We’re joined today by novelist and essayist Ingrid Rojas Contreras, whose new book The Man Who Could Move Clouds combines memoir with rich storytelling and an excavation of family and Colombian history. We discuss magical realism as a nonfiction genre, why it’s useful to believe in ghosts, and ask the question, what responsibility do we owe to our pasts?
The Stacks Book Club selection for August is How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee. We will discuss the book on August 31st with Ingrid Rojas Contreras.
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Traci Thomas 0:08
Welcome to the Stacks, podcast about books and the people who read them. I’m your host Traci Thomas and on today’s episode, we are joined by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, and award winning author to talk about her new memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds. The book focuses on what her family called the secrets, their power to talk to the dead, tell the future, treat the sick and even move the clouds. And what happened when Ingrid’s amnesia experience was mistaken for an inherited extrasensory gift. Today we talk about this stunning memoir, the need to believe in ghosts and so much more. Quick reminder, everything we talked about on each episode of the stacks can be found in the link in the show notes. If you love the show, and want more of it, head to patreon.com/the stacks to join the stacks back. We’ve got bonus episodes, an active discord community, monthly book club meetups and much more. It’s also a great way for you to show your support for the work we do on this independent podcast every single week head to patreon.com/the stacks to join and shout out to our newest member Beverly Burgess and a huge thank you to every single person in the stacks pack. Alright, let’s get to it. My chat with Ingrid Rojas Contreras.
Alright, everybody, I am really excited. I am joined today by Ingrid Rojas Contreras, who is the author of the brand new The Man Who Could Move Clouds, which is her memoir. I want to talk about genre. But before we do, welcome to The Stacks.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 1:39
Oh, thank you. I’m so happy to be here.
Traci Thomas 1:41
I’m thrilled to have you. I took a lot of notes reading your book, because so many different things came up for me. So I’m going to try really hard to get to all of them. But if I don’t, I’m sorry. But where I want to start, I guess is where we sort of always start, which is can you just tell people a little bit about yourself?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 1:58
Yeah, I grew up in Colombia, and I came to the US when I was 17. I started to write I think right around then or trying, you know, taking it more seriously, then the first place that I lived in was Chicago, where the winter was completely shocking to me. And now luckily, I live in the Bay Area in San Francisco, where the weather is very agreeable.
Traci Thomas 2:27
I’m from the Bay Area. So it makes me happy that you’re there. I’m from Oakland. Oh, I love Oakland. Yeah, same. I want to talk about genre with you. Because this book is one of those like genre bending books. I feel like I was as I was reading it, I was writing down like at first I was like, oh, it’s an adventure story. And then I was like, Oh, it’s a coming of age story. And then I was like, Is this magical realism? Is that possible? Is that allowed in nonfiction? Like, I don’t know. So I want to know how much you, as you’re writing are thinking about genre? And if you’re not thinking about it, when you’re writing? Are you ever thinking about it? Or is that a job in your mind for someone else?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 3:09
Oh, I love this question. I think initially, I was just trying to follow the stories, it was revealing itself to me. And it did kind of begin with this, you know, Magical Quest that my onsen or two aunts and my mother got in a dream. So you know, so that it already has that kind of energy. Yeah. And I think that what I was trying to do was tell the story, how we would tell it to ourselves. And I think that one of the things that happens in literature that was maybe like a disservice to set South America was the understanding of magical realism as a fictional invention. And when I think a lot of the boom writers were in interviews, constantly talking about how it was world view based, and that, that those kinds of stories, you know, like, you know, to have a story like mine, for example, it was my grandfather, who people said could move clouds sounds like it belongs in a magical realism novel. And I think that what I wanted people to realize is that it’s the other way around, that magical realism actually resembles what life is like how we live our lives in in South America and like the stories that we tell that sense that we have as as South Americans have of you know, being in a in a very porous state and you know, having all this communion with, you know, family members who are gone and we continue to talk to them and have relationships with them. So, yeah, so I think I was just trying to be as faithful as possible to you So what that life was like, and I think that I was, though if the one thing that I was trying to be aware of was trying to keep it that instead of me mediating for someone who’s not from the culture, and you know, having kind of yeah, having that, I guess translation and be like, Yeah, I understand that this is not something that you may have lived or heard or experienced before. Yeah, so I think that was maybe like, the only thing that I was thinking about as I was, as I was drafting.
Traci Thomas 5:34
I want to come back to this, but I realized, I didn’t tell anybody what your book was about, I just dove in, and people are probably like, What the fuck are they talking about? So in your memoir, basically, you and your mother and your aunts and your cousin, kind of start this, start, start the journey to exhume your grandfather, because he’s come to them in a dream, essentially saying that that’s what he wants. And in addition to that, you and your mother have both had these, like near death experiences where you lose your memory. And so you’re sort of weaving together this, and then this adventure to your grandfather, both you and your mother’s experiences and how they’re related. And then also your grandfather’s work as a healer, in the community, etc. How did I do?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 6:20
Yeah, I think, you know, like, when I was writing this story, I, it was amazing to me how the story just kept getting bigger and bigger. I think initially, I was just like, I want to write a story that’s about good and dadoes. medicine people, my grandfather and my mother, were quidem videos. And that was the project of the book. And then I think, because it’s no more like a longer thing along the way things happen that I, you know, wasn’t planning for. But one of them was that I yeah, I was in this accident in a bike accident, and I lost my memory. And when I, when my memories returned, I remembered that my mother had had an accident and that she had also lost her memory. And so in because I was writing a book that had to do with stories repeating across generations. So no things that had happened in my grandfather’s life that then happened in my mother’s life, that when I had that parallel between me and my mother, suddenly that became the story. And that felt like a lot to hold in one book. And then as I was getting ready to be like, Okay, that’s the book that I’m writing. It’s about healers. And it’s about amnesia, like the end, my two of my aunts, and then my mom had this shared dream, where my grandfather came to each of them, and said, I want my remains to to be moved. And I remember that week of, you know, one of them called the other to tell like, I dreamt this thing. And then my aunt would be like, What do you mean, I thought the same thing? Because it happened to three of them. We, we were like, Okay, well, let’s like a peer reviewed, style dream. And so we have to do it. So then the memoir became like, okay, it’s about putting videos and losing your memory. And now we’re going to Columbia to a nurse, my grandfather who this book is about. So it’s just kind of all happened in that very wild way. And I think I tried to write the book that way too, because it felt like such a. Yeah, such a wild confluence of of things.
