Tag Archives: Junot Diaz

California Love

As I sit around a discounted hotel room in Romulus, Michigan, waiting for a storm in New York to abate so that I could fly in, pick up some stuff and head back home to Ecuador, it’s hard to believe that one of the best months of my life has just passed by. My travels in the East Bay for the VONA/Voices travel writing workshop for writers of color were blessed by new friends, old ones, sunshine, Pride, solidarity and love. I wanna say thanks to all the folks who made it possible: (Hover cursor over photos for captions; click to enlarge)
First of all, to Faith Adiele for educating and inspiring the shit outta me, for taking me to a Russian bathhouse when I really needed some healing, for having my back/preserving the sancitity of the workshop experience from day one. To Djoser Imhotep (and Justin), Austin Pritzkat (and Carlos), Mish, Dreu Oko & the Chestnut house for being gracious-as-fuck hosts. To Jake Salt & Kelly for skipping the march and spending Pride Sunday chillin in a kiddie pool with sangria, watermelon, weed and barbeque on the sunniest day of my stay.

To Giovannié Núñez-Dúeñas for smoking me out pretty much every day, to Alan ‘FthemPapers’ for spinning me across the dance floor, rings flying everywhere, while we brought the house down with our salsa dancing at VONA’s quinceñera party (afterward, Junot Díaz gave me two thumbs up and a big smile; who does that?) and to the Ecuadorian crew for representing: Fernanda Snellings, Sonia Guiñansaca, Julie Quiroz and Emilia Fiallo. Mad love to my VONA travel sisters Anu Taranath, Adwoa Gyimah-Brempong, Adriana Páramo, Marie-Francoise Theodore, Lizzetta, Monique Sanchez and the Doctor, Sriram Shamasunder and especially to my affinity allies Celeste Chan and Cristina Golondrina Rose for being Everything. Finally, I wanna thank Kira Allen for them hugs. Really.

Not only was the VONA/Voices workshop a life-changing experience, but one I got to share with lots of beautiful folks in a truly gorgeous setting. I have my work cut out for me.

When Community Comes Through

hey folks,

Thanks to all your support, I’ve reached my Indiegogo campaign goal and will be attending VONA/Voices workshop for writers of color this June! Plane tickets are purchased and tuition is paid. Thanks to everyone who donated, shared the link, reblogged, retweeted or sent good vibes. Your perks will be in the mail early to mid-June when I’m back in the States. Thanks for coming through!

The Indiegogo campaign doesn’t close for another 19 days, so if you’re feeling generous, all extra donations are going directly to health insurance costs. > You can donate here. <I’m also keeping the Dispatches: Conversations with Writers of Color of Race, Place & Adventure series going, and our next talk – with journalist Aliyya Swaby of Negrisimo – will go live next week.

VONA1

I’ll leave you with two super relevant links that some of you might have missed: MFA Vs. POC by Junot Diaz via The New Yorker, and The Unbearable Whiteness of Liberal Media by Gabriel Arana via The American Prospect. Important!

Super Mega Ultra

Hey people! I’ve got so much to share. First off, I landed back in the motherland (Ecuador) last Tuesday night after 7 tough months of Polar Vortex Lyfe in NYC, and couldn’t be happier to be back. After some much needed beach time and catching up with the fam, I’ll be renting a room in Quito for 2 months – so hit me up if you’ve got any leads.

Secondliest, I’m happy to announce that the fine folks at VONA/Voices have accepted me into their program in Berkeley this June! VONA is the nation’s only multi-genre workshop for writers of color and this is the first year they’ve got a travel writing track going on (with Faith Adiele) so I was quick to apply. Other writers I’m mad about – like Staceyann Chin, Patricia Smith and Junot Diaz – will be there too. So I’m stoked.

My person on the back of a truck, circa 2012
My person on the back of a truck, circa 2012

If you’ve been keeping up with this blog for a while, then you know that I’m almost always broke. For about 3 years now, I’ve been struggling with a chronic pain condition in my shoulder, and I’m here in Ecuador to make use of the healthcare – which still costs quite a bit – and for which I’ll be paying out of pocket. I had surgery last fall (which I’m still paying for) but unfortuntaely, it wasn’t successful, and the pain has extended to my right hand, making regular writing (and therefore making money through work) pretty impossible. But I’m trying to stay positive.

The Fine Folks at VONA were able to grant me some financial aid (THANKS!) but I’m still struggling to pay the remainder of tuition and buy a plane ticket out there. I’ll be starting an Indiegogo campaign in one week to raise the funds to get me there, and any help would be super mega ultra appreciated!

