Category: New Authors

Female Latina and Hispanic Characters that Don’t Suck

I grew up on Gabriel García Márquez and Julio Cortázar, and as is the case with anyone with minimal sensitivity for masterful language and smart poetic prose, I fell in love with their work. It wasn’t a healthy kind of love, though; it was the kind of love in which I pretended not to see all the red flags and continuously reminded myself how perfect the object of my affections was, in hopes that my affirmations would make the soul-crushing bits disappear. Since this is literally the first thing I would call out in any relationship between humans (fictional or otherwise), I had to walk the walk and face my actual feelings: it’s hard to enjoy a novel with total abandon when the female characters are unidimensional, flighty, and blatantly, exclusively there for the consumption and advancement of their male counterparts.

Raining cats and dogs, or an accurate representation of the troll storm I am about to endure, via Wikipedia

The truth is One Hundred Years of Solitude was my favorite novel for over a decade, and the fabric of it is so deliciously intricate and wild that I can’t bring myself to just chuck it. Realizing how completely colonized most of García Márquez’s women are (as strong as they may appear at first glance), and how blatantly abused romantic leads like la Maga are in Cortázar’s most famous work (no one bats an eye at this, by the way), was jarring, eye-opening, and heartbreaking for me.

I really was, guys… Via E! Online

That doesn’t mean I’ve personally cancelled Gabo or Julio; it just means that my relationship to Hopscotch now looks a lot like my relationship to The Sound of Music’s “Sixteen Going On Seventeen”: I flow with its dated, vintage charm, but die a little inside every time the sexism screeches through like a banshee.

So, as a hungry hungry bookworm and a devout lover of my mother tongue the Spanish language, I have set forth on a quest to find stories with relatable female characters with thoughts, feelings, and dilemmas of their own. They do not have to be necessarily strong or liberated or accomplished (although it rocks when they are); their relationship with the world, with domesticity, or with other genders is irrelevant, as long as they reasonably resemble actual women you might meet in real life. I’m feeling like a feminist Doña Quixote, setting forth on a literature-inspired morality quest in a world of manic pixie windmills and disposable characters. Onward, Gato Panza!

Gato Panza, via Funnypics

Below is a list of characters I have come across that have fit the full-fledged/realistic criteria, as well as some of the newest notches on my TBR list.

1. Marcela, Don Quijote (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)

I love Don Quixote, I love Cervantes, and I especially love the unexpected proto-feminist speech that the beautiful goatherd Marcela gives when her admirer Grisóstomo commits suicide due to unrequited lovesickness. As was the custom in seventeenth century Spanish literature, the beautiful woman who rejected the perfectly good man whom she was just not interested in, got a tsunami of hate from the male characters in the story, who curse her cruelty and her wickedness in supposedly taking the life of her poor admirer, and so on, and so forth, evil evil evil woman. Not only does Marcela stand her ground and honor her commitment to her simple farm life and her lack of interest in marriage, but Don Quixote defends her, claiming that Marcela is the kind of woman that knights like himself have the duty to protect—single women, who were more vulnerable to opportunistic men and rapists. This was written by a man in the early seventeenth century, by the way, which makes the fact that Marcela’s speech still applies today particularly surprising. You go, Migue.

Marcela giving zero cattle farts, via Top of Art

 

2. Paulina Del Valle, Portrait in Sepia (Isabel Allende)

I would actually not mind a retelling of this story entirely from Paulina’s perspective. Paulina Del Valle is the full character package: we see her as the young daughter of nineteenth century Chilean privilege, falling in love with her future husband, and eloping together. We see her as a wildly successful entrepreneur with a jolly sex life. We see her as a woman who loves to eat (if you lived in the land of dulce de leche, you would too), and who becomes so insecure about her body, she puts cracks in her own marriage. We see her as an immigrant, as a jealous wife, as a seasoned sailor of the social ropes, and as a voraciously committed grandmother. Paulina is human and monument in equal measure, and so real you’ll be sure you’ve met before, or wish you had.

