|Tiphanie Yanique at The Center for Fiction, June 15, 2011|
Yanique started the evening off by acknowledging the work that The Center for Fiction does for writers as “the only non-profit in the U.S. dedicated to celebrating fiction.” She read from the title story in her collection How to Escape from a Leper Colony. She then sat down to speak with Nunez, award-winning author of seven novels and fellow Caribbean writer.
Nunez requested that Yanique read a story that involved the beating of a young child. Both writers then discussed child abuse in the Caribbean and the role of the author in dealing with this charged issue. Nunez was also interested in Yanique’s choice of including a Caribbean jail cell in her story because the jails in the Caribbean are located near the sea and have the special torment of offering spectacular seaside views to the inmates.
Prompted by an audience member, Nunez discussed the seduction of writing in first person and the distance that writing in third person allows. Fielding a question from the audience, Yanique spoke on the burden placed on Caribbean writers to explain perceived strangeness in their stories. She used “calalloo” as an example and stated that if a reader was genuinely curious about calalloo they would research it. She went on to say that explaining such a dish would harm the authenticity of her characters who would never describe something so well known to them. This was a highly gratifying answer for me because I’m often confronted with the burden of explaining minor details in my own creative work.
Both writers also responded to audience questions on the benefits of MFA programs and the business of writing. The evening concluded, and I was able to ask Elizabeth Nunez to sign my copy of Grace, newly purchased from the Center for Fiction’s bookstore located on the ground floor.