Melina Chavarria is a Chicana comic book author. Her comic book series is titled The Magic Glasses. We interviewed her as a celebration of her work. She will be appearing in Long Beach Comic Con on September 8th and 9th, 2018 in The Long Beach Convention Center.
Please tell us about yourself and where you are from. Where are your parents from?
I am originally born and raised in Las Vegas, NV. I have been living in South Central Los Angeles for the past 12 years. My parents are originally from Mexico. My mother from Durango, MX, and my father from Guerrero, MX.
Do you identify as Chicana? If so, what values or characteristics are components of that identity?
I absolutely identify as Chicana and had the word Xicana tattooed on my ankle when I was 21! After learning more about Chicano/a history in college, I felt inspired and reconnected to my heritage. The word isn’t just about my cultural and ethnic background; it has always been a political statement for me too. The tattoo represents my commitment to doing work that advocates for the rights of my people in whatever industry that may be.
Now as the mother of 2 children with special needs, my commitment is reconfirmed. I want to spend the years given to me giving a voice to those that don’t have one. I want to advocate for the rights of those being exploited and to help empower others to follow their passions.
What is The Magic Glasses and what was the inspiration behind it? Where can we purchase a copy of it?
The Magic Glasses is a comic book series about a young Latina growing up in South Central Los Angeles. She’s a rebellious teen trying to figure out her life. I use magical realism to tell the story of some of the real issues our youth face. I help guide and empower them on how they can best navigate their life choices. Since I live, eat and work with this community, I can see firsthand some of the issues our youth are up against. I chose to use comics as a medium to tell this story because we need more representation of women of color in the comics industry.
Issue 1 can be purchased at Hi De Ho Comics in Santa Monica, CA. Issue 1 & 2 can be purchased in Synesthesia Boutique in Wilmington, CA and in Nostalgic Comics in San Gabriel, CA. Both can also be purchased at Alternate Reality Comics in my hometown of Las Vegas, NV.
Would you describe the process behind writing edition 1 and 2 of The Magic Glasses? How was the writing process different for each?
When I first wrote Issue 1, I was writing by pure instinct and it was my first time writing for a comic.
In writing Issue 2, I solicited more feedback and started attending a writing group with DSTL Arts. The group taught me about using the heroes' and heroines' journeys to help guide my story lines. This helped me to streamline my ideas more and gave me clarity on how I was going to continue and complete the story of our heroine's journey.
Your comic series is available in English and Spanish. Please tell us about your decision to publish in Spanish.
After releasing Issue 1 of The Magic Glasses, I had several parents interested in our work but were monolingual Spanish speakers. One parent said to me, “I wish you had this available in Spanish so that I can read it to my daughters in our language.” I definitely thought it made sense and wanted our comic to be accessible to Spanish speakers. Not only to broaden our audience but to show the diversity of comic readers that are out there. Spanish speakers also want material that they can access and enjoy.
In the LeMeKnow Podcast you say, “Writing allows you to create your own worlds.” The idea allows you as a writer to connect your reality to an idealized future. What feasible world would you create for Latinos living in Southern California?
In Los Angeles, Latinas make up 48% of all women in the city. The rate of single mothers raising children under the age of five, living in poverty is 49%. If we do the math, that means a good majority of Latinas are part of that 49%. The world that I am creating right now is a world where Latinas or our Latinx community are uplifted from that poverty. We will do it by doing what we already know how to do: leaning on our community. We will use and harness the collective strengths of the individuals in our communities to help lift each other up.
You previewed that your main character will be affected by American immigration laws. Why is immigration a topic you decided to write about?
The topic of immigration or migration is a topic I grew up with as it was part of my every day. I am the daughter of Mexican immigrants and a first generation Chicana born and raised on this side of the border. I still remember when my parents were studying to become citizens and they had to send us away when we were very little. They were living in fear of being deported. The family separation issues that we are facing today are nothing new to me and are certainly not new news in our country’s history. However, I feel that we are living in a time when there are more first, second, and third generation children of immigrants who are more knowledgeable and empowered to navigate and fight these oppressive systems. In the midst of writing the finale for The Magic Glasses, I knew it was an important topic to focus on. Our youth are growing up facing these harsh realities and want and need some guidance on what part they play in helping to solve issues like this.
