This week's interview is with Carolina de Robertis editor of Radical Hope: Letters of Love and Dissent in Dangerous Times.
Radical Hope is a collection of letters-to ancestors, to children five generations from now, to strangers in grocery lines, to any and all who feel weary and discouraged-written by award-winning novelists, poets, political thinkers, and activists. Provocative and inspiring, Radical Hope offers readers a kaleidoscopic view of the love and courage needed to navigate this time of upheaval, uncertainty, and fear, in view of the recent US presidential election.
What was the inspiration for the Radical Hope collection?
On the evening of the election, my wife and I held an election night party in our home in Oakland, California. Looking back, the community of friends we brought together was a kind of microcosm of all that makes this nation strong and beautiful: it was a house full of immigrants and people born here, queers and straight people, black and Latino and Asian and North African and white people, activists and artists and radio show hosts and teachers and nurses and parents, multiracial children happily playing underfoot. As one friend was leaving, right as the news was starting to look very bad, she hugged me and said, "Whatever happens, we'll get through it together." That stuck with me. This anthology is a literary reflection of that together.
Why did you decide to have book contributors write in the form of love letters?
I was inspired by James Baldwin's letter to his nephew in The Fire Next Time, a seminal and brilliant analysis of racism in the U.S. that draws its power in part from the blending of sociopolitical ruminations with the context of an intimate exchange. Epistolary essays, or letter-essays, are particularly well suited to exploring the nexus between the personal and the political, and it seemed to me that we needed such a thing in times like these, because the large sweeping context of our political situation is having deep, immediate effects on people's lives, rights, and spirits.
What is the relationship between art and politics?
It's different for every artist, of course, but we have artists, including writers, have always had a role in shaping culture, exposing injustice, and expressing visions for a better world. Certainly I know that for me, as a reader, books have always played a crucial role in expanding my consciousness and offering tools for empowerment and change. Books save lives. They always have. And that belief was only reinforced for me when the essays for this collection started to roll in and blow my mind, move me to tears, and fuel my spirit for the work ahead.
I don't see your love letter in the collection -- who would you write one to?
AboutI addressed my letter to readers, as a way of introducing the book-which also feels appropriate as it feels like this book is, in a way, one long kaleidoscopic love letter to the readers who might seek it out. If I were to write another such letter, though, it might be to my grandmother, who was a poet and activist who died under the Uruguayan dictatorship, to tell her that the repression did in fact lift, that things got better and much brighter in her beloved country even though she wasn't there to see it, to ask her how she managed to stay alive inside and committed to the struggle when things seemed near-impossible, and to draw strength and inspiration, not only from her, but the millions throughout time who did what they could to make the world a better place.
Carolina De Robertis is the award-winning author of the novels The Gods of Tango, Perla and The Invisible Mountain. A long-time activist, De Robertis spent ten years in the non-profit sector before publishing her first book, and during that time she led projects around issues including women's rights, immigrant rights and addressing sexual violence. She teaches creative writing at San Francisco State University, and lives in Oakland, California with her wife and two children.
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