Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Beyond FINESSE: Violeta García-Mendoza

One of my favorite non-fiction pieces published in the Call Me Okaasan anthology is “Two Names for Every Beautiful Thing.” Spanish-American author Violeta García-Mendoza writes with such grace that at first I thought “Two Names” was a work of fiction. She notes in an interview on the Motherlogue blog that this piece “started with freewriting on gardens. I wanted to explore the garden origin myth as it applied to myself and my kids.”

Mom to three children, Violeta has written on a variety of topics ranging from teaching two languages in the home to adopting across cultures as well as book reviews, interviews, and poetry for more than 30 literary outlets. Currently studying fiction writing in an MFA program in Pennsylvania where she lives with her family, Violeta has also been the Multi-Culti Mami columnist for the popular Literary Mama site as well as a contributor not only to Call Me Okaasan but to The Maternal is Political: Women Writers at the Intersection of Motherhood and Social Change.

In her final Multi-Culti Mami column, Violeta reflected on her sudden introduction to American life as a young girl in a multicultural family:

“In the end, what [I learned] was to pretend familiarity, fake it until I found it…which I eventually did, after the passing of culture shock, middle school, and time. But maybe because of that experience, I identified ever since exclusively as Spanish-American. When they were smaller, I thought of my Guatemalan-born, American-raised children as exclusively Guatemalan-American, rather than as simply American, too. But my three children are from a different place and time of origin, both of which are more fluid than the ones I knew growing up. That, it turns out, changes a lot.”

Later in this column, Violeta noted she’d begun to think of her children as just American, “dropping the hyphen as an occasional possibility; toying with the idea that our mashed-up family is the new quintessentially American family.”

In “Two Names” she writes of what she wishes for her children, and of what she prides herself in providing them. “One day, my son and daughters will tell me what they remember of their childhoods. They will not need to reconcile themselves with that half language of translation, but be full of that bilingual, bicultural magic of being able to go and come back constantly between place and time.”

“If I give them anything, may it be the chance to call forth all the beautiful things they deserve.”


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