Elizabeth Acevedo began to love literature with Dominican fables

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[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] The full title of the article is “Elizabeth Acevedo, winner of the Carnegie Medal, began to love literature with Dominican fables.” Carolina Pichardo (Listin Diario) interviews Elizabeth Acevedo, author of the award-winning The Poet X.

Elizabeth Acevedo was born in New York, but she is well aware that her roots are Dominican—so much so that she did not grow up with the usual fairy tales as a typical girl in the United States. During her childhood, she was more inclined towards those stories from the Dominican culture that her mother used to tell her.

Legends like the ones on the ciguapa, or anecdotes from her mother’s country upbringing, were always present in her early years during which she was inheriting the wisdom of her mother’s storytelling. “I grew up with my mom’s stories. When they ask me what my beginnings were, I say that I did not grow up with Disney or fairy tales. My mother was a country girl and my grandfather had horses, plantains; they had a place where they grew a little food, it was enough for their needs … I never felt that I had no connection, they gave me what I needed to know about how I am and where I am from,” the “bestseller” writer comments.

Now, she is still astonished after having won the Carnegie Medal—the most important award for children’s literature in the United Kingdom—for her first novel “The Poet X.” With this win, she not only marked her personal history, but she also overcame stereotypes. Her name is considered that of the first person of non-white complexion to be awarded the distinction in the 83 years of its founding.

Elizabeth is confident that breaking this barrier will open doors and create spaces for a community of narrators who write about topics that sometimes do not fit into traditional literature. “I did not know I was going to be making history and I have realized that we have reached a new era for those who are allowed a seat at the table when we talk about the canons in world literature,” said the United States champion of “Slam Poetry.”

She explains that the prize will make Dominican culture and the positive aspects of the country better known, as opposed to the information that has been provided recently about this Caribbean territory.

[. . .] She writes in order to tell stories about the heroes she has met in her life. “The barber where my dad used to go, the old lady from the corner, the girl poet… those were the heroes who I met while I was growing up, and those are going to be the protagonists of my stories.”

“There are many awards that I received that I did not even know existed or that I was nominated for them, that helps me focus on making an honest, clear and accurate story. I do not think there is any prize I could win that makes me say ‘I did it’, that does not exist for me, “he added.

She writes to tell stories about the heroes she met during her life. “The barber where my dad used to go, the old lady from the corner, the poet girl … those were the heroes that I met while I was growing up and those are going to be the protagonists of my stories”.

“There are many awards that I received that I did not even know existed or that I was nominated for them—this helps me focus on creating an honest, clear, and accurate story. I do not think there is any prize I could win that makes me say ‘I did it’—that does not exist for me,” she added.

[. . .] On April 9th of this year, Acevedo had a conversation with Dominican writer Julia Álvarez. Elizabeth describes the author of “In the Time of the Butterflies” as a generous, grateful and humble woman. “Talking and sharing with someone who I consider an icon and a legend is a privilege. She was the first person I read who talked about the Dominican Republic, and I also remember when I was 16 and bought a copy of ‘In the name of Salome’ with my mother. It’s the only book we’ve read together, because it was translated both in Spanish and English,” she said.

She considers that Julia Álvarez—who has also been awarded for her works—made her get closer to the Dominican culture and its roots. “They say you should not get to know your heroes because they can disappoint you, but she is incredible,” she concluded. [. . .]

Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For the full article (in Spanish), see https://listindiario.com/ventana/2019/07/01/572113/elizabeth-acevedo-la-ganadora-de-medalla-carnegie-empezo-a-amar-la-literatura-con-fabulas-criollas

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