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Imagine Otherwise: Juana María Rodríguez and Emma Pérez on Writing Partnerships

Imagine Otherwise: Juana María Rodríguez and Emma Pérez on Writing Partnerships

April 30, 2020
Emma Pérez and Juana María Rodríguez against a red background

Given everything that’s going on in the world right now, writing is the last thing on many people’s minds. Amidst the uncertainty, anxiety, and grief, many of our writing projects have taken a back seat to other more pressing demands.

But what if we approach writing not as a solitary distraction or a productivity demand but rather as a vital source of social support? How might the bonds forged through collaboratively writing with another sustain us through this incredibly difficult time?

My guests for today’s episode, Juana María Rodríguez and Emma Pérez, have published six books between them and are working on two more. But as they explain in our conversation, they approach writing not just as an individual obligation to publish but as a daily craft, a cultivated practice built on queer intimacy and mutual support. As long-term writing partners, Juana and Emma show us what it means to truly trust someone else with our words and what it means to hold space for another over time, distance, and radical change.

In episode 110 of the Imagine Otherwise podcast, I interview queer feminist Chicanx novelist and scholar Emma Pérez and queer feminist Latinx studies scholar Juana María Rodríguez about the changes COVID-19 has brought to their daily writing routines, how to harness the unsexy parts of writing when inspiration seems hard to come by, building long-term writing partnerships that offer life support as much as writing support, and the vitality of queer friendship as a way to imagine otherwise.

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You can also read the transcript and show notes on the Ideas on Fire website, which have links to Juana and Emma’s work and all the concepts, people, and events we discuss on the show (great for teaching!).

Guest: Juana María Rodríguez

Juana María Rodríguez is a professor of ethnic studies and performance studies at the University of California, Berkeley and is one of the foundational voices in the interdisciplinary fields of queer of color critique and queer transnational feminist cultural studies.

Her research focuses on racialized sexuality and gender, queer of color theory and activism, affect and aesthetics, technology and media arts, law and critical race theory, and Latinx and Caribbean literatures and cultures.  

Juana is the author of two books, Queer Latinidad: Identity Practices, Discursive Spaces (NYU Press, 2003) and Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings (NYU Press, 2014) ,which won the Alan Bray Memorial Book Prize at the Modern Language Association and was a Lambda Literary Foundation Finalist for LGBT Studies.

In addition to her academic publications, her work has been featured in Aperture, NPR’s Latino USA, NBC, the Canadian News Network, the Chronicle of Higher Education, and Cosmopolitan for Latinas.

Guest: Emma Pérez

Born in El Campo, Texas, Emma Pérez is the author of The Decolonial Imaginary: Writing Chicanas into History (1999), a foundational text of decolonial studies and queer of color critique.

Her first novel, Gulf Dreams, was published in 1996 and is considered one of the first Chicana lesbian novels in print. Her novel Forgetting the Alamo, or Blood Memory (2009) is a Chicana lesbian western that challenges the whiteness and maleness of the genre and won the Christopher Isherwood Writing Grant (2009) as well as the National Association for Chicana/Chicano Studies Regional Book Award for fiction (2011). Emma’s latest novel,Electra’s Complex (2015), is an erotic, academic murder mystery.

Emma earned her PhD in history from the University of California, Los Angeles and has chaired departments at the University of Texas, El Paso and the University of Colorado, Boulder. She is currently a social research scientist and professor at the University of Arizona with the Southwest Center and Department of Gender and Women’s Studies.

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