Angie Cruz on James Baldwin, ‘Widow Basquiat’ and the book that helped her through a breakup

Welcome to Durability, ELLE.com’s book column, where authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re looking for a book that will comfort you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the authors in our series who, like you (since you’re here), love books. Maybe one of their favorite titles will become one of yours too.

How not to drown in a glass of water

How not to drown in a glass of water

Angie Cruz studied fashion design at FIT and worked in a cashmere store on Madison Avenue when she switched to English literature and eventually earned her MFA at NYU. (Edwidge Danticat was her director). She has just published her fourth novel, How not to drown in a glass of water (Flatiron Books), as she the work on Google Docs on his phone while commuting. Her last book, 2019 Dominicanawhich took a decade to write and four years to sell, was nominated for the Women’s Prize for Fiction, longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence in Fiction, and GMA Book Club’s first choice.

Born, raised and based in the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York, Cruz is also the founder and editor of the literary and arts journal aster(ix)an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh, and the creator of @dominicanasnyc on Instagram, a digital archive of Dominicans in New York.

Cruz was a fine arts student at LaGuardia High School, interned as an assistant photo archivist at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, considered to get a Ph.D. in history, taught in Texas and Chile, has done something creative to help her write (painting, cooking, taking singing lessons on YouTube), collecting wooden and ceramic dolls from her travels; and presented at Brooklyn Community College, where her single mother (who inspired Dominicana) studied accounting at night and worked in a lamp factory during the day to raise two children.

Like: NYC subway, doing research, taking pictures, rain, tequila and dark chocolate. Dislikes: Camping.

The book there:

… helped me through a breakup:

leave me by Melissa Febos helped me breathe when I was full of pain and felt so much despair. She writes beautifully and honestly about a long-distance love affair and all the ways she lost herself in it. I finished the book and read it again. It was medicine.

… made me miss a train stop:

Why didn’t you tell me? by Carmen Rita Wong. She is a wonderful storyteller and I was immediately invested in the family drama. It’s an important story that explores being raised Chinese and being Afro-Latinx, which complicates the way we think about identity.

…I recommend again and again:

I find myself recommending Widow Basquiat by Jennifer Clement all the time. It’s the perfect gift for anyone who loves Basquiat, but also for anyone interested in hybrid memoirs and fantastic literature. I also recommend her novel Prayers for the stolenespecially to students because of the economy of her sentences.

…currently sitting on my bedside table:

Sleeping Alone: ​​Stories by Ru Freeman and the memoir The voice of the fish by Lars Horn. I am very excited to get to these.

… made me laugh out loud:

One evening I was reading When we do it by Elisabet Velasquez to my niece around the kitchen table and we laughed so hard because the story of Sara growing up in Bushwick, Brooklyn was painfully familiar. What are people saying? Nest para no llorar?

…I want to turn into a Netflix show:

Acting in dreams by Lilliam Rivera would make a major Netflix dystopian series about Las Mal Criadas, a group of girls who must figure out how to survive the mean streets of Mega City.

…I last bought:

Neruda in the park by Cleyvis Natera and The Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo Anstine. Both about strong women in impossible situations taking matters into their own hands.

…has the best title and …has the best opening line…:

I love this title: The man who could move clouds, A memoir by Ingrid Rojas Contreras.

And the first line: “They say the accident that left me with temporary amnesia is my legacy. No house or piece of land or letter box, just a few weeks of oblivion.”

…has the best ending:

From Infinite land by Patricia Engel: “When a cumbia came on, he asked our mother to dance, and we watched our parents sway, finding each other’s rhythm, as if they had never fallen out of step, as if the last fifteen years had been but one dance interrupted and waiting for the next song to play I wondered at the matrix of separation and dislocation, our years bound to the phantom pain of a lost homeland, for now that we are together again, the special pain and sense of , that something is missing, gone. And maybe there is no nation or citizenship; they are just territories mapped out instead of family, instead of love, the infinite land.”

… has the coolest book jacket:

Chinelo Okparanta Harry Sylvester Bird.

…has a sex scene that will make you blush:

Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis is so pleasure-centered and sensual about five Uruguayan queer women who find refuge in the intimacy of their relationships while living under an oppressive dictatorship.

… made me cry uncontrollably:

I am reading Giovanni’s room by James Baldwin while in residence at the La Napoule Art Foundation in the South of France. I read the last 30 pages out loud to the sea and cried and cried.

…should be on every college’s curriculum:

My broken language by Quiara Alegría Hudes is a brilliant storyteller. Hudes’ rise from playing music to doing theater to writing this memoir is inspiring and helpful for anyone still trying to figure out their life. It is proof that a lot can happen in one life.

…I consider literary comfort food:

The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir by Vivian Gornick. I often carry this book around because when I read it, I want to write. I love how she tells a story and also how she writes about New York.

…sealed a friendship:

The Professor’s Daughter by Emily Raboteau. I fell hard for the way she writes and asked her out to tell her how much I loved it. We have been good friends ever since. I can’t wait for her new book, Lessons for survival, will be published in 2023 about climate change and motherhood.

…which holds the recipe for a favorite dish:

Love you by Sarah Gambito is a book of poems that also teaches us something about cooking, eating and being together. It was while reading it that I was introduced to one of my favorite dishes: Chicken adobo. Here is a poem of Gambito to read, cook and then eat.

Why didn't you tell me?

Why didn’t you tell me?

Now 18% discount

When we do it

When we do it

Now 40% off

Acting in dreams

Acting in dreams

Now 47% discount

Neruda in the park

Neruda in the park

Now 37% off

The Woman of Light

The Woman of Light

Now 29% off

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