Windy City Media Group Frontpage News

THE VOICE OF CHICAGO'S GAY, LESBIAN, BI, TRANS AND QUEER COMMUNITY SINCE 1985

home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2022-12-07
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor

  WINDY CITY TIMES

BOOKS Chicago-based queer writer Julian Randall branches out with 'Pilar Ramirez'
by Andrew Davis
2022-03-17

This article shared 1196 times since Thu Mar 17, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email


Julian Randall—a Black queer Dominican American writer who lives in Chicago—has, up to this point, been known for his award-winning poems that cover a wide range of themes.

However, he now has released a novel, Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa. The contemporary middle-grade fantasy centers on the 12-year-old Chicago-based title character, who searches for answers connected to the disappearance of her cousin Natasha—who vanished in the Dominican Republic 50 years ago, during the Trujillo dictatorship. Ramirez lands on Zafa, an island with fantastical creatures—and a magical prison where her cousin is being held captive.

Windy City Times: This book is a bit different than your previous work. What compelled you to go this route?

Julian Randall: In 2018, I put out my first book of poems, called Refuse. And throughout the time of that tour, there'd be parents who brought in their kids—including multiracial families. People would say, "I can't wait until my [child] is old enough to read this." On one hand, I was really excited but I also thought about adolescent anxiety and pain; I kinda wrote this book to help that kid. I started thinking, "How can I take my gifts and help kids while they're still kids?"

I eventually linked up with my amazing agent, Patrice Caldwell, and she asked me if I wanted to pitched a middle-grade Dominican fantasy. I have to say that I love poetry. I'm not a super-spiritual person, but I have to say that writing for young people has me feeling what people who do believe in spirituality call a "divine purpose." It feels like what I was built to do.

WCT: One of the things I noticed about the book is that the text is not quite Spanglish, but there are Spanish words [interspersed] throughout. Was that to reflect your background, to expand the readers' vocabulary or something else?

JR: There are two tiers to this answer. On [one] level, it's how Pilar's voice appeared to me. And I was able to build on the [source] of this voice. Pilar grew up in a household that was full of Spanish but she doesn't necessarily have a full grip on fluency. Like many third-generation kids, she has a lot of feelings and built-up shame around that, but she has a lot of access to Spanish. One of the things I had to think about Zafa is what language people would speak, so it helped to have these elements of Spanish that made it feel like home—and it connected to my own heritage.

WCT: Maya Angelou once said, "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you." Do you agree?

JR: I think there are very few things I've read in my life that are more accurate.

In the process of learning how to talk about this book, you have to explain why this book, this project, is so important to me—why I have to spend so much time in a room pretending I'm a 12-year-old. The reality is that this story began in 2019, but I actually have been trying to write it in my head since I was 8. [Randall is now in his late 20s.] Twenty years ago I walked in on my mother crying, and it was the first time I had ever seen her cry—and it was because she was reading In the Time of the Butterflies, by Julia Alvarez. [The book is a fictionalized account of the Mirabal sisters during the time of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic.]

She explained to me that this was the story of sisters who stood up to the man who kicked them off the island. Trying to figure how that whole story fit together was agonizing as a kid because there was nothing to explain what was going on—and certainly nothing for a third-gen kid, which is what I am. Now, 20 years later, I wrote my attempt.

WCT: So this is going to be a series?

JR:It is a duology. What would I ever come back to Pilar? Nothing's ever written in stone but I'm feeling really great about the ending.

WCT: How does Chicago figure into this latest work?

JR: You know, it's Chicago over everything. I love this city and it's like nowhere else. It's a deeply Chicago story; throughout the course of her life, Pilar has seen how Logan Square has changed. On a fundamental level, this is about why memory is so important and why stories are so important—and being in Chicago helps Pilar understand not only the world she's born into but the world she transitions into.

WCT: You wrote a poem called "Chicago," and there's a line that reads, "The city breathes too hard." What did you mean by that?

JR: "I am from Logan Square/in Illinois there are tornadoes/In Chicago the city breathes too hard/we make our own disasters."

What Lori Lightfoot said today is probably a good place to start with that. [WCT: What did she say?] Every time I see her talk, I feel that something bad is going to happen.

On a policy level, on an attitude level, there's just so much displacement that is happening inside the city that is the epicenter of dopeness in the modern world. We are in this constant struggle between people who are ruining the city and the folks who live in the city and who are trying to preserve. We have to breathe too hard because [those who are in charge] are not really listening.

WCT: How has sexuality informed your work?

JR: Yeah… This is something my partner was helping me make some sense of: For both of us, coming into our queerness is not just about sexuality but is about understanding every piece of information that has come into our trajectories. The world's trajectory and your own deserve to be questioned and reformatted in order to best serve you and your community.

I have all these different drafts of myself—including the days when I was supposedly straight—from which I can pull in order to [compose] characters and reimagine scenes. That period of reimagination allows me to accept my sexuality and to continuously reinvent myself so I understand myself. To quote Prince, "I am an experience."

WCT: I want to conclude this interview with a question I've asked a variety of people. People have had a lot of time to self-reflect these past two years thanks to COVID, and some have had a racial awakening. What have you learned about yourself during this time?

