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?
- On Cockfighting and Latino Culture: The cockfight is life or death. There is only one who will survive. Grilled, baked, or deep-fried, no chicken gets out alive.
I could see the lights of Tijuana from San Diego. My grandfather had a place there. It was his own ranchero, or little ranch, where he raised fighting cocks. Anglo people always wince at the concept, but fighting roosters and fighting bulls are a part of our Latino heritage. I don't know why the tight pants, little slippers, and capes came into fashion, but the lisping came into fashion around the same time... We come from a military tradition, born of feathers and fury. The bulls were just an interesting way of getting our meat tenderized. The loser of a cockfight became soup.
'A laugh-out-loud page-turner from one of the most original and compelling voices in America. Insightful and hilarious. I couldn't put it down!' - Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, New York Times best - selling author: The Dirty Girls Social Club
'Through pearls of wisdom and wit, Najera provides a tiffanyesque view into the Latino psyche and gifts us with a literary jewel.' - Dr. Ronald Hall, co-author of The Color Complex: The Politics of Skin Color in the New Millennium
If you wish to book an interview with Rick Najera, please contact Thysha M. Shabazz at 757-450-3655 or thysha(at)shabazzcommunications(dot)com, or Jamila Cummings at 917-288-9857 or jamila(at)shabazzcommunications(dot)com.
Almost White: Forced Confessions of a Latino in Hollywood by Rick Najera
Publication date: September 2013 | ISBN- 978-1-4019-4312-7
6" x 9" 232 pages $16.95
SmileyBooks - 2776 Loker Avenue West, Carlsbad, CA 92010
About Rick Najera
Recognized twice as one of the most "100 Most Influential in America" by Hispanic Business Magazine, Najera has worked directly with hundreds of the biggest stars in Hollywood, including Whoopi Goldberg, Sidney Poitier, Keenan Ivory Wayans, Jim Carrey, George Lopez, Jennifer Lopez and many more. Host of his newly launched Blog Talk Radio show by the same name, Almost White, Najera is also the author of other books, including Latinologues: From Broadway and Beyond, Buford Gomez and other Plays; Pain of the Macho; and Latins Anonymous. His repertoire of work includes a Showtime special, Diary of a Dad Man; writer of the feature film, Nothing Like the Holidays, for which he won an ALMA Award; creator, writer and performer of the award-winning touring comedy show Latinologues, which ran on Broadway in 2005; writer of the wildly popular MADtv, which earned him two Writers Guild Award nominations; writer of In Living Color; and co-creator and director of the annual CBS Sketch Comedy Showcase. For more information, visit http://www.ricknajera.com.
Founded by media pioneer Tavis Smiley as a co-publishing venture with Hay House Inc., SmileyBooks is a general trade book publisher that specializes in quality nonfiction. A dynamic company dedicated to the new media landscape, SmileyBooks publishes books by authors ranging from established New York Times best-sellers to exciting new voices on topics that appeal to a broad spectrum of readers. SmileyBooks titles are published in hardcover, trade paperback and digital media, offering the widest possible readership and exposure.
In 2011, Peace From Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You're Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant was a #1 New York Times best-seller for the imprint. In 2012, The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto by Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West, reached #7 on the New York Times best-sellers list.
In 2013, Health First! The Black Woman's Wellness Guide won the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work in the Instructional Category. Additional NAACP Image Award SmileyBooks nominees include: Tapping the Power Within by Iyanla Vanzant, Hope on a Tightrope and Brother West: Living and Loving Out Loud by Cornel West, and Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell.