In this special episode we interview not a person but an organization! LibroMobile is a community cultural center in Santa Ana, and a bilingual bookstore inclusive of people of color and marginalized genders and sexualities – the only such in all Orange County! Five mini-interviews give us a musical portrait of this precious local resource from the perspective of some of the wonderful people who run it.
Greetings and welcome to the latest episode of “Si yo fuera una canción” -- “If I Were a Song.” We are a community-based podcast and radio show, in which people of Santa Ana, California, tell us in their own words about the music that means the most to them.
ELG: I am Elisabeth Le Guin, your program host, and Director of this project.
This project is based on my conviction that we people in the modern world need to learn to listen to one another; and that music, and all it brings us, is the perfect place to begin.
DAVID: My name is David Castañeda, music researcher here for the SYF podcast. I am so happy to be a part of this project, using my scholarly training and my performance experience to bring you the stories, music, and lived experiences of those living right here in Santa Ana.Arts Cooperative, founded in:
LibroMobile centers around a small , clean, inviting bookstore and event space here in Santa Ana. As you’ll hear from its founder, Sarah Rafael García, it is currently the ONLY independently owned bookstore in the community.
You’ll be hearing five mini-interviews with people who work at the bookstore or behind the scenes; each one chose a song that expresses something about the organization for them, so there’s lots of music coming up today! At the end of today’s show, and of course on our website, we’ll include information about how to support and participate in this unique and precious institution.
Before we jump in, I want to take a moment to comment on a feature of our show that’s been there since the beginning – our re-enactments.
Our commitment to offering all of our content in both Spanish and English – something that distinguishes us in the overpopulated universe of podcasts -- means that each and every interview is translated and re-enacted in its entirety in the other language. The translations of interviews are the work of Jen Orenstein. In the re-enactments, I play myself, and one of our wonderful voice actors – Terri Richter, Cynthia Álvarez, Israel López, or Wesley McClintock -- takes the part of the interviewee.
We assign voice actors according to the gender of the original interviewee, but our resources don’t permit us to get more nuanced than that. So you may have noted that we’ve had shows where a Latinx interviewee was re-enacted by a white voice actor, or an eighty-year-old was played by a forty-year-old, or a Black interviewee by a Latinx voice actor – and so on.
Today we go a little further; in the re-enactments, constraints around both bilingualism and funding mean that I cross both race and gender lines to play the parts of Zoë Broussard and David Castañeda, members of our Production team who realized some of the original mini-interviews.
This is a little bit uncomfortable – it may be more than a little bit so, for some of our listeners. I wish only to say here that we are keenly aware as a team of the issues that arise when a person with privileges, be they racial, economic, or gendered, assumes the voice of another who doesn’t share those privileges. We’ve chosen to present our re-enactments anyway, rather than go with the alternative, which would have been to leave quite a lot of our material un-reenacted, and thus effectively silenced for half our listeners.
We offer these re-enactments to you in a spirit of love and respect, and with the humble recognition that all of us have a long way to go to attain equal and just representation for all kinds of beings.
1. Zarahí Pioquinto
We begin with Zarahí Pioquinto, a LibroMobile book advisor who was interviewed by our team member Zoë Broussard.
Zoë Broussard: My name is Zoë. I am the Marketing and Communications director for “Si yo Fuera una canción,” and today I am joined by Zarahí. Thank you so much for joining us today. Would you be able to share your age and then if you're comfortable, your gender pronouns?
Zarahí Pioquinto: Yes, of course. So my name is Zarahí Pioquinto and I'm 19 years old, and my pronouns are she/her.
Zoë Broussard: Okay, great. Thank you so much. And what is your role on the team at LibroMobile?
Zarahí Pioquinto: At LibroMobile I'm a book advisor, which means that I advise people on the books that are interest[ing] for them and I help them obtain a book that is right for them. Or perhaps they would be interested, for them.
Zoë Broussard: I see. Nice. How did you come to join the team?
Zarahí Pioquinto: So, yeah, I joined the City employment program, which is a program in Santa Ana, where youth, which is like 16 to 21 years old, can apply where they could get jobs and get paid by the City. I got a list of many workplaces where I could go, and that's where I saw LibroMobile. It was in that list. And then I decided... I decided it was very interest[ing] and I wanted to go there, and I chose it.
Zoë Broussard: Nice. Nice. If you could define or express the LibroMobile in one song, what would it be?
