|Me at grad school|
Lately, my stress levels have been reduced. I attribute this decrease in blood pressure to the last packet of the semester being due in a few weeks. Yes, I am one packet away from being half way done with my master’s program.
What have I learned so far?
Oh, it’s been a journey of searching for truths. There has been crying and such. There has been questioning and there has been reading and writing. Lots of it.
So what have I written. Brand new pages of a new thesis. These are so different from my original thesis. There is a truth there that wasn’t there before and an undercurrent of me, my experiences, my life. I think that’s what makes every writer unique. You can study and read and practice all the techniques in the world but what makes the writing pop is you and what you bring to the page. That’s why I can never been Henry Miller or Zora Neale Hurston or Cristina Garcia. I enjoy these writers. I’ve studied them. I’ve marveled. But at the end of the day, my story about life will be different and I think we’re all better for it.
I say this after much reflection on my thesis. I reflected on the type of author I don’t want to be, what I don’t want to be classified as by critics, readers, and the chap at Barnes and Noble who will eventually stick my masterpiece on the shelf. I’ve considered changing my name to something more generic. I’ve purposefully wrote a certain way and omitted parts of a story because it made it sound too ethnic.
My nightmare is being labeled a Latina writer. That’s not because I am ashamed. That’s just silly. It’s because I’ve seen how that label can pigeon hole a writer and can bring with it a stereotype that the literature is not as good or that the novel is just for people with Spanish surnames. Also with the stereotype comes caricatures, people’s perception of who the characters are. That’s too much for me to bear. To have the reader assume that my characters all have accents and are somehow not as worthy because of it. That breaks my heart.
But I cannot write about about a character unless I know them. It’s the curse of the writer — writing what we know. Who knows more about me than me. Writers are very narcissistic. We have to be, our art depends on it.
So, my dear readers, in truth, it breaks my heart that readers would stereotype my characters because they stereotype me, the under estimate me, they generalize me. That is hurtful .
However, I can’t control that no more than I can control the rain or the stars in the sky. I can only be me. I can only write what I know, who I know, question my characters in a way that brings out the truth. That is, and should be, my only endeavor. Everything else be damned.
And so, amid the writing, rewriting, reading, annotating, and long critical paper, the truth was defined and sought. Where I found it was in the pages of my thesis where it currently sits like a happy baby recently changed.