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Call for Information / Opinion: Lyll Becerra de Jenkins

Filed under: The Squib Report   Tagged:

Martin Schneider writes:

On one of our most popular pages (it attracts a lot of search engine traffic), a reader called Arya Breton contributes a terrific bit of context for a mentioned writer:

Lyll Becerra de Jenkins was an extraordinary journalist, writer of fiction and teacher of writing. She wrote three books—The Honorable Prison, Celebrating the Hero, and So Loud a Silence. Her short stories, such as Tyranny, which later evolved into the prize-winning YA fiction, The Honorable Prison, were masterful. During a time when everyone from Latin America was writing in the style of the magical realists, she set herself apart. A resident of New Canaan, Connecticut, where she emigrated with her North American husband and five children, she seeped herself in the writing of the Brits and North Americans and developed her own distinct voice and approach to story-telling. Frances Kiernan of The New Yorker, who was her editor in the 70s, said her writing had "unique tension," a flamenco style.

Sounds fascinating! I notice my public library has copies of The Honorable Prison and Celebrating the Hero. I'd be happy to spark a Lyll Becerra de Jenkins revival. If you are a fan or simply know something about her, please write in. And that includes you, Arya Breton!


Praying the Rosary

“If words resist, jot down,
‘I remember’ on a blank page,”
she advised, first night of class.
English was her second
tongue, yet her stories
had appeared
in The New Yorker.
Two novels set in Colombia
were on bookstore shelves.
She spoke reverently
of her influences,
Hemingway, Bradbury
and the “Catolic” writers,
Flannery O’Connor and George
Bernanos, and his Diary of a Country
Priest, some of us had seen as kids
on Grandma’s bookshelf
and scoffed at.
Students perked up as
she detailed her Flamenco
past but the rhythmic
stomping and clapping
she’d sparked in heads
went silent when she
revealed that walking
her neighborhood
praying the rosary
inspired her writing.
Then she issued a warning:
“Don’t think a story full
of fuck this and fuck that
will shock or impress me.”
The fiesta suspended in
the collective class mind
resumed and souls forever
claimed the writer’s block
words before imagining her
in a confessional
shocking a priest.

Thomas Michael McDade

Tom McDadeMarch 22, 2011

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