Rothko Chapel embarks on its 2009 - 2010 public program season tonight with Emmy-award winning journalist, author and former Houstonian Rubén Martínez at the helm.
Tonight's talk is the first in the Chapel's four-part series with the epic title: Truth and Consequences on the Mexico-United States Border: An Overview -- A Series Examining Issues Critical to Human Rights and Environment.
If the title is still too vague, Martínez will give a brief overview of the series before delving into his own experiences living near the border in every southern border state in the last 10 years.
That journey brought him to the University of Houston's elite creative writing program six years ago. And just like many good sports players Houston's ever had, after three years, we lost him to another team.
The chisme was that UH would not give Martínez tenure so when another school offered a better position, he split. He is now Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.
But Martínez explains it differently.
"I didn't leave Houston with hard feelings. Loyola was a better fit. My wife, Angela, had stronger job opportunities in Los Angeles. We had twin girls on the way and it's my hometown," Martínez tells Hair Balls.
"I loved my time in Houston. It was my first real job in academia. UH was the first job where I was allowed to be a professor. Until then, I was in the writing ghetto teaching creative writing to students."
Martínez was finally able to teach literature as well during his time as faculty member at UH. We, of course, wanted to know what Latino writers he began implementing in the classroom and were surprised to find that the first author Martínez mentioned was Susan Sontag.
"Affirmative action benefited me with the best and most problematic possibilities. I was expected to be a spokesman for my people, but who likes to be pigeon-holed," Martínez said. A Latino man that likes teaching Susan Sontag. Now that is truly an inspiration!
Besides being El Mero Mero of the department at Loyola, he's working on his fourth book about his experiences in the borderlands. You may get a sneak preview of some of the stories that will be in his book tonight.
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This series includes talks about immigrant children, refugees and the effects of the escalating drug wars by Jodi Goodwin, Craig Shagin, and Lisa Brodyaga on September 24, October 8, and November 5 respectively.
Rothko Chapel's lecture series features international personalities and Nobel Prize winners and the free wine and cheese receptions afterward draw crowds by the hundreds.
The events are free but also "first-come, first-serve." There are seats and speakers outside the chapel for the overflow at most all the events.
But if you make it inside, make sure not to breathe anywhere near the walls. Yes, those are actually paintings and even staring at them too long makes the ushers nervous enough to remind you not to touch the artwork.