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Author: Gina Ruiz

Dystopian Landscape

Dystopian landscapes have been on my mind quite a bit since the election, (don’t get me started). I considered working on a dystopic short story, but have continuously put the idea to the side.  Mainly, I have procrastinated because I have very little time on my hands. I have been busy with school, work and trying to finish my book, as well as come up with an idea for a short story in an upcoming anthology I want to submit to. Last Sunday, as I was coming home from Malibu on the 10 freeway, the sky was wild. DTLA was shrouded in cloud cover. My landscape looked like a cover for a dystopian novel. Was it a sign?

I wasn’t driving, so I took a few photos and it brought the idea of writing something dystopian to mind again. Is there too much dystopian literature out there? Is there enough Chicano dystopian literature? I don’t think so. I think I’ll have at it.

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed

My mother once told me about seeing a sign in Glendale, California that said, “NO DOGS OR MEXICANS ALLOWED.” She told me this in the late sixties as we were helping her stuff envelopes for an organization that was working with the UFW. She said it casually, but I heard a world of hurt in her voice. At the time, I didn’t really understand, but I felt a burning outrage deep in my soul.

My mother was born here. Her mother was born here. Her father, my grandfather crossed the border at age 15, escaping from the horrors of the Mexican Revolution. My great-grandmother Teresa, my Grandma Lupe’s mother, walked from Abasolo, Guanajuato all the way to Piru, California during the revolution with four pretty daughters and one small son. She was pregnant when she did this walk across a war. She was afraid every single day that she walked. She feared for her daughters. She feared for her son. She feared for her husband and older sons who were working in Piru. Being valiant, she put aside that fear and kept walking.

I am the product of that determination. My great-grandmother Teresa wasn’t known for being nice. She was a hard-nosed, no-nonsense and incredibly determined woman. I’m told I’ve inherited her bluntness, determination and sharp tongue. I’m proud of that inheritance.

Yesterday, I watched a respected reporter and U.S. citizen, Jorge Ramos get hauled off by security from a press conference for asking a question. Whether it was out of turn or not is beside the point. That happens in press conferences. Journalists ask questions. It’s their job. It’s their duty to ask hard-hitting questions. Sometimes they can’t wait to be called upon, especially in a presidential race. What horrified me even more than seeing Jorge Ramos get yanked out of there by security was the fact that no one left with him. Every single journalist in that room should have walked out of that conference and left that blowhard to answer his own questions. They should have left because it was the right thing to do. They should have left to show solidarity for one of their own.

They were cowards. Saying nothing, doing nothing and looking the other way when a wrong is committed is what has caused some of history’s greatest atrocities. How far is this Mexican and immigrant-bashing going to go?  The blowhard has already incited violence. A man was beaten with a metal pole on the streets and urinated upon simply for being labeled  as Hispanic or Latino, but he was simply a human being. The blowhard’s reply? “People are passionate.”

No, Mr. Blowhard, this was not passion. This was hate, pure and simple. This was racism. What’s next? Will we be rounded up into camps? Tortured and killed?

It is a sad state when something as evil as hatred can move up on the polls masking as patriotism and family values. “Let’s make America great again” doesn’t happen by marginalizing a country’s citizens. It happens when the people in a country feel safe, when they can go to work without fear, when they feel free enough to be creative and entrepreneurial. Crushing the hopes, dreams and spirit of a huge percentage of a population does not make a country great. It makes it sad, it makes it broken, it makes it an object of derision, it makes it a target for war.

Hatred and racism disguised at patriotism has historically been shown to be the cause of humanity’s greatest shames and atrocities. The history books are full of it. Haven’t we evolved enough to stop this? Apparently not.

