Why I Write by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

Why I Write by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa

I was born into a world of stories full of color and warmth and tragedy and magic and humor. I was born into a world of music and intuitive knowing and overpowering scents. But when I went to school, I was told that reason and logic were the only acceptable ways of knowing. Emotions clouded reality. Definitions had to be exact, measurable, black and white, no in-betweens. Keep it simple, I was told.

But I was not simple. I was a black, Puerto Rican female in a world that insisted that I be one or the other and valued none of those parts of me. After years of trying to fit my round self into a square world, I gave up. Those rules made no sense to me. And so I began to write my world, my way.

I write first and foremost because the stories I grew up reading in school bore no resemblance to world of my family and my community. Those stories did not tell about the way the sun fell on my grandmother’s hands as she handed me my fresh bread and butter breakfast every morning or the smell on my abuelo’s skin when he came home from the cane fields. No where did I see my family’s many shades of brown complexions or the sound of my mother’s voice when she called me mamita. I write because those images of my life will not allow me to be silent. I write because somewhere down the road, I’d like a little black Puerto Rican girl just like me to find herself in the world of American letters. And that little girl? She’s already waiting.
Dahlma was born in Puerto Rico and raised in New York City. She is a product of the Puerto Rican communities on the island and in the South Bronx. She attended the NYC public school system and got her academic degrees from SUNY-Buffalo and Queens College. As a child she was sent to live with her grandparents in Puerto Rico where she was introduced to the culture of rural Puerto Rico, including the storytelling that came naturally to the women, especially the older women, in her family. Much of her work is based on her experiences during this time.

Dahlma taught creative writing, language and literature in the New York City School system before becoming a young adult librarian. She has also taught creative writing to teenagers, adults and senior citizens throughout NYC while honing her own skills as a fiction writer and memoirist. Since her retirement, she has dedicated herself to her writing. Dahlma lives in the Bronx with her husband, Jonathan Lessuck. She can be contacted through her web page at  http://www.llanosfigueroa.com/.

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