Zarahí Pioquinto: If I would define LibroMobile in a song, it would be "Latinoamérica" by Calle 13.
Zoë Broussard: Okay. Great. So let's go ahead and listen to it.
Zoë Broussard: All right. Well, thank you for sharing that song. So... tell us a little bit about why you chose the song.
Zarahí Pioquinto: I chose this song because when I first walked into LibroMobile, the first thing I noticed was, like, there was many diversity, like, in the books. Like there's different authors, local authors, different races of authors. And what the song speaks about, it speaks about, like, equality and everyone being equal, even if there are different ways, or even if they're different skin color, and they each have -- they each contribute to the world and make a better community.
Zoë Broussard: How we kind of nourish ourselves and you know, the things we put our time into, the organizations we work for…And a lot of this is what tells you about a person and just the way they care for their community. I really appreciated how it showed a lot of people in different, different walks of life. And like you said, everyone's equal.
Zarahí Pioquinto: Yeah, definitely.
Zoë Broussard: How else do you feel connected to this song?
Zarahí Pioquinto: I feel connected to this song because like I said, no matter what your situation is, no matter your skin color, no matter like the power you have, everyone is equal. And everyone has the chance to grow and succeed in life and contribute to society and in the community to make it better. Not only because you're a different color race, or no matter if you're like have more money or less money, like we're all the same.
Zoë Broussard: So how do you feel like that relates to your work at LibroMobile?
Zarahí Pioquinto: So the work in LibroMobile is, like I said, advising people on the books. And if you go in the store, you notice that we have different sections such as Indie sections, African Americans, libros en español, which is books in Spanish, and Asian - Pacific Islander culture, and all these different cultures that we have in there. So you could go and check out the books, like about history or present times, or even in the local author section where we have local authors from the community in Santa Ana. And we could notice that we are able to read about everyone and not just a certain society or a certain culture club, or culture group.
Zoë Broussard: Yeah.
Zarahí Pioquinto: That's how it relates to the song.
Zoë Broussard: Definitely. And I definitely relate to that sense of representation. I still remember being in high school and in middle school and a lot of the times the stories were focused on these young white men, and a lot of the times the stories weren't really relatable. So it made me feel like reading is boring and I never want to read books. But in reality, I was reading the wrong stories. I was reading about people who ... Their experiences, although sometimes interesting, they weren't in line with my own personal experience.
So I feel like you're all doing amazing work. And also just making sure young people have exposure to stories that are going to really contribute to not only their interest, but just a way they can get another perspective on life.
Zarahí Pioquinto: Yes, I agree with you. Being in school, it was difficult to get some certain books that weren't just in a certain cultural group. And not having the accessibility to books of different parts of the world, or different cultures to learn.
Zoë Broussard: Yeah.
Zarahí Pioquinto: At LibroMobile, you could go and check these books out.
Zoë Broussard: Yeah, definitely. Were there any other questions or comments you wanted to make about maybe your work, your experience or the song that you shared with us today?
Zarahí Pioquinto: That was about it. I just want to say thank you for having me and make sure to go visit LibroMobile. It's a really fun experience going in there, and you'll always have a person advising you on a book you want to read, or different cultures you're interested in, and where you learn more.
Zoë Broussard: Definitely. Definitely. You heard it straight from them: Go ahead and visit LibroMobile! Thank you so, so much. You had a lot of really good stuff to share and the song was also really beautiful too.
Zarahí Pioquinto: Yes. You're welcome. Thank you for having me.
2. Manuel Guadalupe Galavíz
Our next interview is with Manuel Guadalupe Galavíz, who as we’ll hear takes a variety of roles with LibroMobile. He was interviewed by our team member David Castañeda.
David Castañeda: So my name is David Castaneda. I am the music researcher here at Si yo fuera una canción. And I have with me Manuel Galavíz. Manuel, how are you?
Manuel Galavíz: I'm doing fantastic, thank you. How are you?
David Castañeda: I'm doing very, very well, because you've shared some amazing music with me today and I'm so happy to get into it with you. But first, before we start that, let me ask you: what is your role on the team at LibroMobile and how did you come to join the team?
