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San Diego Writers 'Reclaim' Their Stories

Book cover of "Reclaiming Our Stories."
Book cover of "Reclaiming Our Stories."

San Diego Writers 'Reclaim' Their Stories
San Diego Writers Reclaim Their Stories GUESTS: Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu, editor, "Reclaiming Our Stories" Tariq Ali, author, "Reclaiming Our Stories"

This is KPBS Midday Edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. When young writers are told write what you know not all of them take it to heart. Sometimes writing what you know is a hardest kind of writing. 19 authors in San Diego have taken up that challenge in a new book which offers a glimpse into the lives of real San Diego's. The book is called reclaiming our stories. Joining me is the editor Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu . She is a English professor of article city college. Welcome to the program. Thank you. And an author of the book Tariq Ali is with me. Give us a sense of who the authors are of these 19 stories. Are they your students? You're not my students but many of them are San Diego city college students. They are from the urban area. Many are from Southeast San Diego. Logan Heights, Boreal Logan so they are from that they served but not all our students. Were the writers asked to write personal stories or detaches happen? They were asked to write personal stories. We look at some examples and they saw how powerful personal stories can be. They were given the opportunity to write their own. This book is a combination of a writer's workshop project that you help start with the group Pillars of the Community. Can you tell us about that. So Pillars of the Community is a great organization and San Diego. The founder is Paul Alexander a colleague of mine. That's how I got connected. They serve the South East community specifically trying to work with people who have been negatively impacted by the justice system. So Reclaiming Our Stories is a small project in a much larger project, which is reclaiming our community. They work with reclaiming the neighborhood, reclaiming local government, and their own personal stories. Will kinds of stories emerge from the workshop and from your work on this book? Of course, the stories of trauma. A lot of people who came to the doors we started off by just developing trust and finding that a lot of us have very traumatic stories that have been birding asked for a long time. Let me go to you Tariq Ali. Let me start out by asking if you would read as part of your story in the book. Yes. It is cold my grandmother. I would never forget the day I was shot. It was 1993 as I lay in the emergency room my body riddled with bullets. I was sure is going to die. How could I have not thought that. How many people can get shot a Titan survive. Think I was wrong because I had a successful surgery. When I felt the sensation of water I open up my eyes and I saw my grandmother and my aunt and alongside them a man who I never seen before. I was never baptized as a child. My family are Catholics and I thought it would be an important to baptize me just in case I did not make it. What impacted me was on the presence of the priests nor the baptism in said it was a pain I saw in my grandmother's eyes as I lay there on the offering table. It was a way that she was hugging and kissing me and telling me how much she loved me. Although we learned on the offering table was one of the most painful moments in my grandmother's life payments are was nothing new to her. She died at the age of 80 in I can say that most of those years were spent suffering due to the how her children put her through including myself. I grew up in a family full of King members and drug users both my father and my mother working members. I guess you can call it the glove except for the fact that there was really no love. That is Tariq Ali and the name of the book is? My grandmother. Is a a compilation of 19 authors writing their stories here and send you. Why did you want to share something so personal? A lot of times we grow up and we are traumatized interfaces as we get older. Sometimes we don't realize that we are traumatized we just think it is part of the culture and part of the environment. When she brought the idea -- it was just to tell our story so that we can deal with some of these issues and I was reluctant at first to be honest with you because I don't like to be as open. These are personal things. My mother and my father, drugs and gangs. So I was -- she convinced me and other members convince me and I decided to write the story and I can tell you that it was a stress reliever and it help me deal with a lot of issues that I was dealing with and I had to deal with and didn't know before this. Talk about the writing process itself. Is a difficult to take a deeply personal story like that and take it from a first draft and then rewrite it and then a second draft. The kind of process that they go through and then edit it. Is a difficult when the stories are so close to the heart Yes, absolutely. It is difficult to get to the point where we need to edit especially. Throughout the process we try to build trust in community and we do that first. So it makes it easier but I think it the first time throughout the process people get different points in their story and decide now I'm going to share and you tell me what you think. It is not me telling me what I think it is all of us. At this point it's a little bit easier, but it takes some bravery and they will read their story and we give a lot of good feedback because a story start out powerful. We let them know what they can do to take the story to the next level. So it is hard and -- everyone becomes brave through this process because we built such strong trust in community. Do you now have a passion for writing? I do . This is just part of my story. I would like to really write the entire life as much as I can. Not just for me but it will help others that are going to the same situation. Sometimes growing up we would be considered the ghetto. We don't learn to deal with emotions. We don't -- were not able to reach out to others because we want to be tough and this is an opportunity for someone who may be going to that same situation and don't want to reach out to others is able to read the story and relate. So our debt -- definitely developed a passion to write. Hopefully I will be able to do that. There are 19 of the stories in this book. Book release event for Reclaiming Our Stories is being celebrated this Friday night at the World Beat Center and Balboa Park from 7:00 to 9:00. I have been speaking with Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu and the editor of this book and an author Tariq Ali. Thank you both very much.

A group of emerging writers in San Diego has taken up the challenge of "writing what you know."

In the new book "Reclaiming Our Stories," the writers offer a glimpse into the lives of real people who live in City Heights, Logan Heights, Barrio Logan, Chollas View, Mount Hope and other communities in southeastern San Diego.


The anthology includes 19 narratives about identity, resilience and empowerment.

Book Launch

What: "Reclaiming Our Stories"

When: Friday 7 p.m.-9 p.m.

Where: World Beat Center

One of the authors featured in the book is Tariq Ali, a volunteer with the community organization Pillars of the Community. Ali recounts the day he was shot, his involvement with gangs and his experience in prison. Today, he helps steer local youth away from street gangs.

Ali and Mona Alsoraimi-Espiritu, English professor at San Diego City College, talk about storytelling on KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday.