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Connecting Latinas All Over the World through Literature

Author Interview: Sofia Quintero

Sofia Quintero, Author

Sofia Quintero, Author
(Photo Credit: Shirley Rodriguez, Cosmo for Latinas)

Interview with Sofia Quintero, contributing author of Count On Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships, co-founder of the nonprofit Chica Luna Productions, producer/creator of web series HomeGirl.TV, and author of the award-winning young adult debut, Efrain’s Secret.

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 or get involved with Las Comadres?

If I remember correctly I was connected to Nora through my former agent, Johanna Castillo, who is now a vice president at Simon & Schuster, and she is a member of Las Comadres. The Comadres Book Club, at Johanna’s suggestion, wanted to read one of my novels and do a teleconference – do a book club via teleconference with folks who have read my book and a moderator. I believe that is how we got connected.

 

The galleys were sent to all the authors and I’m wondering if you had a chance to read any of the stories in Count On Me?

No, I have not yet. I don’t know if Nora has informed you of this – maybe she knew that I would tell you myself. It actually adds a very interesting update to the story that I wrote. I’m undergoing treatment for breast cancer. So, it’s actually an interesting update because in my story in the book, one of the things that occurs with my best friend is that she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Now the tables are turned, and she is supporting me in my own cancer journey. While I’ve been reading, I’ve been reading a lot of other things, in terms of informing and facilitating my return to wellness.

 

So, right now you really are counting on your Comadres, huh?

Oh, big time! I call Elisha “Elisha MV”, and MV stands for Minister of Defense (laughter). She has been my primary source of support outside of my blood relatives, and she has been coordinating my other friends and larger community in my support. For example, people who want to be my chemo buddies, and gives me rides to doctors’ appointments – I reach out to her and she has been coordinating that schedule. But of course, she’s the primary person who has been there for my first few chemotherapy sessions.

Just when I thought we couldn’t get any closer, this really has brought us together. Not only has it bonded us further, not only has she been there for support for me, but also this experience conjures up things – other things – that need to be healed. We have been supporting each other through that.

 

What do you think is the distinction between saying you have a “friend” or you have a “Comadre”?

I believe having a Comadre gives you a very sacred space to be with all that is. It’s a very special, vulnerable, powerful kind of relationship that goes far beyond your friendships that are built on common interests and common experiences. All those things – common interest, common experiences, common values – maybe even where you’re different…they really come to play in a Comadre.

I have felt that with my friendship with Elisha – I call her my sister from another mister – that it’s a safe place to practice all of who I am. That means all the things I like about myself; that means all the things I want to change about myself; that means all the things I don’t like about myself that I have to accept, that I will never be able to change.

A Comadre really gives you opportunities to practice and cultivate self love because they love you for all that you are, even the things that you struggle with about yourself. Not just any friendship can do that. That’s a very committed friendship, and it requires a lot. It requires the same commitment, even more I think, than an intimate relationship with a partner. You also have to reciprocate. You receive that and you also have to give that.

 

Give me three strongest reasons why a woman needs a Comadre in her life.

A woman needs a Comadre in order to see and step into her own power. That’s the larger reason, and then I would break it down into three to say:
1) A Comadre reflects back to you, the potential that you have. 2) A Comadre cultivates that within you, supports your ability to cultivate your greatness and 3) a Comadre models it for you. So we reflect that back to each other.

I don’t believe that a woman can step fully into her power and give all her gifts into the world and be all that she can be if she doesn’t have a Comadre, because a Comadre enables her to see it, to identify what she can do, supports her as she cultivates it. And she herself is a woman, committed to stepping into her own greatness and so models it for her. And again, not just any friend does that for you…

 

In your story – you describe exactly this type of relationship of empowerment and the ability to strengthen each other and face, head on, weaknesses in a relationship. What do you hope that a reader will take away from your story?

What I hope people will be left with after reading “The Miranda Manual” is that a Comadre is not necessarily a woman will agree with everything you might do, or not do with your life. She is someone who will challenge you, AND she will challenge herself. I think that is one of the most powerful things about my friendship with Elisha, and what makes us Comadres. And why it’s more than just a strong friendship between two women – it is our commitment to struggle with and challenge each other. It’s a very adult and evolving relationship.

When you’re in your twenties – I think many comadrazos may begin in your twenties – you really don’t see them until you’ve had some life experiences. They might start young, but the evidence isn’t there until much later when the time has proven it. When you’re in your twenties a lot of friendships are built around the idea that “this woman is my friend because she accepts me,” and we define “accepting” as meaning NOT giving each other tough love, NOT speaking out when we see things that they do that might be detrimental, and sometimes swallowing when we are having challenges with them in the friendship. We think being a good friend means eating all kinds of discomfort.

I think that when a woman starts to mature and evolve, and the friendships that stay with her out of her twenties and into her thirties and on, you start to see that a woman who really is a “ride or die” friend will tell me when I’m getting in my own way; will tell me when she doesn’t agree with something that I’m doing, and she can accept me and still express that. Most importantly, she will challenge me if anything that I’m doing affects her in a certain way. I think THAT is a sign of a mature friendship, and that is the real difference between having a Comadre and having a girlfriend.

That’s what I hope people get from my story. Elisha and I have really bonded and also grown, not only in our friendship but also as individuals. We’re honest to each other…even when it hurts.

 

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

There’s this adage that says to writers, “write what you know.” I am very different. I like to write about what I want to know more about, so my sources and inspirations and spark come from things that intrigue me and that I don’t know much about, and that I want to learn more about, and want to explore. I just don’t consider myself an author…I also consider myself an activist – and specifically a cultural activist. I am looking to use the power of storytelling to promote social justice and inspire personal transformation that can lead to social change.

 

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

If you would have asked me that in 2011 it would have been something different, but right now my greatest achievement is kicking cancer’s ass. (laughter)

 

What would you do I f you weren’t writing? What occupation might you have if you weren’t writing?

Before I became a writer I was a policy wonk in training. If I wasn’t a writer, I would probably be on MSNBC, a pundit on MSNBC. I might be an elected official because that’s the path that I was on before I decided to heed the muse and follow my creative impulses.

 

Do you think that could still be possible, down the line?

An elected official? It’s possible, but probably not probable. But having a show on MSNBC is totally possible. Most likely if I had a show on the air, I probably wouldn’t be on camera – I would be the show runner. Elisha and I are currently collaborating on a show, something kind of like Sex in the City.

 

Do you have any favorite authors?

I do. I have so many people that I consider influences. My tastes are very eclectic so they run the gamut. I’m a big fan of Esmeralda Santiago and also a huge fan of Richard Price – who couldn’t be more different.

 

What is something that readers don’t know about you?

What is not transparent about me… people know I’m opinionated, I’m an intellectual, and I can deliver a fantastic, compelling argument and critique something down to the bone… But what people don’t realize is that I do that to myself all the time. I just don’t do that for public consumption (more laughter). People don’t think that I turn that critical lens onto myself – my work, my being, whatever. I am a very tough chick, but I’m also very sensitive woman.

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