Driving toward Elon, North Carolina back in February, I didn’t know if I could manage one event—much less the eight I had promised. Chemotherapy seemed to have drained me of all vitality. But when I walked inside the classroom and saw copies of All the Agents and Saints upon the students’ desks, a spark of energy started swirling inside of me. Back in the hotel, I promptly collapsed, but when I returned for the next event, the current surged stronger than before.

Thirty-two events and seventeen cities later, I feel revived at the cellular level. My oncologist warned that it would take a year to fully recover from treatment, but the book tour quartered that frame. My deepest gratitude to everyone who supported me on the Resurrection Tour. You directly contributed to my healing. Gracias/Niawen/thank you.

Among the tour’s highlights:

* Returning to the Mohawk Nation of Akwesasne, where the second half of the book is based, and presenting it to the subchiefs of the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe.

* Summoning up the courage to tell my first Moth Story—without …

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A friend recently told me: sometimes, all we can do is sit back and be awed by what life has in store. I feel this now as I type these words.

On September 18, I flew home from the first leg of my book tour with a bloated belly that I assumed to be the result of too many enchilada platters while down in Texas. A flurry of tests revealed it to be a basketball-sized tumor instead. On September 27, a surgical team at UNC Hospital drained the tumor of two liters of fluid, pulled it out, and did a thorough biopsy that has since revealed Stage I, Grade II of a rare strand of mucinous ovarian cancer. I will be starting chemotherapy in two weeks (and shopping for wigs in the interim).

Meanwhile, I must cancel my entire fall book tour, including the Texas Book Festival, University of North Park, University of Texas at San Antonio, University of Houston (for a second time, aye!), University of North Carolina, University of San Diego, and Wild Detectives in Dallas. It …

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The Texas Tour

The first leg of the book tour for All the Agents and Saints is now complete. In the last 15 days, I’ve held 13 events in San Antonio, Austin, San Marcos, Corpus Christi, Edinburg, and McAllen, Texas. The timing was intense: days before my arrival, my home state endured the worst natural disaster in its history. Due to the catastrophic flooding in Houston (where my tour was supposed to begin), my flight got re-routed to San Antonio. Gas lines wrapped around entire city blocks. I wound up postponing the Houston events, as it felt wrong to take up space and resources there. So many people had lost everything, while others feared for their safety after nearby industrial plants started exploding. It is a tragedy that Houstonians will be grappling with for generations. I have never known a city so resilient.

By the time I reached my hometown, Corpus Christi, power had mostly been restored, though many trees and fences were still down, including at my parent’s house. The much-loved communities of nearby Rockport and Port Aransas, meanwhile, were completely devastated. …

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Border Book Tour Announcement!

I am thrilled/relieved to announce that–after nearly a decade of road trips, interviews, research, writing marathons, and psychic meltdowns–my fifth book has finally arrived! Called ALL THE AGENTS & SAINTS, it explores the ramifications of having an international borderline split your ancestral land in two, as experienced by Tejanos down south and Akwesasne Mohawks up north. You might recognize the book’s cover girl as the artist Ana Teresa Fernandez, seen here erasing the border wall between San Diego and Tijuana in a piece called “Borando La Frontera.”


Next month, I’ll be launching a national book tour, and it would be amazing to see you:

Saturday, July 8, Pine Manor College, BROOKLINE, MA TBA

Sunday, July 9: Politics & Prose, WASHINGTON DC, 5 pm

Tuesday, August 29: FlyLeaf, CHAPEL HILL, NC 7 pm

Labor Day Weekend Decatur Book Festival, DECATUR, GA: TBA

Tuesday, September 5: Brazos, HOUSTON, TX 7 pm

Wednesday, September 6: The Twig, SAN ANTONIO, TX TBA

Thursday, September 7: Texas State University, SAN MARCOS, TX 11 am

Friday, September 8: Book People, AUSTIN, TX 7 …

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2016: Year in Review

Feliz 2017, everyone, and farewell to 2016. Between Syria, Brexit, Orlando, and our electoral apocalypse, it’s hard to separate 2016 from its tragedies. So much rage, so much ache. And I doubt that the headlines of its first two weeks have allayed anyone’s anxiety about 2017. It feels like a thousand marbles are crashing down upon our heads at once, each one representing a different program or ideal that has long been a touchstone for many of us, now racing out of reach. As individuals, we cannot chase after all of them at once; indeed, we’d fall if we tried. But if we strategize about who runs where after what, we have a shot at maintaining our nation’s integrity.

I feel many emotions about 2017: fear, anxiety, dread. But hope is among them—a great deal, in fact. And I attribute that to being a writer. Even when my subject matter tends toward the brutal, I meet extraordinary people because of it. People of wisdom, people of grace. They are the fuel I will draw upon in the (4?) year(s) ahead. …

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Art Against The Wall

Happy Spring, everybody!

I am thrilled to share that my story about artists’ response to the U.S./Mexico border wall has been published this month by the Oxford American. Here is the opening:

The first object revealed itself immediately: a man’s black Reebok, size nine. That there was only one, inches from the iron bars, implied struggle. The absence of dust on the shoe—which coats everything in this swath of Texas—meant it hadn’t been here long.

“It wasn’t when I took my walk this morning,” said Mark Clark, a painter who lives half a mile away.

I noticed a second object in the dirt: a water bottle. Like the sneaker, it was also stranded in the no-man’s land on the other side of the wall, between the eighteen-foot-tall barrier and the Rio Grande. My friend, the artist Susan Harbage Page, saw the bottle, too. After making a photo with her Canon 5D, she slipped her fingers through the three-inch gap between the pylons. She unscrewed the bottle’s cap. Carbonated water fizzed out, drenching her sleeves. She drained and tugged the …

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India at last!

