Whittier College sophomore Alessandra Olivia Roggero is a writer, poet and journalist. Knowing no taboos, she forever tries to untangle and understand her complicated self. I had the opportunity to speak with her about her recently published book, My Honest Summer with an Earnest Man, which is about artistic purpose and what it means to be yourself.
Roggero is the author of three books: the novel The Town, a collection of short stories, My Honest Summer with an Earnest Man and a soon to be released poetry book, Plastic Knives. Besides writing, Roggero is part of the Amy Biehl Foundation, a human rights group where she teaches middle and high schoolers about global politics.
Her novel, The Town, was written under the pseudonym Lydia Vance, paying homage to one of Charles Bukowski’s girlfriends. Bukowski was a poet and novelist as well. In publishing My Honest Summer with an Earnest Man, Roggero used a different pseudonym, Marie Cardona. “Cardona is a character from The Stranger by Albert Camus,” Roggero said. “She is super free-spirited and loves her sexuality and doesn’t give a shit about anything.”
Roggero explained that Earnest is about all the influential men in her life. She gets very personal throughout the collection of short stories, discussing her father dealing with divorce, her “outsider” stepdad, and even her little brother. “I didn’t feel like they knew who I was,” Roggero said. “So now, I am just flinging all this in their face, so they don’t know how to deal with it.”
The format of the book resembles a diary. Roggero wrote everything this past summer without much editing. “I left it as it came out,” she said. “It’s very raw. Although I don’t think I have ever been this honest in my writing. I showed this to my dad, and I usually don’t communicate my problems with them, and he said, ‘Please don’t show this to your mom.’ But then he changed his mind, saying, ‘You know what, nevermind, don’t listen to me, I don’t care if it makes us angry. This is you, this is all you.’”
This book is a real confession from Roggero. “My writing may give some people problems, but it’s me giving myself a chance,” she said. “It [is like], just fucking be real for once. Because everyone is being so fake and everyone is lying to themselves. I don’t care if it stresses me out or if it’s a struggle, I just gave myself a chance. Because I would hate to regret it later.”
Roggero has greater plans with writing. My Honest Summer with an Earnest Man was published by Schoolgirl Press, her newly formed publishing company. The company already has some books in preparation for publishing, and according to Roggero, people are gaining more interest working with Schoolgirl Press.
The name of the company has an amusing background story. “For my high school graduation, I dressed as a schoolgirl just as a joke,” Roggero said. “And all the people who hated me flipped out and all the ones who loved me were like, ‘I love you, you are so crazy.’ It was funny because my skirt was way too short. I think I always saw myself as a schoolgirl.”
Roggero is a passionate advocate of ethical work, and assembles all the books by herself. “I don’t care [about] doing this myself at 1 a.m. because I [would] rather me do it than a kid on the other side of the planet who gets paid nothing for a stupid thing,” Roggero said. “I was sitting there, my hands cramping. These pages are very stiff when they come out of the printer. And I was taking my rings off, and I was stapling, oh my god.” Of course, when you immerse yourself in the knowledge of global issues and your major is Middle Eastern Politics and Digital Storytelling, this attitude is not so surprising.
Plastic Knives, Roggero’s upcoming poetry book, is the next to be published. “It’s about myself and the effect my actions have on other people: guilt and constant worrying,” Roggero said. “[It’s about] me thinking I don’t want to hurt people, but then, how am I supposed to be me? It’s a constant juggling.”
Roggero agreed to publishfor the first time one of her poems from Plastic Knives in the Quaker Campus.
Roggero joked that she believes that she possesses the mind of a forty-year-old. This explains why older audiences enjoy her writing. She said that many older people who read her books were amused. “They say, ‘I felt that before’ and wonder, ‘You are not even twenty years old, yet you are so far in the hole,’” Roggero said. “They tell me, ‘Take a rest, kid.’”
“If you write a book and you need to give it to 20 thousand people to feel as [though you are a] writer, you are not ready yet,” Roggero said. “If you are worrying about offending your grandmother or the neighbor down the street or whoever, you are not ready. Pretty much you need to put on your big boy pants and just do it.”