Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Interview with The Feminist Texican

I'm amazed at My Friend Amy's match-making abilities for Book Blog Appreciation Week Interview partners. For two years in a row now, she's matched me with another blogger whose tastes are similar to mine, but different enough to make her interesting. This year it's Melissa at The Feminist Texican [Reads], whose favorite books are Beauty Shop Politics and The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. She's read Infinite Jest but not Crime and Punishment (I'm the opposite, but we both have intentions of getting to the other one someday). She's watched that horrible movie version of Love In the Time of Cholera but hasn't yet given herself the pleasure of reading the lovely, haunting novel, one of my favorites. She says she doesn't like to read Shakespeare--to which you know I always respond "that's doing it backwards! Watch the plays first!"

Okay, it's not a perfect match; she "hates" poetry. But maybe she's had some of the bad experiences many of you have had and I can eventually win her over.

Here's my interview with Melissa:

How long have you been blogging about books, and what was your impetus for starting?
I started my book blog this January. I participated in Infinite Summer last year, where people read David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest over the course of the summer. It ended up taking me 7 months to finish that book because I am a master at procrastination, but when it was all finally over, I realized I didn't want to stop blogging about books (I'd been blogging about IJ on my other blog).

Have you always lived in Texas, or why do you identify yourself as strongly as a “Texican” as you do a feminist?
I'm Mexican American and was born in raised in south Texas, but my friends always joke about how I'm more Tex-Mex than anything else (my Spanish is atrocious, but my Spanglish is great!). I moved to New York in 2005 for grad school, and my roommate would laugh at how often I'd talk about how things were "back home." But I love Texas! It's beautiful, and it's way more progressive than the stereotypes would have you believe. "Texican" kind of evolved out of all that.

Who or what first inspired you to identify yourself as a feminist?
I think I've always been a feminist, I just didn't have the word for it. For instance, I grew up in a very patriarchal culture where the women ultimately deferred to the men. It never made sense to me why the women should do all the cleaning and cooking for gatherings, then serve their kids and their husbands, plus get up throughout the meal to get refills, etc, while the guys (male children included) could just relax and have everything handed to them. Even as a kid that never sat well with me, and I can remember thinking, "You have hands. Get it yourself!"

What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced while blogging and what’s the best way it has affected your life?
I think the biggest challenge is keeping up with reviews! As I said before, I'm SUCH a procrastinator! But book blogging is a lot of fun, and I think the best thing that's happened is that it's broadened by reading selection. I've read a lot of books this year that I probably wouldn't have picked up otherwise.

What books do you wish more people were reading right now? What one piece of literature would you recommend that everyone read?
I wish people would read more books written by people of color, because there are so many great books out there that deserve attention. One of my favorite "reads" so far this year (I listened to it on audiobook) was Jean Kwok's Girl in Translation, about a young Chinese immigrant coming of age in New York City. It's marketed as an adult book, though some argue that it's more YA-oriented. Either way, it was a very enjoyable read.

Which book has affected you or changed your life the most?
Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye is my favorite book, and it stayed with me for a long time after I read it. Pecola Breedlove is a haunting character. I know I can go back and read the book now as a nuanced commentary on poverty and racism, but for me it always comes back to little Pecola.

What is your least favorite book or genre, and why?
Probably self help, because they always sound so cheesy and the fonts on the covers are so...swirly.

What author would you most like to ask a question of, and what would that question be?
I would ask Junot Diaz if he'd like to go out sometime. Just kidding. Kind of. I actually have met him, and though my crush on him was cemented that evening, all that came out was a mortifyingly earnest, "I loved your book." No, I guess I would ask Aimee Bender what her creative process is. Have you read Willful Creatures? Some of those stories just ain't right (and I love her all the more for it).

Who would you vote for as the worst villain or most inspiring heroine in fiction, and what would be your criteria?
I'm more into literary fiction, so I can't think of any traditional villains that would fit the bill. Most of the "bad" characters in literary fiction are just screwed up jerks (or, everyone is a screwed up jerk!). As for inspiring heroines, you can't go wrong with Princess Elizabeth in The Paper Bag Princess. The kid has gumption.

That's your introduction to Melissa. See her interview of me (including never-before-revealed details of my personal life) at The Feminist Texican [Reads].


Serena said...

Wow, she sounds like she's got some well grounded views on books and feminism. I'm adding her to the blogroll!

Amanda said...

How fun! Though I admit I was hoping she still lived in Texas and I might meet her at some point...

bermudaonion said...

I love the name of Melissa's blog! From your interview she sounds feisty and spirited which are both good things in my book! I'm going to check out her blog now.

Amy said...

Ohhh sounds like a new blog that I will enjoy! And I LOVE the comment on self-help books. The fonts are swirly aren't they ;)

Trish said...

Oh Princess Elizabeth from Paperbag Princess! Love her! :)

Great to "meet" another Texan! Bluest Eye was one of those books that deeply affected me as well.

TexasRed said...

Great to meet another Texas-related book blogger! Headed over to check out your side of the interview now.

Valerie said...

I thought the swaps were matched at random? anyway, seems like you had fun finding what you had in common (or not) with each other! Thanks for introducing the Texican to us!

Jenners said...

You guys do seem like a good match!

I love the feminist question ... it is a thought that has crossed my mind more than once I can tell you!! I'm working to raise my son to NOT be "that" kind of man who expects a woman to serve him. I try to model it by how I treat my husband. : )

And I can relate to having way too many reviews to write ... it is a constant problem.

Miz Tipsy said...

Toni Morrison is definitely a great author. Really enjoyed reading this interview.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

Great interview! I read Infinite Jest last summer as well, so that's cool.

Melissa said...

Hi Jeanne! Thanks again for the interview. It was fun!

(And Amanda, I'm back in Texas again. I moved back last year.)

Carina said...

Thanks for the fantastic interview! I've already been a follower of yours for ages, but am just taking a look over at Melissa's blog for the first time.

Jeanne said...

Thanks for commenting, Carina. I read your interview over at Book Snob with interest--we share an Atwood love, I see!