January 30, 2014

Jomo Kenyatta Speaks About Marcus Garvey's Influence

As of today, the petition to exonerate Marcus Garvey has 624 signatures, and our target is 10,000, which we would like to meet by Friday, August 17, 2014, Marcus Garvey's birthday.

I am asking for your help to meet this goal by doing the following at least once this week. Every day would be great!

1. Featuring the petition on your FB page: https://www.causes.com/campaigns/71936-urge-president-obama-to-exonerate-marcus-garvey

2. Tweeting to friends and contacts, especially media contacts: Our goal is PUBLIC restoration of the good name of #MarcusGarvey: #JusticeForMarcusGarvey #Jamaica #PanAfrican 


3. Emailing the petition to at least 10 friends and URGING them to sign: 

"Never underestimate the power of a few committed individuals to change the world.  Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."  Margaret Mead 

We are petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey.



January 28, 2014

A Brief History of the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey

Over the past six months, I've heard many competing claims about the exoneration of Marcus Garvey. In order to set the record straight, here's an excerpt from The Marcus Garvey and Universal Negro Improvement Association Papers, Volume 7.

Since then, Representative Charles Rangel has reintroduced the bill, at least two times. 

In fact, on January 10, 2007, Representative Charles Rangel reintroduced H. Con. Res. 24 to the 110th Congress: "Expressing the sense of the Congress that the President should grant a pardon to Marcus Mosiah Garvey to clear his name and affirm his innocence of crimes for which he was unjustly prosecuted and convicted." This bill didn't make it out of committee.

This is the reason why I've posted a petition on Causes.com for Representative Frederica Wilson to champion in Congress. 

We, the undersigned, are requesting the assistance of our representatives in reintroducing the resolution with the following change in the wording: "Expressing the sense of the Congress that the President should exonerate Marcus Mosiah Garvey to clear his name and affirm his innocence of crimes for which he was unjustly prosecuted and convicted." We urge Congress to take action and reintroduce H.Con.Res. 24 to exonerate Marcus Mosiah Garvey. 

As a result of our efforts, we delivered 11,009 signatures to Representative Wilson's office on November 9, 2013.

If the effort to exonerate Marcus Garvey can have bipartisan support from an unreconstructed Southern conservative Senator Jesse Helms and liberal Representative Charles Rangel, surely President Barack Obama can exonerate the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey?

Visions & Voices: Conversations with Fourteen Caribbean Playwrights

For those interested in theatre and Caribbean literature, 2014 marks the release of a seminal collection, Olivier Stephenson's Visions & Voices: Conversations with Fourteen CaribbeanPlaywrights.

Featuring the words of the most important of the first generation of postcolonial playwrights-some of whom are still alive-this exploration presents expansive personalities such as Errol Hill, Errol John, Trevor Rhone, and Dennis Scott, discussing their experiences of working in the Caribbean, the UK and North America; their struggles to survive as artists; perceptions of the relationship between their work and the region's socio-political condition; views on the relationship between their work and the art of other playwrights; and their attempts to build popular audiences and develop a Caribbean theatre aesthetic.

"Without exception, these playwrights were engaged artists and their work never lost sight of the sociopolitical dynamics of the region. For this reason, their words offer us a way to understand, at least in part, the role of the playwright in Caribbean society. I sincerely believe that a lot of what was said in the interviews still holds true to the present time." ~ Kwame Dawes.

Visions & Voices: Conversationswith Fourteen Caribbean Playwrights is a unique collection of interviews with prominent Caribbean playwrights of the 1970s: Derek Walcott, Errol Hill, Errol John, Michael Abbensetts, Trevor Rhone, Alwyn Bully, Roderick Walcott, Edgar White, Slade Hopkinson, Lennox Brown, Carmen Tipling, Dennis Scott, Stafford Ashani Harrison and Mustapha Matura.

About Olivier Stephenson

Olivier Stephenson is a poet, a playwright, a screenwriter, and a journalist. He is the former executive director and a founding member of the Caribbean American Repertory Theatre in New York City and Los Angeles. He currently lives in Miami, Florida.

Publication date: 1 December 2013

ISBN: 9781845231736
Pages: 436
Price: £19.99 /$39.95
Publisher: Peepal Tree Press
17 King's Avenue, Leeds, LS6 1QS, United Kingdom
Tel/Fax: +44 (0)113 2451703

About the Press

Peepal Tree Press is home of the best in Caribbean and Black British fiction, poetry, literary criticism, memoirs and historical studies.

