“Carnaval, Upstate” is story about language, culture, and belonging. Dance along with Marina as she searches for her place in between two worlds, three languages, and two families. I have a soft spot for “Carnaval, Upstate.” I wrote the first draft in a 30-minute writing burst at a table in my college dining hall in 2005. The result was clumsy and awkward, a product of an inexperienced writer. Still, it was the first story that felt mine—one that dug into my heritage as a deaf Brazilian American. The first story where I wasn’t pretending to be someone else. I showed it to my creative writing instructor, who encouraged me to keep working on it. Life had other plans, and my budding legal career took me far away from fiction. The story sat on my hard drive, but I never forgot the dancing girl. “One day,” I promised myself, “I’ll do it justice.”
That day came in 2019 when I finally opened the file again. (Not a simple proposition, mind you.) The writing was worse than I remembered, yet I could feel the story’s energy and intensity. So I worked on it and then worked on it some more. I got bold enough to try to get it published, and Peatsmoke Journal accepted it. It was fitting that my first “real” story was also my first publication.
Here is my favorite passage:
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I told them how much I missed them and how wonderful yet strange school was. They stared at me in that confused way they had when someone spoke English too fast. It’s strange how much you forget when you go away. Here I use English or my voice. ASL is for school. I arranged signs in a more English way, which felt slow and clumsy. That didn’t work either, so I spoke, twisting my tongue and trying to breathe right. The words finally came, “I missed you.” I forgot how hard using my voice was.
They understood and hugged me again.
— “Carnaval, Upstate” Peatsmoke Journal (Spring 2021 Issue)
* * *Read the full version, in Peatsmoke Journal (Spring 2021 Issue)
© Cristina Hartmann