Interview

Interview: RONALDO WILSON WITH ANDY FITCH at The Conversant

AF: Just to illustrate how all of this relates to the book, how you’ll ease your way into argument, could we discuss your use of the autobiographical? Farther Travelergives frequent reference, we’ve said, to academic job-market frustrations. It provides flitting testimony of an “I” wrecking its mom’s Porsche, perhaps her Mercedes. Either of those tonalities risks seeming self-involved. But of course part can be read as documentary record, parts as staged scenes of confession, parts as camp fantasy. Do you expect readers to make such distinctions? Does it matter? In terms of easing into an argument here, you’ll seem to present a polyvalent, polyvocal mode of subjecthood, yet never say so deliberately.

RW: You’re right. Self-involvement seems crucial when trying to reconstruct the self! Here multiple conversations happen in terms of class dynamics and thinking about my mother. She came to the U.S. from the Philippines when she married my father. The occupying Japanese government killed both of her parents. That vague sense I have comes from my dad, since she won’t discuss any of it with us. I’m slowly gaining the courage to ask her myself, but the book offers what I knew thus far. She’d trained in the Philippines as a journalist. She also obtained a nursing degree, and for a time worked in a leper colony. But when my mom came to the U.S., she couldn’t continue as a journalist or a nurse. No records. So she had to go back to school to re-train as a nurse’s assistant. She did some other things, studied stenography, ceramics. I’m just thinking about class play within the Filipino community. Also in the Black community. What does it means to boast or show, to maneuver outside of one’s class designation, something always in process and greatly contested? My brother, sister and I grew up to understand that we were poor. But we’d always had many things. My parents (and extended family) helped us finish college.

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