Tiny Talk with Anthony Otero

by, Nicole Rodriguez, Asst. Production Editor 

In an attempt to revive campus culture for students amidst COVID-19, the Multicultural Center has continued their weekly interactive programs online. On Wed. April 8, students tuned into a virtual installment of the “Tiny Talks” series with award-winning author, blogger, comic book aficionado and college administrator Anthony Otero.

Otero is a former contributor to the Huffington Post and has published two books. His first book “Hanging Upside Down,” is a fiction novel exploring the pressures men face after divorce, including continual bad decisions in their love lives. His second book “The Book of Isabel” is a sequel to his first novel, that follows up on the main character Louis’ life. In addition to these two novels, Otero’s short story, “La Casita de American Heroes” is featured in the Eisner Winning Comic Book Anthology “Puerto Rico Strong” with all proceeds going towards disaster relief and recovery programs in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. 

With a third novel currently in the works, Otero shared his different approaches to writing depending on the subject matter.

“When I used to write for The Huffington Post or when I write for different websites, the approach is a little bit different,” Otero said. “I’m usually trying to explain something either factual or non-factual. Usually for a blog post you’re really writing your opinion, unless you’re reviewing like a game or a movie, that’s a little different because you kind of know what you want to say. You map it out and you write it. For creative writing like my novels, that’s a whole different creative process because you’re actually creating something out of nothing so you have to be completely motivated and you have to find a way to block things out happening around the world and just get it done.”

While Otero identifies as Afro-Latino himself, he considers identity to be fluid and recognizes that a very broad spectrum of intersectionalities exists. He further explained how the identities most salient to him, being Afro-Latino in addition to Puerto Rican and Ecuadorian, have influenced his writing and his market. 

 “When I wrote the books, my intended audience were just to be men whether it was Black men or Latino men,” Otero said. “What ended up happening is mostly women have read the books as far as I know. Those are the ones who usually give me the most feedback, but I will say that it plays out in in very subtle ways by writing, because I didn’t necessarily write to say this character is Afro-latino and I’m going to do everything possible to to let the audience know that that’s exactly what he was. That wasn’t the case. He’s a man that’s going through some crazy stuff, most to much of which is his own fault, but he just happens to be Latino. He happens to be Puerto Rican. It comes out subtly when he’s talking to his parents, when he’s you know making food or anything like that because that’s kind of the way the world is. You walk through the world as an individual who just happens to be an identity of whatever.”

Otero discussed how he has been able to adapt as both a college administrator and writer amidst the COVID-19 shutdown. 

“As an administrator for Rutgers University it has been a struggle because you lose a lot of student interaction,” Otero said. “I work for the student centers and I am usually used to seeing so many students and I am not seeing that now but there is still a lot of work to do on the back end in terms of closing out the year and trying to figure out what is going to happen next year or over the summer with students and training. As a writer, I have been writing, but I haven’t been creatively writing. What is happening is that I am writing for things that are necessary whether it is for policies and procedures for work or you know applications for other things. I think what I really want to do to get back in the swing of creatively writing is just to read.”