Why I wrote a book
i am terrified.
then i remember
giving birth to a continent.
i am giving birth
a continent over and over.
– the process | writing a book | the ancestors were my midwives | ashé.
[salt. | nayyirah waheed]
This approaching May marks the 5th anniversary since the departure of my querido grandpa, Nanito. He was one of the most important, perhaps the most important man in my life. He meant the world to me. To commemorate his life, I will publish my first word baby as a tribute to his legacy.
For 94 years, Alejandro Cadena, or Nanito (his endearing nickname), lived a rich and colorful life on his own terms. After his passing in 2012 I was sad for obvious reasons, but more so for the younger family members that wouldn’t be able to meet him, to hear his stories, to experience his charm and wisdom.
That’s when the idea popped into my head that I should write a book about his life. This was well before I had any aspirations to make a career from writing, like I do now. Life is funny that way.
I wanted to document my abuelo’s life story because I’m grateful for his existence.
Because he taught me to be hungry for knowledge and understanding while maintaining a healthy dose of skepticism. Nanito instilled in me a sense of wonder and curiously. He told me I could do anything I wanted in life. He allowed me to dream big, without boundaries. To boot, he was a charismatic character with a free-spirited nature. To say that he influenced and inspired my life – and that of others – is a gross understatement.
Nanito was also a captivating storyteller and to honor that, the book is made up of short stories. I penned his biographical narrative in both English and Spanish because I wanted to reflect his Mexican background, and pay homage to my origins.
It’s been five years since I thought of doing this because the inception of the idea, putting the process in motion, committing to the project and actually carrying out it until fruition didn’t quite happen in the beautiful linearly fashion that I originally intended for.
Procrastination, distractions, self-doubt, discouragement, not realizing that writing a dual language book was basically writing two separate books, that my Spanish wasn’t nearly as decent as my English, that self-publishing is comprised of endless details I knew nothing about (because I’m a total newbie) and so on were some of the hurdles I faced, and sometimes really got to me.
But none of these things matter anymore because it’s finally happening. And I feel a mixture of disbelief, happiness, fear and relief (because maybe I can have my social life back).
I wrote this book for my grandpa, for my family, for my community, for myself.
But I’m also excited for others to get a glimpse of my Nanito.