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 (aka nosy) questions. It the hot seat today, Celia C. Pérez, author of the middle-grade debut, THE FIRST RULE OF PUNK (Viking Books for Young Readers, 2017).
What is your idea of perfect happiness? My original answer was going to be that there is no such thing as perfect happiness, but then I read Allen Ginsberg’s answer: “Excellent health, no flu, no leprosy.” I’m going with that.
What is your greatest fear? At the moment, bed bugs.
What is the trait you most deplore in yourself? Where do I begin? The one that comes to mind often lately is feeling like I don’t deserve good things that come my way.
What is the trait you most deplore in others? Entitlement. Also people who monopolize conversations.
Which living person do you most admire? Dolores Huerta is fresh in my mind after watching the recently released documentary about her life. I think what struck me most was that her life wasn’t shown under this lens of perfect, self-sacrificing saint. You’re able to see her strengths, but also her flaws. I thought it was especially interesting to see how her role as a woman and as a mother in the farm-workers’ movement affected her personal life, especially her relationship with her children, in ways that they are all still dealing with and working through decades later. It’s important to see the gray areas, that someone so revered is human and can make potentially harmful choices for some in the name of doing good for others.
What is your greatest extravagance? I get coffee from a local roaster pretty often. My other extravagances are essential oils, fancy hand lotions, and the occasional pair of really nice shoes that I convince myself I’ll set aside my Chuck Taylors for and then never do.
What is your current state of mind? Scattered, distracted, struggling for peace and focus.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue? Are we talking about the seven virtues according to Catholicism? Or just things people tend to agree are virtues? Is it a virtue to put on a happy face? I think that’s overrated. The worse kind of anger is the one that’s ignored and lurks inside you waiting to unleash itself when least expected.
On what occasion do you lie? When nothing good can come of the truth.
Which words or phrases do you most overuse? “Word.” Also, “cool.”
Besides writing, which talent would you most like to have? When I was a kid I wanted to play the violin. It’s still one of my favorite instruments to listen to. Or to be able to play any instrument well, really.
What do you consider your greatest achievement? Keeping my son alive and (arguably) well for almost twelve years.
If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be? A crow.
What is your most treasured possession? Besides my son, who is not a “possession” but is the most treasured being in my life, probably anything from my childhood that connects me to my family and my history: old photographs, stories, memories.
What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery? Not being able to help loved ones who are suffering.
What do you most value in your friends? Knowing when I need to be left alone. A sense of humor.
Who are your favorite writers? Sherman Alexie, Sandra Cisneros, John Steinbeck, Julie Otsuka, Bich (Beth) Minh Nguyen, Rebecca Stead, E.L. Konigsburg, Matt de la Peña, Libba Bray, Howard Zinn, Lynda Barry, Michele Serros, Gwendolyn Brooks, Judy Blume, Beverly Cleary, Yuyi Morales.
Who is your hero of fiction? Ponyboy Curtis and Oscar the Grouch.
Which historical figure do you most identify with? Emily Dickinson: OG zinester, quirky introvert, lover of baked treats.
What is your motto? “Mejor sola que mal acompañada.”
Celia C. Pérez is the daughter of a Mexican mother and a Cuban father. Originally from Miami, Florida, she now lives in Chicago with her family and works as a community college librarian. Her favorite zine supplies are her long-arm stapler, glue sticks, and animal clip art (to which she likes adding speech bubbles). The First Rule of Punk is her first book for young readers. Find Celia on her website, Twitter, and Instagram.