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Smoke & Mirrors with Tara Isabel Zambrano 

Interview by Pablo Piñero Stillmann (Read the Story) September 21, 2020

Tara Isabel Zambrano

Tara Isabel Zambrano

This is a complex story filled with information, yet it only uses two periods, making its reading feel frenetic and jumbled. What was your intention in writing the story this way instead of using more conventional grammar?

You’re right. It’s complex and unwinding in some unexpected ways, just as thoughts would initiate, hook, and disperse, and that is what I am going for here. This is how the story came to me, and I felt I should be true to its originating form.

This piece tells a horrific story of sexual abuse weaved into the story of a wedding. Why did you decide to approach trauma not standing on its own, but mixed in with something else?

A lot of what we think or act upon is influenced by our previous experiences and like I said before, it’s a breathless paragraph form to bring in unsuspecting details and layers in the character, her internalization of doing or not doing something while she is dancing and drinking in a wedding, a common phenomenon. I wanted to show what triggers her thoughts and her traumatic past and how she pushes the whole experience down, never allowing it to surface.

You’re originally from India and now you live in the United States. What are some of the differences in how these two cultures celebrate a wedding?

The weddings in my family are over-the-top, multi-day events with different ceremonies in the mornings and evenings. There is music, dancing, and feasting throughout. It’s a riot of colors. For us, marriages are not between two individuals, but the entire families, and so it’s a huge investment in terms of money, time, and efforts in terms of managing and executing every detail.

I have attended only a handful of weddings in the U.S. and they seem to be a much smaller affair as far as the scale is concerned. Weddings here are also formal and focused, the actual ceremony not too long.

You’re a semiconductor chip designer. (I’ll pretend I know what that means.) How does your engineering job influence your writing? Has writing provided for you a new way of looking at chip design?

My engineering background has helped me to provide a sound, logical structure to my stories. The rational left side of my mind has kept me objective as far as rejections go, and has helped me to improve my work until it’s the best it can be at that given time and frame of my mind.

On the other hand, creativity/writing/reading has helped me to trust my instincts when it comes to chip design—it’s often handy when I am trouble-shooting circuits in labs. It’s unique how our mind works with concrete facts and imagination, and I believe it’s that combination that has led to discoveries and inventions.

What was the last great book in translation that you read?

I’ve been guilty of not doing that for a while now. I think the last book was One Hundred Years Of Solitude by Gabriel García Màrquez, if you consider that a translation, since, I believe, it was originally written in Spanish.

About the Author

Tara Isabel Zambrano works as a semiconductor chip designer. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Southampton Review, Slice, Triquarterly, Yemassee, Passages North and others. Her full-length flash collection, Death, Desire And Other Destinations, is out in Sept’2020 with OKAY Donkey Press. She lives in Texas.

About the Interviewer

Pablo Piñero Stillmann has been the recipient of Mexico’s two top grants for young writers: The Foundation for Mexican Literature and the National Fund for Culture and Arts. His fiction, nonfiction, and poetry have appeared or are forthcoming in, among other journals, Bennington Review, Sycamore Review, Notre Dame Review, Blackbird, and Washington Square Review. He is the author of a novel, Temblador (Tierra Adentro, 2014) and a short story collection, Our Brains and the Brains of Miniature Sharks (Moon City Press, 2020).

This interview appeared in Issue Sixty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Nine
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