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 2022-06-08
DOWNLOAD ISSUE
Donate

Sponsor
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 953 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 953 times since Thu Mar 17, 2022
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

  ARTICLES YOU MIGHT LIKE

Gay News

GLAAD publishes back-to-school guide 2022-08-17
- LGBTQ+ media-advocacy organization GLAAD is publishing a new back-to-school guide on how to respond to book bans and school censorship, titled "Back To School [Redacted]." The organization also announced that it has joined two national efforts ...


Gay News

StoryStudio Chicago's LGBTQ+ nonfiction writing class starting Aug. 17 2022-08-11
- StoryStudio Chicago is offering a unique writing class titled "June Is Not Enough: An LGBTQ+ Nonfiction Writing Class." The idea behind the class is to promote and foster the work of LGBTQ+ people. Writers who register ...


Gay News

Journalist Chuck Colbert passes away at 67 2022-08-08
- Journalist Charles "Chuck" R. Colbert—who had written for several LGBTQ+ publications, including Windy City Times—passed away June 30. He was 67. He was a freelance journalist based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, according to his biography on ...


Gay News

BOOKS Inside Sinkhole, a darkly comic coming-of-age fiction 2022-08-06
- Davida G. Breier's debut book, Sinkhole, takes readers on a trip to rural Florida in the 1980s. Amidst golf courses, mobile homes and alligators, some things on the agenda: friendship, identity, sexuality, grief and murder. Breier ...


Gay News

Utah school district removes LGBTQ+ books from libraries 2022-08-02
- A Utah school district removed 52 books from its library shelves due to parent complaints mainly concerning LGBTQ+-focused material, LGBTQ Nation noted. A spokesperson for Alpine School District tells The Salt Lake Tribune that the district ...


Gay News

NATIONAL Miami textbooks, Lia Thomas, Florida churches, Key West figure dies 2022-07-24
- Miami-Dade County students could go months without sex-education books after school board members, by a five-to-four vote, rejected two proposed textbooks over concerns they violate the state's Parental Rights in Education bill, known by opponents as ...


Gay News

Local non-binary poet wins Stories Matter Scholarship 2022-07-21
- The Stories Matter Foundation and StoryStudio Chicago have awarded the annual $1,500 Dana Wood Chaney Writers Fund tuition grant to local non-binary poet A. Ng Pavel. The scholarship is awarded each year to a writer working ...


Gay News

John Pennycuff's memorial library at Unity Park is graffitied 2022-07-10
- The John Pennycuff Little Library, at Chicago's Unity Park, was recently sprayed with graffiti. Robert Castillo, Pennycuff's surviving husband, stated on Facebook that some tried to cover the original tagging with their own rainbow-hued graffiti. ...


Gay News

How Coming Out in the 1970s Helped Me Make Brave, Life-changing Decisions 2022-06-25
By Edith Forbes, author of Tracking A Shadow: My Lived Experiment With MS - As a child growing up in Wyoming in the 1960's, I did not know any actual person who was gay. I knew exactly one fact about gay people, a fact universally accepted but never talked about: Gay people were strange. Even ...


Gay News

Five Worth Finding: WNDR Museum, Prince, queer books, flowers 2022-06-16
- — WNDR Museum's Pride event "Crafting with Queens": The West Loop museum is usually entertainment and, um, wondrous enough on its own—but during Pride Month, WNDR is queering things up with "Crafting with Queens" on Tuesday, ...


Gay News

Northwestern University Libraries and Center for Applied Transgender Studies launch trans studies journal 2022-06-16
- Northwestern University Libraries (NUL) and the Center for Applied Transgender Studies (CATS) are now publishing the Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies. The Bulletin of Applied Transgender Studies (BATS)—the first journal ...


Gay News

Catholic publisher cancels Chicago theologian's 'Queer God de Amor' book 2022-06-13
- On June 9, New Ways Ministry received the following statement by Miguel Diaz, a former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See and the John Courtney Murray, S.J., University Chair in Public Service at Loyola University Chicago. ...


Gay News

34th annual Lambda Literary award winners announced 2022-06-13
-- From a press release - New York, NY, June 11, 2022 — Lambda Literary, the nation's premier LGBTQ literary organization, announced the winners of the 34th Annual Lambda Literary Awards (a.k.a. the "Lammys") at a live virtual award ceremony hosted by ...


Gay News

TRAVEL Descanso is Palm Springs newest gay resort 2022-06-08
- Descanso is the first resort for gay men to open in Palm Springs in more than 10 years, and "The response has been beyond expectations," said general manager Kent Taylor. Weekends are already booked through June, ...


Gay News

BOOKS Artist Sam Kirk talks 'The Meaning of Pride' 2022-06-08
- In the children's book The Meaning of Pride, Rosiee Thor pens an ode to LGBTQ+ culture and identity by celebrating the beauty, significance and many dimensions of the concept of Pride—and showing that the word can ...


 



Copyright © 2022 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
Sponsor


 

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.