Tag Archive: J.L. Torres

Re-Visiting West Side Story


This is my most recent review. No, not on a book but a film. Given the controversies surrounding Steven Spielberg’s film, I wanted to revisit West Side Story and share my observations. If you like it, please take a look at some of the other posts on Post Barrio Universe, my website on culture and politics from a Latinx perspective.

Here’s the link: https://post-barrio-universe.com/2021/12/13/re-visiting-west-side-story/


From cover of Laurent Bouzereau’s book, The Making of the Steven Spielberg Film, West Side Story.

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On this podcast, I talk with Dr. Karen Bryson, The Curious Professor, about the diasporican experience. We discuss how it has influenced my work, including Migrations, my award-winning story collection. Take a listen and please let me know what you think or if you have any questions.


You can find more information on Dr. Karen Bryson and her podcast here: https://www.thecuriousprofessorpodcast.com/about/

Puerto Rican Gadfly


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.

For more on Calvin Schwartz, check this video done by his alma mater, Rutgers University: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-gC2FyKzqo&t=4s

How To Read Like A Writer


Rachael Herron’s How Do You Write, is a craft-centered podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to her about craft. Among the several topics we discussed, I talked about how to read like a writer. It’s an approach to reading that affords you the best way to find writing tips. I came across this approach when I read Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer. I often used Prose’s book in my creative writing classes. and would recommend it to every writer. In the meantime, listen in on our conversation below and get a sense of what “reading like a writer” means.

About the podcast, How Do You Write: Explore the processes of working writers with bestselling author Rachael Herron. How do you write a book? Start here. You’ll gain tips to get in the chair, tricks to stay there, and inspiration to get your own words flowing. If you want to check out her website, here is the link: http://www.howdoyouwrite.net.

About the host: R.H. (Rachael) Herron is the bestselling author of more than two dozen books, including thriller (under R.H. Herron), mainstream fiction, feminist romance, memoir, and nonfiction about writing. She received her MFA in writing from Mills College, Oakland, and she teaches writing extension workshops at both UC Berkeley and Stanford. She is a proud member of the NaNoWriMo Writer’s Board. She’s a New Zealand citizen as well as an American.

Adichie: Stereotypes and ‘The Single Story’


“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.” ― Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Adichie’s take on stereotypes and ‘the single story’ is useful for BIPOC writers. Stereotypes are untrue. But she argues that the singularity of these stories based on a stereotype’s falsehood is the more significant problem. BIPOC writers should understand that these false stories inhabit the uncritical minds of people through the narratives they consume. These single stories take hold in the wider imaginary of any culture and society. They then become biased ‘truths’ in the minds of individuals.

The antidote to this noxious process is to have writers create counter-narratives that challenge these mainstream false, single stories. We all know that there are more perspectives to any one story. Historically, when the conquerors write the history, their perspective reigns. This perspective justifies, validates and disseminates itself as ‘THE truth.” By doing so, it silences and devalues the stories of others. So, it is imperative that we BIPOC writers construct narratives, whether through historiography or fiction, that provide the ‘other’s’ perspective. This quote, taken from her TED Talk, has strengthened my belief in how I approach writing and my commitment to challenge the existing ‘single stories.

The Nuyorican Hallway: Belonging & Living Between Worlds


Such an engaging conversation with host Julian Esteban Torres Lopez. This is one of the best conversations I’ve had with a podcast host that discusses Puerto Rico’s present condition. Our conversation centered on the idea of living in the “Nuyorican Hallway” and belonging and living in between worlds. But it also goes beyond those topics to embrace significantly related issues. Listen in. I’m sure you’ll find it fascinating and informative.

To learn more about The Nasiona, their staff, and their mission, check out this link:

The Best Books by Writers of the Puerto Rican Diaspora


Ben Fox invited me to write a “listicle” for his website Shepherd.com. A listicle is an article that includes some type of list; in the case of mine, it’s a list of what I considered the five best books written by Puerto Rican authors in the diaspora. I had quite a difficult time narrowing the many possibilities to five books. As I wrote this piece, I kept thinking how these books had helped my development as a writer. I also thought how Migrations, my latest short story collection, is indebted to the continual development of diasporican writing, in general.

If you’re interested in the literature of the Puerto Rican Diaspora, please check it out. I’m sure that others would have different books on this list. Apologies if I annoyed anyone by leaving a loved book from the list. In any case, let me know what you think. What books would you have included? Have you read any or all of these books? Do you agree with my assessment of these books and authors? I seriously want to hear from you. If anything, this type of exercise generates discussion about criteria applied to a literary canon. It forces us to think if the exercise in itself is valuable and necessary. When it comes to the literature of Puerto Ricans residing in the United States, we could certainly use more critical discussion.

Here is the link to my listicle:


What is Shepherd for Authors?

Whether you are a writer or an avid reader, Shepherd has something for you. Here’s what Ben Fox has to say about his website:

I love wandering around bookstores letting random books capture my attention. Nothing will ever replace the “bookstore experience”, but I want to reimagine book discovery online with a lot more serendipity. Thus Shepherd.com was born.

Shepherd launched on April 19th, 2021, and in addition to helping readers, we are also helping authors. There is a growing trend that authors have to become their own marketing team. That concerns me because it takes time away from writing and it is very hard to do. I want to make it easier for authors to get their books in front of the readers who would be most interested in their book.

Research and Writing on the Puerto Rican Diaspora


Luica Matuonto asked me to submit an article for her blog on writing related to my new book, Migrations. So, I decided to write on researching the Puerto Rican diaspora for the collection. I consider where that quest for information led me. You can read it here: https://www.luciamatuonto.com/post/growing-up-latino.

Toni Morrison on Inspiration for Writers


“If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” — Toni Morrison

It’s almost two years since we lost the inimitable Toni Morrison. How I miss her wisdom, insight, and eloquence. This quote from her is one of my favorites, because it’s so fundamentally true. Yet, as a writer, you never think absence of what you want to read should be a primary source of inspiration.

Of course, you should write what you crave to read. That ache in your hunger for a specific story is probably felt by others like you. I’ve taken this quote as a mantra for my projects. I wondered why no one had written about a nuyorican returning to the island. So, I did it. Now, I’m working on a novella that tackles the insidious type of racism we find in Puerto Rico and other Latinx communities. I’ve always wondered why Puerto Ricans and Latinx people generally do not want to confront the real issues of our type of racism, which is indeed quite different, although no less virulent, than the one in the United States. I always wanted to read a novel that would touch on those issues, but it didn’t exist. So, I went to work on it, and the main character is Roberto Clemente. Hopefully, by the end of 2022, I’ll have a manuscript ready to send out.

Gender, Race & Identity in the Diaspora:


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:

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