Behind the Scenes: Alisha Miranda Talks About ‘Scheming Abuelas: The Long Con that Made My Marriage’
Alisha Miranda, Teresa Douglas
Teresa Douglas 00:10
Welcome listeners to this week’s behind the scenes episode of Latinx Lit Audio Mag. I’m your host Teresa Douglas. Today we’re going to hear from Alicia Miranda, author of ‘Scheming Abuelas: The Long Con that Made My Marriage. Alicia is a Miami born, Scotland based Cuban American writer, entrepreneur and mother of twins. Her writing has been featured in ‘Moms Don’t Have Time to Write, Grazia, Metro and Herstry, among others. And she’s working on the book, the 40 year old intern. Welcome, Alicia.
Alisha Miranda 00:45
Thank you so much for having me. I’m very excited to be part of the podcast.
Teresa Douglas 00:50
It’s nice to have you here. And now in true Latinx lit audio fashion, I have to ask you the most important food-based question that all of my guests answer. And it’s this: if you need comfort food, what what do you reach for? What is your favourite comfort food?
Alisha Miranda 01:09
Oh, God, you know, given the theme of my story, I should probably say something like Arroz con Polio. But actually, it’s just chocolate chip cookies. That is what I always want. And comfort, not comfort, a regular Tuesday, it’s my number one go-to,
Teresa Douglas 01:25
You know we are all about truth in our food and chocolate is never wrong. I’m just going to go ahead and say that because that is not only is it a comfort food, it should be a food group.
Alisha Miranda 01:36
Teresa Douglas 01:37
All by itself. Well, thank you for sharing that. And I will tell the listeners who weren’t, obviously on the email exchanges that we’ve had, that one of the things that I love about this story, this piece, this memoir that you’re sharing, is how connected everything is. If you think about some basic story, you follow one character through a piece of their life, they do something and then we end the story. But in this one, there are so many things entwined in it. It’s your story, but it’s also your Abuela’s story. It’s your husband’s Abuela’s story. It’s the story of your family, and people moving from Cuba, going by way of Mexico or the different ways they came. So I love that the story is so bound up together in different pieces, different parts of various people’s lives. And these pieces can’t be pulled apart without unravelling the whole thing. Because, to me, that is a true statement of what family life is like. You can’t extricate yourself, from your history, from your family without taking a piece of context that we really need from our lives.
Alisha Miranda 03:02
Absolutely. And I think, you know, it is my life. It’s my love story. It’s my family history. And they are particularly connected in my particular story. But I think in everybody’s story, there are all of these pieces that you bring with you from the past and that you bring into the future. And so, in my particular tale, it certainly is very clear how that comes to light, how my past and my history connect with my present and the future that my children will have being part of these two connected families. But I think there’s a piece of that in everybody’s story, really.
Teresa Douglas 03:40
And it’s so beautifully played out here. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, we will talk about the story a little bit more. But before we do that, let’s go into some of your family story and ask you, because you do a lot of things. You’re an entrepreneur, you write, you’re a CEO, all of those things could be encompassing jobs by themselves. You do several of them together. How and when did you start writing?
Alisha Miranda 04:04
So I have always loved writing. I wrote as a kid, I wrote really embarrassing, terrible stories, which were mostly just like lists of my friends and then the places we would want to go shopping and things we would want to do. There’s one I still have where we all went to Hawaii on vacation without our parents. But it was extremely innocent. And I was really, really into journalism. I was the editor of my high school newspaper. I was one of Teen People magazine’s first teen reporters, which was awesome and just gave me so many amazing opportunities. And then I did an internship at a magazine in Miami, my final year of high school and I sort of had this big dream I wanted to work in magazines and move to New York and have a ‘Sex in the City Life,’ before there was a Sex in the City. And the actual reality of working in journalism was just not what I thought I wanted. I had a lot of people that were working at the magazine getting paid at the magazine saying to me, Oh, this is not the profession to go into, you’ll never make any money. It’s really not fulfilling. And they were clearly people who were not happy with their jobs. And so, you know, my life went in a totally different direction. I went to college, I studied Women’s Studies.
And then I got bit by the travel bug my junior year. I came to study abroad in London, and just really kind of fell in love with being overseas being in what was Europe, what I’ll still always think of fondly as Europe. And then my career sort of followed a series of open doors in the direction they were in. So I started to work in the philanthropy space, mostly with companies and then eventually with families, and individuals and nonprofits, helping them fundraise better give away their money. I did that at a few companies for several years, big companies, and then my husband, who you’ll know all about after you read this story, set up a consulting firm 10 years ago, and I joined. Eventually, he finally convinced me to come to the family business and run it. So I spent the overwhelming majority of my career writing business stuff, writing clear, concise bullet points, and ignoring this other creative side of me.
And then, in 2019, I had this idea, I call it my like, pre-midlife crisis. And I decided I wanted to go intern at the dream jobs of my childhood because I was obsessed with trying to figure out whether I should be taking a different path. Or if I was just going to be doing the same thing forever and ever. So I kind of built out this year for myself, it was all planned for 2020. And then we know what happened in 2020. But at some point, a friend said to me, you know, you should do this, and you should write a book about it. And I had never really considered that an option before. But it was a lot more palatable, to tell people I’m leaving my job to go be an intern on an off-Broadway musical or at an art dealer because I’m writing a book. And that just made a lot of sense instead of like, You’re crazy. So people are like, Oh, of course, you’re writing a book. That’s a perfectly legitimate excuse to go and do these things. So long story short, I did that I ended up doing four internships in 2020. I did a bunch of different jobs. And I wrote about it the whole time. And throughout that, the biggest surprise was that I just loved reconnecting with writing more than I ever could have possibly dreamed. And so I do many things now. But I think writing is really where my heart is, and where at least my next 10 years are going. And I’ve just felt so grateful that I get to do that.
Teresa Douglas 07:49
Okay, that that is definitely very cool. And had I met you in high school and heard that you were doing this you would definitely sit at my table at lunch.
Alisha Miranda 07:57
Teresa Douglas 07:57
Because yeah, that’s an amazing story. And it’s funny in some ways to think that writing has a mystique to some people so that if you need to drop what you’re doing and follow a dream or figure out questions. Doing that by itself self in some ways is not as acceptable. Oh, you’re doing it for book writing which is mystical and magical. And not something everybody does. I find that both really cool and really funny that it gave some justification to other people.
Alisha Miranda 08:34
Yeah, it felt like a good excuse for people and it was just the biggest bonus because while I loved all of the internships and in fact, I still am working for a couple of them just because that seems to be my life right now doing everything, it’s just become such a joy and it feels like I just kind of woke up this part of myself that had been sleeping for a really long time.
Teresa Douglas 09:00
So you’ve written about your life, your experiences, both in this piece ‘Scheming Abuelas’ and also in your internship experiences. Is nonfiction then your first love or do you think about or in fact write other things?
Alisha Miranda 09:16
It is definitely not my first love. So I love fiction. I rarely read nonfiction until the last five years. And I love love novels. I love the occasional romance. I love stuff with a happy ending. I just I love pretty much everything. I love big sweeping family epics where there’s like a timeline and family tree in front. I have always been a voracious reader and a lover of fiction and I never would read nonfiction for fun. I had to read it for college, and then I had to read it for work and it didn’t seem like anything I would do for pleasure. But I started reading memoirs a few years ago and then I was like, well, this is amazing because you just get this really intimate story of someone’s life and what a gift to be given by someone to share this piece of themselves with you. So now I’ve totally come around, I alternate, so I’ll read one nonfiction book, one fiction book, most of the time, I tend to go back and forth. And if it’s like a very serious memoir, then there’ll be a palate cleanser in the middle, to ease things. I’ve written mostly nonfiction, but I am working on some fiction, I have a short story, ironically, also about a grandmother and a granddaughter that I just finished. So clearly, my grandmother is, has been an inspiration for many things in my life. And then I think I want to write a novel next. But it feels very scary to say that because of the idea of completely making something up from scratch, and I don’t know, just kind of following in the path of these fiction authors that I idolize so much. It seems impossible, but I also thought it was going to be impossible to write nonfiction. So there you go.
Teresa Douglas 11:07
And here you are. I don’t know. I wonder if anybody deliberately, I mean, people must say, Okay, today, I’m gonna start on a novel. I think there are some pre-steps that happen before that, where you sit down, and you just start writing, and maybe you outline a little bit, and then gradually think, Hmm, I guess this is a book. So I don’t know. It just reminds me of–because I have I have published a book–of having a child. It takes so many months before the end product shows up. And there’s that, am I ready for this? Nobody is but then you do it anyway. And it’s amazing to have done it. Also, I will tell you that I will read it if you write it.
