This is the first in a series of interviews with Puerto Rican teen readers. And in case you had any doubt, let me assure you: there’s a lot we can learn from these interesting young people.
Meet Geilimar García, a nineteen-year-old from Bayamón, Puerto Rico. Geilimar, like our hero Dante of DANTE’S KISS, feels out of place in school but finds her way in the world through books and art. She is inspired by the author Neil Gaiman and says that the last line of her autobiography will be: “No matter what happens, let go of hate and love with all your might.”
Read on as Geilimar shares her thoughts.
SN: Describe yourself, first as you see yourself, and then as you think others see you.
Geilimar: I think I’m pretty average. I’m an introvert and I enjoy doing introvert things, art, reading and writing being at the top of my list. I guess I’m intelligent to some extent. I taught myself most of the English I know if that amounts to anything. People often say than I’m respectful and I try my best to be. They also say I’m kind. I care for animals very much and four years ago became a vegetarian. As for the bad, I guess I lack social skills. I’ve had people in the past assume that I think I’m better than them just because it’s difficult for me to talk to them. There’s also this thing I do in which I sabotage myself knowingly.
SN: What has it been like for you growing up in Puerto Rico? Do you fit in with the rest of society, or do you feel like an outsider?
Geilimar: Growing up in this island has been harsh for the most part. I’m not sure if outsider would be the word I would use since it had to do more with the kind of people I surrounded myself with. Not that they were exactly bad people but I settled for them rather than surrounding myself with better people. I just wanted to make the best of things and settled for so little. Now that I am older I get to see a kinder side of the world so I like to think back on bad experiences as something to prepare me so I would be able to appreciate things in the future.
SN: In the novel DANTE’S KISS, with which character did you most identify with and why?
Geilimar: That’s a difficult question because I’m very empathic and I could relate to most of them. I guess I would have to pick Dante because I can relate to his experiences the most. Like with the bullying and feeling out of place. Also not wanting to be in school and the resentment towards a parent. In those aspects I feel particularly close to him. I too made bad decisions choosing my friends at that age.
SN: What is your favorite book and why?
Geilimar: GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett. Up to now that is. I guess it has to do more with the time in my life when I first read it. Somehow it helped me understand things about the world, about good and evil. Or maybe it was just something that kept me busy at a time I needed it. For whatever reason, that book is really important to me.
SN: What details of the story told in DANTE’S KISS could you identify with and why?
Geilimar: One of the things I could relate to the most was Dante’s despair in school. Since very young I adored learning and I looked forward to it but thanks to the other kids in school I often prayed for days off so I wouldn’t have to deal with them. I could also relate to Kiriela in the sense that often I’ve wanted to help people even when it’s beyond my power and like her it has brought me a lot of trouble. Another thing was when Dante was admitted into the music school. It reminded me a lot of when I began studying art and I finally felt like I belonged somewhere.
SN: What emotions ran through you as you were reading DANTE’S KISS?
Geilimar: Oh, wow so many. It was so interesting, thrilling, frustrating at times. It felt so real to me. I suppose this has to do with the fact that I’ve lived several experiences narrated in the book. I can’t say I know exactly how those things felt because everyone feels things differently but I feel very close to the characters.
SN: What hurts you most in the world?
Geilimar: Lies, hypocrisy. But more than that the fact that I actually believe people I know I shouldn’t trust. I just want everyone to have a fair chance but I’m let down a lot.
SN: If you could live one day as another person, who would that person be and why?
Geilimar: I haven’t really thought about it much but if there is someone I truly admire it is Angelina Jolie. There are so many things I could say about her as to why I admire her but in short, I’m baffled with the love and passion that goes into everything she does. Every interview, every speech. She is so famous, so beautiful, so rich, and yet you see her in a refugee camp helping the less fortunate. I really have so much respect for her as a person.
SN: If you were to write your autobiography, what would the last line be?
Geilimar: I’m not sure as to what the exact line would be but I would like it to be something that encourages people to be less hateful. Or rather, that it encourages them to spend more time and energy on things they love rather than focusing on what they hate because really, nothing good comes from that. I guess it would be something like,” No matter what happens, let go of hate and love with all your might.”
Wise words from a girl not yet out of her teens. Thanks, Geilimar, for sharing your experiences with our readers. Can any of you relate to this young woman? Tell us how in a comment below.