Thursday, March 30, 2023

Q&A with Claire Jimenez




Claire Jimenez is the author of the new novel What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez. She also has written the story collection Staten Island Stories. She is an assistant professor of English and African American Studies at the University of South Carolina.


Q: What inspired you to write What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez?


A: So many things! This novel took me many years to write. I was thinking about reality TV, colonialism, the 2008 Great Recession, intergenerational violence, and the epidemic of missing Black, Indigenous, and Brown girls and women. I was concerned about how these cases get less attention in the media.


Q: How would you describe the relationships among the women of the Ramirez family?


A: Fierce. The women in the Ramirez family love each other and are trying to find ways to survive this incredible loss.


Q: The writer Crystal Hana Kim described the book as “Equal measures hilarious and haunting...” What did you see as the right balance between humor and seriousness as you were writing the book?


A: I think people are often surprised about the amount of humor in the novel. But for many marginalized communities humor is a way to navigate difficult moments in life; it’s a way to survive. So incorporating humor was the only way I knew how to tell this story.


Throughout the book I also asked myself when is this humor insufficient? When and where does it collapse? When is it used to avoid talking about difficult topics?


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew plotwise how it would end, but I didn’t know how to render the ending. That took many, many drafts and the eyes of my mentors and my agent, especially, my professor Dr. Kwame Dawes. His feedback helped me figure out how to finish the book.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on a novel, but I’m superstitious, so I don’t want to jinx it by talking about it! But I will say that I’m excited to get writing again.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: Yes, there are two other Puerto Rican authors coming out with debut fiction that folks should read: Melissa Cos Aquino and Jennifer Maritza McCauley. Their books are so good!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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