In my life I’ve been discriminated against quite a bit. However, in the past 10-15 years, it has not happened that much. It’s been years since anyone has called me a “dirty Mexican” which is an bizarrely erroneous thing to say, considering I am third generation American on my mother’s side and on my father’s; well how about 1638? Yes, some of his ancestors came over and landed in Massachusetts. I’m the product of immigrants on both sides. Further, my ancestors have patriotism etched in their DNA. They’ve fought in the Revolutionary War, Civil War (Union), Spanish-American War, WWI, and WWII. More recently (and on both sides of the family) they have fought for this country in Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm, and Afghanistan. Oh yes, I bathe regularly as well.

Will I, one day in the future, see signs  that say “No Dogs or Mexicans Allowed?”

No! I say no. In the words of the great Uruguayan writer, Eduardo Galeano, WE SAY NO. I stand with Jorge Ramos, though his colleagues did not. I stand against hatred and racism. I will write, use my voice, protest, vote, whatever I have to do to make sure this kind of inciting behavior and hatred gets silenced.

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

Meet the Character Blog Tour: La Llorona

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I was tagged in this post by the conscience of my writing, Sabrina Vourvoulais. The blog tour is “Meet the Character.” It answers the eight questions at the end of this email with a link back to the blog of the person who asked you to participate and the a link forward to the people you yourself ask to participate (if you choose to do so). As you can see from #7, it is expected that this be about a novel in progress, but really, for me, if you have a character you are devoted to and want to talk about, then by all means spill.

The questions:

1. What is the name of your character?

My character has several names, but the most important one, is La Llorona, a Mexican legend that every kid knows about. She’s said to wear white and wail at the rivers for her lost/drowned children. It is also said that she drowns little kids. At least, these are the stories I grew up with and then yelled at to go to sleep. My Llorona is nothing like her and she has a few names: Guadalupe, the name she was given at birth and/or La Golondrina the name she used when she was a spy in the Mexican Revolution.

2. Is she/he fictional or a historic person?

She’s a legend so there is some history to her, but she’s totally fictional.

3. When and where is the story set?

Mexico, in the State of Guanajuato during the beginnings of the Mexican Revolution. Later, she is all over the place and so the story covers the period of the revolution and after it. There is also some present time narrative.

4. What should we know about him/her?

She’s one crazy #$%^, but she’s humorous, witty, tender and strong. She is a dreamer. She is also a soldier, a spy and very vindictive.

5. What is the main conflict? What messes up her/his life?

Besides war, there is poverty, misunderstandings and the stealing of women. I won’t go into it more here or it will give away my plot and I’m NOT FINISHED.

6. What is the personal goal of the character?

Redemption.

7. Is there a working title for this novel, and can we read more about it?

Working title is: Llorona and I hope so. If I don’t find a publisher, I’ll serialize it here.

8. When can we expect the book to be published or when was it published?

If I ever finish the research on the battles of the Revolution, I’m thinking sometime near the end of 2015 that is, IF I find a publisher that wants it. It was a finalist for the PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship though, so maybe I will.

The other blogs on this tour are:

Sabrina’s, who got me into this mess

Sincerely, Ezzy

Tejana Made

I tagged, pero haber si me hacen caso: Luis Alberto Urrea, Joe Loya & Frank Lechuga

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

Dopey’s Ride

It was weeks after the alien attack before someone even thought about Little Dopey’s car and when it was remembered, of course it was Oso who brought it up.  That vato was always sliding in here and there, getting what he could get, slick-like.  No one knows why they called him Oso, it should have been Rat, because that’s what he was, a rat skulking around the sides of things, watching for an opportunity then dashing in and stealing a choice piece of whatever.  No one really liked him, but he was familia, so they kind of had to have him around.

