On personal essays & being seen
with Christopher Rivas, author of 'Brown Enough'
#NuevasPaginasconLupita is a space that is both an archive and resource aimed to "spotlight" Hispanic/Latinx/e authors with newly published books. 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 Hispanic/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 all the other amazing interviews! We also have a great line-up of guest authors coming up so make sure you don’t miss an issue by subscribing now!
A friendly reminder that I am an affiliate with Bookshop.org and I may earn a commission if you click through any book links and make a purchase.
Hey Heyyy Book Franz!
Happy New Week aka Happy New Nuevas Paginas interview day! I know I typically bring you interviews about books that are currently available in all bookstores but today we get a sneak peek into the fall 2022 lineup with today’s title.
I also get to remind you that whenever possible (as many times as possible) it is incredibly important to pre-order Latinx/e authored books! Why and what is a pre-order you might ask? Well….this whole Twitter thread will explain the importance.
Without further ado, our special guest author today is….Christopher Rivas, author of Brown Enough: True Stories about Love, Violence, the Student Loan Crisis, Hollywood, Race, Familia, and Making It in America….
Could you tell me a bit about where this photo was taken? Is it special to your book in some way?
There's two photos, hope that's cool! The first one is a photo I took many years ago, I was feeling a lot of joy and that joy was captured. I want that joy in all my work. Brown Enough is about moving from Woe is me to Yeah is us! The second photo is the animation of that photo, which was used to dencuastrut my face on the cover of the book. I celebrate both.
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.
James Baldwin. James Baldwin. The personal essays more than the fiction. That plus John Leguizamo's Freak- seeing that play changed my life. It was one of my first moments of seeing myself and my people on a large platform. One of the first moments of seeing a Brown man in all his glory, no apologies, no exceptions, and a room full of white people loving every bit of it. These two things showed me how rich our personal stories are and how necessary they are to share. How personal stories can be medicine for so many. Finally, Bluets by Maggie Nelson - The way she is intensely curious. I value curiosity as a privilege - The privilege to explore. I don’t take it for granted.
What are two central themes in your book that you connect with the most and why?
I have 3:
& A well-placed anger at colonialism.
Everything in this life is a story, when you’ve been made to believe or chosen to believe, knowing the difference is profound. When we identify the stories that have been told to us, the stories that we believe about ourselves. We start to disrupt the white narrative that has been placed all over our lives.
Being Seen, because media and images have for too long left Brown stories out of the conversation of Black and white. And if they do tell a Brown story, it is often a fraction of what we are capable of, a fraction of our beauty.
If a book was home, where would your home be?
Big Sur, CA. Mixed with NYC! Always NYC.
Def queens, but also the city.
Big trees, quiet, but also hustle and culture and flavor.
If your book was a famous musician who would it be?
Amy Winehouse meets Chet Baker, Miles Davis, Héctor Lavoe, and Mos Def.
What comfort food could a reader pair with your book?
A nice bowl of hearty soup, fabada soup - a soup from Spain, made of white bean, potatoes and chorizo (optional), cooked slow and for a long time in a big pot. Meant to be eaten with yummy bread or saltine crackers and butter.
In what ways has access (or little to no access) to Hispanic/Latinx/e literature defined you as a writer?
In literature and in the media, and throughout this country, the language of Identity fails us.
It is very true, as an Afro Dominican Colombian kid from Queen’s who was ashamed of his large nose and curly hair, but also loved to dance salsa but spoke bad Spanish and felt bad about it - I didn’t have role models or leaders who said who I was and my experience was not only okay but happening everywhere and all the time. Narratives that helped to change the cultural and national image of what it means to be enough. What it means to be seen.
And every time I have to fill out a census form or job form or a grant application, you have to check off these boxes that are limited and they don't always work for people like you and me. The few times I have received access to the art and genius of mi gente, it has moved me greatly.
Where can readers keep up with your work?
Instagram - @christopher__rivas
A huge thank you to Christopher Rivas for taking the time to chat with me about his book! Please please make sure you purchase a copy (or request your local library carry a copy) of their book #SupportLatinxLit!
Author Bio from the BookShop website:
Christopher Rivas is an actor, author, podcaster, and storyteller best known for his on-screen work on the Fox series, CALL ME KAT. In addition, he hosts two podcasts on SiriusXM's Stitcher: Rubirosa, a limited series about the life of Porfirio Rubirosa, and a weekly show, Brown Enough. He is a Ph.D. Candidate in Expressive Arts for Global Health & Peace Building from The European Graduate School and a Rothschild Social Impact fellow. Rivas resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Synopsis for Brown Enough Bookshop website:
At a time when disinformation, hate crimes, inequality, racial injustice, and white supremacy are on the rise, Brown Enough, part memoir and part social commentary, emerges, asking readers to proudly put their bodies, their identities, into the conversations of race. Brown Enough is a roller coaster of finding one's true self while simultaneously having a racial awakening amidst the struggle to be "perfectly" Latinx, woke, and as Brown as possible to make it in today's America.
From world-renowned actor John Leguizamo: "Brown Enough is a celebration of Brownness and a manifesto about the magic, beauty, and heartbreak that comes with being Brown in America. Brownness is more than our skin color or language or where we grew up; it's also about the common threads that connect us all. I'm excited to see Christopher's impact continue to grow as one of the key voices of his generation."
Its pages are full of honest explorations of love, sex, fake-it-till-you-make-it ambition, bad Spanish, color, code-switching, white-washing, scandal, Hollywood, and more. This memoir navigates these necessary and often revealing topics through fourteen chapters, each a distinct moment where Rivas explores his Brownness and how to own it.
Brown Enough opens with a moment that forever changed Christopher Rivas's life, the night Ta-Nehisi Coates shared, in an intimate gathering in downtown L.A., the Brown man's role in the race conversation.
"All I hear is black and white. As a Brown man, a Latin man, where does that leave me?" Coates took a short breath and responded, "Not in it."
Like a reprimanded child, Rivas took his seat and remained silent for much of the event. But the effects didn't end there. This conversation pushed Rivas to contemplate and rethink how whiteness and Blackness had impacted his sense of self and worth.
"Why is Brown not in it?" became the unspoken question for the rest of his life and a thread moving through this collection. Eventually, in every conversation, during every date, at every job, Rivas began to ask, "What are the consequences of not being in the conversation?" "What does it take to be in it?"
Brown Enough is the quest to find an answer.
The best way you can support Latinx/e authors and Latinx/e literature is by doing the following:
REQUEST that your local library carry a copy
PURCHASE a copy of a friend, family member, or 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.
REVIEW their books on any website that sells books!
The other day one of my cousins asked in our family group chat….” Hey! What kind of music does Lupita listen to?” and without even missing a beat my brother replied “AUDIOBOOKS”!
The moment audiobooks stepped into my life, they became my music. I listen to them on walks, while doing laundry and chores — basically any moment I have to myself. So if that is you too (or if you simply want to fit in more reading during your daily life) check out Libro.FM! If you use the code LupitaReads you’ll receive two audiobook credits for 14.99 USD with your first month of membership. These credits can be used on your choice of more than 250,00 audiobooks on Libro. FM.
And if you need some audiobook recommendations - I made a list just for you!