RIP Felipe de Ortego y Gasca 1926-2018

Felipe de Ortego y Gasca was a man apart. His life was a picaresque tale – part Charles Dickens, part Great Gatsby. He was orphaned as a child, never graduated from High School but became a university professor, served his country in three conflicts, met James Baldwin and Richard Wright in Paris, published prolifically, acted…

Southwest Festival of the Written Word: The Best Books we Read in 2018

Tyrant: Shakespeare on Politics by Stephen Greenblatt looks at Shakespeare’s power wielders – King Lear, Macbeth, Richard III, etc. – and shows that the days of psychotic strongmen ruling their nations is nothing new. For a brilliant dissection of how the west has ransacked Africa, look no further than Lee Wengraf’s Extracting Profit: Imperialism, Neoliberalism,…

Our Concentration Camps: An Open Letter in the New York Review of Books

To the Editors: In Tornillo, Texas, in rows of pale yellow tents, some 1,600 children who were forcefully taken from their families sleep in lined-up bunks, boys separated from the girls. The children, who are between the ages of thirteen and seventeen, have limited access to legal services. They are not schooled. They are given…

Egypt’s Prophet: The Great Naguib Mahfouz

When I was 22, I went to live in Egypt for 18 months. I barely knew anything about the country but I did know about Naguib Mahfouz. Just four years earlier, he’d won the Nobel Prize in Literature, and my mother had so loved his work that she wrote to him via his publisher. To…

“Where You Happen to Be” poems by Leonore Hildebrandt

The title of this collection comes from a quotation by Buckminster Fuller, the genius who invented the geodesic dome. In his lifetime, Fuller was awarded 25 patents, wrote 28 books, received 47 honorary doctorates, and was such a globe-hopper that, legend has it, he wore four watches at once, each adjusted to a different time…

“The Fire This Time” ed. Jesmyn Ward

There’s a cartoon by Ben Sargent, called “Still Two Americas,” that achieved internet fame a couple of years ago. It has two panels. Both depict boys at their front door, and both boys are are saying, “I’m goin’ out, Mom.” One of the boys is white and the other is black. The white boy’s mother…

Me and Gifted Kids

On September 28th, 2018 I visited the Gifted Kids program at Silver High. Nine teenagers and one teacher, Sara Sosa, were there to greet me. They were in the program because they’d taken a test and been identified as exceptional. Sure enough, I guessed within about thirty seconds that I was the dumbest person in…

The Other 9/11: Chile in the time of Pinochet

A few days ago, my 10-year-old son asked me why I’d scheduled an event on 9/11. “Bad timing!” he said. He knew about the Twin Towers. But he didn’t know about 9/11/73, a date of infamy in Latin America. 9/11/73 was the day General Augusto Pinochet launched a military coup that ousted democratically elected Chilean…