Friday, June 17, 2011

A Conversation with KPFK in Los Angeles

"No Word For Welcome is written with an attention to narrative and prose that is rare among non-fiction works."

A few hours after the Los Angeles Premiere of No Word for Welcome ended on Wednesday evening, I arrived at the Studio City offices of KPFK, the Southern California Pacifica station, for an interview with morning host Hamid Khan. He and I had a most enjoyable conversation about everything from grassroots organizing strategies to shrimp farms to immigration to the history of globalization. You can listen to the twenty-minute interview here.

I am grateful that Hamid Khan paid such careful attention to my book, prepared such thoughtful questions, and had such generous comments. On the KPFK archive of the show, he writes:

"Call’s new book, No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy, is the result of a decade of research.... It is not only highly informative, but also engaging and personal. In light of current attempts by the US government to enter into NAFTA-like free trade agreements with nations around the world, the people of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec have much to teach us about the human side of globalization."

I am very grateful for his words, and just as grateful for the words of Bertha Rodríguez, an istmeña writer, activist, filmmaker and organizer (who is the Communications Coordinator for the fabulous Oaxaca-California group FIOB, Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales), at the Los Angeles event: "I don't know why she called her book No Word for Welcome," Bertha told the audience, "We did welcome her there!"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Welcoming No Word for Welcome

"When the last tree has died, when the last fish has been caught, then we’ll understand that we can’t eat money."

Here in San Francisco the sun is finally out, the soy lattes mean serious business, and the independent bookstores are vibrant and welcoming. (And for a Seattle girl, each of those details is crucially important.) Tonight, one of those bookstores, The Booksmith, will host the official welcome of No Word for Welcome: The Mexican Village Faces the Global Economy.

My book’s official release date was June 1, but for the first couple of weeks I focused on emailing everyone I know (over eleven hundred people, I learned, by cobbling together address lists that span more than a decade) and getting a radio campaign rolling (five interviews so far), thanks to some generous friends and my brilliant publicists.
Isthmus residents tell Mexico's then-President, Vicente Fox,
"The Isthmus is not for sale" at demonstration in 2001 that drew
more than three thousand people. (WLC 2001)

Now it’s time to get started on the truly fun part: getting out and talking to people. Tonight’s book release is co-sponsored by International Development Exchange, IDEX, an organization that I’ve known and admired more than fifteen years. Before I began the work that led to No Word for Welcome, in the late 1990s, I worked for an Boston organization that might be considered IDEX’s Atlantic Coast sister: Grassroots International. I admired IDEX from afar, for the canny mix of solidarity and financial support that they offer grassroots organizations around the world. When I lived and worked on Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec (2000 to 2002), IDEX was an active part of a tri-national North American coalition that sprang up to support the isthmus organizations pushing back, as economic globalization pushed down on them.

The slogan of "The Collective"
Working Group of the
Isthmus," founded by a half-
dozen isthmus activists (and me)
in 2000. (WLC 2000)

(If you’re wondering what that’s all about, you can read the first chapter of No Word for Welcome at my publisher’s website, for an introduction. The short version of the story: as a saying usually attributed to the Cree puts it, "When the last tree has died, when the last fish has been caught, then we’ll understand that we can’t eat money.")

 I am grateful to share my official book launch tonight with two shining examples of my favorite kinds of institutions: an international grassroots organization and a local independent bookstore. Gracias, Booksmith and IDEX!

And tomorrow it’s on to Los Angeles!