Saturday, December 18, 2010

Featuring The Voting Booth After Dark and Q&A with Vanessa Libertad Garcia

The Voting Booth After Dark: Despicable, Embarrassing, Repulsive by Vanessa Libertad Garcia is a collection of short stories and poems interwoven into a narrative that follows a group of addicted gay & lesbian Latino club kids destroying themselves throughout the course of the 2008 elections. The book focuses on how they affect and are affected by the national politics happening around them.

Reviewed by: Thelma T. Reyna, author of The Heavens Weed for us


Review: Gritty and unflinching, the tone of the book is one of desperation and starkness as each character depicted—Marta, a young, disenchanted lesbian; or Diaz Diaz, a gay fashion designer, for example—speaks to us of their heartbreak, alienation, and sometimes of suicidal plans. The personas that Garcia invokes are products of a society that is too fast-paced, too materialistic, and too shallow for twenty-somethings or thirty-somethings trying to find a meaningful niche in life, as they struggle simultaneously to pay bills, be successful in a career, find true love, or simply forge a connection to someone or something outside of themselves that can make their lives fulfilling. Welcome to the underbelly of Los Angeles.

The voices Garcia creates for each of her personas are poignant and heart-wrenching. She describes “sweet-scented one-dimensional images that pop out at you like an early Warhol painting” (in “Longing”). There is little self-pitying though, no sugarcoating of the raw emotions that spill from her characters, many of whom are gay addicts who have seemingly accepted their sex orientations but nevertheless struggle to navigate life.

Matter-of-fact language, which contributes to the non-judgmental tone of the book and its authenticity, is often balanced against poetic descriptions or observations that catch the reader by surprise. For example: “Parasites of the night, dressed to the 9[‘s]/living off the small pints of love/stored in our words” (from “The Dead End Days”). Or: “The sun shuts its lids and the moon clocks in.” “Sadness already home invites guilt in for coffee.” (both from “Lament”).

Yet, amidst the jadedness and sadness are subtle beams of hope for these young lives. In “Compassion” toward the end of the book, Garcia writes: “We are curious children/ with adult powers/that clumsily break the china.” She ends her book thus: “The crumbling world/ is always pieced together by time/and space....Justice eventually finds its place in line.”

Garcia gives us a glimpse of lives in torment but also reminds us that lives are not frozen in time but are forever evolving, and we must stay open to the possibilities of change.

* * * * *
This review first appeared on my blog, American Latina/o Writers Today, at on March 30, 2010.

Q&A with the author:

Can you please tell us a little bit about the kinds of books and films you do?

I believe my mission statement sums it up best: I'm a writer and filmmaker that
assembles works of literature and film (both documentary and fiction) that reflect the varied
experiences of underrepresented, a-typical, and eccentric human communities. My books and
films candidly depict subcultural issues through distinctive styles that challenge conventional
forms of storytelling. All the while remembering that sincere communication and human relate-ability are the Vital Spirit of my projects. In short, I strive to produce intimate books and films about uncommon lives for the collective heart.

How do you feel your work influence Latinas?

I feel my work influences Latinas because it represents them in society. My books and films feature the nuances, trials & tribulations that are unique to their contemporary experiences and puts them on display for a wide cross-cultural audience. I write lead characters that are Cuban, Cuban-American, Mexican, Mexican-American, Chilean, Argentinian, etc, who are immersed in the salad-bowl and melting-pot countries of the globe. We're living in a time of vast cultural migration where people of varying ethnicities survive and thrive together on the same land, often times fusing their spirits and traditions into subcultures. These subcultural groups, e.g. Latin(a)-American lesbians, tend to be dismissed, underrepresented, or erroneously depicted by the mainstream, especially in the United States. I strive to give the complexities of our multi-layered Latina lives an honest impacting voice through my books and films. I hope Latinas are influenced by my art work to believe their lives are important to understand and their stories worth chronicling, and therefore continue to do just that -- in their own specialized ways.

What does being Latina mean to you?

Being Latina is an irrepressible part of my core self. My perception of life has been significantly molded by my Cuban-American experience. My perspectives regarding all matters -- especially philosophical, political, and artistic -- have been greatly influenced by my immigrant Cuban family. Even my physicality -- the way I express passionate opinions with my hands in debates or shamelessly shake my hips to a soul-clenching song. My verbal expressions -- the rapid-fire way I speak in both Spanish and English. The specific brand of Cuban-American Spanglish I grew up speaking. Beyond my home, I was raised in primarily Mexican-American neighborhoods throughout Los Angeles such as South Gate and Downey, which also left its own special brand of Latina-ness on my psyche, heart, and Spanglish. I consider "being Latina" an amazing, poignant, and intrinsic part of me.

What do you think the future holds for today’s Latina?

I think the future holds a wide array of limitless, thrilling opportunities for today's Latina. I truly believe that the world, thanks in great part to the internet, is currently in a no-holds-barred state. We brazen, hard-working, and inventive Latinas can do anything -- both professionally and personally -- we set our spirits to. El futuro es nuestro. Si se puede!

Do you have a website or a blog?

If so, please list the URL:

No comments:

Post a Comment