I’ll be launching the campaign in conjunction with an interview series where I discuss race, place, media, belonging, community, diaspora, exile and adventure with other travel writers and bloggers of color and poc thinking about these things, right here on the wonderful platform that is this website. So if you want in, please get in touch. Muy exciting!

13717598395_21c80ee1ff_z
“The Struggle”, from Philly’s Magic Gardens

In other news, the second issue of my travel zine Everywhere All The Time is out and available for order on my Etsy shop Boom For Real Press, so pick ’em up! If you ordered the first issue, waited a long time to receive it and I promised you the second issue free, hit me up! I’m also up for trades (anything related to travel, disability, qpoc lyfe, or latinx shit is cool!)

Finally, you should check out The Body of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a profile I recently wrote for Nowhere Magazine’s blog about how place permeated the artist’s work.

And that’s all for now. Stay tuned with all the goings on going on on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter @bani_amor. Say that 5 times fast.

Junot Diaz Day, Completely Lost

View from an old room in Quito

i’m very busy and bad at juggling several projects at once, so that’s why things have been silent around here. been discussing boston bombing conspiracies with backpackers in assorted hotels and hostels, changing rooms every two days or so. i’m ghostwriting a book on the slowest virus-infected laptop on earth, in a place where WIFI is indeed a four letter word. but i’m just whining. to make up for the lack of things to say, i’ve stolen some things junot diaz has said, which are 1,000,000 x better than anything i could write right now.

“In a ‘post-race’ country like America where nothing and no one is racist, where people are more likely to believe in UFO’s than in institutional bias, which does back flips to obfuscate the operations of white hegemonic power and therefore ensure its continuance, anyone seeking to expose white supremacy or battle it is in for some serious uphill. You will be attacked. You will be censured, usually by your own community. People will say that you are obsessed with race and that even mentioning white people in the context of white supremacy is itself racist. These days the average person doesn’t even have to be taught not to bring up white supremacy. Here in our country, as in Mordor, everybody knows not to say the dark lord’s name.”

“If you’re not lost, you’re at a place that somebody has already found. If you’re comfortable or familiar, you’re in mapped territory. If you feel like you know where you’re at, somebody’s already done it. So if you want to create something new, you need to get completely lost.”

“A writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view, a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.”

Ghetto Shit and The Altar of Advancement

“I modeled Yunior clearly on my own experience as an immigrant kid growing up in NJ. That binary…of home/failure or away/success—I grew up with that shit all around me, the Scylla and Charybdis of my childhood. On one side you had the escape narrative that insisted that the only way out of economic social deprivation—the only way to advance, to make something of yourself—was to abandon your community and build a life exclusively in the larger (whiter) world (as if the reason one is poor and marginalized is because of one’s community). A narrative that was on me particularly hard as an immigrant, as a kid who had been designated as “smart.”  The idea that I would maintain any loyalty to my broke-ass landfill neighborhood once I got to college was considered on all sides as pretty absurd. (Clearly I understand the desire to escape insecurity and hostile material conditions, but I don’t agree you need to erase the past that made you possible to do so. Any success that requires you to sacrifice your younger self over the altar of Advancement is no success at all—at least not to me.)”New Orleans, LA by bani amor
“As an immigrant and an honors student (before I got kicked out of that track senior year) and as a kid who grew up deep in the neighborhood, I had both narratives on me to an oppressive degree. And felt a lot of pressure to choose one side or another: to either embrace home like mad or reject it like mad. Of course within each choice was embedded a whole set of expectations. If you stay at home, don’t talk too much about books, don’t try to get motherfuckers to engage in “intellectual’ discussions,” don’t talk about an ethnic studies course you took or the study abroad you did in Japan. Same thing: if you go away to say college, don’t dwell too much on race and certainly not on how racialized poverty and class are in this country. Don’t mention white supremacy. Keep your ghetto shit to yourself.”
“Over time I became very aware that people had a lot invested in you choosing sides. You had to choose one or the other but not both, not neither. Complexity was out of the question. Multiple loyalties were another way of saying betrayal. I eventually realized that these bipolar choices were not only ridiculous, they would also require me to jettison the essence of who I am. My multiplicity, my complexity, my simultaneity.”
-Junot Diaz. Read the Rumpus interview in it’s entirety here. Photo taken in New Orleans, LA 2008.