JR: Whoo… This is going to sound corny, but I learned a little bit more about the other side of my dream, and what it takes to sustain that is going to be way different than I had been living previously. What I mean is that I come from a regular family of really hard workers and hustlers—that Chicago work ethic. That carried me through for years and then I went to college; I became a writer but I didn't [abandon] that work ethic.

I think I also believed that gentleness was antithetical to progress. I have to reconceptualize what that means going forward. There's still so much more going on in my head that I want to show people.

More about Julian Randall as well as works (including Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa) is at juliandavidrandall.com . He can be found on Twitter @JulianThePoet.


This article shared 1196 times since Thu Mar 17, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

"A Secret I Can't Tell" book updated and reissued 2022-12-07
-- From a press release - NEW YORK, NY — NOVEMBER 14, 2022 — In 2020 the United States Supreme Court ruled that 1964 Civil Rights Act protects gay, lesbian, and transgender employees from discrimination based on sex. But now Florida's "Don't say gay" ...


Gay News

Bulls, Blackhawks lose; Lightfoot-Fire FC link 2022-12-01
- The Chicago Bulls (9-12) fell to the Phoenix Suns (15-6) 132-113 in Arizona on Nov. 30, dropping the Bulls to 12th in the Eastern Conference. Phoenix now leads the Western Conference. Devin Booker scored 51 for ...


Gay News

Book censorship focus of public comments at Lincolnwood Public Library Board of Trustees meeting 2022-11-30
- During the closed door portion of the regularly scheduled Lincolnwood Public Library Board of Trustees meeting Nov. 28 at Lincolnwood Village Hall, Library Defense members hosted a Freadom Book Swap outside of the building. Library Defense ...


Gay News

VIEWPOINT What are the most banned books: take a guess 2022-11-18
- The Latin word for book is liber. It is also the Latin word for "free," as in not a slave but a person who enjoys freedom (liberty). The word library means a home for books, a place of liberation, a sacred ...


Gay News

Opinion: What are the most banned books? Take a guess. 2022-11-14
- The Latin word for book is liber. It is also the Latin word for "free," as in not a slave but a person who enjoys freedom (liberty). The word library means a home for books, a place of liberation, a sacred ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: COVID book, 'Wicked' cocktails, 'A Taste of Hope' and more 2022-10-24
- —COVID-19, the LGBTQIA+ Community and Public Policy: As studies emerge to help us understand the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on every facet of modern life, it is critical that the effect of the pandemic on ...


Gay News

LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH bell hooks: A voice of love, activism and intersectionality 2022-10-22
- When bell hooks died on Dec. 15, 2021, it was a gut punch. There was no time when bell hooks' extraordinary writing and feminist and lesbian theorizing was not part of the queer community. There was ...


Gay News

Former Chicago Ald. Helen Shiller hosts book launch and reception 2022-10-20
- Publishing house Haymarket Books presented a book-signing and interview session with longtime LGBTQ+ ally and former Chicago Ald. Helen Shiller on Oct. 17. Shiller was interviewed by noted Chicago Tribune ...


Gay News

BOOKS Lesbian co-author discusses 'No More Police: A Case for Abolition' 2022-10-18
- "We don't need all the answers to start down the road toward where we want to go: a world where everyone has safety, food, clean water, shelter, education, health, art, beauty, and rest."—No More Police: A ...


Gay News

Gerber/Hart Library and Archives holds 'Unboxing Queer History LIVE' fall benefit 2022-10-17
- Gerber/Hart Library and Archives (Gerber/Hart) held its fall benefit, "Unboxing Queer History LIVE!," on Oct. 15 at Gerber/Hart to raise funds in support of the library's mission to preserve LGBTQ+ history in Chicago and the Midwest. ...


Gay News

BOOKS 'Last Call Chicago' release party held at Sidetrack 2022-10-13
- On Oct. 12, co-authors Rick Karlin and St. Sukie de la Croix held a book-release party for their book, Last Call Chicago: A History of 1,001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts. Last Call Chicago is a ...


Gay News

OutHistory reveals discovery in LGBTQ+ history: identity of pioneering LGBTQ+ author Jennie June 2022-10-12
-- From a press release - New York, NY—Oct. 10, 2022—In celebration of LGBTQ+ History Month, the website OutHistory announced a groundbreaking discovery: the probable identity of Jennie June, the pioneering LGBTQ+ author who bravely defended ...


Gay News

LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH San Francisco Public Library digitizes LGBTQ+ archives, including Harvey Milk holdings 2022-10-09
LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH - Shot with black-and-white film, two small children stand outside in a San Francisco public plaza draped in protest signs. One reads, "We're Proud, Not Stigmatized." The other declares, "We Love Our Gay Parents." In the right ...


Gay News

BOOKS David Sedaris returns to the Raue Center on Nov. 4 2022-10-06
- Best-selling author David Sedaris will return to the Crystal Lake venue the Raue Center on Friday, Nov. 4, at 8 p.m. The openly gay humor writer is known for books such as Calypso, Theft By Finding, ...


Gay News

BOOKS Events related to 'Last Call Chicago' on Oct. 10 and 12 2022-10-03
- Last Call Chicago: A History of 1,001 LGBTQ-Friendly Taverns, Haunts & Hangouts is a historical account of LGBTQ+ venues in the Windy City. The book's authors, Rick Karlin and St. Sukie de la Croix, are journalists ...


 




Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.

 
 

TRENDINGBREAKINGPHOTOS







Sponsor


 



Donate


About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.