Episode 59 – The Nuyorican Hallway: Belonging & Living Between Worlds

A Conversation with J.L. Torres

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J.L Torres

My guest today is J.L. Torres (no relation), the author of Migrations, the inaugural winner of the Tomás Rivera Book Prize. His previous publications include another short story collection, The Family Terrorist and Other Stories; the poetry collection, Boricua Passport; and the novel, The Accidental Native. He has also published stories and poems in many journals and magazines. A Fulbright recipient, he recently retired as a scholar and professor of American literature, Latinx literatures, and creative writing. Born in Puerto Rico, raised in the South Bronx, he now lives in upstate New York.

His work focuses on the diasporican experience—living in the inbetweeness that forms and informs the Puerto Rican experience. He aims to go beyond issues of identity, although these are central to that experience. 

Through his writing, J.L Torres says he explores “what it means to live a life yearning for ‘belongingness’ at a time when you’re told nation and home are empty concepts, and you have no historical memory of what they ever meant.” He wants to explore what this means in a world becoming smaller and where geography cannot ground anything.

I’m very excited to share my conversation with J.L Torres. We dissect the central themes of his new book, Migrations, which is a collection of stories deeply rooted in the history of Puerto Rico, where he elevates the experiences of Othered individuals. This is a far-ranging conversation that spans colonialism, Nuyorican identity, Latine colorism, Critical Race Theory, trauma, healing, and much more.

We spoke on July the 2nd, of 2021.

You can learn more about J.L. Torres at: jltorreswriter.com

and follow him on Twitter: @rican_writer

In J.L. Torres’s second story collection Migrations, the inaugural winner of the Tomás Rivera Book Prize, a “sucio” goes to an underground clinic for therapy to end his machista ways and is accidentally transitioned. Ex-gangbangers gone straight deal with a troubled, gifted son drawn to the gangsta lifestyle promoted by an emerging music called hip-hop. Dead and stuck “between somewhere and nowhere,” Roberto Clemente, the great Puerto Rican baseball icon, soon confronts the reason for his predicament. These stories take us inside the lives of self-exiles, unhomed and unhinged people, estranged from loved ones, family, culture, and collective history. Despite the effects of colonization of the body and mind, Puerto Ricans have survived beyond geography and form an integral part of the American mosaic.

"J.L. Torres’s stunning collection Migrations abounds with lucid, spare stories about the Puerto Rican experience. Upon reading the first tale, I understood that I held a masterwork in my hands. Torres’s unsparing and radiant sentences accumulate into narratives that illuminate the loneliness of exile, unbelonging, and the necessary struggles to find love."
"Migrations showcases a major talent. It resonates with the music of hard-luck classics from our past, yet sings songs of evasive redemption."

Julián Esteban Torres López (he/him/his/él) is a bilingual, Colombia-born storyteller and culture architect with Afro-Euro-Indigenous roots. For two decades, Julián has worked toward humanizing those Othered by oppressive systems and dominant cultures. He is the creator of the social justice storytelling movement The Nasiona, where he also hosts and produces The Nasiona Podcast. He’s a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fictions nominee; a Trilogy Award in Short Fiction finalist; a McNair Fellow; and the author of Marx’s Humanism and Its Limits and Reporting On Colombia. His poetry collection, Ninety-Two Surgically Enhanced Mannequins, is available now. His work appears in  PANK MagazineInto the Void MagazineThe Acentos Review, Novus Literary and Arts Journal, Havic 2021: Inside Brilliance, among others. Julián holds a bachelor’s in philosophy and in communication and a master’s in justice studies from the University of New Hampshire and was a Ph.D. candidate at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, where he focused on political science and Latin American studies.

The Nasiona Podcast amplifies the voices and experiences of the marginalized, undervalued, overlooked, silenced, and forgotten, as well as gives you a glimpse into Othered worlds. We focus on stories that explore the spectrum of human experiencesstories based on facts, truth-seeking, human concerns, real events, and real people, with a personal touch. From liminal lives to the marginalized, and everything in between, we believe that the subjective can offer its own reality and reveal truths some facts can’t discover. Hosted, edited, and produced by Julián Esteban Torres López

Please follow The Nasiona on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook for regular updates: @TheNasiona

Original music for The Nasiona Podcast was produced by the Grammy Award-winning team of Joe Sparkman and Marcus Allen, aka The Heavyweights.
Joe Sparkman: Twitter + Instagram. Marcus Allen: Twitter + Instagram.

The Nasiona Magazine and Podcast depend on voluntary contributions from readers and listeners like you. We hope the value of our work to our community is worth your patronage. If you like what we do, please show this by liking, rating, and reviewing us; buying or recommending our books; and by financially supporting our work either through The Nasiona’s Patreon page or through Julián Esteban Torres López‘s Ko-fi donation platform. Every little bit helps.

Thank you for listening and reading, and thank you for your support.

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