Texas Book Festival — San Antonio Edition
Interview with Nan Cuba
Published: April 10, 2013
One of the things I like about the book is that even though it is—it doesn’t read like a psychological novel. I like that you make Sarah, the protagonist, an anthropologist obsessed with the Mexica, the Aztecs, and that you excavate myths we have about Aztlan through her character.
I felt like an anthropologist who usurped another culture for her own needs. I have spent a great deal of life here on the West Side. The last thing I wanted to do was show insensitivity. The same goes for the African American characters.
One thing I found extraordinary for novel coming out of SA, is that you are not writing about the Anglo/Latino divide. I have no idea whether this family is Anglo, Latino — both?
I’m so happy to hear you say that. I hope you pick what seems to serve the story best for you.
Did you do that consciously to allow readers to insert themselves, or is that not part of the story?
It’s not part of the story, I don’t think, but more than that, I have long thought that all artists — writers in particular — should have access to anything. I don’t think they should censure their subconscious. For instance, an Anglo should be able to write from an African American’s perspective, if that’s what the story needs, and vice versa. I have thought about that at great length.
Certainly you have to be competent to produce dialogue for characters who are male or female, young or old…
We need access to all of that. … We all have common emotions, common experiences, and common concerns, and to trust that. When your mind is taking you over to a world that you are not totally accustomed to, you just have to trust that we are all experiencing the same things. So, that’s what I do, that’s what I did with Sarah and her family — just tried to create people that others would relate to.
I don’t want to spoil things, but you’ve got a real twist at the end. At that point, I realized that the anthropologist’s obsession with the Mexica, and the weight of family myth, were both forms of exoticism that had to be escaped.
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