Saturday, August 27, 2005


(My son, Jameson & I at El Barrio Art Fest 2005)

THE OTHER NIGHT, my son came home and as usual, we didn’t greet each other. He comes home tired from work; I’m usually engrossed in writing or applying for jobs online. Later, after he washes up and goes into his room & changes, he comes up and leans up against me, not really hugging me, though sometimes he does. Sometimes he squeezes me too hard, trying to get a response out of me. Sometimes I push him away playfully or punch him. Other times I squeeze back and we engage in a battle of sorts to see who can squeeze the hardest. It’s our way of saying, “I love you,” without saying the words. That night, as he leaned up against me, he bent and smelled my hair. I ignored him at first, expecting him to say that my hair stank, but then he took a deeper whiff.

“WHAT?” I ASKED irritably.

“YOUR HAIR REMINDS me of something. You know how sometimes a smell brings back a memory in your life?”

“YEAH!” I SAID, half-sarcastically (because he tends to be sarcastic ninety-nine percent of the time), half-surprisingly (because being insightful is so out of character for him). But I knew exactly what he was talking about. Sometimes when I smell coffee, it reminds me of mornings during my childhood when my mother used to make sweet leche con café (milk with coffee instead of the other way around, with lots of sugar).

THEN MY SON walked out of the room without explaining what the smell of my hair reminded him of, and I didn’t ask. He probably forgot about this little moment the minute he went back into his room, but I will always remember it. Somewhere down the line, it will make its way into my writing.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005


THE EL BARRIO Art Fest 2005 was a truly awesome experience, one of the best events of my book tour so far. The music was fantastic, the spoken word/poetry pieces were powerful, and the art exhibits were excellent. The Fest took me back home to my raices and I was honored to be in the presence of such talent. It was wonderful to interact with participants and fellow artists, especially mi gente.

I HAD A Free Book Giveaway raffle (free) for Choose Me. Elisa Ortiz was the lucky winner! In addition, I sold several copies of Choose Me. One potential customer (African American guy with a Latina mate) wanted to purchase a copy – with a hundred-dollar bill! But alas, I could not find anyone with change (the Fest was free). I told him he could purchase the book at any bookstore, or online and he said, “but it won’t be signed by you.” (Sweet, or as Boricuas like to say, “que lindo.”)

I HAD COMMISSIONED an artist to air-brush the Choose Me cover art on T-shirts (for promotional purposes only). I met Mr. Turtel Onli, a Hyde Park “rhythmistic” artist, at an art festival (Palmer Square Art Fest) the previous Saturday. My sisters, niece and nephew all wore the T-shirts. We got a lot of compliments, attention, and people who expressed an interest in purchasing a T-shirt.

I SINCERELY HOPE the participants will continue to support the Puerto Rican arts and cultural community. It was a chance to experience the diversity of Puerto Rican culture and prove that we are not just about frituras and reggaeton. (I feel a poem coming on—see end of entry.)

THERE WAS A photographer who wants to feature me in a photography book on positive images of Latinos. She started off by asking me if I read in Spanish, and I replied, “Bien slowly” (her release forms were in Spanish). So she proceeds to tell me about her book, which sounds like a great concept. I was like, “where do I sign up?” even when she said she couldn’t pay me. I told her I didn’t care, I would be honored to participate in such a project (by the way, she bought the book).

AFTER BEING AT the Fest for 8 hours (artists had to be there two hours prior to start time), my body ached as if I had run a marathon. Maybe it was sitting for long stretches of time, with no food except two coconut ice creams, but I woke up so tired Sunday morning that I didn’t want to go anywhere. I even let my daughter use the car to go to work—so you KNOW I was tired!

THANKS TO MY wonderful supportive family who showed up (sisters, son, niece, nephew, two uncles, two aunts, three cousins, and their friends), I had plenty of people to cover my table so I could get up and enjoy the music and performances and absorb the exhibits).

MY NIECE, ENJOLI, and nephew, Delwin (aka Toogie) gave a wonderful, dramatic reading from the Prologue in Choose Me. My nephew, in particular, did an awesome job reading in his deep, baritone voice (you wouldn’t know it by looking at his 105-pound body). I’m telling you (and I’ve told him before), the boy should be an actor, and hopefully he will study acting (as an elective) when he starts Northeastern U this Fall. My recently-SIU-graduate niece also did great (even though she redesigned her Choose Me T-shirt to look “cute”).

El Barrio Art Fest 2005

the diversity of Puerto Rican culture
was evident at
El Barrio Art Fest 2005
mi gente, with music, art, words
proved that we are not just
about frituras and reggaeton
refrains of “black woman with the blonde wig on,
black woman with the blonde wig on”
and Pinero’s “scatter my ashes on the Lower East side”
by griots of Urban Theatre Company
and dreadlocked breakdancing boricuas
influenced by the sacred beats of
bomba y plena of my Wela’s generation
& Batey Urbano’s poem of gentrification
& Cecelia’s abichuelas sin arroz
& Lola’s no-face ragdolls
conjured up images of
¿y tu aguela ‘onde ‘ta?
honoring the African
in all of us
took me back, back, way back
home, home to my raices
to Puerto Rico
where I wasn’t born
but my heart still lives

— Xenia Ruiz

Love, Peace & Soul
Amor, Paz y Alma

Sunday, August 21, 2005


THERE IS A sense of accomplishment that comes from finishing a manuscript and finally mailing it off. It is something akin to giving birth. After seven years (off and on) of “conceiving” the manuscript of my first novel, followed by several years (off and on) of “nurturing” (revising), I “gave birth” (printed out the final version of the novel), and finally mailed it off to my publisher on Thursday, August 18.

