Báez, Annecy

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Báez, Annecy

PERSONAL:

Born in Dominican Republic; immigrated to the United States with family at the age of three; children. Education: Pace University, B.A.; Hunter School of Social Work, M.S.W.; New York University School of Social Work, Ph.D.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Westchester County, NY. Office—Lehman College, 250 Bedford Park Blvd. W, Bronx, NY 10468. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, poet, and social worker. New York University School of Social Work, New York, NY, assistant professor; Lehman College Counseling Center, Bronx, NY, director; previously Julia Dyckman Andrus Memorial, Yonkers, NY, director of Diagnostic Center. Also member of La Tertulia, the Latina writers' group of Daisy Cocco De Filippis.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Miguel Mármol Prize, 2007, for My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories.

WRITINGS:

My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, Curbstone Press (Willimantic, CT), 2007.

Contributor of short stories and poetry to anthologies and periodicals, including the anthologies Vinyl Donuts, National Book Foundation; Tertuliando/Hanging Out, Hunter Caribbean Studies and Latinarte; and Riverine: Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers, edited by Laurence Carr, Codhill Press; periodicals include Tacones Rojos, Brujula Compass, Caudal, and Callaloo.

SIDELIGHTS:

Annecy Báez is a psychotherapist by training and has worked for more than two decades as a clinical social worker providing individual, family, and group psychotherapy. She is also a poet and writer whose writings have appeared in periodicals and anthologies. "For the longest time, I've tried to find a balance between motherhood, self, work and the creative," the author noted on her home page. "I carry with me a black little notebook that holds my creative ideas from work, to art, to what I will cook tonight & to things I long to do with family and friends."

Báez's first book, My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, won the 2007 Miguel Mármol Prize, which is awarded to a first book-length work of fiction in English by a Latino writer who demonstrates respect for understanding among cultures and furthers an understanding for civil liberties and human rights. The tales in My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories were called "powerful and loving stories" by School Library Journal contributor Will Marston, who noted: "The characters are raw and real, and the relationships are deep and complicated." A contributor to Kirkus Reviews called the writing "sparse, surprisingly powerful at times."

Although some stories were previously published independently in periodicals and anthologies, the book's fourteen tales are connected and focus on young Dominican women living in the Bronx over three decades, beginning in the 1970s. The author herself was born in the Dominican Republic, came to the United States when she was three years old, and grew up in the Bronx. For her tales, the author draws on her own life in the Bronx and also her professional interests, which include domestic violence, psychological trauma and its consequences, substance abuse, and spirituality.

The collected stories in My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories focus on various episodes and problems in the lives of several women, including Mia, Eva, Zuki, and Rica, beginning in their teenage years. The first tale recounts the girls' awakening sexuality and their rebelliousness to their traditional parents. The ensuing stories follow the girls as they grow up to become women and eventually mothers. Many of the stories focus on the girls' individual struggles against traditions and values that they view as restrictive and their attempts to assimilate into mainstream American culture while maintaining a connection to their Latin American roots. For example, in the "The Red Shoes," Zuki is drawn to a pair of red shoes that outrage her mother, who believes the shoes are inappropriate for any woman, let alone a young girl. In fact, she tells her daughter that the shoes are whorish. A Publishers Weekly contributor noted of the tale that "a sexual undertone seethes, if awkwardly, throughout." In another story, "To Tell the Truth," Mia is caught playing hooky from school and receives a severe beating from her father, who accuses her of being sexually active. However, in the following story, "Awakening," Mia and her father eventually reconcile.

Báez also explores the influence of a spiritual advisor named Aura who works at a local spiritual store called a botanica, where she reads tarot cards, offers healing by the laying on of hands, and gets rid of the evil spirits in peoples' lives. Aura offers Mia guidance and ultimately healing. In "Como Se Dice Success in Spanish?," Mia and her friend Zuki, who are now older, dabble in reading tarot cards while looking back on their various life decisions, especially those having to do with their lovers. "Báez is a new voice in Dominican fiction, and one well worth reading," wrote Deborah Donovan in Booklist. Mary Margaret, writing in Library Journal, wrote of the individual stories: "Together they form a moving, sensitive novel."

Baez told CA: "Reading strongly influenced my interest in writing. As an adolescent I read the classics and wondered how the authors created these worlds that seemed so real to me, and people whose actions mimicked in some ways the actions of people I knew. I wanted to create such stories, but contemporary stories that reflected my world and experience. Back then in the United States, you rarely were asked to read African American or Latino writers; I wanted to read about people like me, a young girl living in the Bronx and making decisions about everyday matters, I wanted to write about life issues.

