tv A House of My Own CSPAN January 1, 2017 3:45am-5:16am EST
>> my name is bill miller, and i co-direct the fall for the book festival. >> whoo! >> thank you very much. [laughter] i am so glad you all are here. first of all, let me -- a couple of housekeeping things. c-span is here taping this evening, so that will be broadcast later. we will, that will include the question and answer session, so when we get to that portion, please come down to the microphone here on my left, and that will be lit so that if you ask the scintillating, brilliant
question, you'll be on c-span. the, we will, we're going to do a little presentation, explanation, a couple of things here. we'll try to move them along fairly quickly. but then we'll bring out sandra, and we know that's why you're here, and then we will have book sales and signing in the lobby afterward. i've been involved with fall for the book since it was a study committee in 1998, and it was formed by the city of fairfax, fairfax county library and a group of us here at mason. from those beginnings, fall for the book has always been a community effort, and we now have more than two dozen sponsors and more than two dozen additional people and agencies and organizations that are programming partners. and, of course, we have you. if you left home tonight not knowing that you were coming to a literary or a book festival, you're not alone.
often our festival-goers come not to the festival itself, but to see or hear or meet a favorite writer. that's okay with us. we hope it's okay with you. we're glad to have you. in fact, we pretty much depend on you, and we hope that what this means is that you care broadly about books and that you want to live in a culture in which books and reading are given prominence. one of my friends, paulette miller, would like to talk to you for a moment about how you can help insure that fall for the book festivals actually happen in future years. >> hi. as bill said, i'm paulette miller, and i'm the chair of the development committee for fall for the book. what the development committee does is we don't plan the wonderful programs, all of the
great authors that are coming. we try to keep it, keep the programs coming by raising the funds that are needed. fall for the book is a 501(c)(3), and that means that we rely on donations almost exclusively to keep this going. this is 18 years that bill's been doing this. it grew from a one-day festival to a whole week. and we know that it's an incredible resource to our community because of all the people that it touches. if you've looked at the pamphlet that you were handed when you came in, you saw it was a week's worth of events going on all over the community. not just here in the university, but everywhere from d.c. to louden county and in libraries and community centers. programs for children and for teens and for poetry lovers.
so it, we try to reach everybody. but we really do need everybody to make this happen. we've founded, we've formed a friends of fall for the book, and some of you are familiar with friends groups. and what that group does is help to raise some of the funds that keep this festival going along with the corporate funds and the organizational funds. you know, when you hear -- we watch pbs and they say and viewers like you, you know? that's you. and readers like you. there's a pamphlet outside if you go out, when you go out for the book signing and all that tells you about the friends of fall for the book, and it tells you about some of the benefits to you which include invitations if you join us, invitations next year to the receptions for some of the authors. this year you could have, you could have joined us just recently, just a few minutes ago at a very lovely reception with sandra sisser -- cisneros.
so the receptions are invitation only, and friends are invited. there's free parking passes which, on campus, is a really big deal. [laughter] so if you have a moment, we'd love for you to pick this up, take a look at what it takes to become a friend. it's not a lot. but what you do is show that the community is totally behind this, and that also helps us get corporate sponsors when you can say look at all the friends we have, all the members of the community who think this is important. and that encourages corporate sponsors to step up also. so we would love to have you become one of our friends, and please do pick this up, and we hope you fill it out and turn it in tonight. and if not, mail it to us. thank you again for coming, and i'll turn it over to kate. [applause]
>> hello. i'm here tonight because i represent the george mason friends, and we are one of the sponsors of this event. contrary to the name, we're not associated with the university. we are associated with fairfax county public libraries. there is a branch called george mason regional library in an nondale where we are holding a book sale at this moment to help raise funds for next year. so we have two more days. please come. the other announcements i get to make, please turn off your cell phones. don't put them on vibrate, we can hear that noise. thank you for coming. tonight is the last night for information for next year's festival. check the web site. and finally, fall for the book is a nonprofit, funded
exclusively through donations, so follow the example, become a part of the great group of friends of fall for the book. thankthank you. [applause] >> before i move into the presentation, i could spend a lot of time recognizing all the people that i've worked with in the last 12 months to make tonight possible and the preceding five nights possible. i will thank you individually later, now collectively. there's one person i must thank, and and i hope you will join me in thank her, and that's cara oakleaf, my co-director. [applause] the fairfax prize was something
that i had a hand in inventing. none of fall for the book is done by any one person. about 2003 our idea was to honor outstanding writers for their writerly achievements, if you will, in the areas of writing and publishing excellent works that contribute significantly to the american or international culture of reading and writing and intellectual and emotional empathetic development. generously giving their personal time and talents to the development of literature and literary endeavors, mentoring younger writers which includes but is not limited to teaching, giving special service to the community of writers such as editing anthologies or journals that give opportunities for publication to younger writers. previous winners might be some names you would recognize including tobias wolf, joyce carol oates, norman mailer who, unfortunately, was ill and not
able to come and accept it, mitch albom, anne padgett and last year in this very theater, tim o'brien. and it rained last year on the presentation, so i'm not planning these things on rainy nights anymore. in the vein of these other writers, we're very pleased to recognize sandra cisneros. over course of a writing career that has spanned 30 plus years, her work has translated, has been translated into more than 20 languages, widely anthologized and read in classrooms throughout the world. the house on mango street has become a classic and is one of our defining books about coming of age and the experience of latino families in this country. of course, the fairfax is not sandra cisneros' first award. she was awarded a macarthur
fellowship, two national endowment for the arts fellowship and a texas medal for the arts. in addition to the house on mango street, her other works include caramello, have you seen marie, loose women and most recently, a house of my own: stories from my life. i i am very pleased to present the 2016 fairfax prize to sandra cisnero to -- please join me in welcoming her to the stage. [applause] >> thank you all.
