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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Chica

The publication of Vida by Patricia Engel marks the impressive debut of a young Latina talent.

Patricia Engel

Patricia Engel — Isak Tiner | Jumping House Studios

En español | When Patricia Engel was six, she approached her parents and proclaimed, “I am an artist!” Her mother and father did not laugh, choosing instead to take their child’s aspirations seriously.

Art filled the child’s home in a New Jersey suburb: music, painting, discussion of art, the belief that art is special and divine. Patricia continued to paint, but as she learned how to write she added captions to her pictures. Soon the captions crowded out the images and she began to write more and more.

“Our home was an ideal conservatory for a solitary child,” says the soft-voiced Engel 27 years later. She is in a recording booth in Miami where she is answering questions for her first interview about Vida, her debut collection of nine linked short stories narrated by Sabina, a young Colombian American woman. She holds the freshly printed book in her hands, preparing to read an excerpt from “Madre Patria,” one of the collection’s strongest stories, which takes place in Colombia. While this debut may represent the culmination of many years of honing her craft, she says the actual writing of these stories took place in the evenings over the past two years, usually after an already exhausting day of teaching in the master of fine arts program at Florida International University, where she received her own creative writing degree.
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