Lila Quintero Weaver, Author of Graphic Memoir "Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White" Explores Identity, Mysteries of Creativity
This article is part of Palabras, the Latin Post Latino Author Series.
Buenos Aires, Argentina was home to author-illustrator Lila Quintero Weaver until the age of five, when she and her family immigrated to a small town in Alabama during 1961, in the heart of Alabama's Black Belt.
That Alabaman home was "chock full of books," predominately stocked by her father, who was orphaned and lived in the streets of Mendoza, yet he taught himself to read. "Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White" is an ode to the staying power of that family history.
"Darkroom" began as an academic project, inspired by the graphic memoir "Persepolis" by Marjane Sartrapi, an Iranian émigré to France. "Persepolis" was an eye-opener to Weaver, who has drawn and created art all of her life, and has always been committed to telling stories.
"'Persepolis' showed me what was possible, in terms of a personal account that combined text and images. In 'Darkroom,' I share glimpses of my Americanization, which unfolded despite my parents' strong resistance," Weaver shared with Latin Post. "Where we settled in Alabama, there were very few Latinos. So, as a kid with an urgent need to belong, there was no comfortable way to hold on to my Latino identity. Much to my regret, I lost fluency with Spanish. In 'Darkroom,' I also write about distinctly universal themes, such as seeing wrong and speaking out against it. In my world, this was the outrage of racism against African Americans."
Weaver often explores race, identity and the troubled racial landscape in the Deep South. And she gravitates toward stories of social justice and characters who have broken through personal barriers. She's a huge fan of comic-journalist Joe Sacco, who writes and draws about war-torn regions. She loves Sonia Nazario's "Enrique's Journey," and she's enthralled with exquisite memoirs of identity, such as Jeanette Winterson's "Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?" She also reads the fiction works of Chantel Acevedo, Margaret Atwood, Vladimir Nabokov, Leo Tolstoy, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Julia Alvarez, some which who've created incredible Latino characters.
"When I was a child, the only Latino characters that I ever saw in books were peasants in fables," Weaver remarked. "Throughout college, I was assigned the Anglo-centric canon, as if these were the only true writers the world had produced. But that's starting to change. I'm thrilled that writers from the Latino culture are emerging into prominence -- for example, Junot Diaz."
She continued, "It will probably take another generation to reach something closer to homeostasis. And here's something I'm excited about. I collaborate with three other authors and a librarian on a blog called Latin@s in Kid Lit. Our aim is to promote children's and YA books with Latino themes and characters."
With regards to her process, Weaver writes in spurts and that writing continues in her head as she goes about the rest of her life. She then leaves her work to aerate, knowing that the story and its characters will benefit from "time away."
"For me, characters are strongly attached to their settings. They form a chicken-egg dynamic, which is difficult to parse. Creativity is mysterious. I don't how it happens, but I know that ideas must be acted on, or they evaporate," Weaver remarked.
The author has an upcoming appearance at the University of Georgia, where "Darkroom" serves as a text in at least two classes. Also, Weaver is working on a middle-grade novel about a Latina who loves to run, which should be ready to go out on submission early next year.
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