Natashia Deón

Natashia DeónPhoto Credit Casey Curry

Natashia Deón
Photo Credit Casey Curry

Embrace your struggle as a badge of honor… You are as unique as those who have earned the highest star in battle—a life saver—and you should never let anyone shame you out of what’s meant to be celebrated.

Natashia Deón is a Los Angeles attorney, creator of the reading series Dirty Laundry Lit, and has an MFA from U.C. Riverside-Palm Desert. A Pushcart Prize nominee, her work has appeared side-by-side with Pulitzer Prize winning writer, Yousef Komunyakaa in The Rattling Wall, has appeared in B O D Y, The Rumpus, The Feminist Wire, You: An Anthology of Second Person Essays, and other places. A PEN Emerging Voices Fellow, Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference scholarship recipient and VCCA Fellow, Deón has taught creative writing at Gettysburg College, for PEN Center USA, and 826LA.

Interview with Natashia Deón


Natashia, you’re not only a writer, but a lawyer, a mother of two young children, a community organizer, the list goes on and on. How do you do it? How do you find the balance between mothering, working, volunteering, and writing? Do you ever find the lines crossing in interesting ways?

My husband is Super Man. True story. I wish I could say something different. Something woman-centric, but the fact is, I couldn’t do what I’m currently doing without the help of my partner. Besides that, I don’t trust anyone else with my children. Ha!

I don’t want to compare marriage to a business partnership because that would be a huge understatement and I’d bore you to tears in this interview trying to explain, but I will say that I don’t believe marriage is the only way to achieve a strong partnership. Heck, I’m not even saying that you need a partnership. I’ve read so many articles recently declaring, “Women can’t do it all,” that women can’t balance family, work, extracurricular activities, etc., but personally, I don’t agree. A woman’s reality is her reality. And generally, I don’t agree with anyone who tells someone else that she can’t do something because the other person failed at it.

So, I don’t want to give the impression that I would be incapable without a partnership. I should rephrase that in case it seems as though I’m hinting to an end of something. I’m not. (And apparently, in listening to myself ramble now, I can’t divorce myself from the attorney part of me.) What I’m saying is, success in any area of life is a habit. Achieve it alone or with someone. For me, I’d had successes before my husband but having someone to work with in life has allowed me to reach further and be tethered somewhere. Gosh, that sounds so technical. I should say, I love him, too.

And let me also qualify “success.” Success to me is not an award or recognition, it’s living the life I want to lead.

Tell us about Dirty Laundry Lit. Why did you begin the series and how has it impacted your writing life? Where does your mother-self fit into this?

I created Dirty Laundry Lit to inspire those who may not consider themselves readers, to give them a way into literature that was exciting and full of energy. Our live events are at The Virgil in Hollywood and blend music and literature and a great time. It’s definitely not a reading series for the easily offended or faint of heart. Our readers come from around the nation to spend five minutes on our stage, offering their most hilarious or emotional or plain honest reading of their work. It’s hosted by former-Saturday Night Live joke writer, Jeff Eyres, sponsored by PEN Center USA, and we welcome about 200 guests. We’re not a replacement for traditional bookstore, café, or academic readings, of course, but our goal is to inspire veteran readers and to loop in potential readers who haven’t found the magic of literature yet.

I began the series because I came into the joy and magic of reading late in life. Before then, I’d rather watch a movie or sit and listen to my family tell stories about each other than read. The books that I read were usually out of obligation, to complete class requirements or, if I chose to read for enjoyment, I read an inspirational book or a memoir written by some celebrity. Then, I picked up Push by Sapphire and it changed my life. Before that book, I wasn’t a fan of literature. I couldn’t relate to the classics that I was forced to read in high school. I couldn’t imagine myself in them. As much as people would rave about books like The Great Gatsby, I couldn’t see myself as a rich white man on the East Coast. Why should I care, I thought then. I was black girl living in the desert, and before then, Watts, and I hadn’t even been east. At the time, I thought all “literature” was that way. But Push was different. I heard myself in the writer’s words; heard someone I knew on those first pages. I saw the character, this world. For the first time, through the eyes of that uneducated, abused and poverty-stricken character, I could see the east coast.

Push became my “gateway drug” into literature. It was my in. And since then, I have returned to the classics, including The Great Gatsby and thoroughly enjoyed them in a way I hadn’t before. I’ve fallen in love with so many new writers and stories and poetry. I wouldn’t know where to begin and end.

Tell us about your work with young writers.

I work with PEN In the Classroom and 826LA. Both of these programs work with young people in inner-city schools providing creative writing classes among other things. It’s a pure joy for me to be able to engage with children, whether they’re my own or other peoples’. As an adult, I get to see the world new again through them. They teach me as much as I teach them. My goal is to give them the tools to be successful and to prepare them for their next teacher and most importantly, to keep them excited about learning.

Tell us about your novel.

The novel I’ve just completed is about three outcast women who, on the eve of the Civil War, are fighting the battle of their lives. It was recently agented by a great firm in NYC and I’m really excited about it. The novel took six years to write. I’ve heard that a first novel is often a reflection of everything a writer knows about life until that point. So there are twenty-two years of life in that book. Ha! Maybe not twenty-two, but at least thirty-something and I’m only now realizing that I didn’t have the life experience in years one through five of this novel to have completed it as it is now.

Have you any advice to share with mother-writers who may be struggling to continue their craft or to find the path toward publication?

My advice would be inspired by a conversation I had four weeks ago with one of my former-students. She’s sixteen. Had just found out that she was pregnant again with her thirty-year-old boyfriend’s second child. She told me she was still writing. That she had stopped modeling when someone at a pageant called her a welfare momma.  So the advice I would share with another mother is to embrace her gift and wear her struggle as a badge of honor. Whether she’s sixteen (or younger) or sixty, whether she’s accomplished her goals in life yet or not, whether she’s accepting food stamps and struggling to make ends meet or not. She’s a hero. She’s chosen life and traded hers to give life to another and has been entrusted with that burden and gift. She’s as unique as those who have earned the highest star in battle—a life saver—and she should never let anyone shame her out of what’s meant to be celebrated. And…keep writing.

What’s next for you?

An adventure.


 

Thank you so much, Natashia! Wishing you all the best on your adventures 🙂

Love,

Jenn

*Editor’s Note: Read Natashia’s piece “Black Barbie” in The Rumpus, and visit Natashia online at www.natashiadeon.com.

2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Natashia Deón, Mother Writer with Attitude and Inspiration « Jennifer Givhan, Poet & Novelist
  2. Trackback: The Next Big Thing: In the Time of Jubilee | Jennifer Givhan, Poet & Novelist

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