Jamie Figueroa

Faculty, MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts
Port Townsend WA

Email
jamie.figueroa@goddard.edu

Biography

Jamie Figueroa (Taíno), Boricua by way of Ohio, explores identity, familial relationships, place, culture, and ancestry. She writes across genres including fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry. She has partnered with artists for mixed media performances such as Women in War, Women Warriors and Mujeres y Mujeres at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, and Love Letters to the World at the Paseo Arts Festival. A recipient of many honors, including a Truman Capote Scholarship, VONA (Voices Of Our Nation’s Arts Association), Napa Valley Writer’s Conference, Mixed Roots Film and Literary Festival, Disquiet-Lisbon, she was selected as a Rona Jaffe Scholar for Bread Loaf. Her work has been published in Catapult, Epoch, Hinchas de Poesia, The Santa Fe Literary Review, Yellow Medicine Review, Flash: International, Eleven Eleven, and Sin Fronteras, among others. Jamie has been active with Littleglobe, El Otro Lado, The Identity Project, and The Cut+Paste Society; organizations that merge art and creative practice with social activism. For 13 years, Jamie has called Santa Fe her home—the place that continuously supports the exploration of her mixed race identity, the totality of her expression, healing, wholeness, and writing.

Education

MFA in Creative Writing, The Institute of American Indian Arts
BFA in Creative Writing, The Institute of American Indian Arts

Personal Statement

(about my writing)

In my stories, I explore the tapestry of the family. Mainly, I am interested in the threads relating to women’s voices. The fate of the feminine in the family context. I tug at where the weave has frayed: ancestral patterns and trauma made evident in present day relating, the ache and longing for the ideal conflicts with the disappointment of what is. Exploring these foundational relationships, through the perspective of the daughter, I find the material endless. I am absorbed in the complexity, the multiple variations of a rudimentary design. The body, the natural environment, and language are important to me. How characters relate to the land that both contains and sustains them, and how the land relates to them, must be included. How language represents an intertwining of ethnic and cultural history that contributes to the characters’ current context must also be included. In my stories, I see the body as a paradoxical combination of the sacred, a battleground, and at times a magic trick for the story’s subtext. The characters’ journey is one of desire and suffering. Often for me, the best way to communicate this is to implement the disarming force of magical realism, where, unbelievable occurrences are accepted by the characters and life continues. The reader is forced to normalize what is abnormal. This is an echo of the response that happens in the family around trauma and abuse. In this way, my stories aid me in considering the nuclear family as a place of intense friction between the political and the spiritual, the ancestral and the individual, the said and the unsaid. What does a story that is both wounding and healing sound like, look like, feel like?

Writing is the way I am reminded of the most expansive expression of humanity, a way to give voice and capture what is unsettling, what is behind and beneath. Characters demand empathy, beg for complexity. As a writer, I feel one of my significant tasks is to darken the white and lighten the black. Create more space in between the polarities of ideas and opinions. Place the protagonist and the antagonist side by side. So closely are they to each other that they could be related. Even closer still and they appear one and the same.

(teaching philosophy)

Nothing is more engaging for me than sharing my passion, especially one on one, with someone who shares a love of literature and who is also captivated by the creative force necessary to birth such work. As an educator, one of the aspects I enjoy most is the individual conference where together we tailor lessons specifically to the student’s needs. I understand and value going over each page, paragraph and sentence, the act of asking questions, listening attentively, guiding, and offering support. I honor the influence and the necessary relationship one must have with their wild mind, with the process one must lean into where the known and the unknowable are equally essential, all the while simultaneously cultivating a rigorous and thorough understanding of craft.

In the past five years, I’ve taught creative writing—poetry, fiction, creative nonfiction, and dramatic writing with an emphasis on identity, familial relationships, ancestry, and place—to a variety of students ranging from bilingual sixth grade immigrant students at Ortiz Middle School; high school artists, musicians, dancers, and actors at New Mexico School for the Arts; undergraduate and graduate students at University of New Mexico, Highlands, Sierra Nevada College MFA Low Residency, and the Institute of American Indian Arts. In addition, I’ve organized the Scribe Circle, a hub of literary reading and writing events, for multi-generational communities within central and northern New Mexico. Most recently, I’ve worked with teenage indigenous youth creating personal myths to be used as talismans, and one-on-one with mature working professionals to help guide the development of poetry and prose manuscripts, as well as screenplays.

What I deeply believe about teaching creative writing, the elements of the craft, the integration of the imagination, and respect for one’s unique perspective and voice is this: we are most present, most generous, and most receptive to growing our whole selves and our lives through the arts and literature when we have a teacher who intimately knows the force of these mediums, is passionate about tending to their own ongoing practice, and reveres the learning process of those put into their care.

Publications

  1. Epoch, 65.1, contributorCornell University2016
  2. Issue 16, "Family Ritual"Hinchas de Poesia2015