An event that took place with author Claire Jimenez of “Staten Island Stories”
By: Carlos Glick and Joel Hines
Welcome everyone to the “Staten Island Stories” event, presented to you by the 2021 Media Workshop class of College of Staten Island hosted by Professor Tara Mateik. The event will cover some of the main stories that are from the book and you will see our amazing colleagues playing the role of their character that they inhibited from the start of the class.
Throughout the course of the semester, each student chose a character from the book which they can best relate to and is most natural when playing the role. We studied our characters inside and out and did further research outside the book to find out everything we can about them and really embody our characters.
Each student chose which character assignment that they wanted to display during this event so there will be viewings of personality tests, questionaire videos, wardrobe tests, Tiktok challenges, and live performances. Please keep note that the stories and characters from the book are all true events that took place.
The event will start out with a trivia game of some fun facts about Staten Island. Next it will include the introduction following the acts and presented videos. Throughout the event you will hear Staten Island inspired music from some of the native artists, artwork created by the colleagues here, creative works, a live interview, and a live performance.
Thank you to all those who joined in with us today, including Claire Jimenez, students and surprise guests.
Jimenez is a Puerto Rican writer who grew up in Brooklyn and Staten Island, New York. She is the author of the short story collection “Staten Island Stories” published in 2019 by John Hopkins Press; which received the 2019 Hornblower Award for a first book from the New York Society Library and was a finalist for the International Latino Book Awards.
Jimenez is a Phd student in English with a concentration in ethnic studies and digital humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She also received her MFA from Vanderbilt University. Recently, she was a research fellow at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College.
In 2020, she was awarded a Mellon Foundation grant from the U.S. Latino Digital Humanities Program at the University of Houston. In 2021, she was a co-recipient of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Presidential Initiatives Grant to fund the Puerto Rican Literature Project, a digital archive.
Currently, she is an assistant fiction editor at Prairie Schooner. Her fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in “Remezcla,” “Afro-Hispanic Review,” “PANK,” “The Rumpus,” “el roommate,” “Eater,” “District Lit,” “The Toast,” and the “Los Angeles Review of Books” among other publications.
Jolisa Wright, who is currently a Junior, majoring in Journalism, here at CSI, interviewed Jimenez herself.
“What is your day to day writing process like?”
“Right now it is very difficult because I have to finish my Comps and so I do it as much as I can and it’s usually on the weekends but ideally if I was being a well behaved writer, it would be a few hours a day.”
“Can you describe your research before beginning a book such as ‘Staten Island Stories’?”
“A lot of the book is touching on historical moments. So, I did a lot of research for the 2003 ferry crash, about the trial, about the pilot of the boats, how he had tried to kill himself afterwards. And I also did a lot of research on the cemetery in “Who would break the dark first?” trying to figure out who would be buried in the cemetery and that’s when I found out they used to have the quarantine inside Staten Island. And I learned a lot about those first waves of immigration to New York. So, a lot of research.”
“Who encouraged you to write ‘Staten Island Stories’ and why?”
“I had a professor from a very long time ago as an undergraduate. Her name was Susan Kenny and when she was thinking about putting together a book, she had mentioned ‘All your stories are about Staten Island.’ Then I started adding more stories thinking about Chauser and how he was doing with connecting these narratives from very different people. And I started to think that and Chauser of course started writing a pilgrimage to a holy shrine but inside of my book, I started to think about how these characters are always commuting and they’re making their own journeys, running to the boat and trying to get to the city to work, trying to get to work on time. And I thought about then the ferry could be this very interesting focal point around where these stories arise.”
“As a Puerto Rican who grew up in both Brooklyn and Staten Island, did you use your own experience in “Who would break the dark first?”
“Basically, I don’t really usually write non fiction or try to put characters in from real life inside of stories. But I think from this collection, that story is probably the most autobiographical because the issues me and my family faced, moving from Brooklyn to Staten Island, I definitely drew on those to create that story. I mean, there’s also things about race, things about being Puerto Rican and blackness and trying to be in the 90’s. You know, trying to survive the 90’s and wanting a nice sweater you couldn’t afford. And the cemetery. I actually grew up in a haunted house.”
“How do you feel about having the stories portrayed by CSI students?”
“I’m thrilled! And I’m so grateful to Tara for inviting me to see his class, doing this work. You know, as a writer, you spend a lot of time alone writing your stories. You know, nobody sees it. Sometimes it’s hours, days, months. Sometimes, it’s years, in the case of this book. And seeing you all embody those character’s is so joyful. It’s like seeing somebody get what you’ve worked on for so long and you all are wonderful, just extremely talented. I mean from the wardrobe choice, to writing the dialogue and to inventing a character who is this narrator, and filling in who he is, just amazing.”
Overall, the event with Claire Jimenez was a massive success and we are extremely proud of each and everyone’s role who’s hard work and dedication, or commitment rather, took part in this event.