Before summer falls to autumn, I thought I’d share the story of its passage, starting with my trip to the Sangam House near Bangalore, India in May.

First some background: India is the country I have most wanted to visit for more than two decades now. In 1999, I landed a job at a feminist magazine in Delhi, bought a plane ticket and a visa, and even secured an apartment—only to cancel the trip when my dad was diagnosed with cancer two weeks before my departure. Thankfully, he pulled through like a champ, and when it seemed like I could reschedule the trip several months later, I bought a package of Hindi language tapes to start preparing. Every single one of them, however, was blank. Then I visited the local Indian restaurant (in Corpus Christi, Texas) to try to find a language tutor there. Nope: it had just gone out of business. At that point, an Indian friend sat me down and said, “How many signs do you need? It’s clearly not the time for you to go to …

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Count On Me

I am so proud to announce the release of COUNT ON ME: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, by the amazing Latina networking organization Las Comadres. Editor Adriana Lopez gathered some top-notch Latina writers–including Esmeralda Santiago, Lorraine Lopez, Sofia Quintero, Reyna Grande, Michelle Herrera Mulligan, and our beloved compadre Luis Alberto Urrea–and asked them to write a tribute to their closest friend (or comadre). The result is a deeply moving anthology of a dozen essays that officially goes on sale September 4!

Here is a taste of my own contribution to the anthology, “Road Sisters.”

We were hungry, we were tired, and we were lost. Daphne was in the driver’s seat; I was navigating (and failing). We had been driving for three hours by that point, searching for Chilchinbito – a village so tiny, it didn’t appear on our Arizona atlas. We had been told that the Cowboy family might host us for the night, but they had no phone to confirm this. And so, we were relying on faith, blind faith. Faith …

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The Torture of Solitary

April marks the 40th year anniversary of solitary confinement of the Angola 3 (two elderly Black Panthers doing time in Louisiana). The Wilson Quarterly just published an essay I wrote about their plight, and the tens of thousands of other prisoners enduring this mental torture in the United States. Here is the opening segment:

Here is what I knew about Joe Loya before stepping into his car: During a 14-month stretch in the late 1980s, he stole a quarter-million dollars from 30 Southern California banks by donning a tailored suit and, occasionally, a fedora, striding up to bank tellers, and, in a low and smoky voice, demanding all their money. His panache earned him the nickname “The Beirut Bandit” because, he said, “no one could believe a Mexican from East L.A. could be so smooth.” He was finally bum-rushed by undercover agents while reading the newspaper at a UCLA campus café. (His girlfriend had tipped them off.) As he served out a seven-year prison sentence, he grew increasingly violent, once …

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A Sort of Homecoming

I’m happy to announce that The Florida Review has just published the first chapter of my thesis/next book. It’s called “A Sort of Homecoming” and here’s a little taste:

I am so starved for company, even a dead man’s would do.

Stamping on my boots, I follow a trail leading into a desert jungle thick with yucca and mesquite. Rain is so scant in this swath of South Texas, trees grow out instead of up, fusing together like brush. In some patches, you can’t see but two feet beyond. But it’s noisy here—gloriously noisy. Beetles munch through mounds of deer dung. Orange-bellied orioles and dust-colored sparrows twitter from treetops while flocks of chachalacas cluck about. My boots trample footprints, paw prints, hoof prints.

A chain link fence appears up ahead, enclosing acres of cleared land. The ranch hands call it Cowboy Cemetery. I pace among the graves, peering at the sunken stones. In the olden days, families carved the names of their departed into planks of wood and thrust them into the …

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The Michelangelo of New Mexico

I am so happy to share that The Believer has just published my profile of master frescoist Frederico Vigil in their November/December annual arts issue. Writing and publishing this essay was a year-long endeavor, which seems daunting until I realize that’s only one-tenth of the time it took Vigil to paint the fresco in the first place. It was a deep honor to pay tribute to an artist I profoundly admire. Here is a taste of the essay:

Frederico Vigil is afraid of heights.

“When I first went up here to paint the ceiling, I would clench the bottom with my toes como chango, like a monkey. I clenched so tight, my two big toenails popped off.”

A scissor-lift ascended through the middle of the watchtower. The enormity of Vigil’s latest work—a four-thousand-square-foot fresco depicting three thousand years of Latino history—became even more apparent from an elevation. There was Benito Juárez. A steam train blazing out of California. Oxen pulling carts along the Camino Real. A smirking Cervantes. Each image gleamed as if painted a moment …

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Labor Day Update

Hope y’all are having a peaceful and relaxing Labor Day weekend. The sun is shining out my window, but as of 5:15 p.m. Sunday, I have yet to greet it: there’s too crazy much to do! Some updates I’d love to share with you:

* Travelers’ Tales just sent me a box full of the latest translation of 100 Places Every Woman Should Go, from Korea. I can’t believe how thick it is–nearly double the heft of the original. Too bad I can’t read a word… though the layout/design/photography is terrific. Here’s the cover:

Que fun, no?

* The Believer has bought my profile of master frescoist Frederico Vigil! I met this extraordinary artist last May, when I was teaching at the National Latino Writers Conference at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, and was so blown away by his latest work–a 4,000 square foot fresco detailing 3,000 years of Latino history–I interviewed him on the spot. I returned to Albuquerque last October for the grand opening of the fresco, …

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