The success that Laura Esquivel obtained with her first novel, Como agua para chocolate(Like Water for Chocolate), seemed like something taken from the pages of magical realism.
That is exactly the genre this 1989 book belongs to. The 1992 film version of the same name, written by Esquivel and directed by her then husband Alfonso Arau, captivated and enchanted people around the world.
Esquivel’s latest book, Escribiendo la nueva historia – Cómo dejar de ser víctima en 12 sesiones (Writing the New Story – How to Stop Being a Victim in 12 Sessions), can best be described as a self-help manual for how to turn one’s life around through reflection and writing. Published by Vintage Español, Esquivel spoke with us from her home in Mexico.
You are better known for your fiction than for your non-fiction. How did you come to writeEscribiendo la nueva historia?
Surely you are aware of what is going on in Mexico, the serious crisis that we have, and so years ago I decided, ‘I have to do something for my country, from where I am, from my own trench. We all have to.’ I became part of a social and political movement and ran for office. I kept a diary of the things I observed and the thoughts that I believe lead us to repeat situations that are unfavorable for us. Collective thoughts that make it possible for us to become victims. In 2010 and 2011, I brought a storytelling workshop to poor communities [in which the participants could reflect upon their own lives]. Suddenly, people wanted additional workshops that I thought, ‘I better turn this into a book so that it reaches more people.’
The book focuses on the person and on what he or she can do to improve themselves; you incorporate other issues -corruption, politics, poverty, etc. – through analysis and exercises.
Each personal story is linked to other stories. We play roles, let’s say, inside the scripts of others. But if a person’s script changes and they decide to really transform his or her life, the role and the scripts of others change automatically. If an oppressed person stops being oppressed, then the role of the oppressor has no space. The answer is to look at ourselves and consider why we keep repeating the same painful stories. Isn’t it possible to change, not to repeat them, to reach a different result?
Has writing been a form of therapy for you?
Of course, therapy and knowledge. Something truly magical happens when you connect with an idea and put it into words. Now, the issue here is not just to recognize an idea, but also to do something about it. To envision how we can go where we have to go.
About the author
Laura Esquivel is a writer, activist, scriptwriter and teacher. She was the first foreign author to receive the American Booksellers Book of the Year Award in 1994. In 2009, she ran as a candidate for local legislator of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD).