by Vera Ampofowah
“Music influences me a lot,” says Gotham teacher Adela Brito. She incorporates vintage music (along with her Cuban culture) in most everything she writes.
After landing in New York from Miami, to pursue a writing career, Adela recalls seeing Gotham’s yellow catalog box on the street and walking for what felt like miles to reach it. “I finally made it,” Adela says, “and registered for my first class.”
Eventually, she became a Gotham intern, which was a seamless transition. She had already been involved in many events and classes and never wanted to leave. “If you look up my name in the Gotham database, I took a million classes,” she says. She recalls a sweet memory of introducing Cuban music and food to her Gotham friends after the death of the legendary Celia Cruz.
She adores her connection with the Gotham crew, saying, “They're my second family.” She went on to get a graduate degree in writing and began teaching at community colleges, but Gotham was where she truly wanted to be, saying: “Teaching for Gotham has been my dream come true.”
Adela likes writing historical pieces and exploring the music of the time periods she’s writing about, saying, “I can put in little details that tell me how someone was dressed or the music that was playing.”
Adela is currently working on a historical novel called Mambo Farewell, which explores the traumatic and life-changing journey of two Cuban cousins arriving in the US via rafts. She is also working on a novel based on an aspiring cabaret performer from 1940s Cuba. Playing iconic songs by Frank Sinatra while writing this novel helped build her character’s motivations. She even creates playlists that align with her characters.
When it comes to Elvis Presley, Adela doesn't just stop at writing about him. “I have a friend who likes Elvis too,” she says, “and for his birthday I got him a notebook and I gave him some Elvis stickers so he could put them on the notebook”.
The flamboyance, confidence, and overall new sound that Elvis popularized is what makes him Adela’s obsession. Living in Memphis, Tennessee—Elvis’s home base—Adela appreciates the preservation of not just Elvis, but 60s rock and roll and its place in the city. Listening to classic Motown also gets her creative spirits flowing.
With her love of music and community, Adela says of her writing life: “It doesn't feel like work, it is super fun.”