FIT being a school of art and design, business and technology, sometimes Hue is surprised when a high-caliber novelist comes for a teaching visit.
And surprised is exactly how we felt when listening to Helena Maria Viramontes, author of The Moths and Other Stories, Under the Feet of Jesus, and Their Dogs Came With Them, and chair of the creative writing MFA program at Cornell University. Her most famous story, The Moths, about a teenager’s relationship with her dying grandmother, has been anthologized hundreds of times.
The talk, sponsored by FIT Words, the college’s creative writing club, was called “Writing Your Truth in Fiction,” and Viramontes spoke about how her upbringing as a Chicana (the identity of many Mexican-Americans) in Los Angeles influenced her writing.
We were struck by some of her early inspirations, fragments of her childhood that she alchemized into literary gold.
New roads: “The freeways started in 1959 and finished in 1970. Much of my upbringing was about seeing the destruction of our community.”
The encyclopedia: “Growing up, we had a World Book encyclopedia, but we weren’t allowed to touch it. I’d pick up a volume and run to the bathroom to read it. Whenever I opened a book, it was with a sincere and profound faith that it would inform my life.”
The Bible: “I’d read the parables and stories and recite them to my younger brothers and sisters.”
James Joyce: “With The Moths, I wanted to do a Joycean Dubliners for East L.A.”
Her family: “My first short story began with my mother and my father. I wanted people to know us. I realized I was writing not about my family but a community.”
Hue Too readers, what traces of your childhood inspire you today?