Literature as a Cultural Necessity

I recently attended a reading by Benjamin Alire Sáenz hosted by the El Paso Public Library and Reforma, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking. For over a year now, I’ve been listening to this author and teacher on Words on a Wire, a podcast he hosts with fellow El Paso writer Daniel Chacón. In listening to them interview other authors, I’ve come to feel as if I know them, so it was nice to see and hear Sáenz talk more about his own foundation as a writer.

Sáenz’s introduction was nothing short of stellar. Sáenz beamed when discussing books, and not just his own books, but the books he picked up as a child or was given to read by an influential librarian. One day, he realized he “was no longer reading to escape; [he] was reading to confront the world.” Sáenz credits reading for making him a writer.

“Literature is a cultural necessity. Where would we be without our literature? Where would we be without our art?”

Saenz read from his most recent collection of stories Everything Begins & Ends at The Kentucky Club, published by our local Cinco Puntos PressThis collection has been awarded the 2013 PEN/Faulker Award for Fiction and the 2103 Lambda Literary Award. Sáenz read from his story “The Rule Maker,” and I wanted to go straight from the auditorium to my car to read the rest of the story. I look forward to reading this book, a collection of stories that all have roots in the very borderland I, too, call home.

During his introduction, Sáenz said, “The best entertainment always educates after all.” His reading along with his responses to audience questions were an affirmation of this.

For more on Benjamin Alire Sáenz and Everything Begins & Ends at The Kentucky Club, you can listen to an interview he did for Words on a Wire: INTERVIEW. There’s also this lovely piece on happiness I’ve played a few times now: HAPPINESS PODCAST.


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