as part of the association of writers and writing programs conference this weekend, i was able to attend a reading by one of my favorite chicana authors, helena maria viramontes.
she had her dark hair cropped short and wore a long-sleeved black t-shirt and jeans. she spoke into the microphone quietly at first, but seemed to gain momentum as she delved into her reading. she writes fiction, but her prose is often so beautiful that it might as well be poetry.
i discovered her book under the feet of jesus when i was an undergraduate. the book, which details the life journeys and work of a mexican farm worker family, is incredibly lush, deliberate, and beautifully written. i fell in love with it.
so when i found out that she would be reading in austin this weekend, i had to go.
after she finished at the microphone, most of the crowd dispersed, some helping themselves to drinks from the cash bar, others engaged in loud conversations over the funk band who had begun to play after helena's reading.
i spied helena across the room, talking to some students, and decided to introduce myself.
i walked boldly across the room determined to have a meaningful conversation with her.
she turned to me with a pleasant, albeit curious look on her face.
i began awkwardly, "hi! i just. had to meet you. i'm. jennifer __________."
we shake hands.
"your book. i read. under the feet of jesus. when i was an undergrad. and i. i mean. it's just. beautiful!"
i think that she felt sorry for me because she leaned forward and hugged me. "thank you!"
then she asked, "are you a student?"
"yes! i mean, no! i just. graduated. with a ph.d. in anthropology. and i got a job! at the university of _____________."
"congratulations! i have a good friend who works there."
helena suggests that i invite her to give a reading at my new university.
"i will!" i say, before realizing that i will be the lowest being on the professor totem pole when i get to my new university. am i even allowed to invite authors to come read?
anyway, we talked--helena and i--for a little bit. i even managed to spit out a complete sentence once or twice. she was so friendly and down to earth. at the end of our conversation, she gave me her card in case i wanted to contact her. and then she hugged me again good-bye. :)
and i was completely starstruck.