FBC ep49 Jaquira Diaz.mp3
8:53AM Oct 31, 2019
This episode is brought to you in collaboration with cultivate counseling and wellness, feminist gender and sexuality affirming Health at Every Size, non diet anti racist mental health services for everybody. Learn more at cultivate counseling mn.com
Welcome back to the feminist book club podcast, a show for dangerous well read women. Each week we explore literature and media through a feminist lens
as one small way to reclaim our time, our books and our stories. Let's get started. Welcome back,
everyone, Renee Powers here and I'm so thrilled to have two Kiera Diaz on the show today
to remember ordinary girls is out this week and it's easily one of my favorite books of the year. definitely stay tuned for this moving conversation about girlhood legacy, colonization and so much more. Before we get into it, I wanted to tell you a little bit about today's sponsor, which is cultivate counseling and wellness because our November Book of the Month touches on sexual assault and trauma, which is something so many of us have experienced. I wanted to bring a licensed mental health professional into our book discussion. I considered reaching out to my own wonderful therapist but before I could even do that cultivate counseling, it slipped into rtmp like it was meant to be. This Minneapolis based Counseling Center focuses on feminist gender and sexuality affirming Health at Every Size, non diet anti raises mental health services for every body. And even though cultivate counseling and wellness is located in Minneapolis, they provided something that's applicable to all of our members worldwide. For our November boxes, they've created a wallet size card to help members have conversations about weight, body image and Health at Every Size, while speaking with their doctor or health practitioner. There is space on this card to indicate whether it's okay to weigh the card holder and whether that information should be disclosed to the cardholder, etc. It's fantastic. The work that cultivate counseling and wellness is doing around body positivity is so needed in the mental health sphere and I'm grateful that they're a part of our November box. While they do embrace body diversity and are aware of how prevalent disordered eating is in our society, they treat a wide variety of mental health concerns. So if you're in the area or if you're just curious about their work, give them a follow on Instagram at cultivate counseling in we do still have November boxes available so head on over to feminist book club comm slash shop to reserve yours Don't forget to use that coupon code podcast for $5 off alongside this resource subscribers will receive the brand new book know my name by Chanel Miller, a package of mixed banana bread mix him oil from oh it's natural and a reusable cleaning cloth from soak it up clots which are all fabulous woman owned businesses. In addition, five cents of every dollar you spend on feminist book club.com this month will be donated to the Abortion access front. Now, here's today's interview
Hi everyone. Welcome back to Kira Diaz is the author of ordinary girls, which is a summer and fall 2019. indies introduced selection a fall 2019, Barnes and Noble discover great new writer selection and a November 2019 ND. Next pick. I think that list is going to grow in terms of all the things that's been chosen for and will be chosen for her. Her work has been published to the Rolling Stone, The Guardian, the fader and T, The New York Times style magazine and included in the best American essays 2016 and she splits her time between Montreal and Miami Beach with her partner, the writer Lars Warren, welcome. Thank you. Thank you so much for having me. Here. I am so so excited to talk to you about your book, ordinary girls. But before we get started, I have to ask like I asked everyone, what is your Definition of feminism,
feminism? Well, I think the obvious the obvious thing is that feminism means having choices and agency. Feminism for me means having choices and agency. But it also means using your power and privilege to advocate for the rights and equality of women and femmes and people who are non binary. It means advocating for those with less power, no matter their gender or yours, and undoing undoing systemic and institutional racism, sexism and other forms of inequality. To me personally, it also means undoing the harm caused by gender binaries, which are imposed by those in power
Yeah, that's that's a lot and it's so important I love that you're talking you're touching on intersection ality to it's not just about gender and it's not not it's not about just women. It's about the full spectrum of gender and sexuality and race. Everything else.
Yeah, yeah, I mean, it should go without saying right that feminism should be intersection, all right? And that it means different things for different people, depending on how much power you have.
Yes. And the context to I find that that's something that doesn't get talked a lot in feminist fear is his identity in relation to the context that you're in the situation you're in, if you're amongst all white folks, you know, you and I would experience that very differently, as opposed to if you're in a room of all men are all people of color. So I thank you for bringing up those aspects of it. So how does that then relate to your book, ordinary girls?
