Top left: Gwendolyn Zepeda and some Houston Noir contributors at Murder by the Book, Houston, Texas; Top right: My reading at Skylight Books, Los Angeles, California; Bottom right and left: audience members and friends including moderators Jacsun Shah and Christa Forster, and Yolanda Alvarado, Margot Backus, Debbie Butt, Dinah Chetrit, Julie Colantonio, Janette Cosley, Marcela Descalzi, Dee Dee Dochen, Katy Fenton, Sheri Foreman Elder, Sarah Gish, Maria González, Marc Grossberg, Mary Margaret Hansen, Eric Hester, Paul Hester, Chuck Jackson, Brad Jones, Dat Lam, Rich Levy, Rita Lucido, Marian Luntz, Melissa Noble, Garrett Reed, John Reed, Stephanie Rengel, Beverly Robinson, Sally Russ, Harbeer Sandhu, Hope Sanford, Beth Secor, Emily Sketch, Salma and Riaz Siddiqi, Dinesh Singhal, Iris Sizemore, Oskar Sonnen, Jaspal Subhlok, Susanne Theis, Marina Tristán, Tracye Wear, Diana Weyne, Michael Woodson, Gwen Zepeda and too many to see and name at Brazos Bookstore, Houston, Texas
“Black Wings is selling very fast,” Minerva Laveaga from Veliz Books (El Paso) said as we discussed how Small Press Distribution (SDP) is scrambling to keep up with bookstore orders; Black Wings is #5 on SDP’s March-April Fiction Bookseller List. “This is thanks to your tour and all the work you’ve done,” Minerva added.
Minerva and I were on phone three days after my return to Los Angeles following my recent tour when I visited Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, cities where I have history, friends, and family. Over the past eight weeks, I have offered more than 12 readings in seven cities at bookstores, college campuses, a convention center, an art-space, a community space, and a living room (one of my Los Angeles friends picked up Black Wings as a read for her monthly book group).
For my Skylight Books reading two and a half weeks ago, poet Elline Lipkin who I know from Houston but who now also resides in Los Angeles, drove me to Los Feliz. Once we parked, I hurried to the bookstore, not knowing what to expect in a city whose community I’m still exploring. To my delight, the space was packed with friends from Los Angeles’ literary, South Asian, and activist communities. Fellow writer/ Macondista Alicia Vogl Saenz introduced me, and writer Neela Banerjee asked fabulous questions. Afterwards, many audience members and friends walked with me to Palermo’s restaurant to celebrate with my mother, René and me; Minal wasn’t present because she performed at her school’s musical that same night.
Last week, my Macondista friends welcomed me to Austin’s BookPeople: Liliana Valenzuela posed exciting questions, Vicente Lozano offered a warm introduction, and the audience included family, a Karachi-Texas friend, and a graduate school friend. My reading was followed by a feast at Liliana’s house, where we sipped wine and devoured pizza and bread created by Liliana’s son Diallo and partner George.
And because Houston served as my home for more than two decades, a volume of friends from different splices of my career—teaching, writing, arts, community activism, radio, motherhood and more—packed Brazos Bookstore, where Black Wings sold out even before I started reading. Poet Jacsun Shah wrote a poignant introduction, and poet and writer Christa Forster asked incisive questions that only someone who’s known me almost half my life could pose. My reading ended with a gathering at activist Hope Sanford’s house who lives around the corner, and who insisted on hosting, so I could hangout with friends.
“Not a bother,” she repeated when planning, even though she’s unable to be in large groups at one time. “I’ll just duck into a corner if the house gets too full. But there’ll be space for everyone.” And there was.
The next two days in Houston were filled with interviews at KPFT Pacifica Radio 90.1 FM, and readings at Murder by the Book and Houston Public Library to celebrate the launch of Akashic Books’ Houston Noir, edited by Gwendolyn Zepeda, in which I have a short story, “Railway Track.”
In San Antonio, Sonia Saldívar-Hull my sis-in-law for 25 years, offered a powerful introduction while fellow writer/Macondista Reggie Scott Young led a thoughtful question and answer session. Afterwards—as a grand finale to my recent tour— friends and audience members descended at the home of Bill Sanchez, longtime Macondo board member. Over home-made enchiladas concocted by Bill and appetizers by Reggie’s daughter Sidney, our conversation moved between witches, literature, borders, feminism, and friendships.
My pace remains hectic. After returning to Los Angeles, I moderated a conversation with writer Mohammed Hanif at USC’s Pacific Asia Museum as part of PEN America’s World Voices Festival, and over the weekend, I’ll perform at Pasadena LitFest.Next weekend, I’ll read with my friend and fellow writer/Macondista liz gonzález at Gatsby Books(Long Beach).
Meanwhile, Veliz Books is printing more copies of Black Wings while Small Press Distribution will continue to respond to bookstore orders for my novel.
To keep up with my readings and workshops, please check my posts on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. To read a blog post about the background of Black Wings, please click here, and to read my post about the first round of my 2019 spring tour, please click here.
Many thanks to amazing bookstore staff including David Gonzalez and Madeline Gobbo at Skylight Books, Sara Balabanliliar and Keaton Patterson at Brazos Bookstore, Claudia Maceo and Nancy Gebhardt at the Twig, Abby Fennewald and Christina Marroquin at BookPeople, and so many more who helped at cash registers, sound setup, seating and more. Many thanks for documenting my readings: Jamie Asaye Fitzgerald, Vijay Ganju, Marc Grossberg, John Heinsen, Stewart Horne, Dat Lam, Vicente Lozano, Melissa Noble, Amisha Jay Dalwadi, Karen Martinez, Alicia Vogl Saenz, and Viktoria Valenzuela. Deep appreciation for Veliz Books staff including Minerva Laveaga Luna, Kristál Anuña, and Laura Cesaro Eglin for taking on a book that’s an integral part of my journey.