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'Chicana Falsa' Serros doesn't hit a false note

February 25, 2001
Elisabeth Sherwin -- gizmo@ dcn.davis.ca.us

If you missed Michele Serros' appearance in Davis on Wednesday night that's way too bad because she was delightful.

But here's the good news: you can buy a CD of her monologues, "Michele Serros: Selected Stories from Chicana Falsa" (Mouth Almighty/Mercury Records) taken from her first book, "Chicana Falsa and Other Stories of Death, Identity and Oxnard."

Her latest book is "How to be a Chicana Role Model."

And you'll want to do this because Serros is as much a performer as she is a writer, as much as comedian as she is a role model.

At her Varsity Theater stop (as part of the UC Davis Women's Center speaker series) Serros read several of her poems about her life.

She grew up in Oxnard, her parents got divorced when she was 11 and the only person she could think of to turn to for comfort at that difficult time was the children's book writer Judy Blume.

She wrote Blume a letter and Blume replied, suggesting that Serros keep a diary. Apparently that helped and a writing habit developed.

When Serros was in high school she knew she wanted to become a writer. She loved to read. She loved the escape that literature offered.

But none of her friends and no one in her family took her interest seriously, although her aunts would occasionally give her pencil boxes or stationery as gifts.

She didn't know any writers with Latino names who lived in her Mexican and Mexican-American neighborhood.

Fortunately, somewhere along the way Serros took to heart the dictum "write what you know."

She writes about her sister's TV appearance on "The Price is Right" and about the time her father accepted a rare invitation to her house, took her out to dinner, and made her pay for dinner. Well, she'd just won a $3,000 award for an essay she'd written. It took her three hours to write and at $1,000 an hour her father thought she could afford to pay for a meal.

She writes about sibling rivalry, neighborhood characters, high school friends who have gone separate ways, the death of her mother, the need for political activism.

She writes about universal problems but puts a distinct and witty spin on them.

As a result, she has indeed become a Chicana role model and her books are used in high school and college classrooms throughout California.

Many Davis residents will recognize her as a contributor on National Public Radio.

Serros attended Santa Monica Community College and UCLA, spending a total of seven years in college.

"I'm the most educated person here," she told the Varsity Theater audience to friendly laughter.

At UCLA her poems were published by a small publisher. She began to get attention; Serros filled a vacuum. There was nothing else like her out there: A Chicana who speaks sloppy Spanish, who doesn't like "raccoon eyes" makeup, a TV fiend, a person whose best friend nicknamed her "false Chicana," a neurotic woman with a keen interest in exacting revenge against all those who have done her wrong.

For instance, Serros describes the time she was invited to a creative writing conference only to find out she was invited to help serve food, not read her poetry.

Fortunately, Serros spoke up about the misunderstanding and was invited to read at an open mike session, the consolation prize, the last event of the weekend.

Serros would be the first to tell you that she had only written three poems at this point in her life. Still, she takes inspiration where she can find it. As she was serving food to bona fide writers at the conference, a woman asked her question in Spanish. Serros answered, and was dissed by the woman who criticized her sub-standard Spanish.

Serros then wrote a blazing poem attacking the uppity writer and read it at the open mike session. She now she had four poems in her portfolio.

The poems were eventually collected in "Chicana Falsa."

The crowd at the Varsity Theater seemed to be made up mostly of young Chicanas from UC Davis, which is no surprise. But Serros' appeal shouldn't be limited by race and gender because she has much more to offer.

The next time you hear her on NPR, turn up the radio!

And mark your calendars for the next writer in the Women's Center series: Nalo Hopkinson, who will be here (speaking at the Varsity Theater) on March 14. Davis author Karen Joy Fowler says Hopkinson's first novel, "Brown Girl in the Ring," is "half science fiction, half fantasy, all adventure and utterly original."

To inquire about ordering any of the above mentioned books from an independent bookstore,
Bogey's Books at discounted prices [ Click Here ]

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