#WaAuthors in The Library of Congress PALABRA Archive: A Celebration!

Sara Peté/ October 26, 2022/ Uncategorized

#WaAuthors in The Library of Congress PALABRA Archive: A Celebration!

The Washington Center for the Book (WCB), an affiliate of The Library of Congress (LC) Center for the Book administered by Washington State Library (WSL), is thrilled to announce the addition of five incredible Washington voices into The Library of Congress PALABRA archive.

The PALABRA Archive is a collection of original audio recordings of 20th and 21st century Luso-Hispanic poets and writers reading from their works. With recorded authors from all over Latin America, the Iberian Peninsula, the Caribbean, and other regions with Hispanic and Portuguese heritage populations, this archive has to date close to 800 recordings, a portion of which are available for online streaming.

Partnering with Catalina Gomez, Reference Librarian and Curator for the PALABRA Archive, WCB helped to identify, contact and facilitate new recordings with authors Kathleen Alcalá, Claudia Castro Luna, Carlos Gil, Kristen Millares Young, and Donna Miscolta. These recordings, some of which were recorded at the Washington Talking Book and Braille Library, were released online earlier this fall.

On Nov. 16 at noon we will be celebrating the release of these newly available recordings with an online event to celebrate the new recordings, the PALABRA Archive itself, and the beautiful work of these five authors. Each author will talk about what it means to them to be included in this historic, contemporary, living, and growing collection. We will also hear from Catalina Gomez who will give us some background on this vital collection’s history.

Kathleen Alcalá
“Years ago, I wrote an essay called ‘Reading the Signs’ in which I define a sort of circle of literacy – a young person reads one of my books in school, goes online to order a copy, sees that it is available as an audio file, and orders it for their grandmother, who can no longer read because of cataracts. She listens to the stories, and is reminded of her own stories, which she then tells her grandson. This also completes the circle for me, since I first heard stories in English and Spanish from my aunts and uncles. I know the audio recordings will reach many more people, and will touch them in a way that words on paper cannot. Someday, I hope all of my work will be translated into Spanish (and other languages?) and made available in the same way.
Right now, I am tickled to have my work showcased along with my friends, colleagues, and wonderful writers I have looked up to for many years.”

Claudia Castro Luna
“Most of the poems I read for the Library of Congress PALABRA Archive come from my book, Cipota Under the Moon, which tells of my family’s escape from the civil war in El Salvador in 1981. I was fourteen years old when we arrived in the US and did not speak a word of English. My family’s experience of terror, exile, and of making our way in a new place, in a new language is the experience of thousands of Salvadorans who fled the war which the United States endorsed and supported. For decades the story of Salvadoran immigration has been told by others non-Salvadoran. This is why the invitation to add my voice to this storied archive is so meaningful. This gesture by the PALABRA Archive disrupts the pattern of erasure Salvadorans have endured for so long. Now at the Library of Congress, Salvadorans will find a piece of themselves reflected which is a step toward seeing ourselves part of the tapestry of American history. I am honored to be recorded with other Washington writers whom I respect and admire. With deepest gratitude to the Washington Center for the Book and to the Library of Congress PALABRA Archive.”

Carlos Gil
“The book from which I read for the PALABRA project, ‘We Became Mexican American,’ tells the story of my family emigrating from Mexico in the 1920s and taking root in southern California right before the Great Depression. It is based on interviews of my parents before they passed away.
My pioneer ancestors were former peones/campesinos who could barely read and write in their own language, Spanish, let alone English.
They were part of close to a million other Mexicans arriving in those years to contribute to the United States with their labor.
So taking root in southern California was more than a challenging experience for my folks, about which our later descendants know little. And most, Americans ignore their contribution.
So I am extremely happy that the PALABRA project has accepted my readings. Their sacrifice may be better appreciated as a result.
My book describes the way my viejos rose to the challenge: the work my father did, my mother’s toiling to keep us clothed and fed, the houses we lived in, the corner grocery stores we shopped in, our mom and pop tortilla factory including the making of corn tortillas to sell to our neighbors, and so on.
It tells how we survived to become part of America, tears and toil that deserve to be remembered.”

Kristen Millares Young
“For me, to be part of the PALABRA archive is to be connected to my influences across vast swaths of time and distance. Together, we form a polyglot community of thought. Our voices will reflect and refract the collective consciousness in future eras. I am grateful for this global effort by librarians, who are such careful stewards of knowledge.”

Donna Miscolta
“Like most writers, I submit stories to journals, apply for residencies and fellowships, and query agents. I get far more rejections than acceptances, and sometimes feel as if I’m writing and speaking my words in an unlit corner of a vast empty room. And then one day out of the blue, without having to submit, apply, or query, I am invited to record my work for the Library of Congress Palabra Archive and it is the most dizzying and gratifying honor in my life as a writer to be part of this collection of so many writers I admire, including Nobel Laureates. A far cry from my vast empty room. My deep gratitude goes to the Washington Center for the Book and the Library of Congress PALABRA Archive.”

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