The Write Stuff is a series of interview profiles conducted by Litseen, where authors give exclusive readings from their work.
Baruch Porras-Hernandez is a writer, organizer, and actor who has performed as a featured writer in Washington D.C., New York City, Canada, and all over California. He was born in Toluca, Mexico, and grew up in Albany, California. Since 2009 he's been the head curator and organizer of The San Francisco Queer Open Mic, and his manuscript The Trees, They Hate the Birds the Most, was a finalist for the Write Bloody Publishing poetry contest.
What's your biggest struggle -- work or otherwise?
Forgiving myself and pushing myself to work harder. Honestly addressing the fear I feel every day as an artist and battling it with bravery.
If someone said, "I want to do what you do," what advice would you have for them?
Don't wait till you feel "safe." One of my favorite writer performers, Tara Hardy, says: "Lead with the vulnerable," and of course be brave. I would tell them to write and perform as much as they can, and to write something they can perform with others, to experiment and explore.
When you're sad/grumpy/pissed off, what YouTube video makes you feel better?
Do you have a favorite ancestor? What is his/her story?
I don't know much about my ancestry, but I love stories of my great grandmothers. On my father's side I've been told that my great grandmother Abigail was a fun, exciting, intelligent businesswoman who had wonderful parties at her place and was loved by the entire town of Arandas, in Jalisco back in Mexico.
Lonjina Olivares, on my mother's side, lived through the Mexican Revolution, outlived three husbands -- a wise woman, very traditional, wore a mandil every day and had a different one for church on Sundays.
As a writer, I am inspired by memories of my maternal grandfather, Fidel Hernandez, who was a writer himself and was always passionately reciting poems from the head of the table where he sat during family dinners. He played the piano, self-taught, was a visual artist, and sculptor.
Describe your week in the wilderness. It doesn't have to be ideal.
In my dreams I float through the forest riding mountain lions with falcons on my shoulders and squirrels in my pockets. In reality I would head up to Mendocino, love that area, a big tent next to a jacuzzi, my partner, some friends, and a cooler full of liquor. There would be skinny-dipping and grilling of meat.
Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.
Mala Rodriguez' Tengo Lo Que Tu Quieres would be playing, it would be very very dark, and I would be dressed as Batman, Mexican Batman. It would be a private show for someone who wants to support the arts, my art; basically it would be a very expensive strip tease with a lap dance, which would change someone's life.
What's wrong with society today?
We live in a nightmare world. From toxic clouds to bulletproof school clothing for children, it's making me not want to raise children unless I can fly them to the moon, or Mars, to raise them there.
One of the things I'm struggling with right now is finding a way to tackle a rising issue within the queer communities. In our struggle for radical change, I fear we have begun to turn on each other. And in heated moments of debate, can become cruel and unforgiving. It is making me fear, sometimes, that we are just as bad as those we deem our enemies. I want to fight against that. I want to continue the fight and push for the equality our queer elders started fighting for, and push us to do it together, and better! And make our enemies our allies, instead of creating new enemies within our own clusters.
Are you using any medications? If so, which ones?
I have asthma, and sometimes I need an inhaler. But that is all. I drink a lot of ginger tea.
What is your fondest memory?
Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time with my family after buying our first used car, right after moving here from Mexico, back in 1988. There are so many: my mother teaching me how to draw and paint, how to be patient, with the colors, with life, with everything. Listening to music with my father. They are both writers; most of my fond memories include them, and art, and love.
How many times do you fall in love each day?
Depends on what I'm eating.
What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?
Less cruelty, more equality, a female American President, and an out gay American President (that is married to me, so I can be the First Gentleman), no borders. One of my deepest dreams is to see a less violent Mexico. My homeland is bursting with pure art and beauty; imagine all the wonder that would come from it without the corruption that holds it back.
What is art? Is it necessary? Why?
I believe the fact that some explosions happened and the universe came together somehow to create us on this tiny planet is art itself. This was probably not very necessary, but it happened. We are all trying to celebrate and recreate that act of creation; it is in our cells. And art is fun! It is necessary. Can you imagine how boring the world would be without art?
What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?
I want to write things that I can bring to life on stage, and writers that inspire me. I admire bravery: Daphne Gottlieb is one of my favorite writers, and Tara Hardy as well. Anyone who challenges me to love myself is a winner in my book, so I am in love with Denise Jolly right now. But most importantly, I admire writers who are intelligent and have fun; performance needs to be fun for me, even if it is dealing with difficult or sad subjects. Two writers that are true masters at that are the legendary Regie Cabico and the incredible Wonder Dave who moved here from the Minneapolis lit scene two years ago and has been doing super work. I would like to tour more. I want to do a tour of Europe.
What are some of your favorite smells?
The kitchen when my partner is cooking. Second favorite smell is the smell of the kitchen when my partner and my mother are teaming up and making a meal together. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that would happen. It makes me feel blessed.
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