Manuel Galavíz: Well, it's ... Interestingly enough, I'm married to the founder, Sarah Garcia. And, you know, and just by being her partner, that's how I came involved with the bookstore! But, initially I would volunteer my time and sit in the actual bookstore itself when we were in the downtown location, and sell books. And I would also, on the other end, I was going around and picking up book donations. And since, you know, since we moved out of that downtown location in SanTana to the new location on Bristol, I haven't been as available as I used to be, physically in the bookstore. I'm more in the back end of things. From loading books that arrive at our home into the vehicle, and or if anything needs if there's a bookshelf that needs adjusting or something, I'm usually there. And at the same time I'm picking up book donations. And I also want to highlight that essentially a year ago, I was spearheading "LM Voices Scholar Holler," which was a podcast series focused on the experiences of first generation graduate students. And it was a way to essentially to provide advice to future students who are maybe interested in graduate school. As I mentioned earlier, all those times that I was sitting at the bookstore, families would come by, students would come by, and they would often ask me questions as to how to enroll in grad school or how to enroll in college. And I myself am a very recent PhD recipient, actually now an assistant professor of anthropology at Cal State Fullerton. And this was my contribution that I could do. So we have six episodes that are available on the LibroMobile website. And as I said, as of now, I'm usually just on the back end of things.
David Castañeda: Wonderful. Well, congratulations on all that amazing work. Congratulations on the PhD. That's amazing! What an amazing accomplishment. Congratulations.
Manuel Galavíz: Thank you!
David Castañeda: If you could define or express LibroMobile with a song, which song would it be?
Manuel Galavíz: Well, it's "Azotea" by Luisa Almaguer, they are an artist from México, Mexico City. And this song actually is fairly new, and very nostalgic. And it just reminds me of those days when I was actually sitting at the bookstore, selling books, speaking with people, engaging with folks on a constant basis. There's a… there's a sense of just joy, of just ... Not only is the beat, you know, makes you want to dance, but the vocals are fantastic. The lyrics themselves are poetic. I too kind of came by accident to Luisa Almaguer. I just had my playlist on shuffle. And for some reason the song came up and I just couldn't stop listening after I came across it! Everything about it leads to what LibroMobile has to offer, from the books that we sell that are not necessarily your average books that you will find anywhere. And I think this song is similar, where it's not the average song that you will hear at any location. It's very unique. And I think that's what reminds me of LibroMobile.
David Castañeda: Wonderful. Let's take a listen.
David Castañeda: Wow. Wow. What a clinic, what a clinic in minimalist writing. And the arrangement is beautiful. That bass line just kind of carries the whole song, with these lyrics. And these melodies on top are so ethereal and emotive. It's ... What a wonderful song.
Manuel Galavíz: Yeah. I mean, I still get goosebumps. I mean, I think, [laughs] you know, not only was I just dancing, but feeling those goosebumps come out as well.
David Castañeda: Yeah, this is wonderful. I know that you mentioned that it reminds you of how people used to walk by and used to have these conversations. If you could pick one thing about this song that really triggers those memories, what would it be?
Manuel Galavíz: I think it's ... It is that bass line, and you know, that cumbia vibe. Even in the new location, there's always cumbias being played no matter what. And especially when we were at the downtown location, there was one gentleman in particular who works downtown. He does a lot of different jobs out there, whether it's painting or construction or just simply cleaning up the downtown area of SanTana. And don Juanito, he's, you know, you'll see him around with his cart. He's pushing a cart that would either have most of his tools, or sometimes it's a trash cart, that he's cleaning out some of the trash cans. But he'll have a little radio. And that little radio, he always has cumbia or salsa or something. And he's ... There's just something about that. Like you can hear it from far, from a distance, when he was coming by and he would just stop by and talk to us, he would be dancing as he's cleaning. There was just this kind of subtle joy that ... That's why I always remember that. There's so many moments in the lyrics that highlight these kind of mundane instances. You know, they're talking about, like "Las hojas secas, tendremos que barrer," like just, "those dry leaves that we'll have to brush up." And of course, "La Azotea" means, like a rooftop. I think it's just kind of the spaces that are not necessarily what you would consider spots to hang out at for the most part. But they are very lively social spaces… And I think it just conjures up a lot of those images.
David Castañeda: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much. This was an amazing piece of music that you shared with us and with everyone who's listening. I had such a blast. And yeah, thank you. Just thank you once again.
Manuel Galavíz: No, thank you all. The manager of the bookstore, the current manager, Marilynn Montaño, [who] I know was on an earlier episode, introduced me to this series. And y'all are doing great, great work out there. So I really appreciate everything that y'all do. There's a lot more that I want to listen to and more that I need to read up on, and [I'm] so happy that I am in these positions and around people who love music, who love art, who love to read, and can share those passions with me and recommend things. So, thank you.
