Event Recap: NYC Book Launch for Love War Stories

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Word Up Community Bookstore
Reading and Q&A with special guest Jennifer Baker
Thursday July 19, 2018, 6:30pm
 

Earlier this year I shared a list of 11 titles from Latinx authors that were coming out this year that I was super excited about. One of those titles was Love War stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez. Love War Stories is a debut short story collection on the contradictory messages that Latinas receive about love. I was SO here for this synopsis so I pre-ordered a copy from my local indie and read it in one sitting when it arrived. You can read my full review here, but to summarize, I loved it. 

When I found out Ivelisse was going to be in New York to do a book launch and reading I knew I had to go! The event took place in Word Up Community Bookshop/Librería Comunitaria in Washington Heights. I had never been to this bookstore before (I know, what?) so I made sure to get there early for extra browsing time before the reading. 

Word Up is such a hidden gem! It is absolutely adorable and the archetype of a true community space: It started as a one month pop-up store and through community support and fundraising grew into a permanent space as a book store and event space staffed by volunteers for, by and about members of the Washington Heights community. Their curation is also amazing with a robust graphic novel and children's sections and reflects the diversity in ethnicity and languages of this New York neighborhood. I may have been so excited at seeing so many WoC authors on the shelves that I may have ended up with a little unplanned book haul. If you are in NYC I highly recommend dropping by this awesome community bookstore! 

But without further ado, let’s dive into the event! Ivelisse read an excerpt from the story titled: The Summer of Nene then proceeded to do a Q&A with Jennifer and then take questions from the audience. Below are highlights from the Q&A. Quotes are paraphrased from my notes.

JB: Would you say that these are love stories?

IR: I think of them more as “anti-love stories”. They are love stories in a way, the woman in my stories are taught that love is a goal but I want women to see that they don’t need a man, and that even if you do fall in love you need to learn to stand on your own two feet. 

The titular story, Love War Stories is a type of tug-of-war between generations and the mixed messages that Latinas get when it comes to love: on one hand you’re told that you need a man, on the other you’re told that men are sucios.

For me, the problem with love is that there are other things in a relationship apart from love that are important too, like is he treating you nicely. A lot of people excuse terrible behavior by saying: but he loves me. 

That’s not to say love is bad, I think young people especially should be in love and hopeful and these stories I would say do have happy endings just maybe in unconventional ways.

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JB: What do you want your readers to take away from these stories?

IV: Everyone is going to take away something different from these stories but I want my readers to learn something new. 

JB: Can you tell us about your writing process? Are you a Plotter or a Pantser?

IV: I am a pantser. My stories start out as a kernel, just an idea. Then I just need to write, to get the ideas out, somewhere in the middle I start to outline, then I begin to create scenes. Then finally I line edit. This whole process takes a while. 

JB: What is the best piece of writing advise you have received?

IV: The best piece of writing advice I’ve received has been from Junot Diaz. He said when writing fiction there are two ‘layers’ to keep in mind: a surface level that consists of what your characters want and a second deeper level that consists of what you as a writer want. 

During the audience Q&A I got a chance Ivelisse my favorite question to ask authors: What is a book that you have read recently that you want people to know about?

IV: I just finished Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras and really enjoyed it! It’s coming out at the end of the month soon.

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More Trivia from Jennifer Baker and Ivelisse Rodriguez!

  • Jennifer Baker is the editor of the anthology: Everyday People: The Color of Life and is the host of the podcast Minorities in Publishing.
  • Ivelisse loves the show  Vampire Diaries (especially Stefan). She used part of her advance to attend a Vampire Diaries event where she got a chance to meet Paul Wesley!
  • Ivelisse wrote Love War Stories at the end of her college years, the whole collection has been 20 years in the making.