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Linda Naranjo-Huebl

May 2, 2011

Linda Naranjo-Huebl

This week on 12 Questions we are celebrating extraordinary women who are also moms. Or extraordinary moms who also do other amazing things. Linda Naranjo-Huebl fits both categories. A scholar and educator specializing in  American ethnic literatures, gender and feminist literature and theory, and American literature, Linda is an Associate Professor of English at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is mother to grown daughters Micaela Haluko and Maura Huebl, and to son-in-law Mike (and “other mother” to a host of nieces, nephews, and young women). She is a board member and active supporter of Consistent Life, a network of organizations that promote reverence for all life—no exceptions. She calls herself a “Canadian socialist” because Americans aren’t scared of Canadians. Among all of her other accomplishments, though, being a mom is one thing she’s proudest of, declaring, “giving birth to my daughters is the best thing I have ever done. Nothing else comes close.”

Linda was nominated as a 12 Questions respondent by her daughter, Maura Huebl, and we’re pleased to join Maura in honoring this amazing lady.

1. What is your hometown?

I call it Denver, although I was born in Monterey, California, during my parent’s temporary sojourn in the Bay area during the 1950s (the Beat Generation).

2. With what fictional character do you most identify?

I’m still searching for that illusive (and allusive) character. I see a little of myself in many unlikely characters and am drawn to others who possess traits that I wish I possessed in their measure, e.g., Capitola in The Hidden Hand and Annawake Fourkiller in Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven. How helpful is that—that I identify with little-known characters?

3. In the movie of your life, cast an actor to play you.

A movie about a person who reads stories, tells stories, teaches stories, and promotes storytelling might be pretty boring. But my students and I often cast actors to play parts in our favorite books. So, using that rubric, my favorite character is Capitola, and she would best be played by someone like Michelle Rodriguez or Hillary Swank (small but fierce ladies). Oh, and can my husband, Scott, be played by Shemar Moore (“Derek Morgan” on Criminal Minds)?

4. What work of art speaks to your soul?

Sorry—can’t narrow it down to one, but they would be visual and textual: the faces of Rory Wagner:

Smile of Naught by Rory Wagner

the “healing hands” of Lenny Foster,

The Blessing by Lenny Foster

Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God,” Toni Morrison’s “Beloved,” and Rudolfo Anaya’s “Bless Me Última.”

5. What books are you currently reading or recommending?

Besides those just mentioned, I always recommend E.D.E.N. Southworth’s “The Hidden Hand,” arguably the most popular American book of the nineteenth century that very few people have heard of. Next, Denise Chávez’ “Face of An Angel,” which celebrates the Chicana virtue of service (without servility). My passion is recovering “lost” or “stolen” stories, that is, the stories of people who have been silenced or overlooked, so my bookshelves are filled with the stories of women and ethnic minorities.

6. What song or album is currently in heavy rotation on your iPod?

The blues playlist when I’m working, the latino/a playlist when I’m cooking, and the Motown/Stax playlist when I’m celebrating.

7. What’s the last movie that made you cry?

Trip to Bountiful (I just saw it again). I cry during the opening credits, with the mother and child running through the field.

8. Cat person or dog person?

Meow (although dogs really like me, and the feeling is usually mutual).

9. What is more important, truth or kindness?

Truth, but that’s because if one seeks passionately for the truth, they will learn the power of kindness. The amazing history of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Committee is testimony to the power of truth to facilitate forgiveness and reconciliation, and re-establish an ethic of kindness.

10. How do you define sin?

We are each made in the image of God and instinctively have the love of God in us. To the extent that we trespass against that love ethic, and dishonor the image of God in others, we sin, against God, against others, and against ourselves. The human condition is such that we all hurt each other, but the concept of sin goes hand in hand with forgiveness. Confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation are among the most beautiful and divine concepts in our world.

11. How do you define virtue?

 Wow—I’ll give it a shot (I’m making this up right now, but hopefully it comes from a modest store of wisdom and experience.) Virtue is the light of God that shines through us, our own unique reflection of God, that is fueled by our great desire to see the light of God—the beauty—in others. Here’s how Ken Fong, an Asian American spiritual leader, explains it: we collectively mirror God, and in our failures toward each other, we have broken that mirror, so we seek to restore that full reflection. He says, “each shard of the mirror contains a segment of God’s image,” of God’s beauty, and “[a]s I grow in my yearning for God, I become more desperate to find the pieces of God’s image that can only be found in people who are different from me.” At the same time, virtue compels us to shine our light—reflect God in us—to others. Here’s how Zora Neale Hurston puts it (from “Their Eyes Were Watching God”):

 When God had made The Man, he made him out of stuff that sung all the time and glittered all over. Then after that some angels got jealous and chopped him into millions of pieces, but he still glittered and hummed. So they beat him down to nothing but sparks but each little spark had a shine and a song. So they covered each one over with mud. And the lonesomeness in the sparks make them hunt for one another, but the mud is deaf and dumb. Like all the other tumbling mud-balls, Janie had tried to show her shine.

 Virtue is the work of shining and recognizing the shine, the beauty, in others. In Bless Me Última, Antonio says, “I had seen beauty, but the beauty had burdened me with responsibility.”

12. Design your headstone: What does it say? What does it look like?

 When my daughters were little, we would fly kites in the Central City cemetery (not being expert kite flyers, we needed the extra lift natural to mountainsides). The headstones told amazing stories of struggle, tragedy, love, hope, and faith. They were usually simple but beautiful works in stone (what a lovely concept—artwork engraved in the substance of earth as a memorial to the person who walked it). I came across a simple gravestone that I would be honored to have as my own. Since I am Christian, I love its message of forgiveness that has been extended to all:

Just as I am, without one plea
But that thy blood was shed for me
And Thou didst bid me come to Thee
Oh, Lamb of God, I come. I come.

 Another, less theological, way to put it would be to use the title of one of my daughters’ favorite childhood books:

 It’ll all come out in the wash.

 (But my daughter has dibs on that for her gravestone.)

Bonus Question: Who would you like to see answer these questions?

Someone very unlike me—a new glance from God.

Linda Naranjo-Huebl


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