I'd like to think of myself as I like to think that I was a feminist before I even know what feminism was. But I was a girl who rejected certain power structures. I'm a queer woman who grew up in a community that was deeply deeply homophobic But also not sustain the culture of shame and silence, to be a girl back then in my neighborhood was to be shamed for who you were, how you dress, how you spoke, what you wanted, and to have desire was considered shameful. Sexual violence was something that you didn't talk about. And it was considered something to be kept secret. And it was always, it was always the girls who were blamed or the victims were blamed. Not much has changed. But to be a girl or a woman, when I was growing up was to play a certain role or to fit the rule society or men had decided was right for you. And in my work, especially this book, and ordinary girls, I try to reject the culture of shame and silence as much as possible. And I tried to return to this again and again, which is to speak out and in ways that I was never allowed to in my childhood. adolescence. And it's very much about negotiating a certain kind of girlhood and what that meant at the time and what it means now. And I'm always thinking about those girls, myself included, who are stigmatized and silenced and marginalized. And my work is very much for them.
Tell me more about how you negotiate and write about girls and girlhood. Especially,
one of the things I'm constantly thinking about is this is why the title is ordinary girls is what it meant to be ordinary and how I felt in so many ways like I was hyper visible and invisible at the same time if that's even possible, but I felt a you know it when you're living in a, one of the things that I think about often is who, who my work is going to reach and these girls today who are living In many ways, the kind of life I was living, and they're always in the back of my mind as not necessarily as my audience, but definitely my intended audience. So I'm always thinking about who will read this, who will see herself, or who will see themselves in my work. So the focus of many of the chapters in the book is not necessarily just the narrative, and it's not necessarily just the plot of the book. But I tend to pause in moments that that were significance to me growing up in moments that shaped me. And so I try to do this thing that I guess some people will call flash forward, in which I pause a moment and I move and I kind of give the reader a glimpse of the future and try to bring the focus back to what girlhood means. To give you one example I do this in a chapter called level ground, which is I pause the narrative to think about To look at my mother and the ways I see my mother and her rage and how that will affect me, but I also pause for a moment to think about who this other girl is just send me on I call her just me, which was not around him. But But I pause to think about the kind of girls will become and it's not necessarily clear who she'll become because I don't know. But it's also like, even though I know who will become I try to pose it as a question. That's not really a question but as something for the reader to consider. We're kind of girls will become. And there are moments in the book, where I keep trying to do this and trying to pause the narrative and look into the future, trying to signal I guess, that's even the right word, trying to signal places where the reader can pause and focus and think about what this means for this kind of girl for this kind of girl. Huh? What do you think
young Shakira little you that you write about what what do you think about your life today?
I don't think she believer really. I there was a point in my life when I didn't even see myself living past my 18th birthday, when I didn't really believe I had a future and when people like school counselors brought up college or essay t tasks, I was like college. I'm not like that's not for me. That's never going to happen. And so I think, little Jackie would not she would believe this is my life. She wouldn't really believe this could be possible, which is sad, but in a lot of ways feels triumphant. Right now from from this vantage point, yeah.
And having read through the
just honest portrayal of your life in this memoir and so much trauma and hard chip that you've overcome. I can. I can just imagine how a little Shakira would be like, like, she's a still alive. Yeah. Successful and at doing something so important and sharing these stories in the world. I, we were talking a little bit before we recorded that. We're recording, what is this October 1. And the book comes out the end of this month and the week that this episode will be up, it will be available. And you've been getting a little bit of press already. So can you tell me a little bit about how people have enjoyed it so far?
Oh, my goodness. So. So I keep getting emails from my publicist. almost daily, every other day or so about these lists, like my book is on another list. And that part seems I was describing it like it seems like I'm living someone else's life, right. And when I wake up When I read one of these lists or like a review, it feels very much like, I can't believe this is happening, the book is even out yet and someone's actually reading my work and enjoying it. There was one review in particular that that publicist sent me that I guess was in a women's Review of Books that called the book of finger awakening rejection of the Colts and culture of shame. And I was like, Yeah, I love that a finger waving rejection. I was like, Yes, middle finger all the way. I didn't want to say a fuck you to the Korean culture of shame and silence, but, but I think that's how I that's how I'm going to think about it. Oh, it's brilliant.
