White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing, a virtual event on Zoom | Mechanics' Institute

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White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing, a virtual event on Zoom
Author Jennifer De Leon in conversation on Zoom with poet Norma Liliana Valdez, moderated by writer Sara Campos. Cosponsored by LatinX in Publishing, Mesa Refuge, The Puente Project and Cinnamongirl

Celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month

Cosponsored by LatinX in Publishing,  Mesa Refuge, The Puente Project and Cinnamongirl

This is a virtual event on Zoom

White Space documents a life in flux, a life in the throes of becoming, and we applaud its subversive, metaphoric depth. We were both struck by Jennifer De Leon’s lively writing and engaged consciousness. We see her as someone who might well join the ranks of our leading essayists, such as Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, Michelle Orange; soon, we hope. She is well on her way.” —Madeleine Blais and Kathy Roberts Forde, Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction Judges

This empathetic, wide-ranging look at De Leon's growth as a thinker is a journey worth checking out." -- Publisher's Weekly

Sometime in her twenties, Jennifer De Leon asked herself, "What would you do if you just gave yourself permission?" While her parents had fled Guatemala over three decades earlier when the country was in the grips of genocide and civil war, she hadn't been back since she was a child. She gave herself permission to return—to relearn the Spanish that she had forgotten, unpack her family's history, and begin to make her own way. Alternately honest, funny, and visceral, this powerful collection follows De Leon as she comes of age as a Guatemalan-American woman and learns to navigate the space between two worlds. Never rich or white enough for her posh college, she finds herself equally adrift in her first weeks in her parents' home country. During the years to follow, she would return to Guatemala again and again, meet ex-guerrillera and genocide survivors, get married in the old cobblestoned capital of Antigua, and teach her newborn son about his roots.

Jennifer De Leon is author of Don't Ask Me Where I'm From and editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education. De Leon has published prose in over a dozen literary journals, including Ploughshares, the Iowa Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review, and is a GrubStreet instructor and board member. She is assistant professor of creative writing at Framingham State University and makes her home in the Boston area. (Photo by Alonso Nichols)

Sara Campos is a writer, lawyer and program officer at a private foundation. Her work has appeared in a number of publications including two anthologies: Basta – an Anthology of Latinas and Gender Violence and The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the U.S. and a number of other journals and newspapers including: Porterhouse Review,Platte Valley Review, Saint Anne’s Review, 580 Split, Colorlines, AlterNet Media, the LA Review of Books, and the San Francisco Chronicle. She has also received an Elizabeth George Foundation grant, and residencies and fellowships from Las Letras Latinas, VONA, Macondo, Hedgebrook, the Anderson Center, and Mesa Refuge.

Norma Liliana Valdez is a member of the Macondo Writers Workshop and a CantoMundo fellow. Her work appears in The Rumpus, The Los Angeles Review, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and the anthology Latinas: Struggles & Protests in 21st Century USA among others. Norma earned a BA in Psychology, an MS in Counseling, and a graduate certificate in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. She is an alumna of the UC Berkeley Extension Writing Program and has been awarded residencies and fellowships from Hedgebrook, Under the Volcano International, Community of Writers, and VONA, in addition to others. She is a founding member of the Xingona Collective, a women’s writing group whose mission is to nurture a sustaining writing practice for its members through mutual encouragement and writing retreats. She lives in the Bay Area. (Photo by Rosa M. Valdez)




The Mesa Refuge is a residency for writers, journalists, and other creatives located in Point Reyes Station, California, an hour north of San Francisco. Here writers enjoy time and space to connect with their muses and a supportive community, before going back into the world. We welcome both experienced and emerging writers and creatives who are addressing the pressing issues of our time. It is our priority to support writers focusing on “ideas at the edge” of the areas we value: nature, economic equity and social justice.


LatinX in Publishing is a network of book professionals committed to supporting and increasing the number of Latino/A/X in the publishing industry, as well as promoting literature by, for, and about Latino/A/X people.




The Puente Project is a national award-winning program that for more than 30 years has improved the college-going rate of tens of thousands of California's educationally underrepresented students. Its mission is to increase the number of educationally disadvantaged students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn college degrees and return to the community as mentors and leaders to future generations.


Cinnamongirl, Inc. is a leadership development organization that creates lifelong bonds between professionals and girls through programs that provide access, experiences, and a global mindset. We empower girls to be the visionaries our world needs. Cinnamongirl is in her 18th year of teaching girls of color leadership development. We inspire girls to set and achieve rigorous goals; provide guidance and support as to what’s needed to prepare for college and graduate school; and expose girls to a global mindset through international travel. We target the girl who hasn't seen the possibilities for her life just yet, and doesn't quite understand her power, voice or leadership capabilities. We surround her with other ambitious youth, hands-on mentors and high-performing female leaders, encouraging her to step out of her comfort zone knowing she has the tools to take charge of her life to become a successful leader.


Buy books online at: Alexanderbook.com


This meeting will take place over Zoom. To receive an invitation to the meeting, please sign up using the Eventbrite link below. You will receive an invitation and Zoom link the day before the event.

If you have not received a Zoom link by the day before the event, please contact us at [email protected]

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