The Grandfather and My Prose

I speak anecdotally in the classroom so often some of my students begin to speak of my Grandfather as if they know him–as if they know his influence upon me. And because as a fiction writer I don’t begin to think that the Jefe in the writing or the Grandfather from those anecdotal lessons from the classroom–those moments where I lead my students through my own literacy development as a model for them–is the  real man. As in most non-fiction I am well aware that the character on the page has to be honestly addressed a literary equivalent and not the true persona or the true image of a person.

Jenny Cornell was very clear about this idea in my own non-fictive writing for her. She would always write that she was not comfortable at addressing the I or the speaker in the essays I wrote for as the real John Paul in her office–but rather she always addressed the persona or the created John Paul in the essay. The non-fictive face or the equivalent of a pose–very controlled and always used to rhetorical affect.

And so the dilemma of the Grandfather. The man I speak of in most of my classes. So much to the point a student told me today–your Grandfather did a great job in raising me. And I can assure you this is the furthest from the truth. Influenced or sponsored but not in a mentored sensibility. And I have to admit some of the examples or anecdotes in the classroom are controlled for rhetorical affect. Like my fiction–molded and crafted to determine theme or simply to give me a world to address.

The real Grandfather–my father’s father–never gave me much. I have an old hunting rifle and I have his canteen from WW II or at least that is what he always sold. As for my mother’s father–I met him on two occasions before his death. I was very young–let’s say 12. His legs had been taken from a bout with diabetes and his drinking. He gave me a sense of mystery and really all I have of him is a photograph folks say looks like me.

The Grandfather I most often speak of and write on was not my Grandfather at all. He was the man my Grandmother–or the woman who raised my mother–lived with for most of my life. This relationship was the most influential of them all. He mentored me and sponsored me–taught me what it was to be honest and trustworthy–he also drank and smoked and chased women and treated the Grandmother so poorly as to influence my creative sensibility in such complicated ways.

And so when I write about the Jefe or the Chief as my father’s father was called. And when I write about the Grandfather and write about the Jefe I am also referring to the man who was living wth my Grandmother and not the man who raised or even biologically father my mother. This complicated fusing of reality and merged relationships I utilize in my fiction and the way I utilize anecdote in the classroom I must be honest about as it is all for rhetorical affect.  In fact these stories though are so honest in capturing the feel of living on Spruce as I did for a time or on Routte as I also did for a time  and truly capture this world of Bessemer and the south-side of Pueblo as any home movie I could show or play via the Internet and this weblog.

So am I dealing with these lost family connections in my family? Am I trying to account for these lost relationships in my classroom and in my fiction writing?

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john paul jaramillo

John Paul Jaramillo’s debut story collection The House of Order was named a 2013 Int’l Latino Book Award Finalist, and his most recent work Little Mocos is now available from Twelve Winters Press. In 2013 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature listed Jaramillo as one of its Top 10 New Latino Authors to Watch and Read. He is currently a professor of composition and literature at Lincoln Land College-Springfield, Illinois.

2 thoughts on “The Grandfather and My Prose”

  1. You are doing what most of us writers and writerly types do, I think. We try to make sense of our lives and we try to understand how connections can be lost and shaped and found and reforged and transformed and maybe, sometimes, healed.

  2. Funny–I am in a similar, but very different, situation. I am having trouble penning Mattie because she is part me, part my sister, part my mother, and none of us at all. In some ways, she is the point at which the three of us intersect (overlap?). I have tried to write about her several times in the past week, but I’m blocked. And I’m realizing only now that those times I struggle to write Mattie are the times that I am struggling with my Self. So I am wondering about emotion and fiction writers now in a way I can’t yet articulate. I can write June stories much more easily because they are based on events. Mattie is based on, as you said, ‘the fusing of reality and merged relationships.’

    I’d love to write a paper on this stuff. It’d be a great distraction from my fiction.

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