Nelly Rosario

2004 EP. NO. 2
NELLY ROSARIO was born in the Dominican Republic and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She earned a Bachelor’s in engineering from M.I.T., and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. She has received numerous awards, including a 1999 Barbara Deming Memorial Fund Fellowship, The Bronx Writers’ Center Van Lier Literary Fellowship for 1999-2000, two National Arts Club Writing Fellowships, the 1997 Hurston/Wright Award in Fiction, and the 1988 National Teachers in English Writing Award.

An emerging artist on the fast track, Rosario’s work has published in several journals and the anthology, Becoming American (Hyperion, 2000). Her début novel, Song of the Water Saints (Pantheon Books, 2002), a vibrant, provocative novel that explores the dreams and struggles of three generations of Dominican women, won the PEN Open Book Award. In 2001, the Village Voice Literary Supplementnamed Rosario as one of seven “Writers on the Verge.”

Currently an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Columbia University, Rosario is also involved in a women’s film collective. She lives in Brooklyn and is working on her next novel.

artistic statement
When I was in high school, I made a plan: I was going to be a writer, but as a backup career, I was going to do engineering. Since getting an environmental engineering degree from M.I.T. as “my pillow” in 1994, I was fortunate in that I haven’t had to fall back on anything but my own literary convictions.

I love writing and history. When I started to write this novel, I did a lot of reading on world history, and found myself asking how these facts trickled down to people’s – women’s – day-to-day. If I saw a photograph of, say, some dude riding a horse before a procession, I’d wonder about the life of the little black girl standing by a tree in the background.

Through the characters, I was also mining stuff from my rich memories of summers in DR, examining different people I’ve encountered, dealing with my own ghosts, and just playing a long-ass game of “What If”.

I chose specific key historical events because they represent, again, intersections of the two countries that have shaped me. I wanted to examine my characters through the lens of the US’s influence on the Dominican Republic and our subsequent immigration and integration into this country. I also used history as a zoom-out device, a way of offering a bird’s-eye view of the characters’ reality. In our own present, it’s something hard to look at our lives as part of a historic moment, since we’re experiencing and shaping it. Unfortunately, it takes this current state of war to remind us that we don’t live in a vacuum, that the personal is historic, and that history is very personal.

Last updated 2009.

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