3. Carla Zárate Suárez
Our next interview is with Carla Zárate Suárez, a cultural promoter who has worked with LibroMobile in various capacities. In this English reenactment, I play myself, and Carla is played by Terri Richter.
ELG: Well, welcome, Carla, and thank you so much for joining us for a brief interview. In this context, I’m interviewing you as a part of the LibroMobile team; but you also play another role related to “Si Yo Fuera Una Canción,” which is that you’ve been our primary radio contact for a year and a half now. You upload the archives to the radio station so people can listen on another platform. So I wanted to point out that fact before we begin…
Now, to start off, can you describe your work with LibroMobile to our listeners? For how long and in what capacity have you worked on the project?
Carla Zárate: Wow. Well. I have known about LibroMobile for a couple of years now. I got to know them through a project I collaborated on with them, specifically with Sarah, the story project, “SanTana’s Fairy Tales”. It was a book that took true stories of real people from Santa Ana, and told them through a book and through songs. And, well, I thought that was really nice and really interesting.
ELG: It’s more than a book, right? It’s a book, but there’s also music. There have been cultural events, community events, and everything, right?
Carla Zárate: Yes, we even had an exhibition where you could see the illustrations for the stories, and also the connections between the tales in the book, and documented information about the real stories that they were based on, and a whole multimedia archive.
ELG: The amount of imagination and fantasy and creativity centered around [the “SanTana FairyTales”] project takes my breath away! It’s incredible. And all of this is centered around this community, Santa Ana. It’s very, very specific; but universal at the same time. And that’s something I want to point out to listeners. It’s a really lovely example of how a very specific focus on one place, one group of people, a few specific stories, can be of global importance, or even universal importance.
Carla Zárate: Yes, they’re classic stories that apply perfectly to our reality. Like our mini-universe, right? of Santa Ana, but they also apply to universal values, the real, the magical and the fantastical all at the same time.
ELG: Yeah. Well I think that connects really well to the song you chose to represent your relationship with the LibroMobile project and the people who promote it.
Carla Zárate: The song’s called “Just a House”, and that’s also the title of one of the stories in the book “SanTana’s Fairy Tales.” The song was written and performed by two local artists from Santa Ana and Los Angeles, Gloria Estrada and Ruby Castellanos, who worked together to write and record this song about a house that refused to be moved, right? It was opposing the phenomenon of gentrification. And it’s dedicated to that history.
ELG: One thing I notice in the song is that it has… it really expresses very well this idea of fairytales, right? The sound is sort of faraway, or mystical, a little otherworldly. Something about the accompaniment, it’s like a waltz, right? Like a dance from another time, an older dance… Would you agree?
Carla Zárate: Yes, well it’s a bit fantastical and mysterious. But at the same time, there’s, like, a bit of darkness there.
ELG: Yeah, the central part of the lyrics is like an invocation. To protect the house, to protect this life that is centered within the house. And that implies… it implies that there are external forces threatening the house. Threatening the innocence of the music of the lyrics.
Carla Zárate: They’re coming to build, they’re coming to displace, [it tells] the truth about capitalism and all the other abuses that can be committed in the name of avarice, right? Basically, yeah. [laughs].
ELG: Yeah. [both laugh]
Carla Zárate: Evil forces.
ELG: Yeah, avarice. It’s a word you don’t hear too often these days, but it’s everywhere. Avarice, yeah.
Carla Zárate: And once you read the story, you pick up more details, you realize there’s a connection to a woman who lived here, who was called Modesta Ávila. And so we have another phantom from the past, coming to tell us what happened to her, and what we should do.
ELG: And she lived a long time ago, right? Like over a century ago.
Carla Zárate: Yes, that’s right. She was opposed to the train too, right? That would run through her property. She died in jail.
ELG: For that? For resisting?
Carla Zárate: Yes.
ELG: Well, having a home is a basic human right. They violated her right. And that threat still continues. Many people in Santa Ana are at risk of losing their homes for various reasons, if it’s not trains, it’s other economic forces. And therein lies the relevance of this old tale, right?
Carla Zárate: Exactly.
ELG: Well, thank you for sharing this song, and, well, it’s a good time now for some closing thoughts.
