books saved my life



The Puerto Rican writer Jaquira Díaz, whose books “saved her life”, seeks with her award-winning novel “Ordinary Girls” that all women and girls who “grew up poor” see how “a person can improve himself.”

“What I wanted to say to women, girls, and adolescents is that my story was not unique, but that we all have similar stories, that we all really are worth and that our lives mean something in the world,” Díaz said. to Efe.

The writer, who has been awarded with the 2019 Whiting Prize endowed with $ 50,000 in the category of non-fiction novel, assured in a telephone interview that this award has “encouraged her to continue”, both economically and emotionally.

In announcing the award last week, the Whiting Foundation noted that “Diaz’s literature is laden with indelible images of violence and tenderness. His devastating memories are built on the helical structure of memory itself.”

Ordinary Diaz women, “abused, addicted, two-race and ‘queer'” (LGTB), have “extraordinary lives,” wrote one American literary critic when the book was published last fall.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, Díaz canceled a large part of the tour with which he was going to present “Ordinary Girls”.

Díaz had already visited thirty cities, but as he had no health insurance and after his mother suffered several pneumonia he decided to cancel the tour until further notice as a precaution.

In her novel, Díaz recounts her childhood in Puerto Rico, where she lived in the so-called “caseríos,” state apartments for the most disadvantaged, and how she and her family moved to Miami Beach in the 1980s looking for of a better life.

However, the problems within his dysfunctional family continued, and despite the fact that his father, who once had to traffic drugs to feed the family, had some legal jobs, they fell back into the spiral of poverty.

Also, her mother was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

During her adolescence she entered and left juvenile correctional facilities, but Díaz knew from the age of eight that she wanted to be a writer.

However, it was not until Hurricane Andrew (1992) lived at age thirteen that he wrote his first story, which was published in the Miami Herald.

“It was the first time that I saw that I could be a writer. I didn’t know how I was going to do it or what I had to do, but it was the first moment I saw that it was possible,” Díaz explained.

After public school, he alternated up to three jobs while attending Miami-Dade College and managed to raise money to study at the Central Florida University (Orlando) and the South Florida University (Tampa).

“I started writing, in the morning, at night, every day. Sometimes 15 minutes a day, other hours and hours in a row. I realized that to be a writer I had to consider this career the most important thing in my life and not give up by overdue, “says Diaz.

It took him twelve years to finish “Ordinary Girls”, which is nothing other than his story and that of his family, and which he began to write because there were memories that he was “unable to forget”.

The novel has served him to “reconcile with his past”.

“There were many people whom I hurt and who forgave me and continue to forgive me. I had to be the person who forgave others as well, forgiving my mom, my dad, my family, because they deserve it” , said.

Freed from the past, Díaz enters a new adventure and is already working on her new novel, in which she tells the story of a young Puerto Rican who travels to an American university at the time of Donald Trump’s election as president (2016) and which they see “as an enemy for being Latina”.

It is also dedicated to promoting Latino writers of African descent, “whose voices are not yet present” in the publishing industry, she says in a Twitter message.

The also finalist of the literary prize Lambda commented that the migrant population of Puerto Rico who lives in the United States “often feels as if they were in a foreign country”, and the same thing happens when they return home since “it seems that we never go to be completely American or Puerto Rican. “

“You lose the connection with your country, with your language, with your culture, and it becomes very difficult when you are a second generation child to have that connection with your country again.”

Díaz has learned that “it is never too late to try to return.” “For me it was very important to have a book, books saved my life”, he concludes.

Alberto Domingo Carreiro

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