it's an honor to be here and to receive this prize and to understand that this festival happens and has happened 17 times before. did you see all the sponsors on the back of the program? that's a lot of people. well, somebody's doing their job well, and so i just want to commend all of the sponsors, all the volunteers, everyone who has worked to put this together. i think putting together any gathering where people read and understand one another as an act of peace in violent times -- is an act of peace in violent times, so congratulate yourself for being here. [applause] i'm just so excited. it's just an honor. i've heard so much about this institution, and to be here as a guest is especially extraordinary for me.
i was told there's a clock at the end of the room, and i'll know -- okay, there it is. but they forgot that i can't see. you know, they did. [laughter] all right. i have two pairs of glasses, and i occasionally, so i can stay on task, change my glasses so i can see what time it is. you know, the wonderful thing about being a writer is you learn how to leap like a taiwanese acrobat and land on your feet at a moment's notice. so imagine my surprise after i had left my house when i was told i was going to be talking about the writer's life. and i thought, i am? okay. and i have to admit i don't know anything about the writer's life. [laughter] i only know about this writer's life. and this writer's life is very different from most writers. i am not affiliated with a university. i'm just kind of always been a maverick.
i've made my living by inventing the path to become a writer. i was ashamed for a long time to tell people i wanted to become a writer because the neighborhoods i grew up in, the working class neighborhoods in chicago, i'd never really seen a writer. and, actually, by the time i got to high school, i met one, paul carroll. and he was invited to my class thanks to my poetry teacher. but i was the shyest person in the world and could never go up to talk to paul carroll and ask how did you do it. you know? so i think that for writers, we're solitary creatures. we're shy. there's a difference between being the writer and being the author. tonight the author is here. the writer usually doesn't comb her hair -- laugh and doesn't get all dressed up and doesn't wear author jewelry or author look, you know? she stays at home and doesn't
answer the phone and is very cranky. [laughter] but the author is patient and friendly and makes eye contact and shakes your hand -- [laughter] and i am my best self. so don't worry. [laughter] you don't have to worry. and usually we're cranky as writers because we're often in the dark when we're writing. i think sometimes readers think we know what we're doing when we're writing. but the true story is we're often writing towards the answer, and we don't know what the question is. so it's often like a breach baby. you're walking towards an answer, but you haven't a clue what the question is. and you won't get the question until you write the answer. so it's often this long process of pulling a thread and following it, following it, and you hope after a couple of years that you haven't wasted your life and that you're on the right track.
so that's why we're crank can key and we don't answer the phone. cranky. the author spends an inordinate amount of time if she can wash her clothes and have it dry for the next gig. i'm in hotels a lot, and i have to figure things out that are very mundane and boring, so you don't want to hear about the author. but i am going to read a little bit and tell you how i wrote this as the writer, not the author. and this is from my new book, "a house of my own: stories from my life." i gathered together essays that are about the story of being a writer through 30 years of my life. i had to write some new ones. i also had to edit them and whittle them so there weren't repetitions. but this one was written and published in the newspaper, a rare occurrence for me. i had this journalist envy, i have to say. the writers i admire the most are journalists like studs
terkel -- [speaking spanish] just to name a few. and i admire them because they're able to write things in a timely way and have it published immediately. they are, to me, what i think of when i think of the kind of writer i want to be. someone who speaks up when no one else is speaking up on we half of -- on behalf of those who have no voice, those, a writer is someone who's courageous and able to tell a truth when no one else is speaking the truth. i'm especially displayed post-9/11 where we are and how much the media helped to create the state of fear we're living in now. and i am a little disappointed that we don't acknowledge how much the press allows for racist
comments and lies to be published when they ought to know better. so i think it's good to have writers out there especially in times of -- [inaudible] which i call this era post-9/11, an era of fear that is in our bodies. and it's not just a u.s. fear. it's a global fear that we're seeing happening in many, many nations including in the country i live in, mexico. i am a dual citizen of mexico and the united states. and i think my job as a writer is to be a bridge between these two communities. i think we can't afford to wall ourselves off from our neighbor. it's just like if you had a neighbor who you're fighting with, if you don't talk to your neighbor, how are you going to get good relations, right? and there's a lovely quote that i like to remind my readers and my audiences. within people and within
countries, respect for your neighbor is peace. this was a quote by mexican president benito juarez, the only indigenous president of mexico. he was a contemporary and friend of abraham lincoln. you know, within individuals and within nations respect for your neighbor is peace. and i think living in mexico one of the messages that i want to bring to you is that the mexican people are also living in -- [speaking spanish] they are as afraid as we are. they are as disgusted with their politicians as we are. they are as distrustful of the police as we are. and i think the message the mexican people would like me to relay to you is would you please stop selling arms to thugs in mexico, and would you please stop buying drugs from the thugs
in mexico, because this is supporting organized crime. we have a -- [inaudible] of violence in both countries due to the sale and consumption. and until we stop this, we will never be you are secure in our -- be secure in our own country. my brother lolo, whose real name is arturo, but my brother lolo has a neighbor who has bird feeders, a wonderful thing. but the neighbors started complaining that there's rats in the yard. and my brother said, well, i can't get rid of the rats unless you get rid of the bird feeders. so it's the same concept. this is the only way that we will secure global borders if we ask our neighbors how can we make you safe, then i will be safe too. i want to share an essay i wrote from my father, one of the rare ones that got published in a newspaper. and it's because i can't meet a
deadline, that's why i'm not a journalist. but i try. and, you know, i also can't write, like if someone says why don't you write about -- i can't do that. i wish i could. but all i can do to explain my process is to say it's like fishing. i can get up early, mend the nets, get my boat ready and row myself to an area where there are plenty of fish, but i can't guarantee my catch. i'm just the fisherman, not the creator of fish. it's a matter of waiting. so anytime i write anything, i never know what i'm writing until it's done. so this is something i wrote when i felt something very deeply. i wrote a long time ago in 1998, but it's just as timely now in the age of -- [inaudible] that we're living in. and it happened after my father died. the name of it is -- [speaking spanish] and it makes allusion to a song written by augustine lara.
do you know who that was? that was like the mexican cole porter, kind of. [speaking spanish] >> give me a little bit of your love, just a little bit of your love. just that. [speaking spanish] when my father died last year, a piece of my heart died with him. my father, that supreme sentimental fool loved my brothers and me to excess in a kind of over the top fever, all arabesque and sugar spirals, as sappy and charming as the romantic mexican boleros he loved to sing. give me just a little bit of your love at least, give me just a bit of your love. just that. music from my time, father would say proudly. and i could almost smell the gardenias and tres flores hair
oil. before my father died, it was simply cordiality that prompted me to say i'm sorry when comforting the bereaved. but with his death, i am initiated into the family of humanity. i'm connected to all deaths and their survivors. lo ciento which translates as both i am sorry and i feel it all at once. lo ciento. since his death, i feel life more intensely. my father, born under the eagle and serpent of the mexican flag, died beneath a blanket of stars and stripes, a u.s. world war ii veteran. like most immigrants, he was overly patriotic, exceptionally hard working and, above all, a great believer in family. yet often i'm aware that my father's life doesn't count.
he's not history, not the americans the politicians mean when they talk about america. i thought of my father especially this holiday season, the day before christmas 1997, 45 unarmed mayans were slain while they prayed in a chapel in in -- [speaking spanish] 21 of them women, 14 children. the mexican president was shocked and promised to hold all those responsible accountable. the mexican people aren't fooled. everybody knows who's responsible. but it's too much to wish for the mexican president to fire himself. i know the deaths are linked to me here in the united states. i know the massacre is connected to removing native people from their land because although the people are poor, the land is very rich, and the government knows this, and the mexican debt
is connected to my high standard of living. and the military presence is necessary to calm u.s. investors, and the music goes round and round, and it comes out here. i've been thinking and thinking about all this from my home in san antonio as fidgety as a person with an itch i can't quite scratch. what is my responsibility as a writer in light of these events? as a woman, as a -- [speaking spanish] as a u.s. citizen who lives on several borders? what do i do as the daughter of a mexican man? father, tell me. ayada me. help me, why don't you. lo ciento. i've been searching for answers. on christmas i'm reverberating like a bell. in my father's house, hello, my friend, our christmas dinners
were global feasts, a lesson in history, diplomacy and the capacity of the stomach to put aside racial grievances. [laughter] our holidays were a unique hybrid of cultures that perhaps could only happen in a city like chicago, a bounty contributed by family and intermarriage, multi-ethnic neighborhoods and the diversity of my father's up upholstery shop employees. a typical meal consists first and foremost of tamales. 25 dozen for our family is typical. the popular red tamales, the fiery green tamales and the sweet pink ones filled with jam and raisins for the kids. sometimes they're my mother's homemade batch. this is the last time i'm going to make them. [laughter] but more often they're ordered in advance from someone else willing to go through all the trouble. most recently from the excellent tamale lady in front of -- [speaking spanish]
on north avenue who operates from a shopping cart. father's annual contribution was his famous -- [speaking spanish] a cod fish stew of spanish originning which he made standing in one spot like a tv chef. go get me a bowl. bring me an apron. somebody give me the tomatoes. wash them first. hand me that knife and chopping board. where are the olives? every year we're so spoiled, we expect and receive a christmas tray of homemade perogi and polish sausage, sometimes courtesy of my sister-in-law's family and sometimes from my father's polish seamstresses who can hardly speak a word of english. we also serve jamaican meat pies from daryl, and finally our christmas dinner includes the italian magnificence from
ferrara bakery in our old taylor street neighborhood. imagine if a cake looked like the vatican. [laughter] we've been eating those pastries since i was in the third grade. but this is no formal norman rockwell sit-down dinner. we eat when we're inspired by hunger or by -- [speaking spanish] literally before the eye. all day pots are on the stove steaming, and the microwave is beeping. it's common to begin a dessert plate while someone next to you is finishing breakfast, pork tamales. history is present at our table, the doomed emperor maximiliano's french baguette as well as the aztec corn tamales of the americas, a recipe for cod fish, our moves in and out of neighborhoods where we were the brown corridor between chicago communities at war with one
come to in and dominant childre. u.s. military is setting up camp in the mean of bandit and drug lords but i'm not stupid. i know who they mean to keep away. i feel it. i'm thinking this while i attend a latino leadership conference between the holidays. i don't know what i expect from this gathering of latino leaders exactly. but i know i don't to leave without a statement about what is happened it in -- [inaudible] surely at least latino community recognizes that the 45 are our family. it is like a family when arizona political explains to me. but understand, to you, it may be a father who is died but to me, it's a distant does cousin. is it too much to ask our leaders to lead?
we're too impatient one latina tell mess and i'm so stunned i can't respond. karaoke begins and filmmaker begins to preach there's a season to play and a season to rage. he talks and talks till i have to blink back the tears. after what seems like an eternity, he finally finishes by saying, you'll know what you have to do, don't you? and then it hits me. i do know what i have to do. i will tell a story. when my brothers and i were in college my mother realized investing in real estate was the answer to our economic woes. her plans were modest to buy a cheap fixer upper to bring us income. after months of searching, mother final linn found a scruffy building on the avenue
with a store that could serve as fathers upholstery shop alast my mother was a respectable landlady. almost immediately the family on the third floor began paying their rent late. it wasn't an expensive apartment 100 dollars but every first of the month they were five, or $10 short and would deliver the rent with a promise to pay the balance the next pay day which they did. every month it was the same the rent minus a few dollars promised for next friday. mother hated to be taken advantage of. do they think we're rich or something? don't we have those two, she sent father who was on good terms with everybody. you go and talk to that family. i've had it, and so father went and a little later quietly returned.
