The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty 2019 Achy Obejas

Achy Obejas

Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty 2019

About Achy Obejas

Achy Obejas is the critically acclaimed author of The Tower of the Antilles, a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award, the PEN Open Book Award and the Aspen Word Prize. Her previous books include Days of Awe and Ruins. As a translator, she's worked with Junot Díaz, Wendy Guerra and Rita Indiana, among others. Born in Havana, she currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area.

View Conference Sessions with this Faculty

Queerness in Creative Writing
Achy Obejas, Terry Galloway, TC Tolbert, Piper J. Daniels

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: LGBTQIA

In an article for Lambda Literary, writer Marcie Bianco ask the following question to authors who identified as being queer about the nature of queer writing in its relation to identity politics: “What makes writing ‘queer’?” How does queer writing move counter to heteronormative literary traditions and forms? How does this disruption reshape current trajectories? This panel will explore queer writing in this country and how it may be impacted by gender fluid politics and the intersectional influences of other identities like disability, race and/or class.


Conflict as Heart and Engine of Story
Achy Obejas

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.
Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre, Novels, Short Stories

In this workshop, we will have a laser-like focus on one thing: conflict. Without conflict, stories are flat or meandering. Conflict is the engine, the heart, ground zero of a story, whether it’s a blaster or a 900 page novel. But what is conflict, exactly? How do we set it up? How do we set it up so it’s not terribly obvious or cliché? And how do we use conflict to advance our story?  Participants will be guided through a quick checklist approach to building conflict in stories. 


Multiplying Language: The Art of Codeswitching and Bilingualism in Creative Writing
Achy Obejas

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.
Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Advanced Workshop, Generative Workshop, Workshop
Genre: Mixed Genre, Translation, World Literature

How do you approach creative writing in a multilingual landscape? Join critically acclaimed author, translator, and educator, Achy Obejas, to explore how authors use codeswitching, bilingualism and multiple languages in the same text to highlight culture, the necessity of home languages, and to demonstrate new creative paths for their writing. When and how do we codeswitch? To what to end do we use codeswitching in our art? What does it mean for our single language readers when these techniques are employed?


More About Achy Obejas

Hoenicke, Sarah. "Points of Access: Achy Obejas's The Tower of Antilles." Los Angeles Review of Books, August 30, 2017. 

A journalist, and the author of three novels, a poetry chapbook, and numerous works of translation, Antilles is her second story collection. Her writing consistently asks how much access we have to each other and to ourselves. It questions the limits put on place and belonging for those who don’t fit one or many of the cultural stipulations about correct behavior, level of ability, sexual orientation and expression, gender, or religion. Foremost, however, Obejas understands that language is access.


Henson, George. "Achy Obejas: 'Translation as Something to Play With.'" Latin American Literature Today, no. 5, February 2018.

George Henson: Let’s talk for a minute about the Neustadt Prize and why you’re here.

Achy Obejas: Well, I’m here because I was invited to be a part of this jury and to nominate somebody for this prize, which is a really big deal. It’s a lot of money, and it’s very, very prestigious, and I nominated Edwidge Denticant.

GH: I saw that, and I don’t know her work. I’m not going to pretend to that I do, but what I found interesting is one, she’s a woman and more women are being nominated and winning the Neustadt Prize and I think we can say that about any literary prize.

AO: It’s about time for that. [Laughs]


Obejas, Achy. "Genesis.World Literature Today, September 2013. 

The first time I saw your father,
I stared back into the pool at your reflection
while he waded through,
the water moving in gentle circles away from us.


---. "Supermán.BOMB Magazine, October 10, 2017. 

Though fiction, “Supermán” is based on a real person, the legendary star of a Havana sex show, whom I first heard about many years ago from my father, who’d seen him perform. Before the revolution, the sex shows in Havana, and particularly at the Shanghai Theater, were world famous. But after the revolution, they were shut down, along with the brothels and casinos. That was when Supermán vanished. Though many have tried to find his whereabouts after the revolution, no one knows what happened to him, whether he stayed in Cuba or went into exile. It is a continuing mystery that has provoked many rumors and much speculation. In his old neighborhood, graffiti still pops up now and again paying tribute to his exploits and celebrity.


Page, Lisa. "Achy Obejas: In Deeper Waters.Origins.

I think 20th century immigration to the U.S. was marked by two important things: one was the idea that the journey was final. Most people never imagined returning to their home countries, not even to visit, because the distances were great and the costs prohibitive. Moreover, the longer they stayed, the more severed the connection. The other thing was that many immigrants came with the idea of becoming Americans. A lot of folks voluntarily gave up their language and culture once here. But things are different in the 21st century: Travel is easier, quicker and cheaper, so people come and go. Moreover, technology allows a continued intimacy with the home country, whether it's Skyping with relatives or reading the local news in real time. This changes the relationship to the U.S. because it allows you to have a concurrent life somewhere else. And it means you're either more or less than American, depending, I suppose, on who you are and your particular circumstances, but not necessarily just American.