Peepal Tree is a wholly independent company based in Leeds, founded in 1985, and now publishing around 25 books a year. We have published over 250 titles, and are committed to keeping them in print. The list features new writers and established voices. In 2009 we launched the Caribbean Modern Classics Series, which restores to print essential classic books from the 1930s - 70s. We are grateful for financial support from Arts Council England. We are also home to Inscribe, a national project which supports writers of African & Asian descent.

Review Copies

For review copies, images, interviews or for more information email hannah@peepaltreepress.com

January 24, 2014

"Old Marcus Garvey" by Burning Spear

I first heard about Marcus Garvey through the music of Burning Spear. Of course, it wasn't until I came to America that I learned about Marcus Garvey because he was never a part of my high school curriculum. It was the musicians, the "players of instrumants," as Seeco liked to say, who awakened my curiosity about Old Marcus Garvey, and since then, I have been chanting with the Spear, "Please remember, please remember..."

Remember Marcus Garvey and sign the petition for his exoneration:

Enjoy, sign, & pass it on:



January 23, 2014

Submissions Call: The Caribbean Writer –Volume 28

The Caribbean Writer is seeking works that explore the defining moments of the Caribbean experience, the symbolism in the places that dot the Caribbean landscape, the journeys that inform our experiences, the memories that will not let us go. We hope to highlight and document Caribbean life in its broadest sense. We also invite works that provide a critical and historical overview, of times, places, and memories that reflect the wit, resilience and resourcefulness of Caribbean people as well as the implications of certain periods that have helped to define the notion of the contemporary Caribbean.

Major events in the history of the Caribbean and the experiences of people wherever they live the Caribbean experience is relevant in very profound ways. Memories of these events are meaningful not only because they provide fodder for introspection and change, but also because their implications are articulated on a number of levels. Memories of natural disasters, calamities, migrations, pivotal national decisions, national movements, societal trends, populations shifts, alienation issues, economic swings, internal struggles, and survival strategies ripple through the diaspora and have had such an impact on people that they possess an abiding ability to elicit passionate responses that can create new rifts or forge new alliances.

Caribbean publication accepting submissions for new volume

Deadline: February 28, 2014

Theme: Re-Visioning the Future of the Caribbean through Time, Place and Memories

Submit to:

The Caribbean Writer
University of the Virgin Islands
RR 1, Box 10,000
Kinghill, St. Croix
U.S. Virgin Islands 00850-9781

More info:

Call for Submissions, Volume 28



January 21, 2014

President Obama, the children are crying

"Never let the children cry, or you gotta tell Jah-Jah why" 
"Trench Town Rock" by Bob Marley.

Through no fault of their own, Black children have been in trouble for a long time. From the moment our children become aware of themselves, they are surrounded by negative self-images. No wonder some of them grow up to hate themselves. I've seen evidence of this self-hatred in my family, neighborhood, and in the elementary schools that I sometimes visit.

Now while stable families and meaningful work that paid a living wage could curb some of this self-hatred by providing the children with positive images of Black men and women who could support themselves economically, how our children think about themselves remains the primary challenge. In a culture that privileges white male patriarchy—everyone wants to be Don Draper—our children are hard pressed to find positive role models, and often act out their self-hatred on themselves and others. The gun violence that plagues our communities is just one of the symptoms.

Perhaps, the most striking example of this pathology of self-hatred was a study conducted by Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark. The Clark’s research conducted between 1939 and 1940 on “children's self-perception related to race” became part of the landmark Supreme Court decision on education, Brown v. Board of Education.

The doll experiment involved a child being presented with two dolls. Both of these dolls were completely identical except for the skin and hair color. One doll was white with yellow hair, while the other was brown with black hair. The child was then asked questions inquiring as to which one is the doll they would play with, which one is the nice doll, which one looks bad, which one has the nicer color, etc. The experiment showed a clear preference for the white doll among all children in the study. These findings exposed internalized racism in African-American children, self-hatred that was more acute among children attending segregated schools.

Interestingly, filmmaker Kiri Davis repeated the experiment in 1976 and the conclusions were similar to those of Kenneth Bancroft Clark and Mamie Phipps Clark.

Although researchers and educators have proposed many solutions, Marcus Garvey’s exhortation in African Fundamentalism,” (6 June 1925,) is as true now as it was then:

"We must canonize our own saints, create our own martyrs, and elevate to positions of fame and honor black men and women who have made their distinct contributions to our racial history... Africa has produced countless numbers of men and women, in war and in peace, whose lustre and bravery outshine that of any other people. Then why not see good and perfection in ourselves?"

