- InterventionsAn Interview with David Bowles
There’s a rich lineage of transformative critical-creative makers hailing from the Rio Grande Valley, Texas. I think readily of laudable veterano novelists (and PhDs) Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and Américo Paredes. I think readily of the magisterially generative poet, essayist, children’s book author (and PhD) Gloria Anzaldúa. I think readily of today’s avant-garde radiant visionaries Fernando A. Flores, Xavier Garza, René Saldaña Jr., Oscar Casares, Cecilia Ballí, and Álvaro Rodriguez. In their powerfully different forms they breathe vibrant and vital Latinx life into the minds of their readers and listeners.
Award winning author (and PhD) David Bowles exquisitely and abundantly adds to this family tree. David does so across all age groups and within all the storytelling forms: from novel, short story, and poetry to screenplays and graphic novels. He does so by traversing languages, ancient and new: from Spanish and Japanese to logo-syllabic languages of Nahuatl and Yucatec Mayan. He does so by reclaiming planetary pasts (pre-Columbian and Ancient Greek myths, for instance) to recreate for today and for our unforeseen futures. From his 2011 stories, The Seed, his kinetic translations of our ancient tongues in Flower, Song, Dance (2016) to his borderland-set MG/YA books like They Call Me Güero (2018), The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande (2019), and Rise of the Halfling King (2020), his words weave together into richly rendered storyworlds that invite our imaginations to dance across time, space, and the multidimensions of being. Indeed, these works and many others have met with laudatory praise, including from the Texas Institute of Letters, American Library Association, Texas Associated Press, and the Pura Belpré.
David’s creative skill and range is awe inspiring. He is young. Yet, his plentiful oeuvre makes the like genre-crossing and ever prolific Stephen King look slow-moving. I want to say that David is our Latinx Homer. But he’s more than that. David is our neplanterx warrior, constantly acting and creating “within and among multiple, often conflicting, worlds” (Anzaldúa) in ways that carve new spaces for us to imagine, experience, and exist. He is a Latinx critical-maker of the highest order.
Born and raised in the Rio Grande Valley, you decided to commit to a life of teaching and creating Latinx fiction. This is not a common story for Latinxs from the Valley.
You’re right. It’s not. There are even fewer of us with options to leave who instead chose to work and live here — to give back to our communities. When a few do make it as writers, the publishing industry tends to draw them away to other places.
Did you always know you wanted to become a teacher and a professional writer?
It started when I was a kid. Growing up I spent most of my time with the Mexican side of my family. (I only had one cousin on the white side that I didn’t get along with at all.) They were all storytellers, but it was Grandmother Garza who had us spellbound, telling us all kinds of scary stories like la Llorona.
I wanted to wield the magic of storytelling like Grandma Garza. I also wanted more stories. I wanted to know more. I wanted to go beyond the endings of her stories. She told me that if I wanted more that I’d have to learn to read. I did. I learned to read before I got into kindergarten.
I had other important role models. My dad was an avid reader of pulpy sci-fi, fantasy, horror short stories as well as Mexican historietas (comics, graphica). And I had a great teacher at Lincoln Junior High in McAllen who pulled the lid off of poetry for me. As this nerdy, half-Mexican/half-White kid struggling with all sorts of weird identity crises, poetry helped me find my voice.
Poetry was also my guide, taking me deeper into the literary canon. I knew that I wanted to be an English major at the university. I knew that I wanted to be a writer...