In February of this year, I wrote a love letter to my friend Hossannah. I read it out loud for the last episode of the semester, then my pal Yuly asks me some questions about it, and I end with some pertinent songs. You can find the episode here. (Right-click the small “Click here to start download from sendspace” in the small blue box, not the fake-out ads. One day soon the podcast shall exist!)
Thanks to everyone for listening this semester! I’ll be back on KRUI in Fall 2012 with more letters and music.
Back before violence forced her family into political asylum in the States, Yuly Restrepo hung out with a group of kids across the street from her house in Medellín, Colombia. She got really close to Vero in particular. They hung out all the time, listening to music, and they dreamed of buying an apartment in Canada together. But Yuly and Vero drifted apart when the group of kids got too crowded and loud, and after that, Yuly felt weird even inviting Vero to her quinceñera. One day Vero handed Yuly a folded letter, wondering why they weren’t close anymore.
Two years later, after migrating to the States and then returning to Colombia, Yuly wrote a letter back to Vero. But she never sent it. We talk about immigration, gradually losing your sense of home, the hazards of being forced to do high school twice, and what Yuly’s written response to Vero was really about, in this episode. (Right-click the small “Click here to start download from sendspace” in the small blue box, not the fake-out ads. One day I shall have a podcast, one day!)
Yuly Restrepo was a Rona Jaffe fellow in fiction at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
Chinelo Okparanta has had a meteoric year as a writer. She’s represented by one of the most prestigious literary agencies in the world. Her first novel and short story collection sold to Granta in the UK and Houghton Mifflin in the U.S. She’s done readings around the country. When she read her story “Runs Girl” at the Mission Creek Festival in Iowa City, a reviewer wrote this strange, backhanded, one-two punch: “Okparanta’s stories are luminous. We’ll see what happens when she no longer has autobiography to turn into fiction.” Um. What?
“Runs Girl” is about a young woman in Nigeria who briefly turns to prostitution to support her mother. That aspect of the story isn’t autobiographical. But like any writer, of course, Chinelo draws from her lived experience and her vast powers of observation to create an imaginary world. In this episode, Chinelo and I wondered: if she weren’t a young immigrant of color—if she were a white writer, maybe—would she have gotten the same dismissive comment? Why didn’t the reviewer assume she had the same capacity for invention of any pro fiction writer? We talk about this, and about Chinelo’s first sold story at age ten, in this episode. (Right-click the small “Click here to start download from sendspace” in the small blue box, not the fake-out ads.)
José Orduña had a hot date for Valentine’s Day last year; specifically, with Homeland Security. He reads the letter they sent him summoning him to the Citizenship and Immigration Services office in Des Moines in 2011.
José grew up with a loving Mexican family in Chicago, but his mom always warned him that if he got into too much trouble, he could disappear, like many of their immigrant friends did, picked up by Immigration for anything at all. Chicago police officers told José to sit on the curb and take off his shoes more than once. The security guards in the CIS office in Des Moines freaked out a little about his schoolbag, which freaked him out a little. The irony is that José knows way more about American civics and history than his America-born friends do. Now he’s a bona fide US citizen, much to the relief of his hardworking parents. But though his sense of fear is lessened, it hasn’t quite left him yet, as you can hear in this episode. (Right-click the small “Click here to start download from sendspace” in the small blue box, not the fake-out ads. Soon, a podcast will exist . . . some day.)
José is an essayist who’s just as dry and smart as he sounds on the radio.