Traci Thomas 8:41
You were so your accident was like 10 years ago?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 8:45
Yeah. to seven. Yeah. So even more.
Traci Thomas 8:49
So you were already writing this book? If you had a version of this book, in 2007.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 8:55
Yeah, I was trying to, you know what I did over and over again, since then. So I was trying to write the beginning of the memoir. And it was something I just always knew that I wanted to write about my grandfather. Oh, yeah. So it must have been after, because I it’s been like, seven years before. When the book came out. I was trying to write the beginning of the memoir over and over again. So I have this folder in my computer. That’s just, you know, trying to do chapter one. And there’s like, there’s maybe like, yeah, 50 of them or something.
Traci Thomas 9:34
Oh, my gosh. So how did you know when this chapter one was right?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 9:38
I think that it just had to do with you know what I’m saying? Like there’s so many layers to the story, and I had to figure out how to introduce amnesia couldn’t DeRose and like this travel thing. Main thing. I actually wrote it when I was in tour for my novel, is I was I was like an airplanes and in hotel rooms and there was one one of those days where I suddenly figured it out. And just I knew in my body that it was the right order and like the right way to tell it. And once I found that door, then I wrote the rest of the memoir. So yeah, it happens very quickly after that. So yeah, so we wrote the beginnings, you know, for seven years. And then since 2018, through pandemic, I wrote the rest of the novel, or the memoir, did you?
Traci Thomas 10:33
So your first book that came out was a novel? And now this is a memoir? Did you ever worry, or have feelings about doing fiction or nonfiction? Or were you pressured to stick to fiction? Or was there any like conversation around that? In your experience?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 10:50
I was lucky that I didn’t hear any of those concerns. And I think I was just very excited about the two stories. And I’ve never felt limited by that boundary. Like I don’t, I don’t, when I see an author do different things, I don’t have any response to it. I’m just excited about what they’re doing. Yeah, so I think for myself, I just didn’t, I didn’t have that feeling. Both my agents and my editor, when I told them about it were like, very excited. And they also didn’t give me yeah, there wasn’t like any, any one comments about me switching genre at all. So it always felt very, like the natural thing to do.
Traci Thomas 11:38
I like that. I also, I think if you do it well, I don’t think it matters. I do have feelings about people switching when they do it not Well, yeah, I think it’s more just that I have feelings about people doing things not well. Yeah, I mean, like, it’s more just like, I wasted time reading this book. I hate it. But I think if you could do it, you could do it. But I also think this book, the man who can move clouds, like you were saying that magical realism is real life. And it’s not isolated to fiction. I think that was what I really enjoyed about this book, is that it felt like the way that you were telling the story felt like how you would tell a fiction story. And so it was really easy to, like, get immersed into and I think I love nonfiction. But I think people who struggle with nonfiction struggle with the rigidity of it or like that it’s boring. And in this book, I really was like, I’m on this adventure story. Like, I’m learning interesting things. Oh, here’s a little bit of history. Like, it was like you were finding ways to like, bring it all in. And so even though this book is nonfiction, it feels like fiction. Do you know what I mean? Does that make sense?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 12:49
No, I yeah, I know what you mean. I think often the world building can be very hard, especially for parts where you’re not in it. And I think that I was very lucky that I could, you know, for example, when I’m like describing my mother’s amnesia, what that what that was like, she, my mother is someone who tells me stories constantly, and she loves to repeat the story. But she’s such a good storyteller that I sometimes I just let her do it. And I just like, listen to a story that I’ve, that I’ve listened to a lot. And I just let her do it. Because it’s so good. So I just, I really had the privilege of a lot of the stories that I’m telling in the book, I’ve heard at least 20 times. And then even aside, so you know, when somebody tells you a story over and over again, what can happen is that the details of the world building start to emerge. You know, like the first time that they tell it, they might just tell you like the the plotline. And then if they tell you the story a second time, they might tell you like, oh, it was sunny that day, right? Like, slowly, the details start to emerge. And I also, you know, as I was writing, if there was ever something that I wasn’t sure about, I could just call her and say like, Oh, I just wrote this was it like this? And sometimes she would correct me and say, like nose, I would actually describe it like this. So it was a very, because I had like that closeness and I felt like I could, I could really do it. And then whenever in the memoir, there’s I’m quoting my grandfather. I’m actually quoting my mother quoting my grandfather. So yeah, so I really had like a lot of fun gathering. Like all of those. Yeah, all of the the materials and the interviews and figuring out what parts of history it could speak to the memoir. It was just like very, it was incredibly fun to do.
