Carolina De Robertis is no stranger to giving us stories about political power, identity, and human connection. After her most recent phenomenal novel, Cantoras, she is handing us something new, and a little different. The President and the Frog is incandescent—political, mystical, timely, and heartening—about the power of memory and the pursuit of justice. It follows the former president of an unnamed Latin American country who receives a journalist in his famed gardens to discuss his legacy and the dire circumstances that threaten democracy around the globe. Ferrying us between a grim jail cell and the president’s lush gardens, the tale reaches beyond all borders and invites us to reimagine what it means to lead, to dare, and to dream.
We got to ask De Robertis about topics like political power in her books, Pride month traditions, writing advice, and how she’s taking time for herself these days and during Pride month.
Reading Group Center: Both Cantoras and The President and the Frog deal with political power at their core. What draws you to this topic and how does writing about it help you make sense of our world?
Carolina De Robertis: Political power is an endlessly intriguing concept, one that at its core taps into almost everything else: freedom, agency, healing, joy, the risks we take, the dreams we hold, the possibilities and limits of social change. For those of us on societal margins, the intersection of political power with intimate life isn’t an abstract concept; it’s a lived reality. How do we live radiantly when the world seems bent on our erasure? How do we cultivate the world we want to see? I am always inside these questions, just as I am always breathing. My greatest hope as a writer is that the explorations will resonate for others, too.
RGC: Do you have any Pride Month traditions? Will you be celebrating any differently this year?
CDR: My wife and I always kick off Pride month with our wedding anniversary, which this year marks nineteen years since we tied the knot before it was legal anywhere in the country. Since we had children, we’ve gravitated toward a family-friendly Pride Sunday barbecue in our yard with chosen family. Before the pandemic, it was a big, raucous intergenerational party. Our eight-year-old daughter sees Pride as a major national holiday, more festive than the Fourth of July.
RGC: What’s one piece of advice you would give someone looking to write about their identity (or a subject close to home?)
CDR: Read, write, read, write, read, write, rinse, repeat. Keep going. Take risks on the page and find ways to cultivate radical trust—in yourself, in your visions, in what you hope your writing might offer or contribute to the world. Anchor yourself in that radical trust. Sink your roots deep and don’t let go.
RGC: How are you taking time for yourself these days and during Pride month?
CDR: Something strange happened after Pride 2020: the huge rainbow flag in our living room window never came down. My wife and I both found ourselves leaving it there, reigning over the street, perhaps in response to the ongoing brutalities of the Trump regime and the pandemic, as a kind of flag of love and resistance. In the end, we left it up all year. So, we’re super ready for Pride; we never stopped celebrating.
RGC: Favorite snack, song, or show right now?
CDR: With family life at the center during the pandemic, my binge-watching has mainly been kid-friendly. I’ve been thrilled to see Netlflix Original shows for kids that are also fun for adults, and that feature excellent queer and BIPOC characters: Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, Twelve Forever, and The Dragon Prince. The latter made history as the first kids’ TV show featuring a two-mom family—interracial warrior queens, no less! It took my breath away to see it. We can transform the future, one step, one story, one word at a time.