Garvey went even further by not only encouraging Black enterprise, but also promoted businesses such as Berry & Ross that manufactured Black dolls.

Despite his visionary approach to education and Black identity, Marcus Garvey, a hero to people of African descent worldwide, was wrongfully convicted on June 21, 1923 on charges of mail fraud. From 1925 until 1927, Garvey served his sentence in the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary until President Calvin Coolidge commuted his sentence. To this day, Marcus Garvey remains a convicted felon.

Garvey’s arrest and conviction is one of the great ironies that many parents and educators confront whenever we try to teach our children about heroes such as Marcus Garvey. How do we in in one breath engage our children’s imagination with quotes by Marcus Garvey such as “The Black skin is not a badge of shame, but rather a glorious symbol of national greatness,” and in the next breath explain that Garvey is still a criminal in the eyes of the law? 

Of course, this situation could be reversed by the exoneration of Marcus Garvey by President Barack Obama, who wrote about Black self-hatred in his remarkable memoir, Dreams From my Father and quoted Marcus Garvey’s famous words, ‘Rise up, ye mighty people” (199).

It is for this reason that the Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey is petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate the Right Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey, the First National Hero of Jamaica.

It is hoped that Garvey's exoneration will accomplish three goals:

1. In the name of justice, initiate the PUBLIC rehabilitation of the good name/character of Marcus Garvey
2. Honor the legacy hero in the struggle for Black identity
3. Reintroduce Marcus Garvey's ideas of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and success into the body politic.

Mr. President, the children of the African diaspora are calling out to you to become their champion and to exonerate our hero—an action for which you are uniquely qualified, as an inheritor of Marcus Garvey’s legacy.


January 20, 2014

No One Remembers Old Marcus Garvey

If you look closely at this cartoon, you will see President Barack Obama standing on the mountaintop of Black achievement in North America, the pinnacle of which was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you look even closer, you should notice one glaring omission: Marcus Garvey.

The irony is that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a speech in Kingston, Jamaica stated, "Marcus Garvey was the first man, on a mass scale, to give millions of Negroes a sense of dignity and destiny ... . He gave us a sense of personhood, a sense of manhood, a sense of somebodiness."

Until we have a clear sense of our history, we will continue to repeat the mistakes. In this case, it is the message of self-reliance and economic empowerment that Marcus Garvey brought to the Black community--a meme that has been forgotten because of Garvey's erasure from our collective consciousness. 

It is for this reason, the Marcus Garvey Celebrations Committee (South Florida), Rootz Foundation, and the Institute for Caribbean Studies, have joined to petition President Barack Obama to exonerate Rt. Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey, leader of the first and largest economic justice movement in the USA and the world, and the first named National Hero of Jamaica.

If you would like to join in this cause to recognize the historic contribution of Marcus Garvey, please sign this petition:



Graphic: David Fitzsimmons in The Arizona Daily Star: http://azstarnet.com/


Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2014

Urge President Obama to Exonerate Marcus Garvey


January 18, 2014

Why We MUST Fight To Exonerate The Most Honorable Marcus Garvey

The Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey

Cleophus Miller, Jr.
Universal Negro Improvement Association

The campaign to posthumously exonerate the Most Honorable Marcus Mosiah Garvey is a noble and constructive effort by his family, the UNIA and others to exculpate him from a wrongful conviction while mobilizing public sentiment in support of his life, legacy and the ideals for which he was falsely imprisoned. As an extension of Mr. Garvey's personal quest to repudiate this travesty of justice, we consider it our inherent right and moral  obligation to hold the government accountable for correcting this shameful act of injustice. While we concede that we best vindicate his name by demonstrating the soundness of his ideas and the infallibility of his logic, we must never forsake any opportunity to unequivocally denounce this egregious injustice and demand its judicious redress.

Proper Propaganda

The overwhelming success of the Garvey Movement in organizing post WWI Black America invoked the ire of the insidious Deputy Director of the Bureau of Investigation, J Edgar Hoover. In an effort to discredit Mr. Garvey, decentralize the movement, extinguish his vision and dishonor his memory, Hoover recruited a host of informants and agents to infiltrate, disrupt and sabotage Mr. Garvey's plans. The malicious persecution and prosecution of Marcus Garvey in the court of public opinion as a "notorious Negro agitator" engaged in financial mismanagement and fraud frightened investors, caused dissension among the ranks, emboldened his rivals to join the frenzy and provided an ideal climate to file a trumped up criminal indictment. Ultimately, Mr. Garvey alone was convicted of the conspiracy to commit mail fraud by a coerced jury instructed by an adversarial judge, based upon horribly inadequate circumstantial evidence and the false testimony of an undisclosed government agent and informant, orchestrated by the shamefully desperate and criminally deceptive J Edgar Hoover.