Alisha Miranda 11:54
Well, I’m excited. I’m excited and scared, and mostly excited. So I think I’m going to give it a try. And I totally, totally hear you on that. Even the things that I’ve written for it so far have been tiny scenes that have come sort of unbidden, and then I write them and then I’m like, Oh, well, this might fit here. So I’m still in those very early stages. But I am excited about the challenge that presents and being able to produce something that is fictional, but I’m sure there’ll be some elements in it that I pulled from my life.
Teresa Douglas 12:28
I mean, everybody has to put something even if it’s not the exact people. Your experiences are there somehow, even if they’re tweaked a bit. That’s my opinion, even in science fiction where everybody’s an alien.
Alisha Miranda 12:39
I think you’re right.
Teresa Douglas 12:42
People still fall in love, and they sleep and they eat and everything else. Well, before we get too far off, let’s go back to Scheming Abuelas because I loved this piece. I love–and I’ve told you this–the scene where Grandma says “Martona,” and I should tell listeners who have not listened to the piece that this is a scene at a funeral, the grandfather who has died, he had stopped the two grandmas from seeing each other because he was jealous of the friendship. And at the parking lot in the funeral Grandma screams to a friend, “Now we can see each other every day!” And I’m chopping that up. But it to me it was this beautifully funny moment in a sad moment. Because here’s this woman with this spirit, who even when it’s tough and sad, still has so much life that she can be joyous about this friendship that she’s had for the length of some people’s lifetime. They knew each other for decades. It’s just amazing.
Alisha Miranda 13:49
Teresa Douglas 13:50
And I just love this piece so much. And one of the other things that I really enjoyed about it. And I would love to hear you talk about this idea that the grandmas would tell you as a newly you know, coupled unit (because I can’t remember if you’re married or not at that point), stories of things that were good. It wasn’t the hard stuff. They were trying to give you the happy stories, the stories that helped you would help you carry on. Why do you think they would have made that decision?
Alisha Miranda 14:26
Yeah, that story, in the parking lot of the funeral is one of family legend. And my grandmother who passed away over the summer was just a joy bringer in her life. You know, she was the life of the party, she sang, she danced. She gave me the spirit that I have which is really to try to find joy wherever you can to grasp at it even in the darkest moments. And I know that I got that from her. You know? I think that like so many children of immigrants, you kind of get told your family stories over and over and over again. And as you get older, you start to realize that everyone’s telling them from a particular perspective and from their own point of view and what they saw. The story of how my grandparents actually emigrated from Cuba to the US is, you know, incredibly difficult. They left very, very quickly. My grandfather was doing some work with the US CIA, sort of, you know, undercover basically, it sounds very spy-like, but actually, it was like Agricultural Statistics, but still extremely risky. And they were caught. They had friends high up in the government, they were told, you have to get out of here. They went to Mexico, and then they waited. And they waited in Mexico, for days and weeks, my grandmother and grandfather, their five children, the youngest was only two at the time, and her parents and they ran out of money. And they went to the church. And she asked the priest, she said, ‘Can you help us?’ So they put out the collection plate for my family. And that is how they had food, and some clothes until they were able to come to the US.
When my dad tells these stories to me, he does remember a lot of that pain, he remembers being eight years old, 9 or 10 and what that meant coming to a brand new country and being really afraid. But my grandmother just never wanted to tell those stories. She always wanted to talk about the musicians that they heard and the parties that they went to, and the fun things they did. How they would get so drunk at Christmas, that they would all have to end up sleeping in the same house. And she just that. That was what she saw. And that was her perspective. And it was her approach to life. Are there lots of things she forgot? Absolutely. But I think that both her and Carlos’ grandmother, that was what they wanted us to remember. And I don’t know if it’s because they thought we were going to hear all of the other stuff from everybody else. I think part of it was the piece they wanted to tell was the piece that made them feel joyful. And those are the memories they wanted to make sure didn’t get lost. So I did always feel like I had this real 360 of what that experience was because everybody has blind spots. And I’m just grateful that they thought to share so many of these amazing stories with us, that I have them and I keep them and I tell them to my children. And you know, we will continue to tell them through the generations, I hope.
Teresa Douglas 17:40
And it’s amazing to think about that, really, because you’re hearing it secondhand. I guess I’m third hand at this point, and it probably doesn’t carry quite the same power but to know that those stories are not going to be forgotten, that there are children who are going to remember that they were in Mexico and they waited and that they came back and that your grandmother was so full of life. It’s a precious thing. And we can’t really fault somebody. In fact, I kind of admire somebody who says “I’m going to share the joyful things that happened. Because those are the things that are important to me.” And obviously, it’s good to have all of those things. But it’s a very deliberate choice and to choose joy, I feel like that can’t be wrong. So this obviously is a very important story to you. How did you approach writing it? Did you just know that at some point you were going to document this? Was there a particular moment where you thought okay, what caused you to go from “This is a family story, this is my story,” to “I should let this out into the world?”
