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Connecting Latinas All Over the World through Literature

Author Interview: Carolina De Robertis

Carolina De Robertis, Author

Carolina De Robertis, Author

Interview with Carolina De Robertis, contributing author of Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships.

All Count On Me author interviews were done by Oné Musel-Gilley of SocialZip.com as a volunteer. All of us at Las Comadres Para Las Americas are very grateful to her for this treasure trove of work. ¡Gracias!

 

How did you meet Nora? How were you first introduced to Las Comadres?

I had heard my Latina friends speak very enthusiastically about Las Comadres de Las Americas and the community, and by reading sources of inspiration that they had gotten from this list. Then I had the good fortune to meet Nora at the Brooklyn Book Festival where I was presenting my first novel, The Invisible Mountain. She has such a warm presence, which really speaks to the general philosophy of Las Comadres and what it provides; not only in person but online and all these other contexts. It’s been wonderful to work with them ever since.

 

Galleys went out and I’m wondering if you had a chance to read any of the stories in the new book “Count On Me”?

I have. I’ve had a chance to take a look at it. I haven’t read the whole thing; I just had a baby so I’ve been a little busy. I have had the chance to dip in and read a couple of the other essays. I’m so deeply moved by them and by the anthology itself.

 

Your story is one that has come up a lot as one of the favorites. I think it’s because we can all relate to having someone special. What do you hope readers get out of your essay?

As I was writing it, my highest intention was to be true to the honest and deeply emotional experience of loving Leila; working with Leila’s book and letting go of Leila as we have to ultimately let go of those who die, no matter how much we love them; and (especially) those parts that you don’t quite love about yourself. It’s not how you would like to see yourself but it’s what’s true.

I’m moved to hear that readers are moved by the uncomfortable truth.

 

In your own words, what is the distinction of having a friend and having a Comadre?

I think we can use the word “friend” quite loosely and in a variety of contexts, especially in the age of Facebook where we’ve “friended” hundreds of people and [the concept of] friend has become even more casual than it was before. There can be very close friends that are deep in your heart; people you start to see over a cup of coffee. We use the word “friend” in so many contexts, but the word Comadre is – it’s almost a very particular subset of friendship. You don’t call someone your “Comadre” unless they are really in your heart. You really trust them. It’s that level of trust, and of affirmation, of connection, and sometimes of inter-dependence or soul connection, that I think the word Comadre captures and this very particular Latino conception of friendship; the conception the Comadre captures.

In my case, the Comadre I wrote about is NOT Latina and that was part of (in a way) celebrating this Latina phenomenon of the Comadre. It’s so strong that it can transcend these cultural borders so that my Lebanese-American friend can go…”Ah, Comadre – this is the word I needed all this time.”

That’s the difference – we can have all different types of friends but not all of them are Comadres. When you have a Comadre, it takes you to a deeper level.

 

What are three reasons a woman needs a Comadre?

Three reasons… #1. The power of witness; the power of being seen as who you really – truly are – without judgment. It takes a lot of trust to do that. Not everyone can do that, and when you have someone in your life that can do that, it can perform miracles for you on your road in life. There is no replacement for the power of witness.

#2. Our blood families are composed of wonderful people but imperfect people. Our families of origin can often be very complicated, and the relationships that we have with blood family can often be…come with difficulties. I think having people that are like a sister, but come from beyond your family of origin, are very particular treasures.

And #3. The world is complicated and there’s enough difficulty in the world particularly for Latina women, most particularly for Latina women who want to stand strong on their own two feet in the world. There’s more than enough going against us that having a posse of people who love us, and celebrate us and know us and support us, is part of what will allow us to stand strong on our own two feet.

 

Where do you get your inspiration from – not just from writing – but just in life in general? Are there sources that you get your inspiration from?

There are a lot of places. As a writer, writers begin as passionate readers, and I have always been a passionate reader. Books have given me a tremendous amount of comfort, of perspective, of adventure, and insight into the world. That’s one thing I continue to turn to, certainly. At this point in my life, I’ve just given birth to my second child, so I also draw inspiration from my family, from watching my children experience the world through such young eyes. It makes me want to make the world the best place I can for them and all the folks of the future. I also draw inspiration from the dazzling, amazing, inexhaustible beauty of human beings.

 

What do readers not know about you?

Well, how possible is it to know someone through their fiction? On the one hand, it’s entirely fiction, and on the other hand people look for a map of the person – the author’s psyche – in novels. One thing that’s interesting is…often people are surprised to hear me speak of my wife – even though I thank her in my acknowledgements. It’s information that I have not hidden. It is information that is available if you look deeply enough, but it still consistently continues to be startling to people. They just don’t expect it.

 

Do you have a favorite motto or quote that guides you?

I’m going to say the first one that came to mind. The quote from Jane Jordan: ‘Love is the true prosperity, always.”

In our society we have a lot of confusion about what defines prosperity and what success and wealth really look like. I think love is an immensely powerful force – that may sound cliché – “love makes the world go round” – but I really don’t mean it lightly. Real love and affirmation is transformative, and I believe in its power to overcome the worst aspects of our society. It grounds me.

 

So what is on your bucket list? What do you want to do? What haven’t you done yet that you want to (do)?

I really want to read all of In Search of Lost Time, by Marcel Proust, which are seven enormous volumes. I’m saving Proust until my kids are teens. I would love to become fluent in, at least, Italian and French – if not more languages. As a child, I spoke five languages. I would love to travel more – to see Machu Picchu. I would like to be able to dance a mean salsa, and I’m not there.

 

Last question…“I am proud to be a Latina because…(fill in the blank)”

I’m proud to be a Latina because it’s a beautiful part of who I am. We are an incredible collection of people because we – Latinas- have so much beauty.

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