Carla Zárate: [I want to mention] the importance of casting your net, as they say, making connections. There’s the importance of that. Not only of creativity, of initiating, of promoting, but also that form of connecting, and of being able to do things with those connections, to tell our stories. That’s what LibroMobile is doing. And, well, it’s great that they keep doing it, they keep casting those nets. Even if sometimes it isn’t perfect, right? But, at the end of the day it’s very encouraging to see that people have fought hard, especially in these last two years, that have been really tough. And seeing how they’ve really accomplished things. And I’m, well I’m proud of that. And I hope that it all keeps growing, with all this work that they’re doing.
ELG: Me too. I completely agree. And yeah -- nothing’s ever perfect. Perfection isn’t interesting. [both laugh] but effort, communal effort… That’s why I really love Santa Ana, because it’s such a good example of this human effort that we’re living… We’re greater than the sum of our parts. We can accomplish much more together than on our own. That’s a message I take from this project, and from our interview.
Carla Zárate: Thank you.
ELG: Well, thank you, Carla. I’ll see you soon.
4. Yvonne Su
Our next interview is with Yvonne Su, who works as a book advisor at LibroMobile. The interviewer was Zoë Broussard.
Zoë Broussard: Hello, everyone. My name is Zoe Broussard. Thank you so much for joining us, Yvonne.
Yvonne Su: You're welcome. Nice to finally talk to you, Zoe.
Zoë Broussard: Yes, absolutely. And we're very appreciative of you for joining us on this very, very special episode. Would you be able to share your age and then, if you wish, your gender pronouns, just so I can make sure I refer to you properly?
Yvonne Su: Yes, I'm 32 and my pronouns are she/her.
Zoë Broussard: Thank you for sharing that. And what is your role on the team at LibroMobile?
Yvonne Su: So in LibroMobile, I started as a volunteer and I'm now a book advisor on Sundays at LibroMobile.
Zoë Broussard: Nice. Nice. How did you come to join the team?hip with the store started in:
Zoë Broussard: It sounds like your team is really tight knit and I really appreciated seeing all of the different ways you engage with the community on social media.
Yvonne Su: I think that's the one thing that we can do that, like, a Barnes and Noble cannot.
Zoë Broussard: If you could define or express LibroMobile with one song, what would it be?
Yvonne Su: Yeah. So the song I picked is called "Satellite" by Salt and Paper -- so, well, a play on "Salt ‘n’ Pepa," the group. I found the song when, from a Korean drama called "Chicago Typewriter." And I like the song a lot because it's very emotional. And I love the references to writing stories and storytelling in the song. And how there's like many different parts of ourselves that are unknown to other people. And I think writing our stories -- obviously, it's very literally about writing, writing a story together. And I think that's what we're doing with LibroMobile. Like, although Sarah's the one that started it, I feel like we're all really invested in it. And I think the song relates to our relationship with LibroMobile, because it's really like a team effort. It's like a group writing activity.
Zoë Broussard: Let's go ahead and listen to the song. Okay?
Yvonne Su: Yes.
[MUSIC CLIP HERE]
Yvonne Su: I think, well, if you listen to the audio, the song is a little bit, umm... has like a melancholy element to it. So I think that relates to LibroMobile because there are times when we don't know what's going to happen to the store, and sometimes we don't know if we'll be able to keep our doors open because of, like, not making enough sales. So there's always this element of uncertainty of like keeping a small bookstore open. So I think that goes with like the question of uncertainty and struggle. The other aspect, the flip side of that, is they're still valuing what we do, even if the outcome isn't like what we wanted it to be. I don't know if you know that we moved to our new, like, bigger location in January.
Zoë Broussard: Yeah.
Yvonne Su: Yeah. So that was really exciting. But these, these first like 3 to 4 months, the sales have been a little bit low. So that's kind of hard. So obviously we wanted like. Like a bigger start to like our new chapter, our new chapter in this bigger store. But it hasn't really been to the level that we wanted. But I still found it a really meaningful experience. Like seeing, like how do we keep this little store alive?
Zoë Broussard: Yeah. And I feel like conversations like the one we're having right now are some of the most valuable, hearing directly from the people who are doing the work. Especially with an organization that's so community oriented, you know?
Yvonne Su: Yes. I really love music and books, so I feel like this song really captures both.
Zoë Broussard: Yeah.
Yvonne Su: And the act of writing, like putting words together. I feel like this song is kind of like a love song to like language itself, like the power of words, of writing stories and how we capture moments together.
