Archive for June, 2011

NY Times editorial, “Ghosts of Guatemala’s Past”

Monday, June 6th, 2011

An editorial by Stephen Schlesinger, author of Bitter Fruit: The Story of the American Coup in Guatemala, ran on the Op-Ed page of the Friday, June 3, 2011 New York Times.

IN 1954, the American government committed one of the most reprehensible acts in its history when it authorized the C.I.A. to overthrow the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, President Jacobo Arbenz. It did so secretly but later rationalized the coup on the ground that the country was about to fall into communist hands.

Guatemalan society has only recently recovered from the suffering that this intervention caused, including brutal military dictatorships and a genocidal civil war against its Indian population, which led to the deaths of an estimated 200,000 people. Only in the 1980s, when a peace process commenced, did democratic governance resume. But a silence about the Arbenz era continued.

Schlesinger goes on to call for the U.S. to “[own] up to its own ignoble deed and recogniz[e] Arbenz as the genuine social progressive that he was.”

Read Schlesinger’s entire editorial  here to gain a better understanding of this pivotal chapter in Guatemalan history.


Sunday Mamalita reading in Santa Rosa

Saturday, June 4th, 2011

Please join me on Sunday at 1 p.m. to discuss my book, Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir, at Copperfield’s Books Montgomery Village in Santa Rosa, California. At least one of my fellow “Antigua moms” will be there. If past readings are any indication, the conversation should be lively and memorable.

Sunday, June 5, 2011 at 1 p.m.
Copperfield’s Books Montgomery Village
2316 Montgomery Drive
Santa Rosa 95404

And while I have your attention… In case you  haven’t yet watched my book trailer on YouTube, please do. Kevin Burget of Wide Iris did a phenomenal job of  communicating the story. Here’s the link to Mamalita: An Adoption Memoir by Jessica O’Dwyer. (Feel free to watch often and forward to everyone you know~)

Now, onward to one of the action-packed days of the year: Olivia’s ballet class, dress rehearsal, and end-of-year dance recital.


Dig it, Daddy-o. Oh yeah.

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

This morning, my daughter Olivia ate her cereal clad in black leggings and a t-shirt, wearing a red beret. Snapping her fingers, she spurted the phrases “Oh yeah. Dig it. Groovy.” After a long pause, she uttered a single syllable: “Wow.”

To anyone who has spent a nanosecond on a college campus or in a bookstore, or even watching TV, Olivia’s behavior can indicate only one thing: Poetry Reading.

An hour later, to the strains of Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, I and other parents of third graders streamed into the appropriately dimmed Multipurpose Room of Olivia’s school for the first annual “Writing Cafe.” One kept turning to look over one’s shoulder, expecting Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, or some other bearded “Beat” to walk in. At least a loose-limbed free spirit in bare feet and a leotard improvising a “Dance to Spring.”  Instead, we were treated to our own childen, who did their best to maintain an atmosphere of hushed coolness. The performers didn’t rush up to the microphone to read their stanzas and haiku. They sauntered.

As I listened, nodding my head in a way that would make any former English major proud, a powerful memory overtook me: I was in fifth or sixth grade, and the class had just received the latest issue of Scholastic magazine. (In those days, before Internet and laptops, IPads and Kindles, Scholastic magazine represented one of our few diversions from the serious tasks of grammar drills and sentence diagramming. We eagerly anticipated its arrival.) And in this particular issue was a poem by Haki Madhubuti, then known as Don Lee. The title was ”But He Was Cool, or: he even stopped for green lights.” To give you an example of the language, I’ll quote my favorite line: ”cool cool so cool him nick-named refrigerator.”

Talk about the world as you knew it turning upside down! After a reading repertoire limited to “Mother Goose,” “The Owl and the Pussycat,” and The Happy Hollisters series, I was electro-shocked by Madhubuti’s poem.  This morning, sitting in Olivia’s “Writing Cafe,” I wondered if any of the children on stage experienced the same jolt from reading words that I once did. I hoped so.

After the show, the parents and students retreated to the classrooms, where the kids presented their work from the past quarter. Olivia proudly showed me her illustrated short story, “Bubble the Humpback Whale.”  Artist that she is, Olivia continued to edit: Unhappy with one unfinished corner of the story cover’s background, she grabbed her yellow pencil to fix it.

As I watched my little girl, I realized That’s the life of the artist. Never satisfied.

You dig? Oh yeah.

PS: In 2007, I recorded a short piece for KQED-FM radio called  An Artist’s Life, about the struggles of a life dedicated to art.  If you have time, please give it a listen.