5 Questions with Gabriela Alemán, Author of Family Album

Oct 11, 2022

Gabriela Alemán was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. She received a PhD at Tulane University and holds a Master’s degree in Latin American Literature from Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar. She currently resides in Quito, Ecuador. Her literary honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2006; member of Bogotá 39, a 2007 selection of the most important up-and-coming writers in Latin America in the post-Boom generation; one of five finalists for the 2015 Premio Hispanoamericano de Cuento Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) for her short story collection La muerte silba un blues; and winner of several prizes for critical essays on literature and film. Her novel Poso Wells was published in English translation by City Lights in 2018, followed up with the publication of her short story collection Family Album, also published in English translation by City Lights in 2022.

City Lights in conjunction with LITQUAKE will present Gabriela Alemán discussing her recently published collection of short fiction Family Album: Stories, translated from the Spanish by Dick Cluster and Mary Ellen Fieweger, at an event at Amado’s on Thursday, October 13, 2022 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Visit LITQUAKE to purchase tickets.

Where are you writing to us from?

From the University of Florida in Gainesville where I am the Kislak Writer in Residence for the Fall semester. I’m writing a new novel and teaching a Creative Writing class in Spanish in the Latin American Studies department.

What is bringing you joy right now, personally/artistically/habitually?

Preparing that creative writing class and visiting the Bat Houses the university has on campus. There are 400,000 bats that eat 3 billion insects a night. It is quite a sight when they come out at dusk: tsunamis of bats against the darkening skies. And figuring out how I’m going to tell the story of the new novel I’ve been researching (and thinking about) for the past four years. And, also, enjoying the incredible libraries on campus, I could live inside the Fine Arts library.

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically?

I tend to always go back to Grace Pailey, I love the rhythm of her writing, her interests, the economy of what she says. When I was writing Family Album I was rereading Humboldt, Darwin, Defoe, Ricardo Piglia, Kurt Vonnegut, Nestor Perlongher, Silvina Ocampo.

What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others?

I recently visited Savannah and visited Flannery O’Connor’s childhood home and bought a collection of her essays and a nice thick book of some of the letters she wrote. I’m also reading a book about humor and its mechanisms written by Terry Eagleton, a collection of short stories by Claudia Hernández, rereading Julian Barnes Flaubert´s Parrot and The Braindead Megaphone by George Saunders. I would very much recommend all of those.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

New Orleans, El álgebra inconsciente de los pájaros (a line from the poem “Setiembre” by the Paraguayan poet José Luis Appleyard), Later the Same Day by Grace Paley.

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