Zoë Broussard: Awesome. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and your experience with LibroMobile. And we're really appreciative of you for taking the time to speak with us, especially on this very, very special podcast episode.
Yvonne Su: Yeah, I can't wait to hear it with, like, the other clips too.
Zoë Broussard: Definitely. Definitely.
Yvonne Su: Thank you, Zoe.
5. Sarah Rafael García
Our final mini-interview is with Sarah Rafael García, the founder of LibroMobile and a force to be reckoned with in cultural activism here in Santa Ana.
ELG: Welcome, Sarah. And thank you so much for being able to be with us. You are really the keystone of the arch of this little series of interviews that we're putting together around LibroMobile, being La Fundadora, being the founder, and... my thought about this interview was that I would actually like to start with your song instead of doing the usual introducing ourselves. Let's start with the song.
Sarah Rafael García: Okay.
ELG: All right. Tell me a little bit about why you chose this song for this particular interview.
Sarah Rafael García: Yeah. I think it sums up, like, how I have navigated life in general since I was young. And I think it also echoes what I say repeatedly to myself, because so much of my life was predicted by my birth, and being a woman, and being the first in my family to be born in this country, that not just like societal expectations, but cultural expectations. And then when my father died, when I was 13, that changed everything. Every expectation of me was, went in a whole new direction.
ELG: And... I would imagine that direction was... How shall I say? Not a happy direction.
Sarah Rafael García: No, I mean, I think -- I mean, I can probably talk days and weeks about everything I went through as a teenager, because a lot of it I was imposing on myself, which was very negative and very impactful for so many years. But also, I think at a larger scale, it speaks to how not just young women, young women of color, but how immigrant families and societies are typecast to be in the United States, right? And I think a lot of it stems from culture and and societal expectations, but sometimes it's also self-imposed, because that's all we know.
ELG: Well, I mean, the song is so striking because. You know, the focus on women and girls. She says it: "Women and girls, I'm here because of you." And that's Michelle Obama talking at that point, right? So. I see this stretching in two directions, from what I know of you, Sarah. You know, part of it is your own background and what you made of the women and girls that may have sustained you in your life. But the other is the support and the example that you extend to women and girls through your work.
Sarah Rafael García: No, for sure. I think because I grew up with two sisters and my mom and we were all in the same house and really not that far apart in age with my own mother. Right? Like my mom was barely turning 19 a couple of weeks after she had me. So I think a lot of it was like, we all grew up together, whether we liked it or not, whether it was good or not... But I think, there's one thing that resonates continuously is that there is no limit to what we can do in this society. Right? And a lot of it comes from the privilege of being in the United States and seeing different lives being lived. And it may not have been the life my mother chose for me, but it was a life of options and choices that I had that she never had, right? Or that my grandmothers never had.
Sarah Rafael García: And I think going forward, I think that's what I like to instill on young women of color, but also young men of color, and our young queer folks of color, is that we do get to control our narratives and we do get to control the choices we make. And that's okay if we've messed up. I messed up a whole lot from 13 to 21!
ELG: [laughs]gram, Barrio Writers, back in:
ELG: Right. Right. And, maybe a slightly different way of looking at this, is just the idea that adolescence in the sense of -- Well, I mean, the word actually means suffering, right? "Adolecer." You know, and the suffering that comes, I think necessarily with growing up, as well as the joy. I think there's an argument to be made for it lasting a good deal longer than the teens, you know? [both laugh]
Sarah Rafael García: Yeah. And I think it's because at that point, like, there's, it's not just going through the physical changes, but, you know, you also [get] the stereotypes, that you should get married before you're 30. And then you're 30 and you're, like, not married, so then you're like, "Whoa, whoa, well, then what am I supposed to do if I'm not married?" Right? And if I'm not having children, well, then what else is there to do? I don't know. Like travel. I could travel. I could jump off a cliff and enjoy it, rather than be scared of it! You know, like there's just so many things. And I think because we are put into these roles and then on top of that, you deal with not just gender and culture, but fear, right?
ELG: Yes. Yeah. Going back to the choices that you mentioned. Just that sense that there are options.
