Collegiate Book Collectors: Elias Serna

In August, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America announced the 2013 National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest winners. First prize went to Elias Serna of the University of California-Riverside, Ashley Young of Duke University won second prize, and Amanda (Mande) Zecca of Johns Hopkins University took third. 

Because this contest was launched by FB&C back in 2005, we continue to take an active interest in it. To that end, I asked each of this year’s three winners to complete a shortened form of our ‘How I Got Started’ interview (which usually runs on the magazine’s back page) to tell us more about them and their book collection(s).

Elias Serna.jpgUp today is first-prize winner, Elias Serna of UC, Riverside, pictured here at left.

Age: 45

Residence: Santa Monica, CA

Main area(s) you collect: Chicana/o Studies, Chican@ Movement literature, rhetoric, polemics

Number of volumes in your collection: 52 books, pamphlets, magazines, 2 videos, one poster.  

When did you start collecting: My first Chicano books are from my senior year in high school when my older brother brought home Betita Martinez’ classic, 500 Years of Chicano History in pictures (it was called 450 Years at the time; I own both editions). In college, I was inspired by the literature in Chican@ Studies classes, as well as Berkeley’s fine bookstores, to continue collecting.

Most recent acquisition: The Chicanos, by Rius. Rius is a famous Mexican cartoonist, known for initiating the “... for beginners” books, such as Marxism for Beginners, Cuba for beginners, etc.. The Chicanos is an obscure 1972 comic book-style portrait of Chicano history and their struggle, published by NACLA (North American Congress on Latin America).

Holy grail: Several texts, but I’ll single out 4 big ones: activist/author Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez’ 450 Years of Chicano History in Pictures (1976) is a visual-historic classic, what started it all for me, currently at the top of the list of banned books in Arizona’s anti-Ethnic Studies law. Second is Rudolfo Acuna’s Occupied America, called by Chicano activists “the Chicano bible.” I read the 2nd and 5th editions cover to cover, and I’m mentioned in the preface of the most recent 7th edition. I also have a signed copy of the first formal printing of Corky Gonzales’ I Am Joaquin (1967). Another is a clean rare first edition of El Plan de Santa Barbara (1969), the manifesto credited with inspiring the creation of Chicana/o Studies departments and programs nationwide.

Favorite bookseller: Raul Salinas’ Resistencia Bookstore (San Antonio), Tia Chucha’s Bookstore (LA/San Fernando), Libreria Martinez Books (Santa Ana, CA)

Future plans (for you & your collection): I’m displaying my Chicano Movement Book collection at the Tomas Rivera Library (UC Riverside), and possibly at my local library, Santa Monica Main Library. I am also writing articles/essays on my collection’s connection to the attack on Ethnic Studies in Arizona, particularly the ban on Chican@ Literature and Shakespeare’s The Tempest. My performance comedy group Chicano Secret Service is writing a multi-media performance piece on Raza Studies in Arizona. Lastly, I’ve collaborated with artist JohnAvalos of UC Riverside to create “Xican@ Pop-Up Books,” short illustrated and tactile zines, that demonstrate the importance and current struggle around Chican@ Studies and literature. Our motto is: “You can Ban Chicano Books, but They’ll Still Pop Up!”

display day one.jpgA display of Serna’s collection at the Tomas Rivera Library is seen above. You can read more about his collection here.

For those in and around Washington, D.C., an awards ceremony to celebrate these young collectors will take place on October 18, 2013 at 5:30pm at the Library of Congress (if the Library of Congress has re-opened by then; it has been closed due to the government shutdown since Oct. 1) and includes a lecture by noted collector and scholar Mark Samuels Lasner. The lecture is free and open to the public.

Images: Courtesy of Elias Serna.
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