Frederick Aldama's Reading for Long Stories Cut Short
With guest contributor: Jacqui Ibarra-Garcia
(SCU Students with Aldama, Velasco and myself)
(Juan Velasco's introduction)
On Feb 27, 2018, Frederick Aldama (Distinguished Professor Ohio State University) read from his book of bilingual flash fiction Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderland in the St. Clare room at Santa Clara University’s Learning Commons. Professor Juan Velasco provided a thoughtful introduction of Aldama’s work and the need to understand the experiences of immigrants at this particular moment in time.
The following is by first year Business major Jacqui Ibarra-Garcia:
During Frederick Luis Aldama’s reading from his book, I came to realize several things. One of those things was how powerful the imagination is, and how talented Aldama was for being able to serve as a guide for our imagination, but never crossing the line of being in control of our imagination like other traditional forms of writing. In the beginning of the talk when he read out sentence-long stories, asking us what we felt and what were the first things to pop into our minds, my peers surprised me. I noticed that several times, what I felt and what I thought of were very different than my peers' thoughts. I suppose this is because of the different places we come from. Some people are looking into his stories from the inside, but others are from the outside who don’t have too much knowledge of what places like La Villita are like.
Another thing that I found interesting was how easy he made it to latch onto characters. For example, when he was describing the life of Carlos, who’s children both wound up in the hospital for unfortunate reasons out of their control, I felt as though I was a part of that journey. I kept wondering to myself, how, in one page, am I so moved by a character? I’m sure it has taken years of practice for Aldama to be so comfortable with language that he manages to cut out 60% of the words but still provide the same dramatic effect. This point also led me to wonder, how different did it sound in Spanish? From my experience with the two languages, I have come across numerous words that just don’t translate. For example, “Mi virgencita Ranchera”, or “my little virgin rancher”. In English, I imagine a young, virgin girl who lives in a rural area. However in Mexico,”Mi Virgencita Ranchera” is my sweet Virgen de Guadalupe, who is one of my people, from the slums of Mexico. Even there, I struggle to describe the emotions that I feel when referring to her, so I can only imagine the challenges that Aldama faced when writing his flash fiction book.