Tag Archives: FIT Words

HOW MEMORIES BECAME FICTION FOR HELENA MARIA VIRAMONTES

FIT being a school of art and design, business and technology, some people don’t realize that high-caliber novelists often visit.

Mostly recently, FIT hosted Helena Maria Viramontes, author of The Moths and Other StoriesUnder 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?

GRAPHIC MEMOIRIST EATS, WRITES, DRAWS (AND EATS SOME MORE)

“Comics gift the written word with color and line and bless the drawn image with narrative,” graphic memoirist Lucy Knisley rhapsodized, when she spoke at FIT in late March, sponsored by FIT Words, the Culinary Arts Club, and the English and Speech Department.

Lucy Knisley

Lucy Knisley, plotting something.

Knisley gave an annotated reading of her graphic-memoir-cum-cookbook, Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, which came out in 2013 but is still being translated into more languages. The story follows her foodie family (her mother is a chef), with family recipes interspersed. The drawings, Knisley noted, make the recipes much easier to follow.

“Comics are a nice balance between learning to cook from a cookbook and learning to cook from someone,” she explained.

The cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

The cover of Relish: My Life in the Kitchen.

The Culinary Arts Club whipped up a few recipes from the book—including chocolate chip cookies and a delicious spaghetti carbonara—and served them to guests. At this moment, for some reason, Hue began to like Knisley very much.

Hue asked her if it was tricky, writing about and drawing real people in her work. She responded that she follows a few basic rules. “I never use comics as a weapon. I usually ask permission. And I always draw them as attractive as possible.”

Knisley's illustrated recipe for Huevos Rancheros, from her book, Relish.

Knisley’s illustrated recipe for Huevos Rancheros, from her book, Relish.