José Angel Araguz Recommends...

When creatively stuck, I try to suss out what in my reading (and this includes music, art, etc.) excites me so that I must follow it and try either a new form or take on a new subject, or even a new dimension of self. Currently, two writers have had that effect. Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, whose book, The Undocumented Americans (One World, 2020), follows her work within undocumented communities, interviewing immigrants and telling their stories while honoring their humanity and struggle. Also, comedian Cristela Alonzo’s stand-up as well as her book, Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up (Atria Books, 2019), shows her forging her projects with authenticity and intention that honors where she’s from—which happens to be my neck of the woods, South Texas—both of us growing up and shaped by border culture. Whether it’s Villavicencio unpacking the nuances of undocumented lives and their perception versus the reality while also sharing her own empathy’s nuances, or Alonzo sharing about wanting to learn to tap dance and so embedding bottlecaps into the bottoms of her sneakers (a puro rasquache move!), both are artists whose presence and sensibility in their work on and off the page has me thinking of ways that I, too, can be unabashedly present and community-minded.
—José Angel Araguz, author of Rotura (Black Lawrence Press, 2022)  

Photo credit: Ani Araguz