You’re the Only Friend I Need: A Reading

On November 16 Alejandro Heredia ‘16, a Dickinson alumnus who graduated with an English major and Creative Writing minor, joined us from New York City over Zoom to give a virtual reading of his work, including his collection of short stories, You’re the Only Friend I Need. This event was cosponsored by Creative Writing; Latin American, Latinx, and Caribbean Studies; Popel Shaw Center; Women’s and Gender Resource Center; English; Spanish and Portuguese; the Office of LGBTQ Services; and the Belles Lettres Society.

Heredia was born in Santo Domingo and inspiration for his work has come from his heritage and his childhood in the Bronx. He began the event by reading a poem about friendship and, after reading, he described how friendship was a central theme in much of his work; he enjoys working with this theme and it is also a way in which he explores literary curiosity. In his next selection, the story was also about friendship and followed two friends on their way to a party. Throughout the reading there were many references to Santo Domingo and references about Dominican poems as well. At one key moment, Heredia describes the boys in Santo Domingo who hid themselves from the prying view of heteronormativity. As a queer author, his work caters to his community and connects to other aspects of his identity, which make his work an outlet for transnational discourse and storytelling.

During the discussion of the reading, Heredia explains his process of creating characters and how they come to be. The character development begins with a question about life that Heredia ponders. From there the character evolves as a consequence of the overarching question and more traits are pieced together bit by bit. Heredia talks about his motives for writing and remarks that he writes to raise more questions. This seemed to me a very unique way of thinking about writing and demonstrated how curiosity was one driving factor in his writing. The process of sitting down to write begins when Heredia designates a period of time that he sets aside in the morning to free write and sketch out ideas and questions. It was clear that a great deal of thought, time, and energy goes into his work and that he has structured a writing process that allows him to use his experiences to construct works that are meaningful and powerful.

One of the attendees of the event was a former professor of Heredia’s and she asked a question about the importance of setting in his work. Heredia explains how he is from a family of immigrants, and explains that he saw how immigration affected his mother, particularly because she did not have a close circle of friends once in the U.S. His main work takes place on the island of Santo Domingo and is woven with queer transnational narratives. Heredia’s overarching theme was creating a sense of community for his readers, and he indicated how the goal of community building informs his writing. Working with various communities is very important to Heredia and his work and going forward he continues to seek out a strong sense of community.

Asked about his experience after graduating from Dickinson, Heredia again refers to his former point about how important community is for him. He has continued his education by becoming a 2018 VONA/Voices fellow and 2019 Dreamyard Rad(ical) Poetry Consortium Fellow and currently hopes to find another academic community in which to grow as a writer and share his experiences. Heredia continues to be influenced by authors such as Junot Diaz and Elizabeth Acevedo. Maintaining ties with his heritage and his familial experiences, he is committed to delving into the traditions of Dominican writers, creating a harmonious relationship between Spanish and English, and striving to be intentional in his use of literary traditions. As a Dickinson graduate, Heredia expressed his gratitude for the strong academic foundation he was able to build here and how it has served him well in his professional career.