i fixed it father announced. already? how? what did you do? i lowered the rent. [laughter] mother was ready to throw a fit this will father said, remember when $10 meant a lot to us? mother was silent, and as if by some she remembered who would have thought father was capable of such genius. he was not by nature a clever man. but he inspires me now to be creative in ways i never realized. i don't wish to make my father seem more than what he was. he wasn't gandhi. he lived life terrified differet from himself. he never read a newspaper and was naive enough to believe his treat is told by -- [inaudible] and as my mother e keeps reminding me it wasn't a perfect husband either.
buts he was kind and some things extraordinary. he was a wonderful father. maybe i've looked to the wrong leaders for leadership. maybe what is needed this new are a few jot outrageous ideas something absurd and gene gene is use generosity teachers me to large my heart. maybe it's time to lower the rent. [inaudible] ever since the year began that song has been running through my head, my father just won't let up. i feel it. [inaudible] allah jesus christ, yahweh -- the universe, the god in us. help us. give us just a little bit of your love at least. give us just a little bit of
your love. just that. [applause] we're lived blessed in curse to be living in interesting times and i think we need to rise up and be the leaders that we want to see as gandhi said, and i especially now, we have to serve as being bridges because otherwise we're just going to expire all of us, everybody on the planet we have to be bridges and something to remind everybody something i didn't think i would be saying you're undecided please vote. and if you know ten other people who are undecided about vote voting get them to vote too. very important. and i'm going to take advantage
and say that everywhere i can, and next couple of days. i was very fortunate to be invitedded to the white house last week. and there was no one more astonished than me. and i took two books to president obama. my favorite author who changed my life, [inaudible] do you know him? he is the buddhist monk nominated for nobel peace prize by dr. martin luther king, jr. that's what happens when you lower the rent, and i gave this book and this one -- [inaudible] in english has a different title in spanish rather than calming fearful mind and wonderful things, wonderful ideas about what we can do in the global times to calm our fears and to make a better planet because i believe it is up to us.
one of the things that suggest is that we have a con sewel of stages of all a of the people who have -- stories have not been heard. all of the communities that feel like they have not it been heard and there are so many communities every town, every color, all across this country is why we're so fearful of each other because we fear. we we don't feel our story is being heard and i think telling our own story is essential. i plod the people who put together this book peflt and created new african-american museum. holocaust museum and museums that tell or stories but especially -- stories that need to be heard in this time. i want to close with just an a excerpt from the last chapter of the book i cannot read at all because it will take too long so i'll just jump a little bit.
this is called -- [inaudible] a phrase that means that my house is your house and never say that at my house because i have a right -- has a little epigraph. why would you want to buy an old house it's like choosing to marry an old man. my father. i came to one because they sent for me, my mother's people -- [inaudible] and grandmother filpa and perhaps their people as well spirits all. i wake in the middle of the night and receive their message. and the 56 year of my life, i'm invited to speak at a writers conference -- [inaudible] this is at the town only once 20 years prior so brief it barely left an impression. this time i accept the conference invitation because it's the only way i can be sure i'll have a mexican vacation.
i've decided in advance i want -- too many am ashamed surprised when i do. i like the people both native and foreign, and i come back to my own accord a few weeks after. this happens then on the return trip to san miguel 56 spring, an i'm going to jump and just, you know, tell you that now i live there. but -- i want to read a little bit and piece of this. when i was in high school i took a class for spanish speakers one of the assignment was a list of vocabulary words one was -- [inaudible] machine gun. when will i ever need to use that word, i thought. now that i'm living in mexico, i'm startled by the ubiquity of
machine guns, the local police carry as calmly as it carrying plastic shopping bags. at the downtown street corners, and every national parade, at the office depot, even now with no machine gun in sight, i can't go into the office depot without experiencing an involuntary shudder. when anti-baby doll alive she had to go into mexico city regularly to collect the rent on a building she owned. but auntie i asked aren't you afraid? oh, no -- auntie told me over the telephone. not at all. i stay over by the military school where they have policeman everywhere carrying a -- [inaudible] i feel nice and safe. where is the country where a woman can feel safe? is there such a country? when i was living in europe i sited virginia wolfe as a woman
i have no country. as a woman my country is the whole world. i would amend that to the current time as a woman, i have no country. as a woman, i'm an immigrant in the whole world. last month i went back to the united states to close up the house i had lived in for two decades when i first bought the house, my father was furious, he couldn't understand why i had chosen a hundred-year-old house when i could have easily bought a brand new one, but i love old homes. they're -- [inaudible] soul spirit. father first concern that i couldn't take care of the house by myself he bounce on the floorboard. mema as he said the plank squeeze and moan as if he was hurting them proof enough he thought to show me ow foolish my
choice had been. but after a few weeks father saw i had a team. handyman, yard man, housekeeper, attending to needs of my elderly house. he sighed and finally admit i had done well. now 20 years later i'm selling the house i said i'd never sell. on my last night, i wake at 3 a.m. for a 4:30 taxi pickup, the driver arrives half hour early, but my bags are already waitings on the front porch. before locking up, i look around at the empty rooms. i think about all of the creative folks who have passed through this house. and my life -- filmmakers and painters, designers, and writers, architect and activist, politician and poets, organizers, and educators, musician and dancers, singers and scientists performance artist, and feminist nuns, a
writing workshop born in this dining room and went on to become the foundation, here began the -- [inaudible] the caucus of latino macarthur fellows. here they gathered and celebrated. so many locals, local and from far away pass through these rooms. 20 years worth -- i pulled the door firmly behind me, lock it for the last time and ask myself this, how do you feel? i say to myself, i feel gratitude. this house in stoinl no longer brings me joy. it went from the grand paint in the you know what -- a constantly banging stick on the floor for my undivided attention you don't care care of me anymore i want to confess to myself but i don't to hurt her
feelings. for too long i had felt my solitude and concentration invaded. now that the river back has been extended behind my back fence. pedestrians trot on the other side at all hours even during the night setting my dogs into pandemonium and heart leaping. pond min yum under construction on other bank. roar and and setting off dust storms. i don't to admit this, but my house makes me feel afraid. i think about what my mexican friends and employees said recently, when i told them i was traveling north to the united states. oh -- aren't you afraid? this is exactly what u.s. friends said to me when i told them i was moving to mexico. oh, aren't you afraid? when i remind mexican of the abduction and disappearance in their own country, the political corruption, human rights
violations and drug wars, they counter, yes. but we don't have to send our children to school with fear. they will be assassinated by other children. soon after 9/11 on a radio talk show in mexico a caller gave the united states a new name. and instead of -- [inaudible] the united states, he referred to it as -- [inaudible] the united states of fear. we are living in the age of -- fear. on both sides, on all sides. all borders across the globe. the paradox is this. fear unites us. fear divides us. in post-9/11 united states with so much loud to people who look like me i no longer feel at home. you shouldn't be afraid in your own house.
