The Good Thunder reading series returned to campus this past Thursday, Sept. 16, for its seventh season. This year’s series was kicked off by award-winning author Jaquira Diaz.
Diaz is the author of “Ordinary Girls: A Memoir” which won a Whiting award and a Florida Book Awards Gold Medal. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Rolling Stone, The Guardian, and many other publications.
Diaz’s show-stopping event of the day was the book reading, which attracted a large, eager crowd. The room buzzed as the first in-person reading event in over a year commenced.
Chris McCormick, the new director of Good Thunder, introduced Diaz to a freshly hushed crowd.
“It’s happening, I can feel it,” McCormick said, in reference to the excitement tangible within the room. “I am so excited to see such a great crowd…it feels like a triumphant return.”
When speaking about Diaz, McCormick made a comment that rang true to the audience throughout the rest of the reading.
“She refuses to let a story be a mere accounting of something that happened. She shows you,” he said.
“I think I’m gonna cry, but I’m wearing so much mascara,” was the way Diaz introduced herself to the crowd. Diaz, exhausted in the best way, introduced herself and her book, before delving into the pages.
“I’m going to read about my parents’ marriage,” Diaz spoke softly as she opened her worn, dog eared and post-it marked copy of her book.
She went on to tell the story of her parents’ meeting, of how her mother was too young, and lied about her age to get close to her father, and how her father was a distracted activist.
“Sometimes, it’s my mother who is the villain…sometimes, it’s my father who’s the villain,” she read. “My mother loved my father obsessively, violently. My father was a womanizer, withdrawn, absent.”
Diaz spoke about how she discovered and grew into her queerness in a neighborhood and time that didn’t think very fondly of queer girls and how she was never feminine enough, always too rough.
She read about her first queer relationship with the daughter of her parents’ friends, a girl who stole Diaz’s mothers’ cigarettes and blew the smoke back at Diaz. “This was everything, this butch girl so unafraid getting everything she wanted, and how willing I was to give it to her.”
Much of Diaz’s reading focused on her mother; the way she acted, the way she looked, the way she loved.
“She was small but scared of nothing…as petite as she was, my mother owned every room she walked into. She eclipsed the sun with her confidence, took the world by the throat and shook it until it gave up what was hers,” she read.
Diaz’s mother reminded her children to love themselves, to stand up for those you love, and to love with fire.
She read a story of the time her mother fought another woman outside of her apartment and brought a knife with her. Diaz frames this as a formative moment in her life, seeing her mother decide to approach the other woman with a knife.
“My mother and her knife and all that rage,” she read.
“I feel very lucky and grateful to be here with all of you, so thank you,” Diaz said, ending her reading. She left the podium to a large round of applause, and went on to mingle with the crowd, who were eager to stick around for a word with the author. Diaz also signed books for anyone that had or purchased copies.
The Good Thunder reading series’ next author is Su Hwang, Robert C. Wright award winner, on Thursday, Nov. 11.
Hwang will be joined by Robyn Katona, MFA graduate student from Minnesota State University, Mankato.
Good Thunder events include the Workshop, which takes place from 10–11 a.m. at the Emy Frentz Art Guild, the Craft Talk from 3–4 p.m. in Centennial Student Union Room 245, the reading from 7:30–8:30 p.m. which also takes place in CSU 245.