Honors Benefits: Brazos Valley Reads – Elizabeth Acevedo

LAUNCH: Undergraduate Research and Honors have been proud to help sponsor the annual Brazos Valley Reads initiative, organized by the Texas A&M Department of English, for the past two years. As part of our sponsorship, LAUNCH arranges for some of our students to participate in a more intimate conversation with these authors. In the post below, sophomore international studies major Essynce Lewis from El Paso, TX, reflects on her interaction with award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo.

Essynce Lewis 22 left with author Elizabeth Acevedo at Brazos Valley Reads 2020

Elizabeth Acevedo encompassed the very artistic soul necessary for an expressive author. Something that is often overlooked about writers is that they draw inspiration from multiple modes of art forms. Elizabeth mentioned that throughout her journey of developing her voice, she attended different genres of plays, visited many museums, and was inspired by music like R&B and Hip-Hop. While doing so, she not only discovered how she wanted to portray her stories but she noted that she also analyzed how the audiences reacted to the art, to the moment. If nothing more, Elizabeth strove to find the authenticity in human expression, but she did not want to be a definitive representation of one culture, one person, or one artform. She only wanted to tell a story and directed her audience to a specific population: the Dominican women who are often overlooked. This is not to say that Elizabeth does not capture the identities of other minorities, since she does produce work that fits under the umbrella of Afro-Latinx communities. However, she clearly emphasized that she did not want to “carry an island”, but she did want to paint a portrait of what she knew and who she was while removing herself enough to represent a larger community.

In her doing so, I believe her aspirations reverberated with me personally as a Hispanic African American, since there is not much representation for my minority or many people who are even aware that there are Africans in Latin American countries today. Adding a component of a distinctive cultural expression allows art forms to transform and become more inclusive and innovative. One of the plays that Elizabeth attended was a great example of this. It was a play that spoke, quite literally, to the black minorities, but in the second act, the play drew on the participation of the audience. The playwright asked the white population in attendance to walk to the stage to interact with the discussion; it went beyond a representation of black people and forced the conversation of our contemporary struggles.

Allowing yourself to be immersed in the moment of discomfort is the best strategy to fully understanding a different perspective, and I believe that is the notion that Elizabeth strives to convey in her writings. You can never fully see the problem until you live in the moment of it.

For more information about Brazos Valley Reads, please visit https://english.tamu.edu/brazos-valley-reads-2/.

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