often an interview i'm asked how it has that i identify as both mexican and american, and i reply, well -- you have a mother and a father, right? how is it that you can love boats, loving one doesn't cancel out the other. i've been living in the fatherland for a long time. now, it's time to explore the motherland. for what is mexico if not a matriarch of society. even if matriarchs do sometimes create monsters. isn't a macho another word for a momma's boy? i mere out the cab window at the white house while driver rearranging my bags in the trunk, porch lights shine cheerily through the punch tin ice fixtures. the gaze and cacti plant are doing a beautiful dance in the dark, look how big they've grown.
but the mesquite tree, house said this is without sadness. i look at the house i've called for so long, home. i am grateful. i tell the driver, let's go. and i have a footnote. i have complete faith that mothers and grandmothers are the solution to violence in mexico and across the world that can be nothing that is more highly revered in mexican culture than a mother except for perhaps a mother's mother, and beyond that the wholly mother of mothers the guadalupe once on san antonio television a live tv camera followed the tense exchange between a sniper held up in his house and san antonio police in the middle of the drama the snipers grandmother came home and asked what was going on. when it was explained, she tore past the yellow police tape. women herself, and came out with
the young culprit dangling from her arm as she swatted and spanked him with her -- [inaudible] her slip or. let the world -- what the world needs is the grandmother grig gade to shape, swat, and spank the machos. thank you. [applause] questions? >>s in so first question move to that phase of the evening. questions? >> if we have no questions we'll move -- >> gentleman has a question. >> okay move to the microphone, please sir and if you want you can go ahead and cue up in the middle of the aisle to move along there.
>> i'm sorry i do say that i have a smart question -- a really hard but i'll try. i waited six years to see -- [inaudible] so really happy to hear. my question is, i notice that some writers always look for complex plot or words or introduce speech or even plan to have a voice like -- [inaudible] but on the other hand, yours is i could say very easy to understand. you said in washington, d.c. six years ago that you wanted to write for everyone. you wanted to simple person, the young people to understand and also kid people. so is it hard to create a approach that it is easy for every writer, is that what your approach resisted by i would say --
academic or programs? at some point? >> i purposely chose the the voice that now people recognize as mine as when i was in academy when i was a grad student. i purposely chose a voice opposite of the fellow poets in the university of iowa graduate program that i was in. because i felt when i wrote from a confessional voice popular at that time people didn't want to hear what i had to say. and i felt censored the two years that i was a student there. i really didn't speak. but i was able to liberate myself from that censorship by taking a voice that was uniquely mine. but from another time. so i took a young girls voice, and i started writing a book that would become house on the street but i didn't get any credit for it. it was just my little that i wrote to keep myself afloat while i was in the poetry workshop and also very intrigued
by the latin american boom, issue in european and japanese experimental writers from wanted to fuse poetry and fiction and create something new. but i -- i tried to write in the voice that is most me. i think most of us when people see us, they see you know women when they see me 61 years old dark hair and not the real me. every year we're on the outside. that is outside year. we have a true year that's inside our heart, and i always think i'm 11. you know. so i use that voice and that voice is the one i have to fight against because it is usually the one that speaks when i feel most myself. so i'm sure everyone here has come here inside that you're identified with much more than the one on the outside. that's your true self and if you give yourself permission to write in the pa jam that voice in the way i would write if i was talking to one person, that
can see me in my pajama that's the voice that would come out and i give writers that have fear of writing that instruction. wear your pajama mentally and talk your piece to one person, and shut off this turn on this -- say anything yowpght anything like you know what welcome put that in there. oh, that's not how it was but that's there too. write it completely that your first draft that's your true voice. and then if you have to hands in in as a paper or job application whatever it is, the speech you can dress it up when you edit you shut it off. you turn this on, and you imagine the person across from you is your enemy and that's how you edit. [applause]
hi. >> i read your blog when i was in high school that -- [inaudible] wrote this book and i was really inspired as a student in high school in my english class and i want to ask you what you give to someone who has bad dream to be a writer. okay. >> writer not the author, right. okay -- there's a difference. you know i always tell young people but good advice for any field. earn your own money. and that way no one can tell you don't do that. so earn your own money. and control your fertility especially girls. very important.