Smiley in particular couldn’t stand him.  She absolutely hated his bright, beady, almost black eyes that darted around her apartment covetously, then when Ruben wasn’t around, he’d look her up and down too, like he was trying to figure out which bits he wanted and how to get them.  He always made me feel dirty and trucha, like she had to always be on guard with the fool.  Some days she just wanted to stick a knife in his neck.  Today was one of them – when he brought up the car.  ‘Asshole’ she thought.  ‘What a fucking tapado.” Read more

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

Lorca Green

Originally published in the anthology: Lowriting: Shots, Rides & Stories from the Chicano Soul, January 8, 2014
Santino J. Rivera (Editor), Art Meza (Photographer)

In the 1970’s, we lived off of Florence in Southeastern Los Angeles, in an area called Cudahy that was so crappy we called it Crudahy.  There was nothing good in that town.  Nothing.  It was economically depressed. There was nothing but roach-infested, cheap tract housing and even crappier apartments.  There were a few “real” houses but they too, were nothing to write home about and just stood there as hold outs to a time before tract housing for steelworkers.  That end of the L. A. River was nothing like the Los Feliz part of it that had delicately tiptoeing egrets, green rushes and the hills of Griffith Park surrounding it.  No, this side of the river was all concrete, stink, florescent green algae and junk.

Our street was a dead-end.  It wasn’t a gaba neighborhood where such things are called cul-de-sac’s in a tone that implies that somehow made it safe.  No, to us it was just a dead-end street and had nothing to recommend it.  Our street was so bad to the Bell Police Department (yes that City of Bell) that they came four in a car, in full riot gear just to cruise.  Cudahy didn’t even merit its own police station. Read more

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

A Long Strange Trip

It is my 52nd birthday…

I am always a little introspective most days but my birthday has always been a quiet day meant for reflection.  Maybe it is the winter in me that wants to burrow under the covers, warmth and darkness of myself and just think, find answers, remember people and events.

This year was an eventful one for me and so much better than last year.  This year found me safe, regaining my health in a 1903 barn converted into a huge apartment in Mount Washington.  I’ve spent the year filling it with things of comfort and home – kitchen gadgets, books, spices and fluffy pillows.  I’ve had my children here, grandchildren too.  The walls have echoed with laughter, cries and long conversations.  There were possibilities here and disappointments too.  There has been excitement, friendship and love in these walls.  It has become a home, not just to me, but to friends and family.

Last week I took a much needed vacation up to the Bay area with a friend.  We had a great time exploring, going to a Raiders game and visiting with other friends.  One hers, one mine – now both are mutual.  Isn’t that grand?  The sharing of friends and how it mushrooms into more friendships that you didn’t think possible is always a wonder.

At the end of our trip there was an accident.  Read more

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

I Hear the Train…

I take the train every weekday morning from the East Side into Union Station, then change trains there to the West Side.  Often, as I stand waiting for a train, I can hear Johnny Cash in my head singing Folsom Prison Blues.

As I wait, that song plays in my head, those guitar strings twang and I’m smiling as I wait.  There have always been these train tracks in my life it seems.  When I was little, I’d cross the tracks to go to school.  My mother warned of the hobos.  When my grandfather brought me home to the grandparent’s home on Goodwin Avenue, we got off the third bus we’d taken that day to get there and cross the tracks to get home.  In junior high, the tracks in Maywood and Huntington Park were where the fights were.  Whether we were walking home, minding our own business, or being lookers on, those fights took place on the tracks.  I took a train from Los Angeles to New York with a man I loved and my children and we saw the country.  I can’t tell you how many Amtrak trains I’ve taken to San Diego or Santa Barbara an then there was the trolley in San Diego I’d take to San Ysidro before crossing the border into Tijuana when I lived there.  I did that every day too.

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So here I am gazing down at the tracks, humming a sad tune and smiling as I go about my day.  Sometimes those tracks have stories to tell and I, well I listen.  Sometimes I’ll write them.  You’ll find train tracks in a lot of my stories.  Now you know why.

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

The Concrete River

Rivers, especially this concrete one, factor into my writing often.  I grew up near two sides of this river.  When I lived with my mother in Cudahy, the river was without the beauty of the green hills.  When I lived with my grandparents in Atwater (near Los Feliz) there was lush greenery mixed with the concrete.

