If you haven’t already, please listen to Latino USA’s recent coverage of the American Dirt scandal. Hands down some of the best interviewing on this subject I’ve heard. Kudos to Maria Hinojosa for laying down hard questions.
Oh, btw, if you’re tired of me or other Latinx writers talking about this – eat me.
Anyway, there’s a portion of the interview with out of touch token Sandra Cisneros where she talks in circles about using “trash” fiction as a Trojan horse for the stupid or ignorant. While I may think 99% of Cisneros’ comments are garbage, I did agree with this comment on a certain level.
Let’s veer off and talk about that. The use of a pitch to attract readers towards themes that are either subliminal or not immediately apparent – -allegory, if you will. I know, very alien.
I’m a fan of using the Trojan horse method with my allegories. Especially as a writer heavily influenced by pulp fiction – aka, the originator of using allegory to educate the masses. This method is obviously popular in spec fiction but it’s also deeply ingrained in the oral and written traditions of the marginalized. Think about it; if you lived in a world dominated by people who would see your entrails before they would see you read, you’d veer towards using allegory to deliver headier messages too.
And this is why you’ll see many Latinx writers in particular use magical realism as a means of providing relevant themes and messages. You see, the point isn’t to pull empathy or sympathy out of your reader as if they were day drunk on rosé in an East Village bar and got handsy with the hostess. The point is to provide enough rope for your audience to decide if it’s worth jumping off the cliff with you.
Using my own writing as an example. Did you realize (or even read) my sperm bank robbery, NO HAPPY ENDINGS? Sure, someone gets drowned in cum and another person gets electrocuted to death by a taser/prostate stimulator BUT the story is entirely about reconciling our feelings between the people in our lives we’ve lost and the ones we take for granted. It’s the story about a daughter and a father who are too shortsighted to see what they have with each other because of the loss of a loved one. 75% of the story covers that. I just tricked you into getting past the first page with the anal electrocution.
Or how about BLACKY JAGUAR AGAINST THE COOL CLUX CULT? I toss an ex-IRA hard ass into the American South and into a fracas between a Black Lives Matter movement and an Internet troll army. Shockingly, all my white guy protag ACTUALLY does is listen and punch the people trying to do wrong to others. No saviorism, hell, by the end of the book you realize Blacky’s been the villain in ways, but the point of the story was to explore social movements and those willing to exploit the sincere members of those movements. Blacky being the product of decades of indoctrination that broke him and seeing the chance to help something become more than what he experienced without being the focus – an actual ally.
Now what am I trying to say here besides Trojan horsing a sales pitch for two books I wish more people read? I’m saying that there ARE ways to write outside your lane efficiently and with care WHILE pulling off the old David Copperfield. Hell, I’d argue that as writers, we’re required to play the illusionist not just in imagery we convey but also in the themes and narratives we provide our readers. It is entirely possible to educate or provide insight without pretending to be an authority and without stating that it is your only intention.
I’d argue the latter is a byproduct of having your head up your ass for too long.
TLDR: write what you want, lovelies. Read what you want. Just do your damn best at both.