looking at -- that track from your brilliant career so you have to make sure you control it. and three -- be happy to be alone as writers we need to be alone. we need to nurture that alone time. i like to quote gwendolyn i like being alone but not lonely but alone is okay so learn how to like it. yeah. >> hi, so concerning what you were saying about minorities needing voice i was wondering what your opinion was on pipeline in@and censored and how people there can help get their voices outs, how to help them get their voices out. >> what a wonderful question with i'm so concerned, you know, about what's happening in the dakotas right with that pipeline
imagine if a pipeline was going through arlington cemetery wouldn't there be an uproar say wait a minute. well so many of the promises and treaty have been broken for the first nation people, and what can we do? i guess what would you recommend? i'm not as smart as everybody put together here. what can we do to bring attention to what is happening in the dakotas and to help the dakota nation? i really would like to hear from you. what could we do? [inaudible] >> did you hear that there's a website to share that? [inaudible]
>> oh, great. >> yes. you know, people have instagram account or young people who know how to manage, you know, the internet better than i do, yes, it is very good. i like that. see how smart you are, laura i didn't have the answer if i didn't ask you. thank you so much. i freerkt that sharing the website. any other suggestions of how we can bring it to the media? [inaudible] thank you very much. >> did everyone hear that? call your member of congress. [inaudible] [laughter] >> you can get ten people who have one withed to do it. get ten people to do it. yes. any other suggestions?
oh, on that website -- different website. okay. anyone else? yes. as far as i know sustained website has a bail fund for people who are getting arrested. >> oh. >> i guess we need lawyers too. yes. anyone else? can never underestimate when you put people together. i used to think when i was younger that i had to have all of the answers and older you get it's okay to say i don't know, but you can ask. >> thank you. thank you for mentioning that. [applause] >> why did you name your book the house on mango street? >> first of all i need to ask you a question how old are you? >> ten. >> okay i'm one year older than you. [laughter]
the question is why did i name my book the house on mango street. well actually when i began the book i was thinking of a real neighborhood that had been one i lived in and a rural house this a rural street in chicago and the real street was campbell i lived on campbell street but you know why i couldn't use campbell street, right everybody thinks of soup. so i had to think of something that sounds like campbell but has nothing to do with campbell you know if you keep saying it, it sounds like manning go -- an think of the tropics, mexico my favorite fruit -- i think i'll name it manage ego because you have to lie to yourself when you start writing. iwas a new writer and i wasn't good at lying to myself. thank you for asking. >> thank you. [applause] >> how old are you?
is >> 11. >> oh, we're the same age. [laughter] >> i really like your book the house on mango street and who was your favorite author when you were a kid? >> what a great question. my favorite author -- i have to tell you was lewis carol the man who wrote alice and wonder land. i still love him and christian anderson and i loved beatrice, and virginia lee burton. funny thing is all the authors that were my favorites i still like them because i'm 11 you know, thank you for asking. [applause] >> hi. >> hi. >> so i was wound wondering i haven't read your most recent book. >> thanks. >> but i wonder if you can share your favorite memoirs with us and any tips or thoughts about differences between memoir and
fiction and the relationship. >> yeah, well that's a good question because a lot of people think house of mango treat is my life story is and actually -- more autothe biographical than any of my work. when i began with a real place and real emotion, i think it's great if you can write about things that you remember but more powerful if you write about things you wish you could forget and then began from that place of emotion of shame that i had growing up and house i knew but unlike the book when i moved into that house and realize it was a step up and happy to be there it was only when i left the neighborhood after the neighborhood had gone down, that i felt like -- [inaudible] so a little fudging with the truth. i did take, however, a real place, some real people, the relatives ski started to write vignette something no one else in my class would write and
eventually i left iowa. i started teaching in alternative high school in chicago very poor area. and my students lives were so much more incredible than mine. so i started like maybe, a young lad would tell me a story and young person tell me a story and take the two and weave them into one one character and i started manipulating and creating you know like a train set of my past, history, to my neighborhood but placing people that were my students, not from my childhood and altering them buzz a real story doesn't have shape but you have to give it a beginning, middle, and end and maybe someone would tell me something and i had remember a girl i used to know and line those characters together. so try to ask me is this true that it happened to you? oh, i'd like to use the metaphor saying it's all railing hair but it didn't come from the same scalp --
[applause] >> hi. so -- this is kind of on the first question but i decided i'd rather ask you more upfront about it. so throughout manning go street i notice your voice is incredibly powerful. it comes through and even just like the pros itself, so when i write i have a lot of problems with i want to fight that voice. and ting oh, this is going too far people won't get it, this is too personal so my question would be, how like do you always listen to that voice? how do you, you know, keep it from stopping you at writing, and a do you think it's really detrimental or always a positive thing. i want your opinion. >> did we all hear that question about how you have that inner sensor all of the time. you know, the two years was in graduate school i couldn't speak i felt so slengs, intimidated
and made to feel inferior by my environment so i did not speak at all. and it's it funny that you should say a powerful voice because i wrote it when i was feeling most powerless it gave me to permission to write if i was writing something that was another time in my life. so sometimes i think it's good to write things like you know, not something that happened right away but distance from it eight, or ten or twelve years and reason is because the father away something is that happened to you, the clearer you get to see the story because you can see yourself and when something happen immediately you can write poetry. this close -- but a story you need a little bit of perspective. >> yeah. >> i often have to trick myself when i was writing i get writers block too especially when i know who is beginning to publish something. so one of the ways i do it is i ask myself what are my ten times ten. by that i mean what are ten things that i know no one les in this room know.
ma memories do i have, you can make a list. ten things that, you know, that no one else in your family knows? what are ten things that, you know, that no one in your gender knows. ten things no one knows from your profession. ten things from your ethnicity that is different from other people in your ethnicity of your economic class? of your church -- you can just keep going, it's endless lest of ten things only that are yours. they might be silly things they don't have to be anything major but like you know, you know how to throw the garbage can without opening the gate just by swinging up because you were the oldest -- you're a guy you know how to do that. simple little things or you had to hang laundry for nine people on a short clothesline things like that. but i always add make ten things especially you wish you could forget ten memories. and write from that place.