In a previous interview you said that Chicano Literature classes in college were when you first learned of Chicano writers who inspired you to pursuit writing. Would you tell us which writers specifically and what it is you value about them?
Some of the Chicano writers that first inspired me were: Luis Rodriguez, Victor Villasenor, and Sandra Cisneros. Prior to discovering their work, I grew up reading mostly work by Caucasian authors, like Judy Blume. Although I enjoyed reading stories about young teenage angst, I didn’t identify with any of the characters. Luis, Victor, and Sandra first opened my eyes to the complexities of the history of our people. They normalized my experience and showed me that there is space and value for me to share my stories.
We started this company because we believe Chicanos and Latinos should be better represented in American media. What are your thoughts on the topic?
I absolutely agree 100%. I had the privilege of presenting The Magic Glasses at the Sorensen Library in Whittier, CA earlier this year. A lot of my presentation focused on the importance of creating our own stories because our voices and perspectives are so needed in the mainstream media.
The National Hispanic Media Coalition shared some very eye opening and alarming statistics about the current representation and involvement of Latinos in the media. They shared that in 2015 out of the 168 top grossing films, only 4 of them were written by Latino writers. This is were it starts. We cannot leave our stories in the hands of other people. If we are not the ones writing our own stories and getting them out there, than others will continue to write stories that don’t do our cultures justice. We will continue to be written into history as a lower class, a supporting cast, or quite possibly written out of history all together.
Who are some Chicanos or Latinos in the comic book industry we should know more about?
We obviously have to pay homage to the OG Comic Creators that paved the way for the rest of us: Javier Hernandez and Jaime Hernandez.
I definitely want to mention Jules Rivera. She’s Puerto Rican and writes strong female characters in both her traditional comics and online comic strips.
Jandro Gamboa wrote a great comic called Monty Gomez is The Luchador.
Miguel Angel Acedo is a comic writer and professor. He has collaborated on a few comics, including Poe Noir. He has a new comic book coming out called Chano’s Bathroom Trip.
Eric M. Esquivel is the comic writer for DC Vertigo’s Border Town.
Gabby Rivera is the comic writer for Marvel’s America Chavez comic series.
Maxi Rodriguez is the artist of a comic series called Chronicles of a Chubby Bunny that is about female empowerment and body-positivity.
Breena Peralta writes about her experiences as an Afrolatinx.
What are your five favorite comics? And what are your five favorite comics from Latino authors?
Top 5 comics:
1) I’ve always been a fan of the X-Men series.
2) Puerto Rico Strong published by Lion Forge because I love comic anthologies that feature different writers and artists.
3) MINE!: A celebration of liberty and freedom for all benefiting Planned Parenthood edited by Molly Jackson and Joe Corallo.
4) Pushover comic book series by my creative partner Jean Munson. I love comics by indie comic creators.
5) Saga by Brian K. Vaughan
Top 5 Latino comics:
1) EL MUERTO- Javier Hernadez
2) QUINCE- Sebastian Kadlecik
3) BORDER TOWN- Eric Esquivel
4) The Luchador- Gamboa & Talley
5) CHRONICLES OF A CHUBBY BUNNY- Maxi Rodriguez
What other projects are you working on?
I’m currently working on a few children’s books and other comic book ideas. I also enjoy writing poetry and currently have some of my work published in Chifladazine, DSTL Art’s Faces of Heroes, and Cuadros de Costumbres zine.
Please list any upcoming events where your fans may meet you.
I have a few events I will be participating in September that I hope to meet more readers and fans.
September 6: Zines & the Los Angeles Latinx Landscape Discussion & Expo
September 8 & 9: Long Beach Comic Con
September 22: OC Comic Con
September 29: SFV Zinefest
Thank you Melina Chavarria!