Thursday, April 08, 2010

Losing It All and Gaining More

I remember when Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez got a shitload of money for her first book, The Dirty Girls Social Club. Ms. V-R and Dirty Girls were supposed to be the Latina version of Terry McMillan's Waiting to Exhale. I wondered what it must be like to get that kind of cash. Now, all these years later, she's broke and looking for a job, any job. Read it here.

It's beautifully written and I became extremely sad. It seemed it took her losing it all to realize that she had it all in her friends and family. She and I are about the same age, but she didn't see the extent of AIDS that I saw. Life is precious; people can go, like that! Something I learned from that terrible time is that life with family and friends is really all the joy you'll ever need.

Her essay was really a look at degrees. Her writing about Latinas may not be as accessible as she'd hoped, but trust me, her writing will get more notice than a writer trying to tell tales of Latina lesbian life.
I was bothered by some points in her essay, particularly about how she felt she didn't get the kind of support she hoped for from her community. She stated her initial success as a reason why no one took to her. She went as far to say that a book club curator that promotes Latino/a authors "hates" her because she's successful.

What she didn't realize is that she WAS (and STILL IS) successful, and for every writer like her, there are fifty who didn't get a publicist with their book deal. I curate a literary series and try to get the word out about unheard of writers. Some more prominent writers seem to wonder why I hadn't asked them to read. Well, because they read all the time, everywhere. They don't need my little literary series that meets ups quarterly. (Frankly, I've seen little known writers just ecstatic at reading at a bookstore like Skylight and I've experienced NYT bestselling authors who show no gratitude at all.)

In reading Ms. V-R's essay, particularly about how she's struggling to get by, I thought: oh, she's become like most of us trying to make ends meet. She wrote, "I lost my car this week. I simply gave it back to Lexus because I can’t afford it anymore." It's hard to get my sympathy when you drove a Lexus. I drove my beat-up jeep for seventeen years, then bought a used Chrysler. I still take the bus, especially when gas prices rose to nearly five dollars a gallon. I plan on taking the bus today.

Regardless of her downfall, she's still more publishable than most writers that I know. Most writers I know don't have movie options of any kind. She may get a small advance for her books, but something tells me that it's still larger than mine. (And mine was larger than a friend who got her book published by a university that didn't give her an advance at all.)

Always stay grateful. There are always those doing better than you and those doing worse.

(Thanks Los Angelista for giving me a heads-up about this article.)

1 comment:

Cheryl said...

I'm totally intrigued, but the link is broken! I wonder if she took it down?

Sometimes I'm grateful not to have been handed a bunch of success all of a sudden--it's so easy to forget what's important. But more often I'm like, "Okay, fate, I am READY. I am sooo grounded. Hit me with a giant advance and watch me keep driving my 1997 Honda Civic. I will DO it."