Anything for Selenas y Amy Winehouse...
with Melissa Lozada-Oliva author of Dreaming of You: A Novel in Verse
#NuevasPaginasconLupita is an expanded edition of the mini get-to-know the book and author interview series on Instagram aimed to "spotlight" Latinx authors with books out in 2021. The goal is to connect readers to new and/or old favorite Hispanic/Latinx/e authors and their books! So give this & every post a share to help us reach more readers!
How does it work?!
Here’s the deal, I came up with a set of casual/random/funny questions to ask each Latinx/e author I interview. For now the questions will all be the same but maybe in the future I’ll launch this into more specific questions to the author or maybe I’ll turn this series into a mini podcast or maybe……well, you get it! The possibilities are endless.
If you are new here don’t forget to check out interviews with Elisabet Velasquez, Gloria Muñoz, Zoraida Córdova, Kirstin Valdez Quade and Jamie Figueroa! All of their books are currently available everywhere! We also have a really great line-up of guest authors coming up so make sure you don’t miss an interview by subscribing now!
Hey Heyyy Book Franz!
Week six! Week six! I am so excited to be back with another special guest for Nuevas Páginas. This week’s special guest has a book coming out on this day NEXT WEEK! This means you still have time to support Latine/x literature by PRE-ORDERING a copy and if you are wondering “why are pre-order’s important?” check out this Twitter thread:
I won’t keep you any longer from reading the interview for this week’s special guest - MELISSA LOZADA-OLIVA author of Dreaming of You: A Novel in Verse!
[P.S. This book feels like a gift to inner baby Lupita who use to spend hours memorizing all the Selena songs and offering up her 18-month baby brother to Selena in the sky after learning of her death and the fact that she never got to have those kids she wanted with Chris (yes, the movie traumatized me in ways I am still unearthing so I very much connect with the main character in this book lololol)]
Tell me about your book without telling me about your book - share any literary inspirations behind your book! If there are none, the gap you wanted to fill in the literary canon with your book.
Okay, I feel like my book is like … Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge by My Chemical Romance meets Whatsername by Greenday meets “Instructions for a Seance with Vladmirs” by Terrance Hayes meets Metamorphosis by Ovid. The first two are emo pop-punk rock operas that were really formative to me, the second is a poem where Terrance Hayes brings all these Literary Vladimirs back to life, and Metamorphosis is one long greek poem where Ovid is gossiping about everybody’s (the gods and the mortals) bullshit. In Dreaming of You I have a Greek Chorus of chismosas who are all-knowing and bring the freaky little story together. My influences are like this amalgamation of classical literature, but also post-modern and emo. I don’t know if I’m filling in any gap in the literary canon- I’m just happy to be invited.
What are two central themes in your book that you connect with the most and why?
I think a big thing is Being Watched and Being Afraid of Dying. There’s a line in The First Bad Man by Miranda July where a character is driving a car pretending that the man she loves is watching her. I am kind of obsessed with voyeurism, especially because in this *current world* we are all always looking at each other. There’s also that freaking Michelle Branch song “Everywhere,” where she goes, “You’re in everyone I see/so tell me/do you see me?” We all just want to be seen as if we were the main character’s best friend in a movie. Like, oh, who was that woman? Did she just steal the show? I have OCD (these are my CONFESSIONS, s/o to Usher) and every single day I think of new and exciting ways my life could be taken from me. Bringing Selena back to life was almost like exposure therapy, at least for the character Melissa. Like, let’s get as close to death as possible, let’s see what happens when you just can’t accept that somebody has ended, that one day you will too.
If a book was home, where would your home be?
My book would be a purple victorian on top of a hill hosting a large party and you would hear the party from all the way at the bottom and you would wonder if somebody you like is going to be there, and trying to measure out how disappointed you would be if they weren’t and you are getting closer and closer to the door and you see them in the window and you’re trying to play it cool the floorboards are creaking beneath you and the knob you use to knock on is in the shape of a sinister, gap-toothed mouth.
If your book was a famous musician who would it be?