Today, this wrongful conviction continues to mar the legal record and belies the valued reputation of our sainted leader. These unchallenged historic lies become accepted historic facts if they are not corrected. If the purpose of our history is to inspire confidence, fortify our bonds of heritage and offer the benefit of experience in charting our destiny, we must seize every opportunity to deconstruct this dangerous lie and reconstruct truth, for fear we abandon this worthy vision and discard the practicality of this time-honored program from our historic memory. 

The Rt. Ex. Marcus Garvey once declared, "I believe that true justice is to be found in the conscience of the people, and when one is deprived of it by the machinations and designs of the corrupt, there can be no better tribunal of appeal than that of public opinion, which gives voice to conscience and that is why I now appeal to the conscience of the American people for justice." However, despite whatever success we enjoy in reversing this horribly inaccurate narrative, this judicial travesty demands a judicial correction. In fact, the government's refusal to admit and acquit Mr.Garvey of this miscarriage of justice only betrays their concealed interest in extending the harmful effects of this blatant fabrication. No political acknowledgement will suffice, nor veiled admission of misjudgment satisfy our unyielding insistence on full exoneration.

Was Justice Defeated?

In the case of the USA vs Marcus Garvey, the fair administration of justice was denied and irreparable damage rendered Mr.Garvey's enterprise and reputation. The contemptible, government sponsored traducement of Marcus Garvey and the disgraceful court room debacle mandates a full review and reversal of this regrettable chapter in US history, thereby settling any argument of guilt and according the family due relief in restoring dignity to their name. Failing to rectify this wrongdoing compounds the harm afflicted and sets a dangerous precedent of excusing malicious grievances committed by the government.

Mr. Garvey forcefully proclaimed his innocence during the trial and asked, not for mercy, "only justice, justice, justice." The prevailing impression of Mr. Garvey as a criminal demands we hold the institutional perpetrators and perpetrators of this travesty accountable for exonerating him of their treachery. Neither the duration of time nor the death of our Founder will mitigate or assuage our determination to have remedy granted for this gross injustice.

Why We Must Fight 

We are not motivated by the assurance of victory, but obligated by gratitude and integrity to take advantage of every opportunity to defend the honor of our beloved Founder. Exoneration doesn't absolve the government of guilt, marginalize the merit of his martyrdom or invalidate the value of his valor. 'Mr. Garvey was convicted, not because anyone was defrauded, but because he represented a movement for the real emancipation of his race.' We, the beneficiaries of his service and sacrifice, are duty-bound to reciprocate the honor for the exaltation of his name and the dignity of our race.

The probability of success could not undermine our adamance for adjudication when he was incarcerated and it certainly doesn't concern us now. We consider it cowardly to forfeit a noble cause for fear of odds and deem ourselves unworthy of the blessings of true leadership if we allow others to crucify our leader with impunity. We cannot predict what will happen when we fight; we can predict what will happen if we don't. Not fighting unforgivably concedes defeat.

No amount of compensation could ever redeem the wrongdoers or diminish the extraordinary record of accomplishment despite enormous adversity unduly suffered by the Most Honorable Marcus Garvey. Rectification is not reconciliation and justice delayed is still justice denied.

Finally, while his wrongful conviction deserve a rightful exoneration, the best way to vindicate the man is by  continuing his plan and materializing his vision of a unified, sovereign and independent race. Nothing demoralizes the opposition and earns respect like successfully mobilizing millions in support of someone whose legacy they fought to repudiate. Besides, if our campaign to garner greater appreciation and respect for the Rt. Ex. Marcus Garvey reaches the 2 billion Negroes of the world, not only will we have enough power to exact justice on his behalf, we'd exonerate his program by fulfilling its objectives.


The Exoneration Campaign is a fitting response to the nearly 80 year campaign to denigrate and decimate the unimpeachable legacy of the Right Excellent Marcus Mosiah Garvey. It is not an effort to solicit sympathy or mercy, rather a moral imperative to contest and a legal entitlement to challenge the malicious prosecution and wrongful conviction of our Founder. We invite all Africans at home and abroad to “Observe Marcus Garvey’s” incredible life and legacy and help us reverse the curse of shame and indignity meted against him by the foes of African Redemption.

