My mom tells this story about me as a toddler. Back then we lived in Cuba. She claims I learned to talk before most babies, and that I sounded like a little adult speaking with grown-up sentence structures. According to her, I had a habit of combining words to make new, more descriptive words. “Exquisite” merged with “delicious” to create “exquicious,” for those of you who speak spanish, I combined “exquisito” with “delicioso” to create “exquicioso”. Now I know this is probably just the sort of exaggerated anecdote moms tend to tell about their amazing children, but it sticks with me. It affirms what I’m like today: a bibliophile, a jargon junkie, a poetry-prowling, page flipping, book-sniffing lover of all things literary. For me, words hold a sort of magical, sacred power. The magic is elusive, and usually remains obscured beyond my reach. But if I choose my words carefully and deliberately, then arrange them in juuuust the right order, sometimes the magic is there, and it feels like I’m making something special and beautiful. So I guess one reason I write is to—in my own small, insignificant way—pay homage to the written word.

When I was 5 years old, my parents made one of the most pivotal decisions of my life. They paid off the cousin of the friend of the friend who owned a fishing boat and cast their hopes, dreams, and fears into the sea. 2 days and 1 night later, we pulled up to a residential dock in a luxurious neighborhood in Florida’s Duck Key. I still remember the optic novelty of the precisely manicured verdant lawn we walked onto. When I write, sometimes I think about my roots. The sacrifices and hardships my parents underwent are never far from my mind. I also think about the women in my family ancestry. My great-grandmother Francisca was an illiterate immigrant from Spain who raised livestock and cultivated a small plot of crops to sustain her small army of 13 children. In order to make baked goods to sell at the market, her children read aloud the instructions in a recipe book which was otherwise inscrutable to her. Then her husband would take the baked goods to the market, sell them, get drunk at a tavern, and come home with no baked goods and nothing to show for them. But her children continued reading the recipes aloud, and she continued baking, until one day she could read on her own. My other great-grandmother, Juana, lived and died analphabetic. I picture them in my mind’s eye: sweeping dirt floors, repairing thatched roofs, raising pigs and chickens to nourish the many children they laboriously birthed and breast-fed. Work was never finished for a rural woman in their time, and I can’t help but feel immense gratitude that I am a woman in this time, with this life. I can read anything I want, and I can write about anything within the reach of my imagination. Therefore, I write as an act of gratitude and an acknowledgement of privilege.