Welcome to another Author Spotlight! These spotlights are for showcasing author’s (predominantly women and people of color) writing talents and published works. I do themed weeks of prominent holidays/events throughout the year on my site. Every time I do these I always feature other authors (usually ones of color and women). And for Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month I am trying to feature authors who have Latinx and/or Hispanic backgrounds. So without further ado let’s get on with the Author Spotlight!
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About the Author:
Jesenia Chávez is a proud Chicanita, public-school teacher, writer, poet and storyteller. She has kept a diary since elementary school, and it is filled with witty observations on the life of a little Mexican girl in Southeast Los Angeles who keeps losing her chanclas. Her writing is inspired by her parents’ migration to Los Angeles, her teaching career, her sense of loss in the rapidly changing landscape of Los Angeles, and all the small moments in between when she can catch her breath and put pen to paper.
Look out for her upcoming poetry collection that will be published with Alegría magazine. She has also recently ventured into the podcasting world by co-hosting Que Me Cuentas (What can you tell me): A mostly Latinx storytelling podcast with a friend. She believes in the healing power of storytelling, poetry, dancing, nature and lots of hugs. Find her on IG @chabemucho and @quemecuentaspod.
What and when started your love for writing?
My love for writing started in the womb. Just kidding, I like to use humor a lot to express myself. It started in elementary school, my aunt gave me a pink diary to write in and I’ve been writing ever since. I started with poetry in college, I had the privilege of taking a class with Dr. Chela Sandoval, an amazing profesora at UCSB, our class was about poetry and writing.
I experienced the transformative power of reading your work outloud, it takes on a new meaning and creates spaces for empathy and love. Writing is an act of self-love for me and it has saved me many times from feeling alienated and disconnected. Sharing the work is magical, it creates an intimacy with the reader and the audience. This is what I love about writing.
Of all of the book genres, what drew you to write about yours?
I am drawn to poetry because it can be complex and simple at the same time. I am a fast paced person, I go a mile a minute and poetry helps me to slow down, to think, to make sense of the world around me.
If you could meet your favorite Latinx/Hispanic author, who would it be and why?
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros is the first book I read where I saw myself reflected in the stories. I went to see her speak at an event on October 31, 2015 at the Museum of Latin-American Art, and when she spoke she said she was tired of being the only book students had read, that there were many more talented writers out there whose stories need to be told, to be published.
Since then we have seen lots of powerful and wonderful new voices, one of the most exciting for me is Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of Mexican Gothic. I read Mexican Gothic and then devoured all her other books. Her writing transports me, and I would LOVE to meet her.
How has your Latinx/Hispanic background and culture shaped what you write and how you write?
I majored in Chicano Studies and History at UC, Santa Barbara, and this empowered me to tell my own story, to be proud of my history and to embrace my culture even more. My family is from a small town in Chihuahua, Mexico, and we were able to visit a few times. I am conscious of all the people that have come before me, all the people that have not had the same opportunities I have had.
I am aware of the institutionalized racism that has kept many voices and communities out. The contrasts of these experiences, Dolores, Chihuahua-Los Angeles, college-home, work, weaving in and out of neighborhoods and spaces, I find moments of joy, pain, and reflection. Through my writing I am making sense of these things, of my own part in it, I am remembering my family, my parents, my friends.
I am piecing together a new narrative, adding to the tapestry of this country and what it means to be a child of Mexican immigrants. I am writing about how we exist outside of stereotypes and misconceptions, and this is an act of resistance for me. I teach kindergarten and first grade in an underfunded neighborhood, and everyday I am reminded of the struggles many people in our communities face, we deserve more, our children deserve more. My writing is inspired by the strength I witness everyday.
What book do you think everyone should read is based (or inspired by) around Latinx/
A House of my own by Sandra Cisneros. In the time of the butterflies by Julia Alvarez, In Search of Bernabé by Graciela Limón, these three powerhouse authors have written beautiful stories about survival and strength. These books make me cry so much, they haunt me and inspire me.
What makes your book(s)/writing special?
I tell stories through my poems, my cuento-poemas. I hope to inspire, spark memories, and remember, to help you remember those parts of you that need a little love too. Through my poetry I hope to create moments of joy, empathy, and a little laughter once in a while too.
So…what are you working on now?
I am working on my first poetry collection with Alegría publishing. I also co-host a mostly Latinx podcast with my good friend, where we ask friends to share stories around a theme.
Woot woot, another poet!!! Jesenia is a ball of energy I was happy to interview and get to learn about. I know her poetry collection is going to be on for the books (see what I did there). If you want to get in contact or connect with Jesenia, you can follow her on:
Thank you all for reading and remember:
Live. Love. Laugh.