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Award-winning diasporic novelist Patricia Engel and genre polymath Jennifer De Leon discuss their newest works.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to five members of one family split between Colombia and the United States.
Talia is held at a correctional facility for teen girls in the forested mountains of Colombia, knowing that her only chance to rejoin her family and enter a free life lies with her father and a plane ticket to the United States, far away in Bogotá.
As she strives for this escape, the story of her family plays out: romance, civil war, immigration, marriage, children, deportation, and the splintering of a family who has risked everything in search of security and love.
Patricia Engel is the author of The Veins of the Ocean, winner of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize; It’s Not Love, It’s Just Paris, winner of the International Latino Book Award; and Vida, a finalist for the Pen/Hemingway and Young Lions Fiction Awards, New York Times Notable Book, and winner of Colombia’s national book award, the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana. She is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her stories appear in The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and elsewhere. Born to Colombian parents, Patricia teaches creative writing at the University of Miami.
Winner of the Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction.
Sometime in her twenties, Jennifer De Leon asked herself, “What would you do if you just gave yourself permission?” While her parents had fled Guatemala over three decades earlier when the country was in the grips of genocide and civil war, she hadn’t been back since she was a child. She gave herself permission to return—to relearn the Spanish that she had forgotten, unpack her family’s history, and begin to make her own way.
Alternately honest, funny, and visceral, this powerful collection follows De Leon as she comes of age as a Guatemalan-American woman and learns to navigate the space between two worlds. Never rich or white enough for her posh college, she finds herself equally adrift in her first weeks in her parents’ home country. During the years to follow, she would return to Guatemala again and again, meet ex-guerrillera and genocide survivors, get married in the old cobblestoned capital of Antigua, and teach her newborn son about his roots.
Jennifer De Leon is author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education. She is assistant professor of creative writing at Framingham State University and a GrubStreet board member.
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