By Evelyn Oropeza–
Writer Josefina Lopez grew up in a traditional Mexican household where the men were always fed first.
“(The men) get to have the steak …and the women get the leftovers. We get the leftovers in every way metaphorically,” said Lopez said during a recent visit to Columbia College Chicago to promote her new novel, “Hungry Woman in Paris.”
She uses food as a way to frame the immigration issue.
“One of the ways I want to talk about immigration is not as a political issue but as a humanitarian concern,” Lopez said. “People come to this country because they are hungry…This is the history of humanity that you have to go where the food is.”
But once here Latina women start to struggle with issues like body image and weight.
“A lot of being overweight is about swallowing our anger, and unexpressed anger becomes depression,” Lopez said.
Her new book is more than just a story about a Latina journalist who moves to Paris to go to cooking school. It also touches on the theme of depression and suicide.
“I just knew I had to write this book. One of my greatest fears was to end up killing myself,” Lopez said.
Depression is a serious concern as more than 25 percent of Latinas have considered suicide and 15 to 20 percent have attempted it, according to various studies.
Women have to learn how to nurture themselves, Lopez said.
“It’s our turn to nurture our spirit. It’s our turn to nurture our soul,” Lopez said.
Lopez also is known for writing the play made into the film, “Real Women Have Curves,” starring America Ferrera now of “Ugly Betty” fame. A central theme of this work is the idea of body image. It’s also about a young woman who feels family pressure to work when she wants to go to college.
“I have not met one single woman who feels great about her body, even models,” Lopez said. “Why do we spend more money on makeup than we do on education?”
She often repeats a personal mantra, “All women are beautiful.”
“Madison Avenue cannot sell you self-esteem or beauty,” she said. “Only you can give that to yourself.”
Lopez was born in San Luis Potosi, Mexico in 1969, where her mother said she gave birth to her on a kitchen table. At the age of five, Lopez and her family immigrated to the United States settling in Los Angeles. At 17, Lopez began her career in writing and acting and attended the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts. In 1993, she graduated from Columbia College Chicago with her bachelor of arts degree in film and screenwriting. After Columbia College, Lopez received her master’s in fine arts in screenwriting from the University of California Los Angeles’ School of Theater, Film and Television.
There have been more than 80 productions of her plays and Lopez is committed to creating positive characters for Latinas. She’s working on a musical version of “Real Women Have Curves,” a second novel, other plays and screenplays and even a clothing line.
“In our culture there’s the stereotype of la virgen, la madre y la puta,” Lopez said. “I feel really sad we’re just eye candy. I would like to see a Latina lawyer show up. So I’ve started to create these roles.”
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