Willie Perdomo Recommends...

“First, I turn to my lit bars: Cane (Boni & Liveright, 1923) by Jean Toomer, Cooley High, and Ray Baretto. These are my aspirational spark plugs. When I was revising The Crazy Bunch, there were two nights during my Lucas Artists fellowship in California—rare nights—where I drank a little gin, listened to nineties hip-hop, and I danced as I wrote and rewrote. I broke night with my poems. In other words, you have to hang out with your book, especially if your book is becoming a living thing. I’m trying to learn how to write plays and the initial excitement I feel when I begin a play is like the surge I used to feel when I finished a poem. Recently, I started a play with the line, ‘Cookie Rojas.’ Immediately, I knew that the speaker was a social club owner, his name was Angel, he was a failed baseball player being priced out of East Harlem by gentrification, and his wife just died of cancer. So, now that I opened that door, what’s next? Well, who’s he talking to? Why, his homie Nate of course! Nate is an old friend who happens to be a counselor at a nearby clinic. So, Nate replies, ‘Cookie Rojas?’ And Angel says, ‘Yeah, that would’ve been the password to my speakeasy.’ Boom. That’s it. Your dream space just opened for business.”
—Willie Perdomo, author of The Crazy Bunch (Penguin Books, 2019)