Claudia Kolker is the author of The Immigrant Advantage: What We Can Learn from Newcomers to America about Health, Happiness, and Hope; currently she is also a contributing editor at the Houston Chronicle, where she created the immigrant affairs beat in 1997. Before moderating a discussion on Houston’s future after immigration reform, she revealed her distaste for fermented tofu, her cheerleading for 8-year-old girls, and her longing to see the Grateful Dead in the Zócalo green room.
What literary character do you identify with?
Harriet the Spy.
What food won’t you eat?
There’s a terrible form of tofu that is fermented, and it was one of the first experiences of my life, when I had that once in a little cube in Japan. But other than that, everything.
What inspires you?
Green plants, immigrants, people overcoming adversity, preschoolers sitting at a table and coloring and being creative, dogs of all kinds, always. That’s a long list. A lot of stuff. [Laughs.]
What country have you reported from that you’re least likely to return to?
Maybe Venezuela, but that’s a tough one. I’d like to return to all of them. Venezuela, probably my work is least likely to take me there.
What’s the last habit you tried to kick?
Sugar, every day, this morning.
What live performance would you most like to see next?
I’d love to see the Grateful Dead, I never saw them, and now I regret it.
What profession would you like to practice in your next life?
Who or what do you root for?
I root for moms in developing countries with tons of kids who are managing the finances and scrimping and saving and making things happen. And little girls. Eight-year-old girls, actually, specifically.
How do you deal with writer’s block?
Walking. I learned from a writer friend who’s also an athlete, never even try to write until you’re physically tired.
How did you get into trouble as a kid?
Let me count the ways! I proposed that my friend Maggie and I play catch with a dozen raw eggs in her driveway when I was in second grade, and I was not asked back.