But so far, you've I, I'm not surprised that like I told you, I'm not surprised that it's getting the accolades. It's already getting and I can't wait to see where it goes. This is it really exciting for me to talk to you before it, you know, is released because I kind of feel like we're The very beginning of a wildfire maybe. And I'm just excited and it's been compared to just for our readers who may not in that may not be under their radar yet it's been compared to Tara Westover is educated. Roxanne gaze hunger. There is a blurb on the back from Sandra Cisneros like this is no small potatoes here. That's my Midwestern coming out.
Somewhat. Go ahead.
Sorry, sorry, I'm just too I just wanted to reply to that it feels definitely surreal me because compared to any of these women little known all of them that it's that it was that sunglasses, nettles redder that she learned that it feels like I'm living someone else's life. I already told you but I'm so so grateful. And I feel very, very lucky to be to be doing this. Do you think?
Or do you think it's hard work?
A little both. I'll be honest, I I've been working on this book for like 12 years. And it seemed like I'd be working on it for the rest of my life. So it definitely feels like a little of both luck, hard work. But also, I have to give them credit a lot of people, a lot of other people who like, who worked hard on my behalf, who worked for me, who gave me opportunities and who saw something and took a chance on me a lot of other people. It's so many people to get me here.
I hear that a lot from authors that it's your name on the cover of the book. But the I find I always read the acknowledgments because I find that it is such a community process to get a book from that document on your computer to to press and into the hands of readers. And so I was writing when I was in grad school, everyone talked about their dissertation as another child And it just seems like that's the same thing with a book is your birthing something into this world and it's not a solo endeavor. It definitely takes leaning on your community and your family, however you define family. For our listeners who haven't read this yet, what are some of the themes that they can expect when they pick it up
some of the themes. So there's definitely writing about coming of age about growing up in poverty in Puerto Rico. And in Miami Beach. There's sexuality, racism, sexual violence. There's goodness there's so much but so this is pretty much my story of growing up and coming of age in Puerto Rico in Miami Beach, and also trying to deal with my mother's or not deal but trying to serve In spite of my mother's mental illness and addiction, and I'm in the middle of our family splitting apart as far as some of the themes that I set out to explore, in the book, there was definitely girlhood and coming of age and violence and sexual violence, but also a certain I guess I keep saying there's a certain kind of girlhood, a very specific kind of girlhood, which is what we had growing up in Puerto Rico and Miami Beach.
Do you think that specific girlhood that you experience differs from Puerto Rican girls or Latino girls in Florida now?
It's definitely a different Miami than than it was when I was growing up. We had
we lived in an inner city Miami Beach was a city that was experiencing a kind of urban blight. In that half the city was abandoned their abandoned buildings that were crumbling. And then I don't know if you remember this, this is way back in the day, but Miami Vice was filming at the time and they would come in. And they would take these abandoned crumbling buildings and they would paint them over and remodel them that renovate them. And they would use them for to film the show. And so they started painting buildings like on abandoned blocks, there were these buildings that looked brand new. And so eventually investors came in and started buying these buildings and doing the real renovations and people started moving in so half of Miami Beach seems like it was experiencing this urban blight and the other half seemed like it was fancy. And so then tourists started coming in and we always wondered why people would Come here. I was, like, shocked that people wanted to come to Miami Beach. I'm like, we have brats in our building. Why are you coming here? But I think the difference is that I think Latinos growing up on Miami Beach right now are experiencing a very different city than we were. We saw Miami Beach as it was kind of struggling and then thriving or like working to get to a point when it was thriving. And now, most of the people I knew growing up, were displaced and have left Miami Beach and I think most of it is gentrified and the people the Latinos who who are there now are not necessarily working class. It's not a working class neighborhood anymore. They're very well off and for the most part, are much more privileged than we were for also default, like Very small town where no one had cars. We all took the bus. We all walked everywhere. And we all know each other's secrets. And everywhere you went, you saw someone you knew. So it felt very much like a small town. I think now, it feels more like a tourist town where with small pockets of communities.
One thing that struck me as a theme added, I don't know if this was intentional, but it felt like you were always searching for home.
