Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

On the brink of death, you have a lot of time to think. You’re no longer working on the abstract sense of time that waking, living humans are accustomed to; you begin working on dream-time. The time where a single minute can span hours, even decades, of your life.

The writing bug has bitten me; you can tell by the amount of Iggy Pop music I’ve been consuming. And while this blog is on my mind, it hasn’t been in the forefront. Not for a while, anyway. Not since I left my job at the public library. Not since COVID forced us all inside. While I am writing a post for it, I don’t foresee it being published any time soon. My mind is running with ideas for the future, for my creative outlet. And I think the post I’m working out might be the first in a new outlet.

An old voice also visited me, which would explain the Iggy Pop. The above quote is from the story I’m writing. And I’m taking it from a different angle. A more Tim O’Brien angle. Mixing the story-truth and the happening-truth in order weave the tales I created post high school and during my college years. And rather telling it from the point of view of the character as it happened, but I will now tell it in my present voice.

So in the meanwhile, this blog will be filled with song lyrics, poetry breaks, and book reviews.

Like many of you, the first storyteller who entered my life happened to also be related to me. My grandfather – from whom I get my name – told a story that resonates with me to this day. However, originally told in Spanish, its haunting feel gets lost in translation. This isn’t the first time I spoke of this story, and it probably won’t be the last. I’ve retold it countless of times – at times only hitting the bullet points of the story when it comes to sharing familial urban lore and campfire stories. 

Every Latino/e/x family has its lore, and most of them comprise familiar characters. Stories of the wailing woman – la llorona – have been passed down from generation to generation with a little something added or subtracted from the tale. (See Gloria Anzaldua’s Prietita and the Ghost Woman/Prietita y la llorona, Xavier Garza’s  Vincent Ventura and the Curse of the Weeping Woman, and Stories that Must Not Die’s The Sobbing Woman – to name a few.)

To this day, I have not heard a single tale that comes close to my grandfather’s. Whether it was an original story, or something he carried over to this side of the border. In any case, I present to you my grandfather’s story as I remember it.

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Mr. Nava offered me an opportunity to review his juvenile novel, FEARFUL Scary Stories of the Evil App after noticing my review for Max Braillier’s The Last Kids on Earth. Let me make clear that I received no monetary payment for reviewing this book. Mr. Nava only provided me with a free Kindle-edition copy of his novel. The rating provided is my own, and it is honest.

Book Details:

  • Format: Kindle
  • Author: Christian Nava with illustrations by Jesús Duke
  • Publisher: Independently published
  • Genre: Juvenile Fiction; Juvenile Horror
  • Release Date: September 2, 2021
  • Length: 107 pages
  • Rating: 4-stars

Product Description:

Esau “S” Bryant is a twelve-year-old boy desperate to become an influencer to help his family. And when he finds a strange phone in an abandoned mall, it seems he finally got a lucky break, until he realizes his new mobile device is cursed.

Now he will have to face his worst fears and fight an online evil spirit to save himself, his family, and—the world.

Review:

Christian Nava’s FEAFUL is one part Goosebumps nostalgia, one part Stephen King’s aversion toward technology – in this case phones and live-streaming – and two parts entertainingly fun. Nava breathes life into a diverse cast of characters and molds a spooky-literary universe that will surely spawn a great series that both middle-graders and their parents will enjoy.

Nava introduces twin brother Esau and Jake in the midst of the Squall – an electrical storm that sparks up strange activity in the small town of Quiet Falls. The brothers are vastly different – or so says, Esau, our narrator. Jake is a prodigy, while Esau is an aspiring social media influencer. (As a father of a middle-grader who aspires to be a YouTuber, Esau hits close to home.)

Esau wants to win the Playoffs, an online competition with a money prize. His goal isn’t just to make it big, but to use the money to put his family back together again. These plans are derailed when Jake finds a mysterious phone in an abandoned mall. Using the phone, Jake’s online popularity rises while Esau’s fails.

However, something isn’t right in Quiet Falls. Rumors of strange happenings are spreading. Strange sightings are seen. And Esau is certain that his brother’s phone is at the center of it all.

