I’ve been getting some interesting questions while on book tour.
1 – Do you plan on all on your novels being so political?
2 – How come your novel doesn’t get more political?
The funny thing is, these questions actually don’t contradict one another other. In fact, they reveal a lot about how we think of art and politics. They are what happen when we think of art and politics as being two wholly separate things. Rather than seeing them as being organically intertwined, we like to think one can be applied to another in increments or measurements, as if making a novel political is as simple as baking: mix in X or Y amount of Issue A to a plot and you get a novel that is either somewhat or very political.
My life experience does not allow me to see—or even experience—things quite so simply. As an immigrant and a Latina whose recent novel deals with family sacrifice, love, generational trauma, secrets, marriage, adolescence, borders, and immigration, I’m often told things like my novel is very timely, or that the topic of immigration is very relevant right now. I’ve lived my whole life as an immigrant; to me and millions like me, immigration is not a “topic” but a lived experience. We cannot separate politics from our lives because our whole lives there have been policies in place that affect us.
Which is why question #1 (do you plan on all your novels being political?) so often creeps up. What a question like this fails to acknowledge is that all stories are political—the only difference among them is the role those politics play. If they are unperceived in a story, it is only because the people in it are lucky enough to have politics working in their favor: unfelt and unintrusive.
In stories like mine, in a time and setting where the current (and historical) politics obstruct and oppress the lives of the Latinx immigrant communities I’m writing about, the political becomes more visible. It is a force that we do not have the privilege, as much as we’d want to, of ignoring. Even if I were to write a fun, “non-political” story that makes for an escapist read, it’d be difficult to do so authentically because my existence as a woman of color and immigrant is politicized in the world we live in. The example I often give is this: [Read more…]