Getting Involved

There are no resources involved and a minimal expense of time (1 minute) needed to pay homage to such a deserving ancestor and let the world know we have not forgotten nor forsaken him. Please sign our on-line petition: 


We thank the Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey, International Foundation for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey, Institute for Caribbean Studies, Marcus Garvey Institute, Cong. Rep. Frederica Wilson and others who've tirelessly fought to correct this historic wrong. We also extend a special thanks to Marcus Garvey III and Dr. Julius Garvey for championing the exoneration campaign and their faithful adherence to these prophetic words of their beloved father:

"Every white man is welcome to put me in jail if it is done in the cause of African freedom. I do not know whether they understand it or not, that if Marcus Garvey dies, Marcus Garvey's son shall revenge every drop of blood and every ounce of flesh and the family record of Garvey shall go on until eternity." 


The Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey is petitioning Senator Bill Nelson, Representative Frederica Wilson, and the Congress of the United States of America for the exoneration of Marcus Garvey:


We are also petitioning President Barack Obama to exonerate Marcus Garvey:


Thank you for your support..

January 17, 2014

Marcus Say, "Rally Round the Flag" by Steel Pulse

Marcus say, so Marcus say
Green for the land Africa
Marcus say
Yellow for the gold
That they stole
Marcus say
Black for the people
It was looted from

Marcus Garvey's work has inspired so many African, African American, Pan African, Black British and Caribbean leaders, artists, singers and songwriters..including Steel Pulse.

Yet,sadly, according to the records, Marcus Garvey remains a convicted felon. This is why we are calling on President Barack Obama to EXONERATE Marcus Garvey. 

If you would like to join in the online petition to clear the name of a good man, of an innocent man, here is the link:

"If I Never Went Home" by Ingrid Persaud

Ingrid Persaud

Sometimes the only way home is to leave the one you know.

Written in two distinct, alternating voices, If I Never Went Home follows ten years in the turbulent lives of two narrators – thirty-something Bea, an immigrant in Boston, and ten-year-old Tina in Trinidad – as they separately navigate devastating losses, illness and betrayal in their quest to belong.

Moving back and forth from the present to the past through flashbacks, this is the powerful story of how these women unearth family secrets that go beyond anything they could have imagined. Then unexpectedly their lives collide, and they are offered the chance to create a home. But can this gamble survive one last surprise about Tina’s real identity?

About Ingrid Persaud:

If I Never Went Home

Ingrid Persaud is a Trinidadian writer and artist. She came to writing and fine art having first pursued a successful legal career that included teaching and scholarship at the Fletcher School and King’s College London. Her creative work has been widely exhibited and her writing featured in several magazines. She lives in Barbados and London. You can follow her blog Notes From A Small Rock.

Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Blue China Press (November 1, 2013)
Price: $20usd
Language: English
ISBN-13: 978-099269770

Available on Amazon, Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Book Depository

“Powerful characters, evocative descriptions, and a tale of two cultures make this lyrical debut novel sing.” ~ ForeWord Review

“Ingrid Persaud writes a fantastic tale of survival and triumph without making the story too sweet or melodramatic.” ~Readers Favorite

“An often colorful novel that refreshingly doesn’t fall back on clich├ęs.” ~ Kirkus Review

“All together, If I Never Went Home is fantastic. The story is fascinating, the characters are real, the emotions are strong, and the writing is beautiful. I simply cannot recommend this enough.” Star Rating: 5 out of 5 -~San Francisco Book Review

5 Stars: “Author Ingrid Persaud is a talented writer, bringing together so many elements into this book that is difficult to put down. Her teenage Bea is equally as gripping as the adult one; the interplay between the two is brilliantly written.” ~ IndieReader

“This new author has fallen straight into her stride with her debut novel
… (the) novel has that magic something that sets it apart.” ~ AI Seal of Excellence for Independent Fiction 

“Persaud’s debut will reward readers who enjoy a sensitive engagement on the perils and pleasures of finding one’s own safe berth.”  ~ Trinidad Guardian

“If I Never Went Home is a true survivor story; it sugar coats nothing. Expect to be shocked, saddened, and horrified by many of the uncomfortable realities of these characters.”  ~ Luxury Reading

“Absorbing, warm and rich” – The Book Bag


January 16, 2014

“Marcus Garvey: Angel of Black Success”

 “Marcus Garvey: Angel of Black Success” 
Geoffrey Philp*

In the early 1900s, one of the unfortunate outcomes of the fratricidal battle between the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA), which was founded by Marcus Garvey, and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), which was founded by W.E.B. DuBois, was the further splintering of the Black community—a state from which the latter has never fully recovered. It may be argued that the NAACP “won” the battle. Sadly, the models of entrepreneurship and self-reliance that Garvey advocated were partially lost by the Black community due to the NAACP’s emphasis on legal redress and governmental assistance to resolve issues that Garvey said should be resolved within the Black community. 

