Why I’m Choosing to Celebrate They Could Have Named Her Anything

Publishing They Could Have Named Her Anything has already been more satisfying than I could have ever expected. I worked with a phenomenal illustrator to design the cover, deepened my work and artistic vision with my fantastic editor at Little A, got invited to panels with my literary heroes, and have read GoodReads reviews of my book that are lovelier than I could have ever imagined.

And this month, I’ve already celebrated the launch of my book at a beautiful, bilingual bookstore called Mil Mundos in Bushwick.

Next week, I’ll be celebrating even more at Powerhouse, where I’ll be in conversation with another writer I admire–Angie Cruz.

And throughout September and the rest of the fall, I’ll be having events around New York, Texas, and Los Angeles.

Book cover of They Could Have Named Her Anything
Little A, 2019

The truth is: I love parties. Anyone who’s know me knows about the house I grew up in. When I was a kid, our house was the party house. I had a notorious basement where shots of tequila and rum were taken with abandon. Where some people drummed and others struck a pair of claves in time with an old-school salsa beat. We kids used to roll our eyes at our tipsy and life-loving guardians, but something must have rubbed off on me. To this day, I can’t resist a good house party. Put a drink in me and the first thing I ask my friends is: “where can we go dance around here?”

So now, as my book publishes, why do I keep getting the urge to hide, not celebrate?

It’s one thing to host a house party and dance, where you can feel at home in your own space and body. But literary events are an entirely different thing. Literary events are so cerebral. People pride themselves not on their rhythm but on their intelligence. My house was a place where we did both. We got riled up listening to music as much as we did having fierce political debates. But the pressure to be smart and original and engaging as an author often feels extreme. Writing a book takes a lot of work, and we want our books to succeed. We put so much of ourselves on the page, and we want to be noticed, to be told we are good.

Elizabeth Gilbert (who one of my friends hilariously refers to as her white fairy godmother) talks about how much damage is done in our society by deeming some people genius. And it’s true–if all of us can respect each other’s particular genius, we’d learn a hell of a lot more than we do by just reading the few anointed books by the authors we’ve deemed Worthy of Reading.

I went to a talk by Maria Popova recently, where she stated that she never wanted to write a book “with the shelf life of a banana.” Yikes.

I understand why some authors are scared of going out in public and yelling about their books. But I just can’t imagine feeling so much shame and insecurity about my own intellect that I wouldn’t celebrate the publication of my novel, even if just a little bit. I recently had an exchange with Natalia Sylvester, who was marveling at the fact that she’s now on her third book. When I said that I too was shocked that my next step would be to write yet another novel, she replied: “There’s no such thing as enough of us.”

So why not party? Why not be loud? God knows I’ve spent so much of my life shrinking–figuratively, literally. I hope to keep celebrating They Could Have Named Her Anything. I hope to celebrate the life out of my writing so that it continues to enrich and satisfy mine.

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Stephanie Jimenez

Stephanie Jimenez is a former Fulbright recipient and Prep for Prep alumna. She is based in Queens, New York, and her work has appeared in The Guardian, O! the Oprah Magazine, Entropy, and more. Her debut novel, THEY COULD HAVE NAMED HER ANYTHING, will be published in the summer of 2019 (Little A). Follow her @estefsays.