Traci Thomas 14:50
I love that. One of the things that you talk about sort of later in the book, or maybe it’s in the middle, it’s in the second half. When you talk about why Americans don’t believe in ghosts. And I thought that it was like, so I mean, I’m an American, so I’m capable of making everything about me, which is one of my passion projects is to make everything about me. But I would love to talk a little bit about that, because I just like, you talked about, like, the hidden like how history ghost stories and like, I don’t know, just Would you talk about that? Because estimating?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 15:24
Yeah, I was just thinking about how different you feel about your life, if you do believe in ghosts, or you, you have that very useful framework of ghosts, what it means is that you have a literal relationship to the past. And you really have this very literal relationship to what your ancestors said, or if you’re mixed, and you have that literal, you know, relationship within yourself of like, what that means. And in Colombia, we have this this national you know, ghost story that we have, where we, there’s there’s treasures that are, have been buried, and if they’re all there from Colombia, colonial times, and we say that they’re cursed, and they’re called guac. Us, so people who in the present who tried to like under that, and, you know, they just, you know, enters it without being careful that you can get infected by like a ghost gold fever. And you know, as, as a storyteller, like listening to that story, I can both hold someone’s experience of us telling me what that was, like, like I was interviewing, or just actually talking to this waiter in nero, Kenya, where were all of the memoir takes place. And he was telling me that his uncle dug up one of these cars, stretchers and chant the treasures. And that since then, he started to be haunted by like the gold. So I should say, so like, Here, he like dug up where the treasure would be. And there was nothing there. So like the, the the treasure disappeared, there’s nothing there. Right. And then since then, he started to hear the sound of gold coins falling. And he would kind of like dig up wherever he heard the sound, because he felt like the treasure was was calling him. So so we say that that’s like the ghost gold fever. And to me, that’s like a very literal connection to the past and to thinking about how, how, what that was, like, in colonial times, you know, how, you know what, what happened to all of the resources and all of the Colombian tribes and how they were robbed of their belongings and their treasure, and Spain’s class for gold that really kind of invited a lot of violence to the to the country. So that goes story is a way for anyone to kind of be aware of what that is of like that greed. And yeah, so I think in the US, I hear a lot of denial of history. So I hear a lot of-
Traci Thomas 18:07
That’s like the understatement of the year. Yeah.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 18:09
Denial of history. And I think it makes sense to me, that people also don’t believe in ghosts, because if you if there can’t even be like an acceptance of like, this is what happened, then we can even begin to, you know, deal with think about embrace, you know, look back to have a relationship with, what the history is, and what our what our places in that are like what the context is. So I really think it’s the difference between living and then feeling like you are connected and part of a lineage and being aware of the dangers and like the good parts of that lineage, or just thinking that you live in isolation, and that you’re unique. And that history is now and has never happened before. Which I which I think is like a lot of Americans, you know, tend to think that way.
Traci Thomas 19:06
Yeah. And I think that also with that, like, in addition to not having this connection to the past, there’s also no responsibility to the past or the future, right? Oh, it’s like how you can be in a place where there, you know, there’s a not everybody but that there’s a large fraction of people in America who don’t believe in global warming, it’s like because you don’t feel responsible to the land or the people who have come before you or who will come after you. And I just, I found that part of your book, it really clicked to me. Because also what you’re saying is like in Colombia, there’s a cultural belief in the history in the past, whereas in America when I think of ghosts it’s so often like Do you believe in ghosts individual, you know, it’s not like oh, we as a nation believe, you know, like, like, I never thought about ghosts much until my father passed away and I’m like, Oh, yes, there are definitely ghosts like, but that’s because there is no greater cultural conversation around ghost stories. And so it’s something that I had to experience for myself. Yeah. It’s just Yeah.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 20:12
Interesting. I, yeah, I think that the the idea of like thinking about on things like creating a haunting, that it can change the way that you, you’re in relationship with people in the world, you know, like, it might change, like, well, I don’t want to wrong this person, because I don’t want them to haunt me, you know? Right, right. I know that my people in my lineage did this. And therefore, I need some kind of reckoning with this to like, appease or to meet what happens before. And so I feel like the the framework of ghosts is something that provides a process and a structure to be in conversation with the past. And also, you know, thinking about how we want to be in the future.
Traci Thomas 21:01
Yeah. Because you can you person, or people or family can reconcile, you know, wrongdoings and other things in your life that maybe your ancestors had done, or vice versa, like something that they’ve done great that you get to bring forward like, it connects to you. Yeah, yeah. It’s such a powerful way.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 21:21
And I think it’s so needed. And I would have heard often is, without that was my grandfather, I didn’t do it. Like, why should I have to do anything about this? But yeah, but if with the framework of ghosts, then we certainly can think about what are the debts that we inherit? And how can we kind of begin to think about those stats? What what gestures might need, might we do now to appease you know, the ghosts that are following us? So it really kind of provides this Yeah, this this beautiful, it can be like a very beautiful place to, to think about those things.
