When she was young, Erika L. Sánchez was always told by her mother “cómo te gusta la mala vida,” meaning she lived dangerously and liked the ‘bad life.’ She went against what was conventional and was “excited about the possibility of failing monumentally.” After graduating with a degree in poetry that didn’t lead her down a career path she was passionate about, she took jobs she had no interest in to pay the bills. Her struggles growing up on the West Side of Chicago and finding her way as an adult are summarized in her next book’s title: “Crying in the Bathroom.”
Sánchez quoted Toni Morrison and that she was really impacted by her saying “If there’s a book you want to read, then you have to write it.” Growing up, there were few books she could relate to. She loved Nancy Drew and The Babysitter’s Club, and even thought about starting her own babysitter club, but decided it wouldn’t be a possibility in her apartment. However, she rarely found books she could relate to. “The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros was a book she found relatable, but wondered “where are all the messed up brown girls?”
Writing saved Sánchez’s life and she described being able to work through her mental illness by writing through it. She talked about self-birth and how she felt that Frida Kahlo portrayed it well; messy and confusing. She was rejected many times, but has developed the attitude of “blowing the haters kisses.”
She emphasized the importance of representation in literature. “When women are able to see themselves in books, there is immense power in that. Books can help us dismantle oppressive power structures. The human experience is not singular; we contain multitudes,” Sánchez said.
Her advice to younger readers is to “find your people,” meaning to find other writers and like-minded individuals who can be there to talk to and form a community.