Reading & Signing: Jasminne Méndez & Natalia Sylvester
Come join us for a joint reading with Jasminne Méndez (of the mixed-genre collection Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e) and Natalia Sylvester (of the novel Everyone Knows You Go Home)! This event is hosted by Leticia Urieta.
For Jasminne Méndez, pericardial effusion and pericarditis are not just an abnormal accumulation of fluid and increased inflammation around the heart. It s what happens when you stifle the tears and pain of a miscarriage, infertility and chronic illness for so long that your heart does the crying for you until it begins to drown because its tears have nowhere to go. Diagnosed with scleroderma at 22 and lupus just six years later, her life becomes a roller coaster of doctor visits, medical tests and procedures. Staring at EKG results that look like hieroglyphics, she realizes that she doesn t want to understand them: The language of a life lived with chronic illness is not something I want to adapt to. I cannot let this hostile vocabulary hijack my story.
The daughter of Dominican immigrants, Méndez fought for independence against her overly-protective parents, obtaining a full scholarship to college, a dream job after school and a master s degree shortly thereafter. But the full-time job with medical insurance doesn t satisfy her urge to write and perform, so she leaves it in search of creative fulfillment. In this stirring collection of personal essays and poetry, Méndez shares her story, writing about encounters with the medical establishment, experiences as an Afro Latina and longing for the life she expected but that eludes her.
Jasminne Mendez is an award-winning author, performance poet, actress, and educator. Mendez has performed her poetry in venues all around Houston, including the MFAH, Rice and the Alley Theatre. She has shared the stage with respected writers and poets, notably Sandra Cisneros and Natalie Diaz. Mendez has been published both nationally and internationally and her first multi-genre memoir, Island of Dreams (Floricanto Press, 2013), was awarded Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book by the International Latino Book Awards in 2015. She also recently won the COG Poetry Prize for her poems "Run, Irelia, Run," "Bounty," and "Return to Water." The judge, Major Jackson, described Jasminne as a poet who "possesses a sense of the poem as sacrament and language hammered into song. One feels a passionate search for lineage and the sensuous turning of thought and imagery that leads to sanctuaries of silence and reverence." Her second book, Night-Blooming Jasmin(n)e: Personal Essays & Poems (Arte Publico Press), was released in April 2018. She is the Co-Founder and Program Director of the Houston-based Latino literary arts organization Tintero Projects and a co-host to the poetry and writing podcast series InkWell, a collaboration between Tintero Projects and Inprint Houston.
Everyone Knows You Go Home:
The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead—an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family—especially his wife, Elda—to let him redeem himself.
Isabel and Martin settle into married life in a Texas border town, and Omar returns each year on the celebratory Day of the Dead. Every year Isabel listens, but to the aggrieved Martin and Elda, Omar’s spirit remains invisible. Through his visits, Isabel gains insight into not just the truth about his disappearance and her husband’s childhood but also the ways grief can eat away at love. When Martin’s teenage nephew crosses the Mexican border and takes refuge in Isabel and Martin’s home, questions about past and future homes, borders, and belonging arise that may finally lead to forgiveness—and alter all their lives forever.
Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia Sylvester came to the U.S. at age four. As a child she spent time in south Florida, central Florida, and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas before her family set roots in Miami. In 2006, Natalia received a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Miami. A former magazine editor, Natalia now works as a freelance writer in Texas and is a faculty member of the low-res MFA program at Regis University. Her work has appeared in Latina Magazine, Bustle, Catapult, Writer’s Digest, The Austin American-Statesman, and NBCLatino.com. Her first novel, Chasing the Sun, was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad, and was chosen as a Book of the Month by the National Latino Book Club. Her second novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, is out now from Little A Books.
Leticia Urieta is a proud Tejana writer from Austin, TX. She works as a teaching artist in the Austin community. She is a graduate of Agnes Scott College and holds an MFA in fiction writing from Texas State University. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Cleaver, Chicon Street Poets Anthology, BorderSenses, Lumina, The Offing and others. She has recently completed her first mixed genre collection of poetry and prose and is currently at work completing her novel that tells the story of a Mexican soldadera caught up in the march to Texas during Texas' war with Mexico.