Traci Thomas 22:01
Right? I mean, hearing you just say debts, like it’s making me think of how, you know, there’s like good debt and like bad debt. And it’s making me think of how like, being born with some sort of debt that is connected to your family line is actually a really beautiful thing, because it gives you some purpose in life, right? Like, you could use that as a motivation for something in your own lifetime and pass that on, you know, I like that a lot, actually. And I never your book really, like opened up my thinking to what is possible and what is necessary when it comes to generational responsibility? I guess. That’s how I would put it. I love your books. I want to ask you, so in the book, when you’re in your bike accident, you mentioned that you were translating something. And I’m curious if you have any interest to translate books from Spanish to English or English to Spanish, and if so, are there any that you’re particularly interested in doing?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 23:02
I yeah, I love translation. I think that I Yeah, it’s something that I want to do. And the I started to translate, I think the the things that I was playing with it. So I started to translate some of our net these stories. And he’s the Chilean writer. Is his name. I can’t remember his name. Is it?
Traci Thomas 23:30
I’ll put it in the show notes. Yeah. I’ll find it. I’ll put it in the show. Yeah.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 23:35
And I love there’s there’s some short stories that he has that are very airy. And part of the thing that is very attractive to me is that it seems like they’re, they work very well in Spanish. And I’m not sure how they would work in English. So that feels like a very interesting problem to me. Yeah. So I think I would probably be attracted to this to the stories where like, the language seems like it’s just made for Spanish and then having that creative problem of how do you actually make this work for for English would be really fun to figure out. So I think in the future, definitely, I will try it out.
Traci Thomas 24:15
Okay, that’s exciting. One of the other things I want to talk about about the book and then we have to transition is gender. And like what’s allowed and this idea of like deviance and secret keeping and you know, what’s okay and what’s not okay for women and men. How, how did you approach that part of the story because I feel like there’s a version in which it reflects poorly on, on people, you know, like, where it’s like this this community or like people in Colombia have a close minded view or something. And then there’s the version that you did, where it’s actually like really expansive, so I’m wondering how you kind of went into that And we’re able to make something that made that kind of opened up the conversation instead of shutting it down, which I think so often happens when we talk about gender in South America.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 25:12
I think I was, I was trying, I mean, it just gender very, at the beginning just came into the story. And the first kind of inkling that I had that gender would have a lot to do with this story was that in my father, my grandfather’s tradition of putting vadose because he came from a whole lineage of men who had been put on dedos, the women couldn’t be initiated into into that knowledge. And there was this belief that if a woman was initiated, then some disaster would happen. So I, you know, already had a lot of questions about what why that is, or like, is that a real thing? Or like, where does that actually come from? And to have my mother know, through her accident, where she, I guess we should say, she she fell down, uh, well, that was empty, and she hit her head. And that’s how she got amnesia was from that accident. That accident was also when she woke up from it, she could, she started to see ghosts and hear voices. So in the family, my, my grandfather would have never taught her how to be a good and data. And it was only because of this accident and her her starting to see and hear ghosts that he, you know, he and everyone in the family said like the accident was the portal into this knowledge for her. And so it just kind of came to her on its own naturally. And then he started to show her things. So I really love this idea of Yeah, seeing right away, but there’s like a forbidding like, women are not allowed into this. And and banned, like if if women are are allowed, things will go wrong. And then having and my mother is someone who is I mean, as just happened, but she kind of infiltrated that and then became became a coordinator. How that charted everything else that I was thinking about in the memoir, or how, you know, in what ways are the are the women in the book, limited by the culture? And then in what ways? Are they breaking through? Or what is that meeting with those limitations? And what does that look like? So yeah, so it started very early on. And I think I also in the book, there’s like, a lot of men who initially felt about it one way, and then through the memoir changed their opinion about what it is. And that seems important to me to have in the book. Because I, I mean, I think that we have a lot of stories about men doing something wrong. And we don’t have enough stories about what it looks like for a man to do something wrong. And then over time, change. Right?
Traci Thomas 28:15
Right. Yeah. It’s so interesting. Okay, I’m saving a lot of my questions about how you approach writing for our conversation later about our book club pick, which is how to write an autobiographical novel by Alexander chi. So we’re going to kind of pause this stuff because I have a lot of questions that I think are going to come up from that and we’re going to quickly take a break and then we’ll be right back. All right, everyone, you well know it is summertime which means it is the season of long car rides, which means it is the season of audiobooks. My favorite audio book platform is libro FM, they are the best. They allow you to buy your audiobooks from your favorite indie bookstore. They have an incredible selection of books, and they offer a monthly membership that allows you to purchase any additional books at a discount. But more than anything else, I love libro FM because they support independent bookstores, communities, authors and even little podcasters. Like me, every single purchase you make through libral FM supports an indie bookstore of your choosing. So yeah, if you’ve got a road trip ahead, or you’re planning some nice long summer walks, check out libro FM, the best audio book platform out there. If you’ve never tried libro FM, you can get two audiobooks for the price of one when you use the code, the stacks all one word at checkout, head to libra.fm and use the code the stacks at checkout to get two audiobooks for the price of one. Did you know there’s a way to get even more of the stacks it’s called the stacks pack and it’s accessible only through Patreon. The Sax pack allows you inside access to this podcast, things like bonus episodes, monthly virtual book club meetups, and it’s just a great place for book lovers to connect and talk all things books, the stacks, snacks and even the back slurp