La Negra y Blanca

Cover-LaNegra

Fugue and Commentary

La Negra y Blanca is the crowning achievement of Deena Metzger’s lifetime as a novelist, poet, and playwright. On the surface, it is a meditation on memory as the narrator pieces together the bright flashes of images of her life recalled, piecing them together with the intention of creating a healing matrix that reflects a life lived in search of meaning.

On a deeper level, it weaves in the history and tragedy of the Conquest’s ongoing political and environmental effects on Latin America through the narrator’s relationship with Victor Perera, a Guatemalan-American writer and journalist who documented the destruction of the native Lacandon tribe of Guatemala by imperialistic forces. We become acquainted with La Negra, a mysterious woman who is pregnant, but who will not give birth to her child until the world is safe enough for its continued existence, and who is the centerpiece character of a natural world struggling to survive and maintain its integrity in the midst of industrialization and the decimation of the sacred forests.

Deena Metzger has created a complex novel that weaves the personal, political, global and spiritual threads of her life into a tapestry of beauty, sorrow, transcendence, and ultimately, the assurance of a world renewed by the unwavering examination of all of its component parts to create a path to a future that promises reverence for all life.

Praise for La Negra y Blanca:

What Rafael Jesus Gonzalez said at the Award Ceremony

Rafael Jesus Gonzalez PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award 2012 for the novel, La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary –

The novel, La Negra y Blanca: Fugue and Commentary, by Deena Metzger, Hand to Hand Publishing, 2011, was chosen for a PEN Oakland Award 2012 because it is one of the most literally interesting works of 2011. Not a particularly easy book, it is not a “page-turner” but rather like what it claims to be, a fugue setting a theme, reiterating it, varying it, letting comment upon itself in intricate and subtle ways. Combining fact and fiction, blurring the line between them, admitting not always knowing where one leaves off and the other begins, it is an exploration of relationships between people, historical and imaginary, who are, were, as much flesh and blood as characters in the on-going drama, tragedy, of the incomplete conquest of the Americas. It explores the intricate web of relationships and oppositions and permutations (people, culture, ethnicity, race, class, nation) set in the bloody tragedy that is the history (most particularly modern) of Guatemala (and Latin America) on whose people we, the United States of America have wreaked such cruel bloodshed and suffering. Deena Metzger, “new-age” poet and healer, alternating throughout the book the masks of the narrator and the character Blanca, weaves herself in and out the warp and woof of the novel’s fabric, testing the malleability of language to cast the spell of her exploration, her healing, her homage, her lament in the experiments of telling her story which unfolds, more than anywhere, in her soul.

Deena Metzger is a poet, novelist, essayist, playwright, storyteller and healer. Indeed she considers her writing as a tool for healing – as she does her activism in the causes of justice, peace and the well-being of the Earth along with programs based on indigenous medicine traditions that she conducts. We are please to present Ms. Metzger with an Oakland PEN Award for her book La Negra y Blanca Rafael Jesus Gonzalez Berkeley, CA December 1, 2012.

PEN Oakland Award Acceptance Speech December 1, 2012

I want to thank Rafael Jesus Gonzalez and all of those who comprise Oakland PEN. This award means more to me than any other award will ever mean. That is because of the values of Oakland PEN and how closely they align with what has propelled me as a writer, healer and activist for my entire life. It is also deeply satisfying to have my publisher, Stephan Hewitt, here so we can celebrate that a small independent press, Hand to Hand, which was started to meet the almost universally denied realities of 9/11, can receive such a reward for one of its books.

La Negra y Blanca is the culmination of a lifetime of thinking and caring about ways of knowing that have been brutally colonized and suppressed, on this continent, North and South, since the Conquest.

La Negra y Blanca gathers many stories and characters, into one story, real and imagined, historic and fictionalized. It speaks to the agony of the land but also to the enormous beauty, intelligence, vision, ethical consciousness and life force of what has been so violently coerced. Also the pain of carrying, as so many of us do, in one form or another, both the colonizer and the colonized within ourselves.

One protagonist is Victor Perera, a Guatemalan, Jewish, North American journalist, novelist, activist for human rights, chronicler of the wisdom of the Lacondon Maya as well as the terrors of the Inquisition”1492 began a history of torture in Europe and in the America’s. Victor named it “The Unfinished Conquest. He didn’t escape it. He probably always knew he would be its victim.”

