Ernesto Quiñonez is an acclaimed novelist, essayist, screenplay writer, and oral storyteller for the Moth. He was raised in Spanish Harlem, New York City, by a communist father from Ecuador and a Jehovah’s Witness mother. He is a product of public education from kindergarten to his Masters at the City College of New York where he studied under Walter Mosley. He is a Sundance Writer’s Lab fellow and last appeared in the “Blackout” episode of PBS American Experience. He is currently an associate professor at Cornell University’s MFA program.
The New York Times claimed his debut novel, Bodega Dreams (Random House), a “New Immigrant Classic”, which has since gone on to become a landmark in contemporary literature and is required reading in many high schools and colleges around the country. His second novel, Chango’s Fire (HarperCollins) was also well received, the Washington Post declared, “it succeeds in its rich characterizations of the people of the Barrio. Quiñonez ably illuminates the sordid politics of gentrification and the unexpected places new immigrants turn to for social and spiritual support.” His essays have appeard in The New York Times, Esquire, Newsweek, El Pais, Latina Magazine and elsewhere.
In an interview during his acceptance of a Latin Trendsetter Award, Ernesto Quinonez said, “Yes, the cards were stacked against me but I never got stuck in victimization. I had a vision, and though “The Man” is real and is out there to throw road blocks at you because you are poor and Latino, that never took away my focus and drive in accomplishing what I was after. In today’s world being Latino—to me—means Representing. Letting others see that putting aside hate, resentment, defeat and all those qualities that make victims, and instead embracing hard work and patience we will achieve. We can aspire to the highest levels. Poverty is violence. Growing up in New York City during the 70s and 80s was tough. These were the years of no heat, no hot water, rats, crime and arson. But with good parenting, a love for all mediums of art, and a bit of luck I did ok. Today, I try to keep a modest and humble attitude, while continuing to help my students and anyone else in whichever way I can. There is no better example than one’s own life, and if some young gun from some low income neighborhood sees that a kid from El Barrio is now a writer and an Ivy League professor, he/she might say, ‘If that dork did it, I can do it, too, and I can do it better.’ You go, man. Pa’lante, siempre pa’lante”