"rooted and uprooted": An Interview With Rios de la Luz
The following interview appeared on our former blog, Razorhouse in September of 2016.
The author of The Pulse Between Dimensions in the Desert, Rios de la Luz is a writer that does not rest easily within the literary boundaries of form, genre, and content. Her storytelling is always heartbreaking, always artful, and always politicized. Here she speaks about Bizarro writing, the idea of home, and WOC as social media stars, among other delightful things.
Monique Quintana: You’ve been called a Bizarro writer. How would you define the genre, and how do you think it speaks to the Latinx experience?
Rios de la Luz: Bizarro writing is a mixture weird, outrageous, insightful, and subversive storytelling. Bizarro includes elements of horror, speculative fiction and fantasy as well. It is often defined as “literature’s equivalent to the cult section at the video store.” I do not think my work necessarily falls into the category of Bizarro, but I do enjoy using elements of the peculiar and creating strange worlds for characters to thrive in. There’s a fearlessness in being weird and telling weird stories, because of Bizarro, I am not afraid to get weird with my writing. I don’t know if Bizarro necessarily speaks to the Latinx experience. I think it is still an evolving genre and at the moment, it is a primarily white literary space. The Bizarro community is very inviting and open to new writers, and I hope this will mean more writers of color submitting and creating stories for the genre.
MQ: How did you arrange the pieces in your collection, The Pulse Between Dimensions in the Desert?
RdlL: I arranged them according to what I felt flowed best together. I wanted all of the stories to feel as though there was a connecting element, so I used the same names for some of the characters. For me, the stories and characters all exist within the same universe.
MQ: You’ve lived in Texas, Oklahoma, and now Portland. How did these places inform the way you craft the women in your book?
RdlL: I had recently moved to Oregon when I started writing the stories and I was still in a mental adjustment period. Oregon did not feel like home at the time, so I kept revisiting Texas and Colorado when I wanted to include a memory of my own in any of the stories. The women and girls in the stories were crafted in homages to the women of my family. I chose where they lived based on places I knew they were rooted and uprooted from.
MQ: How did you find a publishing home for the book?
RdlL: I was lucky and I met Constance Ann Fitzgerald at Bizarro Con. She had this beautiful idea of putting together a limited edition box set of multiple zines from seven different writers and she asked me if I wanted to contribute. I had never made a zine before, and I had not written any stories in a long time, but I loved the idea, so I contributed a zine to the set. Later on, she messaged me about wanting to start her own press which exclusively publishes women and asked me if I wanted to be one of the first authors she published. She started Ladybox Books and I was one of two books (Jigsaw Youth by Tiffany Scandal was the other first release) to be published for the initial launch of the press.
MQ: Can you speak to the beauty of being a lady blogger? Why do you think it’s important for WOC to blog?
RdlL: When my mind isn’t a mess, I love blogging. Blogging is another way to put your writing into practice; it is also a different way to think about how you write. I enjoy writing non-fiction pieces because there’s a chance that when you are writing about personal vulnerabilities, you are not alone. I think it is important for WOC to blog because it places your voice on a platform that can potentially link you with other people who you can learn from and network with. I have met so many wonderful people through running a blog.
MQ:What is your favorite work to read out loud, and what do you do to prepare yourself for reading in public? What do you think makes for a dynamic reader?
RdlL: My favorite pieces to read are “Morena,” “Enojada,” and “Church Bush.” I used to get so nervous to read out loud, but now, I really have fun when I do it. I still shake and sweat and glisten from my perspiration, but I love it. When I have time to prepare, I practice reading out loud to myself multiple times. Usually, I start practicing three days before a reading, just to shake off any initial nerves in having to hear my own voice. I think about the character’s perspective and then I plan how I read from there. I think being a dynamic reader is about finding your reading voice, being unafraid to mess up, because you might mess up a word or a line, but that’s okay, and getting into character. Also, not being an asshole and reading within the time limit given.
MQ: Who should we be reading?
RdlL:Meliza Bañales. Yesika Salgado. Myriam Gurba. Sandra Cisneros. ire’ne lara silva. Vanessa Mártir. Lina Meruane. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Alma Rosa Rivera. Juliet Escoria. Silvia Angulo. Roxane Gay. Gloria Anzaldúa. Lidia Yuknavitch. Toni Morrison. Valeria Luiselli. Han Kang. Marilyse Figueroa. Monica Drake. Etgar Keret.
MQ: What are you working on now?
RdlL: I am currently working on a new chapbook which will be out in November.
Rios de la Luz is a queer xicana/chapina living in Oregon. She is brown and proud. She is always working on decolonizing her mind and being louder. She is in love with her bruja/activist communities in LA, San Antonio and El Paso. She is the author of, The Pulse Between Dimensions and The Desert via Ladybox Books. Her work has been featured in Vol. 1 Brooklyn, Entropy, The Fem Lit Magazine, World Literature Today and St. Sucia.