Because there is zero shame in having dessert, via Pinterest

3. Xiomara Batista, The Poet X (Elizabeth Acevedo)

This one is on my TBR list, so while I will be able to speak more at length about it once I have read it, the premise is promising. Xiomara Batista, a young Harlem native with Dominican heritage, is growing up in a devoutly Christian household, and in a world that desperately wants to hypersexualize her curvy body. Author Elizabeth Acevedo puts the infuriatingly common “spicy latina” trope under a microscope and an interrogation lamp at the same time, and gives us a character who, in the midst of being silenced by religion and made afraid of her own body by society, finds empowerment in poetry. A harmful trope down the food disposal and good slam poetry? Count me in.

Author Elizabeth Acevedo mid-slam poem (and also a mood), via Aint I Latina?

4. Malú, The First Rule of Punk (Celia C. Pérez)

A middle-grade book, but nonetheless a shiny stereotype-breaker, Malú’s adventures in school is the happy latinx kid story you didn’t know you needed. 12-year-old Malú does not appear able to mesh the palpable mexicanidad she sees in her mother with her own Chuck Taylors-and-loud-punk-rock personality. But this story is not about that; this story is about Malú going through the universal struggle of coming to terms with being herself. No tragic losses, no chronic abuse, no telenovela-worthy storylines.

Malú on the cover of “The First Rule of Punk,” via Mitu

5. The women from Nosotras que nos queremos tanto, Marcela Serrano

Also on my TBR list, the entirety of Marcela Serrano’s work has been at some point dubbed by male critics as “a glimpse into the female psyche.” This is both dryly amusing (as male critics could alternatively just ask their wives), and telling of how authentic Serrano’s female characters are. In We Who Love Each Other So Much a group of women come together and air out their wounds, their wants, and the dead ends of their place in society. Serrano’s works Ten Women; The Hotel of the Sad Women; Farewell, Little Women; and My Sweet Enemy follow similar premises. It would seem that Marcela Serrano has set out on a journey to write a complex woman for every woefully flat female character ever created, and I am all for it.

Community art, via Pinterest

6. Narrator, Palabras sin escolta (Elsa Tió)

Poetry has been a relatively safe space for Latin American women to articulate thoughts and emotions, so of course I must include at the very least a drop’s worth on this list. In this salty, breezy, beachy anthology (metaphorical mentions of the sea as a rejuvenating force propel me to describe it thus), Elsa Tió notices the movement of the world around her and never stops shifting herself. The exoskeleton of her reflections are rooted in the natural world around her: the mystery of shadows, the permanence of the moon, the depth of water, permeate throughout, gripping and grounding the reader. Tió levels with us and speaks of fear, freedom, love, and solitude, delivering us an unlikely cocktail of grounded humility and cyclonic empowerment.

Elsa Tió vibes, via Artist.com

7. Gabriela Mistral’s Madwomen

A writer as prolific as she was bold, Gabriela Mistral gives voice to every emotion that remained under the skin of Latin American women, should they survive in society. Each poem is titled a label— “the anxious one,” “the abandoned one,” “the detached one”—and unpacks the tides of emotion beneath the skin of such a labeled person. Mistral doesn’t make up anything; she listens to the women of the world and puts the most painful of their stories on wings.

Alchemical screaming, via Artstation

Latinx poetry, honestly, could be its own category in unfiltered expression, but since prose has a tendency to skew even more male than poetry traditionally has, I remain determined to tell the giants from the windmills. Honorable mentions include the essays of Ana Lydia Vega and the poetic work of Alfonsina Storni (if you want to see a nineteenth century woman stick it to purity double standards in a way that is still relevant verbatim).

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month!