if that’s your thing, I created the stacks in the hopes of carving out a space to talk about books with people who love to read. I also wanted to make sure that our bookish corner would feature the books and authors that excited me, not the same kinds of books that every celebrity Book Club was picking, or every streaming service was optioning for the screen. Since 2018. I’ve been lucky enough to do that week in and week out. I’ve also been able to make this show as an independent podcast, which means I do not have the backing of major media companies like Spotify, crooked media, Apple, podcasts, Stitcher or whatever, I get to create a show that I love without oversight from companies with other agendas. That being said, it also means I do it without the financial backing of said companies. It’s a lot harder to compete with the big podcasts out there, because it’s just me, my wonderful editor Christian and our Team Admin Lauren, three people. That’s it, I count on the support of listeners like you to join the stacks pack on Patreon and put their money behind this black woman created and run book podcast. Joining Mr. X pack starts at just $5 a month. And if you love this show, and you believe in the show, please please please consider supporting the stacks on Patreon. Head to patreon.com/the stacks to join. Okay, we’re back and I did not prepare you for this. But this is our Ask the stack segment where someone’s written in for a book recommendation. So I’m gonna read what they said. And then you’re gonna tell us a book recommendation. And I’ll also tell us one too, though I picked this one specifically for you because I was like, I think Ingrid will have an answer that I would not think of. So Jolene asks, I’ve read and loved home going Pachinko and the mountain saying, I’d love a book recommendation for another multi generational family story where at least half of the book is set in a country other than the United States. I obviously thought this was good for you because your book is multigenerational and it’s set not in the United States. So I will give a few if you want to take a second to think and then you can go. So the first so first of all, I should say this, the two two of the books that I have for you, I have not read in a very long time. So I actually don’t know how I feel about them anymore. But the first one is cutting for stone by Abraham Verghese which is this book about these two twins and and it’s about it’s takes place in Ethiopia. And one of them’s a doctor, and he’s dealing with women who are giving birth and having fistulas. And while I don’t remember much about the actual book, I just know that I really loved this book. And I like whenever I think about it. I’m like, oh, cutting for stone and I know that I like read Abraham brigades his memoir after because I loved it so much. So that’s one. The second one I did not like but everyone who I know has read it loved it is The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s a little fictiony for me, but it’s about a family who’s in Calcutta. They moved to the United States. It’s an arranged marriage. They have a son, Google. They people love the book. It was my NYU freshman year, like mandatory read. So I read it in 2004. And I don’t remember it at all. Except for that. I thought it was boring. However, literally every other person on the face of the earth thinks it’s fantastic. And then the last one is the arsonist city by Hala Apollyon. I hope I did that. Right. And it’s about these three siblings and their parents. And they the dad is like trying to sell the family house and they have to go to the family house which is in Libya. Did I make that up? I can’t remember anyways, it’s somewhere. I can’t remember it. Maybe it’s Libya. Maybe it’s not. It’s no, it’s Lebanon. It’s Lebanon. Sorry, everyone. Anyways, so it’s family drama, multigenerational. A lot of it is set in Lebanon. Okay, Ingrid, what do you have for us?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 33:48
I was thinking, the god of small things by you, right. And, yeah, I just felt like, I still remember the experience of what it was like to open that book. So the first page for the first time, and I can still recall what that first sentence was like, and how it just affected me and just, I could feel everything in my body. And I just love the language in that in that book so much. And it’s one of the things that I really love this how political that book is, and how much it is still situated in like the point of view of young people in the first half of the book. I think I’ve read that one maybe like a few times, like maybe four times. Such a beautiful novel.
Traci Thomas 34:44
Great. Okay. Julene if you read any of our suggestions, let us know what you think and everybody else if you want a book recommendation from the show, email, ask the stacks at the stacks. podcast.com All right, Ingrid, you’re officially in the stacks question hotseat, we always start here to book Do you love one book you hate?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 35:01
Okay. I just like immediately go into the ones that I hate. Love it- On the road,
Traci Thomas 35:10
Cormac McCarthy or whatever. Oh, sorry.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 35:13
The Jack Kerouac.
Traci Thomas 35:14
Oh, Jack Kerouac. Oh, that’s right. The road is Robert McCarthy on the road is okay.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 35:21
I just can’t I just can’t stand it.
Traci Thomas 35:25
I’ve never read it. You’re not the first person to say that book. Yeah. But people hate.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 35:31
It’s just, I just don’t think that it stands up to the test of time. It just feels like, I mean, it’s about male friendship, there’s a lot of sexism. And it doesn’t, you know, it feels very energetic. But it has like this vague energy to it. So it feels like vaguely energetic. And I don’t know, I just, I just don’t don’t like that book at all. Postcolonial love poem, by Natalie Diaz is a book that I love. And I reread it a bunch of times, during pandemic, Natalie Diaz was telling me that she wrote a lot of it it while in the bathtub, and she’s a little bit of a bathtub writer. And I tend I read that book over and over again, in the bathtub. So I feel like the bathtub is the place to be.
Traci Thomas 36:28
I’m a big bathtub reader. So now I’m like, maybe I should read that in the bathtub. And we can all talk about our bath.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 36:36
Yeah, it’s like all about it. Just it tries to think about water, and what water means in the land and in our bodies and history, and just all of these very beautiful connections. So I feel like if you’re in water reading postcolonial love poem, it’s just just such an amazing experience. And then the other book that I really love, that has just been like a favorite for a long time is photo parliamo by Juan Ruffo. Have you read this one? No. It’s yeah, it’s one of the books that like every understand Mark has always said that this that Panama was just like such a huge inspiration for him and for 100 years of solitude. And it’s just, it’s this wonderful novel, where you’re not sure who is living and who is dead. It’s so good.
