Jennine Capó Crucet said she tried her best not to be a writer. But having failed spectacularly at that, the award-winning short story writer and novelist told her story at Emerson College.
Crucet was in the Charles Beard Room on Wednesday, October 5, to read from her novel, Make Your Home Among Strangers, about the daughter of Cuban immigrants in Miami struggling to find her place in a college up North, and the little Cuban boy whose mother dies trying to bring him to the United States. She was the first author in the 2016–2017 WLP Series, sponsored by the Writing, Literature and Publishing Department.
She shared her family's journey to becoming an American. “No one is really from here, but everyone is happy to be here,” she said in response to a question about Americanization.
“I grew up in an American home, so being American is something we were actively practicing,” Crucet said.
Her father adapted to American culture when she was young and brought her up in the same way. She shared an anecdote of when her father took her family to a mountain in Tennessee. He told them he always said that one day, he would take his American kids, his American family, to the most American spot in the country, Crucet said.
“My sister and I knew this was, like, a big moment for him,” she said. “American identity is something that can be built. So I have grown up with that.”
Crucet never really thought of becoming a writer, she said in response to the question; in fact, “I actively tried hard to not be a writer,” she said. Her parents never supported her telling stories for a living; they considered it a hobby, not a career, Crucet said.
But try as she might, she kept turning toward writing.
“I would wake up and write a story,” Crucet said. “I would go to my parents and be like, ‘Mom, I got to read this to you,’ and when I would, my mom would just look at my dad. They would both look worried.”
The WLP students were also interested in knowing about her literary dialogue with Dominican American novelist Junot Díaz in the book.
“His [work] gave me the idea that I can write about just my neighborhood,” Crucet said.
Crucet’s idea of a novel was discussed during the event as well. When she evaluates her work, she likes to know if “it is a novel or just a lot of pages.”