By: Angie Haddock
Earlier this week, we reviewed “Love in Any Language,” by Evelyn Kohl LaTorre. I read an advanced copy through the Books Forward program, and the lovely folks at Books Forward also shared the following interview with LaTorre.
Q: You detail it in your first book, “Behind Inca Walls,” but can you give a quick summary of how you and your husband met?
A: My future father-in-law, Adolfo Eguiluz, had requested Peace Corps volunteers to work in Abancay, Peru, for several years. My roommate, Marie, and I went there to work on community development projects. Four months into our stay, we met Eguiluz’s stepson, Antonio, and I felt an immediate attraction. He returned to Abancay often.
Q: What were some unexpected challenges or surprises that you noticed at the beginning of your relationship?
A: One was how deeply Antonio cared about my well-being. As well as how volatile our feelings for one another could be, changing from cool to warm to hot and back to cool again. He also wanted me to pursue graduate studies — though he was dissatisfied with his own course of study.
Q: Did your studies in psychology and multiculturalism help you through some of the learning curves of a relationship with someone of a different nationality and ethnicity?
A: Very much. I learned that personal relationships are more important in life than material possessions and bodily comforts. In college, my favorite classes were psychology, anthropology and sociology — how countries and people are similar and different in their values, food, music, manners and priorities.
I had been enamored with the Hispanic culture since college when I volunteered among California’s migrant workers in the Central Valley. Also, the theory of personality types has offered me an explanation for human differences.
Q: What advice can you give about raising bi-cultural children?
A: Listen and learn about your partner’s culture. Then, agree on your priorities and the values you want to impart to your children. There are many ways to live life other than the way you were raised. Learn what science has discovered about children’s emotional needs. You may find a healthier way to raise offspring than how the previous generation did it.
Our children are open to differences between races, income levels and customs because they’ve experienced different cultures with diverse expectations. They tend to be flexible and accepting of others unlike them.
Q: Was it difficult for you while writing the book to disclose personal information and stories? How do you decide what information to include and what topics are off-limits?
A: It was more difficult with the first book because I wrote about an important religious rule that I broke. (Angie’s note: Getting pregnant before she was married.) Initially, I felt afraid of being judged in the same way my mother had judged (me). I knew a memoir writer can be harshly criticized by others who have narrow viewpoints of what is right and wrong. People like to judge others’ decisions when they don’t mirror their own.
I remember the day I presented the chapter about the circumstances of my first pregnancy to my writer’s critique group in front of male members. I was super self-conscious and embarrassed. But I soon discovered that writing about uncomfortable incidents takes away their shame. Being honest about one’s life is a relief.
Q: What were some of the expectations society placed on you as a wife and a mother? What changes have you personally seen regarding gender roles for women in the past 60 years?
A: In the 1970s a husband was expected to be the breadwinner and head of the household as opposed to sharing decisions and duties equitably. Improvement has certainly been slow.
In terms of changes in the workforce, when I was pregnant, pregnancy was seen as a disability that required leaving a job two months before the baby’s birth. Contraceptives had been available for only a few years. And employers today can’t legally discriminate against a pregnant woman and force her to quit. Also during most of my career, women felt they could do little about sexual harassment. The #MeToo movement changed that.
Q: What do you hope readers gain from reading the story of you and your husband’s relationship?
A: The first is that the challenges of a mixed cultural marriage are worth the extra effort it takes. There is the potential to learn new, often better, ways to accomplish life’s tasks in an intimate relationship with someone from another country.
Marriage is like a dance but with both partners taking turns leading. It’s OK for one partner to step up and the other partner to step back as their situation requires it. It’s also sometimes worth “hanging in there” and persisting to make a marriage work.
And finally, there is value for both people in a partnership to use their strengths equally. A man comfortable in his own masculinity won’t fear a strong woman. The most important ingredient in a satisfying relationship is mutual respect and appreciation.
If you haven’t read our review of LaTorre’s new book – which came out this week – check it out here.