Achy Obejas

writer & translator


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PAPI reviewed in Newcity

Jac Jemc reviewed Papi for Newcity Lit, and included some of Achy’s impressions of translating Indiana’s novel:

“Language with such pulse and intensity, easily traceable to the author’s roots as musician, might pose a challenge for a lesser translator. Obejas, a Cuban-American writer well-regarded for her own prose who’s proven her Dominican Spanish translation skills with Junot Diaz’s last two books, says that the lyricism was where she derived the most pleasure while working on this project. ‘Making all that crazy imagery and the rhythm of that voice work,’ she says, ‘there were some real eureka moments in that. There’s always a challenge when there’s code-switching, but this time it wasn’t that.’ Obejas compliments Indiana’s openness in the process, as well: ‘She was great—helpful and responsive, but not intrusive. She totally got that the translation was its own thing.'”


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FSG Works in Progress: Island Verses: A Cuban Poetry Primer, ed. Ilan Stavans

Achy’s translation of Nicolás Guillén’s poem, “Big Lipped Nigga,” appears on FSG’s Works in Progress page. It will be included in Ilan Stavans’s forthcoming Island Verses: A Cuban Poetry Primer.

Nicolás Guillén (1902-1989)
Big Lipped Nigga, translated by Achy Obejas

Why you get so mad
when they call you big-lipped nigga,
when ya mouth’s divine,
negro bembón?

Big-lipped as you iz,
you got everythin;
you live off grace,
you got everythin.

An still you bitch,
negro bembón;
in the thick of everythin,
negro bembón,
stiff white drill suit,
negro bembón;
two-toned shoes,
negro bembón.

Big-lipped as you iz,
you got everythin;
you live off grace,
you got everythin.


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“A Translation of Rita Indiana’s PAPI Is a Reading Experience”

A review of Papi in Third Coast Review!

“Masterfully translated by Achy Obejas, the woman responsible for bringing Junot Diaz’s The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao to english, the lyricism and endless flow of scenery in Papi reminds me of Ginsberg’s “Howl.” The text explores the ugliest parts of dominican culture: machismo, extreme wealth disparity, corruption, infidelity, and sexism.”


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Queen Mobs reviews Papi

“Indiana’s debut novel is the first to receive English translation, at the hands of the industrious, incomparable Achy Obejas.

Papi embraces the familiar trope of a child who is simultaneously enamored by and deathly afraid of her father. The novel follows the unnamed narrator’s adventures –both real and imagined– as she grows up and the veneer of Papi’s outsize character fades. But it’s a typical story told in totally atypical way.”

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Publisher’s Weekly reviews PAPI

papi“Indiana’s genre-defying novel, her first translated into English, captures the intensity of a growing up with a drug lord for a father. Told from the perspective of an unnamed 8-year-old girl whose penchant for hyperbole betrays a tenuous grasp on reality, Indiana pulls from her own childhood split between Santo Domingo and the U.S. to highlight the hallucinatory bizarrity of being the daughter of Papi, a drug dealer whose enigmatic stature the young narrator cloaks in a veneer of pop culture references and consumerist excess. [….]Indiana—who is a musician as well as a writer—has a keen ear, and Obejas brilliantly transfigures her prosody into English. Deeply felt and formally inventive, Indiana’s novel crackles with intensity and oddity.”

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