Especially after I think your first move. You moved several times in Puerto Rico and then several times in Miami Beach in the US. And I asked my question is, well, was that intentional? That theme of home and looking for home and searching and also have you found it?
So it was and wasn't intentional. Because it's always been my life, even as a grown woman. I've been moving I want to say, almost once a year since leaving grad school, sometimes I stay in places for two or three years. Right now I don't even live in one place. I live in two different place. Because my partner lives in Montreal and I live in Miami Beach and we kind of spend time in both places. So yes, and not to answer the second question. Yes and No, I have found home. It's just that homeless split. Miami Beach is definitely definitely home. Puerto Rico is definitely definitely home but I don't live there. Full time ever. I guess for me home as a person. It's my partner and wherever they are, wherever we are together feels like home. But eventually, maybe next year, we'll settle somewhere and call it home. One place but the writing itself guess it was intentional. Like a Yes and No, it wasn't wasn't intentional. Because Because in real life Yes, I was always always moving. And we were always we always seemed like we were going from one place to the next before we even settled anywhere. And then the writing itself is in a lot of ways, like a search for self. Like I'm searching for the place where I fit, even though I never, I never really felt like I fit anywhere. In so many ways. I was a misfit. I was a kid who felt like an alien in her own family. I didn't look like my father's black family. I didn't look like my mother's white family. I felt like the only person who really looked like me was my little sister. And so I felt like an alien in my own family. And in school, I was a nerdy girl who liked to read books and didn't have a lot of friends in my early years of school and then, in the later years, I was Kind of a hoodlum girl who love to read but didn't tell her friends because that was considered uncool. So I read on the download. So I didn't really fit with my group of friends either. As much as I like to convince myself that I done. So it definitely was a search for home. I think a search for home happens from beginning to end of this book.
One of the topics you bring up a few times and mostly near the end of the book is the history of Puerto Rico, which I didn't know. And the and you led me down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and I thank you for it.
The wars and colonialism and why was it important for you to bring that history of the island to this work?
It was important because it was it was what shaped me. It was what made me a writer and my very early, early days when I first started reading When I read were my father's books and so many of his books were about Puerto Rico, Puerto Rican independence, and Puerto Rican Poetry and Literature, but also my father, who was a poet and a college student, and loved reading, loved writing. One of my very early memories was how we went how He took me to this funeral of a Puerto Rican poet. He was a protest poet, Juan Antonio caught her hand, which is in the book and our conversations which didn't necessarily make it into the chapter conversations after the funeral where I was fascinated with this man that my father had loved so much, even though he didn't know him. And I thought I thought about how someone could be so touched by just someone's work someone's writing. And I didn't really understand this when I was a child when I was a kid, right? I just understood that my Father thought poets were important, and that poets could change the world and that writers and writing was important. And so I read books and I wanted to be a writer, mostly because my father loved books. But it shaped me it shaped who I was. And my father was also a storyteller. He told stories about Puerto Rico's fight for independence. And so it made me love stories, but it also made me very curious and it kind of sent me on a search for the kind of history that we didn't get in schools. And so I was always looking for it and it was all wrapped up in my desire to be a writer wanting to know this history and wanting to not forget this history and kind of resisting this eraser
Yeah, I spoke to evil is evil East Rodriguez about her book love war stories on the podcast no months ago, and She's of Puerto Rican heritage as well. And I said something about that island that it just, I'm drawn to it. I visited once at every, I don't know, like, three weeks. I feel like I'm looking for flights back. And I didn't and I, I didn't know the history of it. And I'm really grateful. Like I said that you brought that into the book because it makes me even more curious. And it's so important, especially for me as a white woman to recognize. Yes, I am a colonizer like that is my heritage. And so recognizing my place in space when I visit and on whose land I am visiting. It was just a really nice reminder, a really important reminder. I guess it wasn't nice that nothing about colonization is nice, but it was a good reminder reading that and so it was one of those things I wasn't expecting from a memoir about girlhood. Right? Getting fit and colonization. And so I appreciate it that. Thank you. Thank you. I really felt like it was important to have it in the book because it was so important to my life growing up. And I think almost every Puerto Rican who is born on the island and goes to school in Puerto Rico and travels the island and then leaves, feel some of this, how important it is to not forget the things we learned while we were there, and how important it is to come back to return and to remember, and every Puerto Rican I've met, definitely feels like
they never they never got the history, like something was kept from them and that they've had to go out and search for these things themselves. So I really wanted to have some of that in the book. So the things that I found not because they were taught in school, but because I went on a search for them and I was lucky because I had a father who loved books and Read and does read books and as. And it's very important to him that that his three children kind of keep something of our Puerto Rican schooling our Puerto Rican heritage and history and culture.
