How Amnesia Helped Ingrid Rojas Contreras Tell Her Family’s Stories
In Conversation with Jordan Kisner on Thresholds
This is Thresholds, a series of conversations with writers about experiences that completely turned them upside down, disoriented them in their lives, changed them, and changed how and why they wanted to write. Hosted by Jordan Kisner, author of the essay collection Thin Places, and brought to you by Lit Hub Radio.
In this episode, Jordan talks with Ingrid Rojas Contreras (The Man Who Could Move Clouds) about the accident that left her with amnesia, grappling with the decision to write about her family, and the importance of offering healing.
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From the episode:
Ingrid Rojas Contreras: I had been wanting to write the story pre-amnesia and had convinced myself out of writing it multiple times because I just didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to tell it. Anytime that I started to write it, I felt judged. I had internalized that perceived judgment from a white gaze, and it stopped me from telling the story. I really felt that maybe someday I would get around to writing it, but I just couldn’t figure out how to do it justice.
But post-amnesia, I was so sure and so clear about why I wanted to do it. I felt that the reason it’s so important is because we had been silenced all of our lives. The fact that I couldn’t tell my friends or people who love me that this was my background. And once I remembered it all again, I was like, these stories are amazing and wonderful, who would ever be ashamed of these stories? I don’t understand. I just don’t get it. The amnesia gave me such a large feeling of wonder and awe, and a love for these stories that I could then write from that point of view. That was the missing element that I didn’t have before.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras was born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Her latest book, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, was longlisted for the National Book Award in Non-Fiction. Her first novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree was the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, and a New York Times editor’s choice. Her essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, The Believer, and Zyzzyva, among others. She lives in California.