For more information, please follow this link: http://www.blackeconomics.org/BELit/MARGAR.pdf

'via Blog this'

After delivering over 10,000+ signatures to Frederica S. Wilson, the Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey  is now focusing on the White House: 

Exoneration is first step in the campaign to promote the values (Redemption, Education, Self-Reliance, Entrepreneurship, Community, and Tradition) to which Garvey dedicated his life.

Please sign and share with your family, friends, and contacts: http://links.causes.com/s/clOoxG?r=bOje

One Love,

The Coalition for the Exoneration of Marcus Garvey

January 15, 2014

The Heartbreaker: Chatting With Anjanette Delgado

By Jennifer Maritza McCauley

In Anjanette Delgado's The Heartbreak Pill, scientist Erika Luna tries to develop a cure for heartache after her marriage crumbles. Delgado is a broken heart specialist herself. “Anytime I’ve written anything, I’ve written about somebody’s heartbreak,” The celebrated writer says. “I'm obsessed with it.”

Delgado’s obsession has paid off. During her eighteen years writing and producing for outlets such as CNN, Vogue, NPR, Univision and Telemundo, Delgado has received much acclaim for her stories about women struggling with emotional pain. Delgado’s documentary series “Madres en la Lejania” won an Emmy, her sitcom “Great in Bed” was bought by HBO Latin America, and her latest novels The Heartbreak Pill and the upcoming The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho have been optioned by De Oro Media, of the Jenni Rivera reality shows fame.

The author is just as accessible and vivacious as her work. Even if she barely knows you, she speaks to you like you’re a long lost girlfriend. I conducted a phone interview with Delgado and we talked about self-transformation, sticking to deadlines, and why her work connects so well with readers.

JM: Your first published novel The Heartbreak Pill was originally written in Spanish, and your newest book The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho was written in English as your MFA thesis. What was your process like working on these two novels?

AD: For The Heartbreak Pill I had no process. I didn’t know what I was doing. I wrote four drafts of it and threw them all out. It took me five years and I was so confused with [writing in the English] language.  Ultimately, I felt the voice coming through more clearly in Spanish and I went with it.

For my second novel, I used the model I now use for my class [“Finish Your Novel – the TV Way” at The Center for Arts and Literature at Miami Dade College.] In T.V. writing you have a deadline and can’t go off that deadline.  You budget your time and how many scenes or chapters are going to be written in so many days. You have maps, you have pre-pro work. You write out the dialogue of the scenes, but you have a map. You have a route.

For the second novel, I did all this and it worked for me. That’s why I created this class. I think I could have done a better first novel if I had had a process. With the first I was grabbing time when I could and writing on yellow pads. I didn’t even own a home computer when I started. So there wasn’t really a process for the first book. I would have had more fun writing if I did.

JM: In The Heartbreak Pill your protagonist Erika Luna undergoes serious emotional pain. She loses her husband and her sense of self all at once. Heartbreak is both universal and unifying. I'm sure readers connect with the book emotionally. How did you feel about the positive responses to The Heartbreak Pill?

AD: I love The Heartbreak Pill. It was the best book it could be at that time. I wrote it before I finished the MFA. It's what I wrote on my own, by myself. And it was a hard novel to write, with no help and a lot less training. But it was heartfelt. I had insights about it and I really wanted to put those thoughts down. I think that's why readers seem to have such a deep personal connection with the novel. I get e-mails all the time from people saying how the book changed them. That amazes me.

I had a reader write to me via Facebook. She told me she gave my book to her mother-in-law and that it had been the first time she'd seen her laugh in nine years! Others write to me and tell me their stories of heartbreak. Even men.

I have three friends who I’ve met through the book. One of them is the editor of Siempre Mujer, Maria Cristina Marrero. She looked me up and said, “I read your book and had to become your friend.” It’s definitely a novel of connection. Some call it chick lit, but it connects and that is what is important to me.

JM: Do you have any themes that consciously come up in your work?

AD: Heartbreak is my theme. In the end, there are a lot of lessons to learn in life. One of them is that heartbreak isn’t always sad. It can be cleansing. It can teach you lessons. Heartbreak is the thing I keep returning to in my writing. When I talk to my students I ask them, “What are you seeing…what holds you? What comes up again and again in your writing?”

As a T.V. producer, I won an Emmy for a T.V. series called Madres en la Lejania. This was a story about immigrant mothers who left their children behind to become nannies. It’s a series about immigration and it’s about the plight of mothers and children, but it’s really about heartbreak. In that case it was the heartbreak of separation.

