Taking the leap from a steady job as a staff writer into the uncertain world of freelancing is terrifying, sweat-inducing, exhilarating and in many ways, oddly freeing.
Freeing in a way that goes beyond the flexibility, which allows me to continue teaching even as I keep writing.
The freedom I’m referring to comes in the sheer diversity of assignments. In the past several months, I’ve written food pieces, book reviews, sports profiles, education blogs, and personal columns. My work has appeared in newspapers, online news sites, parenting websites, and magazines.
Each new assignment gives me the chance to try something new — the very thing that first enticed me to journalism many years ago. Not a bad way to make a living.
Here are a few of my most recent pieces: A column about my Latina identity, a book review, and a piece about Houston’s Latino elite. (How’s that for versatility?)
This is a piece I did for Mamiverse.com, exploring what it means to be Latina:
A Proud Latina: This is What I Am
It was a four-letter word I had never before heard.
But when the kids from down the street hurled it at me with all the fury and filth of a spitball, I immediately knew it was bad. Even in elementary school, I could sense all the ugliness and hate and hostility the epithet contained. .
Spic! You’re a spic!
I still remember their faces – contorted with anger over some minor kickball dispute and reflecting the bigotry served with dinner at their kitchen tables. And I still remember the knot that twisted tight in my gut, a blow that sent me staggering.
Yet, inexplicably, perhaps instinctively, the word also filled me with pride. A spic? If that meant, as I quickly guessed that it did, someone whose roots ran far to southern borders, whose house reverberated with the rhythm of Spanish, whose family came in shades of caramel and tan and peach, then that’s what I was.
Yeah, I shouted back, as my fingers coiled into fists. I’m a spic. So what?
I would hear that word – and worse – many times again. As a first-generation immigrant, I would feel the disdain of those who think I am not American enough. As a green-eyed, light-skinned Latina, I would feel the mockery of those who think I’m not authentic enough.
Neighbors on the New Jersey block where I grew up always viewed us as the “foreigners,” despite more than a decade in the same emerald-and-white duplex. One of my editors at a newspaper dismissed me as not being a “real Latina,” despite my Ecuadorean birth certificate and bloodline.
The neighbors, mostly second and third-generation Irish and Italian-Americans, saw only our other-ness. The editor, who could not imagine Latinos without accents, olive skin, or surnames ending in a vowel, saw only his own narrow preconceptions.
It hurt to glimpse the scorn lurking under the surface of the kids who played hopscotch in our driveway, whose mothers chatted with mine on the front porch. It stung to realize that the families who shared our working-class street never shared our friendship.
And it boiled my blood to work alongside a man whose amiable demeanor dissolved with the evidence of his own ignorance.
Click here to read the rest of the column.
This is a book review I did for the Associated Press:
Morris laces new novel with growing sense of dread
“Light From a Distant Star: a Novel” (Crown Publishing), by Mary McGarry Morris: The spirit of Scout Finch flickers in the small town of Springvale, where 13-year-old Nellie Peck — hobbled by thick glasses, a growth spurt and a family threatening to unravel — is teetering into adolescence.
Nellie, the precocious central figure in Mary McGarry Morris’ new novel, “Light From a Distant Star,” prides herself on her keen ability to read other people, worships her intellectual, high-minded father, and studies the hand-to-hand combat techniques from an old World War II manual. But all of that is challenged during a long, languid summer when the gaps between perception and reality start to become achingly clear.
“Into her thoughts came one of those conversations a kid half listens to but doesn’t quite get, the tangled strands now suddenly making sense,” reads a passage where Nellie realizes “the difference between literal truth and ideal truth.”
During those hot days, the fabric of Nellie’s family — already faltering from financial troubles and her older sister’s search for her “real” father — is torn further by unexpected and ugly violence. And Nellie’s own moral fiber is put to the test as she struggles to do the right thing, while those around her ignore her cries for help.
Morris’ finely crafted prose — simple and lyrical — captures perfectly that sliver of pre-adolescence when the very world around us seems to shudder and shift, when the adults we admire suddenly reveal their flaws, and everything we treasure seems to be slipping away.
Click here to read the rest of the review.
And this is a piece I did for Fox News Latino about Houston’s Latino powerbrokers:
Houston’s Emerging Latino Elite Makes Its Mark
It was, as one guest noted at the time, “the start of something big.”
An evening gown-studded night marked by a black-tie conga line and a live auction of works by emerging Latin American artists. An inaugural event generating such buzz that it sold out even before invitations had been mailed.
The “Latin American Experience” gala at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts was also something of a debutante ball for the city’s emerging Latino elite – a group of power players making their mark in cultural, philanthropic, political and business circles.
The 2005 fundraiser brought in $600,000 for the museum’s acclaimed Latin American art collection. Six years later, the biannual gala raised $1.12 million, a sign of the growing economic clout of Houston’s Latino movers and shakers.
“We’re going to be very much a part of the city’s future,” said Gracie Saenz, an attorney and former Houston City councilwoman who was born and raised in the city. “We have accomplished so much.”
It only takes a quick glance around Houston to spot those accomplishments:
Sofia Adrogue, the high-powered attorney who organized the first Latin American museum gala and sits on the boards of community organizations, hospitals, and cultural institutions, is a regular on the society charity circuit. Mari Carmen Ramirez, the internationally known curator at Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts, has elevated the Latin American collection to the heights of international acclaim.
Bernardino Arocha, a doctor who operates hair restoration clinics in Houston and Dallas, has served on boards at Houston’s Contemporary Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the Glassell School of the Arts.
Latinos fill seats on Houston’s city council, port commission, university boards, and arts councils. Their names are included in the ranks of the city’s top attorneys, doctors, business owners, and accounting firms
Click here to read the rest of the article.