I posted this picture of myself over my desk, the horrible seventh grade school picture. When I'm stuck I remind myself I'm writing my books for her.
She didn't know until two years after this picture was taken that it was even possible to see herself in literature; the closest she'd come were the Indians in the Little House on the Prairie books. She used to be sad that her family didn't come to the USA via Ellis Island. She was sad that there was no history in her family of covered wagons, or pioneer days, or trees growing in Brooklyn. There was no babysitter's club possible in her life because there were always tons of relatives around willing to babysit.
She was a lonely kid with a big imagination and she had no literary role models who looked like her or came from places her ancestors or relatives came from. Books for Latina young adults? Not back then, barely even now.
I remember the day in ninth grade when my teacher handed out copies of The House on Mango Street. I was a bored student. I liked English classes but I was sneaking The Claiming of Sleeping Beauty and reading the Ayla/Jondalar sex scenes over and over again from the Clan of the Cave Bear series. Ms. Lopez handed out the book, I popped it open started reading and felt mind blown.
Really. I took that book and read it as soon as I got home. Then I read it again. And again. I went back to school the next day and asked my English teacher if there were other writers like Cisneros. She gave me a reading list. I started checked books out and was a little angry I had never heard of any of the writers I was reading.
I look at this picture, pinned above my desk and when I'm struggling I think of her, all the shit she could have avoided if she felt relevant, that she belonged. I think of this awesome girl no one told was awesome, no one said ever said to her Your history matters. You matter.
Anyway. Writing a lot these days. Happily productive. I'm nearing a place in the story where I have to (or should) end the first book. I thought it was over at an earlier place but I kept reading over the manuscript while editing and I felt I could add on. I introduced a character today, someone I had no idea was going to show up and I like her. She's kind of creepy and dark, but has a good heart.
No more this song, I'm writing!!!