I was tagged twice for this The Next Big Thing Blog Hop/Meme – first by Lilian Howan and then by Kiala Givehand, both VONA all star beauties. Thank you ladies!
It seems some questions have been omitted & some added so I’ll go ahead and answer all.
What is the working title of your book?
A Dim Capacity for Wings
Where did the idea come from for your book?
I first fell in love with memoir when I read St. Augustine’s Confessions at age 19 when I was in college, but the thought of writing my life story first struck me when I was in boarding school. At that point, I thought the focus would be Bushwick girl meets white America. I was still carrying shame of where I was from, the rubble that was Bushwick, Brooklyn, and being raised by lesbian women. I wasn’t ready to talk, much less write, about that then. It was when I became a mother eight years ago that the journey to A Dim Capacity for Wings really began. I was so terrified of becoming the mother to my daughter that my mother was to me that I started writing stories about my childhood. The stories I’d told my friends and written in my journal so many times before motherhood took on an entirely different energy now that I was a mother. Then my Millie, the self-proclaimed butch who raised me, died when my little girl was just six months old. The loss devastated me and served to remind me even more that these stories needed to be written. I started with a novel, A Woman’s Cry, because I was too afraid of sharing my life so publicly. I wrote another novel manuscript, To Play Write, before finally giving in to memoir, which at that point, and still now, demands to be written.
What is the genre of your book?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie version?
Michelle Rodriguez would play me because she’s tough and no nonsense and, well, sexy. 🙂
My mom, I could see played by Lupe Ontiveros, the woman who portrayed Yolanda Saldívar, the murderer of Tejano superstar Selena. Yes, I know she passed away in 2012 but we’re talking dream-scape here.
My Millie, wow, I’m not sure who could play her as I don’t think there’s an actress out there who could do her justice. I’d be better off picking a Boricua butch woman out of a NYC barrio.
What songs would be in the soundtrack for your book?
Oh Lawd, this is a tough question but I’ll try.
Ring My Bell by Anita Ward because my Millie loved that song
Periodico de Ayer & El Cantante by Hector Lavoe because I grew up on his music
80s salsa like Jerry Rivera, Lalo Rodriguez, Tito Nieves, etc. because I grew up dancing salsa at family parties that went into the wee hours
Michael Jackson’s Thriller (and that whole album really) because I remember going to abuela’s house to watch the video launch on primetime TV. It was a historic event.
Madonna’s Like A Virgin album
80s rock bands like Journey, Bon Jovi and U2
Rap when it was just in its embryonic stages – Sugarhill Gang (Rapper’s Delight!), Run DMC, Rakim, Kurtis Bow, Salt-n-Peppa, Newcleus (Jam on It), Special Ed (I Got It Made) and so many more.
80s& 90s Freestyle – all of it!
And more recent songs because they speak to the girl I was and the woman I am:
Sade’s Long Road, It’s only love that gets you through and, of course, Soldier of Love
Alicia Keys That Girl is On Fire
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The memoir answers the question: What did I learn about love from my two moms and how has that influenced my mothering?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Represented by an agency.
How long did it take to write the first draft of the manuscript?
After living with the memoir for years, writing and telling and processing my stories, rewriting and compiling them for almost two and a half years, I sat down in January 2012 and cranked out a first draft in three months.
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago meets Bone Black by bell hooks meets The Prisoner’s Wife by Asha Bendele meets Liars Club by Mary Karr meets Things I’ve Been Silent About by Azir Nafisi meets Piri Thomas’s Down these Mean Streets meets so many more…
Who or what inspired you to write this book?
Inspiration came from so many places and people it’s tough to pinpoint but I can definitely say that reading hundreds of memoirs made me realize the importance of personal narrative. I was also very much riled to action by headlines of anti-gay marriage movements, but the images that really shook me were those of kids, little kids like my daughter, seven, eight and nine years old, grinning and holding up signs and wearing t-shirts that read, “GAY means God abhors you.” Hatred like this is taught. It’s learned. And it’s vile.
Also, as I said in question 2, becoming a mother also played a huge part in the formation of this book.
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
I’m writing as a woman who was raised in a gay relationship in the 70s and 80s. Long before Heather has Two Mommies hit the mainstream in the 90s. And just a few years after the American Psychiatric Association took homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in 1973.
I’m writing as a woman of 37 who is only now coming to terms with my childhood. It’s a process, yo. And it’s in the writing that I finally realized that I’ve been trying to convince myself for the past eight years of motherhood that I am not my mother.
I’m also writing as a woman who understands that while studies and statistics play their part, they do not give face to people and meaning to their struggles. Story does.
In keeping with the theme of The Next Big Thing, I’ve chosen 5 writers on the verge who I admire and know they too are “the next big thing.” I’ve already tagged these beautiful women but most have not responded. Here’s their second chance. 🙂
Cynthia Dewi Oka
Andrea “Philly” Walls