 

 

Personajes Femeninos en la Literatura Hispana Que No Son Una Mierda

Yo me crié leyendo a Gabriel García Márquez y a Julio Cortázar, y como es el caso con cualquiera que tenga un mínimo de sensibilidad artística, me enamoré de su obra. Este no fue un amor saludable, sino una de esas relaciones en las cuales me hacía de la vista larga cada vez que notaba alguna burrada, y me mentía a mí misma intentando convencerme de lo perfectamente contenta que me encontraba. Ya que ésta es una de las primeras conductas nocivas que me llamarían la atención en cualquier relación entre humanos de carne y hueso, opté por la integridad y decidí ser honesta conmigo misma: me cuesta disfrutarme una novela del todo cuando sus personajes femeninos son unidimensionales, vápidos, e indudablemente construidos como mecanismos desechables del autor para avanzar la historia, o para ser consumidos por los personajes masculinos.

 Los chinches que me van a caer, imagen de Wikipedia

Sé que me van a llover las críticas. La realidad es que Cien años de soledad fue mi novela favorita por más de diez años, y su prosa es tan poética y compleja que no consigo sencillamente deshacerme de ella. Percatarme de los colonizadas que son las mujeres de García Márquez (por más fuertes que aparenten ser) y del abuso que aguanta, por ejemplo, la Maga en la obra más famosa de Cortázar, me pareció tan trágico como revelador.

En serio que sí, chicos, imagen de E! Online

Esto no significa que Julio y Gabo han sido cancelados hasta nuevo aviso (por lo menos para mí). Lo que significa es que mi apreciación de sus obras se parece a mi experiencia escuchando la canción “Sixteen Going On Seventeen” del clásico The Sound of Music: el viaje a la estética del pasado y la historieta de amor entre jóvenes son bienvenidos, pero me da un corto circuito cada vez que el machismo se hace sentir más allá de la vista larga. Nadie tiene la vista tan larga, señores…

Lectora voraz al fin, me he echado encima la búsqueda de personajes femeninos en nuestra literatura latinoamericana e hispana que se asemejen razonablemente a lo que es una mujer en la vida real. No un espejismo, no una fantasía sin raíces, sino una mujer. Éstas no tienen necesariamente que ser fuertes; su relación con el mundo, los demás géneros o la domesticidad es inmaterial, con tal de que sea una representación realista. Estoy en modo Doña Quijote: inspirada por la literatura a aventurarme al mundo de los molinos de vapidez y los personajes desechables. ¡Adelante, Gato Panza!

Gato Panza, imagen de FunnyPics

Aquí les dejo una lista de los que he encontrado hasta ahora, incluyendo algunos libros con personajes que prometen, pero que aún tengo pendientes leer.

1. Marcela, El Ingenioso Hidalgo Don Quijote de La Mancha (Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra)

Por si no se han percatado, amo la historia de Don Quijote y adoro más todavía el discurso pre-feminista de la bella campesina Marcela ante el suicidio de su admirador Grisóstomo, quien se quita la vida al no ser correspondido por Marcela. Marcela no solo se mantiene firme en su decisión de dedicarse al campo y permanecer soltera, sino que además Don Quijote la defiende y declara que son precisamente las mujeres como Marcela—solteras y más vulnerables ante los hombres oportunistas y los violadores—quienes les toca defender a los caballeros andantes. Dile ahí, Migue.

A Marcela le vale un peo de vaca, imagen de Top Of Art

2. Paulina Del Valle, Retrato en sepia (Isabel Allende)

No me molestaría en lo absoluto que existiera alguna versión de esta historia escrita desde de la perspectiva de Paulina. Paulina Del Valle es un banquete de personaje: la vemos joven, hija del privilegio chileno del siglo XIX, casada a escondidas con un marido que ella escogió. La vemos más adelante como empresaria feroz y con una alegre vida sexual. La vemos como inmigrante, como esposa celosa, como abuela entregada, como una amante de la comida y los dulces, y como una mujer que desarrolla un complejo con su apariencia física tan demoledor que termina por poner en jaque su matrimonio. Paulina es humana y es monumento en igual medida, tanto así que da la impresión de conocerla de antes.

