The Next Chapter

Martha Bátiz knows what it takes to find your voice in a new country

The Mexican author moved to Canada in 2003. Plaza Requiem is her first collection written in English.
Martha Bátiz is the author of Plaza Requiem: Stories at the Edges of Ordinary Live. (Courtesy of Martha Bátiz/Exile Editions)

Martha Bátiz knows what it takes to find your voice in a new country. The scholar, translator and writer moved from Mexico to Toronto in 2003. She has continued to write and publish in Spanish since moving to Canada, and Plaza Requiem is her first book of short stories written in English. 

Dare to listen

"Plaza Requiem is a book about stories that take place in Latin America. These stories are not for the faint of heart. The story that lends its name to the collection is told from the voice of the daughter of someone who commited a horrendous crime. I wanted to explore what this character would feel, knowing that someone they loved and admired is also capable of doing horrible things. It's a point of view and a voice we don't often think about because we are so busy protecting ourselves or pointing fingers."

Getting into character

"I write a lot in the first person because before I became a writer I was an actress. I learned to explore a character by becoming that character. I used to dress like them and go out on the street and try to see things the way they would. Now I find myself doing that through the characters I write. I have them in my mind for a while and then I start looking at the world through them, trying to find their voice and the vocabulary they would use. I think this comes out in the first person voice because deep down I am writing plays in prose."

A not-so-foreign language

"I wanted to write something new to challenge myself and prove that I had 'mastered' my adoptive language enough to face a blank page on my screen and create something in English. Yes, it was hard because I spent many, many nights struggling with a dictionary and thesaurus. But it was also way of proving to myself that I can belong to the Canadian literary world — that I have something to say and a world to convey in English for whoever is kind enough to read it."

Martha Bátiz's comments have been edited and condensed.