The Proust Questionnaire, popularized by the French essayist and novelist Marcel Proust, is said to reveal a person’s true nature through a series of probing, soul-searching questions. In the hot seat today, Aida Salazar, author of the contemporary MG novel in verse, THE MOON WITHIN (Scholastic, 2019).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? Getting a foot massage while reading a good book.
What is your greatest fear? That something terrible will happen to my children or my family.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? I am often too honest or brutish when I speak my mind.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Bigotry. In any form.
Which living person do you most admire? My mother. She has survived child abuse, poverty, misogyny, classism, racism, and disease and still manages to be the most loving person on the planet.
What is your greatest extravagance? Traveling to other countries. Having the money and the possibility to travel as a citizen of the U.S. always seems extravagant when the countries I usually visit are so impoverished, and when it wasn’t always possible for me as a formally undocumented person to do so.
What is your current state of mind? I’m feeling overwhelmed by the simultaneity of life. On one end, I am struggling with my mother’s failing health, plus the barrage of vitriol and despotism coming from this horrendous administration, and at the same time, I am blessed daily by a loving family, the launching of my career as a kidlit writer and the wonderful reception I’ve received from a great big community. It all makes my head spin. In many ways, it is difficult to enjoy the highs when the lows are so ever present.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Being a social media influencer. The hype around folks with very little substance is baffling to me.
On what occasion do you lie? Like I mentioned above, I’m usually brutally honest. It gets me in trouble. But when I do lie, it is to get out of having to do something I don’t want to do. It is usually when that little editor in my head says, “Don’t tell the truth, you’ll hurt their feelings. It isn’t worth it.” So I lie but that only keeps that person happy and I walk away feeling miserable.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? They’re curse words and this is a kidlit audience. The editor in my head is speaking for me now. But really, in my manuscripts. I use the word “face” a ton! Of all words? I have to do a find and replace to take it out because it appears so frequently.
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? Singing!! My children and husband have beautiful voices and when I sing along, they all laugh at me. My son is the sweetest. He says, “You sound so cute when you sing out of tune.” There are so many studies that show that singing helps bring a sense of wellness and happiness to the body. I feel like I don’t have permission to sing because my own voice is so off key. But don’t get me wrong, I sing my heart out in the shower! Boleros are my favorite.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Birthing three children without medication.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? On a deeper level, I’d come back as the person who discovers how to cure any illness, especially cancer. And on a more frivolous level, my mom always says she would come back as the dog of a rich person. Though I laugh about it, I think I would agree. Those pet babies live the life. It would be great not to have to struggle and be loved and pampered for 13-15 years and not have to do anything in return but be cute.
What is your most treasured possession? Photographs of my family that document our history and life together.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Losing a child. When our children die before us, it goes against nature. We are supposed to outlive them. As parents, we are charged with caring for them and seeing them to adulthood. When this process is interrupted by their death, it shakes us to the very core. We lose our purpose of being. It plunges us into unfathomable loss. After losing my daughter to complications at birth, I experienced this profound pain. Had it not been for becoming pregnant with my second child and giving birth to her, I would have surely succumbed to that grief.
What do you most value in your friends? Laughter and a willingness to hold space for one another’s pain and passions.
Who are your favorite writers? Too many to name them all!! Helena Maria Viramontes, Gloria Anzaldua, Toni Morrison, and James Baldwin have been the most influential.
Who is your hero of fiction? Toni Morrison.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? I identify with my distant great aunt, Jovita Valdovinos, who was a revolutionary general in the Cristero War in Mexico. She dressed as a man and commanded a battalion of eighty men in the Mexican sierras in a fight for religious freedom. I love her courage, her feminism, her righteously awesomeness so much I am writing a picture book about her. I always summons her spirit when things get tough, and I try my best to fight like hell just as she certainly would have.
What is your motto? “Find love and grace in your struggle. This is what will make us rise.”
AIDA SALAZAR is the author of the middle grade verse novels, THE MOON WITHIN (International Latino Book Award Winner), THE LAND OF THE CRANES (Fall, 2020), and the bio picture book JOVITA WORE PANTS: THE STORY OF A REVOLUTIONARY FIGHTER (Spring, 2021). All published by Scholastic. She is slated to co-edit with Yamile Saied Méndez, CALLING THE MOON: A middle grade anthology on menstruation by writers of color (Candlewick Press 2022). She is a founding member of Las Musas – a Latinx kidlit author collective. Her story, BY THE LIGHT OF THE MOON, was adapted into a ballet production by the Sonoma Conservatory of Dance and is the first Xicana-themed ballet in history. She lives with her family of artists in a teal house in Oakland, CA. Learn more about Aida on her website and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.