Mexico City

Hello New York


If anyone's reading this in the Big Apple, there are several events connected with the publication of One Life this coming week -- coincidentally around the Days of the Dead, pertinent given the book's subject matter, which is life and death. On October 31 at 4 PM, I will be part of a panel speaking about the border between Mexico and the United States at the Graduate Center at CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue, Room 9206. On November 2 at 2 PM, I'll be interviewed on a radio show called The Write Stuff, on WNYU Radio at 89.1 FM. And on November 3 at 1 PM, I'll be on The Leonard Lopate Show, WNYC, 93.9 FM.

I'll also be reading from the book, and in a dialogue with esteemed novelist Daniel Alarcón, at the Strand Bookstore on November 3 at 7 PM. If you can make it to that one, I'll also be signing books -- and there will be some wine with which to celebrate. Please come and say hello.


Help save the blues in Mexico City


Two years ago I wrote a blog post about Ruta 61, a blues club in the Colonia Condesa which was then celebrating its tenth anniversary. Unfortunately, with no fanfare, the owners of the building have closed the club and have booted Ruta from its home. The club's founder, Eduardo Serrano, is trying to raise 200,000 pesos to find a new space and get the necessary permissions to reopen. He's doing it through Fondeadora, a Latin American crowdsourcing website. I've donated. Ruta was the only blues club in this entire city of over 20 million. Click here to go to Fondeadora and give. It's a worthy cause, people. Give what you can.

Let's celebrate

via Etsy [dot] com

via Etsy [dot] com

I'm not sure why, but I tend to play my cards pretty close to the vest on this sort of thing, and wait until the last minute to let the cat out of the bag. But I've got a new book coming out this year. It's a novel, called One Life in English and Circunstancias atenunates in Spanish. The point of departure is my work as a mitigation specialist. It's about Richard, a gringo in Mexico, who combs the back roads of Michoacán trying to find out about Esperanza, a young Mexican in a Louisiana jail, accused of killing her baby. Richard hopes that his investigation will save her from the death penalty. In alternating chapters, I tell both their stories, and how they're linked by life and death, sex and love.

I wrote the book in English, and Unnamed Press will bring it out in the U.S. in October. It was expertly translated into Spanish by Fernanda Melchor, and is set to be published by Tusquets this autumn (once they give me a date, I'll let you know). The early reviews are encouraging -- this is what Publishers Weekly says, and here's how Kirkus Reviews weighed in. In case you want to be the first on your block to acquire a copy, here's the link to its Amazon page. I don't know about you, but I'm going to make myself a martini. 



This post is only tangentially about Mexico. I wanted to find some way to join my outraged voice to the millions of others over Judge Aaron Persky's decision to sentence Brock Turner, the former Stanford student, to six months in a county jail for three counts of sexual assault. In my work as a mitigation specialist, I have often represented undocumented Mexicans accused of capital murder. I have talked to many Mexicans about this work, and they are usually surprised when I go into details about the corruption of the judicial system in the U.S., as if they believe those problems were exclusive to Mexico. In my work I have dealt with prosecutors who hide evidence, judges who evidently favor the prosecution, and, once in a while, court-appointed defense lawyers whose efforts have been detrimental to the clients.

Suffice it to say that in none of my cases has the client been dealt with anything approaching the sympathy or leniency displayed by Judge Persky for Turner, the college-boy rapist. This article by Ken White, a criminal defense attorney, goes a long to way explain Persky's decision. 

As if we need any further evidence of the hideous inequality at the core of many U.S. courts, take a look at this story from the New York Times of June 10. It is about a 14-year-old boy who was coerced by the Detroit police into confessing to murders that he did not commit, and who remained in jail for nine years. This was notwithstanding that on the week of his sentencing, another man confessed to the crimes supposedly committed by the boy. It should come as no surprise that Devontae Sanford, the defendant in that case, is black.

What the Times story doesn't say is whether Sanford spent those nine years in an adult or a juvenile jail. In adult prisons, minors, and even young adults, are frequently brutalized by both guards and older inmates. Would that some judge had had any compassion for young Sanford. But of course he wasn't white, blond, blue-eyed or a Stanford student.