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Interview: Lilliam Rivera on “Between Going and Staying”

Tell us a bit about “Between Going and Staying.”

Lilliam RiveraThe story is about Dolores, a popular doliente (professional weeper), who lives in a near-future Mexico. Through the use of high-tech skins, Dolores is paid to perform at funeral services for corrupt families and she has no qualms about it. When a former lover is killed, Dolores’s carefully cultivated life is put into question. While visions of her lover plague her, Dolores is forced to confront what her true role is as a doliente.


What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I wrote the first draft while attending the Clarion writers workshop in San Diego. That week, services were being televised in regards to the Charleston church shooting where a man shot and killed churchgoers during bible study. I remember watching President Obama speak at the funeral service and feeling overcome with emotion. In 2014, 43 students were kidnapped from the Ayotzniapa Rural Teachers’ College and were never found. Both incidents swirled in my head. I wanted to write about the way we mourn and react to tragic incidents in so-called safe places (churches, schools). What would that look like in a future where the act of mourning is heightened to theatrical performances? What is our role during times of unjust violence?


Was “Between Going and Staying” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

The story is personal in that I’m intrigued by how we all hide behind masks. Now that we document everything on social media, it seems that we portray a high-gloss life that rarely exists. I’m guilty of it too. My stories revolve around the image we put forth and the one we are afraid to display.


What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

I researched the different forms of traditional dancing in Mexico, especially in Sinaloa where the story is set. The Pascola incorporates a wooden mask with bells covering the legs. From what I understand, men are usually the only ones allowed to dance the Pascola but I changed that in the story. I also incorporated current funeral trends in Puerto Rico and read about the professional weepers from Taiwan. The story is a mixture of current and past traditions, how I envision the future would be like.


What would you want a reader to take away from “Between Going and Staying”?

The events that occurred in Mexico, Charleston, and even now in North Dakota with #NoDapl, are indicative of how our society reacts to unfounded fears and corruption. Some react to these types of incidents as if they are occurring somewhere far away. ‘I’m not Black/Latino/Mexican so it doesn’t affect me.’ I see that in the character Dolores as she moves away from her simple hometown to the big city. She hides behind high-tech skins to avoid reality. As a writer, I turn to fiction to find a way to work through my own sense of helplessness.


What are you working now?

The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera My debut contemporary young adult novel The Education of Margot Sanchez comes out February 21, 2017 through Simon & Schuster. I also just completed another young adult novel that is set in a near-future Bronx, New York where girl gangs rule the streets. It plays upon the same theme of desiring the “American Dream,” sometimes at the cost of losing one’s soul.








“Between Going and Staying” appears in the November/December 2016 issue of F&SF.

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Lilliam Rivera has a website!  And a twitter handle: @lilliamr  Visit both to learn more about her!


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