I felt hopeful on Sunday, March 8. The sun was out, the temperature was above forty degrees, and because daylight savings time had begun at 2:00 a.m., I looked forward to walking outdoors and enjoying daylight past 4:30 p.m.
I left for Manhattan at midday. My destination: Into Our Space, a reading and networking event for writers of color hosted at La Casa Azul Bookstore in East Harlem. My anticipation had been building since I’d received the invitation in February: I wanted to be in the company of other creative people of color, and be reminded that I am a writer and my life and ambitions are bigger than the daily to-do list of adjunct responsibilities, family obligations, and household chores.
The event was organized by Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhrán, a poet, author, and one of those generous forces that keeps entering my life. He seems to know everyone, do everything, be everywhere, and keeps me on the guest list. His greeting and introductions made it easier for this shy boricua to socialize. I was able to talk about the challenges of writing, working, and living with other writers. I work alone or remotely so often that it’s easy to forget I’m not just a weirdo malcontent and there are others who face the same challenges and anxieties I do.
The 11 readers represented different communities of color, sex, orientation, and ethnicity, but their work reminded me why we write: our stories are human stories. One male reader’s poem highlighted that love, no matter between whom it is shared, is a museum-quality treasure. An Armenian female author shared my childhood anxieties of being too ethnic in America. The neighborhood soundtrack in a Latino author’s novel excerpt described the same sounds I sought to leave behind in my 20s, just like the author’s young homosexual male narrator.
As writers of color, our voices need to be recognized not just as representative of our particular “group”, but as communicating the universal desires and fears shared by everyone and anyone outside of our space.
I returned home to Jersey with a new book, a fresh infusion of vitamin D, and renewed energy for my work. Well worth the trip out of my “space” and essential as I face a new season. Pa’lante.