Downtown LAJonathan Narvaez

Bel and the Whale

Bel Poblador is a Los Angeles native, writer, and editor who lives, loves, and creates in San Francisco. She received her MFA in Writing from CalArts in 2013 and is an editor of the anthology Best of Trop, Volume I: Watching the Cash Roll in Since 2012. Bel is a rock that holds the ocean. 


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Why TAYO? Why do you think publication is important?

It took me many years to admit and realize that writing is indeed why I am here. Perhaps different than my grandpa initially envisioned, but similar in other ways: I am a storyteller.

I was excited to join TAYO as managing editor because I wanted to be part of a publication that provides a platform for artists of color, and specifically for Filipino artists. So often our voices are pushed to the side—we are spoken for, talked over, misrepresented, silenced. When I walk into independent bookstores with staff recommendations, many of the books recommended are often by male, white authors, and I leave feeling frustrated—does David Foster Wallace really need help gaining readership? Is his work actually some hidden secret? There are other authors out there who may not have the money and big-name publishers behind them but who are also worthy of recommendation, whose voices and stories also reflect something universal about the human condition. Because of this, publication for authors and artists of color—creating and fostering a space and community for and with them—is pertinent to my work as a writer and editor.

What’s your favorite book?

I don’t think I have one favorite book so much as I have my canon—books that I turn to that push my idea of craft, storytelling, language, empathy. Right now those are The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, Monstress by Lysley Tenorio, We the Animals by Justin Torres, The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch, The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner, Teaching My Mother How to Give Birth by Warsan Shire, and This is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz. Their work communicates with me not only on an artistic and intellectual level but on an emotional level as well—I constantly reread these books because I believe they speak the same heart language as I do. 

What brought you to reading?

As a child I started reading because I didn’t have many other options—my family was pretty strict. I wasn’t allowed to do much outside of the house, but I was allowed to go to the library—my father would take my sisters and I there about once a week, and every time I took out as many books as I was allowed. I remember walking up to the check out counter with books stacked and balanced against my chest. Through books I explored and experienced the world in a way I wasn’t allowed to in reality.

Anything else you’d like to add?

My maternal grandparents came to the States to help my parents raise my sisters and me. My grandpa was an avid reader, scholar, and writer—he passed away four years ago. I remember him sitting at our dining room table surrounded by books as he wrote for hours. It was his dream to write, and once he knew I also enjoyed reading and writing, he put his hopes on me. He told me how I would have to be the one who wrote our family’s story, who wrote for the Philippines, for our countrymen. The task was daunting to me, too heavy, too weighted—and I turned away from it. I didn’t believe that I had what it took to become a writer: the dogged patience and persistence, the fire. It took me many years to admit and realize that writing is indeed why I am here. Perhaps different than my grandpa initially envisioned, but similar in other ways: I am a storyteller; I write about family, home, and identity; I want to edit for publications that serve as platforms for Filipinos and other people of color; I write for my grandpa and my grandma, my family; for those of us who were silenced in the past and for those who will be silenced in the future.