Tell me where your country ends and mine begins
Someone I don’t know stops me on the street. She is a stranger, but clearly she knows who I am. She grabs my arm, then lets it go, then tells me she has just finished reading In Perfect Light. I smile awkwardly and nod, not really knowing what to say.
"It’s beautiful," she says. "Really beautiful. But your books are sad."
"All of them?"
"Yes," she says.
"But full of hope and expectation," I add.
"Yes," she says, "But why do your characters have to suffer so much?"
"Well," I say, "They live on the border." And then I want to add. "My characters, some of them get saved." But that’s not what I say. Instead I reiterate my point. "Well, you see, my characters, they all live on the border."
...So begins a wonderful essay titled "Notes from Another Country" by New Mexican/Texan writer Benjamin Alire Sáenz -- author of adult novels, young adult novels, children's books, and poetry so gorgeous it lifts from the page as if on angels' wings. "Notes from Another Country" is available on Sáenz's website. You can read and/or download it here.
"I write in English, dream in Spanish, listen to Latin chants," says Sáenz. "I like streets where Chicanos make up words. Sometimes, I shout Italian words to wake the morning light. At dust, I breathe out fragments of Swahili. I want to feel words swimming in my throat like fighting fish that refuse to be hooked on a line."