In His Words
Rolando Hinojosa-Smith's 'A Voice of My Own'
Rolando Hinojosa-Smith, poet, professor, and chronicler of the fictional Rio Grande town of Klail City, came from a family that took reading for granted. "No one from home urged me to read. I read because my parents and my four brothers and sisters read. And I confess they all did; without knowing it, I was following Faulkner's dictum: 'Read. Read. Read. Read everything – good and bad, trash, the classics,' et cetera."
His earliest story, written for a contest sponsored by the Mercedes high school he attended, focused on the Mexican Revolution of l910. "It involved two campesinos returning from work and they try to evade the levy. Both die, and one falls in an irrigation ditch, and his blood spreads all over Mexico."
In the ensuing decades, Hinojosa-Smith experimented with genre, going from fragmented social novel to comedic gumshoe to personal essays, including the forthcoming A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories (Arte Publico). Of this hopscotching, he says, "Thoughts come from ideas and remembrances and memory. I felt I could write about anything I wanted to." As for those ideas that would inform his always emerging oeuvre, Hinojosa-Smith says: "Much was gathered from listening to the old men and women tell stories, some of which covered the Mexican Revolution, but also all manner of stories. I imagine I was allowed to listen because I never interrupted."
Hinojosa-Smith concedes that his books are heady and read mostly by university professors and their students. "And I gear it to that audience; my writing isn't an easy read, and I don't intend to bore anyone." Recently, at a reading at Texas Tech, he met a professor from Purdue who had read his work. "Happy? Of course, but surprised, too. A remarkably well-read scholar, by the way. I very much doubt that the ordinary reader would or could put up with my stuff. I don't blame them, but it's different in the universities where close reading is usually the case."
As for what he would have done with his life if he hadn't been a writer, Hinojosa has "no idea."
"I haven't given it a thought."
Border Lines: The Art of Personal Reflection
With Rolando Hinojosa-Smith and Sergio Troncoso
Sunday, Oct. 23, 3-4pm, Capitol Extension, Rm. E2.016