Traci Thomas 37:33
Can I ask you a question about 100 100 years of solitude? Yeah. So that’s a Colombian novel, you’re from Colombia? Is that one of those books in school? Like how The Great Gatsby is here? Where they like, make you read it? Or is it just a book where they make you read it in America to be like, Look, people in Colombia write novels, like was it a part of your education? Or is it just something that I think of? Because of the way that it’s taught here?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 37:57
Yeah, we read it we and we read a lot of The Guardian Garcia Monica says books. And I think something that happened in Colombia and maybe to a degree still happens is that the some an officer who achieves success overseas, then automatically achieved success in the country. And so there’s like this still this like very kind of like colonized mentality to literature. And yeah, so yeah, for that reason, it feels a little weird, just because up until then, Governor Garcia Marquez was so you know, actually published the same book, and then it wasn’t super recognized. And then once it achieved success abroad, then it’s like, everybody got excited about it. Yeah. But so we read it. I loved reading it. In high school. And yeah, we read a lot of his other work, too.
Traci Thomas 38:58
Okay. That’s interesting to know. It’s very interesting to bet. Okay. What’s the last book you read? That was great.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 39:06
The last book that I read, that was great. hurricane season.
Traci Thomas 39:11
Oh, okay. I haven’t read that yet. I’ve heard good things. I’ve heard things. I have it. It’s it’s Fernanda
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 39:19
Traci Thomas 39:20
Not sure. Yeah.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 39:22
It’s just I think what I love about it is that it starts with this. It sounds like it’s a myth that you’re reading about a witch in the forest. And it has this language to it that you you do feel like you’re in in in like a Yeah, a little bit of a ghost story. You’re not sure like where you are entirely. And then as the book goes along, everything starts to get more and more real. And you realize that there’s you know, there’s there’s a lot of violence, you’re in a real village, the witch is actually someone who’s like, yeah, so So I love the way that it’s Elon Musk kind of gathers all of this focus and like, wait. And yeah, the language is amazing. The translation is beautiful.
Traci Thomas 40:10
You read it? Do you read books in Spanish in Spanish? Or in English? Or both? Or just whatever comes to your house? Or like, how do you decide?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 40:18
Yeah, sometimes I will. I guess it depends if I can get my hands on the Spanish, then I will read the Spanish. And there’s been times where I pick up the translation, and I just have a feeling that it’s a bad translation. And then we’ll do my best to get the original.
Traci Thomas 40:34
How do you what, what is that feeling? You start reading the translation, and you’re like, this book sucks. It must be the translation or like, how do you know if it’s the translation? Or if it’s the original? Like, I’m so curious.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 40:45
Yeah, I think sometimes with a translation. It’s like, sometimes the writing can feel a little flat. And I think we’re like the translation is good. But like, there’s, there’s something about like, the quality of writing that is just not coming across. So for that, I tend to be like, I think that this is a bad translation, and I need to look at the original. But I haven’t been wrong. I haven’t been wrong. Okay.
Traci Thomas 41:11
So next time I read a book in translation, and I think it’s flat. I’m gonna be like, hey, Ingrid, is this just the translation? And my, the problem is, I can’t then switch to Spanish, in Spanish, so I’m just stuck with it. What are you reading right now?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 41:26
I was I just finished Christopher Soto’s poetry book, diaries of a terrorist. Do you know Christopher Seto, he’s one of the people who started and Docu poets.
Traci Thomas 41:38
No, I don’t. Yeah, I’m not really big into poetry. I’m trying I try. But I’m not a poetry person. Like last year, I set a goal to read at least one poem a day is like a practice. And I did it except for one day, I forgot. But I haven’t been reading as much poetry this year. I just, I feel so dumb. And so it’s really like, it’s really hard. You know, when you’re reading something, and you feel stupid, you’re just like, I don’t want to do this because I feel bad about myself. Why do you feel that way? Because I feel like I don’t understand things or like My mind wanders. Like, I really like a plot, I just I struggle with something that I’m like working on, but I don’t like gravitate towards poetry, you know.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 42:20
And I think when I first started to read poetry, I think what clicked it open for me is that I started to read to myself out loud. I do that. Okay, so that really helped. And then there’s, there’s a complete experiential part of it, that is just really what you’re getting from the language. And it’s not really about like, right or wrong, but it’s about what that your relationship to the poetry. Right. And I think, yeah, for me, like, trying to live there, has created an experience where I just really enjoy what I’m reading. And yeah, you can like, I think, eventually you start to really understand, understand that and it really starts to speak to you.
Traci Thomas 43:08
Yeah, I also, I feel like for me with poetry, like, as a beginner or whatever, whatever that means. I feel like the poems that I read, it’s really helpful when I can, like relate to the author. Like sometimes if I go back and I like try to read like Walt Whitman or something. I’m like, I don’t this is not for me. So like, I’ve I try really hard to like read authors who are, who are poets who are posting about things that I am really interested in? Are you curious about? Because some, yeah, because otherwise, I’m just like, I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know you’re talking about. Anyways, tell us about the the Soto book you were just mentioning.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 43:54
Yeah. So it’s, it’s a book that it’s about immigration, there’s like so many poems about immigration that are very beautiful. And it’s found the language to be very captivating. Yeah, I just really enjoyed it. And I was just reading it on the plan. And I just love to read poetry on the plane or like when you’re traveling, I just feel like it’s the perfect amount, you know, before I have to go and do something else.
