Francisco delgado | adolescence, secondhand
an excerpt & interview
Family Portrait (1993)
Our home is built from gathered rain and last night’s leftovers.
Our cars, imaginary, are grander than yours.
My sister once stole a winning lotto ticket, but our Catholic guilt made us tear it up. Teary eyed, we asked God why he would give us such a blessing, knowing we were cursed?
Dad is a reincarnated samurai. He is tougher than yours and is willing to prove it.
Unemployed, he steals our bones while we sleep, fashioning a sword, he says, for no reason at all.
Mom is a reincarnated saint – twice up for proper sainthood, but she can’t manage that third miracle.
I try to be it – so does my sister, but we’re too busy making up lies about stealing winning lotto tickets to do any good. We always finish our dinner and go to bed on time, though. Even the smallest of miracles count for something.
We are limited only by our imagination, mom says.
And what we can do with less, says dad.
In Adolescence, Secondhand you explore racialization and class consciousness in gorgeous ways; can you please share about the other intersections of identity or ideology that influence your writing?
Thank you so much for your kind words! As you said, the stories in this collection explore how race and class identity intersect and inform one another – often to the point that they are impossible to differentiate. What I’ll add is that I am also interested in how we construct our gender identity. “The Rock Says,” for instance, deals with a young man’s perspective on masculinity that is tied to strength, charisma, and good looks. That is, to say the least, a very narrow take, but it is one that the narrator of that story believes in – and, more importantly, believes he needs to achieve. Why is that? What is it about The Rock that compels him?
I’m also interested in the role that one’s identity as a writer plays in the story, meaning how much should the writer reveal about himself in his own stories. A few of these stories explore the importance of writing and storytelling. “As Kids in Jefferson Park” is not only about a narrator’s memory about a fistfight in his neighborhood park; it also chronicles his extensive, and often frustrating, experiences trying to render it on the page. The struggle to write a story sometimes because just as much a story as the story itself.
As a writer who creates from a very specific niche, do you have any thoughts for writers who cannot find themselves in mainstream literature? I’m also very eager to hear your thoughts on the importance of being reflected in literature and the responsibilities that writers hold in that regard.
I believe in the importance of cultural representation. As anyone from a background that is not typically seen in popular culture can tell you, when you finally see yourself or someone like you represented on paper or onscreen or wherever, it is incredibly empowering.
As writers, we have the opportunity to create the narratives where such representation is possible. It is a responsibility that I don’t take likely and that none of my other writing friends take likely, either. I think a lot of us write the type of stories we needed when we growing up.
Tell us about your love for professional wrestling.
I’ve loved professional wrestling for as long as I remember, dating back to the days of Hulk Hogan and The Ultimate Warrior. As a kid, I really believed in the toughness of the characters, the conflicts. I believed that every match was real.
As an adult, I admire professional wrestling for other reasons, although my love for it remains just as high. I think what intrigues me now is its potential as a storytelling form. At its best, professional wrestling can blend all these other genres that might at first seem exclusive from one another: sport, cartoon, Broadway drama, even Shakespeare. The way it can blend genres is something that I think a lot of interesting fiction and poetry does, as well.
In “Family Portrait (1993),” there are some references to Catholicism; do you have a faith practice that influences your writing? Would you please share your thoughts and ideas on the intersection of faith/religion and class?
Truthfully, I did not grow up all that religious. But on both sides of my family, there are people who practice their religion, namely Catholicism, regularly. I don’t necessarily have a practice that informs my writing, but I have so much respect for the type of discipline that any such practice requires. It is a level of discipline that I try to exercise in my writing.
Francisco Delgado is a writer and lecturer based out of Queens, New York, where he lives with his wife and their son. He earned a PhD in English from Stony Brook University, where he specialized in contemporary ethnic American literature and culture. His creative work has appeared in such places as Glimmer Train, Pithead Chapel, and Side B Magazine. Adolescence, Secondhand is his first completed chapbook.
Family Portrait (1993) first appeared in Eunoia Review.