My friend died two days ago.
I knew she had it for several months.
I really thought she’d survive.
She married the love of her life, a short three years ago. He was by her side when she left this world.
My heart holds a special spot for Michele Serros, or as she liked to hear, “Mrs. Antonio Magaña.”
A confusion of feelings surround death.
Why? Why her? Why didn’t prayers work?
I see her smile, lively eyes, texts at odd hours,
her words expressing identity, small towns, and individuality
a literary landmark
stories like my life and unlike my life
resonate with scenes only she could paint
She found love, at a vegan restaurant,
with a Berkeley chicano, a mexican, from her home town,
from her own high school, the same alma mater, so long ago
ecstatic with love, a new family
sharing her life.
That’s the way she was, loving, giving, living
daring to say the unsaid,
with wit and unique style,
inspired to write by Judy Blume.
A Medium Brown girl,
A Taco Belle,
who wrote outside of ‘barrios, borders, and bodegas,’
defining herself and the question of identity
to a mess of other men and women
boys and girls
high schoolers to old schoolers
on what is mexicano, chicano, americano.
A writer of handwritten notes,
handcrafted cards of
glitter and glue,
Michele was the first writer I knew, personally, and from my home town. I attended her readings back in the late 90’s. Her writing inspired me to think that I could be a writer. When I first met her, we clicked. She had that kind of personality-she clicked with everyone.
A giver of advice, affection, and friendship, Michele was a humble person who stayed grounded and a strong woman who was soft on the outside, tough on the inside. A chingona.
She was a long distance member of the writing group to which I belong, sometimes sending us articles to review.
I often felt inadequate, a published author asking me for feedback? But that was the way she was, as real as real can get.
An excerpt from her book, “Chicana Falsa: And Other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard,” struck me, long ago. Her mother died, from cancer, and Michele wrote the obituary. When she described her mother as an artist, someone questioned it, “it isn’t like she sold anything.”
Definitions always played a big part of my life: a true Mexican versus a fake Mexican…a true artist versus a wannabe. Nonetheless, my mama would have been crushed knowing she left this earth not remembered as an artist. It was her fear and lack of confidence that kept her art stuck on an easel, hidden away in the corner of our family’s garage…it was her death that gave me the courage to finally share some of my own poems and stories. The purpose? to make someone happy, inspired…I just couldn’t bear the thought of questioning what my own obituary would say. 1994
There is no question that Michele was an artist, who made millions of readers happy, who inspired thousands of Latinas, Latinos, and others who rarely read anything that resonated with their lives. Her books are here.
She had been working on a new novel, An Unmarried Mexican, a title she borrowed from one of her favorite books and movie, An Unmarried Woman.
As you could imagine, medical expenses soared, especially for a self employed person. Give Forward has a campaign to assist Michele’s family. The fund is halfway to its goal.
To read more about this wonderful person, see “An Unexpected Heirloom,” at Huffington Post and this article in the Los Angeles Times.
Rest in love, Michele.