The Story Behind The House of Order, by John Paul Jaramillo


The lady from the old neighborhood who read my book leans forward, her hair pepper gray and black. Her eyes really only half open the entire time. Her one hand holds a stack of envelopes and the other a blue and leather handbag as large as you think of the state of Colorado as large. Behind her an unending line of patrons waiting in line at the post office.

She is old with a round stomach, wearing purple stretch pants and white Keds. Her round arms jiggle with fat as she points towards me and speaks. There, in line, the woman begins with, “Hey, John Paul!”

And I stop. Her arms filled with letters and greeting cards for her grandkids still in between us.

“I have to tell you,” the woman and her Grandmother smell tells me, “the profanity from your people shocked me.”

I say, “Excuse me?”

She says, “You don’t remember me do you?” And with that the woman steps back and tells me she was my 2nd grade teacher. Wonders if I remember. Then says she’s proud of me and tells me she read my book and knew my people and just knows they didn’t speak that way. Not the way she knew them anyway.

I ask her what she means?

“The curse words,” she explains. “Your Grandmother and your Grandfather. They never spoke like that.”

I say, I know my family real well and that was how they spoke. I say, The book is all fiction anyway.

I go on to tell her my book The House of Order came from my Oregon State MFA program and also from a failed novel. Mostly it came from my dead Grandmother’s kitchen and the old man who wasn’t my true Grandfather. Sitting there early in the morning as Compadres barged in for breakfast and then later in the day the family who came over to talk and play cards. The old folks would talk and talk for hours. Always on the past and always intimately about their lives and experiences. Always in a mix of Spanish and English. With the Grandfather it was the worksites of CF&I Steel and the pool halls around Huerfano County in Southern Colorado. With the Grandmother it was always her drunkard father and his experiences—the way he treated women. Again these stories were always intimate and animated. As time went on I reveled in these kitchen talks and family myths. I sought them out for my notebook and hoped to include them in a book someday.

And as my old teacher let me be, I’m left with my thoughts on those stories and their uses. Obsessing really.

I guess I can say I wanted to represent the old folks lost to me—their Spanish and their language—as well as my current life as a community college professor and writer. The only way to connect to the old folks who raised me to myself as an adult. To remember the old neighborhood of Bessemer alive and as it was. The old photos and the old stories coming together in my notes and thoughts and then down onto the blank page seemed like the best way—the only way now—to honor them.

A native of Southern Colorado, John Paul Jaramillo now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He has an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University, and presently holds the position of Associate Professor of English at Lincoln Land Community College.

His writing has been featured in Acentos ReviewCopper Nickel Review, Antique Children Arts Journal, Fogged Clarity Arts JournalDigest Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Polyphony Online, Paraphilia Magazine, Sleet Magazine and forthcoming in Palabra Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art. 

He’s the author of the short story collection,The House of Order, published by Anaphora Literary Press.

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john-paul-jaramillo authorA native of Southern Colorado, John Paul Jaramillo now lives, writes and teaches in Springfield, Illinois. He has an MFA in creative writing from Oregon State University, and presently holds the position of Associate Professor of English at Lincoln Land Community College.

His writing has been featured in Acentos ReviewCopper Nickel Review, Antique Children Arts Journal, Fogged Clarity Arts JournalDigest Magazine, Verdad Magazine, Polyphony Online, Paraphilia Magazine, Sleet Magazine and forthcoming in Palabra Magazine of Chicano and Latino Literary Art. 

He’s the author of the short story collection,The House of Order, published by Anaphora Literary Press.

 

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house of order

 

The House of Order, the first collection of composite stories by John Paul Jaramillo, presents a stark vision of American childhood and family, set in Southern Colorado and Northern New Mexico. Manito Ortiz sorts family truth from legend as broken as the steel industry and the rusting vehicles that line Spruce Street. The only access to his lost family’s story is his uncle, the unreliable Neto Ortiz.

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