Adrian Nicole LeBlanc
Harman Writer-In-Residence, Spring 2011
photo by Kristine Larsen
In her own words, Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, a MacArthur Fellow and author of the prize-winning book Random Family, describes how and why she became a writer:
“Welcome to Plastics City” reads the sign to my Massachusetts hometown, Leominster, a factory town whose residents trace their ancestors back to Canada, Italy, Ireland and more recently, Brazil. It matters to me–very much–where I come from. Place is the wellspring of my stories and Leominster informs everything I write about: children and teenagers, love and damage, the discrepancy between what’s advertised and what’s actually going on.
My father was a union organizer who always rooted for the underdog. “Everybody gets a hit,” he used to shout at my softball games. My mother launched me as her missile into the wider world–Smith, Oxford, Yale. The greatest gift she gave me as a writer, though, besides the trips to the library for bags of books, was the time I spent wandering around as she finished up at the drug rehabilitation center where she worked. I would hang around for hours after school listening to the residents share their stories. What stayed with me was how hard some of those people fought to find words and how much they expressed without them.
All of it drives why I’m a journalist–the secrets hiding in plain sight.
“Jessica lived on Tremont Avenue, on one of the poorer blocks in a very poor section of the Bronx. She dressed even to go to the store. Chance was opportunity in the ghetto, and you had to be prepared for anything…Her appearance on the streets in her neighborhood usually caused a stir. A sixteen-year-old Puerto Rican girl with bright hazel eyes, a huge inviting smile and a voluptuous shape, she radiated intimacy where she went. You could be talking to her in the middle of the bustle of Tremont and feel as if lovers’ confidences were being exchanged beneath a tent of sheets. Guys in cars offered rides. Grown men got stupid. Women pursed their lips. Boys made promises they could not keep.”
–from Random Family