jimmy Santiago Baca. The book also includes pieces from newer writers like Arundhati Roy, Matthew Shenoda and Patricia Smith. “It has brought together so many of the amazing writers that our students have been influenced by,” Adler says.
The works will relate to people from various backgrounds, she adds. Sekou Sundiata’s “Blink Your Eyes” will reach someone who has been pulled over by cops for driving while black or Chicano, while Martín Espada’s “Federico’s Ghost” will hit home for children of fieldworkers. Writer Harlon Dalton explores white privilege.
“Some pieces will get you riled up and fired up and ready for action and some will give you heart and courage for the journey,” Busman adds.
Garcia says Audre Lorde’s essay “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” in which a close encounter with a tumor makes the writer challenge her secrets, made one of her students come out to his brother and friend about being gay.
“It struck him so deeply that if he didn’t tell somebody he would have to live with it is entire life,” Garcia says.
These rousing stories aren’t new for the social-action writing program, which Adler started in 1996. As Busman writes in “You Gotta Be Ready for Some Serious Truth to Be Spoken,” she’s heard “stories of border crossings, coyotes and cops, night beatings, wife beatings, baby beatings, date rapes, gang rapes, daddy rapes, gunshots and chemo, pesticides, HIV, AZT, protease inhibitors, and the pink-cheeked 19-year-old who says, ‘Hey, next Tuesday I’ll have five years clean and sober; can we have a cake in class?’”
The anthology also includes works from six CSUMB graduates, right alongside literary heavyweights like Langston Hughes.
Alumna Linda Lopez’s poem “Luna Llena” seeks peace for her brother serving in the Iraq War. “Howling his sanity,/ he followed ancestral voices in the wind,/ and absorbed each hissing voice/ hoping they emptied his full stomach/ to feed a starving Iraqi mouth.”
And the ultimate goal of the anthology? “We hope the fire spreads,” Busman says.
CSUMB will be celebrating the launch of Fire and Ink with a poetry and prose reading at 7pm Monday, Nov. 16, at the University Center, Sixth Avenue, Seaside.