Monday, March 01, 2010


Some times life has a way of bringing good people back into your life over and over again.

More than two decades ago I met Alicia Partnoy in D.C. writing circles. Alicia has a remarkable story, and she tells some of it in her book The Little School, named for the place she was held by the Argentine junta during the years of la guerra sucia. Alicia was one of las desaparecidas.

Much as the first message of the slave narratives was that their authors were no longer in slavery, the publication of The Little School was a testament to Alicia's survival, and to her reappearance. (As much as we slam President Carter for his many failings, his human rights initiative did have some demonstrable results.)

Speaking of good people, Alicia's first book carried a blurb from Bernice Johnson Reagon, who I first saw in person singing solo on the stage of Howard University when I was 19, and who we all saw again just the other day performing with The Freedom Singers in the White House.

Alicia became a good friend, and we collaborated on such things as a panel that brought her together with Julia Alvarez. I used to see Alicia all the time in HISPANIA BOOKS in Adams Morgan, where she would always point out for me the books by South American experimentalists I might not have heard of yet.

Fast froward many years to a day when I'm sitting in my office at Loyola Marymount University looking at the faculty newsletter, when whose name do I see among the new hires but Alicia's. After I'd left D.C. she'd gone on to get an advanced degree at Catholic University, and now she had moved to L.A. with her wonderful family. Her office was just around the corner from my own and we had many pleasant times before my career took me on to Pennsylvania.

More fast forwarding . . . My colleague Sophia sends out an email announcing a visit to our campus by . . . Alicia Partnoy. I volunteered to meet Alicia's flight when it came in and we had an overdue reunion.

The day of Alicia's talk, I was sitting in the coffee shop between meetings with students when I got an email from my brother who works at NPR. He was sending me a message to tell me that my dear friend Ethelbert Miller was at that very moment in the next studio recording a program. I asked my brother to try to get word to Ethelbert that our mutual companera Alicia was visiting. I was able to tell Alicia of this great coincidence just before she began her talk . . . which, as it turned out, featured clips from her own earlier appearance on the same program Ethelbert was at that very moment recording.

Many reappearances . . . Some times the universe conspires to make good on the promise of the human . . .

1 comment:

Alicia Partnoy said...

mi querido Aldon, I saw this yesterday and posted it in my facebook, of course. Thanks a lot! Happy 2012!!!How is life treating you? I went to testify against los asesinos in December...thrilling to have 17 of the top ones sitting behind you in the audience when you tell the judges all they (allegedly...yes, they insist in that, they get real justice, unlike the people they killed)did. abrazotes de tu vieja amiga.Alicia