San Antonio Native Shea Serrano May Be a Revered Author, but He Remains a Man of the People

click to enlarge Shea Serrano (right) answers a question from moderator Adam Serwer. - Sarah Martinez
Sarah Martinez
Shea Serrano (right) answers a question from moderator Adam Serwer.
They say you should never meet your heroes. Things can go terribly, terribly wrong, and you can, in theory, be easily disappointed by someone you've admired from afar.

I'm thankful to say that Shea Serrano is just as funny, puro and down-to-earth as I imagined him to be in my head.

On Thursday night, the beloved author and Twitter personality stopped by Dorćol Distilling + Brewing Co. for "A Conversation with Shea Serrano." While the event may have taken place in the heart of the Lone Star Art District, Serrano proved that his heart — even after earning the distinction of being the Mexican-American author with the most books on the New York Times Best Seller List — still remains on the South Side.

Fans of the Alamo City native huddled into the distillery's warehouse for the San Antonio Association of Hispanic Journalists-sponsored event. Krista Torralva, an Express-News reporter and one of SAAHJ's directors, welcomed everyone — both in English and in Spanish — and introduced Serrano and Adam Serwer, the Atlantic writer who served as moderator for the evening.

Serrano said it was the first time he had ever been introduced in Spanish.

"I wish that was a joke, but it's the truth," he said. "It's always white people."

Perhaps unintentionally, Serrano set the mood for the evening with that statement. It only seemed fitting that the SAAHJ-hosted evening would include empowering statements about being brown and Serrano's relationship with his city. Though the event came on the heels of Serrano's latest book, Movies (And Other Things), the talk was more of a celebration of what he's achieved — and what that signifies.

Early in the conversation, Serwer asked how it felt to achieve the previously mentioned NYT Best Seller feat, which prompted loud cheers and claps from the audience.

"It's one of those things where it's, like, cool and then, like, sucky," Serrano responded. The author pointed out that the publication's list has been around for nearly 90 years.

"It should have happened already," he said. He compared it to Halle Berry being the first — and still only — African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, a distinction she achieved in 2002.

It's apparent that Serrano is committed to hyping up not just other writers of color but also people of color doing just about anything. That hopeful view may be one reason so many folks of color, especially Mexican-Americans, relate to Serrano's brand. Whatever the case, with the author's success comes an even bigger number of followers sharing his message. Yes, I'm talking about his  FOH Army.

"There's no way to explain it without sounding totally insane," Serrano said.

Short for "fuck outta here," Serrano's online following is a testament to his writing and wit — which is basically his entire online persona. While, yes, his talent shines in his books, he's also recognized on Twitter as an expert in all things basketball, rap/hip-hop and movies, though some can argue politics too since he tweets "fuck donald trump" on the regular.

The puro San Antonio aspect of Serrano's online personality also came through during the evening. One audience member asked which of the Spurs' Big Three Serrano would hang out with once, who he would never hang out with and which he would hang out with forever. Translation: he asked Serrano to play Fuck, Marry, Kill with Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker.

"I would 'f' Manu Ginobili. He seems like a good time," Serrano said. "I would marry Tim, and I guess that means I got to kill Tony."

Beyond his gushing over Duncan (whom he said would be there for him), Serrano shared memories from his childhood — reflecting on growing up in Valley Hi, playing pick-up basketball at Millers Pond Park and going to Spurs games with his dad long before even David Robinson was on the roster.

"All of the stuff that I had when I was a kid, for the most part, is still here," he said.

While some businesses and landmarks are now gone, San Antonio is largely how it was when he last lived here, he pointed out. "It feels like [my family] is supposed to be here."

Even so, Serrano also talked about the new San Antonio, and where San Antonio is going.

One woman in the audience asked what his death row meal would be — aside from his usual from Mendez Cafe.

Serrano said he'd go for barbecue as his last meal, specifically from Smoke Shack, where he said he and one of his cousins order way too much food and eat their fill.

"I'm gonna get pulled pork sliders, fresh fried okra, a brisket grilled cheese sandwich and a tea," Serrano said, ticking off the hypothetical final menu.

I later asked which breakfast taco he would never eat, but he said he'd eat anything if you put it in a tortilla. Same.

But beyond food, Serrano gave a glimmer of his impending imprint on the city. Earlier this year, the author tweeted a photo of himself with Mayor Ron Nirenberg, teasing a "Serrano Family Park."

Eager audience members inquired about the public space, which would no doubt include a basketball court. Serrano said it will likely be a few more years until locals can enjoy the planned park.

When the time comes, San Antonio will likely see Serrano hooping up with the rest of us. That's just who he is.

Stay on top of San Antonio news and views. Sign up for our Weekly Headlines Newsletter.


Since 1986, the SA Current has served as the free, independent voice of San Antonio, and we want to keep it that way.

Becoming an SA Current Supporter for as little as $5 a month allows us to continue offering readers access to our coverage of local news, food, nightlife, events, and culture with no paywalls.

Join today to keep San Antonio Current.

Scroll to read more Arts Stories & Interviews articles

Join SA Current Newsletters

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.