"Nicholasa Mohr's book, El Bronx Remembered, was a big influence on me. I could write about the Bronx. It's ok to write about it and about one's experience. I became more serious about becoming a writer as I began to read more African American writers and Mexican American writers, and then I read Julia Alvarez who is Dominican like me and I knew I was on the right path. Something else that impacted on my wish to write was my work. I am a therapist, and at the time when I began to write more, I was the director of a trauma center; writing was healing, a vehicle where I could cleanse from the stories of trauma I heard on a daily basis for almost ten years of my life.

"I have been influenced by many writers. In my youth I read a lot of Russian literature: Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and my favorite, Anton Chekov. I also loved Katherine Mansfield and Kate Chopin. I can't forget Anaïs Nin, Virginia Wolf, and Raymond Carver. I loved fiction and poetry, particularly Latino writers like Jorge Luis Borge, Pablo Neruda, Mario Vargas Llosa, Isabel Allende, and Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector, to name a few. My interests and influences were diverse, eclectic, and multicultural. Contemporary Mexican American writers became my mentors—Ana Castillo, Denise Chavez, and Sandra Cisneros—their voices reminding me of what our voices can become. I also loved the authenticity of African American writers like Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston, and Toni Morrison. Then I lived in the Dominican Republic for some time during my adolescence, and it was there I was surrounded by poetry. It was in my homeland that I learned to read more Latin American poets and writers, particularly Dominican writers, including Pedro Mir, Salomé Ureña Henriquez, Franklin Mieses Burgos, Aída Cartagena Portalatín, and Soledad Alvarez. Other influences have been the places I have lived and the people I have met; their stories and their lives have influenced my work deeply.

"Presently, I work full-time as a director of a counseling center of a college. I write at night, after dinner, or in the early morning hours before going to work. I write on the weekends, at the same times, as well.

"The truth is, however, that stories are presenting themselves to me at all times. I can't escape them, so I carry a black notebook where I write these stories. I may hear a sentence, a conversation, the beginning of a story, or the skeleton of another, and so I write it in the notebook for future use. When the notebook is full, I add those tiny colored stickies to the section where there is a story to return to it when I have the time.

"Art also allows the process of writing to surface. I love to create things: handmade books, hand-painted boxes, and acrylic collages. If I go to my art space and stare at a blank sheet of watercolor paper, ideas begin to surface. If I start to paint, everything begins to flow. Painting is the seed and foundation for story.

"Writing is allowance, allowing oneself to go deep within oneself to a place of knowing, and then allowing whatever surface to surface and then writing it.

"The most surprising thing I have learned as a writer is that writing is a courageous act of nonattachment. One cannot write and be full of greed and fear. Writing is an act of faith and letting go. I have also learned that writing is a lifelong learning process one becomes a writer as one is writing, but if you don't write then it is hard to become what one can potentially be as a writer.

"The effect the book has had has been twofold: people identify with the struggles of the young women in the book and understand their bicultural conflicts. Conversations between myself and readers have opened up discussions about issues of parental struggles with their children over traditional values vs. American values, about child abuse, sexual abuse, self-esteem and self-empowerment, healthy relationships and parenting, about who will we be as parents of young Latina women. Some individuals have been inspired to write as a healing process, to let go of the past, whereas others have been inspired to begin the process of telling their own unique story and becoming writers themselves."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, November 1, 2007, Deborah Donovan, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, p. 27.

Choice, April, 2008, O.B. Gonzalez, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, p. 1335.

Hispanic, November, 2007, Victor Cruz-Lugo, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, p. 75.

Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 2007, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories.

Library Journal, November 1, 2007, Mary Margaret, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, p. 62.

Publishers Weekly, September 17, 2007, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, p. 34.

School Library Journal, November, 2007, Will Marston, review of My Daughter's Eyes and Other Stories, p. 160.

ONLINE

Annecy Báez Home Page,http://annecybaez.com (July 9, 2008).

Counseling Center, Lehman CUNY Web site,http://www.lehman.cuny.edu/ (July 9, 2008), brief profile of author.

Curbstone,http://www.curbstone.org/ (October 18, 2006), "Annecy Baez Wins 2007 Mármol Prize."