Victor was found in a coma, having suffered a stroke, “… just a few days after the July 13 1998 press conference of the Human Rights office of the Archbishopric had charged that there was evidence to directly implicate the military in the murder of Guatemalan Bishop Gerardi Condera. At the time, Victor had been covering human rights violations and the genocide of the Maya people for the Nation. Days before, his computer with all his research and records, had been stolen from his locked car.

“But when people had asked, “How is your blood pressure?” you, Victor, would answer, ‘Rios Montt,’ the Born Again, who was the first Protestant ruler of a Latin American country, but not the first Protestant torturer educated at the School of the Americas.” As a consequence of the 14 months of his rule, 70,000 Maya, political dissidents and innocents died horribly.”

The narrative of La Negra y Blanca circles around Victor and around Morena Monteforte, the daughter of a Tzu’tujil Indian woman and Mario Monteforte Toledo, the Guatemalan writer and novelist, former vice President under Aravalo. But the magnetic center of the novel, like the dark hole in the Milky way, that the people of the Popul Vuh recognize as the place of birth and death, is La Negra, mistress to Monteforte Toledo but beyond this, the strange and luminous figure, whose spirit draws the disparate events into balance by carrying the possibility of rain in a time of fire. (And please note, it is raining today. Thank you, La Negra!) Weaving into and out of the text are the Tzu’tujil Maya, the Lacandon, the Huichole, and are also Guatemala, Mexico, Cuba, Chile, North America, and the impact of history on our individual lives.

“What Blanca knew about the important writer, who was not Victor, but Morena’s father and La Negra’s lover, was not anything that the writer would ever have told Blanca, but, nevertheless, what she knew was true.

“Blanca knew that Mario Monteforte Toledo had enticed into his bed the young, brown and sweet breasted, dove-tongued bird-woman, the one they had called, La Nena Vida, but he had not had the heart to stay and partner with her. He virtually kidnapped the woman’s soul and then took off, valorizing the flight in his fiction as well as in his life.

“Blanca knew that afterwards Monteforte Toledo had incited or allowed his mother to kidnap his infant daughter, Morena, from her mother, La Nena Vida, who would become Doña Vida through her loss. Ma Mére, his mother, took the coffee-colored, coffee-scented child from la selva to the big city to be scrubbed clean of the aroma of decaying leaves, tobacco, incense, cacao and berries.

“Blanca knew that Monteforte Toledo had kidnapped five Lacandon Indians to exhibit within a fenced compound at the Feria Nacional de Guatemala, in November 1938 as if they were the elements of an exotic botanical garden that were passing, like the chinampas of Xochimilco, into oblivion. Blanca knew this because Victor, a member of this council of the dead, witnessed this, wrote about it and told her about it. But it hadn’t been a secret. Monteforte Toledo had also spoken and written about it without shame.

“Blanca knew that Morena, the daughter, should have, when she was old enough to fly, set out for Lake Atitlán to live with her mother, navigating like birds do by temperature, sight, scent, water and desire.

“Ah, Morena, querida What little bird are you? What lost, soft brown songbird did you become? What became of your home, my little one, and what became of your terrain? What little warbler, little thrush nightingale was captured and raised against its nature in a cage, singing its heart out far from the lake that is said by all to be the most beautiful in the world?

Maxine Hong Kingston - author of I Love a Broad Margin To My Life

Deena Deena Metzger has used her skills as poet to understand the end of Victor Perera’s life. Does the universe and time work in such a way that our lives encircle one another’s forever? As we read La Negra y Blanca, the contemporary and the mythic, our selves and our ancestors, miraculously join.

Robert Sitler - author of The Mystery of 2012: Predictions, Prophecies, and Possibilities

Deena Metzger’s La Negra y Blanca flows into readers like a breeze from the Guatemalan highlands, inspiring with its vast, cosmic perspectives, and chilling in its unwavering honesty. The book maintains a natural balance between darkness and light, real and imagined memories, the waking state and dreams; sweeping us through an inner portal into what ancient Maya called Xibalba, the “place of awe,” the underlying source of creation. The text’s profound humility draws us into intimate appreciation for wildly diverse human expressions: politically engaged intellectuals with roots in Medieval Spain, extraordinary Latin American women whose lives unfold as spontaneous extensions of natural forces, and a narrative voice resonating with unrelenting love. One feels drawn reflexively into reverential regard for the living world and immersed in the acquired wisdom of experiential spirituality. I have been uplifted.