I thank you for sharing it with us and thank you for writing this book. I I'm kind of at a loss for words and I'll tell you why.
I get that way I get a little I don't know, awestruck in the face of talent and I'm, I'm intimidated. I feel like this is one of the most beautiful books I've read all year and I don't want to just be a total fan girl I want to I want to click record a sub central podcast with you but I also want to say like, know everything about this is great and I loved it and everybody needs to read it.
So Before we wrap up, is there anything we
didn't touch on that you wanted to share? Are you on tour this fall and winter you want to share about Is there a topic you want to hit the floor is yours.
Um, I am going to be on tour starting October 20 seconds until like the end of November, and then again in the in the spring. So I'm going to be on tour. I don't know how many cities we're going to hit. But it started off as a 10. city tour and is now like 30 stops so wonderful. And it's kind of intimidating and frightening, to be honest. To be traveling this much and talking about this book. But yeah, so I'm going to be on tour. I have posted all the dates and stops on my website to cure the US. com. But about what else to talk about. I don't think Don't even know. So we have a lot of listening
in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities. I know you're going to have a stop here in October. So yeah, definitely, for the listeners in the area. It'll be at majors and clan, which is one of our independent bookstores. Go get a copy of this and, and give her a hug with her consent. We have and get your book signed. And unfortunately, I'm not going to be in the country.
So I'm really sad. I'm missing that. But I I hope that the tour treats you well and Minnesota treats you well. It's a really, it's a really good book community here.
Oh, thank you. I am looking forward to Minneapolis and makers and Quinn. I will also be in other cities in the Midwest, Iowa City and at some point, Chicago. Excellent. In November, and a bunch of other places.
Yeah, well, we will link to your website in the show notes with all the tour dates. So go check that out. We've got listeners all over the country, so hopefully she'll be somewhere near you. And where else can we find you online? Is there a social media platform you prefer?
Um, I am trying to stay off social media right now because I'm trying to read another book, but I am on Twitter.
I am on Twitter and I'm security is on Twitter. I'm also on Instagram, as security. But feel free to say hi on there to come to one of the events and say hi, I love talking to readers Love, love it. It's humbling and so much fun.
Yes. So we always wrap up with a book recommendation. If you've got a book to recommend with not your own that you think our listeners should check out. What would that be?
Oh my goodness. I am reading Carmen Maria Machado in the dream house right now. Wow, this book How do I even describe this book? It is so good. I got my hands on an air See, and I've been trying to pace myself because I don't want to end. Everything she goes with this book is refreshing and unexpected. I would describe it as part memoir, part interrogation part, cultural criticism, parts, exploration of narrative tropes. It's a memoir about an abusive relationship, but it's also so much more Oh my god, it's so good. There's even a choose your own adventure story in there. Which, of course, of course, I would expect from my title, of course, I've ended and it's like, you, you can do this. It's taught me so much about what you can actually do. And I'm, I'm warm, and I'm so jealous that I didn't write it but also so grateful that it exists.
Yeah, read this book. It's so good.
Alright, so well, it's in the dream house. And we will link that in the show notes as well as your book in the show notes. Go check it out. Tell us about your next book.
correct. Yeah. It's a novel. It's a novel called I Am deliberate. And I can't say too much about it because I'm in the middle of writing it, but it's about a an 18 year old college students who is who goes to college in the Midwest in the middle of the 2016. election. Jesus. Yeah. That's it.
I hope it has a happy ending. I hope we all have here 2016 Okay.
Take care. Thank you so, so much for joining me today. I am so grateful and so honored to be speaking with you and, and having your workout in the world. Congratulations.
Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.
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