Stacey Balkun, Festival Assistant
A writer experienced in many genres, Rigoberto González boasts a bibliography of two poetry books, two bilingual children’s books, one novel, a collection of short stories, and a memoir. González writes a monthly book column for the El Paso Times and is a contributing editor to Poets and Writers Magazine. It is no wonder that his motto is “Work hard.” González writes in addition to teaching, occasionally curating a reading series, and reading voraciously. In an interview with Web del Sol, González divulges his commitment to his culture, having “taken on a duty to populate the shelves with books, books, and more books by a Chicano writer”.
Identity is vital to González’s work. González’s identity crosses many borders; he identifies as “Chicano, gay, a Mexican immigrant, [and] a displaced New Yorker.” Readers from all walks of life will find fresh ideas and inspirations in González’s poetry, whether they share similar cultural backgrounds or not. Poems like “Speedy Gonzalez: An Appreciation” underline the disparity between Mexican culture and its representation in popular media.
González carries on the tradition of Gloria Anzaldúa and others who endeavored to deconstruct life in the borderlands. In her book Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, Anzaldúa declares, “To survive the Borderlands/ you must live sin fronteras/ be a crossroads.” Borderlands extend beyond the physical United States/Mexico border; they exist wherever two cultures intersect and identities may overlap. Many readers can relate to the experience of living between boundaries without fully identifying with any one group. González turns these experiences into poems. This writer moves between traditional boundaries to create literature that different cultural groups seize as their own experience. Hear him discuss the literature born of the United States/Mexican border here.
González urges readers “to read beyond borders and seek out literature in translation” (Web del Sol). Although translation has its traditional meaning of moving between languages, it can also describe movement between geographies, cultures, experiences and genres. González’s writing is a result of his experience; his work responds to a constantly changing environment. González was born in California and raised in Mexico, though he now lives in New York. He leads his life moving from place to place for work, like his family, migrating from one university to another.
González currently teaches as an Associate Professor of English at Rutgers University in Newark. Hear his work on From the Fishhouse.
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