New York poet and author Elisabet Velasquez wants to introduce to Park City a girl named Sarai, a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth-grader.
Velasquez will do so during an author presentation on September 29 that will cover his first young adult novel, “When We Do It,” which tells Sarai’s story.
The free event, which is presented by the Park City Library and the Utah Humanities Book Festival, will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. in the library’s community room.
“This will be my first time in Utah,” Velasquez said. “I can not wait to see him.”
“When We Make It” follows Sarai, who can see the truth, pain, and beauty of the world inside and outside of her apartment in Bushwick, Brooklyn, which happens to be where Velasquez grew up. in the 1990s.
With her sister Estrella, Sarai overcomes the tension of family trauma and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a gentrifying Brooklyn, according to Velasquez.
“Sarai is trying to figure out what it means to do this, and her story is inspired by my own life and my own questions about where my life as a young adult was going,” Velasquez said. “With this book, I wanted to raise questions about the kind of life we’ve been told we have to live before we can say we’re successful.”
This idea comes from when Velasquez became a single mother at 16.
“I had to leave high school to look for a job to support my daughter,” she said. “I was brought up in a very religious family, and from the moment I found out I was pregnant I received messages and statistics from my mother, news, pastors and society. who kept telling me that I had ruined my life. “
But Velasquez decided not to believe what the “experts” were saying and turned to his imagination for solace.
“I refused to be defined by these messages and started to imagine worlds I hoped to live in before,” she said.
These vivid dreams led Velasquez to write poetry.
“I think poetry is a good transition to hope, and I have always believed that even though we find ourselves in situations that seem completely hopeless, we still experience times of hope,” she said. declared.
Velasquez’s poems, which are an exploration of her own life, struck a chord, and a few years later she found herself performing at the Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, Pregones Theater, Bushwick Starr Theater and in other places and events.
Her work has subsequently been featured in other media including the Huffington Post, Latina Magazine, Vibe Magazine and on NBC.
Working on “When We Make It,” which she wrote in verse, was a different type of literary experience, she said.
“I feel like I’ve written this book my whole life, because I had fragments of poems, as well as complete poems, that I had posted on social media,” she said. “By the grace of the universe, people connected with my writing and started sharing it, and it went viral.”
The poems caught the attention of a Dial Books editor.
“The editor contacted me and I thought it was a joke at first,” Velasquez said with a laugh. “But it wasn’t and we met for lunch.”
By this time, Velasquez had written only 40 pages of history.
“She told me to send her the pages, then a week later she told me she wanted to publish the book based on those 40 pages, which meant I had to come up with a story arc,” Velasquez said with a laugh.
Velasquez knew she wanted to keep the book in verse, because she wanted to connect with her readers on different levels.
“I wanted the poems to stand up, so that someone could read from any page and take something without getting lost in the story,” she said.
Velasquez also wanted to write against people’s expectations regarding impressions about race, class, and gender.
“Each of us is born with a number of rules based on what people see, and I think these
rules become limits, ”she said. “When I got pregnant, I felt like I was in a movie that everyone had finished for me. So I had to get out of that theater and write my own screenplay that hadn’t been written yet.
Velasquez also wanted the book to challenge people’s perceptions of success.
“People tend to celebrate the singular story of how people overcome situations and get their doctorates,” she said. “The narrative is, ‘I did it, and so can you,’ but what happens is we get used to measuring ourselves and our accomplishments against these wellness stories, when we get out of bed sometimes on certain days or just stay alive are huge accomplishments.
Katrina Kmak, youth services librarian at the Park City Library, said Velasquez’s trip to Park City was made possible by Willy Palomo, program director for the Utah Humanities Utah Center for the Book.
“Her story speaks to so many people from such diverse backgrounds, and I think everyone in our community will find something of themselves in this book,” Kmak said. “There are different perspectives that shs offers. The local Latinx community deserves to have a voice and it gives that voice, and I think it will have a huge impact on the young people in our community.