The name Rigoberto González is often used in the same sentence as the word “prolific.” Well, he is the author of 17 books of poetry and prose, including the memoirs Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa (winner of the American Book Award) and Autobiography of My Hungers. But González’s accomplishments run far beyond a large output.
For example, he is currently a professor of English at Rutgers University-Newark, and the inaugural Stan Rubin Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the Rainier Writing Workshop. In 2015, González received the The Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Publishing Triangle. He serves as a critic-at-large with the Los Angeles Times and as a contributing editor for Poets & Writers magazine. González also sits on the Board of Trustees of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP). These are but a few of his accomplishments.
This year brings another González book, What Drowns the Flowers in Your Mouth: A Memoir of Brotherhood (University of Wisconsin Press). Joy Castro dubs this third memoir a “literary victory.” It is indeed. González comes at us with a ruthless honesty that is counterbalanced with hard-earned self-awareness. This is his attempt to make sense of a family filled with as much dysfunction as it is with real affection. Some of the truths González uncovers are particular to his circumstances, though much of what he offers is universal — undoubtedly, many readers will recognize themselves and their families in these pages. And at the memoir’s center is a difficult but indissoluble bond with his brother.
González agreed to take time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for LARB about his new book.