UPDATED April 26, 2018
Last week I looked over some old press clippings about myself from 10 years ago, profiles in places like the New York Times and Chicago Tribune. The articles talked about me in the context of the release of my first novel, and quoted me accurately in ways that now make me cringe. “I vomit to be called a Latina writer,” I told a reporter. It was my way of letting him know that in spite of my last name, I was born and raised in the United States and as such, that I was as American as Stephen King and should be called merely “a writer,” just like he was. After all, I thought, that was only fair.
Lord, I thought as I read that quote now. How many ways might that quote have been misunderstood and used against me, or taken out of context? Was I really such a defensive, self-centered, ungrateful, angry human being that I needed to voice that opinion then, in that outlet, for a piece that was supposed to celebrate me as “the Latina Terry McMillan”? Was I really so blinded by my need to defend my equal place in the world that I could and would blurt out something so ill-advised and open to misunderstanding from folks who might take the comment to mean that I was “ashamed” to be Latina (not the case)? I was trying to say that I thought Latina writers like me should be given the same respect and status as white male ones, but it came across in exactly the opposite way.