Monday, September 23, 2013

The Magic of the Written Word

It's close to a year now since I've written and published my book "Songs From the Barrio: A Coming of Age in Modesto, Ca." and it's been a blast getting out to share it with all kinds of audiences, children, young people and adults, old-timers like myself.

The Literary Experience, whether reading to oneself, or hearing someone read a story or a poem is absolutely magnetic, a captivating journey of the mind and the imagination. I love to sneak peaks at the audience when I read and the expressions on their faces tell it all: bored, curious, doubtful, skeptical, entranced, or tickled. The nods of heads, the raised eyebrows, smiles and outright guffaws are catalysts which make me read with even more intensity.

While the writing, editing and publishing of my book was a wonderfully creative venture, the marketing and sharing of my book has been equally fulfilling. I love to hear people's comments on my book, on individual stories which moved or touched them; and everyone is different. There are, of course, stories which connect universally with readers, but others seem to connect specifically, like a young woman who told me she found my story "The Three-Legged Cat", hilarious, and another the story "The Red Dog." Most comments so far concern how much the stories in my book connect to their own families, their own experiences growing up as a Mexican, or Chicano in the U.S. It is amazing to me how similar our experiences have been. But now and then I hear from people who are not Chicano or Mexican who find similarities to their own experience, as in this review on Amazon from one reader:

"My entire family is reading "Songs From the Barrio", and we're enjoying the memories of life in Modesto in the 1950's. Richard Rios has captured the time and place splendidly. As a self-proclaimed West Modesto Okie, I found that Rios' memories of his childhood in a poor Mexican family in a Mexican barrio very much mirrored life in a poor Okie family in a poor neighborhood, and, perhaps, many lives in similarly situated poor, often directionless families. While the stories in this fine book touched my siblings and me because of the memories of Modesto fifty to sixty years ago, it will also touch those who wish to understand the culture and challenges of that time. Oh, and I think everyone will find Rios' book to be a fun, sad, informative, and entertaining read."
(The Huey Family, Modesto, California) 

And another who writes "This work is an incredible collection of short stories and poems which gives the reader a unique insight into what it was like to grow up in California in a world in which one was neither Mexican nor American. With humor, love, and personal insights, Rios takes the reader into the home he grew up in: a one bedroom shack near the Tuolumne River in Modesto, where he lived with a family of 6. The author paints a uniqu picture of California in the 40's and 50's, as he grew up and assimilated. The dialogue in Spanish is all either translated or footnoted so that everyone can read it. Riveting! I could not put it down. Fun! I'm reading it for the second time in a week. Heartfelt! It will make you laugh and cry with tears of joy as you gain a new perspective on what it is to be American!

In a way, I view my book as a historical document, as a memoir tends to be. Any analysis of American life in the 40s, 50s and 60s is a telling view into an incredible time in our country. Things were different in a world without electronics, the internet. "Reading Richard Rios' book was like listening to a character out of a Steinbeck novel, tell his OWN story. Rios' brilliant use of colloquial "Chicano" Spanish was important in truly capturing the lives of Chicanos in California's valley. This book should become essential reading for those in search of a historical, social glimpse into the Chicano culture."

In case, you haven't read my book you can purchase a copy at, or get a Kindle edition. Moreso, I would love to hear from you after you read it by posting comments here on my Blog or by posting them on Amazon. If you contact me, I can mail you a signed copy ($10. plus envelope and shipping - usually and extra $3.50). I also have a companion CD with selected reading from the book that sells for $5.00).

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