We asked 2023 Texas Book Festival Author Melania Luisa Marte a few questions about herself and her featured Festival title Plantains and Our Becoming.
TBF: Why did you write your featured book? (What was your inspiration? Where did the idea start?)
MM: “I wrote Plantains and Our Becoming because I wanted to explore my family’s history as well as the history of the Island most of my family calls home. Most of my elders on the island have spent their life doing some sort of manual trade as farmers, gardeners, cacao pickers, and cooks. When I spent time on the island of the Dominican Republic, I began exploring how the connection to the soil was an intrinsic part of my family’s everyday life in the countryside. I devoted time to farming vegetables and growing my own plantains and through this process fell in love with the magnificence of how this plant stays rooted through so much external chaos and change. I wanted to inspire other folks to return to the soil and find joy, rest, and some sort of enlightenment they can harness to heal.”
TBF: What is the last book you read, loved, and can’t stop recommending? What did you love about it?
MM: “Neruda On The Park by Cleyvis Natera is absolutely so inspiring and takes on some heavy topics with light and grace. What I love most about this novel is the richness of Natera’s storytelling. As someone who grew up in New York City and spent many years in the Dominican Republic, I always look for works that translate onto the page the feelings of both island life and city life. I think Natera nailed it so flawlessly and so carefully that when you read this novel, your senses are transported seamlessly into this world and you don’t want to leave.”
TBF: What’s the first book you remember reading and who gave it to you? What inspired your love of reading / writing?
MM: “One of the first books I remember reading was by Barbara Parks from her Junie B. Jones series. My mother bought it for me at my school’s Scholastic book fair and I remember becoming obsessed with how funny and dramatic Junie’s character was. It inspired me to be an opinionated, daring, and creative little girl too!”
Melania Luisa Marte is a writer, poet, and musician from New York living between the Dominican Republic and Texas. Her viral poem “Afro-Latina” was featured by Instagram on their IG TV for National Poetry Month and has garnered over nine million views. Her work has also been featured by Ain’t I Latina, AfroPunk, The Root, Teen Vogue, Telemundo, Remezcla, PopSugar, and elsewhere. You can see Marte at the 2023 Texas Book Festival this November 11–12!