Porque comer postre no tiene nada de vergonzoso, por Pinterest

3. Xiomara Batista, poeta X (Elizabeth Acevedo)

Este libro es de los que tengo pendientes, pero su premisa promete. Xiomara Batista, una joven dominicana criada en Harlem, se encuentra bajo la rigidez cristiana de su madre y en una sociedad que se empeña en hiper-sexualizar sus curvas recién-desarrolladas. Elizabeth Acevedo pone el cliché estadounidense de la latina ardiente contra la pared y bajo un microscopio, y nos presenta a un personaje que, a pesar del yugo religioso de su hogar y el de la sexualidad forzada de su sociedad, encuentra la libertad en la poesía.

La autora Elizabeth Acevedo recitando poesía, por Aint I Latina?

4. Malú, La primera regla del punk (Celia C. Pérez)

Esta es una historia para niños y no obstante un triturador de estereotipos. La pequeña Malú, al igual que el grueso del público estadounidense, no consigue casar la mexicanidad tradicionalista de su madre con su amor por el rock. Esta no es, sin embargo, la historia; Celia C. Pérez nos regala un cuento sobre una niña común y corriente mientras se enfrenta a los obstáculos comunes y corrientes de crecer y madurar. Cero tragedias, cero pérdidas traumáticas, cero abuso.

Malú  en la portada de “La primera regla del punk,” por Mitu

5. Las mujeres de Nosotras que nos queremos tanto (Marcela Serrano)

Los críticos de la literatura han indicado en más de una ocasión que la producción literaria de Marcela Serrano casi en su totalidad “consigue penetrar la psicología femenina.” Un concepto alucinante, considerando lo fácil que sería para estos críticos conseguir tal hazaña si hablaran con sus mujeres. Al mismo tiempo, esta crítica parece indicadora de lo auténticas que son las mujeres de Marcela Serrano. En Nosotras que nos queremos tanto, un grupo de mujeres airean entre sí sus dolores, sus deseos y las cadenas de la sociedad en la que viven. Sus novelas Diez mujeres; El albergue de las mujeres tristes; Hasta siempre, mujercitas; y Dulce enemiga mía comparten tramas similares. Parecería que Marcela Serrano se ha echado encima la tarea de hacerle contrapeso a todos los personajes femeninos vacíos habidos y por haber, y francamente, me está dando vida.

Comunidad de mujeres, por Pinterest

6. La narradora, Palabras sin escolta (Elsa Tió)

La poesía ha sido un albergue para la expresión femenina sin censura, y por esto merece un lugar en esta lista. En esta antología matizada de salitre, vientos alisios y agua de mar (la mención metafórica del salitre y el mar como fuerza regeneradora me obliga a describirla así), Elsa Tió toma nota del mundo que la rodea y no deja de mutar. La raíz de sus reflecciones está en el mundo natural: el misterio de las sombras, la permanencia de la luna, la profundidad de las aguas, permean a través de esta colección, agarrando al lector por los hombros y poniendo sus pies firmes en la tierra. Tió nos cuenta sobre el miedo, la libertad, el amor y la soledad, regalándonos así un cóctel de aguzada humildad y poder ciclónico.

Elsa Tió vibes, por Artist.com

7. Las Locas mujeres de Gabriela Mistral

Tan prolífica como audaz, Gabriela Mistral le da voz y validez al ecosistema de emociones que la mujer latinoamericana esconde por pura supervivencia. Cada poema tiene por título un diagnóstico social—“la ansiosa,” “la abandonada”, “la desasida”—y asimismo disecta cada uno. Mistral no se inventa nada, sino que escucha a las mujeres del mundo y pone a volar sus historias más dolorosas.

