“Loss and Longing”

Aubrianna Martinez, Senior Digital Editor

Author and professor Angela Morales, writer of the book made up of creative nonfiction essays “The Girls in my Town” spoke at the webinar “Loss & Longing: The Truth & Beauty of Latina Lives” hosted by Bakersfield College on March 10. 

Morales read excerpts from various chapters of her book which she refers to as “a collection of personal essays,” as well as touched on various types of advice that she gives to aspiring writers, specifically for writing personal nonfiction essays that is the format she uses for her writing for her books.

Morales stated at the start of the webinar that she wrote on personal topics such as exploring the relationships she has with individual members of her family, re-evaluating and working through memories of her childhood, and stories from her home in San Gabriel. 

One particularly haunting and true story that Morales referenced as having become part of the local mythology of the San Joaquin Valley that she read excerpts from was her essay recounting the story of a teenage girl by the name of Benita Ramos who faked the kidnapping of her young child and was revealed to have committed infanticide. Morales described the initial reaction to the ruse of the child’s kidnapping as such, “the girl’s story sounds plausible because terrible things happen to children in our town. Imagine a place of planetary misalignment, a celestial criss-cross of weird energy. Imagine the Bermuda Triangle on dry land. Our town—home to the Pitchfork Killer and the Yosemite Killer—makes us believe that anything is possible.”

The story of Benita attempting to kill her child in the water fountain of Applegate Park before leaving him in the nearby creek where he was later found dead referenced Morales’ other topics of interest, such as the frequency of teenage pregnancy and “culture of teenage motherhood” that she noticed in her hometown.

On the topic of teenage motherhood in another essay she read from, she continued, “perhaps for some humans, the young mother-model works just fine. But without the tribe, without the rules, who will watch over the girls in my town? The girls who often need mothering themselves? These girls with their babies in their low-rent apartments and their boyfriends who sometimes marry them—most do not.”