How do you describe yourself as a writer? As a person?
As a writer, I love experimentation — with voice, with genre, with form, with style. As a person, I’ve had the same breakfast order for three years and browse JSTOR for fun.
You’ve been published two years in a row in Scribendi. Any advice for students who will be submitting their work to the upcoming edition?
Rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. No, editing is not enough.
What’s the inspiration behind “Estrangement”?
As the product of a mixed marriage, my dad’s Latino culture has always felt like a phantom limb to me. And I get phantom limb pains.
Can you speak a little bit about the themes of “Estrangement”? What should Scribendi readers know about intercultural marriage, identity erasure, immigrant identity, etc?
I want to sort of zero in on identity erasure with this question. I think I want readers to know that when I wrote this piece last year I was actually living in Scotland, and I’d just finished fully stripping my hair to white-blonde. I had lost a lot of my Spanish and I was forgetting all the recipes I’d grown up with. I didn’t know the girl in the mirror. Writing this started me on an extremely emotional path back to myself, and it’s not a path that has a destination; it’s just a path I’ll always be walking. And I’m telling you that because identity erasure isn’t always tied up neatly in a metaphor where two people want something different for dinner; it’s something messy that just happens, and it’s also something that can even happen voluntarily, as a result of societal pressure. I think with this piece I just wanted to say: See me. See us. Give us the space to be ourselves. So if you read it and you picked up on the themes of struggle and erasure and invisibility that happens when my culture collides with yours, that’s all you have to know, and now it’s your job to go out and to build a future where people like me feel like this less.
It’s important to me too that readers know that, at the end of the day, this is a piece for those who also deal with feeling distant from their roots and themselves. If that’s you, I want you to know that you’re not, never were, and never will be alone in it.
What are you working on right now?
I just wrapped up the first draft of my passion project, which is a satire about the way history has remembered Antony and Cleopatra. Yes: fifty-five thousand words that happened purely because my answer to the “which historical figure would you want over for dinner” question has always been a resounding, “Plutarch, so I can roast him.”
The official story is that I’m also drafting my undergrad thesis, which examines the effect colonization has had on the women of my community.
A great travel memory:
The time I wore heels for a six-hour outing at the British Museum even after tripping on some carpeting in my hotel room, unknowingly fracturing my ankle. The bacterial skin infection on the same leg, however, happened because those very heels gave me blisters on the same day, and I assumed the blisters would heal on their own. If I told you last year that the boot on my leg was from a hiking accident, I’m so sorry, but I told the extremely sporty and ripped doctors at the ER that, too. Now the truth is out. It all happened because I insisted on wearing cute shoes to see my second favorite bust of Alexander the Great. The rest of my study abroad experience in the UK was great, though.
Most influential class you’ve ever taken:
I had a writing workshop my sophomore year that was led by a Chicano grad student who, through his syllabus and his attitude, reminded me to be proud of who I am. I can confidently say that “Estrangement” wouldn’t be in your publication right now if I hadn’t had that class.
What book do you think Scribendi readers should put at the top of their to-read lists?
I read a lot of biographies, and right now I’m halfway through Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, which is fascinating so far. I always recommend biographies to fellow fiction writers, because I figure that if a biography about Hamilton worked for Lin-Manuel Miranda, a biography about Jesus might work for me, and I’ll produce some incredible Grammy-winning production after reading it. That or the Church will finally excommunicate me. Sort of a toss-up with this one.