Comedian Rick Najera Releases Memoir, 'Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood'
Rick Najera takes an unapologetic and honest look at the depiction of Latino culture with his new thought-provoking and comedic memoir, Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood (SmileyBooks, September 16, 2013, ISBN: 978-1-4019-4312-7, $16.95, Trade Paperback). The book released nationwide on September 16th, during Hispanic Heritage month and on Mexican Independence Day.
In his memoir, Najera explores what it means to be Latino within the ever-changing backdrop of life as a Hollywood creative. California-born with Mexican-American roots, Najera offers an insider's view into his life through an ironic yet comedic lens, from in front of the camera to behind, from the page to the stage and beyond.
"Rick Najera is more than just a funnyman," states Tavis Smiley, founder of SmileyBooks. "He is a brilliant reader of the social, political and ethnic strife with which we wrestle within our modern-day society. Like most brilliant comics, he has mastered the art of getting us to laugh first so that we might listen."
Driven by a satirical stream of consciousness, Najera's journey from his San Diego childhood to his Hollywood adulthood exposes universal lessons from a range of characters both real and imagined. Lessons like learning to confront the limits we place on our imaginations, the need to take ownership of our own stories instead of settling for being mere performers in someone else's distorted vision, and the necessity of rising every day to press forward-no matter what. "In the end," says Najera, "perhaps it will be the power of the people and art, not politicians and politics that will redefine the Latino American dream."
Najera has worked in the entertainment business for more than 20 years. He has worked with and written for comedians and talent such as: Whoopi Goldberg, Sidney Poitier, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Jim Carrey, George Lopez, Jennifer Lopez, John Leguizamo, Debra Messing and many more.
Excerpts from Almost White:
- On Borders: Every Latino has a border still inside them. That's what we must cross before we feel we truly belong. I was born in a border city and had another border on display inside of me. I was a Mexican hyphen American, and, to me, a hyphen is a border. It's a separation; a fence, a line in the sand. It's a permanent "Do Not Enter" sign in front of a country.
- On Identity in America: I'm almost white and I'm almost American but I'm not really all American because I'm Mexican American, and in San Diego there were only Americans. Nobody in San Diego liked the concept of hyphens. If you said you were Mexican-American, people would look at you and think, "Why add Mexican to your hyphen? Why not just American not Mexican American? Forget that side of your name, son, and jump in the pure American cultural swimming pool. The water is fine. Just don't pee in the pool, son."
- On Desi Arnaz: When I was a child, I never saw Latinos on television except on an occasional I Love Lucy episode. I'd imagine Desi Arnaz singing songs of love, like "Babalu," with conga in hand, dreaming of getting his red-haired woman, his Lucy. The words, of course, are far from the truth. Desi was a radical cultural propagandist.
Que mi negra me quiera
Y que no se muera
Av! Vo le quieropedi a Babalu 'nanegramuysanta
Como tu que no tengaotro Negro
Pa' que no se fuera.
The song was actually about an African religion called Santeria. Write that down. It's on the midterm. The singer sings about dating a Negra benbona, translation: a thick black woman with thick lips. Little did America realize, a Cuban hot-blooded man was singing about how to get a thick black woman with big Angelina Jolie type lips, with rum and alcohol while praising a West African god of the earth?