INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR OF GLASS CLOSET, ROBERT QUINTANA HOPKINS
Q: WHAT IS A GLASS CLOSET?
It’s a metaphor for the shame, guilt and fear many of us live with. It’s the place we hide the secrets or skeletons we hope no one ever discovers. This collection allowed me to expose my skeletons, to allow others to see what I had been hiding. It’s been the most liberating thing I’ve ever done.
Q: DOES THE TITLE HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH SEXUAL ORIENTATION?
Definitely. The title poem reflects how my dad and grandmother dealt with my sexuality. They were uncomfortable acknowledging what everyone already knew. I too was silent and complicit with it. Fortunately, we have all grown and those relationships have since changed.
Q: WHAT ELSE DO YOU DISCUSS IN THE BOOK?
Race, my identity as an AfroChicano, healing from my past, learning to love and forgive. I write about a lot, but amazingly it works. I cover gender, multi-racial identity, sexuality, spirituality and it all connects. Perhaps because I’m comfortable with blurred boundaries or multiplicity; in essence, that’s who I am.
Q: WHAT IS AN AFROCHICANO?
An AfroChicano is a person of mixed African and Mexican American ancestry. Black and Brown people have a long history of mixing both in the U.S. and in Mexico. Because so many people uncritically apply the “one drop rule” in the U.S., our popular language ignores the complexity of racial hybridity. No matter what you are mixed with, you are considered Black. AfroChicano identity honors both African and Chicano ancestry. It recognizes those who are both Black and Brown at the same time.
Q: WHY DID YOU WRITE GLASS CLOSET?
The collection allows me to express an identity that may be different than that of others, yet, it also allows me to show that regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, etc. many of us experience the same things. For example, “Its Real” communicates the tension felt when revealing a secret for the first time. Many of the poems deal with familiar and universal subjects. I just access them through my own story.
Q: WHY SHOULD READERS BUY GLASS CLOSET?
It’s a unique story, and as far as I am aware, being told for the first time. Yet, because of the universality of the subjects, while reading about me, I hope readers learn about themselves. For academics I offer insight on gender, race, identity and sexuality.
Q: YOU WRITE ABOUT YOUR OWN LIFE. WHY?
I’m trained as an anthropologist. We participate in culture and write about what we observe. Often we write from the perspective of an “outsider” researching a different culture. I wanted to write about the culture I know— my own. Many people don’t know that Zora Neale Hurston, who wrote Their Eyes Were Watching God, was an anthropologist. I admire people who are innovative and challenge the way research is performed. I wanted to redefine for myself what we consider “the field.” I also wanted to be accountable for my own life. The first step was to heal my past.
Q: WHY AFROCHICANO PRESS?
My goal is to build a cultural institution that bridges the Black and Brown communities. Both have a history of community based arts organizations that created venues for art expressed within its own cultural context. They don’t try to adapt their art to fit into someone else’s standards of acceptability. AfroChicano Press allows me to express my art without attempting to appeal to mainstream publishers.
Q: WHAT’S NEXT?
I’m currently working on a collection of poems, essays and interviews that explore the concept “freedom.” I’m also expanding the research from my master’s thesis which is an ethnographic memoir. That project is so important to me. It has the potential to be an excellent book. I’m committed to working on it until it is.