and if i gave everybody the same assignment to write about what's happening to the dakota people an you would never write the same thing even if we have the same facts because every single person here is different. and that's how beautiful like snow -- there's never been like you in the history of the universe, never be anyone like you again when you're gone. and if you use that ten times ten what about a beautiful gift you can give the universe. always go to that. even if you have a siamese twin you have a ten ims too ten times ten that you can bring forth in the work that you do. >> thank you. >> you're welcome. [applause] >> yeah, i was going to ask you like i can do that -- i'm tall -- >> how tall are you? >> i haven't checked i think
6'3" now something like that. >> you were close. [laughter] yeah. >> i want to say like -- what you have is read to us and like everything you you said ise you were, obviously, a really, really good writer, and like everything you read up there is really powerful. really heart felt and really like uplifting as well and it, obviously, comes from a really deep passion for writing so i've got to ask like -- when did you when in your life did you decide you wanted to be writer and how exactly did that work? >> that's a good question when i was actually 11 years old ten years old around then when i knew i wanted to be a writer. and i way i knew, was from a reason of pure vanity. i went to the library and when i was a kid we had, didn't have a computer we have those long decimal system drawer and i was looking up a book and backtracked because one card
that was very soft from overuse from the oil of people's hands touching it. and it was smudged used to be typed on librarian test on typewriters so the font an the text and the print would get smudged, and i remember looking at this book thinking that must be a good book lots of people have read that. and i thought bong it, i want a card with my name on it. and i could see the spine of a book with my name that was what i thought. i thought okay -- and i just knew -- i didn't tell anyone. i didn't live in an environment where i could share that, i had six brothers remember, but i kept it a secret but i knew that's what i wanted. important too i want to add for young people fifth, sixth grade, i tell them use this third eye. see what it is you want. don't have to tell anyone but see it. then walk towards it.
you can bit time you get to high school it is too late for many children in poor schools. to make that difference it has to start in middle school. >> okay, thanks. >> you're welcome. [applause] >> i'm short -- [laughter] >> four inch heels soy and pass it thatted by powfort book that i could easily see middle and high schoolers reading and then last year i got to teach it in a transitional language class to students from the age of 14 to 18 from a variety of backgrounds. some from latin america some from sear why and watching how everyone engaged with it on different levels it was really -- a phenomenal experience for me personally i have fallen in love at a different age from a much
different background, and so one thing i've been fascinating about it was -- the depiction of women and that community as like so strong and such a center of the community. and that simultaneously tracked like physically tracked in under street light and seeing on door ways, and i was just curious hold up of that was metaphor and how much of the way you remember seeing women as both powerful and traffic did that occur in your adolescence or more of arctic ties decision to put in later? >> giving a lot of credit for thinking things through. >> but i don't think when i read but i only think when i edit i feel things very deeply. i'm i think i'm like one of the underwater plants if you look at me badly i go wow -- i'm highly sensitive i can't go to an airport without getting tired before i get on the plane
so i'm hyper sensitive lots of artists are like that. so what i can perceive is people's emotions and -- their sadness, even before they tell me, and their need. and really people everybody has a story. but nobody wants to listen to it. and i think i felt my job as a teacher was to listen to my students. i didn't plan that i would need these stories. they came to me and i was the most how do i put it ill prepared. counselor teacher they ever met. you know, i should have been saying well now you need to go to do this. but i was just cry. you know, i wasn't really good. but i was taking their stories with me and think and think and think and think about them. and it was hard for me to go to sleep with these stories knowing -- what my students lives were like
men and women. and so i wrote about them and starting to put, remember that train set with my house, you know i started adding in that little train set called house on mango street because it was a way to transform that sadness in my heart to light. that's the real reason i write and why you should write for the same reason. we all have a story to tell. everybody has a story that is meaningful to tell but unfortunately we always talk about the the stuff that doesn't mart. we don't talk about the stories that are really holding knife to or throats. and we give a story power by not talking about it. things that have happened to us. we let that knife be -- we let that knife be held to our throats. we don't take the knife away. and writing is a way of wrestling with that demon and transforming that story taking the the knife away so it doesn't make you cry so it doesn't haunt you anymore so it kawnt hurt or
humiliate or damage you, and it doesn't mean that every time you write about something like that you're going to take the knife away. some traumas are so great that -- we can't take the knife away. but at least we can keep it from being held and aimed towards us. you know we can learn how to live along side it. i tell young people write from that place and don't stop writing until you've transformed that demon into a little plant that gives -- aluminates you and transforms you and heals you, you know you can stop. >> okay, thank you. >> you're welcome. >> any other ghes question okay. turn around. >> i'm very lucky i've -- i didn't intend to win an award or be in front of you in my
lifetime most i thought i could do you know was get admiration from fellow writers and be a teacher. i'm -- astonished and blessed to make a living from my pen and also to i feel honored to deliver these stories to you. >> hello. so when i first read your book the house on mango street, i was a fresh nan in high school and that book really inspired me to write about my truth because i -- grown up in a white community so i often didn't feel comfortable expressing my thoughts about my culture and identity and reading your books helped me figure out that that was something not only okay to talk about but good to talk about, and i want to be a writer or a journalist when i
grow up, and i want to be able to write about issues that really moon a lot to me. cultural and issues and gender or identity issue and i was wondering how writing has helped you kind of find your voice and find your identity not only in terms of, you know, as a woman. but as, you know, mexican american, as well, and just how it's helped you go through that process. >> you know that's a very complicated question when i started out i said i was a teacher trying to get some sleep. and -- [inaudible] [laughter] very trying to make any change in the world so i didn't expect the accolades and it wasn't an overnight success by the way. that was a long night. you know, i finished i started the book at 21 finished it at 28, and it does publish when i was 30 but it didn't really start gatt ring momentum until i
