Award-Winning Author Rudy Ruiz Finds Inspiration By Offering Slices and Snapshots of the Latino Experience
This article is part of Palabras, the Latin Post Latino Author Series.
Mexican-American social entrepreneur and the award-winning author of "Seven for the Revolution" Rudy Ruiz depicts yearning and suffering on the page with purpose and intrigue, converting backstory and conversations into thunderous, nuanced stories. He employs his social interests to create a more conscious, original story.
The author published his earliest works in a literary publication at Harvard, where he studied literature and creative writing. But, before Ruiz was a published author, and before he graduated with honors with a B.A. in Government at Harvard College and a Master's in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School, he was a young man raised along the U.S.-Mexico border in the highly bilingual/bicultural Brownsville, Texas and Matamoros, Mexico, where commuting back and forth across the Rio Grande was a normal part of everyday life. There, the son and grandson of hard-working, respectable and honorable Mexican immigrants learned how to construct a story.
"I had family and deep roots on both sides of the border and my deepest instinct were always to search for ways to build bridges between our two cultures, languages and countries. That was simply engrained in me from birth." Ruiz said to Latin Post. "My abuelita, who lived to be 101, was a wonderful storyteller. I always loved listening to her talk about her life, my abuelito, their parents, and the tough times of the Mexican Revolution. I would often seek her out and ask her for "a cuento," a story. And she never refused. I think that's where my love of storytelling was born. And since those early days, I didn't just see life unfolding; I saw a story waiting to be captured and retold."
The critically acclaimed book "¡Adelante!," published in 2003 by Random House, was Ruiz's first book. Later, "Ghost of Gordolfo Gelatino," an essay that tackled stereotypes about eating disorders, was published in the book "Going Hungry." And "Seven for the Revolution," published fall 2014, was Ruiz's fiction debut.
"Seven for the Revolution" captures the individual immigrant experiences of seven characters, each offering a distinct depiction of humanity. The characters include an optimistic Mexican colonel; an acculturated Latina disconnected by language; a South American immigrant who is confronted with love and resistance; a boy who's frantically chasing the American dream; an elderly woman whose life has been divided by a border; a patriotic Latina who's eager to protect the Statue of Liberty; and an inventive survivor who looks for freedom abroad. The intertwined short story collection comprehensively illustrates the entire arch of the wide-spanning immigrant/Latino experience in the U.S. The book won four International Latino Book Awards in 2014. Also, TheLatinoAuthor.com selected "Seven for the Revolution" as one of "The Top Ten Fiction Books by Latino Authors for 2014."
Ruiz explained that he knew that he was a writer since grade school. That young love for writing pushed him toward writing for Harvard's literary publication, and studying Latin American literature under a wonderful and encouraging professor, Efrain Kristal. Throughout his life, he's never stopped writing. But, his writing has matured and embraced the important message of advocacy for multicultural communities and civil rights.
"During the highly televised debates over the immigration issue, I'd often find myself getting riled up, nearly shouting at the television out of frustration. All too often, panels on TV would debate the Latino immigration issue without a single Latino in the room! The media rarely seemed to talk to the undocumented immigrants themselves, or to the U.S. citizen Latinos who support the need for reform. I felt that there was a human element missing from the debate," said Ruiz.
"Americans, especially those who are not Latino -- those who might influence the decision making process -- may not fully understand the mindset of the Latino immigrant, may not be connecting on a human level to this vital and vibrant, driven and courageous population. And I hoped that perhaps by crafting stories that humanize the Latino immigrant experience, readers might come to see that the Latino immigrant experience is the American immigrant experience."
He explained that America is a nation of immigrants, and the Latino story is the American story. He believes that "Seven for the Revolution" could encourage people to empathize, and that it could impact their opinion on important issues, inspiring them to support much-needed immigration reform for the millions of people suffering under unnecessarily harsh and disenfranchised circumstances. Aside from building advocacy into his literature, he's developed a website,www.RedBrownandBlue.com, which features multicultural commentary on social issues, with a big focus on immigration, and he's a columnist on immigration reform for CNN.
"[At Harvard Kennedy School,] they also pushed us to think outside of the traditional conventions. Many of my peers went on to work for government and non-profits, but we were also encouraged to think about ways of innovating, either inside those types of organizations as policy entrepreneurs, or outside of those traditional roles," said Ruiz. "My wife, Heather, and I founded Interlex Communications in 1995, just two years after I graduated, with the mission to help our clients make a positive impact in the lives of diverse audiences."
Twenty years later, the communication company that was created to bridge of understanding between different cultures is still going strong and was ranked by Ad Age as one of the Top U.S. Agency Brands and one of the Top 50 Hispanic agencies. Interlex Communications has developed campaigns to improve public education for multicultural communities, address public health disparities, and work globally on human rights and disaster relief. His career as a social entrepreneur has fed his efforts as creative writer, encouraging him to politicize and socialize all of his writing, so that he's able to offer a voice to the voiceless and arouse change.
Beyond his role as a writer, board member for the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the founder of through Interlex, he's also a committed husband and a father to two amazing children, Paloma and Lorenzo. Presently, he's shopping a novel about a dysfunctional Latino family struggling to stick together through the challenges of acculturation and unexpected tragedies. He's also writing a novel that revolves around the nation's obesity epidemic, a problem that disproportionately affects Latinos.
"I plan to keep working hard at my writing, inspired by the need to capture and share slices and snapshots of the ever-evolving Latino experience in America. And through my work, I hope to uplift that experience and that potential, and make it relevant not just [for] Latinos but to all Americans, because our destiny is deeply intertwined and symbiotic," said Ruiz. "And I'm fascinated by the idea of being a Latino storyteller that is true and authentic to our Latino culture while also universalizing it and exploring how being Latino overlaps with being American. I am motivated and driven by the seemingly impossible dream of yearning to be as great a writer and storyteller as a Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Sandra Cisneros, but also to go a step beyond and create characters and stories that reach past our roots as Latinos into our present and future as Americans."
To learn more about "Seven for the Revolution," Ruiz's advocacy or his adventures, please check out his website.