The recent installment of Binghamton University’s Distinguished Writers Series brought novelist and editor Angie Cruz to the forefront, showcasing her latest novel, “How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water.” Cruz, renowned for her insightful narratives, delves deep into themes of immigration, violence and women’s sexuality, offering a poignant portrayal of the immigrant experience through the lens of her protagonist, Cara Romero.

During the event, Cruz read excerpts from “How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water” and participated in a Q&A session with Liz Rosenberg, professor of English, who had been her professor during her time as a student at BU. The session delved into the hardships Cruz faced on her journey to success, touching on topics such as immigration, career development and familial struggles.

“How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water” tells the story of Cara Romero, a middle-aged Dominican woman residing in Washington Heights, who confronts the harsh realities of unemployment amid the backdrop of the Great Recession. In a series of sessions with a job counselor, Romero recounts her life from her immigration to the United States from the Dominican Republic to finding solace in the tight-knit community of Washington Heights. The narrative delves deeply into her challenges with debt, the encroachment of gentrification and the profound sense of loss she experiences. The novel’s title, “How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water,” alludes to a Latin American expression that speaks to the act of “undrowning” oneself, a metaphor Romero embraces as she comes to terms with and mourns her deepest struggles.

Giovanna Montenegro, associate professor of comparative literature and romance languages, interprets Cruz’s novel as a powerful narrative that gives voice to the marginalized, particularly immigrant women like Romero.

“The structure of the novel — centered around her 12 sessions with her job counselor — is very stream-of-consciousness and allows Cara to ‘desahogarse,’” Montenegro said. “It’s a reflexive verb in Spanish which means to vent or unburden oneself — but with the prefix des- [and] the root “ahogar” (to drown) — and the reflexive suffix -se it brings attention to how Cara is not only unburdening herself, but ‘undrowning’ herself in a world where there’s a stigma and lack of access to mental health.”

Montenegro further elaborated on Cruz’s contribution to Latin American and Caribbean literature, noting that her work adds to a new generation of diasporic writers who bring fresh perspectives and experiences to the literary landscape. Cruz’s portrayal of Dominican women offers insight for readers interested in Latin American and Caribbean studies, offering nuanced portrayals of racialized identities and immigrant life in New York City.

Marina Malli, lecturer of Latin American and Caribbean Area Studies, has been instrumental in bringing Angie Cruz’s work into the classroom. She wrote that her recent teaching of Cruz’s novel in two 200-level classes sparked vibrant discussions among students, prompting reflections on greatly personal themes within immigrant communities.

“Among the most important conversations that this novel has allowed for have been our relationships with our own mothers and older relatives, transgenerational trauma and questions about parenting and mothering,” Malli wrote in an email.

Tina Chang, director of creative writing at BU and a main organizer for the event, played a pivotal role in bringing Cruz to the forefront of the Distinguished Writers Series. Her admiration for Cruz’s work and recognition of Cruz’s talent as a graduate of BU led her to invite Cruz to share her insights with the University community. Additionally, Chang’s passion for literature and dedication to fostering a vibrant literary culture at BU has made her a driving force behind the success of the Distinguished Writers Series.

Chang reflected on her profound admiration for Cruz’s authenticity and the impact of her narrative on the audience.

“[Cruz] is very special because she is authentic,” Chang wrote in an email. “The moments she described felt true and looking at the audience I could tell they were touched by her candor and the generosity with which she shared her life’s struggles which made her triumphs even sweeter. It made me feel so proud knowing she graduated from [BU]. Through hard work, her undeniable talent and the refusal to steer away from her dream, she is the ultimate success story.”