Sunday, December 02, 2012

Who Helped You Become Who You Are?

Count on Me contributors: Nora de Hoyos Comstock, Esmeralda Santiago, CArolina De Robertis,
Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Lorraine López, Fabiola Santiago, Teresa Rodríguez, Sofia Quintero,
Reyna Grande, Daisy Martínez, Michelle Herrera Mulligan, Dr. Ana Nogales, Luis Alberto Urrea, Adriana V. López.  

A Mercy nun encourages a child to write poetry, a Franciscan brother convinces a mother that her daughter needs to go to college.  A high school English teacher submits one of her student's poems to a national magazine (the student wins second place).  Friends start a group to help each other write and publish their stories.  There are countless stories of friends, mentors/teachers who rescue, assist, help guide each other toward paths of education/writing leading to self-knowledge and agency.  They become “comadres” or lifelong acquaintances or may simply be traveling on the same road for just a little while--just enough to get that child, your adult, or even older individual on a new and productive journey.  What’s your story? 

Count on Me:  Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships contains 11 comadres and 1 compadre telling stories of friendship and/or mentorship.  Last September, our La Bloga writer, Melinda Palacio, posted a spotlight and short review of the book (CLICK HERE to read it).  Since then, there have been Count on Me readings and events in various cities throughout the U.S.  Now La Bloga will be interviewing some of the writers featured in Count on Me. 

This Tuesday, La Bloga writer, Michael Sedano will feature an interview with Lorraine Lopez, whose piece, "Crocodiles and Plovers," appears in the anthology. As well, on December 12th, La Bloga writer, René Colato Lainez will post an interview with Reyna Grande. Reyna's piece, "My Teacher, My Friend" is a lovely "thank you" to the teacher who took extra steps to ensure Reyna would develop her talent in writing.  

Recently, I asked Dr. Nora Comstock, the President and CEO of “Las Comadres Para Las Americas” how this book came about.  

                       Dr. Nora Comstock
She wrote:

“Back in the days when time was slow like a hot summer day’s breeze (that was just three years ago!), Esmeralda Santiago and I used to spend time on the phone discussing literary ideas that Las Comadres could embark on.  One of our favorite topics was putting together an anthology where our comadre authors told their stories about a best friend:  a comadre.  Then I met Adriana Dominquez, who is a literary agent who also had a similar vision based on what she knew about our comadres group and the three of us embarked on the project.  Esmeralda became the first author for our anthology and a great champion to this day.

Esmeralda Santiago
The motivation for the book truly came out of our memories and experiences with our mothers’ comadres and the present day stories we often hear from our comadres about how they have met women at comadrazgos who have become their best friends—their comadres.  They are building the comadre relationships which we cherish.  It is not easy to make friends.  The spaces usually are for business connections or other types of professional connections but the space to build strong and deep bonds are hard to find and that is why Las Comadres is so special!”

What then is the definition or translation of “comadre?”  The term has multiple definitions:  godmother, neighbor, friend, distant family member, even a gossip.  In this book, all the positive references are being tapped.  The teacher/friend who saves a fledgling writer from her abusive father, classmates who become fast friends and who help each other through illness and death, and then there is the comadre who Luis Alberto describes as “a badass: She can take you out with her bare hands.  She once beat up a morra when she was nine months pregnant.  She killed a pit bull with a wrench after it bit my goddaughter.  She has homemade tattoos on her arms.  We love each other very much.”

This anthology, then, is a voluminous creative panegyric of the word “comadre” and “compadre.”  Comadre/Compadre have always been difficult to describe across cultures and language. 

This word defies the boundaries of blood kinship.  So many cultures build a huge genetic wall around themselves:  only blood relations can be family.  The comadre/compadre term defies such stringent demarcations.  I think of my comadre Edna and her son Larry who I consider my “cousin.”  And yet we do not share any genetic connection.  Her family grew up next door to my family near the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on South Figueroa.  Edna gave birth to Larry just a day after my mother gave birth to me. The celebrations of birth and later of baptism were merged as were other events.  It taught me that “family” is not of blood at all—but what you create of it.

We needed a book like this about our gente and the creation of the term comadre and compadre in our lives. The word is unique and so important to survival, agency, to connections. 

Adriana V. López, editor of Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhood and Fierce Friendships
Felicidades to editor Adriana V. López and all the writers in the anthology!  And YOU can become a part of Las Comadres in your neighborhood!   Check out the Las Comadres website, and join (CLICK HERE)!  

Sending you all, Queridas y Queridos La Bloga readers—una buena semana!

1 comment:

Ken said...

I would say a combination of god family and friends.