Each week we will be connecting with our contributors showing where they have been, where they are now, and what’s up for the future.
Name: Marlena Maduro Baraf
Title of Piece published in Sweet: The Diner
Born and raised in Panama, Marlena now calls the United States her country of residence. You can find out more about her and her native roots on her website https://www.breathinginspanish.com.
What are some major accomplishments you have had since your Sweet publication?
Ah, after a few days’ escape to the marshy bays and flat, quiet lengths of ocean in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, I must gear up to button up any rough patches of manuscript in my memoir, At the Narrow Waist of the World, to send to my publisher for the process of book creation to begin. The memoir will be published in the early fall of 2019. This is my most exciting news.
The memoir is a coming of age story set in the steamy tropics of Panama and populated by a lively family of Spanish-Portuguese Jews. The girl’s mother is mentally ill. The girl pulls away from her and lands in the United States.
Can you tell us about a current/ongoing project that you’re excited about?
I continue to interview ordinary Hispanics, Latinos, Latinx, in a series called Soy/Somos (I am/We are). Some of these essay/interviews first appeared in HuffPost. Others continue via my blog and can be found on my website. My most recent conversation for this series took place a couple of weeks ago with Nico, a Colombian composer living in Boston who plays el Arpa Llanera, a harp with origins in the folk music of the plains of Colombia and Venezuela. I have quite a collection of voices in the series, and I’m hoping to find a home for more individual pieces and for the series as a whole, maybe in book form.
Who is your favorite author?
There are so many, but one that sticks way up there is W.G. Sebald, German author of Austerlitz, The Immigrants, Vertigo, and another book. Austerlitz died in an accident at the height of his powers. You can’t pin down his work; he mixes fiction, memory, photographs, history. There is a dreamlike quality to his stories. I just finished a book of stories, The Mountain, by Paul Yoon, recently published that reminds me of Sebald’s work.
What is your favorite poem/essay/book?
A book I do still love dearly, though I read it long ago, is Julia Alvarez’ How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents, because the family life of these girls is populated by very important tías and tíos (aunts and uncles) and primos (cousins), so close to my own experience growing up in a large extended family. There is a lot of resonance here with my own memoir that will be published next year.
What inspires you to write?
The need to uncover what I am seeing. We do get to live a second time when we write.
What is your favorite sweet?
My tía Mimí, my father’s sister who never married, put her heart and soul into pastries. She made the most delicious lemon meringue pie. The closest thing I’ve found in the US is a key-lime pie, though the crust here is a Graham Cracker thing and hers for the pie was pastry–delicate and delicious. I love the combination of the tart and sweet of key lime pie and like to visit Steves Authentic Key Lime Pie in Red Hook, Brooklyn, where we can sit on wood benches along the water’s edge and see the Statue of Liberty not too far in the distance.
This is a view of the old brick and metal warehouses in Red Hook, Brooklyn, (where I get the key-lime pie), an old and magical place.
We found the recipe online from an episode on Food Network about the owner, Steve Tarpin.
Thank you, Marlena, for taking the time to reconnect with us. We look forward to seeing more of your work in the future!