5 Questions with Stephanie Sauer, Author of The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force

royal chicanoWe are always very excited to host events such as the one happening on Thursday, June 23rd at City Lights Books. Stephanie Sauer is in town to present her book The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force, published by University of Texas Press.

She is joined by Ella Maria Diaz, who also wrote the introduction to the book. This event is co-presented by the San Francisco Art Institute and University of Texas Press. Stephanie answered our 5 questions. More about her, and her answers, below.

But first, to set the mood, check out the video Stephanie made for the event at City Lights.

Event: Thursday, June 23 at 7PM. 261 Columbus Ave., San Francisco, CA 94133.

About The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force: Employing a creative mix of real and fictive events, objects, and people that subverts assumptions about the archiving and display of historical artifacts, this innovative book both documents and evokes an arts collective that played a significant role in the Chicano movement.

How do you write a history of a group that has been written out of history? In The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force, world-famous archaeologist La Stef and the clandestine Con Sapos Archaeological Collective track down the “facts” about the elusive RCAF, the Rebel Chicano Art Front that, through an understandable mix-up with the Royal Canadian Air Force, became the Royal Chicano Air Force.

La Stef and her fellow archaeologists document the plight and locura que cura of the RCAF, a group renowned for its fleet of adobe airplanes, ongoing subversive performance stance, and key role as poster makers for the United Farm Workers Union during the height of the Chicano civil rights movement. As the Con Sapos team uncovers tensions between fact and fiction in historical consciousness and public memory, they abandon didactic instruction and strive instead to offer a historiography in which various cultural paradigms already intersect seamlessly and on equal ground. That they often fail to navigate the blurred lines between “objective” Western archival sciences and Indigenous/Chicana/o cosmologies reflects the very human predicament of documenting the histories of complicated New Worlds everywhere. Uniquely blending art history, oral history, cultural studies, and anthropology, The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force suspends historical realities and leaps through epochs and between conversations with various historical figures, both dead and alive, to offer readers an intimate experience of RCAF history.

stephanie sAbout Stephanie Sauer: Stephanie Sauer is an interdisciplinary artist and the author of The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force. Her writing and artist books have appeared in Verse Daily, So to Speak, Alimentum, Alehouse Press, Boom: A Journal of California, Lady’s Comics, and Plastique Press. She is the recipient of fellowships from Yaddo and the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, a So to Speak Hybrid Book Award, two Sacramento Metropolitan Arts Commission grants, and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Fellowship in Writing, judged by Elizabeth Alexander. Her visual works have been exhibited at the De Young Museum, New York City’s Center for Book Arts, and Fábrica Behring, and are held in the permanent collections of the National Library of Baghdad, Chicago Cultural Center, and various universities. She holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and is the founding editor of Copilot Press and co-founding editor of A Bolha Editora, an in-translation press with headquarters in Rio de Janeiro. She teaches at the San Francisco Art Institute.

Ella Diaz, assistant professor of English (ENGL) and Latino studies (LSP).About Ella Maria Diaz: Ella Maria Diaz is Assistant Professor of English and Latino Studies at Cornell University and the author of Flying Under the Radar with the Royal Chicano Air Force (University of Texas Press, forthcoming 2017). She earned her Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary, teaching several courses at William and Mary and developing the College’s first Chicana Literature course in spring 2005. Her research pertains to the interdependence of Chicano/a and U.S. Latino/a literary and visual cultures.  She was a Lecturer in The School of Interdisciplinary Studies at the San Francisco Art Institute between 2006 until 2012. Diaz has published through Aztlán: A Journal of Chicano Studies, U.C. Santa Barbara’s ImaginArte, and in Chicana/Latina Studies: The Journal of Mujeres Activas en Letras y Cambio Social.

City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Stephanie Sauer: The Poetry Room. All I remember is the Poetry Room, that it held all of my favorites. That I stayed there all afternoon. That I didn’t want to leave. That I didn’t have enough money, but bought a book of poems by Adrienne Rich on credit anyway. That I glued the receipt into my notebook.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it sound like?

SS: There would be two soundtracks for the book: one that belonged to the book itself, and one that belonged to me in its making. I can really only speak to the latter, and that one would include a fuck ton of Malo, Ozomatli, Trio Casindio, Inti-Illimani, Aztlan Underground, Joanna Newsom, Quetzal, Manu Chao, M.I.A., Balkan Beat Box, Esteban Villa, Jorge Ben (not Jorge Ben Jor), Tom Zé, Clara Nunes. The book took nine years to compose. I’ll spare you the full citation list.

CL: What’s the first book you actually finished reading?

SS: That depends upon what you consider a book to be. The first song my father sang to me was “Sweet Baby James.” A lullaby. I memorized Green Eggs and Ham by the age of three and knew just when to turn the pages. I consider those reading enough.

CL: If you didn’t have your current job, what might you do?

SS: Have no good reason to leave my studio.

CL: Name a few things you’d require if stranded on a desert island for an undefined period of time (and, yes, no wifi). 

SS: A needle and a pen. And a toothbrush, maybe.


Join us this Thursday, June 22, 2016 at 7PM for Stephanie’s special presentation with Ella Maria Diaz all about her new book The Accidental Archives of the Royal Chicano Air Force, published by University of Texas Press.

For more about Stephanie, go to her official site. Check out our complete events calendar for events happening this summer. And you’ll definitely want to see the dozens of other authors who have answered our 5 questions the last couple of seasons.

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