I remember the drive to my grandparent’s house vividly.  It was always just freeway and cars – 710 to the 5; until you made that turn, that small curve that opened up and showed you the hills of Griffith Park.  Sometimes the hills were vivid green and they made me gasp at their beauty. Sometimes they were scorched earth and my heart ached for the dead trees and brush.  You could see deer back then, delicately high-stepping their way along the sides of the hills.  They often gazed out at traffic, their big soulful eyes looking back at me.  They were free and I was not.  I was trapped in a metal box, hurtling along to what I called home.  They way back was always miserable.

Throughout my growing up, the rivers were there to comfort me, whether they were green from greenery or just algae and the run-off of toxic waste from the factories of Vernon and South Gate. On the South side, they were an escape.  To the North, they were a place to dream and write; to watch the blue herons and listen to the frogs.  They were a place to ride my bike, free and unfettered, feeling like the deer that lived in the hills nearby.

This concrete river is part of my soul now and so it finds its way into story or book – living, breathing, winding its way in the words I find to describe it.  It will feature prominently in my new short story, LORCA GREEN out in the upcoming LOWRITING anthology by Broken Swords Publications.

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

El Iceman

They call me the Iceman.

Nah, dude, chale, I don’t go round icing gente. I just was frozen. Yeah, some of the other homies were frozen too, but it’s me they call El Iceman.

I don’t remember much after I got sucked into the alien’s mouth, but I am the only one who remembers being frozen. The other homies, they be walking round like mensos still. They kinda lost, sabes?

Anywayz, I used to be El Loco, but now I’m the Iceman.

What do I remember? Damn, homie, I remember waking up to this bright light and I thought I was dead. You know how they say you see white light and shit when you die? This light was so white it hurt. It was the gringo of lights man. Just glared at you like the chotas do when we get stopped and made my skin crawl. I remember opening my eyes and trying to raise my arm up to block that light. I remember asking if this was hell, because in my heaven, there ain’t no damned aliens and there were alien motherfuckers here.

After I got used to the light, I checked ‘em out. There were seven of them, but these fools didn’t look like the fuckers we were battling in the park, nah. These fuckers were taller, a different color that I can’t really describe. It just seemed off like God don’t make that color and it was as alien as they were. Read more

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.

Celia, Cantinflas & the Cumbia

At every party I sit in the back.

Once in a while, I do that cholo two-step thing with one of my cousins or some ruca that feels sorry for me. I lift my big panza up off whatever chair is about to break under my weight, listen to it groan, then shuffle off to pull my fists together and slowly, clumsy as a bear, move my feet. I hate those dances. I really do. Everyone thinks that’s all us vatos know how to do. That two-step. Nah man…we all grew up with salsa, cumbia, and more. My abuleos danced valses, polka and even the tango. That makes me stop thinking about food for a minute and smile…just remembering them. How they used to cut a rug when a certain bolero came on, my abuelo bowing to my abuela and her blushing like a young girl, then taking off her apron and putting her tiny hand in his. Off they would go, in great sweeping steps, my abuela light on her feet like a fairy princess and my abuelo – dashing and strong. I miss them.

I hate that I’m fat, but I can’t seem to stop eating.

The vatos – they cool. They call me Panzon out of love, not disrespect like the fuckers at school; either that or Little Payaso. Those assholes…well to hell with them. They make pig noises and imitate how I walk. Now my ma, she wants to throw my sister Trini a quincienera and I gotta be one of the dudes in a tux. Which means I gotta partner some ruca who ain’t gonna wanna be stuck with me and I gotta dance. Worse – I gotta be fitted for a fucking tux. Great. Just fucking great. Well, I guess I will live up to my name – Little Payaso. Dopey gave me that name a while back. Said if fuckers were going to be making fun, let me get to it first. Like a big, fat fuck you. So Little Payaso I am even though I sure the fuck ain’t little and I ain’t no one’s clown. Or at least not till I’m a fucking chambelan in Trini’s quince. Read more

About Gina Ruiz

Teller of tales, writing about East L.A., tech, mobile, and historical fiction. PEN Emerging Voices Fellowship finalist 2013. Author of stories in Ban This! and Lowriting. Published poet. Writes a lot.