Today a special program memorializing my recent visit to Libreria Martinez, or Martinez Books, a singular independent bookstore and cultural center in the heart of Orange County. We’ll start with my brief conversation with its founder and owner, visionary former barber Rueben Martinez, whose efforts at selling books and boostering for literacy in his community have garnered awards and tributes, including receipt of a so-called MacArthur genius grant. It’s hard to overstate Rueben Martinez’s commitment and enthusiasm, as you will hear. Next I’ll play two short readings by a recent guest of Martinez Books, writer Dagoberto Gilb, whose appearance at the store marked his Orange County stop on a recent tour in support of the release of his newest novel, The Flowers. Dagoberto Gilb was born in Los Angeles, his mother a Mexican who crossed the border illegally and his father a Spanish-speaking Anglo raised in East LA. He studied philosophy and religion, then began work as a construction worker, a union carpenter, he is quick to point out, where he worked on high-rise buildings. His first publication, a small press chapbook titled Winners on the Pass Line, resulted from winning the James D. Phelan Award. His subsequent collections of short stories and novels, including The Magic of Blood, Woodcuts of Women and The Last Known Residence of Mickey Acuna, all translated into dozens of languages, have won him national prizes and recognition as a singular voice of working-class literature and of the Chicano experience. He edited a collection, Hecho en Tejas, and published an essay collection, Gritos. He read the essay “Pride” and the first chapter from his new novel to an audience gathered at Martinez Books in Santa Ana, California in February. For more on Martinez Books, go to http://www.latinobooks.com/.