Latin Lesson

WED, 3/24

Get down and dirty this afternoon at a lecture and chisme with Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, author of The Dirty Girls Social Club.

"I'm going to talk about the dangers of stereotyping, because I think everyone is stereotyped," says Valdes-Rodriguez, a former reporter for both the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe. "My basic philosophy and desire -- and Martin Luther King said it best -- is that we judge people by who they are, not by their national origin, language or a box created by the census bureau. It's so much easier to get to know people instead of just making an assumption."

Valdes-Rodriguez's first novel, the best-selling Dirty Girls Social Club, details the lives of six Latinas who meet at Boston University. Swearing to remain friends forever, the women form the Buena Sucia Social Club to "chisme y charla," or gossip and chat, and make a pact to catch up twice a year. The book meets up with them in their late twenties, and the women take turns narrating the stories of the different paths their lives have taken.

"I definitely worked some anecdotes from my own career and how I was stereotyped into the book," says Valdes-Rodriguez, who is finishing her second novel, Playing With Boys. "I tried to show how diverse the Latino community is. We're used to dealing with an outdated black-and-white paradigm in the United States, but it's a very multiracial culture."

Some reviewers have categorized The Dirty Girls Social Club as "chica lit," a moniker that does not sit well with Valdes-Rodriguez.

"I'm not a fan of labels of any kind," she says. "I really hope that I don't get to the point where my book is shelved in the Latino-literature section at stores. That is just obscene."

Valdes-Rodriguez's free lecture, part of the Metro State Student Activities/ CU-Denver Student Life Distinguished Lecture Series, takes place at 1 p.m. in the Tivoli Turnhalle, 900 Auraria Parkway on the Auraria campus. For information, call 303-556-2595 or 303-556-4247.

Upcoming series speakers include political analyst Angela Buchanan on "The Failures of Feminism," entertainment lecturer Reginald Jones on "Hip Hop = Capitalism? A Conservative Spin," and author Frank Wu on "Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White." -- Julie Dunn

Back From the Brink
An inside look at prison reform
THURS, 3/18

Don Kirchner went into drug smuggling for the same reason most folks do: the money. And no matter how noble his purpose (he claims he was lured into a life of crime to save his struggling business and to support his family), he ended up caught between drug lords and the feds, went on the lam and ultimately landed in prison. But Kirchner, who was convicted in 1981, is different from the majority of his fellow mooks. College-educated (at Colorado State University) and a former combat helicopter pilot in Vietnam, he turned his experiences and loathing of life behind bars into a lasting passion -- and an autobiography, A Matter of Time.

Alternately depressing and inspirational, the book examines Kirchner's personal journey from criminal to reformer. Less than a year after his release from federal prison in 1988, he founded the non-profit organization Return to Honor to help ex-cons transition back into society, and he has since written extensively on the subject of prison reform. His dramatic story is now being made into a movie.

Kirchner will discuss his work and sign copies of his book tonight at 7:30 p.m. at the Boulder Bookstore, 1107 Pearl Street in Boulder. For details, call 303-447-2074 or log on to -- Karen Bowers

Stage Time
SAT, 3/20

Harried parents, when's the last time you went to the theater? Yep. Just as we suspected. In between chauffeuring your young athletes to soccer practice and dancers to ballet, scratching your heads over unintelligible math homework, whipping up snacks, reading stories and so on, it's hard to find time for an afternoon out. But the folks at the Denver Center Theatre Academy -- the educational wing of the Denver Center Theatre Company -- recognized the conflict of interests and dreamed up one of the organization's newest promotions: the [email protected] Saturday Matinee Series, an opportunity for parents to attend a matinee performance while their kids (ages three to twelve) have theatrical fun under the supervision of academy instructors. Today the series offers parental tix to a performance of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit at 1:30 p.m., with theater games, music and crafts for the children across the street at the Tramway Building education facility.

Here's the drill: Drop off your tykes with teachers at 1 p.m. in the Bonfils complex lobby, 14th and Curtis streets. Enjoy the show. Afterward, meet your kids back in the lobby. Is this too easy or what? Single-performance fees are $15 per child and $16 per adult (packages are also available). For reservations, call 303-446-4897. -- Susan Froyd

Fly Me Past the Moon
Planetarium show a high-tech ride through the universe
FRI, 3/19

Remember those school field trips to the planetarium? Those dusty, connect-the-dot images of Orion the Hunter? That unforgivably bad music blaring through shoddy speakers? Well, forget all that. Passport to the Universe, a new extravaganza at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science, will obliterate such memories like a meteor flattening a Wendy's. "The show is awesome," says museum spokeswoman Julia Taylor. "It helps you appreciate how huge the universe really is, but also makes you feel more like a part of it."

The "visually stunning" journey begins on Earth, heads deep into the universe, then returns home via a black hole. Along the way, viewers are privy to footage from the Hubble telescope as well as supercomputers stationed around the world. Narrated by Tom Hanks, Passport was co-authored by Ann Druyan, the widow of Carl Sagan, and put together by the American Museum of Natural History and NASA.

"It's a far cry from shows of ten years ago," Taylor says. "It's like riding on the tip of a rocket."

Passport opens today at the newly reopened, state-of-the-art Gates Planetarium, inside the museum at 2001 Colorado Boulevard. Tickets are $5.50 to $8 (a combination museum/planetarium ticket is $13). For showtimes and other information, call 303-322-7009 or log on to -- Adam Cayton-Holland

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Karen Bowers
Adam Cayton-Holland
Julie Dunn
Contact: Julie Dunn
Susan Froyd started writing for Westword as the "Thrills" editor in 1992 and never quite left the fold. These days she still freelances for the paper in addition to walking her dogs, enjoying cheap ethnic food and reading voraciously. Sometimes she writes poetry.
Contact: Susan Froyd