Here are some links to articles and author interviews I have written as a journalist
Sandra Cisneros discusses her relationship to Chicago and the value of all kinds of learning, including the intelligence and creativity that aren’t reflected on report cards. She champions undiscovered writers who have yet to win their “green card in literature”—a contract with a major New York publisher. “If I am an artist, it’s despite Chicago, not because of it,” Cisneros said during a 1992 return visit to the “city of the big shoulders.”
Denise Chavez and Julia Alvarez
Denise Chavez and Julia Alvarez speak of “Las Girlfriends,”a group of Latina writers that includes Chicago natives Sandra Cisneros and Ana Castillo, during a 1994 interview available through the Chicago Tribune archives. Alvarez, a Dominican-American and author of books such as “Return to Sender,” “In the Time of the Butterflies” and “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents,” relates how “Las Girlfriends” helped her develop a sense of Latina identity as she forged “a bond with them through the word.” Chavez, a New Mexican native who had recently published “Face of an Angel” at the time of the interview, speaks about how living 40 miles from the Mexican border influences her work. “That is a world unto itself, people coming and going from Mexico, undocumented workers, the constant conduit of the traditional meeting the United States.”
Ana Castillo talks about the push and pull of America’s “second city” on her work and how she transcended Chicago, a town that never had room for “a smart brown woman from a blue-collar family.” Eschewing her family’s goal for her, that she become a secretary like her older sister, Castillo retreated to an adobe home in New Mexico where she took up a solitary existence not unlike that of her colonial heroine, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, the Mexican nun who became the first feminist of the Americas. Her third novel, “So Far From God,” written at her Albuquerque sanctuary, achieved national acclaim and a three-book contract when it was first published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 1993.
A.J. Verdelle discusses her book, “The Good Negress,” a fictionalized, semi-autobiographical account of Denise Palms, a 12-year-old African American girl transitioning to life in Detroit from rural Virginia. Verdelle, a Washington, D.C. native, taps into her sense of alienation as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago to flesh out Denise’s story. Her protagonist, Denise, was the smartest student in her small town’s one-room schoolhouse and finds on her arrival in Detroit she is bereft of language and geography skills. Denise even gets lost on her way to school. “That’s exactly the way I felt when I came to the University of Chicago,” Verdelle said. “I felt like, oh, my God, after all this time of answering smart, now I’m asking stupid.”