- InterventionsAn Interview with Zoraida Córdova
Zoraida Córdova has blasted wide the YA Fantasy fiction world. Before her arrival, this was largely a narrative space that excluded authors of color—and their culturally rich characters and complexly built storyworlds. Zoraida's journey has crisscrossed great waters, lands, and cultures. Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1987 and raised in Queens New York by a single mom and where her abuelita's words were law, Zoraida found her way quickly to the writer's life, reading voraciously as a child and writing up a storm as a young teen. Zoraida would later continue to enrich her imagination and hone her craft as a student at Hunter College then at the University of Montana, Missoula. In college, however, she met with some closed doors. She was told by a professor that her narratives were too fanciful. This only encouraged her more. She set herself on the path of writing fantasy narratives that would grow from her Latinx cultural experiences. She knew, too, that while she wanted her Ecuadorian, Puerto Rican, and mainstream US cultures and traditions to inform her work, she also wanted to make them new. As one enters into her many fantasy fictional spaces, we might find certain bruja healing practices or children-devouring monsters like el cucuy (Mexico) or Cuco (Ecuador), but they appear only through layers of newly created mythical figures: sharp-clawed Maloscuros, hybrid mermen, casimuerto teens, and vampires. Likewise, we might recognize our quinceañera rituals in a Deathday coming into magic ritual, but it's entirely of Zoraida's making. We might read her fantasy narratives as allegories of the brutal conquest and colonization of the Americas, but in ways that make new our experience of this past—and that clear a space for our indigenous, African, and mestizo ancestry to breathe anew.
Zoraida is the award-winning author of numerous titles, including The Vicious Deep (2012), The Savage Blue (2013), The Vast and Brutal Sea (2014), Labyrinth Lost (2016 and optioned by Paramount Pictures), and Bruja Born (2018). And, Zoraida's fantasy storyworlds will be keeping us more than busy in the following months and years. She has forthcoming, A Crash of Fate (Disney-Lucasfilm Press), the co-edited YA fantasy anthology, Vampires Never Get Old (Macmillan), and The Way to Fairyland (Scholastic), and Incendiary (Disney Hyperion)—the first novel in her Hollow Crown series. In a publishing world that has traditionally only seen Latinx authors as capable of creating the next Horatio-Alger-styled bildungsroman or magical realist extravaganza, Zoraida's near single-handed transformation of the publishing field shouts from rooftops that all readers deserve masterfully spun Latinx-informed fantasy narratives.
How does one create during a time when there's so much hostility toward and economic uncertainty for Latinxs today?
It's important to distinguish that some Latinx have more privilege than others. Of course as a group, Latinx people are being targeted. But who are the people that are being racially profiled on the streets, at work, and in their own neighborhoods? It's not always white-passing and affluent Latinxs. We have a rich history of storytelling. The majority of contemporary novels in the young adult space about Latinx people include immigrant and poverty narratives. It's important to create in spite of these things.
Can you share your journey to finding your voice in fiction (short stories and novels)—as opposed to other forms of expression such as poetry, comics, films, and nonfiction?
I did take several poetry classes when I was in school. I think like with anything, you know what you want to do. Not all artistic forms are the same. I knew I wanted to write novels since I was thirteen years old. That doesn't mean that I wouldn't want to see my work translated into films or comics, but it's a different form of storytelling.
Why fantasy as your main genre?
Fantasy and speculative fiction ask the question "What if?" I find that has infinite possibilities. That, and I've always found...