It’s been exactly two months now since Perla was published in the United States. During those two months, I’ve had the joy of meeting readers at events in Berkeley, Oakland, Corte Madera, Seattle, Houston, San Diego, New York, Miami, and Los Angeles. There were beautiful receptions for the book in three cities.
And, all over the country, Argentineans came out of the woodwork to tell the crowd their own stories with the disappeared: their own exile or incarceration, the loss of friends to disappearance, their experience of not knowing what was happening in their society until it was over, and even one man in an impeccable suit who’d been in the military at the time (this confession was not in public, but one-on-one to me). There were also many in the audience who talked about discovering this piece of history for the first time through the novel, and various immigrants who connected Perla to themes in their own homelands of Bangladesh, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, or Puerto Rico. It was an incredibly rich journey that, for me, spoke to the power of fiction to open a dazzling range of portals for readers.
I’ve been humbled by some of the messages I’ve received from readers, chronicling their experience with Perla, as well as the reviews in newspapers, magazines, and blogs (for a few really wonderful blog reviews, look here, here, or here). There’s a strange sort of shock to hearing people have a rich, immediate experience with a text you spent years toiling over in slow solitude. The fictional world is held inside for so long, and comes from such a profoundly personal source within, that its exposure to complete strangers feels rather startling. Intimate. Almost magical.
And now, I am home. Perla will continue to be in the world, but that initial noise of a book’s launch is slowing down.
And just in time.
Because I’m almost eight months pregnant. I breathe hard when I’m putting on my shoes. I’ve become keenly interested in staring at the wall, preferably with my feet up, and listening to my daughter’s kicks with my hands. There is my third novel, too, clamoring for me to come back and keep writing it; I do so when I can; but even that drive to write is beginning to fade in the face of birth and those incomparable days that come right after it.
In the past, I’ve sometimes felt a tension between the pull of family life and that of writing. I am passionate about both of them, I want room for both, and, like the rest of us, I live in a society that posits work and motherhood as two separate and competing realms. But today, right now, it all seems part of one harmonious picture. These are different forms of birth, and there is room for all of them in a full, large-hearted life. Not only that: these elements can nourish each other, make for a whole that is larger than the sum of its parts.
I am going inward, dear friends and readers. Wish me luck on the journey, as I wish beautiful things on yours.