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José Orduña’s “Story Doesn’t Begin When He was Born”

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, José Orduña, recently participated in an interview discussing addressing his literary debut, ” The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration & Displacement” where Orduña chronicles the process of becoming a North American citizen in a post 9/11 United States, exploring the complex issues of immigration and assimilation. Intractable realities—rooted in the continuity of US imperialism to globalism—form the landscape of Orduña’s daily experience, where the geopolitical meets the quotidian. In one anecdote, he recalls how the only apartment his parents could rent was one that didn’t require signing a lease or running a credit check, where the floors were so crooked he once dropped an orange and watched it roll in six directions before settling in a corner.

In July of 2011 Jose Orduna was naturalized as an American citizen, a decision made, he admits, in bad faith and purely out of self-interest. Though grateful to his parents for their many sacrifices, which resulted in his citizenship, he feels anger and resentment towards a punitive and racist government. With a searingly original voice, Orduna reflects on the complicated and contradictory experience of morphing into a legal young, brown immigrant. He describes the absurd feeling of being given a piece of paper his naturalization certificate handed to him by a robed judge to certify something he has always known: he has a right to be here and is, at least in theory, equal under the law. A trenchant exploration of race, class, and identity, “The Weight of Shadows” is a searing meditation on the nature of political, linguistic, and cultural borders, and the meaning of “America.”

Read José Orduña’s interview conducted by Micah McCrary from the Los Angeles Review of Books here.