The Only Refuge Left: Professor De Robertis Shares Inspiration for New Novel 'Cantoras'

Monday, September 16, 2019
POWELL’S BOOKS (PORTLAND, ORE.) -- Carolina De Robertis teaches at San Francisco State University and lives in Oakland, California, with her wife and two children. She wrote this first-person piece for the Powell’s Books blog. “Eighteen years later, a few of these women have become beloved friends, part of my chosen family, tías to my children. And their wider circle has become the inspiration for a novel, Cantoras, whose title means ‘female singers,’ or ‘women who sing,’ and was code for lesbians in their innovated slang of the dictatorship era. I burned to write that novel, to do my best to give their stories a fictionalized home, because I’d never seen their truths reflected in the official histories of Uruguay, let alone outside Uruguay — and I believe in fiction’s power to address the gaps in formal histories, to fill silences with song. “I also needed to write this novel because, in the past few years, those burning questions — about refuge, about belonging, about living radiantly against the odds — have fanned into a blaze. These are dangerous times. Hate crimes have spiked. So have fires and storms. Too many of us live in fear of attack. Immigrants, women, people of color, and LGBTQ+ people are just some of those who are targets, fighting for room to breathe. And no matter which communities we’re part of, no matter who we are, we’re all affected. We all have a stake in the future we create, and yes, it will be us who create it, all of us, collectively, through actions large and small.”