Traci Thomas 44:24
Right? What are some books that you’re looking forward to reading? They don’t have to be brand new. That could just be books that you’re like, really eager to get to? Or they can be brand new, whatever you want.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 44:37
I just got at the swimmers. So I love that book. Okay. Yeah, I just like picked it up yesterday, I think. So.
Traci Thomas 44:50
When you’re on your book tour, which you are right now, do you end up buying a bunch of books because you got all these stores?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 44:55
Yeah, I did because I ended up going to the bookstores and the night ended up having In Conversations With the booksellers, about what they’re reading and what they recommend, and so inevitably, I just end up getting a bunch of which is great. I mean, it’s great. I’m not complaining. It’s great. I’ve learned to just make space in my bag. Right? When I return, I know that I will be coming back with some some books.
Traci Thomas 45:23
I love that. I know that you read a lot. How do you pick your next book? Like, do you read reviews? Do you just listen to friends? Is it a bookseller thing? Like what? What gets you to buy a book or pick up a book?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 45:37
Yeah, I think yeah, if friends tell me that, they’re very excited about something. I will I will get it. And yeah, talking to booksellers is another way. I yeah, I think I trust those more. Or like, those are the things that usually get me very excited. Browsing and just seeing covers. I’m very like, yeah, I love doing that. And just picking up something that for some reason, is just calling to me. And I think that once I’m home, and I’m trying to decide between all of you know that TBR stack, I do this thing where I just wave my hands around. And I try to like figure out energetically which is the one that feels good.
Traci Thomas 46:23
Oh my god, that’s so funny. Wait, what what I was just reading wasn’t your book. It was someone it was some book. I can’t remember what they’re talking about, like a magic trick and how like when you feel the deck get hot or whatever. Oh, it was an Alexander cheese book. I’m like, what was I just reading? Like, that’s what you do to pick your next book your hand? Yeah, it’s hot. And you’re like, I love that I can I read so many things. Like sometimes getting these like just read read read zones, where it’s like, I’ll read four different books that are like kind of related. And then I’m like, I have no idea what book I heard this from. What’s a book that you like to recommend to people?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 47:00
One that I like to recommend to people? I mean, I think I recommend for for anyone who’s writing or writer, I always recommend Aleksander cheese Hutterite, another autobiographical novel, because I just think it’s just such a beautiful book to think about writing and to think about the life from the writer and like the connection between those things. And it’s also like a craft book. It’s just so beautiful. For nonfiction, I always just end up recommending a woman warrior. I don’t know that. Oh, by Maxine Hong Kingston.
Traci Thomas 47:39
Have you ever faced one?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 47:40
Yeah, it’s a memorial that it’s like the subtitle of it. It’s like a childhood among ghosts. And it starts with the selling of Kingston’s aunt on her dad’s side who nobody talks about, who got pregnant by someone who wasn’t her husband. And so she, you know, is a very shameful thing. And she ended up committing committing suicide. And so she’s like this unnamed ghost. And so the story begins with thinking about who are the unnamed women? And this kind of like, project of like, what, what what does it mean to like, name these women. So it’s like a very beautiful, very just beautiful, beautiful book. Also, like feels very much like, like fiction, because it is kind of building the world in that very full way. And it’s dealing with with ghosts, but you know, but in memoir, yes, I love that one. I always recommend that one.
Traci Thomas 48:50
All right. And then what’s your ideal reading setup? Where are you? What time of day? Do you have snacks or beverages, like, set the scene for Ingrid’s best reading day ever?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 49:04
Okay, I have to two things. So sometimes I will go back and forth. But I have I don’t know if you can see but I have like this in the corner. It’s like this hammock that’s hanging here.
Traci Thomas 49:15
Oh, I can’t see it. But I love this.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 49:18
I have it hanging up and right now it’s like folded so just takes up no space. If I want to hang it, I just unhook it and then hang it across the room into this other hook that’s across the way so it’s just like hanging in the middle of my writing room. And I just I love reading and a hammock is just the best just like this very like you’re just kind of held by the hammock itself and you can just like roll up in it a little bit and just it’s just like very comfortable. So really loves that. And then I just I love being in the bathtub as well. Yes. So sometimes like I think that perfect reading they might be I start in the hammock and then you know, I get like a little achy. I’m like, Oh, my back hurts because I’ve been in this one position and then I go to the bath and read and then I come back to the hammock.
Traci Thomas 50:11
I love it. I love it. Are there snacks and beverages involved?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 50:14
Yeah. i Yeah, I’m obsessed with Lacroix. Okay. Yeah.
Traci Thomas 50:21
What’s your flavor? What’s your go to?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 50:24
Traci Thomas 50:25
Yes, iconic. That’s the one.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 50:30
and then I think nuts and like oranges.
Traci Thomas 50:34
Okay, you’re you’re a healthy snack or I am yeah, difficult for me to relate to. I have to say this is like I think this might sound crazy, but I went to Colombia and I got a hammock so I think of Colombia as a hammock place because I got a hammock there of course and now you saying that it’s making me feel like perhaps I was right.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 50:58
is pretty much a hammock place. Like my dad. I think he grew up like sleeping in a hammock.