I love the characters Nava breathes life into. There’s CJ, Esau’s best friend and next-door neighbor, whose geeky sensibility brings extra nerdom to the story – she named her cats after The Fellowship of the Ring! Not to mention CJ’s cousin, Kara, who was sent to live with her uncle for the summer after an incident at her old school. And while they play a small part, parents do have a role in this story. The twins’ parents are human. We see that their mom is having troubles of her own when Esau notes a bottle of sleeping pills by her beside table. And their father is chasing a dream that may have caused the riff in the family.

Nava engages the audience by using the current slang. He incorporates folklore into his story, digging deep into the Native American mythologies. My hopes is that this stirs some interest in his young readers to research the matter; although, I hope they have a better experience than Esau when he visited the public library (see Afterthought).

Afterthought:

While the story does keep the reader’s attention, there are some things that I frowned upon as an adult – surely the targeted audience will ignore these “faults.”

The first is, of course, the use of current lingo. The problem with trying to relate to much with youths today is their ever growing and altering vocabulary. What is popular today may not be popular tomorrow.

Nava also leaves so many branches in his novel – untied strings that aren’t resolved by the story’s end. However, it is clear what he is doing – this is just the beginning of Nava’s literary universe which will surely span throughout several novels (something I look forward to reading).

The one thing that really got me is the library scene. Mr. Nava did you really ask me to read your novel without knowing that I’ve worked within the library world for the last decade of my life? Can we stop with the age-old, redundant library tropes?

Nava writes: “Instead of googling what I needed, I ventured into the local book cemetery (AKA the public library) to remain off the grid” (emphasis mine). Nava continues by writing: “…the librarian, a little bald man with glasses, kicked me out for being too loud” (emphasis mine).

Libraries aren’t the quiet, dusty-book filled chambers conjured up on popular culture. Instead, libraries are filled to the brim with public activities – not all of them quiet. Painting them as unwelcoming toward children only damages the work we’ve done thus far in trying to prove otherwise. So please – Mr. Nava – and all writers of juvenile literature – it’s time to end this library trope.

Also See:

Queer People

Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman

The people people work with best
Are often very queer
The people people own by birth
Quite shock your first idea;
The people people choose for friends
Your common sense appall,
But the people people marry
Are the queerest folks of all.
More by Charlotte Anna Perkins Gilman
Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom from Pexels

You learn something when your estranged father passes. It’s like losing sight of something from your peripheral – you understand that something is missing in your field of vision, but you can’t place just what it is. And the more you look around, the more you realize its absence. The more you begin to comprehend that this random item in your life meant more to you than you were willing to admit.

I think about my father more these days than in the years before his death. He remained in the edges of my life – estranged, always there, but never present. In those days, there was an option to reach out and grow a relationship. Though, there is little regret in the way I handled our relationship – it was a two-way street after all.

There isn’t a doubt in mind that my life might have taken a different path had my father just tried a little harder. Or if I had in my adult years. However, it’s a life I cannot envision. Javier may have not been the best father figure in my childhood, but I will no longer dwell on that. Why mourn what I never had instead of being grateful for the days I did?

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

New Introduction

I made a conscious decision scheduling this post for the tail-end of Pride Month. For starters, today is Pride Day. It just seemed appropriate for the post. I chose today because it feels that everyone makes the bigger deal at the beginning of June. That’s when we see the most corporate marketing for Pride. That’s when we see influencers beating their chests about how much an ally they are. As the month winds down, people who aren’t a part of the community just stop caring. There’s no financial gain to it.

With that said, this is not the original intro to this post. The original intro consisted of a story of a friend coming out to me. While I kept that friend’s name secret, I nonetheless began to have second thoughts. I only have so many friends and it wouldn’t take too much a detective to figure out who I was talking about. While I know this friend’s family is fully aware, I don’t know where our mutual friends stand.

In short, while this story does contain me as a character, it is not my story to tell. Most of the post remains the same. The ending has been altered to because it tied back to the introduction.

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