Eight years ago, the summer after earning my PhD, I was accepted into AROHO, a women writers' retreat in the New Mexico desert.
You can imagine my surprise and delight when I met not one, but two! TWO! fellow Puerto Rican writers: Melissa Coss Aquino and Vero González. Instant friendship. By the end of the week: familia.
I have a poem called "Comadre" and the first line is "there is no word for this in English." In English, we honor the godparent and godchild relationship, but not the co-parent relationship.
En español we know better: there are no Madrinas without the Comadres. En español we don't erase the mothers.
So that magical summer Melissa, Vero, and I anointed each other with that title of honor: Writing Comadres.
Just as we'd need comadres to support us as we mothered our human babies, we needed writing comadres to support us as we crafted, nurtured, and let out into the world our book babies.
What did my writing comadres do for me then and do for me to this day?
They SEE me and KNOW me deeply, instinctively. Not just writer Li Yun, but all of Li Yun: writer, Boricua, Mami, mujer, daughter, partner, dancer, thinker, scholar, educator, friend, sin vergüenza, all. of. it. When I've felt far from who I want to be, they have reflected a quiet faith in my worthiness for just being me -- all of me.
And we keep alive for each other the fires of our art. It's a fire that sometimes roars and sometimes barely flickers, but it produce a light that glows, steady, through time and distance.
Last week, Melissa summoned us -- las comadres Boricuas del desierto -- to give her our blessing over Zoom. Her book baby, after decades of incubation, would be out in the world on Tuesday -- today.
So let's raise a glass to my new book ahijada Carmen and Grace and to my beloved Comadre Melissa Coss Aquino! ¡Pa' arriba! ¡Pa' abajo! ¡Pa'l centro! ¡Y pa'dentro! ¡Salud!
I wish for you your own writing comadre(s) or compadre(s) to walk alongside you in the twists and turns of your writing life journey. And may you one day taste this deep joy I feel today watching Mellissa's work soar into the world!