Archive for July, 2017

Pamela Yates in the Washington Post

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

In this Washington Post interview, “From Civil War to Civil Protest: A Director Looks Back on Three Decades of Filming Guatemala,” Pamela Yates discusses 500 Years, the third film in her trilogy of When the Mountains Tremble and Granito. I haven’t yet seen 500 Years, but When the Mountains Tremble is extraordinary. Released in 1983, it’s narrated by a young Rigoberta Menchu, whose voice–both literal and figurative–is mesmerizing. It’s fascinating to read this interview and hear Pamela Yates discuss her challenges in making Mountains Tremble, as well reflect on her current work and long-term commitment to Guatemala. What an accomplishment! ~


“Finding Oscar” on Amazon

Sunday, July 16th, 2017

Last night, my 12-year-old son Mateo and I downloaded Finding Oscar from Amazon and watched in Antigua, Guatemala. An important, moving documentary about the 1982 massacre in Dos Erres, with period footage featuring Ronald Reagan and Efrain Rios Montt, and contemporary interviews with investigators, prosecutors, and relatives of victims.

By recounting the search for the then three-year-old boy who survived Dos Erres, Finding Oscar clearly lays out the complicated backstory of Guatemala’s 36-year armed conflict. At the end of the film, my 12-year-old son said: “Now I understand more about the history of Guatemala and the United States.”

Trigger warning: The film documents exhumation of bodies, violence, and loss.



New Yorker response

Friday, July 14th, 2017
A few weeks ago I posted my letter to The New Yorker about an article written by Sarah Hutto. Yesterday I received an email from Sarah Hutto clarifying her intention.
Hi Jessica,
My recent piece in The New Yorker is a satire of animal adoption listings often found on animal rescue websites, which I peruse often. It is a joke about writers being dysfunctional.
Hope this helps.
Sarah Hutto
I appreciate Hutto’s responding, although my reaction to reading the piece remains the same. In case you missed it, here’s my original post and letter, with link to Hutto’s article.

I’m almost finished my second residency of my low-residency MFA at Antioch LA and I miss my family. Maybe that’s why I was so disturbed by Sarah Hutto’s New Yorker column, “Writers Looking for Forever Families: Adoption Listings.” The column is supposed to be funny. But in my world, adoption is never a joke. I wrote a Letter to the Editor. We’ll see if they publish it:

To the Editor:

Sarah Hutto’s “Writers Looking for Forever Homes: Adoption Listings” reveals a lack of sensitivity so deep it left me shaking.
At its core, “adoption” means losing one’s parents, being separated from ancestry and blood. There is nothing funny about that. In addition, Hutto describes her characters as stereotypical losers–feral writer, smoker, bad eater, a man who bites. Substitute any other group for “people who are adopted” and listen to how the previous sentence reads.

The New Yorker owes an apology for this insulting column to every adopted baby, child, adult; every mother who made the decision to place a child for adoption; to adoptive parents.


Jessica O’Dwyer