Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Author of Fruit of the Drunken Tree and National Book Award finalist The Man Who Could Move Clouds
Photo credit: Jamil Hellu
About Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia, Ingrid Rojas Contreras is a thrilling new talent whose sparkling prose brings her stories to life. Her first novel, Fruit of the Drunken Tree, is a semi-autobiographical, mesmerizing tale of a young girl, Chula, and her family’s teenage maid, Petrona, set in Colombia at the height of Pablo Escobar’s violent reign. Chula and Petrona strike a friendship, but as both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, they become entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.
Hailed as “original, politically daring, and passionately written” by Vogue, Fruit of the Drunken Tree earned the silver medal winner in First Fiction from the California Book Awards, was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, and was a New York Times Editor’s Choice, an Indie Next Pick, and a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” selection.
In her memoir, The Man Who Could Move Clouds, Ingrid Rojas Contreras reclaims her family’s otherworldly legacy in what The New York Times Book Review calls “a spellbinding and genre-defying ancestral history.” Rojas Contreras brings readers into her childhood, where her grandfather, Nono, was a renowned community healer gifted with “the secrets”: powers that included talking to the dead, fortunetelling, treating the sick, and moving the clouds. Her mother, with her ability to appear in two places at once and cast out spirits, was just as powerful.
Rojas Contreras never felt she belonged to this story until she suffered a head injury that left her with amnesia. As she regained partial memory, her family told her that this had happened before: decades ago, her mother had also taken a fall that left her with amnesia. And when she recovered, she had gained access to “the secrets.”
Named a “Most Anticipated Book of the Year” by TODAY, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, and more, The Man Who Could Move Clouds details Rojas Conteras’ journey home to relearn her family history in the aftermath of her memory loss. Interweaving enchanting family lore, Colombian history, and her own personal reckonings with the bounds of reality, Rojas Contreras writes her way through the incomprehensible and into her inheritance. The result is a luminous testament to the power of storytelling as a healing art and an invitation to embrace the extraordinary.
In her fascinating talks with universities, libraries, and organizations, Ingrid Rojas Contreras brings audiences into her writing process and unpacks storytelling’s role in migration, and what is lost in translation when cultural and physical borders are crossed. She also explores the politics of power and the effects of generational trauma, diving into the lessons she has learned from the extraordinary women in her own family.
Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ essays and short stories have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Buzzfeed, Nylon, and Guernica, among others. She has received numerous awards and fellowships from Bread Loaf Writer’s Conference, VONA, Hedgebrook, the Camargo Foundation, and the National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. Rojas Contreras is a Visiting Writer at the University of San Francisco.
Migration and Story
Born and raised in Colombia and now living in the United States, Ingrid Rojas Contreras writes about brown Latinx identity, cultural and physical borders, stories in migration, and what is lost in translation. Raised on the family stories and oral history passed down by her foremothers and fathers, Rojas Contreras has built her work around the most life-giving details from these stories, grounded in an older understanding, where the realities of the world resist classification and remain unfixed.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree and The Man Who Could Move Clouds
Rojas Contreras reflects on the personal experiences of family love and political upheaval that inspired her to write her debut novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree and her memoir The Man Who Could Move Clouds. While her fiction is boldly political and realist, Rojas Contreras’ non-fiction celebrates the cultural worldview that gave rise to magical realism, hitting a tone that is decidedly fantastical and novelesque. Meditating on how stories from non-European Western cultures resist genre, Rojas Contreras shares the craft and research involved in her writing process.
Surviving the Surviving
In her memoir The Man Who Could Move Clouds, Rojas Contreras explores the politics of interpersonal power, the violence perpetrated against the women in her family across three generations, and the marks these experiences carve. Rojas Contreras delves into the softness and resilience she learned from the women in her family, how this taught her to move through her own experiences with disordered anxiety, and the healing tonic of casting your own story.