Traci Thomas 51:05
Oh really? Oh, so it’s like part of it’s not just me being a tourist and like being in downtown Carter Haim and being like, I want to him.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 51:14
Yeah, it’s like a very it’s a very comfortable saying. Yeah, people up and like sleeping in it for 1000s of years. They’re beautiful. We just Yeah, we love hammocks. I think my aunt has this huge hammock that like six people can be in it. It just like so big. Yeah, but then you can all just be in the hammock. It’s just my habits are amazing.
Traci Thomas 51:39
I’m with you. I love a hammock. I love a hammock. Okay, we’ll do our quick little speed round which is what’s the last book that made you laugh?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 51:47
Last book that made me laugh? Oh, prayers of the stolen. Okay. Have you ever won?
Traci Thomas 51:54
Okay, yeah, we have you and I have like no reading overlap. I feel like I’ve read nothing that you’ve read. Which is fine. I always need to be adding to my TBR What’s the last book that made you cry?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 52:07
Maybe? Yeah, it was a reading. Beloved by Toni Morrison. I just recently read I hadn’t read it before.
Traci Thomas 52:16
I’ve read that so that’s our overlap below. We did an episode of beloved on for the book club on this show. And it is probably my favorite book club episode ever. It is demerits Hill, I’m I am the idiot on the episode but to mares Hill, just holy cow. She like breaks the book wide open. It’s so good. Anyways, what’s the last book where you felt like you learned a lot?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 52:41
I think Lester ring linings book I just really love her sense of, of pace and rhythm in that book. And I think the the way that she would all that she was doing with language was just amazing. So I think that I I was reading and I felt like I was learning a lot from it.
Traci Thomas 53:02
I love that. What about a book that you’re embarrassed that you’ve never read?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 53:08
Versus I’ve never read? I don’t know, I came to like writing later in life. So I don’t have Yeah, and I you know, I think that I learned a lot of writing from like oral storytelling, actually. So I think that there’s there’s actually like a lot of like, classic books that I haven’t read. But I the ones that I’ve been trying to focus on is I was trying to read off Toni Morrison’s books. I haven’t read Love, which is one that I really wanted to read. But I don’t know if I have like a sense of embarrassment about any of the ones that I haven’t read.
Traci Thomas 53:45
Right. Yeah, I get that. Okay, what’s your favorite book about where you’re from?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 53:55
I think recently, Patricia angles. Last book, you know, Patricia angles.
Traci Thomas 54:04
But I don’t know the last book. I’ll link it in the show notes though. So we’ll put some in there.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 54:09
I’m forgetting the name for some reason right now. But it’s it’s a novel and it’s about a girl who is in this correctional school. And she, you know, has to has to flee. And it’s like this. It’s a book about like her journey. And I just really love you know, Patricia angle in general. As as a writer who’s like writing about Colombia? Yes. It’s probably like, among my favorite. I would also say, liking Tana was a writer from the Caribbean, like in you know, have the hand I think she’s from Corinthian. And she her book is called labayda which I in English, I think it was translated to the pitch. And it’s just like this. It’s a beautiful novel about what life is like for women at the coast? And it’s a lot about grief and race and gender. And it’s just, it’s like, it’s beautiful. It’s a beautiful book.
Traci Thomas 55:12
Okay, I only have two questions left. If you were a high school English teacher, what book would you make your class read?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 55:24
I think that would I would probably choose Clarice Lispector just to see what happens. Like, what happens if I just like give them like the star? Like what would happen? I don’t know.
Traci Thomas 55:38
I don’t know that book. So I don’t know what that means. But it sounds very deviant of you. I’m very interested. Okay, and this is the last one. I stole it from the New York Times by the book. If you were could require the current president of the United States to read one book, what would it be?
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 55:54
Oh, um, I would actually require that if you read postcolonial lovepop and that he do it in the bathtub.
Traci Thomas 56:02
I just didn’t say yes to Joe. Joe, you gotta get in the bath, Joe. Yeah. I love that. Okay, everybody at home. Ingrid’s book is called The Man Who could move clouds, it’s out and out in the world. You can get it wherever you get your books. If you’ve already read it, you should consider getting her novel fruit of the drunken tree that exists to do a do a novel to a fiction and a nonfiction back to back moment a book pairing. Ingrid will be back on August 31, we will be discussing how to write an autobiographical novel by Alexander chi. I’m very excited to talk about it because Ingrid is in fact a writer and I am in fact, not a writer. So there’s gonna be lots to talk about. And we’re gonna get into a bunch of stuff in that book, including the role of the reader and the role of the writer, which is what I really want to talk about. Ingrid, thank you so much for being here.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras 56:56
Thank you so much. This was so lovely. I had a great time.
Traci Thomas 56:59
Yay, me too. And everyone else we will see you in the stacks.
Alright, y’all, that does it for us this week. Thank you so much to Ingrid for being my guest and also a quick thank you to Trisha K for helping make this interview possible. Ingrid will be back on August 31 to discuss The Stacks book club pick How to Write an Autobiographical Novel by Alexander Chee. If you love this show in what insight access to it head to patreon.com/the stacks and join the stacks pack. Make sure you’re subscribed to the stacks wherever you’re listening to your podcasts and if you’re listening through Apple podcasts or Spotify, be sure to leave us a rating and a review. For more from the stacks. Follow us on social media at the stacks pod on Instagram at the stocks pod underscore on Twitter and check out our website the stocks podcast.com This episode of the stacks was edited by Christian Duenas with production assistance from Lauren Tyree. Our graphic designer is Robin MacWrite. The Stacks is created and produced by me Traci Thomas.
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