Cara Romero, a middle-aged woman struggling with the Great Recession, is on a mission to regain her sense of identity and pay her rent in Angie Cruz’s new fictional novel. Cruz is an associate professor in Pitt’s English department.
“I started working on this book in 2017 when [Donald] Trump was president and I felt all kinds of despair,” Cruz said. “The immigrant crisis continues, but during this time it was widely reported in the press, and we saw children in cages. I wondered if writing was the best thing to do in my time when the world was in crisis. And when I thought about it, this character came to me.
Flat Iron Books published”How not to drown in a glass of wateron September 13. The story follows Cara Romero in a series of monologues as she navigates life in her mid-fifties through 12 weeks of sessions with an employment counselor.
Cruz said the significant impact of the Great Recession on her family and community inspired her to write a novel set in that time.
“I was imagining this character going for an interview after losing his job after working 25 years of his life there,” Cruz said. “The reason I was interested in the Great Recession was that a lot of my family members and community members lost their jobs during the Great Recession after working in factories and all kinds of jobs for decades. And they had to start over.
Cruz said it was this idea of losing a job after spending decades working there that brought his character and page to life.
“Cara Romero came to me and started telling me her life story,” Cruz said. “So the book itself is about a woman who wants to work so she can pay her rent and she meets with an employment counselor for 12 weeks and goes through job training.”
Caroline Bleeke, editor at New York-based Flatiron Books, said Cruz’s use of dictation to create the story made the editing process very special.
“Angie worked on the novel herself for a while before sharing pages with me. And the first time she was ready to share some of her work, we went to a bar and she handed me one of her headphones and we listened to the first chapter she recorded,” Bleak said. . “It was just a really, really special way to encounter the novel for the first time.”
Amelia Possanza, associate director of publicity at Flatiron Books, said the novel’s messages of interdependence and community came to life at one of Cruz’s recent launch events on September 15 at The strandan independent bookstore in New York.
“She hosted a launch event here in New York, which for me was my favorite part because after all the time of isolation and virtual events with COVID, it was so wonderful to be together in person to celebrate the book with his family and friends there,” Possanza said. “It was just wonderful because the book is so much about connectedness and community and to see that to celebrate the novel was really wonderful.”
Bleeke said she wouldn’t change anything about the quality of the posting process.
“Honestly, I feel like it was kind of a dream publication… We got to celebrate Angie in person, the book went really, really well. I think there are always challenges along the way,” Bleeke said. “But I think the last two weeks have been so joyful and it’s wonderful to see people really connecting with the book.”
Possanza said she was excited to see what happens with the book in the future.
“For authors, there’s a lot of pressure on what happens when a book first comes out…I’m more curious about what’s going to happen over the next two or five years. Because with a lot of books, and in Angie’s books in particular, they’re embraced in schools and read by communities,” Possanza said. “This book still has a long life ahead of it.”
Cruz said her favorite part of writing the novel was working with the constraints and limitations of writing in a monologue.
“The book is written in a series of monologues and it was the first time that I had worked in this way where the character spoke directly to a person. So the constraints and these limitations of what is possible in the monologue of those 30-minute sessions were a lot of fun for me,” Cruz said. “I had so much fun getting to know this character.”
Cruz said that studying creative writing is a tool that can be helpful in all aspects of life, and that attending group writing sessions has been very beneficial to her process of writing the novel.
“I think everyone should consider taking a course in creative writing, that’s my message. I think part of creative writing and storytelling is learning how to be a better storyteller of your own life, and that’s really the power of this particular book,” Cruz said. “It’s about the power of storytelling, ask good questions, learn to listen and accept people as they are.”