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Hudes near her home in Washington Heights. (Photo by Ande Whyland)

The Subtext: Quiara Alegría Hudes and the Path of the Healer

This month Brian talks to the playwright of ‘Water by the Spoonful’ and ‘In the Heights’ about her new memoir, ‘My Broken Language.’

Each month Brian James Polak talks to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In conversations that dive into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires and—ultimately—what makes writers tick.

This month Brian speaks to Quiara Alegría Hudes, the Pulitzer-winning playwright of Water by the Spoonful and author of a new memoir, My Broken Language. She’s also screenwriter for the major motion picture In the Heights, based on her book for the Tony-winning Broadway musical. Other credits include The Elliot Trilogy and Miss You Like Hell, as well as the essay “High Tide of Heartbreak,” published in the magazine.

With Brian, she discuss the moment she had the idea for her memoir: watching an old home video which triggered childhood memories, including witnessing animal sacrifices as part of her mother’s spiritual practice, commonly referred to as Santeria. Quiara talks about the feeling of shame she felt about this practice, and how her high school reading The Crucible and Macbeth made her feel like these popular portrayals of witches were a “diss” to her mom, whose spiritual practice she has grown to deeply respect and admire.

It was not until attending college that she was read her first play written by a woman or a person of color, the hugely influential Ntozake Shange’s for colored girls… In the passage in which Shange writes about the laying on of hands, Hudes felt a connection to her own life as a Puerto Rican woman surrounded by women who were healers. Her path to writing was circuitous, and it may have begun with a startling question from Gil Scott-Heron when Hudes was a gigging musician in Philadelphia.

The episode can be found here.

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