The Writer’s Center presents a FREE virtual chat about the craft of creative writing! We’re joined by novelist and essayist Jennifer De Leon to talk about her two new books, the essay collection White Space and the novel Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From. Jennifer will be in conversation with Ofelia Montelongo, author and The Writer’s Center’s 2019 Undiscovered Voices Fellow.
RSVP below, and you’ll receive an email on or before April 15 with instructions for joining the chat via our video conferencing platform, Zoom. FREE and open to the public, all times Eastern. Limited space.
We encourage you to order a copy of the books from your local, independent bookseller or online from Bookshop.org by clicking the titles of the books above.
Born in the Boston area to Guatemalan parents, Jennifer De Leon is the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster, 2020) and the editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education (University of Nebraska Press, 2014). She graduated from Connecticut College with a degree in International Relations (she spent a semester in Vietnam and another semester in France!), earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice while in the Teach For America program, and later a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from UMASS-Boston. She has received several awards and residencies from organizations across the country, including: the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, Macondo, VONA, Associates of the Boston Public Library, and the City of Boston. Her short story, “Home Movie,” originally published in The Briar Cliff Review, was the 2015 One City, One Story pick as part of the Boston Book Festival (30,000 copies were distributed around the city!), and her stories and essays have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines and anthologies, including: Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, and Best Women’s Travel Writing. De Leon is a winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2016, awarded by We Need Diverse Books. After a decade teaching in Boston Public Schools, she is now an Assistant Professor of English at Framingham State University and a faculty member in the MFA in Creative Nonfiction program at Bay Path University.
About White Space
Sometime in her twenties, Jennifer De Leon asked herself, “What would you do if you just gave yourself permission?” While her parents had fled Guatemala over three decades earlier when the country was in the grips of genocide and civil war, she hadn’t been back since she was a child. She gave herself permission to return—to relearn the Spanish that she had forgotten, unpack her family’s history, and begin to make her own way.
Alternately honest, funny, and visceral, this powerful collection follows De Leon as she comes of age as a Guatemalan-American woman and learns to navigate the space between two worlds. Never rich or white enough for her posh college, she finds herself equally adrift in her first weeks in her parents’ home country. During the years to follow, she would return to Guatemala again and again, meet ex-guerrillera and genocide survivors, get married in the old cobblestoned capital of Antigua, and teach her newborn son about his roots.
About Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From
“A funny, perceptive, and much-needed book telling a much-needed story.” —Celeste Ng, author of the New York Times bestseller Little Fires Everywhere
Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls. There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again. There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into. And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.
So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.
But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.