Sarah, at right, with Libromobile chingona Marilynn Montaño

Gentle cabrones:

The way Sarah Rafael Garcia tells it, she went to my panel at the 2008 L.A. Times Angeles Festival of Books at UCLA to give me a piece of her mind. And if anyone knows Sarah, she wasn’t going to mince words.

I was promoting my barely read memoir-cum-encyclopedia Orange County: A Personal History. She was no fan of my former column, released the previous book as a best-seller, and she wanted to tell me so.

But a funny thing happened on the way to my public evisceration: I won Sarah over.

I can’t remember what I said that day, but it convinced her that I wasn’t a vendido. And whatever I said inspired her. She bought a copy of Orange County, approached me to sign it, then gave me her book, Las Niñas: A Collection of Childhood Memories.

Sarah asked that if I liked her book, might I offer a blurb? She gave me her quick bio: an Orange County native  who had become a success in the corporate world, but now want to be a writer.

I get requests for blurbs all the time — but I don’t grant them all. Book has to be good, you know?  But Las Niñas was beautiful. It was Sarah’s memoir of being the oldest of three sisters in a Tejano family who lost their father far too soon.

I wrote the blurb.

Years later, Sarah would tell me that I was the only writer of any note who bothered to read her book, let alone offer a blurb.

It was the start of our grand friendship.


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A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I went to the opening of the newest location for LibroMobile, Sarah’s awesome bookstore. We brought Sarah some vino, because she is a grand fan of it. We smiled at display of local authors, which had my Orange County tome and my honey’s canning and preservation book.

And we marveled at the latest unorthodox triumph of Sara‘s professional career.

I mean, take the brief life of the store itself. It started as a cart that Sarah lugged around SanTana. That turned into a bookstore that was literally the first flight of stairs next to my wife’s store. LibroMobile then graduated to a storage unit next to Dumpsters behind an alley.

And now, this screaming, joyful, big space!

Sarah has lived a million lives in the 14 years that my wife and I have known her. Writer. Author. Creator of a nonprofit that teaches writing classes for students called Barrio Writers. Activist.

Visual artist. Community space organizer. College professor. Friend.

Sarah left SanTana to Texas, returned, then went to Northern California to back. She met her husband through an introduction by my wife’s friend. When mami mom passed away, we entrusted Sarah and Manny with taking care of our house and our dying dog, Marge.

Sarah has defended me from people who trash me; I’ve defended her from people who trash her. We don’t always see eye to eye on things, but we respect the hell out of what the other does. She always orders cheese boards from my wife’s market for her events. She wrote a magnificent essay about how she can no longer eat flour tortillas that are not gluten-free.

Whenever people ask if they can get autographed copies of my book, I always send them to LibroMobile. They will be selling copies of my new book, which I’ll probably write about in next week’s canto. Sarah’s a brilliant mind, her humor is underrated, and she has an iron will like few I’ve ever met.

Sarah, thank you for giving me a chance way back when. Everyone: hit up LibroMobile — and whatever she does. Es retre-chingona.


This is the column where I take your questions about ANYTHING. And away we go…

Should political parties even be involved in local elections?

Politics is like journalism. We’re supposed to be objective — but it rarely works out that way, because people in each profession let their biases get in the way of a good thing. Same thing with local elections — they’re supposed to be non-partisan, but never are.

So what to do? Buck your party if you know the opposition does better. It does happen — and if you don’t believe me, ask Tom Tait.

Got a question for Guti? Email me here.


Enough rambling. This was the semana that was:

IMAGE OF THE WEEK: Me and Cosmo. Not doing much non-work going out these days because of pinche Omicron, but he doesn’t mind!

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I just listened to a 1982 talk in New York where white people asked the Black speaker, why are black people here so slow at getting on board with nuclear disarmament?

And boy did he blast them, saying: “Where have you been in getting on board with our lives that are being taken all the time?” It was beautiful.”

–Clare Grady, Catholic Worker extraordinaire

LISTENING:La Feria de las Flores,” Trio Calaveras. Underrated groups lilts this classic bolero better than nearly everyone — the line “Traigo pistola al cinto/Y con ella doy consejos” is GREAT writing. And that final threat — YIKES!

READING: An Expert Analysis of the Weird Whale Penis Chapter in ‘Moby Dick’”: Mel Magazine is by far the most ribald non-XXX publication out there — it makes Buzzfeed reader stories seem as tame as the confessions back page of Christianity Today. But Mel is smart and hilarious — and this examination of one of the more bizarre passages in the Western canon is proof of it. Call me intrigued…

SHOUTOUT TO: Anonymous, who kindly donated 5o tacos to sponsor a full month of MailChango! No plugs yet again — hmm…

Gustavo in the News

Letters to the Editor: How O.C.’s hatred of L.A. saddled it with the not-so-great Great Park”: L.A. Times readers like, hate my columna.

Latinx Files: Can Telemundo save Peacock?”: One LA Times newsletter you should subscribe to plugs a canto of mine.

Op-Ed: In the Omicron surge, I am my family’s anger translator”: USC profe/MacArthur genius/author with a book coming out with a blurb from me Natalia Molina shouts out my use of PANDEJO.

Author Signing: My Name Is Romero with Mexican Poet and Spoken Word Artist David A. Romero”: Yet another author with a book for which I wrote a blurb — all of this is coincidental!

What California’s Most Celebrated Writer Got Wrong About Capitalism Today and The Middle Classes”: A lawyer doesn’t like my praise of Joan Didion trashing the Southern California suburb of Lakewood.

Gustavo Podcast

Latest roster of episodes for “The Times: Daily news from the L.A. Times,” the podcast that I host. Listen to them, and SUBSCRIBE. Don’t let me become the Poochie of podcasts!

Nikole Hannah-Jones on her triumphs and trolls”: My jefe de jefes Kevin Merida interviews The 1619 Project creator about the subject at hand.

The pandemic will end. We promise.”: Because COVID-19 is going endemic — OY VEY…

An American West with no snow?”: I reconvene the Masters of Disasters.

Where carne asada is a crime”: Too many municipalities still crack down on street food vendors!

Standing up for Black lives at the border”: Really great turn by my colleague Molly Hennessy-Fiske.

Gustavo Stories

Grítale a Guti, Ep. Who Knows?”: Latest edition of my Tuesday night IG Live free-for-all brings on the DESMADRE.

Throwing mud and dust: Inside Spitzer v. Hardin race for OC DA”: My latest KCRW “Orange County Line” talks about my local district attorney’s race.

Their Mexican bakery weathered COVID-19’s devastation. Can it survive a fire?”: My latest Los Angeles Times columna talks about the sad case of Spigas Bakery in Orange. KEY QUOTE: ““We were getting our restaurant back,” Omar said. “The customers were starting to order again …”He stayed quiet. “Now? Nothing — nothing.””

You made it this far down? Gracias! Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram while you’re down here. Don’t forget to forward this newsletter to your compadres y comadres! And, if you feel generous: Buy me a Paypal taco here. Venmo: @gustavo-arellano-oc