Interview |
William Anthony Nericcio | March 2007

with Martin Winchester

Martin Winchester: Can you tell a little about your upbringing in South Texas, specifically what you remember most about your childhood on the Texas-Mexico border?

William Nericcio: This one is actually at the end of the chapter on Frida Kahlo...  I am at Ana Juarez de Nericcio's house at 619 Cedar in Laredo, my father's mother's home; she is cooking us hamburgers and Josie and I (my sister, the sound editor in Hollywood now) are reading all these Harvey comics that she stuffs under her mattress.  My abuela, my literary partner in crime.   My piece of art documenting that also appears in the book:

MW: When did you first become conscious of the portrayal of Mexicans and/or Latinos in the media and Hollywood films? 

WN: That happened when I was transformed from a Laredense trying to pass as an exotic Sicilian (one of my Abuelo's is from Partanna, Sicily) into a Chicano activist as a graduate student at Cornell University--of all places to become Chicano or Mexican American, Ithaca, NY.  Bizarre!

MW: Who is the audience for your book and what do you hope they get out of reading it?

WN: The first audience is other professors and graduate students, but it does not stop there. The University of Texas Press is special in that they market to the Ivory Tower and the general public; i feel quite lucky to be with them.  But I wrote the book really for anyone who can pick up the New York Times, the New Yorker, or even, something like Elle or Vogue and not feel like a total fool.  It's written for people who love movies, art, photography, literature, comics, etc....  All fellow fetishists of the printed word and image are my secret sharers with this book.

MW: The layout of your book is very unique and helps to convey your content.  Can you tell a little about creating the design for the book?  How did you choose or accumulate all the examples included?

WN: I love talking about this part.  Lisa Tremaine, at the University of Texas Press, is the Van Gogh of book designers.  She worked long and hard, and endured constant interloping from yours truly, to come up with a book that looked like I write.  The book is better than I could have hoped for.  Many of the images of the books are by an artist named Guillermo Nericcio García, which is, don't tell anyone, a pseudonym for myself.  I have always been a graphic designer and illustrator but a lot of folks I meet just can't hold the idea of an English Professor (an English Department Chair-elect, let me add) and a graphic designer/artist in their head at the same time.  So I came up with a name that I now publish under for my graphic art and photography.

MW: Do you include such themes and issues addressed in your book in your college classes and how do your college students respond?

WN: Absolutely--you can take a peek at them here:
 My book is the end result of 16 years of experimentation in the classroom--that's why I spend so much space in the acknowledgements thanking former students.  Without their comments and criticism and enthusiasm for the ideas in the book, I never would have finished!

MW: What do you think it will take to ensure Latinos are more accurately portrayed in mainstream movies and the media?

That's not really what we are after. You don't ever want to turn to Hollywood for Anthropology or for self-esteem—especially if you are Mexican.  What we want is already happening--the Academy Award fetish for Mexican directors and producers this year is evidence of that.  What we need really are more Chicana and Chicano, more Tejano y Tejana producers, screenwriters, actors, comedians, and cultural studies professors to do the job of revealing the beautiful cacophony, the spendid outrageousness of Latina/o life and art in the Americas.

MW: What future writing projects are in store for you?

WN: I am editing a comprehensive critical edition of the early works of Oliver Mayer, a Chicano playwright whose work has been performed in NY, LA, Mexico City and Chicago and whose work, Blade to the Heat, has been optioned by Madonna (yes, that one!) for her directorial debut.  He was a former student of mine at Cornell University when I got to work as a graduate assistant to Carlos Fuentes.  But that's a long story for another time.