Biography Writing Teaching Appearances  

An Angle of Vision is OUT!!

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Angle of Vision:  Women Writers on Their Poor and Working-Class Roots
Edited by Lorraine M. Lopez
University of Michigan Press, 2009

My mother appeared on the 1950s "Queen for a Day" show.  My piece in this anthology is about trying to find the TV footage of the show.  Last year one of my colleagues, Barbara DiBernard, had her students read the final draft and then invited me to come to class to speak about it.  I'd been to her class before.  In fact, I'm usually visiting her class once a semester because Barbara will teach my academic work or my creative writing.  (Thank you Barbara!)  I very much enjoy finding out what college students think about my stories or my academic work but I never have my own students read my work.  I would find that too awkward.  But I don't mind visiting other classes who are reading my work.  However, walking into Barbara's class regarding this particular writing, I felt different.  It was the first time that students had read something I wrote which was not fiction, not academic but biographical.  I was nervous and uncomfortable at first.  Fiction is just fine because even when students ask, "how true is this?," I can remain the detached one--explaining that scenes or characters are bits and pieces of real life stitched back together in a different order.  But nonfiction/memoir is completely different.  One is still writing to get at a "bigger truth" but using ones life as the medium.  

On that day, I felt naked walking into the class.  I also had an urge to ask them about their lives right away so we could relate on an even exchange.  And there were moments when I felt worried that they would take these scenes, this portrait of my mother and misinterpret or denigrate her.  I suddenly was feeling very protective about my family. I began to think that they wouldn't understand because (a) they did not grow up in working class Los Angeles (the majority were from Nebraska), (b) how could students born after 1980 really get this world I draw, or (c) they may not relate at all to anyone I write about.  In the end, my worries were unfounded--really unfounded.  They spent time sharing their experiences, asking such thought provoking questions about my relationship with my mother, my sister, the way I crafted the piece.  They wanted to know because they could see connections between my family and theirs, because they wanted to write about their own family struggles.  

When I visited California State University San Francisco, my good friend and colega Catriona Esquibel, asked me to read this piece.  I read it to an audience of primarily Latina and Latino students--not from Los Angeles but primarily from the Bay Area.  We found connections here too, surprising ones like meeting Araceli Leyva who came up to me after the reading and told me she has familia in Lexington, Nebraska. One student remarked on the piece being universal--how most people could relate.  

I don't intend to control what I put out there in the publishing world.  Usually when I publish something, I think of the piece like a balloon floating up into the sky--don't know where it's going to end up, who will enjoy its colors, its shape, the way it moves.  While I have been writing this, my mother called me.  I said to her in Spanish, "I just published the piece about you when you were on Queen for a Day."  She laughed.  "Send it to me.  I want to see what it looks like in the book."  She's only seen these words typed on a page.  I imagine her holding the book, feeling the pages, seeing her name.  

I also want to send a shout-out to the talented editor, writer, profesora Lorraine Lopez!  What an amazing line-up of writers she collected for this anthology one of which is Joy Castro!  The title of the book is the title of Joy's piece, and what a wonderfully poignant writing it is.  Thank you Joy--for your generous and important work.  



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