An Interview with Dr. Alberto Ledesma
family. You develop something like cabin fever because you never go out. You’re always just dealing with each other but you end up, like, hating each other and at the same time passionately loving each other and supporting each other. So for me, family was that…for me, family is a place of love, hate, of narratives, of all kinds of stories, all kinds of tensions. DO:
Silence and cuidado appear a lot in Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer. Can you speak more about this silence or cuidado—and how it has supported or challenged you?
Dr. L: A lot of what I work on, a lot of what my writing and drawings do, it’s kind of a transgression really because it was my father who wanted us to remain silent. It was protection, you know? If you don’t talk about being undocumented,
then you don’t put the family in danger…We wanted to please our dad and we realized that we had to have physical safety. But then there is also emotional and psychological safety. In order to have emotional and psychological safety, you actually have to name things…so I became very talented with language. DO:
In Diary, you briefly mention your transition from college professor to writer. What lead you to this decision and what have you learned from this change?
Dr. L: You know, I never really felt at home as a professor. I think that’s typical of first-generation academics. Nobody gives you a book on how to be professor. You have to learn it along the way and I loved what I did, and I loved being in the classroom…but my model was Berkeley faculty and what I saw was that you had to write and you had to publish. I believed in that whole-heartedly but…I realized that the undoc umented experience, except for me, was only an intellectual question. That was it…I realized ‘I don’t want to be the repre
sentative of all undocumented immigrants.’ What I want to do is to be able to bring many voices and not just have one narrative that is focused on…I realized that I had to take a break. DO:
How does being the comics form ultimately provide a framework for representing the undocumented experience?
Dr. L: What I’m trying to argue in my work is that the very epistemology of being undocumented provides an education because it gives you a point of view that few people have access to and if you have a healthy relationship to that perspective and you don’t sublimate it, you don’t silence it inside of you and you actually let it teach you—like Cantinflas on the stage—then you can actually develop revolutionary paradigms. You can actually understand the world in a brand new and powerful way…what I’m trying to suggest is that even among what you would consider as the “low-skilled” surplus labor in our society, you have intellectual capacity. You have the ability to theorize the world and formulate a very sophisticated analysis of how the world operates. Just like Cantinflas, humor and drama destabilize power.