Blue Mesa Review is ecstatic to welcome a new faculty advisor to the mix this year, José Orduña. Born in Córdoba, Veracruz, Orduña immigrated to Chicago when he was two. At nine, his family traveled to Ciudad Juárez and filed for permanent residency. Having entered the US on a tourist visa, which had since expired, they were considered “removable aliens.” In July of 2011, José was sworn in as a citizen. He reflects on these experiences in his new book, The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement (Beacon Press, 2016). He is a graduate of the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa and is active in Latin American solidarity. We sat down with Orduña this week to get to know him a little better.
Aaron Reeder: Where were you before arriving in Albuquerque?
José Orduña: Iowa City, Iowa, a college town in Eastern Iowa. There, the winters are Siberian and the summers are old testamenty (bugs).
AR: What is your favorite thing about Albuquerque, or New Mexico, thus far?
JO: All the amazing things there are to do. I took a drive up to the Sandias the other day and it was sublime.
AR: What do you read?
JO: I read a lot of weird stuff. I really like reading political commentary. Right now I’m reading Peter Matthiessen’s In The Spirit of Crazy Horse, a book that chronicles the story of Leonard Peltier.
AR: What are you working on? Or, rather, do you have a project in mind for the time you’ll be at UNM?
JO: The way I work begins by reading around something I’m interested in, and somehow becoming immersed in some aspect of it. I’m currently in that exploratory/experiential phase.
AR: When did you know that you were/are a writer?
JO: Well, I tend to doubt myself a lot, and pretty severely. I guess I stopped doubting myself really harshly when my book was published. It is an undeniable object in the world that contains thousands of words I put there, so I guess I can’t doubt that I am a writer anymore. Now I just lay awake at night wondering if I’m any good.
AR: Who are your writerly influences?
JO: I’m not really sure. I think of myself as primarily an essayist, so Michel de Montaigne and Thomas De Quincey are some old school, essayists who have influenced the way I think about writing. One of my first essay teachers, the essayist David Lazar also really shaped the way I think about what I do. I really like DeLillo’s prose and pacing. I read John Berger’s essays a lot. I’ve read a lot of Susan Sontag, Octavio Paz, W. G. Sebald. I also really like the lyric/political nature of Subcomandante Marco’s communiqué from the jungle.
AR: According to U.S. Climate Data, the average daylight temperature for Albuquerque in January is 47 degrees Fahrenheit. Would you say that’s cold?
JO: No. That doesn’t even approach cold. I came from a place where -30 is not unheard of.
AR: Do you have any hobbies?
JO: Not really, not lately. The last year has been really busy for me so I haven’t really had much time for hobbies, but I guess I like watching movies, and doing outdoor stuff. I go to the gym on a fairly regular basis, but I’m not sure you can call that a hobby because I hate it half the time.
AR: Can you tell me a joke that you’ve memorized?
JO: I only know one joke, and it isn’t appropriate, so, no.
AR: Fruit or Veggies?
JO: To eat? One fruit vs. many veggies? What kind of fruit? What kind of veggies? I find it necessary to eat both.
AR: What band would you want to see make a comeback?
JO: Digable Planets
AR: Red or Green Chile?
Aaron Reeder is the co-editor-in-chief of Blue Mesa Review. He’s from Southern California and any temperature below 72 degrees is cold.