Thanks to Dr. Sheena Mason for inviting me to read at the college’s Red Dragon Reading Series on November 10, 2022, to commemorate the Black List. I read excerpts from two stories in Migrations: “Clemente Burning,” an early version of the beginning of my novella, Clemente Between the Worlds; and “Sucio.” I had a wonderful time and enjoyed the exchange with the audience and also the conversation as a guest with creative writing students in Prof. Tully’s class.
Thanks to Dr. Jonathan Slater, Director of the Institute for Ethics in Public Life, for inviting me to lead a colloquy centered on my current project, Clemente Between the Worlds. It’s a novella focusing on Roberto Clemente and race. This was an opportunity to discuss why I chose this topic and how the book is progressing. Join me as we discuss issues related to race, whiteness, colonialism, and critical race theory as presented from a Puerto Rican/Caribbean perspective.
The definition of gadfly is the following: 1 : any of various flies (such as a horsefly, botfly, or warble fly) that bite or annoy livestock. 2 : a person who stimulates or annoys other people especially by persistent criticism, a political gadfly. Of course, I lean toward the second meaning of this word. More specifically, I refer to myself as a Puerto Rican gadfly. You might wonder why I choose such a word that defines me as an annoying person. I like to think myself a gadfly in the sense that Socrates did. Socrates called himself one because he was persistent in questioning things and enabling others to think critically.
Sometimes this opposition to traditional ideas annoys people. Many people find change of any type uncomfortable. So, they do not want anyone disturbing their stay in the comfort zone they constructed for themselves. I attack uncritical positions and antiquated ideas with the same relish. Being Puerto Rican obviously shapes my perspective, thus the “Puerto Rican Gadfly.” That perspective is on view in this video conversation with Calvin Schwartz on his podcast Conversations with Calvin:We, the Species. Click the video below and listen in. As always, please let me know what you’re thinking.
A conversation between J.L. Torres and Lawrence La Fountain.
If you missed the virtual event, watch the video with me and Dr. Lawrence La Fountain as we talk about how our current books–one a collection of stories (Migrations) and the other a scholarly book (Translocas: The Politics of Puerto Rican Drag and Trans Performance)–share affinities on various issues related to gender, race, identity as experienced by Puerto Ricans in the diaspora. Watch the video here:
Thanks to Julian Torres-Vera (Odim Lu) for editing and producing this video featuring my story in three voices, “Rip & Reck into That Good Light,” which is part of my award-winning short story collection, Migrations. LARB Libros will release Migrations in Spring, 2021. Thanks to Melinda de Jesus and Julian for their wonderful performances.
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