NOW COMES THE hard part – waiting to hear if the publisher likes the “new and improved” version. For those of you who are mothers, it’s like when the nurse handed you your baby and you think, “Now what?” You start to wonder if you will be able to discern its every cry, what the next 18 years will be like, whether you will be a good mother, and whether that will be good enough.

EVEN THOUGH I am trying to wean myself of my cynical, pessimistic attitude and be more positive, I haven’t been able to completely shed it. I couldn’t help imagining that the publisher will have problems with the manuscript because of its mention of taboo topics such as abortion, negativity toward pregnancy, and infidelity, all on the part of the female protagonist. And then there’s the issue that the majority of the characters are Latino, even though there is reference to the African influence on their culture (for example, the husband affectionately calls his wife, Mulata, and she calls him, Prieto). Since my publisher caters to African American readers, will it be an issue?

AND THEN THIS morning, I woke up early to listen to “my pastor,” Joel Osteen. I know many critics have a problem with his “cookie-cutter” preaching, and the so-called commercialization of his evangelism, but I LIKE HIM. He always seems to speak on a topic that hits home. Sunday’s sermon was about “Speaking Faith in your Life Instead of Speaking Fear.” He talked about taking control of the power of our thoughts, meditating on God’s word, expecting that you and your children will succeed and prosper instead of fearing they will fail. He gave several examples of people who believed something bad was going to happen to them (infertility, disease, death) because it happened to their parents and their grandparents before them. And these negative thoughts played over and over in their minds like a bad movie scene until they came to pass. They had already lost the battle in their minds so the bad things were repeated because they were “convinced” they had no power over them. In other words, we give life to what we believe, and what we verbalize.

IT'S ALL STUFF I’ve heard before, things which so-called “experts” have latched on to and used in their messages (power of positive thinking, “I think therefore I am”), but it came at the right time today. I’m the kind of person whose mind starts racing with endless scenarios of bad things the minute my children step out of the house, especially if they go out at night. I KNOW I can’t prevent anything bad from happening to them, but I can help the thoughts that I allow into my mind. So I try to bless my children mentally and spiritually by covering them with His blood, by repeating the bendicion (blessing) of my childhood: Que Dios me los bendiga y los acompanen (May God bless and keep them.).

SO I’M GOING to make an effort to have a more disciplined mind, cast down wrong imaginations, and “stand guard over the doorway to the enemy.” Mye motto for today and henceforth is: “Faith Activates God; fear activates the enemy.”

Friday, August 12, 2005



On Saturday, AUGUST 20, 2005, there will be a special reading (around 3:00-4:30 pm) of excerpts from CHOOSE ME presented by two local aspiring actors. Hear the refreshing voices of "Eva" and "Adam" come to life!

part of . . .

“El Barrio Art Fest 2005”

Come and meet local Puerto Rican Artists!!

PAINTING / Photo EXHIBITS / Body Painting



Puerto Rican Folk Music (no reggaeton!)

PUPPET Show - Children/Teen ARTS & CRAFTS

* Urban Theatre Company will present the unforgettable poetry of Nuyorican Poet, Miguel Piñero

Saturday Aug 20, 2005

12 NOON to 6:00 pm

at the Humboldt Park Stables

3015 West Division St. Chicago, IL

FREE for the entire family!

Don't miss this exciting event!!

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


[The display at the University of Chicago Bookstore, 7/22/2005]

DESPITE HALF OF the attendees being late (as I predicted), the book launch party went well at the University of Chicago Bookstore. They had an entire display dedicated to my book (above), with an informational flyer about Choose Me. There was a student reporter covering the story for the U of C newspaper writing down my every word as if waiting for me to say something profound (I didn’t). With the exception of a co-worker of my sister’s, there was only one other person in the audience whom I didn’t know. She seemed to come specifically because of the flyer (or just out of curiosity). Afterwards, she wished me well in my future writing career (she didn't buy a book; which was fine ‘cause she could’ve just slipped out without saying anything). My friend, Lindsay, showed up even though she had already come to one of the first drop-bys, and had already purchased the book, AND she biked all the way from the Loop (everyone kept saying “now that’s your true friend”). The coordinator from the domestic violence agency where I volunteer showed up.

THE REST OF the audience was comprised of my family; from my favorite aunt, Minguita, to the newest addition, Alfred William III (poor thing, he was named after his father & grandfather) a.k.a. Punkin-Seed (his father’s nickname is Punkin—get it?), who was born on the 4th of July (10 lbs 2 oz). Even Janet & Carlos (my brother & sister on my dad’s side) came, with five minutes to spare. Not only did my brother buy 2 books, but his son’s godfather, whom he brought, bought one also. (Had my entire family shown up, we would have exceeded the occupancy & noise regulations. It was bad enough when Alfred III started testing his lungs & my aunt started speaking like a stereotypical Hispanic.) Most everyone in my family sees the South Side as a separate city.

I SOLD A few books including one to the cashier (for her mother) who had been left in charge after the store manager had to leave. The manager also asked me to leave 5 autographed copies. People told me I did well, but I still felt like I “shoulda-woulda” said this or that; I feel like I say something different every time & I'm not consistent. I WAS able to joke & laugh more easily since my smart-aleck daughter & sisters kept making cracks.

[I have to apologize for the lateness of this blog. Originally wrote it on July 27 but I was trying to download my newest cousin's photo (he's so cute!) but for some reason, the blog wouldn't cooperate.]