Latino Latinx Author Interviews

A Place Called Home: Teresa Dovalpage Interviews Anjanette Delgado

This interview is part of the Latinx Author Interview series and features Puerto Rican author, journalist, and feminist, Anjanette Delgado.

DovalpageHome in Florida (The University Press of Florida, 2021) presents a selection of the best literature of displacement and uprootedness, a concept that certainly deserves the spotlight in these times. How did the anthology come to be?

Delgado: The original idea came from University of Florida Press editor extraordinaire Stephanye Hunter. She wanted to do something that had not been done before: gathering Latinx voices to highlight the work being published in the state. Then while working on finding our message, our unique angle and collective voice (which I think every anthology should have), I stumbled on an old interview with Reinaldo Arenas. As soon as I saw that word, uprootedness, I knew that was our concept. The thing that mixes our heartbreak, our hope, our hunger for belonging, our nostalgia for our roots. All of  it. 

Dovalpage: It’s a very descriptive word, in English and Spanish. Now, the anthology features fiction, nonfiction and poetry, which sounds like a yummy ajiaco, by writers alive and dead. Why did you decide on that amazing mix of genres and points of view?

Delgado: I think two things unite every morsel of this ajiaco, as you so fittingly call it: narrative and uprootedness. In the end, I wanted these heartbroken narrators, these voices, to tell me what it was like not to belong for a while, or ever. How living in Florida, with its politics, is like being married to someone who doesn’t love you, who doesn’t choose you, not really. That was all I thought of.  Where are the stories that will make us all feel something? And how can I make sure to include the entire spectrum of uprootedness. Because, Te, listen, I’ve lived in Miami for almost 30 years. But I felt uprooted for the first 10 to 15 of those. And every so often, something will happen back home, or here, and I’ll feel uprooted all over again. It’s a continuum, not a moment, this state of being de allá, but viviendo aquí. 

Dovalpage: Alabao, pues why not get a divorce? Bueno, I understand that it is difficult to start again in a new place. In any case, I wanted to say that New Mexico is much friendlier in that sense. It embraces newcomers…we just have to be careful with the prickly cactus! 

Back to this wonderful anthology, you wrote in the introduction

“It is that concept—uprootedness—that this book is mostly about. Even the word carries inside the tension of seeming to mean one thing in Spanish and something never quite the same in English, the word itself with its dual meaning the very essence of the world in which a Latinx immigrant lives.”

Thinking of dual meanings, of words that aren’t “quite the same”…any plans to translate Home in Florida into Spanish? If so, how would you translate the title? Una probadita, por favor.

Delgado: We’ve talked about it. It would be an ambitious endeavor. I think if I were to translate the title into Spanish, I’d add question marks: ¿En casa en la Florida? Escritores latinx y la literatura del desarraigo.  But I sure wish we could. That said, there is a lot of translated work in the book. It was important to me (and to Stephanye) that we include the voices of the Latinx writers writing in Spanish. And so we have works by Pedro Medina León, Hernán Vera Álvarez, José Ignacio Chascas Valenzuela, Raúl Dopico, Legna Rodríguez Iglesias and many others thanks to UPF and a wonderful translator, Andreína Fernández. 

Then there was the goal of including work by Reinaldo Arenas, Guillermo Rosales and Judith Ortíz Cofer. For texture, for honesty, for context and perspective. None loved Florida very much, and their voices are crucial to understanding our own love-hate relationship with the state everyone loves to hate, but where excellent literature is created in at least three languages every day, with MFA and doctoral programs, a world-class book fair, a fantastic poetry festival, and writers that the rest of the country has begun to notice. 

Dovalpage: I can’t wait to read the whole book in Spanish, qué padre. Putting together an anthology is like curating art—a long, rewarding and often exhausting process. Was being an editor harder or easier than being a writer?  What was the biggest challenge? And the greatest reward?

Delgado: What a fantastic question. Editing is infinitely easier than writing. Also, I had enormous support from the team at University Press of Florida. The biggest challenge for me is now. Getting the word out there. Making sure people find this book. That they notice the incredible assortment of writing stars between the covers of this anthology. The greatest reward has been realizing the incredible quality of the writing these contributors lent to the project, most of it original and written for this book. But also, getting to know all the writers. I knew and loved many of them, but there are a handful that I called out of the blue and now we are friends. They’re just a great bunch of people with huge hearts and tons of talent. 

Dovalpage: We need to “corer la voz” because there is indeed a lot of talent there. And finally, what do you expect readers to take away from Home in Florida?

Delgado: I want them to learn about belonging by living these stories, these poems, these memoirs. I want them to take the lessons of uprootedness and make them their own, so that they will always be home, no matter where they go. 

Anjanette Delgado is a Puerto Rican writer and journalist based in Miami. The winner of an Emmy award for her writing, and of two International Latino Book Awards, she is the author of the novels The Heartbreak Pill and The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho; and the editor of Home in Florida: Latinx Writers and the Literature of Uprootedness, an anthology just released by the University of Florida Press that showcases a variety of Florida voices shaped by a place that has been for them a crossroads and a land of contradictions. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in the New York Times’ “Modern Love” column, Vogue, NPR, HBO, Kenyon Review, Pleiades, the Boston, Hostos, and Hong Kong Reviews, and elsewhere. She lives in Miami.

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