Skip to content

Harmony of Words: An Interview with Lilvia Soto, author of Lies of an Indispensable Nation

Soto 1

I was born in Mexico. My first language is Spanish. When I immigrated to the United States at age fifteen, I learned English, finished high school, then college, earned an M.A., and finally a Ph.D. I then taught at Harvard and other American colleges and universities. I was also a university administrator, the first director of La Casa Latina: The University of Pennsylvania Center for Hispanic Excellence, and the resident director of a study abroad program in Seville, Spain, for students of Cornell, Michigan, and the University of Pennsylvania. I am now a full-time poet, essayist, and independent researcher.

You can buy Lies of an Indispensable Nation here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

Tell us the story of your book’s title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

It was difficult. I had a different title for years, but as I finished the last essay, I realized my first title was too romantic, too poetic, and it did not say or even hint at the theme and the passion of the book I wrote.

How did it feel when you first saw your book cover? Or when you first held your book in your hands?

I chose the photograph on the cover. It is a photograph of a father and son in Afghanistan by my favorite Magnum photographer and photojournalist, Steve McCurry. Holding my book in my hand was thrilling beyond belief. I had been working on this book for twenty years.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

The hundreds of white doves released into many skies of the world, the lighting of the Eternal Flame, the 3,000 white rose petals that fluttered down from the dome at London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral while a cellist played a Bach suite and the 2,000 people in the congregation maintained perfect silence, the Quranic prayers for peace, justice, and tolerance offered by Muslim leaders at the Central Mosque in London, the two towers of light projected into the sky of Paris, and the Buddhist monks who chanted memorial prayers in front of the U.S. embassy in Tokyo. But especially, Mozart’s Requiem, which was sung by almost 200 choirs in twenty-eight countries and in over twenty time zones representing all seven continents. Beginning at 8:46 A.M., the time of the first attack on the World Trade Center, west of the International Date Line in Auckland and Wellington in New Zealand and the South Pole, rolling across each country and around the world from time zone to time zone, and ending in American Samoa, the voices of over 17,000 people rose as a worldwide invocation of hope and healing to honor the dead and give comfort to the living. On the first anniversary of 9/11, the entire world grieved in solidarity with America, grieved and prayed for peace and understanding, and on that day, I heard rumors that the United States was planning to attack Iraq, a country that had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. On that day I decided I had to write this book.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I feel deeply about any form of suffering, human or animal, and any form of injustice. I have been a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother. I have taught at all levels from pre-kindergarten through Ph.D. students at Harvard. I love to cook, read, travel, and spend time with my friends.

What was the most rewarding/meaningful part of publishing your book?

The most rewarding experience has been to realize that reviewers, friends, and strangers have all been surprised by the real reasons for the invasions, which our government continues to lie about.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

Dear Mr. President – Indigo Girls & P!Nk

Masters of War – Bob Dylan

Give Peace a Chance – John Lennon and Yoko Ono

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

My perfect reader would be an intelligent, sensitive person with an open mind and a willingness to learn new, unpleasant truths about his or her own country.

What new writing projects are you currently working on? Or, other projects that are not writing?

I am almost finished with a book of poems and essays that is a combination of memoir, ancestry, migration back and forth across the Rio Grande, and the involvement of some of my relatives in various historic episodes in Mexico, the United States, and Greece.

How was working with Atmosphere Press? What would you tell other writers who want to publish?

It was great. Atmosphere Press is the perfect publisher for a first-time author because it covers all the angles and answers all the questions. You get all the help you need in a single place. The editors are fantastic. You will not regret working with Atmosphere and all its knowledgeable and helpful people.

You can buy Lies of an Indispensable Nation here.

Are you a writer, too? Submit your manuscript to Atmosphere Press.

atmosphere press

Atmosphere Press is a selective hybrid publisher founded in 2015 on the principles of Honesty, Transparency, Professionalism, Kindness, and Making Your Book Awesome. Our books have won dozens of awards and sold tens of thousands of copies. If you’re interested in learning more, or seeking publication for your own work, please explore the links below.