Felicia Luna Lemus, the author of novels, Like Son (2007) and Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties (2003) is amongst 15 other animated Latino writers featured in the new hysterical anthology Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray, Drunk Uncles, and other Quinceañera Stories (2007). If it were up to her, as she describes in detail in Quince Never Was, she would have had a Goth quinceañera and worn “so much white powder that [she would have] resembled a Día de los Muertos altar sugar calavera.” Here are some tidbits about this true cosmopolatina originally from California, but now more New Yorker than anything…
Name: Felicia Luna Lemus
Barrio: East Village, New York City
Favorite writer and/or book?
To choose just one would feel sacrilege, but a book I’m reading right now that I really love is Sorry, Tree by Eileen Myles. It’s literary, punk, succinct, and brilliantly perfect.
Most embarrassing/random job you have ever had?
I’ve never really had any embarrassing jobs, but my behavior was embarrassing when I was a coffee house manager in my late teens and early twenties. I was pathetically uptight about things like how to make a “proper” latte and the atrocity of burned bagels. Total buzz kill co-worker.
How old were you when you wrote your first book Trace Elements of Random Tea Parties?
I was 22 when I started writing it and 28 when Farrar, Straus & Giroux published it.
Were you a writer since your Goth days in high school? How did you discover your talent?
I’ve always had a slightly perverse love affair with books. Each summer of my childhood, I was the nerdy kid who won the public library’s reading contest. I read voraciously and constantly. It probably would have served me well to be outdoors and making friends instead, but books were my world. When I was in third grade, I wrote what I jokingly refer to as my true first novel. The book—hand bound and illustrated by me in an edition of one—was about the adventures of Snoopy and an evil twin I created for him. It wasn’t until after college that I did the ridiculous and decided to give this writing thing a go professionally. Now I can’t imagine a different life. I don’t know what I would do if I couldn’t play with words for a living.
What was your favorite quinceañera like that you ever attended? (I’m sure none of them were as cool as your would-be Goth one)…
My favorite quinceañera was the one I never got to have – the one I describe in my story Quince Never Was.
Did your friend ever throw that Flash Gordon themed quinceanera?
I’ll take that answer to my grave. A little mystery keeps life interesting.
What’s your opinion about quinceañeras now? If you had a daughter, would you throw her one?
Hypothetically speaking, if I had a daughter, and if said daughter wanted a quinceañera, I would probably agree to throw her one—after a long discussion on feminism, gender performativity, and post-colonial social resistance. The fact that I’m not Catholic and that I imagine said daughter wouldn’t be either (but who knows, maybe she would be…) might be a complicating factor, but I’m sure we could figure out some progressive and radical way to make her quinceañera rock our hypothetical world.
This was a busy year for you with the publication of your second book, Like Son. Do you have plans for a third novel?
It has been a busy year, and I love it! I’m in the early stages of writing my third novel. It’s all super-duper top-secret right now, but I can guarantee that if you liked Quince Never Was, you’ll dig my next novel.
What do you love/hate most about NYC?
I love New York’s contradictions. Here it is, the United States’ most cosmopolitan, global, bustling city–absolutely anything goes here–but at the same time, my street feels like a true neighborhood. Some of my neighbors have lived here for generations, others have only lived here for a few years, but people truly take time to say hello to each other on the street, we watch out for each other, and we take pride in our home.
As for what I dislike about this perfect city…I get sad for how polluted New York gets. There are some days in the summer when the view up 1st Avenue from Houston is pure smog haze. Oh, and I really dislike the fact that so many people don’t pick up their dog’s poop. Nasty.
If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?
If I couldn’t live here, I’d probably implode into a puff of smoke and simply vanish.