Category Archives: Word Weaver-Fiction

The Story of New York Salsa at the Museum of the City of New York

A not-to-be-missed exhibit detailing the history of Salsa in New York. The birth of salsa is much more than music: it’s politics, it’s social movements, it’s culture… it’s definitely New York, and immigration, colonial legacies and commonwealth existence. And why so much of  my on-the-market novel is an ode to this era.

 1220 Fifth Ave at 103rd St.,

Open Daily 10am-6pm exhibit until Nov 26 2017

Thanks to TheUptownCollective for leading me to this.

Nice Update on Stephanie’s Writing #OwnVoices

Sharing the exciting news that I’ve just signed with Sarah Burnes of The Gernert Company, who will represent my literary works.

For the public health folks scratching their heads: you might (or might not) have known that I’ve spent the past ten years writing two books, with a passion. Securing a literary agent is an essential step if you choose the route of traditional publishing. It means there’s someone out there who is pitching your book(s) to big and small publishers. So I’m excited and honored to join Sarah and the Gernert team. To learn more about their fabulous authors, visit their site.


Chilo’s They Came. Puerto Ricans and 1492 #boricuasonline

Puerto Rican Voices Episode 9 from Center for Puerto Rican Studies on Vimeo.

Sharing this especially because of the last segment, a poem reflecting on Puerto Ricans and 1492. How can I not share this as I’m pitching my novel to literary agents, The Saints of Columbus?

From CentroVoices:

“…Lastly, we end this week’s episode of Puerto Rican Voices with the spoken-word poet and hip-hop artist known as Chilo, as he walks through the streets of New York City. He performs two of his pieces while reflecting on how he came to appreciate his Puerto Rican heritage. Chilo’s work can be described as an homage to the experience of Puerto Ricans in the US as well as an attempt to reclaim the history of our ancestors. He also discusses El Grito de Poetas, the Latino poetry collective he founded in 2005.”

The Tragedy of Urban Renewal: The destruction and survival of a New York City neighborhood

Thanks to the great  Bloomingdale Neighborhood History Group I came upon this great video that documents the displacement and perseverance of the “Old Community” of an area in the Upper West Side Manhattan. The community was victim to a Robert Moses urban planning project and the film documents its impact on the community of color residents. It also reminds us when neighborhoods were more than addresses, but communities that knew each other with ties and love. The topic of displacement and community in this area of New York (and in general) is a theme in my second novel, currently undergoing revisions. The text below is taken from the youtube description for a film written, produced, shot, and edited by Jim Epstein and narrated by Nick Gillespie.


“Uploaded on Sep 28, 2011

In 1949, President Harry Truman signed the Housing Act, which gave federal, state, and local governments unprecedented power to shape residential life. One of the Housing Act’s main initiatives – “urban renewal” – destroyed about 2,000 communities in the 1950s and ’60s and forced more than 300,000 families from their homes. Overall, about half of urban renewal’s victims were black, a reality that led to James Baldwin’s famous quip that “urban renewal means Negro removal.”

New York City’s Manhattantown (1951) was one of the first projects authorized under urban renewal and it set the model not only for hundreds of urban renewal projects but for the next 60 years of eminent domain abuse at places such as Poletown, New London, and Atlantic Yards. The Manhattantown project destroyed six blocks on New York City’s Upper West Side, including an African-American community that dated to the turn of the century. The city sold the land for a token sum to a group of well-connected Democratic pols to build a middle-class housing development. Then came the often repeated bulldoze-and-abandon phenomenon: With little financial skin in the game, the developers let the demolished land sit vacant for years.

The community destroyed at Manhattantown was a model for the tight-knit, interconnected neighborhoods later celebrated by Jane Jacobs and other critics of top-down redevelopment. In the early 20th century, Manhattantown was briefly the center of New York’s black music scene. A startling roster of musicians, writers, and artists resided there: the composer Will Marion Cook, vaudeville star Bert Williams, opera singer Abbie Mitchell, James Weldon Johnson and his brother Rosemond, muralist Charles Alston, writer and historian Arturo Schomburg, Billie Holiday (whose mother also owned a restaurant on 99th Street), Butterfly McQueen of “Gone with the Wind” fame, and the actor Robert Earl Jones.

