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by Hedgebrook Staff

In the current political climate, the question of whether writing fiction is of any practical use is a pressing one. While humanitarian groups such as No More Deaths/No Más Muertes work on the front lines of the South American refugee crisis at the US-Mexico border, sitting inside and reading or writing can begin to feel futile.

Writer and recent recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation fellowship, Margarita Ramirez Loya has a more encouraging view. She believes that this is the perfect time for creative work to help change the narrative around immigration and give voice to those seeking asylum in the US as living conditions in their home countries become untenable. She has written about the importance of storytelling, saying, “I am aware of the power of reading. Books can become mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors. I believe words matter… as long as there is an opportunity for unrepresented voices to be heard, there is hope for social justice… and I commend Hedgebrook for making sure that our voices are heard.”

Her remarks are particularly true as we look ahead, to the world our children will create. With this in mind, Ramirez Loya has chosen to work on a Young Adult novel, because “At this critical time in politics, I want young people to be aware of what is happening in our society. My wish is to create empathy in readers by having them witness, from an immigrant’s perspective, the atrocities that children and their families are currently experiencing at the border.”

In a time of tremendous political discourse on the matter, it is vital that attention is given to Mexican and South American writers who bringing forth stories of compassion and humanity. Their stories need to be told, and their books need to be read. And these writers need space and support to create their art.

Following her time as a writer-in-residence at Hedgebrook, Margarita spoke of the sanctity of this need: “As a child, I imagined myself writing stories for the world… I marveled at the idea of changing things that I didn’t like, just with the power of words… Hedgebrook welcomed me with open arms and taught me to believe in myself and that my words can create understanding in the world. Hedgebrook makes the world a better place… Thank you for believing in me and in the story that is in me that needs to be told.”

Margarita Ramirez Loya is a Mexican-American writer working in Arizona, and the recent recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation fellowship. She is an ESL instructor at Cochise College, and, in 2012, she collaborated with her students to produce We Are Stories, a collection of stories based on interviews with Arizona residents that explores the immigrant experience, local history, and the power of storytelling. Currently, she is at work on a Young Adult novel centered around the US-Mexico border conflict and the resulting humanitarian crisis.

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Margarita Ramirez Loya and Storytelling as a Form of Social Justice: