I am considering myself lucky this week. Yesterday I attended a talk/reading held by Alberto Rios, Arizona’s first poet laureate, at the Phoenix Public Library. Rios joins the “Peacemaker,” palo verde and the bolo-tie as things so purely Arizonan they are actually recognized as unique representations of the Arizona experience. Some examples of Rio’s work can be found here. He spoke to the role in language and the relativity of experience growing up in a mixed culture.
And today I drove down to Tucson to see Junot Diaz speak, a MacArthur Genius grant recipient, who is a writer that speaks to the immigrant experience (though that is a very quick and superficial description of his work). His social thought and perception of larger issues of masculinity, relationships and love in our larger American (immigrant) culture are prominent in his writing but weaves itself fluidly into his writing.
I read his books while living in my village in Samuteba, Zambia during my Peace Corps service. I found myself consuming, figuratively but borderline literally, a book a day. I stumbled on The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao which spoke to me differently than Crime and Punishment, Lolita or the multitude of other books.
I managed to find Drown and bought This is How You Lose Her in Nairobi and spent $25 on the book, an 1/8 of my monthly stipend. I could continue writing about what a great author he is, but reading the book is best.