Latinx Heritage Month technically ended yesterday, October 15th. But I still have a few blog posts to share with you all. I figured we shouldn’t limit Latinx voices to any one specific month. Yes, we should celebrate during times like Latinx Heritage Month, but also continue to support Latinx talent for the rest of the year!
So here’s a post by poet and romance author, Jude Sierra!
A guest post by Jude Sierra: Follow @JudeSierra
Although my first experiments with writing poetry date back to the early 90’s when I was nine or so, the first poet I ever fell in love with was Langston Hughes. I was eleven when I found The Dreamkeeper in the school library, and I kept a copy until it was falling apart with wear. For many years, I aspired to write the in the style of his I loved so much. But it never felt like home. But the first time I read Pablo Neruda’s work, I felt a very visceral yes. There was a particular use of words, a cadence and reverence and lyricism that I understood on a completely different level. I remember being given a book of sonnets with both the English and Spanish version of each poem. I puzzled over them, over the impossibility of translating things from Spanish that couldn’t quite be captured in English. A sentiment, a longing, love and aching. In many ways, reading this taught me about how so many thing, most particularly about what can be lost in translation between intention and action as we play with words.
I think this was the heart of my development as a poet – my desire to play with words, the way that so much intention goes so little space. For years I couldn’t envision myself translating this into long form fiction. There is a lyricism to the poetry I write – something I’ve worked to develop from the time I first began – that I could not figure out how to harness and utilize in fiction, even though I knew I had more stories to tell.
In my early twenties I was introduced to several authors whose work inspired me to think like a novelist, whose work begins in that place of poetry, of wordplay, of crafting with lyricism. Sandra Cisneros’, The House on Mango Street was the first book I read by a Latina author. I don’t remember the details of the book, but I do remember how connected I felt to a particular aspect of my identity. At this point in time I was living in the U.S., having left my home country of Brazil. I couldn’t quite articulate what it was in that book, other than a shared understanding, a connection with a community I hadn’t found in Michigan. There’s a word for this in Portuguese: saudade. While this word can be technically defined – and if you look it up you’ll find a pretty long definition on Wikipedia – the sentiment and richness of the word can’t really be articulated. It is that longing, that aching, a missing, even if the object of this feeling is with you.
Later, as I was introduced to more Latinx writers, particularly Gloria Anzaldua (Borederlands) Julia Alvarez (How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents), Gabriel Garcia Marquez (One Hundred Years of Solitude), I understood what I had been striving to come into, and what was speaking to me in their texts. A connection to an identity that is alien to most of the people I know, but known to others in the Latinx community. What I felt was saudade; the kind that inspired me, that made me want to be a part of the community of writers with a particular history, with similar identities behind their stories. I think that these books in particular contained intentionality in breaking rules. In their work I learned how I could bring my gifts as a poet to long form writing. In their works I finally felt the permission to break rules of storytelling, of pacing and plot structures.
I’ve been told that my stories have a lyrical quality to them, which is such rewarding praise, because this is a particular aspect of craft I want to bring to my writing. I’ve also been told that my books don’t follow particular conventions of romance writing. I couldn’t say I do this intentionally, but I can definitely say that these authors taught me that I cannot write with my heart by following rules. I want to tell love stories, but I want to tell them about real people. I can’t yet say that I write close to what those authors who inspire me do, but I know that feeling of saudade is always and will always be layered into the words I write.
Win an a copy of Jude Sierra’s Romance novel, “What It Takes”
Moments after Milo Graham’s family relocate to Cape Cod, he meets Andrew Witherell—launching a lifelong friendship built on a foundation of deep bonds, secret forts, and plans for the future. When Milo is called home from college to attend his domineering father’s funeral, he and Andrew finally act on their mutual attraction. But, doubtful of his worth, Milo decides to sever all ties with his childhood friend. Circumstances send both men home again years later, and their long held feelings will not be denied. But will they have what it takes to find lasting love?
Jude also has an upcoming novel titled, “Idlewild.” It will be out December 1st, 2016!
The winner will receive an ebook, so this giveaway is open to everyone!
About the author:
Jude Sierra first began writing poetry as a child in her home country of Brazil. Still a student of the form, she began writing long-form fiction by tackling her first National Novel Writing Month project in 2007, and in 2011 began writing in online communities, where her stories have thousands of readers. Her previous novels include Hush (2015) and What It Takes (2016), which received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly.
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