“Reality is a sound, you have to tune into it not just keep yelling.” — Anne Carson
Viviana Prado-Núñez is an author, poet, and playwright born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in a hospital with a 4.0 Google review rating and a view of the ocean. She has never seen Star Wars, eaten a grasshopper, or written a poem without the letter ‘e,’ though she hopes to do all three of those things in the future. Previous credits include winning the 2017 Burt Award for Caribbean Young Adult Literature, finalisting for the 2020 Greenhouse Residency with SPACE at Ryder Farm, longlisting for the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award, and appearing on the New York Public Library’s recommended reading list for 2020 National Caribbean American Heritage Month. She has also developed plays with The Center at West Park, Echo Theater Company’s 2019 National Young Playwrights in Residence program, Corkscrew Theater Festival, and The Parsnip Ship. She is currently based in New York City. BA: Columbia University, 2020.
“I took the Curriculum Design workshop with Jay Howard and have been ruminating on how to translate the mechanisms of my artistic self into a curriculum for others. I’ve also had a lot of great chats with all of the TAP organizers about struggles with imposter syndrome and how to emphasize process over product in a world that links one’s artistic worth with final tangible end product.”
Most Memorable TAP Moment:
“I don’t know if I can pinpoint any one moment, but I can say that overall that I am in awe at the world that has been opened to me. As a very new potential teaching artist, the world of teaching artists and all the love and care they hold has been eye-opening and soul-affirming to me, and I am thankful to have witnessed it and taken part in it for as much of it as I have been able.”
Find out more about Viviana here:
- “And the Trees Fall Down”
Artistic Sample—Prose—Untitled Short Story
I had this friend once whose husband I disliked. I would have hated him maybe if it weren’t for the fact I could never muster the energy to hate him and anyway people like him made me sad. He lived with this friend of mine way at the top of a big gray building (the lobby was small and rose-marble, and walking into it always surprised me, half the walls were mirrors, but the old kind, the rusted-like-old-pennies-kind), and his apartment took up half the floor and had an expansive, world-encompassing view of Central Park. And maybe that’s the kind of view a lot of people might’ve liked, but I didn’t because you could see no people under those trees only lights very far in the distance, and I didn’t see the point of a view like that if you couldn’t watch it change. In any event, the apartment was huge and block-y—every room felt like a snug cube with carpeting and black, sleek furniture and all along the walls were big professional black-and-white photos of my friend, her husband, and her three children (one boy, two girls) posing smile-less in white on the green of a golf course.
It was there where I first met him, I think, although I have issues remembering. It was daytime, sunlight streamed in through the big window with the Central Park view, he was drinking a glass of beer with ice cubes in it (Who does that? I thought as I moved towards him), “Meet my husband,” my friend said, and his mouth was a line as we shook hands.
I used to love my friend very much. We were the only two girls from the Caribbean in our miserable broom-closet of a high school in Connecticut. She was born in Haiti, but her parents left when she was very small. She didn’t talk about it much. Instead, she brought rice and beans with her to lunch without remarking upon the fact of it and once she told the story of a crazy uncle who kept a goat tied to the back fence of his house in New Jersey and then killed it, cooked it on a spit in his backyard, and fed it to the family at Thanksgiving. I didn’t know whether to believe it or not, but I didn’t have many issues believing it at the time. It hadn’t been long since my mom and I had moved from P.R., and it wasn’t so far away from me yet that I couldn’t remember how things were. Even my own mother had the story of her father who brought home a flock of pigeons and kept them in a flimsy wire cage in the garage. Over the course of many months she befriended them, even had a name for her favorite one (Chinchito, with the bad leg), only to come home one day to find her father had killed them all and put them in the sancocho. I looked at my grandfather’s sanchocho a lot differently after that.
As for my friend, this silence about where she came from was the only silent thing about her. She wore sparkly purple nail polish and got drunk at parties I wasn’t invited to and chatted with people during class. She had everyone’s phone numbers, knew who dated who, greeted everyone with “oh my GOD, how ARE you,” and everyone wanted to be her friend, even the white girls. I didn’t know why she wanted to be friends with me, but perhaps it was because she was kind. She went out of her way to sit with me at lunch. If you talked, she listened. But there was a strange hovering quality to the way she listened. When she spoke back, it was like she was trying to stay away from something. Haiti was one thing, but I realized later that she wouldn’t respond to a lot of things. I would tell her how alone I felt and she would nod and say nothing. When I talked about P.R., I could almost feel something in her eyes wanting to lean in, wanting to own something of it, but also not wanting to either. And for that she had no words either.
I missed P.R. so much it ached. A lot of things were better here, there was no doubt about that. School was better—I learned very quickly how to no longer do math with my fingers, the teachers didn’t switch around as much. The guys here didn’t snap the back of girls’ bra straps as they walked down the hallway and when they were lewd, they kept the lewdness among themselves and in their eyes as they stared at you, they never yelled it down the hallway. In P.R., if you talked to a guy for more than a minute, the whole school knew. But here it was different. Anyone could talk to anyone. In a way. The other kids didn’t know what to do with me. They would try to talk to me, but everything I would say back wouldn’t go through for some reason, like we were talking through water. They thought I was Mexican and asked me to do their Spanish homework for them and laughed while they were asking. They didn’t understand my accent, and sometimes I thought they were pretending not to. I wouldn’t know a word in English and they would stare. They would stare at other things too. My breasts, my skin. I felt the white girls wanting to touch my hair, but not knowing how to ask. Or maybe they didn’t stare, they were only glancing and it felt like staring to me. I began to feel heavy, like my body took up more space than it actually did. I entered a room and felt like I had a radius. I didn’t feel that way in P.R.
I would dream about it. Simple things like walking down to the gas station at the corner to buy ice or the little old lady next door who mowed the lawn while her little dog yapped from behind the screen door. I realized later I didn’t miss people so much, but I missed pictures, like maybe I didn’t really know the place at all. Like all my memories had been formed by seeing things rather than living them. I missed quenepas and fruit that felt mushy. I missed the sound of coquís at night. I even missed the annoying boys who rode around on their bikes throwing rocks at each other and cursing. Sometimes in my dream I would be in the sky looking down at the island from very high up, see the sea and the white outlines of beaches, and the little white blocks of the buildings and in my dream I’d want to hug it, except I had no arms, I was only a pair of eyes and that was all. I missed the place like it was something grand, and later on in my life when I went back I would realize P.R. wasn’t so grand at all. It was just another place where the people who lived in it thought it was normal. But I was very young—and so, still I dreamed.