University of Houston-Victoria student Annabelle Gomez thought she should be at Thursday's American Book Review Reading Series to meet author Frederick Aldama.

"He touched my heart being Hispanic," Gomez said. "My goal is to start a Hispanic program in Victoria."

Gomez was inspired by Aldama founding LASER, Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment and Research, a mentorship program for Latino students, she said.

Aldama encouraged her to start a youth program and offered to be her mentor through the process, and to write a book about her experiences, Gomez said.

The author and arts and humanities distinguished professor at Ohio State University spoke Thursday at the university's American Book Review Reading Series.

He read from "Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands," his anthology of flash fiction.

The title of the book connects to the limited tools and resources for Latinos to create long narratives, he said.

"Libraries are closing, or there weren't any there, schools are underfunded, teachers are underpaid," he said. "Social tissue is ripped."

Aldama wanted readers to experience the emotional truths of life as a Latino, he said.

Sections of the book focus on different age brackets in a person's life, following the characters as they grow, he said.

Aldama writes several stories in English and Spanish and mixes the languages together because it reflects the way the world works, he said.

Code switching in the writing was a challenge, he said.

He is planning a book, set in the year 2041, that will focus on mixing two languages to construct a new language.

Fiction is social glue, Aldama said.

"You are inviting someone on a journey through the careful selection of words to step into shoes and to empathize," he said. "In many ways, isn't that what it means to be a human being?"

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Education reporter

Gabriella Canales graduated from the University of Houston-Victoria with a B.A. in English in 2016. Feel free to contact her with ideas because she is eager to tell stories.

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