Latina readership-writership

Latina Reader-Writership

A couple of years ago I attended my first meeting as part of a Latina Writers workshop and I was asked the question about how I felt being thought of as a Latina writer. The question perplexed me. I had never really thought of it as that. I think of myself as a Latina because I am of Puerto Rican heritage and as a writer because I write. I hadn’t thought to identify myself or pigeon hole myself into a particular category because I am an always changing person.

My first experiences with reading were of sitting at the kitchen table with tears streaming down my face as my mother read passages of Elsie Dinsmore to us. When she noted that we were particularly moved or excited about an upcoming chapter she would gently close the book and send us to wash our faces. My mother later told us she did this in hope that we would think to pick up the books ourselves. She hoped that her actions would foster the love of reading to us that we saw she had throughout her life. Well, I have to say that her ruse worked!

My mother received monthly selections from the Readers Digest Book club. She also “sent away” for The Best Loved Books- a condensed version of classics- and her shelves were filled with Agatha Christie novels. Those books were also a salvation for us through many a difficult day and night. When my older sister became ill and was hospitalized for months at a time, my mother and I toted our “favorites” to our days filled with hope and prayers for what I now think of as “our survival”. A few months after my sister died in the summer of 1969, I remember my mother picking up a couple of novels. She had no memory of the words she’d counted on during that time and reread them all. This was a habit I soon picked up.

I devoured Nancy Drew and Cherry Ames stories. The vivid images of Nancy searching out clues and Cherry falling in love, in her starched white uniform, helped to form the person I have become. There were no Latina heroines for me to read about. I did not cut my teeth on Esmeralda Santiago, Julia Alvarez or Ernesto Quinones. Junot Diaz had not yet been born. In fact, when I first read the title When I was Puerto Rican I was horrified! What was Santiago trying to say? I was still Puerto Rican and nothing I did would ever change that. It took me a while before I stopped balking and finally picked up the title. I am glad that I did.

I had lunch with another Latina who I didn’t know would become my lifelong partner. We ate at a restaurant where the waiter thought she was French, she of Brazilian and Mexican heritage. We laughed that afternoon and walked over to a bookstore. She bent over one of the shelves and picked up The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. She blushed as she handed it to me. I’m still not sure whether the blush was from the bend or the act of beginning a deep friendship and love and of sharing the gift of reading. I went home and read that book. I am still in awe at the simplicity of the woven words. I had finally found a place where I identified with the characters and the experience of Ms. Cisneros’ writings. I cried that my perceptions of loneliness, belonging and understandings were finally on page and I could identify with the messages sent to me via her words.

My ideas of Latina readership and writership traverse many areas. I will continue to write on the multiple layers of what makes me choose to read or write a book or a story and hope to hear back from you!

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On which side of sanity

All too often we label ourselves as something we feel most comfortable with-a writer, a clinician, a parent and partner. As I create this blog I sift through my thoughts and my feelings, who am I today and who is it that I really want to project out into the larger world. I was given the charge of creating a platform. That was a tall order I realized when I began to think of my roles on this planet-they are many. I looked at the three blogs I’d been writing on-albeit all too infrequently- and noted that my persona has been divided up into different beings that all amount to one-me. My closest relationships know that I write poetry and stories and that I write prescriptions all day long in my work as a psychiatric nurse practitioner. They also know that, just like many of the people I work with, I listen to the voices that speak to me. I call these voices my spiritual guidance, my intuitiveness and my muse.  I am not concerned with others knowing that I listen to my inner voices to point me along in the best directions for me. Like the rest of us, I need all the help I can get. In my work, I encourage my clients to listen to their inner voices, as along as they aren’t disturbing, aren’t destructive and serve the client and others in a positive way. Yesterday evening I posted the second reading that I channeled for one of my spirit guides, Graciella La Gitana, in my weekly column Palabras. This column can be found on www.plumaytinta.org. This site is a creation for the Latina Writers Workshop that I helped to found with Raquel Penzo and Rebeca Toledo. We write, we read and we help to provide a forum for very talented people to show their creativity. I think that some of my friends would laugh at this title “on which side of sanity.” We are all on one side or the other-at any given time! I happen to enjoy shifting my perspectives and love to show that in my different types of writings and readings. I have a couple of published research articles that are quite different to the poems I’ve written about my subway experience. As I continue to explore myself and share that in my writing, I hope to integrate more of who I am and will continue to share that in the writings that I share with you.

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