Every week, I’ll be doing a mini feature on my site (& blasting it on social media) on activists, artists, and educators who are doing important things in the world. Like Levar Burton says, the only thing these folks have in common is that I like them, and I hope you do too.
This week’s feature is Liz Laribee, whom I first met on the dance floor of a wedding in Amish country–a fitting place to meet one of the funniest, sassiest people on the planet. Liz is a true national treasure. Her illustrations are whimsical and captivating, her engagement with the world around her is inspiring and on-point, and she’s one of the best ride-or-die friend/co-authors I’ve ever met.
Where can we find your work?
I draw portraits, and you can find them at lizlaribee.com. I was an editor for Voces Sin Fronteras: Our Stories Our Truth for Shout Mouse Press and the Latin American Youth Center. I illustrated a comic + resource for recent refugees to the US, and I run a Saved by the Bell /bell hooks feminist mashup blog. I’ve had prose, portraits, and poetry published in Colonial Comics, Local Quarterly, Ghettoblaster, Ruminate Magazine, Georgetown Review, and Cedarville Review. I illustrated Occasionally Accurate Science, a casually accurate, alphabetically zoological, collective noun children’s book written by you, July Westhale, and that’s coming out in January 2019, through Nomadic Press!
What themes or ideas do you feel your work engages with?
Personal histories. Family. Legacy. Bricolage. Rust belt cities. Intersectional feminism. Social location.
What were you like as a child?
I was deeply religious. I had this dress:
Can you remember the first piece of art– performance, literary, fine, street–you saw/read that wowed you?
Edward Gorey illustrated a version of Rumplestiltskin, and I read it so often as a child that when I googled it just now, I remembered every image distinctly. I’m also realizing that I greatly borrow from his line hatching in my own illustrations. Thanks, Edward.
What work do you do in the world that you feel proud of?
As I get older, and as the world looks more and more like it does, I’m increasingly interested in magnifying underheard voices. In the last few years, my creative projects have focused on intersectional feminism, resources for refugees, and creative platforms for Latinx immigrant youth. I think it’s incredibly important work, and I’m honored to be part of it.
What’s keeping you embodied right now?
I just started making pasta! Much credit goes to my partner, who began baking bread a few months ago. I loved watching him learn the skill and history of one perfect kitchen craft, and I wanted to have my own to work on. I started by reading about it and watching Pasta Grannies videos. My first attempt was tortellini, and it was intimidating and delicious.
Tell us a story.
Encourage your children and loved ones to learn French in high school. They will tell you that Spanish is more practical, but you will remind them that French is the language of cab drivers in Port-au-Prince, and as you are screaming around the corners of Champ de Mars, you will thank this story for the tip. When you go to Haiti, your cab driver will scribble his name (l’Egypte Jan-Couis) and a phone number (3318-3134) — so charmed will he be by your English. He will ask you warmly for a thousand gourdes. Later, a friend will tell you that a cab ride anywhere in Port-au-Prince costs fifteen gourdes, and that you have overpaid like an American. You curse in Spanish, the language you took in high school.
I’m twenty-four hours into Haiti on this, the day after the birth of our Lord Christ. I’m here accidentally. I had ordered my plane ticket for an arrival twenty-four hours earlier than I meant to, which means that I have been in Port-au-Prince twenty-four more hours than have been accounted for me. The implications of such a miscalculated exposure had unfolded before me, sandwiched between French speakers on the flight from Miami, twenty-seven hours ago. I watched my plane neighbor ogle me when I asked her the best way to hail a cab from the Port-au-Prince airport. She breathed, “You’re going to be kidnapped.” We exchanged names.
Excerpt from Haiti