I actually don’t think it would be Selena, though that seems like the obvious choice. I think my book would be Amy Winehouse, my Virgo queen because it’s really meticulous and wild and wants to be a party while wanting to be taken seriously and remembered forever. It’s pumped full of desire while trying to get a good, honest look at herself.
[Lupita here popping in to say that reply gave me chills and if you are like me - a forever Amy Winehouse stan…..I’d like to know in the comments which song you’d place here]
What comfort food could a reader pair with your book?
Okay I think like, a hot lava cake followed by a nice tequila drink made with dragon fruit and hopefully, somebody hot is at the next table eating the same thing and you’re trying not to make a mess of it all over yourself.
In what ways has access (or little to no access) to Hispanic/Latinx/e literature defined you as a writer?
My access to Latine literature has been remarkably basic, I do have to say. Like, reading Sandra Cisneros in high school was huge for me! Especially after only reading what… Catcher in the Rye??? Her short story “One Holy Night” has a vice grip on my heart, especially the end, when the speaker describes all the ways she’s learned what love is, then finally says there is a man who lives upstairs who tries to practice his little flute all day but it just sounds like a wheeze going in and out and she says, “That’s how it is for me. Love, I mean.” And okay I’m gonna be basic again but Junot Diaz’ short story about a Dominican Alternatina named “Alma” that is in many ways this Ode Poem also has a hold on me. I was obsessed with the way he was describing this woman, even if it was misogynistic and problematic. He was describing her in all her glory, all of her sexual prowess and anger, her niche interests, and her disgusting habits. He captured her. He took a photo.
Anyway, these two probably basic sources of Latine literature absolutely defined me because they were experimental and rhythmic. Our people are haunted and heartbroken as hell and you can see that in our literature. I want to write things that sink into people. Those stories sang and the songs got stuck in my head for many years. I can still hear them.
A huge thank you to Melissa Lozada-Oliva for taking the time to chat with me about Dreaming of You! Please please make sure you purchase a copy (or request your local library carry a copy) of her book #SupportLatinxLit! And I mean why wouldn’t you want to support this super adorable person during this big moment….just take a look at the tweet below……
Synopsis for Dreaming of You:
Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s Dreaming of You is an absurd yet heartfelt examination of celebrity worship.
A young Latinx poet grappling with loneliness and heartache decides one day to bring Tejano pop star Selena Quintanilla back to life. The séance kicks off an uncanny trip narrated by a Greek chorus of gossiping spirits as she journeys through a dead celebrity prom, encounters her shadow self, and performs karaoke in hell.
In visceral poems embodying millennial angst, paragraph-long conversations overheard at her local coffeeshop, and unhinged Twitter rants, Lozada-Oliva reveals an eerie, sometimes gruesome, yet moving love story.
Playfully morbid and profoundly candid, an interrogation of Latinidad, womanhood, obsession, and disillusionment, Dreaming of You grapples with the cost of being seen for your truest self.
Bio for Melissa Lozada-Oliva from Astra House Website:
MELISSA LOZADA-OLIVA is the child of Guatemalan and Colombian immigrants. She co-hosts the podcast Say More and is a member of the band Meli and the Specs. She holds an MFA in poetry from NYU and her writing has been featured in Remezcla, PAPER, The Guardian, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4, Wirecutter, Vulture, Bustle, Glamour, The Huffington Post, Muzzle Magazine, The Poetry Project, Audible, and BBC Mundo. She is from Massachusetts and lives in New York City.
I had to end this with a Selena gif……(sobs)….Thank you for reading this week! Don’t forget to grab a copy of Dreaming of You and make sure you are subscribed so you don’t miss any future interviews <3
Friendly reminder that the best ways you can support Latinx/e authors and Latinx/e literature is by doing the following:
Leave a review for their books on any website that sells books
Request that your local library carry a copy
Purchase a copy of a friend, family member, your nemesis (hey! I’m sure they read too).
Shout about the book on any social media platform or to your friends and family!
Share this interview widely! Word of mouth does wonders for connecting readers to books.