PALABRAS: Memoirist Emma Gomez Shares Life Experiences and Engages Readers with Unique Writing Style
This article is part of Palabras, the Latin Post Latino Author Series.
The Yabucoa, Puerto Rico-born memoirist Emma Gomez placed her entire existence (up until the moment of publication) onto the page. Through anecdotes and stories, the writer narrated challenges, detailed unique moments within her marriage and her divorce, and illustrated the powerful experience of motherhood.
"Emma Gomez: A Courageous Woman Displays True Grit" tells a harrowing and uplifting story, one that focuses on the importance of smaller things, as well as burdens that people carry. During an interview with Latin Post, Gomez shared that her desire to write her memoir was based on a need to share the story of her life and to draw attention to the value of helping others in life. Also, the need to share personal knowledge and experiences with future generations came from Professor Barbara Wertheimer and Professor Harry Kelber, two instructors she had when attending Cornell University. Both, independently, pushed the importance of the memoir.
"In a memoir, you are the main character; it is a picture of yourself from beginning to end. Therefore, to inspire readers to read my book and find out who I am, I must describe myself as close to the picture as I possibly can. And since no one knows me better than myself, I was confident I was going to do it well," said Gomez. "As I mentioned throughout my book, I consider my childhood unique because of the time and place in which it occurred. The place being the mountains and the time being during the second World War; certain necessities [were] unavailable to those living in the mountains at the time. My childhood was good [because] I had parents who loved me and taught me well, [but] I left home after high school looking for work for self support, for my parents could not afford it."
Gomez, 80, utilized difficult parts of her past, such as her marriage, and used those moments to communicate the challenge and success of raising two children. Despite obstacles in her early life and suffering from Parkinson's disease in her later life, her children grew into successful adults; she earned a college degree; and she pursued opportunities and gained accomplishments that allowed her to help others.
"The fact that people [I worked with] come from all walks of life, with different professions, different goals, races, and more, might sound like a tough job. However, it doesn't have to be so. If you hope to do well in a public service job, it is up to you to manage the seemingly difficult and stressful situations you might encounter, in a positive way," Gomez said. "We must keep in mind that every human being is unique; the way you deal with me might not be the way to deal with somebody else, so you must watch what you say and how you say it. I can proudly say I enjoyed working in public service, and that, against all odds, I did well and learned a great deal, which I shared with others, especially minority women."
Her friendly personality, her respect for others' opinions and her empathy helped her to engage others. By doing so, she earned people's trust and confidence, making her career in public service easier and less stressful.
"Helping others going about daily activities and promoting their potentials gave me great satisfaction. It certainly enriched my life. I discovered that giving, rather than receiving, is a blessing to enjoy. I also experienced that feeling doing volunteer work. Combining all mentioned above, I was able to develop a story that women can relate to, and of interest to all," she added.
Before sitting down to write her memoir, Gomez read "Writing About Your Life" by William Zinsser and "The Little Red Writing Book" by Brandon Royal. Her own memoir reads like a collection of essays rather than a memoir in the strictest sense. She chose that particular writing style because she wanted her book to invite readers to keep reading once they started, and she wanted to use common language and daily conversation to tell events in chronological order. She also included photos and important items to help the readers feel like they were talking to the author rather than reading the book.
Liz, a 60-year-old woman, told Gomez that she would always remember what the author wrote about Parkinson's disease on Page 175. A young mother, a bank teller, told her she liked what she said about children's behavior, and she would practice similar techniques with her little ones. Furthermore, a young man who worked at a liquor store typed her "Tips For a Better Life" in his cell phone, where he could read them and feel better when facing a difficult situation, the author said. According to Gomez, "such simple things can do a lot for you in everyday life."
"Several readers, including my son Peter, have told me they have read it in one night. Once they began reading, they could not put the book down. In a way, that is what I had in mind when I started writing it. I knew if I wanted readers to read my book, I had to offer them something more than just another memoir," Gomez shared.
The author added that one of her only regrets is that she didn't write her book when she was healthier and younger, before she began to suffer from the effects of Parkinson's. However, she was able to write and complete the memoir before the untimely death of her beloved son Peter, which occurred on the evening of Jan. 7, when he suffered a massive brain hemorrhage after a fall. Just 11 days shy of his 58th birthday, Gomez communicated that her heart broke into "tiny pieces."
"Peter was everybody's friend, and loved to make people laugh. Needless to say, everyone who knew him was shocked and in tears. He was not only my son, he was my friend and my constant companion," said Gomez. "No one could ever take his place; without Peter my life will never be the same, and my heart will ache forever. There is a bit of consolation for me knowing he suffered no pain. He left this world peacefully and with tranquility, just the way he lived his whole life."
To learn more about Emma Gomez, please feel free to read the intro to her memoir.