Designating West 99th and 98th Streets a “slum” was bitterly ironic. The community was founded when the great black real estate entrepreneur Philip Payton Jr. broke the color line on 99th Street in 1905. Payton, also credited with first bringing African Americans to Harlem, wanted to make it possible for a black man to rent an apartment, in his words, “wherever his means will permit him to live.”

A couple years after Payton moved his first tenants into West 99th and 98th Streets, the black orator Roscoe Conkling Simmon marveled that African Americans for the first time were living in “the most beautiful and cultured neighborhood in New York City…because back of them stands organized and sympathetic capital.”

Fifty years later, the federal bulldozer tore that neighborhood apart.

Written, produced, shot, and edited by Jim Epstein. Narrated by Nick Gillespie.

Approximately 6.30 minutes.”

Yet Another Article on the Power of Superheroes Today

New York Magazine has a great article discussing (as many people are) how and why comic book culture has permeated our cultural norms, coming out of the nerd closet. As noted in the article, some of it is us ’80s kids are coming of age in our professions with nostalgic memories of its literature and art. How many times did I have to defend and explain why I read comics to my English teachers?  What particularly resonates with me in this article, of course, is the Marvel bias, and why Marvel heroes have been able to reach different color and gender spectrums of fans. And it’s why it’s such a big influence on my own writing.

Questioning the Anchorman

New York Magazine’s Frank Rich has an excellent article this week that explores the role of the anchorman past, and its dying present. Given a fabled anchorman is the professed nemesis of one of the main characters of my novels (for reasons shed to light in this article, as well as some invented ones), thought to share.

A book that gets NYC, the real oneS… Tales of Two Cities

TalesofTwoCitiesTaking the time to note an incredible anthology that somehow, perhaps with editorial wizardry (John Freeman) coupled with stellar literary writers from deeply diverse perspectives, has you inhabit the pulse of New York City. It’s not the overexposed city you’ve likely heard about, or perhaps lived in at some point. It’s a city with narrators who are conscious of historical roots, concepts of nativism, who tell their stories without the archetypal “Came here for/after college to find myself and make a mark, returned to home state to start a family, boy do I miss NYC!”  What I call the Columbian self-discovery stories. These stories are valid in their own right of course, but their saturation in the NYC narrative contribute to this exclusive view of NYC as a self-discovery hub void of natives, void of a home to the lesser-well off.

The anthology has a beautiful collection of writers, many of color, many underrepresented in many senses, well-known and perhaps not-as-known. It utilizes hybrid narratives, with illustrations by Molly Crabapple (the police officer on the back cover might be rethought in its next printing). You’ll hear stories about what it’s like going to public school in a gentrifying hotspot in Brooklyn, what it’s like to walk the city–all its neighborhoods–from the affluent Upper East Side to the poor streets of the Bronx, the complexities of race and class in central Harlem, what it’s like to be a heir while your brother is homeless, a glimpse into attending charity functions and returning to your millions-of-dollars-townhouse. This book has all of New York. And if it sounds strange to you that someone can be so excited when there are countless of books out there about the New York City experience–as a native I’ve never come across one that paints a NYC I could easily recognize, with narrators that are organically conscious of its complexities and with a care of its history (and did I mention from diverse writers?). There are too many stories to love here, but I’ll share two that stand out to me: Garnette Cadogan’s “Due North” that chronicles his arrival to the city with a deep love of walking that has him walking all the boroughs, discovering what each neighborhood is rich and poor in. And then there is Valeria Lusielli’s “Zapata Boulevard”, a mother-writer-Latina-non-native-but-also-native perspective on the intersection of race, class, gentrification and immigration  in Hamilton Heights Harlem complete with (gasp!) a historical lens of the neighborhood (a city in itself), with hybrid narratives.

A unique anthology that might reshape your understanding of NYC, and will definitely have you seeking out the works of its contributors. Thanks independent bookstore BookCulture for carrying this book and having it by the cash register. I was planning on including a link to purchase the book from them, but it seems the book might have been bought recently by Penguin as it’s now listed for a September 8th 2015 release (originally by O/R Books, where you can still purchase the original).