April 15, 2020
In a recent interview with University of Arizona Press author and poet Casandra López published in the Los Angeles Review of Books , author Isabel Quintero asked López about grief and more specifically about navigating the space of grief and violence as an Indigenous and Chicana woman.
López ‘s book with the Press, Brother Bullet, is a deeply personal collection of poetry revisiting the memory and lasting consequences of her brother’s murder in lyrical narrative poems that are haunting and raw with emotion, yet tender and alive in revelations of light.
From the interview:
I think a lot about the ethics of writing about trauma. My own grief is very much linked to experiences of trauma. It’s something that I think about so much because I’m writing about my family, and my brother who is no longer here. So, I think it’s important to always be aware of that privilege and the responsibilities I have. In a very literal sense, I want my family to be physically protected but also protected emotionally.
In the memoir, I’m not just writing about myself. I’m writing intimately about my family, bringing in the history of California and the Inland Empire, along with some community stories. So, I do feel more of a weight to not retraumatize others or to make sure what I’m writing is going to be of service to those in my community and family.
I sometimes hear criticism that too many Native writers write about tragedies or that readers don’t want to read stories about gun violence. But this is part of my reality, as well as of many others in my communities, so it is not something I am going to turn away from.
It has been useful to think about some key questions that Daniel Heath Justice asks in his book Why Indigenous Literatures Matter (2018). He poses certain questions to analyze Native literature, but I have used his questions to guide me as a writer:
1) How do I represent the complexities of my contemporary Indigenous life? What does my work say about what it is to be human?
2) What responsibilities do I have to others when I write about myself, my communities, my family, my ancestors, and the nonhuman world? What meaning can be explored in these relationships and kinships?
3) What can my work provide to my future kin?
4) How can my work encourage balance and healing?
Read the full interview here.