I’m working on a story called Gridlock, and it’s about a couple on their way to an abortion clinic. She wants to terminate the pregnancy and he doesn’t. So, another kind of heartbreak. I’m obsessed with the idea of it and how it changes you.  Why you love some people and not others.

In the end, anytime I’ve written anything, I’ve written about somebody’s heartbreak. I’m obsessed with it and with self-transformation.

JM: Your work is very empathetic. Do you feel, since heartbreak is your “theme”, that you are hyper-aware of your own suffering or the pain of others?

AD: There are ways to experience heartbreak. There are stories that stay with me and there are stories that have broken my heart. Sometimes [pain] is like a bullet. Sometimes the news will say this or that, and I’ll see that somebody’s life is shattered and it feels like a bullet. Like somebody physically hurt me just by reading that headline as if it were just one other thing that happened that day to be brought to you tonight at six.

I remember [working on daily newscasts] and forcing myself not to feel it, though. I do think it’s like being a doctor. When you’re writing the news you’re thinking about doing your job. You can't feel all of it, it's too much. But when I'm on the other side, it's amazing how much it affects me.

JM: So much of your work encourages Latinas and women in general, to positively transform their lives. At the end of The Heartbreak Pill, and even as she gets a green light to research a remedy for heartbreak, Erika realizes that this elusive “pill” is really just her decision to stop suffering. Can you talk a little bit about writing fiction that both empowers and entertains?

AD: So this really goes to the center of why I write. At one point I even considered calling myself a self-help writer. While I was writing The Heartbreak Pill, I was in my thirties and I didn’t have any training or contacts. I had two children and I had a very demanding job as a TV producer. Back then I was addicted to self help books. Addicted! If you went to my bookshelf you’d see all of these self-help books, Why Men Love Bitches… you know. I was just obsessed. I especially wanted to know more about relationships. Because of that obsession, I think all of my novels deal with women teaching themselves something to make themselves happy.

Women are into self-transformation. If we want to be something we’ll go find a book and find out how to be that thing. If we want to be sophisticated, we’ll go and buy a book called “How to Be Sophisticated.” If we want to be better at romance we’ll buy a book called “How To Be Romantic.” For all the things people say about women, we work to make things work. We figure out what it is we need and we get it. Same with immigrants, even though my books are not about Latinos in the traditional way you'd define a book to be about a people.

JM: How so?

AD: When I’m writing I think about the story, not about the narrator being Latina. If you want to promote an idea or rewrite history, that’s all fine. But when you start it’s about the story. You have to think about how the reader connects with your book, who spends time with it. I don’t think about empowerment. I think about what I want to learn.

The Heartbreak Pill is about suffering and how to let go. How we can’t control everything, so of course my protagonist had to be someone who had it all together. She had to be a scientist and she had to go through a divorce, there had to be an arc. This thing had to tear her apart so she could realize she can’t control everything. So I’d love to think I’m empowering women and Latinas but I don’t think about that. I just like a good story. I’m a Latina and I like humor and it’s really hard to not put my sense of humor in my work. [Erika] is a scientist not because I wanted her to be an empowered Latina, but because I wanted her to be dramatic for the story’s sake.

In The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho the protagonist is the opposite. She only has a high school diploma but she learns what she needs to learn for the book. So the story, for me, comes first.

JM: Your narrator in The Heartbreak Pill has a desire for her pain to be understood. Is being understood also a theme of your work?

AD: I really think that [idea] survived in my agenda. Heartbroken people do want to be understood. The other day I was watching an episode of the Mindy Kaling Project on television. I love that show. I'd love for [Mindy Kaling] to play Erika [in a film adaption of The Heartbreak Pill]! Mindy said she needed a Heartbreak Day and when she didn't get it, things went bad. She said to her boss, “If you'd given me a Heartbreak Day, we wouldn’t have had this problem!”

Really, heartbreak is just as awful as a cold. If you have a cold someone will say, “Aw, I’m so sorry you feel sick” and they expect you to get better and they'll wish you “get well.” But if something bad happens to you and you feel heartsick, people think you should suck it up and move on. People don’t really understand and it’s frustrating. So in The Heartbreak Pill Erika is trying to cure heartbreak like it’s an illness because it is an illness. 

JM: You capture Erika's denial of her loss beautifully. Erika’s lawyer and friends tell her that she doesn't want a quick remedy for her pain. She really just wants to go back to a happier time with her husband. She wants her marriage back. Why do you think it takes so long for women and men to get over heartbreak?

