Yippee, My Show Got Extended Through January 26, 2019
Thanks to the wonderful support of all y’all who have attended my show, and/or told your friends about it, the Saturday shows have been selling out. The Marsh has extended my run and added six additional performances starting Saturday, December 22nd through Saturday, January 26th. If you haven’t yet seen it, you can catch Why Would I Mispronounce My OwnName? over the holidays, and throughout January. Please note there is no show on Saturday, December 15.
I’ve been fortunate to have an all-star cast of talkback guests speaking on a variety of social justice topics, and folks have found the post-show conversations to be very informative. The list of topics and guests is at: https://www.irmaherrera.com/talk-backs
These conversations have been videotaped and they will be posted on my website within a few weeks. Due to glitches (aka human error) two talkbacks were not recorded. I plan to continue the talkback series, and am in the process of lining-up guest for the six additional dates. I am truly grateful for the support you have shown me. Numerous folks have come up to me after a show: “I’m here because my mom, friend, co-worker . . . (fill in the blank) . . . said I had to see this, and was that ever a good suggestion.” Thanks for sending people to my show.
With a little bit of down-time over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was able to listen (and/or read) two wonderful books. I am an avid reader, and mostly gravitate towards fiction, but occasionally venture into other genres. Besides my love of the printed word, I am a big fan of audio books, mostly listening to audible.com, although public libraries are great sources of audio books available at no cost. The down side is that waiting lists are long for new and popular books. When I especially love a book, I sometimes treat myself to both the hard-print copy and the digital version. Listening to a beautifully-read book is like watching a piece of well-presented theater.
An Unlikely Journey, Julián Castro
I had the rewarding experience of seeing Julián Castro at the San Francisco Commonwealth Club in conversation with Abdi Soltani, the Executive Director of the Northern California ACLU. I opted for the attendance fee which included a signed copy of Julian’s memoir, An Unlikely Journey: Waking Up from My American Dream. After the hour-long conversation I got to stand in line with many others and for the opportunity to say hello to Julián and to get my book signed. The audio version of the book is read by the author, who exudes the intelligence, humor, and warmth that were so present during his on-stage interview.
Julián is the Former Mayor of San Antonio (elected at age 34, he was the youngest mayor of a top-50 American City, ) and served as the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the Obama Administration. He starts his family story with a seven-year old orphan girl and her younger sister accompanied by adult relatives crossing the bridge over the Rio Grande River and presenting themselves to Customs and Immigration Officials in the United States. The girls were brought from Mexico to live with relatives in San Antonio. That seven-year old girl was his grandmother, their beloved Mamo. Julián and Joaquin were raised in a multi-generational family in San Antonio's West Side by their remarkable mother, the highly respected Chicana activist Rosie Castro and Rosie’s mother, their grandmother Mamo.
There was so much I related to in the story of their youth -- the disparities between the haves (predominately Whites) and have nots (Mexican-Americans) of South Texas. Julián and Joaquin, smart, hardworking kids had a strong competitive spirit (especially against each other) and were raised in an environment where leaders, beginning with their Mom, worked tirelessly to address the injustices that limited the opportunities of their community. I could especially relate to their story of leaving home for the very first time, flying off to enroll in a college they had never visited before, Stanford. Middle and upper-middle class families take their children on college tours around the country, but for many kids from economically depressed communities, the first time they see the college they’ll be attending is when they arrive for classes.
This is an honest and touching story about class mobility, the ups and downs you see when you straddle different socio-economic classes. We learn and grow so much from these experiences, but they are also filled with great sadness as we see first-hand: all that is given and taken for granted by our new peers raised in privileged environments. At the same time we live with the knowledge that many of our friends and family “back home” work so hard just to get their foot onto the lowest-rungs of the ladders of economic opportunity.
Julián notes that he had one huge advantage over other kids in similar circumstance. Both at Stanford and Harvard Law he had his brother at this side, so whenever he felt homesick or a sense of not belonging, Joaquin was always there. Lots of ups and downs in this story, tremendous academic success, struggling with how to be a public servant, financial problems, losing elections. But what I was most touched by is Julián’s love for his family, his community and for our country, and his commitment to public service. Will he or won’t he throw his hat in the 2020 Presidential Race? He’s giving it serious thought. He’s certainly got what it takes to lead this country. I highly recommend the book.
Becoming, Michelle Obama
This book is in a word: sensational, and it is beautifully read by the author. Becoming is also a story about being a class migrant and how education, especially at elite institutions (Princeton and Harvard Law) changes the trajectory of your life. Michelle introduces us to the community of her youth in the South Side of Chicago, proud men and women who saw how their opportunities were limited by the color of their skin, and the segregated communities in which they grew up. In spite of these limitations, these hard-working folks created vibrant communities where children were loved and nurtured by the adults around them. They had high hopes that more was possible for Michelle and Craig's generation than had been afforded to them.
I was especially struck by Michelle’s description of feeling like a poppy seed in a bowl of rice while a student at Princeton. A very familiar feeling, one which many of us still experience to this day when we find we are the only brown or black face in a classroom or seminar, the only Latinx lawyer in the room, the only African American in the C-Suite. And women, who are also racial and ethnic minorities, find ourselves in this situation all too often. Michelle's story details her class mobility, through education, and career choices. And by happenstance she fell in love with and married a man committed to public service, who had a bold ambition: to become the first African American President of The United States. There is no question that a key to Barack Obama’s success was the strength, intelligence, political savvy, no-nonsense attitude, and financial security that Michelle Obama, corporate lawyer, spouse, mom, was able to provide to her family. And she was a package deal, backed by her extended South Side Chicago family: folks that were both quite ordinary and remarkable all at once. We get an intimate window into their lives, and one feels Michelle's love, respect, admiration, and gratitude to all these people.
One aspect of the book I really valued was learning about her long-standing relationships with her women friends. I hear you loud and clear, Michelle. My posse of women friends is something that has been key to all the good things in my life, personal and professional. And I was thrilled to learn of the work she did quietly in the White House to promote educational opportunities and mentorship programs for girls and young women. Michelle LaVaughn Robinson Obama, a truly remarkable woman.
I had the privilege of meeting First Lady Michelle Obama during President Obama's first term. I, along with a group of eight women who headed women’s rights organizations, were invited to a meet with her at the White House, to discuss issues of concern to women in this country, and to be briefed on plans for expanding health care, particularly to low-income communities. I got to sit next to her, and she was all that we see in the thousands of times we’ve watched her on tv: smart, kind, funny, and interested in knowing what others have to say.
There are great books about two great individuals, so get them for yourself and pick up an extra one to give as gifts. I loved them both.
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PS: Two shows this week at The San Francisco Marsh Theater,
Tonight, Thursday, December 6 at 8 pm
Saturday, December 8, 5 pm
Tickets starting at $20 at themarsh.org
Performances resume December 22 and through the end of January. Saturdays only at 5 pm.