Lina Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas has gone from Columbia to Columbus, and on Friday, she will head to New York City to receive a writer’s award.
Ferreira C.-V., an assistant professor in the creative writing master’s program at Ohio State, was chosen to receive the 2016 Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award for demonstrating talent and promise early in her career.
She is among six women who will be presented with the award which is chosen through anonymous nominations.
“It was shocking enough that when I got the call I wept,” Ferreira C.-V. said. “It’s been a long time. I’m very fortunate.”
Established in 1995, the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Awards program is the only national literary program of its kind committed to supporting female writers exclusively.
Ferreira is currently completing her first book, “Don’t Come Back,” to be published by Mad River Books under OSU Press in January 2017.
“When I first picked up the manuscript I couldn’t put it down,” said Kristen Elias Rowley, editor-in-chief at OSU Press. “Lina’s manuscript pulled me in immediately, and I found myself so interested that I wanted to devour the book all in one setting.”
Her book combines translations, fiction and nonfiction while fusing the issues of Colombian civil conflict and brutality with a personal exploration into her own life and heritage.
Ferreira C.-V. said she read a lot about Colombia and its mythology in the beginning stages of her writing, and she found that with colonization and invasion, much of the native culture was eradicated.
“The bulk of it is essays about not whether you would go back home, but if you could, would you want to?” Ferreira C.-V. said. “I come from a ‘war-torn’ country, it has a history of brutality at the least, and I miss it, but it’s a difficult relationship.”
For Ferreira C.-V., just because something isn’t physically written down does not mean it has less literary value. Her book includes four sections, each opening with a translated myth from Colombian mythology.
“She weaves together her own experiences growing up in Colombia with Colombian history, Colombian myths and with her time in the U.S. in particular,” Elias Rowley said. “Her translation of common Colombian sayings or proverbs into English versions are incredibly unique.”
Elias Rowley said the book focuses on education, class and family, so it’s something that students and many first-generation college students will be able to relate to.
“I think Lina gives readers a great window into one immigrant’s story, one human’s story, which serves as an important counter narrative to any stereotyped, politicized versions the media tries to feed viewers,” Elias Rowley said.
Since its start, the foundation has granted more than $2 million to emerging female writers, many who have gone on to critical acclaim.
With a $30,000 grant coming from the award, Ferreira C.-V. said she plans to pursue research on national stories in Colombia, and eventually write dense, academically rich and fast-paced nonfiction, as well as working on two additional upcoming works.
“If I can complicate someone’s world view then I have done my job,” she said. “That’s what I’m trying to do. Never make things easier.”
Ferreira C.-V. is teaching an undergraduate advanced creative nonfiction workshop and a graduate level introduction to literary translation, theory and practice course at Ohio State through Spring Semester 2017.