January 14, 2019KR Conversations

Laura Roque

Laura RoqueLaura Roque is the daughter of Cuban political exiles and was raised in Hialeah, Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida in 2014 and earned her MFA at Florida State University in 2017. She was honorably mentioned by Glimmer Train, 2016, and was first runner-up for FSU’s Creative Writing Spotlight Award in 2017. Her story “Dientes for Dentures” can be found here. It appears along with the runners-up to the 2018 Short Fiction Contest in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of the Kenyon Review.

The abuela in your story is called crazy in several different contexts. She is dubbed “vieja loca” by her narrating granddaughter and later said to have dementia. Could you talk a bit about the relationship between these different understandings and terminologies for this Abuela’s mental state? Is one more accurate than the other for this particular figure and story?

Abuela isn’t so much crazy as she is someone who feels too much about certain, integral aspects of each stage of her life. She supported the ideology that killed her brothers and robbed her mother, desperately hoping that it could save her country, and it’s possible that this illogical passion is also what enabled her to protect her granddaughter from a rabid dog. The dementia isn’t a version of Abuela’s locura but the undoing of it, as it erases the erraticism that pretty much defined who she was.

Near the story’s end, we see the narrator’s mother as she “She held her glasses between her eyes and me to get a good look at the girl she and her communist mother-in-law raised alone, but together.” Does the narrator herself offer a sort of synthesis or bridge between this mother and grandmother? Can this family in its entirety be understood as existing in some state of alone together?

Absolutely. These women are undeniably dissimilar but conjoined by the narrator, the living representation of the man they both loved most in the world: Mami’s late husband and Abuela’s dead son. Politically and maybe even personality wise, the narrator is a combination of the two, which grants her the ability to stand back and recognize the trauma that lead political exiles like Mami to feel as they do, and how this is just like Abuela’s unwavering communism. Their family unit itself also exists alone but together, as these women had to survive and raise a baby together, in a foreign country on their own.

How has your writing or writing process changed since you started out?

I now dedicate quadruple the time.

Which non-writing-related aspect of your life most influences your writing?

When I’m not working or writing, I’m out, talking to people somewhere in Miami or outside of it, post impulsively buying a plane ticket. I’m a “callejera” as we say, and I get endless material from my constant need to be out of the house, from things I’ve witnessed that I wish I could change or don’t understand and so require further contemplation.

What project(s) are you working on now, or next? 

A novel about the characters in this story.