Sarah Rafael García: I mean, there's options even when what you think is the best doesn't happen, right? And I think then you find a different path. And to me, that all ties to literature because that's what books offer. Right? A different story, a different narrative, a different experience. Sometimes an escape, sometimes a requirement. [laughs]
ELG: And just heaps and heaps of models for ways to find our way through! Reading does that better than anything else, I think. And, yeah, so bringing it back around gently to LibroMobile, but keeping the song, you know, kind of playing in our minds' ears...For you, the founder, the owner of this bookstore, the person who guides it within this community that you've been in for some time, what are your great joys in this work? And what are the crunchy places where, you know -- if you want to talk about the painful places, I'd be honored – but what is the landscape of what it's like to be in this position and to do this work?
Sarah Rafael García: Yeah. I think for me, I mean, the joy is that I kind of stumbled upon it. It wasn't something that I ever... I mean, I wasn't 16 and saying, "I want to own a bookstore.” I definitely wasn't 24 when I thought of that idea either. And, you know, I think I was barely in my thirties when I thought, "Hey, if I did have my own bookstore, what are some things that are important to me?" And it came out of volunteering at bookstores, right? Like I volunteered at Librería Martínez before it closed. And then I volunteered again when I was in my MFA program at in Texas and I volunteered at Resistencia Bookstore in Austin. And both were very instrumental muses for me, to have the bookstore that I have now. And so I think for me, like, the joy in it is that I did something I never imagined I'd do, right? Like, I did something that others never imagined of me, that alone is a counter-narrative. Right? And I think it plays back to the song, because, you know, it says like, "No man is big enough for your arms." And I think, like, it just plays in so many ways of symbolism, right? Like when I thought my father was going to be the one to carry us, in the end, we had to carry ourselves, right? And the same thing goes through education. I thought once I had a degree, I would have a whole career and I would be able to buy a house. And that didn't carry me either. So I still carried myself, right? Like, and, and I didn't get married till my my mid-forties. And so and it was definitely a choice because I already had made the decision I wasn't going to get married! [both laugh] So in the end, I was like, "Oh, I guess I am going to get married."... You know, even when my husband was doing his PhD, I was carrying both of us, right? And then so I think, like, there is this expectation that women can't lift heavy things...
Sarah Rafael García: -- But maybe the things that we lift are not visible, and they're a lot heavier than the physical. Right? And I think that to me, it's important for this bookstore because, it's the only bookstore in Santa Ana! And people keep forgetting that! Right? And this is a very heavy load to carry, like the only bookstore in Santa Ana for 300,000- plus folks, where the majority are Latinx, and a county where the majority is people of color, and we don't have bookstores that are focused on people of color in the region, besides ours. So I think that, to me, resonates with so many -- it's like you can continue to push the expectations people have had of you…
ELG: So those arms, those big arms from the song, they're for carrying stuff. And you are carrying so much, the hopes and visions and alternative realities that are represented in a bookstore, and making those available through this wonderful, wonderful medium that is reading. That is a huge and wonderful thing to be carrying. And I certainly hope that it also carries you! that there's an ongoing sense for you of... being held by the wonderful things that you are also holding. I don't know how to put it better than that.
Sarah Rafael García: [chuckles] I think that's a constant struggle, because many people don't recognize that I do this on my own, out of my own will and time and dime. Right? And honestly, like the way that it carries me, it just... It's through everyday interactions, whether it's the Spanish speaking parent that comes in and says, "I need a book so my child can preserve our language." You know, "I need a book that I can read with them so they understand that keeping their Spanish is important." And same thing with young adults who are queer, and don't have an escape at home because parents don't accept that identity, you know? but they need a book to find themselves in it. Right? And I think those are the moments that carry me, because I didn't have that growing up. Right? If I can make it a little lighter for someone else through a book, then that's the goal.
ELG: Well, that's just a wonderfully eloquent answer. And I will just say that, you know, our little contribution with this episode of "Si yo fuera una canción" is, you know, it's kind of like an audio simulation of walking into your bookstore and meeting you, and meeting some of the people that work with you and around LibroMobile. And I hope it will inspire our listeners -- local and not local -- because I don't know of any bookstore like yours. It's unique! I hope it will inspire everyone to check out the bookstore. And if it's possible for you to actually walk in, so much the better, you know? That's our hope with doing this episode. And I really thank you for your time just sharing a little bit of yourself with us, as you do every time someone walks into LibroMobile.
Sarah Rafael García: Thank you. I appreciate it.ted in the Bristol Swap Mall,:
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I’m Elisabeth Le Guin, and this is, “Si yo fuera una canción -- If I were a song…”