Rachel Y. DeGuzman is the award-winning president and CEO of 21st Century Arts and
founder/executive director of WOC ART COLLABORATIVE. The focus of DeGuzman’s work is decentering whiteness in arts/culture by centering the art, narratives and voices of people of color – especially women and marginalized LGBTQ+ communities. Her professional focus evolved from a traditional career in the arts to work that is more rooted in both art and community – that values experimentation, innovation, creativity in all its forms, social justice, and equity. In fulfillment of that vision, she established “At the Crossroads: Activating the Intersection of Art and Justice” in October 2017 – which began with the collaborative ARTS POWER SYMPOSIUM and continues with a series of intersectional Long Tables and Installations. DeGuzman is the founder, producer, and host of UP CLOSE AND CULTURAL, a weekly radio show on WAYO 104.3 FM in Rochester. She is a fund and organizational development advisor to The Avenue Blackbox Theatre and a member of the Rochester Museum Science Center’s 2020 “Inspiring Women” content committee. A 2019/20 VSW Community Curator, DeGuzman is an in-demand speaker, panelist, and collaborator.
Write a one-sentence description of yourself as a Reader.
Reading is on a short list of things I can’t do without, an essential, but somehow, it is also one of my favorite indulgences.
What are you reading right now?
I am rereading “Fordlandia” by Greg Grandin. I am also reading “A Treasury of African-American Christmas Stories,” by Bettye Collier-Thomas, and “The Nutcracker of Nuremberg,” by Alexandre Dumas, in preparation for a Christmas Eve special on my radio show.
Do you ever read the end of a book first? Why or why not?
Never. It would defeat the purpose of reading the book. I enjoy taking the journey even when I don’t like the writing style and/ or content.
What is at the top of your To Be Read pile?
“Set the World on Fire” by Keisha Blain. I am interested in it as research for a book I am writing, and artmaking project focused on my great-grandmother Belle Hawkins Eubanks who was a Garveyite.
Has any book defined your life, as in you would be a different person if you hadn’t read it?
When I was 11 years old I read “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” by Maya Angelou and decided that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Maya (I did!) because I would want her to be a strong, creative and able to overcome tremendous adversity and still thrive. Or, since I’m referencing Angelou, I would want her to still rise.
Describe your favorite place to read.
In my family room, in front of a fire, or in the summer – with a warm breeze coming through the screen door at the back of my house.
Book or movie? Is there a movie that you think was better than the book?
Almost always the book and though I love Amy Tan’s writing, I did in that case enjoy the movie “The Joy Luck Club” even more than her fabulous novel.
What is your preferred format? Hardcover, paperback, digital, audio, doesn’t matter?
All of the above. I appreciate the experience of reading a printed book and I prefer hardcover, but I also love the luxury having my library with me on my iPad or phone wherever I am. If I purchase a book, I generally buy both the printed and electronic versions. A couple of years ago, I was commuting to New York City weekly. Driving. And I found that if I really wanted to take a deeper dive in a book I already read, then I would listen to it in the car as I drove.
Share a favorite quote from a book you’ve read. Why is it meaningful to you?
I reread Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider” for a book group at the Library earlier this year. I was struck by the following quote because it is germane to so many conversations I am having.
“Some problems we share as women, some we do not. You fear your children will grow up to join the patriarchy and testify against you; we fear our children will be dragged from a car and shot down in the street, and you will turn your backs upon the reasons they are dying.”
What book would you love to see made into a movie? Who would play the lead role?
“Showman: The Life and Music of Perry George Lowery,” by Clifford Edward Watkins. Mahershala Ali.
What book are you recommending that everyone read right now?
“The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and The Making of American Capitalism” by Edward E. Baptist. It should be essential reading.
Why do you read?
I am very, very curious and interested in a lot of different things.