(conducted by Charlotte Slivka)
12th Street: When did you know you’d be a writer, and what propelled you to go for it?
Tiphanie Yanique: My grandmother was a children’s librarian, which really means–especially in the Virgin Islands–that she told stories. I grew up hearing her stories. She loved to tell stories, so I grew up with that storytelling. I definitely came to understand who I was based on the stories my grandmother told me, about who I was and who our family was. Stories were very important to me early on… history, radio shows, gossip. I just always remember being fascinated by stories themselves…I did always know that I was writing. Writing was separate from wanting to be a writer. I think that is an important distinction.
(conducted by Kadin Herring)
12th Street: Did the Chicano movement influence you to become a writer or focus your art in speaking about the injustices faced by Mexican and other Central American immigrants?
Rigoberto Gonzalez: …I would not be a writer if it did not build a relationship to politics. And being a Chicano, being a Mexican or a Latino or an immigrant in this country, is a political act. It’s political because we are always fighting against policies and loudmouths that want to define our experience, control the narratives that shape the way people see us, the way we see ourselves.
(conducted by Daniel Gee Husson)
12th Street: And the larger place of the writer in the world?
Rene Steinke: I don’t think artists are obligated to make political statements…I think we all write from a particular perspective, a certain relationship to the rest of the world, and the best literature helps us to imagine what it’s like to be someone else. That’s the political and ethical side of literature for me; that space of empathy and understanding…I tend to write about female characters who are at the margins, women whose energy pushes them to outrageous, sometimes violent actions…In the broader sense, that woman’s battle is always political.