Fronteras Extra: Rudy Ruiz Asks Readers To 'Walk In Someone Else's Shoes For A Few Pages'
Award-winning writer Rudy Ruiz is a native of Brownsville who now lives in San Antonio. His writing employs magical realism, which is inspired by Gabriel García Márquez.
“When you first read his work you were just swept away and escape into this other world,” Ruiz said, “but the more you learn about what he was writing about, you realize he was making a lot of sweeping commentary about the ills that he saw in society, whether it was class-related or...political or the violence in his native country of Colombia.”
Ruiz was also inspired by African American writers including James Baldwin and Ralph Ellison. “(T)heir work was really, in many ways, a work of political protest.”
Ruiz realized that literature and fiction could open people’s eyes to diversity in their own communities. “And if you can get someone to walk in someone else's shoes for a few pages, then maybe you can get them to see an issue differently and get them to change their mind, maybe.”
Ruiz just signed a multi-book deal with Blackstone Publishing, which acquired the rights to his novel “The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez.” It will be published in 2020.
“(T)hen within another year or two, a second novel that I've written will be coming out,” Ruiz said. And they're both in the magical realism vein.”
Ruiz says his newer stories are inspired largely by stories of his past. “‘The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez’ was largely inspired by stories my dad would tell me growing up about his childhood on the border in the ‘50s,” said Ruiz, “being the first member of his family to ever attend college, (and) being the son of immigrants from Mexico.”
He says “Fulgencio” was written about 20 years ago. “I used to hear stories about writers having books published, and they'd say, ‘I worked on that book for a decade or two decades,’ and I'd say, ‘were they lazy?’ How can that happen? And then it happened to me!”
But Ruiz is grateful for the wait. Over the years, he saw a change in the publishing industry, which started embracing Latino perspectives.
“Twenty years ago, my agent actually had an editor from New York tell them, ‘This is a great book, but we can't publish it,’” said Ruiz. “My agent asked, ‘How come?’ and they said, ‘because Latinos don't read books.’”
Now publishers know Latinos read books, but more importantly, “other people are interested in our stories and our culture and understanding that culture better.”
Ruiz says in the past, most readers were able to consume literature from Latin American writers translated into English, but “though there are some cultural connections to our origins, they're not exactly our stories of life within the United States,” said Ruiz. “So I think it's great the more that our own stories — homegrown stories — are being exposed to the world.”