La alquimia del grito, por Artstation

La poesía latinoamericana podría ser su propio artículo, en cuanto a la expresión liberada de la mujer. Como la prosa sigue siendo más territorio masculino aún que la poesía (y eso podría ser bastante decir), sigo aquí en mi misión de separar los gigantes de los molinos. Algunas menciones muy honorables son los ensayos de Ana Lydia Vega y la obra poética de Alfonsina Storni (si a alguno le apetece ver como una mujer en pleno siglo XIX le hace frente al doble estándar de la castidad y la pureza, de tal forma que al sol de hoy aplica).

¡Feliz mes de la herencia hispana!

Featured image via Pinterest

 

Margaret Atwood Wins Dayton Literary Peace Prize

Margaret Atwood, the iconic Canadian author whose body of work includes The Handmaid’s Tale and Alias Grace, was announced as the winner of the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award last Monday. This award celebrates the ability of literature to promote peace and justice globally.

Atwood’s most well-known novel, the aforementioned The Handmaid’s Tale, concerns America becoming a Totalitarian Dystopia, where women’s rights are stripped away by a theocratic government, and fertile women are forced to bear children for men and their wives. The novel has become more popular over the last few years with a Hulu adaptation starring Elizabeth Moss. However, Atwood has faith that Americans can avoid this fate. She told a reporter for the Associated Press: “And if I were a betting person, which naturally I kind of am, I would bet on American orneriness and refusal to line up…So I don’t think you’re going to get people marching in lockstep easily…You could get it. but it would be hard.”

image courtesy of amazon

Sharon Rab, the founder of the Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation, praised Atwood’s work for educating people on important topics like social justice. Speaking to the Associated Press, she said: “Margaret Atwood continues to remind us that ‘it can’t happen here’ cannot be depended upon; anything can happen anywhere given the right circumstances…her lessons are more vital than ever.”

The award comes with $10,000 (A little over 13,000 CAD). Previous winners include feminist Gloria Steinem and holocaust survivor and novelist Elie Wiesel. The ceremony, to be originally held in October, will be held in Spring 2021 due to COVID-19. Atwood will be joined by winners of the fiction and nonfiction categories, which have yet to be announced.

Feature image via The Guardian

Steamy New Romance Novels

Who doesn’t love a new week filled with new books? The best part of the week is adding new books to your TBR (to be read), and these new romance titles are worth adding to your list. They’re filled with nothing but steamy scenes and lots and lots of passion. So, go ahead and get your copies!

1. ‘Loathe At First Sight’ by Suzanne Park

Image via Amazon

Loathe At First Sight tells the story of Melody Joo, who has just landed her dream job as a video game producer. However, her dream job isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be with her sexist male co-workers. To top it off, there is a new intern, Nolan, who is just as bad and only got the job because his uncle is the boss. Melody designs a game where male strippers have to fight for survival to deal with her frustrations. Even though the game starts out as a joke, it becomes the most popular game in the company. Unfortunately, Nolan is assigned to her team. At first Melody, is reluctant to work with him. But, as they grow closer, she soon sees there is a lot more to Nolan than she thought. Now, her project is about to launch with a lot of complications, and Nolan might just be the guy to help. He might also be the one to steal her heart.

2. You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria

Image via Amazon

You Had Me at Hola tells the story of two stars, Jasmine Lin Rodriguez and Ashton Suarez.  Jasmine is dealing with a lot of tabloid issues following her public break up, and it just happens to be when she’s headed to New York to film a bilingual romantic comedy for the most popular streaming service. Jasmine prepares to be the leading lady, but her plans are dashed when she learns Ashton Suarez is going to be her leading man. Ashton has just been killed off in his telenovela, and this project is his chance to show America what he brings to the table as an actor. In order to make this the best film, he wants to have great chemistry with Jasmine. However, their first encounter doesn’t go so well. So, the two agree to work in private on the dynamic of their relationship. As they grow closer, this work develops into a behind the scenes romance. Though their on screen romance improves, the media is prepared to take down Jasmine and reveal Ashton’s hidden secret.

