Ruthie Marlenée’s new, acclaimed novel, AGAVE BLUES, presents readers with a strong sense of place—in both Mexico and Los Angeles—and a strong-willed female protagonist. The book is a gripping family saga and lesson in transformation. An excerpt, plus a conversation with AFLW’s Lillian Ann Slugocki and the author on her inspiration–and magic in her writing process.

Nearly two years since lockdown, we have had to readjust again to staying inside, isolation, remote learning and social distancing. However, as this issue illustrates, we remain open to reopening by loving ourselves, our communities, families, friends—and by embracing the absolute necessity for poetry and literature in our everyday lives.

For Danielle Broadway, the current moment feels like a suspension of time between victory and destruction, much like in ‘Avengers: Infinity War,’ when Scarlet Witch seemingly stops Thanos and saves the universe. Yet, as she shares in her essay, to be marginalized in America is to know that there’s a chance that Thanos will snap his fingers or, off-screen, that Trump may return with his minions.

‘Your name is not / an apology, the sound kowtowing / to ears accustomed to Jennifers / and Debbies. You are a namesake / for a temple rising / in the Chao Phraya River / face to the morning sun. Your name / is mantra, meant for repetition.’ A poem in tribute to Vice-President Kamala Harris and to girls and women like her with names that are hard to pronounce and mean so much by Aruni Wijesinghe.

‘Are we not deserving of nice things? / Twenty families in search for more / The neighbors kick in the door / The glass cuts through skin pores / California Highway Patrol rolls in with hogties & roars.’ Poet and activist Iris De Anda reminds us that housing rights are human rights, as movements in L.A. fight for fair and just shelter while home and rental prices increase. Her words reclaim the land we stand on.

As he honors the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr., L.A.-native Mark Eckhardt details how he has been a target of racist incidents in his own neighborhood since the election of President Trump, and encourages all of us to find the courage to confront the resurgence of bigotry, to live according to the dreams of Dr. King.