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Letras Latinas’s Ae Hee Lee Interviews Sheila Maldonado, Author of Newly Re-Printed one bedroom solo
At Letras Latinas Ae Hee Lee hosts longtime NYC-er, Sheila Maldonado, whose debut poetry collection one-bedroom solo was reprinted earlier this year. Maldonado is originally from Honduras: she grew up in the Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn. Ae Hee Lee is South Korean, but is “Peruvian by heart and memory.” She is an MFA Candidate at Notre Dame. More:
Could you share with us your thoughts on family culture and its relationship to individual identity? How do you find these things appear or are explored in your poetry?
I think of the book as fragmented biography, like I am concealing and revealing but perhaps I am concealing a lot less than I think. I do want to make the bio strange in some way, which I think a lot of writers do, and particularly for Latino poets, I think there is plenty of family and personal history at play. I don’t think I would write personally though if the form didn’t work for the content, if it weren’t shaped in some way that I think works for the poem or for me. It is an odd angle or perspective I am aiming for, not just a revealing of personal information. It is only when I find that shape or those words that I feel comfortable revealing. My perspective is one version of a personal history, shaped yet incomplete. I am interested in making a version of that history that surprises me as well as a reader, not just the same old story I have in my head or a story that might be expected of me.
I do want to detach from family certainly in many ways, writing-wise and life-wise, individuate, yes, but they were the first world I learned to analyze, the first world I observed. I am still attached to them in many ways. I live in the same city and visit every week. I am from a small family, a small people overall, and we tended to isolate from neighbors and the outside world in general growing up, so my family filters my worldview. There is no writing around them; it is writing through them. We were some of the very few people from our part of the planet, Honduras, Central America, on that block in Coney Island, in that borough, Brooklyn, in this city, New York that was Puerto Rican if it was any Latino, that was then Dominican, and now Mexican, that was never us, although the Mexicans now do remind me of how I grew up, apart, withdrawn, never dealing with lo ajeno, only dealing with your own. I can do what one is told to do when they write, write from what you know, and I felt I knew best all the complex ways my family works and doesn’t. You can’t be so isolated with each other and not feel a tremendous burden to be too many things to each other. It was hard enough being myself but then to be dutiful daughter and star student and virtuous virgin, it’s a lot to take on and that is the plight of many of us and writing takes well to plight. Since the plight can be common, I do again want to make it odder, funnier, flip it around and look at it another way. And my version is just mine right now, not necessarily the story, say, someone in my family would tell, or even a version I would tell in the future. […]
Learn more at Letras Latinas.