Reading and Writing for Life, with Maria de Alva

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Maria de Alva is a Mexican Novelist. Two of her novels were finalists for the award Fernando Lara de Novela in Spain. Between 1993 and 1995, she worked as a reporter for the newspapers: Reforma and El Norte in Mexico. She graduated from UCLA with a masters degree in Latin American Studies. Maria also has a masters degree in Education from Tecnologico de Monterrey. She has participated in several academic conferences at universities such as UNAM, Brown University, Texas University, among others.


ES: This is 5 Minute Mentor, a podcast where you’ll get advice from prominent engineers, authors, artists, and more in 5 minutes or less.

MDA: Hi my name is María. I’m a writer, and I’m also a Professor at the Tec of Monterrey in Monterrey Mexico.

MDA: Today we’re going to talk about the importance of reading and keeping reading for life, and also, I believe in writing for life. I believe that everybody can be a reader and everybody can be a writer. It doesn’t matter if you’re published or not published. It doesn’t matter what you studied, and what your major was, what you work at.

MDA: Everybody should be a reader and a writer for several things that I believe are important. For once, I believe that reading is the vehicle to really understand how society works, and to understand what the impact of life and work, and the achievements that you can make of yourself in life. What do I mean by that? I mean that, by being a reader, you are on top of things, you understand how society works, you can be more critical of your surroundings, of your own life, of your country, and of the problems that surround you. I believe that reading is essential to knowledge. But I’m not talking about necessarily knowledge in an academic way, but also in knowledge about life.

MDA: I believe that reading is inherent to the human condition. We cannot live our lives without art, and without books. We need them as we need air to breathe. Because writing, and all of the arts, are part of a human need in ourselves. It sometimes is not developed, and sometimes it’s more developed, and the reason why some people do not read is simply because the right book was not placed in their hands.

MDA: Sometimes schools, or the school systems that we work with do everything the wrong way, to make people do not want to read. However, once the right book was placed in your hand, you’ll learn about yourself as much as you learn about the world through the books you read.

MDA: Books are important because they are a mirror of ourselves and of our dreams, and of our life. Without books, there will be no way to understand neither the world or ourselves. So I believe that if you do not know what book to read, you should try to join a reading group, go to a bookstore, find about books in Amazon, or in other online reading, try to join a reading class, or a literature class, and they will bring you to another level in the world. Also, a lot of people are reading now through audio books, you can also go jogging, or driving the car and listening to a story. Storytelling is a way to understand the important things, or the important values in you and in society.

MDA: And that brings me to the second point which is: writing. I believe that keeping maybe a writer’s blog, it can be online, or simply in a diary, it gives you also something to understand what you’re going through, something to leave behind once you leave this world, and in that respect, I want to give you a little story. Sometime ago, like maybe 15 years ago, I found out that my grandfather had kept a memoir of his life. My grandfather, was a man that was born in the 19th century. He was born in 1897. He was a German Jewish man. His family were immigrants in Mexico. The arrived in the late 19th century. And the lived in Mexico through the Mexican Revolution, and through the first part of the 20th century and died in 1970. I barely knew him because he died when I was like 3 years old.

MDA: However, the memoir that he left behind, taught me and my family a lot about his life, his ancestors, and everything that he had to offer. It was a big discovery for us. He first started writing his memoir after World War II, because after World War II, he tried to find in Germany some of his relatives that were there before the war. Both of his parents had been born in Germany, and they were both jews. And of course, what happened, the whole family that was left behind in Europe died during World War II. And my grandfather was extremely saddened by the fact that he couldn’t find anybody alive, that he couldn’t bring them to Mexico, that he couldn’t do anything about it. So he started writing his memoir, and trying to recover the story of his parents, which something also very odd about his writing, because he writes about himself but mostly, he writes about his family, his parents, his grandparents, and the life that was lost in Germany. And after reading his book, I decided to write one of my first novels.

MDA: My first novel is about my family. And I was very moved by his own memoir, and I thought that his story was something valuable, not only for myself, but for other people as well. And that is how I started writing that book. So I believe that, sometimes one thinks or one believes that what you’re doing right now, reading or writing, has no impact in the future, but actually it does. Sometimes, something happens that brings everything into a new perspective and you realize how important it was to be reading and writing. Someone else might pick it up, and might keep it forever, so, thank you.

Maria de Alva, Mexican Novelist


Maria de Alva

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