Ariel Dorfman - author of Death and the Maiden

Many meetings weave in and out of this splendid, heartbreaking novel. Meetings of multiple Americas, meetings between the living and the dead, meetings where dreams and reality, history and pain, deception and hope, intersect. But above all, what we meet in La Negra y Blanca is a ravishing wager that words can still birth us into the puzzle of existence, that we can all be mothers to one another as the storm approaches. Perhaps her best (and strangest) novel.

Nancy Caro Hollancer - author of Uprooted Minds: Surviving the Politics of Terror in the Americas

This brave and heartrending novel reaches out to the soul, leads us through the traumas of history and weaves together in its characters the dialectic of past and present that marks us all. Metzger illuminates the heritage each of us bears of the sorrows of Conquest and the poignancy of survival. La Negra y Blanca movingly depicts the price we pay for our too-large footprint on this earth and invites us to awaken and reach for a harmony with one another and a universe that has given us life. A splendid journey!

Robert David Cohen - U.S.- and Latin America-based American poet, journalist and former U.N. official

Deena Metzger has written a novel of great beauty, power and wisdom. It is a border-erasing, culture-leaping, time-and-space shattering inquiry into the re-visioned lives of Guatemalan-American writer Victor Perera, novelist and once Vice President of Guatemala Mario Monteforte Toledo and his daughter Morena, whose mother was a Tz’utujil Indian. Told from the perspective of the America writer Blanca (who the reader assumes is a fictional incarnation of the author), the novel follows the ripple effects of indigenous Latin America’s conquest by Spain into contemporary reconquests of the region by dictatorship and imperial power, and on into the inter-woven lives of its protagonists living in both the U.S. and Guatemala. It is a meditation on memory – historical and personal – part vision quest, part detective novel. It bears witness to great historical and personal tragedy, to fraught relationships conditioned by politics, ethnicity and gender, to courageous resistance of spirit and creative genius in the face of injustice. It summons past and future into a shimmering invention of a present that is an act of love.

Derrick Jensen - author of A Language Older Than Words

This beautiful book is not so much a novel as it is an exquisite tapestry, threads woven of word and spirit, blood and bone and heart. It is a complex weaving of fact and fiction; “realism” and the more-than-real, of the deep sorrow and rage of a violated land and violated peoples; and most of all, love. This book, this tapestry, will help us unweave the threads of this culture’s ensnaring and near-total destructiveness, and will help us went our way back into the fabric of all life.

Terry Marks-Tarlow - author of Psyche's Veil: Psychotherapy, Fractals and Complexity

This is a narrative of conquest and hope, domination and flight, surrender and transcendence. Wisdom leaks through misty realms between memory and imagination. Each character embodies the whole of the world. Divided by bloodlines, class, history and politics, all unite in a pilgrimage of hope. If ever I am headed to the afterworld and allowed to bring just one book, La Negra y Blanca would be the one.

Marc Kaminsky - author of The Road from Hiroshima and Shadow Traffic

An extraordinarily original, complex and beautiful novel that weaves the work of a witness into a haunting narrative founded on a stunning insight: without the capacity to imagine what is culturally alien to us, we cannot document and comprehend what Victor Perera calls “the unfinished Conquest.” Perera, the Guatemalan journalist and essayist, is the narrator’s central dialogue partner in her journey through the hell of recent Latin American history: he was her friend in real life and becomes her posthumous guide in the real of the spirit that the novel substantiates. Deena Metzger writes at the border between the North and the South, the dead and the living, memory and imagination, peoples and “responsible citizens,” the future and the past, and that separates the space of love and possibility from the dark chambers where dissidents are tortured and women keep their real lives hidden from the men who seek to dominate them. And she invents a language of intimacy and splendor in which the quivering life of resistance to the ongoing Conquest is experienced as the beauty and hope that remain vital amidst the debris and mass graves of history. La Negra y Blanca is the crowning achievement of a life devoted to storytelling, tikkun olam, and tightrope walking on a thin cable spun between poetry and truth.

How To Order:

La Negra y Blanca is now available from the Book Clearing House, 800-431-1579, or visit their website at http://www.bookch.com or through Amazon.com or order through your favorite independent bookstore.

ISBN-10: 0972071849
ISBN-13: 978-0972071840
Price: $18.95
Pages: 292
from Hand to Hand Publishing

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3 part series of Deena reading from her novel "La Negra & Blanca"

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