A new monthly literary column by Boricua writer and educator Brittany Torres Rivera seeks to highlight contemporary Latinx writing in a variety of genres.
“A House of Our Own”, as the column is called, is the brainchild of Torres Rivera and Letras Latinas, the literary initiative at the University of Notre Dame's Institute for Latino Studies (ILS).
Since September, Torres Rivera has featured new books by up-and-coming writers, including María Ospina’s Variations on the Body; Melissa Lozada-Oliva’s Dreaming of You; Jaime Cortez’s Gordo: Stories; and Ariana Brown’s poetry collection We Are Owed. The blog is set to run for a year.
Each post is a unique experience for both her and readers, she says. Torres Rivera does not have a strict plan in mind when it comes to writing the blog or approaching the texts. Instead, she lets “the process guide [her].”
An ESL teacher by day, Torres Rivera brings a unique perspective on language and authorial intent to her blog. Language has become the “lens through which [she] view[s] the world,” she says. It’s a view that infuses all aspects of her life. When writing, reading, and teaching, she feels as though she’s “pulled back the curtain and can't unsee the inner mechanisms of this medium we so often take for granted.”
Following this gradual realization of the relationship between language and everyday life, Torres Rivera has redoubled her efforts to include the particularities of speech and wordplay as a focus in her writing.
When it comes to reviewing books for “A House of Our Own”, she “underline[s], connect[s] recurring images or ideas, make[s] lists, anything that feels right as [she] go[es] through the book, especially on the second read-through.” As a result of her education in creative writing, Torres Rivera has learned the value of re-reading. It allows her to see more of the text than is visible during an initial read.
Torres Rivera’s dedication to re-reading informs each post she writes for “A House of Our Own.” It gifts readers with well thought-out and reflective posts that are both carefully crafted and curated in order to truly bring each text to life through a set of studied lenses.
When schedules allow, Torres Rivera takes the time to have a conversation with each author that she reads for the column. She wishes to discover the intentions of these writers while reading their work and talking with them. Torres Rivera views writing "A House of Our Own" as a “process of learning how [she] engage[s] with fiction, how [she] approache[s] interviewing, how much [she] value[s] [her] own assertions about art.”
Her latest post takes a deep dive into the world of race and Black identity in conjunction with Latinidad. While identity and belonging have been ever-present themes for Torres Rivera in her exploration of her own Puerto Rican heritage, We Are Owed by Ariana Brown requires an entirely different approach than the previous texts, she says. However, Torres Rivera is unafraid of expanding her — and her audience’s — understanding of these thematic threads as they arise.
Heading in a new direction for her February post, Torres Rivera will explore multiple voices surrounding myths and stereotypes of the Latinx diaspora. She will be reading and responding to Wild Tongues Can't be Tamed, a new anthology edited by Saraciea J. Fennell.