3. ‘No Offense’ by Meg Cabot

Image via Amazon

No Offense tells the story of Molly and John. Molly is struggling with the pain of a broken engagement. To heal, she decides to move to the Florida Keys to work at Library as head of children’s services. She is ready for the change, until she finds a newborn in the bathroom. When Molly calls the sheriff to come and investigate, she is annoyed by his arrogance but blown away by his blue eyes. John, recently divorced, is a single parent who is having a difficult time adjusting to being a dad. However, when he meets Molly, he thinks his new life in Florida might not be so bad.

4. ‘Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop’ by Roselle Lim

Image via Amazon

Vanessa Yu’s Magical Paris Tea Shop tells the story of Vanessa Yu, who loves to read people’s fortunes in tea leaves.  Sometimes, she can’t help but blurt out people’s fortunes. Even when she drinks coffee. To her parents dismay, being able to see fortunes hasn’t found her a husband, so they set her up on a shanghai matchmaking service. The day before her appointment, Vanessa sees in the tea leaves that she is going to die by traffic accident. In order to live her life to the fullest, she has to get rid of her fortune reading abilities. She asks her aunt Evelyn for help, prompting them to leave America and set off for Paris. While there, Vanessa tries to reconnect her aunt with a lost love and learns more about herself and her fortune telling gift. The most important lesson she leans is that knowing a fortune isn’t a curse; not being able to change it is.

5. ‘The Wedding Date Disaster’ by Avery Flynn

Image via Amazon

The Wedding Date Disaster tells the story of Hadley Donovan. She has no choice but to head home to Nebraska to attend her sisters wedding. Instead of her best friend being her date, his horrible twin brother comes in his place. Hadley can’t stand Will Holt. To make matters worse, he signs them up for all the family events she was supposed to avoid with her best friend. However, the more time they spend together and fight, the more they just might be falling for each other. Will does look super hot in jeans after all.

 

Featured Image via BeFunkyCollageMaker

‘The Poet X’: WOC Representation and Sexual Tropes / ‘Poet X’: Representación de MDC y Tropos Sexuales

For decades WOC representation have been plagued by hypersexualized tropes; the end result being flat characters. This Hispanic Heritage Month we look at The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo; a novel that highlights proper representation and flips those age old tropes on their head.

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National Book Award Nominees of 2020

The National Book Awards has released the names of its 2020 nominees, including two acclaimed debut novelists: Megha Majumdar and Douglas Stuart, both their fiction novels taking on serious cultural themes.

Majumdar’s A Burning is about a Muslim girl trying to make it out of the slums and is accused of being linked to a terrorist attack on a train, and Stuart’s Shuggie Bain tells of the childhood of a young boy in 1980’s Scotland, growing up in the throws of poverty and drugs.

Image via Amazon

 

 

Image via Amazon

 

Other novelists included on this list include Rumaan Alam for his work Leave the World Behind, and Brit Bennett for the novel that swiftly rose to popularity, The Vanishing Half.

Among the non-fiction authors nominated are Isabel Wilkerson for Caste, Jill Lepore for If Then, Claudio Saunt for Unworthy Republic and Frank B. Wilderson III for Afropessimism, a philosophical memoir and essay about how the Black experience is seen through the lens of slavery. The text Undocumented Americans also brought Karla Cornejo Villavicencio to the list with her honest memoir paired with extensive research into immigration.

 

 

The two short story collection nominees include the recently departed, Randall Kenan, for her collection If I Had Wings, and Deesha Philyaw for The Secret Lives of Church Ladies.

The finalists of this list will be revealed on October 6th, and the winners will be announced via a virtual ceremony on November 18th.

FEATURE IMAGE VIA LITERARY HUB