Event Recap: NYC Book Launch for Love War Stories


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.


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.


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.