POST-BOOK: LENY MENDOZA STROBEL
The Halo-Halo Review is pleased to interview authors in the aftermath of a book’s release. This issue’s featured writers include Leny Mendoza Strobel.
What is your most recent book?
Glimpses: A Poetic Memoir (Paloma Press, 2019).
When was it released?
What has been the response/what has surprised you most about the response?
Many readers tell me that they read the book a few pages at a time because there's a lot to reflect and meditate on. I'm glad that readers can see the movement or flow of my stories from the small to the big stories in ever enlarging circles of interconnectedness ... that the personal story is always embedded in historical, cultural, ideological, and social contexts whose foundations are always in question. Then there are readers who really appreciate the book's collaborative approach with Eileen Tabios' Murder, Death, Resurrection (MDR) and I've been told that it has also inspired them to write responses to my lines. One of my friends responded to the lines in my book and returned the book to me so I can see how she is corresponding with me. That is very special.
A reviewer, Christopher Bowers, said: And her poetic critique is so sharp that at some point the reader must wonder if they are the one glimpsing or the one being glimpsed. This is what I had hoped for -- a call and response. A conversation. An engagement that could turn into entanglement. Some of the readers who know me as an academic appreciated knowing about aspects of my personal life that I have not revealed in my other books; they tell me that it gave them an even better understanding of how I came to do the work that I'm doing regarding the process of decolonization and re-indigenization. Oh, there are readers who are new to my work and are asking what these concepts mean and I'm glad that the book is reaching new readers.
Please share something not obvious or known about the book.
Sheila Bare asked me if I would talk to her writing group about my craft and process of writing the book. I told her that I don't how how to talk about craft and process from a literary perspective. I could, however, talk about decades-long phenomenological meditations on the issues and questions that I asked in order to heal myself and my communities. So while Glimpses is a small book with very short entries on each page, all the lines that wanted to be written came from a deep and long period of working and wrestling with life's meaning and purpose. The daily journal response to a line in Eileen R. Tabios' book-length poem (MDR) was prompted by a desire to be seen and known not just as an academic/scholar, but as a fully embodied and hopefully, a wisened human. I felt that I owed this to the young ones who are looking to understand my work. Yet, I didn't do this daily journal writing with the intention of publishing. When I showed this journal to Eileen and Aileen [Cassinetto, publisher of Paloma Press], I was surprised that they thought it ought to be published. And of course, Perla Daly who has designed all of my book covers, signing on to do the cover surprised me because I expected that her plate is full and would not have time. But she did and the cover is beautiful and truly holds the glimpses really well.
What are you working on right now?
I am working on a 200-hour yoga teacher training course this year! Why? I want to learn how to be still, how to quiet my mind, how to watch my breath, how to surrender more fully to Life. I am not journaling; I am doodling. Maybe someday there will be another book. I don't make plans anymore. I am learning to let go and not be in control. I working on that kind of freedom and trust in the Universe to open my hand, heart, and eyes and move me or dance me into the alchemy of energy and spirit and the surprising forms that might take someday.
Leny Mendoza Strobel is Emeritus Professor of American Multicultural Studies at Sonoma State University. She recently stepped down as the Director of the Center for Babaylan Studies and she is now an Elder to the organization. Her books, journal articles, recent online interviews and podcasts continue to reach new readers/audiences. These days, however, you are more likely to find her in the garden, weeding, gathering herbs, making bouquets, making sage bundles, making herb-infused salad dressing, harvesting lettuce and chard and pretty edible flowers. She continues to mentor graduate students and other seekers who find her personal website.