was 38 so it took a while and i say that to young writers out there they say when you do a business prepare for ten years with no profit well if you're an artist, 20 years or more you may never make a profit. you know, in writing -- and but that's not why we do it. we do it to transform ourselves and heal ourselves otherwise we would be taking countless pills or other numbing substances, and it's a way of keeping us sane. but now i've forgot your question. >> oh basically how did process of writing about your experiences help you to find your identity? >> that's right. i'm still finding any voice cool thing getting older. you got another lesson and moved up to grade two and then up to grade three so i'm 61 but i'm still learning and i'm still finding my voice it's a spiral. and now i'm finding because i live in mexico an travel between
the united states and a dual the citizen that i have a bigger responsibility i'm not just telling stories of my student. but i have to be an ambassador like it or not for both communities, and that's a big job. and of course i never feel smart enough to do it. that's why i read people -- [inaudible] and read for children because i think that as writers we have to be wiser than our best self and i'm always looking for those teachers that are going to help me to do that. >> thank you so much. >> thank you. >> hi what an honor to meet you my daughter's name -- [inaudible] my question is you talked about a lot of mothers and arlitas and i want to see your permit
perspective from when you go back to mexico and then when you're here. what do you see and things that you see that are so -- mothers s are still is struggling and at the same time how do you empower those women so we can raise the next generation up strong for confident women. >> wow, that's a big question there. i don't, i don't feel like i'm out there to empower the women of mexico. actually, they impress me. when you see what's happened with the massacre of -- napa and mothers that are such humble, poorest of the poor in mexico, and they're there with the photos of their children, they've lost their children, and they're still marching and still reminding the government that they have to be held accountable. especially in next mexico from a
lamp, street is light doesn't get fixed in that industry you have lost your son and there's no accountability so the fact that they have the courage. they teach me -- it's not the other way around. i'm trying at 61 to resurface in mexico, and way you to that is by listening. so i think my job right now is one of listening to people that most people wouldn't listen to. and i'm the one that's going to learn from them. >> thank you. [applause] >> hi. it's a great honor that you are u here and i've really loved your work so my question is, how do you know when a piece is going to be either fiction or poetry? >> oh, how do i know when something is fiction or foe try, i don't. i never know. i can say this is going to be something but it tells me.
i just keep following it. it's this little string that i'm pulling and pulling and testimony tell me what wants to be. i often like when i don't know what it is. you know, it seems to be a mix of many, many things because i'm always excited by new forms. i'm us a looking for something that is experimental and teacherring me a new way of saying. but i don't worry about that. you shouldn't worry about what something is. you should just write. okay don'ts worry. >> okay. >> thank you. >> don't worry. thank you for being here, great to meet you my question is i'm hoping you can share your thoughts on role of writing and social movement. >> yes. >> you thought my thoughts on that. >> well i think i can sum it up by a bumper sticker from the 60s if you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. >> thank you.
[applause] [inaudible] thank you so much for being here tonight. my name is william lopez, my question is more about you have a long history of working with publishers that are different communities, and how have you been able to maintain your latina identity through these different, you know, groups and persons one of the proudest moments i know that i felt watching you was receiving the medal from obama with your garment which is an honor. >> well everything i do is -- very calculated. i wore that mexican outfit because i thought i can't buy that kind of craft and i want to say who i am and be -- that is most beautiful dress who needs neiman marcus, right you can wear something from indigenous women i said no i don't get a chance to speak to obama especially maybe say thank
you so i want to make sure that what i'm wearing is going to make a political statement. i don't think so much like, you know, that was calculated. but when i write i don't calculate so much and think okay now i've got to think about that. what i really try to do is empty myself from my personal agenda when i write. i get my big fat personal agenda out of the way, and i do that by meditating asking my ancestors to help me, my father, and my mother principally, and then i go to all of their ancestor and all of the ancestry beginning of time because it always seems like writing a page is impossible. it seems to difficult. but then you think about what your mother and father went through. my father is upholster raised seven kids and fed nine people and within the on with the housewife, my father came as an immigrant. great grandparents didn't know how to read or write when they crossed over during mexican
revolution on my mom's side when you think about that, my grandmother came with a belly and two children during violence in 1915. some of those children died. that's a difficult life. not mine. and when i'm reminded of that then i just say okay, all i want is put one step forward i need to do a page and a half today and -- i want to honor you, if you ask to honor your ancestors you always do good work. >> perfect. >> thank you. >> final question anyone have a final question with? we will have book sales -- >> this one, very sorry. come right up. thanks. >> hi. i'm very shy but not sure about
coming here in front of everyone. it's very nice meeting you my name is frieda i'm not from mexico even though my name is frieda. i came here because i really want to appreciate the work you're doing as a latina ambassador from the original country of your ancestors. my question for you is, what piece of advice would you like to give to the student who want to be a bridge to other cultures? >> oh, that's a nice question. what advice would you give to the students? i think the most important thing we can do is travel. you know, we need to travel especially travel to a place where you don't speak the language if you travel to a place where you don't speak the language then you have compassion and patience for people here in the united states. and the more you travel, the more you see who you are.
the funny you know but if you travel outside of the united states and go someplace outside of your zone of comfort you learn more about your home country and about your home culture and about who you are. so it's great because it opens you up, it makes you more generous and patient and compassionate, and it teaches you who you are and ten times ten. thank you for asking. >> yeah. >> thank you. [applause] >> okay we will have is book sales and signing in the lobby thank you all very much for coming. >> thank you all, thank you. [applause] [silence]