Praise for Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Praise for The Man Who Could Move Clouds
Striking…Beautifully written and layered, an empowering act of recovery and self-discovery.— San Francisco Chronicle
A blazing memoir…A lyrically rich excavation of memory, mythology and history.— Los Angeles Times
A memoir full of magic…Using philosophical and startlingly delicate prose, Rojas Contreras spins colonial history, personal narrative and the magical around the axis of her family story. The reader feels their soft rotation, like planets around a sun.— Washington Post
Rojas Contreras brings us along as she is guided through the mesmerizing journey of her family history, which is defined both by the guerrilla warfare that eventually drove them out of Colombia when she was 14 and the lineage of supernatural gifts that she traces back to her grandfather, a curandero, or shaman. Rojas Contreras’s talent as a fiction writer comes through in her lyrical prose and her ability to craft clear scenery and narratives. She juggles colonial criticism, explorations of marginalized cultures, and intricate analyses of family dynamics and makes it look easy.— Vulture
After an accident causes amnesia, Ingrid Rojas Contreras travels with her mother to Colombia seeking family memories. What they find in this poetic memoir is a complicated inheritance of history and magic.— People
The Man Who Could Move Clouds is a memoir like no other, mapping memory, myth, and the mysteries and magic of ancestry with stark tenderness and beauty. A dreamlike and literal excavation of the powers of inheritance, Ingrid Rojas Contreras has given us a glorious gift with these pages.— Patricia Engel, author of Infinite Country
Praise for Fruit of the Drunken Tree
A beautifully rendered novel of an Escobar-era Colombian childhood…You don’t need to have grown up in Bogota to be taken in by Contreras’s simple but memorable prose and absorbing storyline…I can’t help wondering what novels about Colombia 25 years from now will have to say about this current period. I can only hope they’ll be as sensitive and thoughtful as this one.— THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW
One of the most dazzling and devastating novels I’ve read in a long time…An exquisitely intimate double portrait of two young women….Unforgettable…Readers of Fruit of the Drunken Tree will surely be transformed.— SAN FRANCSICO CHRONICLE
Simultaneously propulsive and poetic, reminiscent of Isabel Allende…Fruit of the Drunken Tree offers a wake-up call for many. An eye-opening story of survival in a place history books and crime sagas (see: “Narcos”) would have us think we know better than we do…Listen to this new author’s voice — she has something powerful to say.— ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
Original, politically daring, and passionately written–Fruit of the Drunken Tree is the coming-of-age female empowerment story we need in 2018.— VOGUE
When women tell stories, they are finally at the center of the page. When women of color write history, we see the world as we have never seen it before. In Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras honors the lives of girls who witness war. Brava! I was swept up by this story.— SANDRA CISNEROS, author of THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET
A coming of age story, an immigrant story, a thrilling mystery novel, thoroughly lived and felt—this is an exciting debut novel that showcases a writer already in full command of her powers. Make room on your shelves for a writer whose impressive debut promises many more.— JULIA ALVAREZ, author of IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES and HOW THE GARCÍA GIRLS LOST THEIR ACCENTS
Set against the backdrop of Pablo Escobar’s stranglehold on the fate of a nation, Fruit of the Drunken Tree is a spellbinding story of two girls whose realities collide and who are forced to make nearly unbearable choices in the name of survival. The thrum of mystery and danger haunts every page, and you won’t be able to look away until you turn the last one.— CRISTINA HENRÍQUEZ, author of THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS
From its unforgettable opening image to its heartbreakingly perfect final line, Fruit of the Drunken Tree casts an irresistible spell, summoning us into the fierce, perilous world of two young girls in a nation on the brink. Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s lush language finds hidden beauty in even the ugliest pain. A stunning debut.— ROBIN WASSERMAN, author of GIRLS ON FIRE
This is storytelling as a heroic act, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras is a heroine that literature desperately needs—her every page feels born, urgent, and blazingly true.— AFFINITY KONAR, author of MISCHLING
Books by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Media About Ingrid Rojas Contreras
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The Man Who Could Move Clouds
PULITZER PRIZE FINALIST • NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FINALIST
“Rojas Contreras reacquaints herself with her family’s past, weaving their stories with personal narrative, unraveling legacies of violence, machismo and colonialism… In the process, she has written a spellbinding and genre-defying ancestral history.”—New York Times Book Review