Originally from San Juan, Tania Pabón Acosta holds an M.A. in English Literature from the University of Puerto Rico, and an M.F.A. from Sarah Lawrence College. Her work has appeared in Entropy, Pigeon Pages, The Rumpus and Cosmonauts Avenue, among others; is forthcoming in The Los Angeles Review and The Adroit; and was chosen for AmpLit Fest’s Emerging Writer Showcase 2018. She is also the founder of Writers for Relief, a reading and event series born in the wake of Hurricane Maria to raise funds and awareness for Puerto Rico’s recovery.
Here’s Quick Temper with Tania—
Why do you write?
I like to think that I write for others, but really I write to make sense of things for myself. Because I’ve lived with Bipolar I my whole life, I often feel I have to analyze every thought I have and every idea that crosses my brain to make sure that they’re logical and sane. I’m constantly vigilant of my reactions and emotions, and sometimes need to double check that I’m perceiving things correctly. In implementing those mental gymnastics, I realized that most if not all of what I think and feel looks complicated but is actually quite basic, almost primal. Writing helps me get to the seed of things in a way that provides me with important understanding and makes me feel less alone or less in my head. I write to show that even though all of our brains work differently, we share the same humanity.
Who do you hope reads your work?
Anyone who needs to be reminded that we’re all incredibly flawed and incredibly beautiful. Anyone who feels like they’re a little messed up. I’ve made an extraordinary amount of mistakes in my life, some because of the mood disorder and some not, and I write about them all so that they find their way to someone who needs to hear that mistakes don’t define you and we’re all equally messed up.
Where does the anger in your work come from? How does it manifest?
I think the anger in my work simmers more than bubbles over. I’m a believer that anger is a primary emotion from which other emotions evolve. I write about sadness a lot, but that sadness is a reaction to the anger I feel for the conditions/circumstances I’ve been given. The anger in my work is the baseline, and the themes explored in the essays themselves all stem from that one thing. The loneliness, the sadness, the inadequacy, the fear… they’re all built on top of my anger toward my brain and its imbalance.
Angry book recommendations for angry readers?
“Heavy” by Kiese Laymon! What a magnificent display of anger in prose, you feel it bubbling and rising up your throat. It’s a truly astounding book.