When Victoria Buitron turns fifteen, the life she knows and the place she calls home comes to an abrupt halt. Her paternal grandfather becomes ill, and her parents decide to become repatriates out of a sense of duty and love—leaving their cars, house, and jobs as a nanny and a garbage man in Connecticut for the coast of Ecuador with their children. In A Body Across Two Hemispheres, Victoria foregoes a chronological account of how this decision severs her family, and instead uses powerful essays and a structure based on location to narrate how she evolves from a brokenhearted teenage girl to a woman who finds her way home.
WHO is Victoria Buitron?
Victoria Buitron is a writer and translator who hails from Ecuador and currently resides in Connecticut. She has an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from Fairfield University. Her work has been featured or is upcoming in Smokelong en Español, Bending Genres, Lost Balloon, and other literary magazines. Her debut memoir-in-essays, A Body Across Two Hemispheres, is the 2021 Fairfield Book Prize winner. You can find her on Twitter @vic_toriawrites.
WHAT do you write?
Currently I write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. For many years, though, I mostly wrote essays, and the pandemic allowed me to take risks into other genres. My debut memoir, A Body Across Two Hemispheres, was just released last month through Woodhall Press. It's a memoir-in-essays, and it focus on my upbringing and young adulthood, with an emphasis on how my identity and sense of belonging shifted when my parents decided to repatriate to Ecuador, my birth country, when I was fifteen years old. When it comes to themes that are prevalent in my writing, I mostly write about family, coming-of-age moments, body issues, and awkward moments throughout my life that I can’t manage to forget. I am also completely in love with reading and writing flash, whether nonfiction or fiction, because you can use a very small moment or occurrence and flesh it out to show the weight of it in very few words.
WHY did you write A Body Across Two Hemispheres?
I wrote this book mainly for myself. I was able to come to terms with my past, and facing it on paper it allowed me also to take back some of the power that I felt like I didn't have when I was an adolescent. Writing it has also allowed me to understand the people around me more, especially my family and my parents, and why they made certain decisions even though I didn't really understand their reasoning while it was happening. Beyond writing it, when it comes to publishing this book, for a long time I didn't know if that was going to happen. Now that it’s out in the world, I hope that people that have migrated or have faced repatriation can read this book and feel connected to it. Also, what would be a dream come true is if an Ecuadorian American girl or woman picks up this book and feels inspired to write about her own life.
HOW did the idea for A Body Across Two Hemispheres come about?
For years, I felt pulled to write about my life, but I had no idea how to write a book. I just wrote drafts about big life-changing moments as well as tiny everyday happenings. I took a couple of local workshops but found that I needed a more serious environment to focus on the shape of the book. I applied to an MFA program and submitted all these drafts as part of the application, got in, and in those two following years I worked very hard on molding the memoir. There were many more drafts, significant changes, and then I finally realized it had to be in essay form to tell what I went through in the best way and to honor my past.
WHEN did you write A Body Across Two Hemispheres?
One of the reasons that I applied to a low-res MFA program is that I needed the pressure to be accountable to others and have firm deadlines while not having to quit my day job. This means I mostly wrote the book during evening weekdays and weekends. It's very difficult for me to write Monday through Friday because I'm very tired. On Saturdays and Sundays, I wake up early when everything is quiet in the house, make a cup of tea, sit down, and write by hand on a notebook. I prefer to write my drafts this way, and I usually write for two or three hours unless I'm very focused on finishing a piece or I have a specific due date. If I feel like I have enough energy, I’ll edit drafts during the weeknights, but I am definitely a weekend writer.
WHERE can readers find your book?
You can find my book wherever books are sold—from Amazon to Target to Barnes & Noble. Of course, I always hope people will go out of their way to support independent bookstores, and if you’re able to buy it directly from Bookshop, that would be fantastic.
Disclaimer: Every EMC interview series seeks to promote the artist and their featured writing and is in no way an endorsement of any of said artist's services, opinions or other work outside of this feature.