Isla McKetta, MFA
I was seven the day I recognized fear in a man’s eyes as my mother threatened to call the Carabineros—the Chilean police—after a car accident. My father had told me stories about Pinochet and the stadiums and what happens when people speak out, but none of it made any sense to a little girl from the US. That day in the street as the man backed away from an accident that was likely our fault and he would never be able to report, I saw the power of oppression to create secrets, and as much as I hated it, I felt powerless to change it.
In Poland in 1994, listening to people describe decades of doublespeak, uprisings, and shadow identities, I was inspired. I studied Political Science and thought the best way to change the world was to become part of our political system. But I found I didn’t like the system, and when I looked outside it, I realized writers like Isabel Allende and Imre Kertész were doing what I most wanted. They were saying the things that must not be said.
My writing is influenced by writers like Chris Abani who use spare prose to merge the political with the personal and who cross boundaries of form and break the silence of convention. I work with the music of language by using recurring themes and refrains to reinforce the structure of the story. I remove unnecessary adjectives to reveal intimate truths and write initially in ink as a guard against erasure.
I may not be able to eradicate oppression, but I can give its victims—both political and personal—a voice.