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Judith Ortiz Cofer Reads...
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That night, I lay in my bed, trying to feel the right thing for our dead president. But the tears that came up from a deep source inside me were strictly for me. When my mother came to the door, I pretended to be sleeping. Sometime during the night, I saw from my bed the streetlight come on. It had a pink halo around it. I went to my window and pressed my face to the cool glass. Looking up at the light I could see the white snow falling like a lace veil over its face. I did not look down to see it turning gray as it touched the ground below."
From THE LATIN DELI: PROSE AND POETRY by Judith Ortiz Cofer. Copyright 1993 by Judith Ortiz Cofer. Used by permission of The University of Georgia Press
"I felt so good when I wrote that ending. I thought it's lyrical. It brings to closure, you know, it has the right tone and that sort of thing. I had looked at newspapers of the day that the president was shot. It said, very cold in Paterson with some precipitation. I interpreted precipitation to mean snow. It was November after all.

"I read that story in Paterson a few years ago and an older gentlemen in the audience came up and said, 'Young lady, that story's not accurate.' And I said, 'Well, it's fiction.' He said, 'No, I mean historically accurate.' He said it wasn't snowing that day. It was raining. He remembered it. He had been delivering papers. He had a right to remember. He had been out in the weather, and I felt really bad. I didn't change my ending. You know, I felt, okay, a little snow. I'm allowed a little snow. But, basically, 'Somewhere the rain must have turned to snow,' I said to myself, and . . .

"But the point of this is that when you set something in a particular locale on a particular day, you owe it to the reader to be accurate or they will feel betrayed. That's the contract.

"The other thing is close observation, you know. If you are talking about a particular day and the day is important, then go to the trouble to look it up and now, with the Internet, it's become so easy."

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