Future Tense Books
242 pages, $28
Review by Alex M. Frankel
Wendy Ortiz’s memoir, Excavation, is an outstanding first book. It chronicles how the author, as a middle school student back in the mid 1980s, was seduced by her English teacher, Mr. Ivers, and how he carried on an affair with her over the next several years. The memoir is remarkable not just for its taboo subject, but also for the matter-of-fact tone Ortiz takes as she tells about her most unusual relationship. It is a relationship on which the author has had plenty of time to reflect: now in her forties, she works as a therapist in her native southern California. She has published both poetry and prose (including an essay in the “Modern Love” series in The New York Times) and is the founder and curator of Los Angeles’s Rhapsodomancy Reading Series. Alongside the main story of her teenage years, Ortiz has added vignettes from her personal and professional life as an adult, including her work with at-risk youth. These passages, beautifully interspersed with her adolescent tale, shed light on the person she has become, and also function as brief pauses following cliffhangers, enhancing the book’s atmosphere of danger and foreboding. All the while, the reader keeps wondering, “When and how is Ivers going to get caught?” Continue reading
–Interview by Brian Kornell
Wendy C. Ortiz’s story “Interiors” appeared in April 2012 issue of PANK. She is the author of Excavation, a recently released memoir from Future Tense Books, about family, secrets, sex, and coming to terms with her queer identity. It is a book that spoke to me in a way that very few books have before. Ortiz writes with emotional frankness about difficult subjects, while maintaining the lyric beauty of the world around her. I had the opportunity to talk to her about the book and the process of writing it.
Brian Kornell: I’ve been thinking a lot recently about stories that demand to be told or ones, especially when it’s memoir, that a writer cannot ignore despite their best efforts to do so. Was this book like that for you? Did you have any hesitation in writing it? If you did, how did you work past that to write it?
Wendy C. Ortiz: This book spent some time being ignored (I always imagined it sitting in a corner, sulking) but when I look back at this time, I recognize now that it was steeping. My hesitations have always been about how I might be perceived once the story was out. I got some practice when “Mix Tape” was published by The Nervous Breakdown last year and in the first 24 hours of it being on the web I went through physical reactions that were all about the hesitation. Then the physical reactions passed and I was fortunate to get good feedback on the piece and knew I was heading in the right direction. That was a good way of working past any recent hesitation I might have had. Continue reading