Alisha Miranda 18:52
Yeah, I think my love story is so–well, everybody’s love stories unique really–but because mine has been so connected with my family history, it’s always felt like a really special story. And it’s a story people love hearing, right? So friends of ours, if we’re out with people who know the story of how we met, and other people who don’t know how we met, they’ll say “oh, you’ve got to tell them the story of how you met because it’s so amazing, the story of your grandmother’s introducing you.” So, I knew it was a good story, right? Like, there isn’t, there’s some good stuff in there. I think oftentimes when I start writing something, I will think of just a particular scene or a particular moment or something will kind of spark my imagination. And in this case, I remember it was like a Sunday. My kids were watching TV, I was just kind of hanging out in my bedroom. And I started to think about the moment that opens up the story when we were on our honeymoon, and we were in India, and being followed around by this young couple who really wanted to know if we were an arranged match or a love match and that question is always really funny because we would never consider that anybody else was responsible for us getting together. But absolutely, there were some people pulling the strings behind the scenes, in the form of our two grandmothers. And so it sort of spun out from there.
And the more I told that original story of how we met, the more I realized that I couldn’t tell that story without telling the story of our grandmothers, because they were, as you said, at the very beginning, they were so interconnected. And that bigger context of the story is just what makes it so amazing and, the fact that my grandmother and Carlos, his grandmother, who were best friends for so long, share great-grandchildren now for the rest of time their family trees are connected, is just, to me, the most beautiful thing. And so it really came from a place of wanting to bring all of that together, almost for myself, and then, I thought it would be nice to share this. It’s a piece that I care a lot about. And my grandmother passed away, and it seemed more important to get that out there and just share as much as I can about her really with the world because she was such an incredible woman. And this story is such an integral part of my life, and, was a part of hers. It just felt really important to share that. And also, I’m all about joyful stories right now, because there’s just not enough joy. Anywhere. So I’m trying to do my part to get that out there. I’m glad that story made you laugh, and I hope it makes others laugh too.
Teresa Douglas 21:42
I think it will, it is hard not to with the amount of joy that’s there. And I think you kind of answered this, but I’m going to ask it anyway. So in the end, when someone has listened to the story, what impression do you want them to have at the end?
Alisha Miranda 22:04
I’d love them to have a smile on their face, I’d love them to think they spent the last eight, nine minutes thinking of something that made them feel hopeful and happy. You know, I like to write funny stuff. It’s not always all funny, plenty of things fall flat. But that’s the stuff that I want to read right now. And I think that if I can take someone out of what’s happening in the real world, and let them feel, ust that kind of glow that you get when you read a beautiful love story or a family story. I would love them to feel that after they read this piece or heard this piece.
Teresa Douglas 22:44
Well, I certainly did. So I think that you succeeded. It’s a lovely story. It does give that joy because we do need that right now. And you do write a lot of different things. So if listeners want to reach out to you–not reach out to you, if they want to hear what you’re doing and know when the next story is coming. How would they find out? Do you have a website? You have social media? How would they find you?
Alisha Miranda 23:12
Yeah, they can reach out to me, by the way, I love being reached out to.
Teresa Douglas 23:16
So you’ve heard it, you can reach out,
Alisha Miranda 23:19
Reach out! You can find me on my website, which is Alicia F miranda.com. And my name is a li SHA confusingly for many people. And you could also follow me on Instagram, and then it’s at the numbers for zero. So 40 y o intern, and that is my handle on Instagram. And I would love to hear from you. Because I think hearing other people’s stories is one of the best thing about writing basically other people who write want to reach out and share their work. And I just absolutely love that. So yeah, please, reach out.
Teresa Douglas 23:55
There you go. Just not in a creepy way.
Alisha Miranda 23:59
In a really nice way.
Teresa Douglas 24:00
Yes in a nice joyful way. And listeners, if you do not have a pen and paper nearby, the links to these will be in the show notes. So you can just click on over and get all the Alisha all the time. Well, thank you so much for coming to the show. I really appreciated having you here.
Alisha Miranda 24:19
Thank you, Teresa, and thank you for making a space for these stories. I just think all of the different things that you’re putting out are amazing. I’m really enjoying listening to them. And I feel extremely, extremely honored to be part of it. So thank you.
Teresa Douglas 24:32
Aw, well thank you