AD: After all of my research, I didn't get an answer to that one. I don’t think the problem is in the brain. I think the brain could get over [heartbreak] really fast. There are some things in life you can get over in two seconds. You say, “Oh my God, that thing is useless to me!” and then you're done. If you're open to seeing that [it’s useless], it takes a good day or two to get over it. But you are your habits and love is a habit.

For some, heartbreak is always there. Maybe the person you loved is great or she's a sack of shit, but loving her is a habit. It's ingrained in you. Since you loved her yesterday, you can't just stop loving her today. It's going to take you a while. I thinking hanging on is a reflex. If you were able to change your feelings, you would. Lots of people measure things in terms of how long they loved the person. How long they invested themselves. If you loved someone for a long time, it feels more real. And we are always trying to make love more real. To make it stay, to make it true. You think, “I'm going to push that person away, but then you think, “Holy crap, I put so much into that person.”

I think the brain has to do with heartbreak but the hanging on is us. I'm not a scientist or a psychologist or a marriage counselor, but that is my instinct. I'm a woman and we're insightful. We're wise.

JM: Why did you choose Miami as your setting for The Heartbreak Pill and The Clairvoyant of Calle Ocho?

AD: I like Miami. I like a lot of other places too, but I think there's something quirky-hazy-magical-romantic about Miami. It doesn’t give itself up. Sure, you can go to South Beach and it's there, but there's an underground. Even if you don't go to the beach, there's still a lot to do. You can go find the Last Shoe bar open in Overtown  and you'll catch a person jamming on at 3 a.m on a Tuesday. You can try a vintage shop. It's not what you see in the magazines or what you imagine on Ocean Drive. That's part of why Miami is so unique.

There's cool poetry in Miami too, poetry from all over the world. I also like the immigrant quality. My protagonists are Latina and they do well in Miami. Maybe one day soon I'll place my novels somewhere else, but for now I still have a few stories to tell in Miami.

AD: Who is your first reader?

These days it's anyone I can find. For the first book, it was my husband. When we first met he was my number one fan. The second novel was in English so I didn't have him all the time. I’m dying for him to read it. My ideal reader is my best friend. She's a news director for NBC Six and she's a good friend, but we're different in many ways and smart in ways that help her give me a good read. She's tough, too. Sometimes I'll imagine she's reading my stuff to catch if I'm missing anything.

One of the kindest readers I've ever had is Lynne Barrett. She'll take your stuff and tear it apart, but whatever comes out will always remain your story. She'll never tell you have to change something; she'll just give you the tools. John Dufresne told me, I'd never find a person more respectful of my work, who'll work with what's there, and he was so right. So my husband is my first reader, my ideal reader is my best friend and my kindest reader is Lynne Barrett.

JM: Who are your literary heroes?

AD: That's such a hard question for a writer! My first books were in English. I learned to love books in English and that’s why I connect to stories in English. Even though it's so much easier to write in Spanish. I really love Muriel Sparks and Isabel Allende, Esmeralda Santiago, Sandra Cisneros and Julia Alvarez. Another literary hero, although it's hard to read him, is E.L. Doctorow.

I love Billy Bathgate. F. Scott Fitzgerald, I love The Great Gatsby and all of his stories. And locally, John Dufresne for sure. That man can make you laugh or cry with the just the slightest breeze of words. Then there are new voices. Patricia Engel and I went to school together and she has written a lovely book called It's Not Love, It's Just Paris, and Justin Torres wrote a novel called We The Animals. It’s amazing. Jennifer Bell writes really smart chic lit. I just read Junot Diaz's This is How You Lose Her, and I loved it and him. I felt like he was writing the male's side of The Heartbreak Pill. I thought, Oh my God, this is what the other person is thinking!

Also, Tony Hoagland and Campbell McGrath. John Dufresne, Lynne Barrett writes really wonderful women stories. Lydia Davis has nothing on her. The teachers from [the graduate program at] FIU aren't my heroes because I feel they are so close to me. They're mine.

JM: Why do you write?

 I love stories. I love being God, creating a world that’s a little cooler than mine. I had so much fun decorating Erika's apartment. I love to create that world. I love writing characters who can say that cool thing that you never get to say in real life. There's definitely a control freak in me. When you write a book you can control everyone in it. I don’t have a noble purpose, I just love creating people and making my readers smile.

Anjanette Delgado will join Isabel Allende on Saturday, February 1st at the Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus.

To learn more about Anjanette Delgado visit her website at: http://www.anjanettedelgado.com