Texas Matters: 'The Common' and writing from the farm worker community
There are an estimated 4.5 million farm workers in the United States.
They are the essential work force that feeds America, but they rarely have a space to share their experiences and stories.
The literary magazine The Common published a collection of writing from the farmworker and farm laborer community.
The Common is a literary organization whose mission is to deepen our individual and collective sense of place.
Based at Amherst College, their aim is to serve as a vibrant common space for the global exchange of ideas and experiences through three main areas of activity: publishing, public programming, and mentorship and education.
They publish works that embody particular times and places—literature and art powerful enough to reach from there to here—and feature new and underrepresented voices from around the world.
With these goals in mind, the latest issue of The Common journal includes a portfolio of art and writing from the farmworker community.
This Texas Matters episode is a broadcast edition of a portion of the latest edition of the Book Public podcast and includes conversations and readings from several contributors whose work appears in issue No. 26 of The Common.
Find more information about The Common here.
Yvette Benavides is the host and producer of the Texas Public Radio Book Public podcast.
Jennifer Acker is founder and editor in chief of The Common, and author of the debut novel The Limits of the World, a fiction honoree for the Massachusetts Book Award. Her short stories, essays, translations, and reviews have appeared in Oprah Daily, The Washington Post, n+1 and many other places. Acker has an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and directs the Literary Publishing Internship and LitFest at Amherst College.
Gabriela Ybarra Lemmons was born and raised in South Texas, a stone’s throw from the Rio Grande. She was raised by migrant workers and earned her MFA in creative writing from the University of Kansas. She is a dual language teacher in Topeka, Kansas.
Narsiso Martinez came to the United States from Mexico at twenty years old. He completed high school at Evans Community Adult School in 2006 at the age of twenty-nine. He earned an associate of arts degree from Los Angeles City College, and both a BFA and MFA from California State University Long Beach, where he was awarded the prestigious Daedalus Foundation MFA Fellowship in Painting and Sculpture in 2018. His work has been exhibited both locally and internationally, and it is in the collection of several museums, including the Hammer Museum, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Martinez lives and works in Long Beach, California.
Miguel M. Morales grew up in Texas working as a migrant and seasonal farmworker. Selected as a finalist for the 2023-2026 Poet Laureate of Kansas, he is a two-time Lambda Literary Fellow and alum of VONA/Voices of the Macondo Writers Workshops. His work is published widely, including in the Duende Journal, Acentos Review, Green Mountains Review, Texas Poetry Review, and many others.
Julio Puente García migrated to California from Mexico, initially working as a farmworker. After completing his PhD in Hispanic literature at UCLA, he published his first book, Acrobacias Angelinas, which received the Rudolfo Anaya Award in 2021. The short story “Jacinta Murrieta” is part of his second project, Tierra de Jacinta Murrieta.
Jose Antonio Rodriguez has published work in Salamander, The New Yorker, The Missouri Review and Pleiades. His newest poetry collection, The Day’s Hard Edge, is forthcoming in 2024 from Northwestern University Press.
Nora Rodriguez Camagna grew up in the California migrant labor campus, Texas, and Mexico, and graduated from the University of California, Berkeley. She teaches creative writing to underserved students through 916 Ink, a Sacramento nonprofit literacy organization. She is at work on her first novel.
Gabriela Spears-Rico is a cultural anthropologist and poet. Her poem “Poetry, but not for Leisure” won the 2021 Sidewalk Poetry Contest in Saint Paul, Minnesota. A finalist for the 2022 Bougainvillea Poetry Prize, her first collection of poems, Deer Hide Eulogies, Reclamos y Remedios is forthcoming from FlowerSong Press. She is the daughter of migrant farmworkers and a graduate of Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley.