Demetria Martinez Interview with ForeWord Reviews

Interview with ForeWord Reviews

What was your favorite childhood book?

I donít recall a favorite childhood book; however, my favorite childhood activity was hanging out at Ernie Pyle Library with Mom. The aroma of books and the mysterious catalogue made it a magical place for me. Without my early exposure to libraries, I would never have ended up co-authoring a childrenís book, Grandpaís Magic Tortilla (UNM Press) with Rosalee-Montoya Read.

What are you reading now?

Iím reading Prosperoís Mirror (Curbstone Press), a collection of short stories by Latin American authors in Spanish with accompanying English translations; a Granta issue of stories by young Spanish-language authors from Latin America and Malincheís Daughter (Mamotombo Press), a memoir by Chicana writer, Michelle Otero. Each month I devour World Literature Today, a magazine that brings me fiction, nonfiction and poetry from around the world, as well as interviews and reviews. Itís absolutely necessary for writers to be inspired by the works of their counterparts and to know the political contexts in which they write.

What brought you to writing?

 My first novel, Mother Tongue (Ballantine), came out of the Central American struggle of the late 70s and early 80s; itís about a Chicana who falls in love with a Salvadoran refugee living in Albuquerque. A few years before writing the book, I had been charged with conspiracy against the United States government and faced a potential 25 years in prison. This was for allegedly transporting refugees as part of the Sanctuary Movement, a movement where U.S. citizens aided those fleeing Central America and its death squads largely funded by the U.S. government. I had been covering the movement as a reporter; therefore, the jury acquitted me on First Amendment grounds.

The Block Captainís Daughter came about after receiving a phone call from Grace Paley. She all but ordered me to write short stories; you donít say no to Grace. So I read all her short stories along with those of Sherman Alexie. Many of their stories are hilarious, while at the same time, taking on serious political and cultural issues. Their stories showed me what was possible. I had a great editor, Frank Zoretich, who bloodied up my drafts with his red pen. All these stories added up to my novella, The Block Captainís Daughter.

What are you doing when youíre not working?

I work at Los Jardines Institute, a community garden in a poor, but culturally rich, neighborhood. We raise organic food with the goal of getting it to those who canít afford fresh produce, much less organic food.  Weíre part of a larger community concerned with food security and justice. I would not be a writer today without a history of activism.

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Demetria Martinez
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