As I anticipate the publication of my next book Hola and Goodbye from Carolina Wren Press a year from now, I also anticipate the assumptions that the readers among my family will surely make about the characters in the book—that this or that character resembles this or that family member.
Let’s test those assumptions. My book is a collection of short stories about three generations of a family, the first of which emigrates from Mexico.
I have a mother and aunts. There are mothers and aunts in my stories. Coincidence? You decide.
I have sisters. There are lots of sisters in my stories. Again, coincidence?
I have a brother. There are no brothers in this story collection. What?
There’s a grandmother in these stories. I had a grandmother or two. One came from Mexico. Yes, the grandmother in my stories came from Mexico. Okay, busted. I took a few details from her life—that she worked in a fish cannery, that she never learned English, that she made her tortillas by hand. All of which fit the description of thousands of Mexican immigrants.
This is my cousin Johnny. He was called Johnny Boy when we were growing up. My family produced mostly girls. The few males in the family were tagged with a celebratory emphasis on their gender—Boy! Also, there was the affectionate mijo.
I will admit that I did steal something from Johnny’s life for a story in the collection. Who could resist the nickname Señor Wonderful, my cousin’s moniker when he tended bar and emceed karaoke sessions back in the day? But really, that’s where the similarities between my cousin Johnny and my character Tony Camacho end. The rest is fiction, folks.