Her dystopian novel about immigrants was considered outrageous. Now it’s flying off the shelves

First published in 2012, “Ink” by Sabrina Vourvoulias is being re-released this week.

Sabrina Vourvoulias reads to an audience

Sabrina Vourvoulias reads to an audience

Courtesy Sabrina Vourvoulias
monicazorrilla

Updated 11:55 a.m.

When Sabrina Vourvoulias first released her novel Inkin 2012, the dystopic magical realism drama about oppressive prejudice and violence against immigrants in the U.S. was considered by many to be “far-fetched.”

“Because the events that transpire in Ink are set in an America of the near future,” the Philadelphia-based author told Billy Penn, “I think some readers were uncomfortable with this immediate vision of the country committing human rights violations against immigrants.”

As a result, Vourvoulias’s book was only selling moderately well. Then, something changed.

A populist presidential campaign characterized by hateful rhetoric against “the other” — Latinx and Muslim immigrants among them — proved successful, and soon other politicos and personalities adopted the trend, both domestically and abroad. Xenophobia became a winning platform.

The result where Vourvoulias’ novel was concerned? Sales shot up, noticeably.

In an op-ed for The Guardian this summer, Vourvoulias noted that her book was suddenly being referred to as “timely” and “prescient.” “What seemed absolutely shocking and absurd to folks back then,” she explained, “was all of a sudden…more relatable.”

So her new publisher, D.C. based Rosarium Publishing, saw an opportunity. This week, Ink is being re-released. It’s available for pre-order now on Amazon, with a new foreword by prominent Latina fiction and nonfiction writer Kathleen Alcalá.

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Courtesy of Sabrina Vourvoulias/Rosarium Publishing

Here’s more from Vourvoulias about Ink reemerging on bookstore shelves.

Why do you continue labeling the novel a work of ‘science fiction’?

I selected the genre because of the flexibility it gave me to push things further than I truthfully imagined they would be. But we can’t get past the fact that some of the things that I describe in my book as part of the fictional dystopia are rooted in our genuine past. In the ’30s, there was a mass repatriation of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans. Much like the ‘inkatoriums’ in the book, we have a shameful history of internment centers. All of these instances in our past have informed the narrative. Other cases…were inspired by conversations I had with immigrants in Philadelphia and from my own experience growing up in Guatemala during the civil war.

Did growing up in an oppressive regime in Guatemala serve as creative and inspirational fuel?

What we’re seeing now happening in this country — I never thought that this would have happened in the United States. I’ve always had a great deal of trust in the United States, in the liberties and protections of civil liberties in the United States. My parents moved here to Philadelphia from Guatemala after my father was kidnapped and the situation was escalating, eventually resulting in genocide, especially of indigenous peoples. It was a dirty war, one where people would disappear and you would not know what happened to them but could only assume the worst. Ink is very reminiscent of that.

My admiration and my desire to become involved with journalism and with literature absolutely did come from what I experienced in Guatemala, because under an authoritarian and repressive regime, newspapers only published their official story — not the real one. When the Washington Post took down Nixon, I was absolutely perplexed by the bravery, stunned by the open criticism of the government. It made me understand just how important the free press is to a nation. In Ink, I grapple with journalism buckling under a controlling government.

The two most important aspects of that novel really are the journalistic aspect and the immigration aspect, which is why at the launch party on Thursday, I intend to do some shoutouts to people in Philadelphia who work with immigrants and who are part of the immigrant community and journalists whose voices are incredibly important. There aren’t enough Latino journalists at all or journalists of color. It is really shameful that in terms of supervisory, editorial-level positions, you know, there are a handful of people. That really impacts how stories are covered, what language is used and what assumptions are made.

Has Ink been reprinted in different languages? If no, would you like it to be?

It has not been printed in any other language. I can say that film and TV people have approached me about it. Though there is nothing right now that I can specify, I know that there is interest — interest has been expressed by not only Americans but European countries as well. Obviously, the issues aren’t limited to us. They aren’t limited to the United States. The lack of human rights in the way that immigrants are treated is, at this point, pretty universal. So I think that it has something to say to a lot of people — even beyond U.S. borders.


Ink‘s book launch celebration is taking place at Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse on 2578 Frankford Ave. on Thursday, Sept. 20 from 5 to 8 p.m. You can RSVP to the event on Facebook.

Here are some additional schedule details:

  • 6 p.m.: Remarks/Reading
  • 6:10 p.m.: Shout out to local immigration advocates
  • 6:20 p.m.: Shout out to local journalists
  • 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.: Music by DJ Awesomus Prime 
    Food will be available on the premises.

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