latinx writers

Hispanic Heritage Month and the Importance of Reading from Latinx Writers

Earlier this month, before Hispanic Heritage Month even started, recommendation lists with books to read during the month started to come out. And while most of them included exclusively Latin American authors, some of them also had books about Latin America from white authors, some even included the extremely controversial American Dirt. If you somehow missed all of that drama at the beginning of this year I won’t just sit here and beat an already dead horse but I will say, in short, that, that book—despite all the good intentions it might’ve had—was painfully stereotypical and opportunistic. It took the story of thousands of immigrants, the grueling journey and painful decisions they have to make, and brushed off some of the deeper issues concerning immigration and cartel violence in Latin America to make it digestible to a white audience. As if we needed another Latinx suffering story, and from a white author (with a savior complex?).

But the issue goes faaaar beyond this individual book. The truth is that Latin American literature has a very limited space in the United States. Speaking from personal experience, as a Writing and Literature major in college, I could probably count on one hand the number of books from Latin American writers I’ve had to read for class. Even back when I was in high school in Latin America, a lot of the times we’d read American classics, because that was what we had to know. I’ve even asked many of my American friends if they ever had to read at least one Latinx book, the answer is almost always no. And publishing as an industry is unfair to us too. Not only do we get published less, but we don’t get paid as much when we do.

What finally broke the 'no Chicanos' rule at the reemergent Museum of Latin American Art - Los Angeles Times

Image via  Los angeles times

The literature and perspective of 20 countries are being overlooked. And then we have people who don’t even belong to these cultures try to speak over us. What we get from that is a flat and homogenous look at half a continent, or are we not familiar with that yellow filter they use in movies when trying to depict a third world country?

So yeah, Hispanic Heritage Month—or Latinx Heritage Month, because not every Latin American speaks Spanish—matters. We are so much more than poverty and drug cartels. Our history and culture are rich and so are our contributions to the literary world. Our stories matter and we have many more to tell that are not Latinx suffering. I can’t tell you what to read, at the end of the day that choice is yours, but if you want to read about Latin America, both the place and the people that come from it, please do so from them, AKA the people who actually know what it’s like. Not even just in the moral sense of it, but I promise you you’re going to get a much better experience from it.

And if you want some recs, I got you right here.

Mes de la Herencia Hispana y la importancia de leer autores Latino Americanos. 

Tiempo atrás este mes, antes que el Mes de la Herencia Hispana empezara, listas de recomendaciones con libros que leer durante el mes comenzaron a salir. Y mientras la mayoría de ellas tenían exclusivamente autores Latino Americanos, algunas tenían libros sobre Latino América escritos por autores blancos, y algunas de ellas incluso tenían la controversial novela Tierra Americana. Si de alguna manera te perdiste todo el drama al principio de este año no quiero solo estar aquí pegándole a la mula muerta pero solo diré, en corto, que ese libro—sin importar las buenas intensiones que pudo haber tenido—fue dolorosamente estereotípico y oportunista. Tomó la historia de miles de inmigrantes, el laborioso camino que tienen que llevar y las dolorosas decisiones que toman, e ignoro los problemas mas serios y profundos sobre la inmigración y la violencia de carteles en Latino América para hacerlo todo digerible para una audiencia blanca. Como si necesitáramos otra historia de dolor latino, y encima de todo de un autor blanco (con complejo de héroe).

Pero el problema va mucho maas lejos que ese libro. La realidad es que la literatura Latino Americana tiene un espacio muy limitado en los Estados Unidos. Hablando desde experiencia personal, y como estudiante de universidad en literatura y escritura, puedo contar con una mano el número de libros de autores latino americanos que me han asignado. Incluso cuando en la preparatoria en Latino América, muchas de las veces leíamos clásicos americanos porque eso era lo que necesitábamos saber. Incluso le he preguntado a mis amigos americanos si ellos alguna vez tuvieron que leer algún libro de un autor latinx, y la respuesta es casi siempre no. La industria editorial es muy injusta hacia nosotros también. No solo nuestros libros no son publicados, también nos pagan menos cuando si lo son.

What finally broke the 'no Chicanos' rule at the reemergent Museum of Latin American Art - Los Angeles Times

Image via  Los angeles times

Esa es la literatura y perspectiva de 20 países siendo sobrevista. Y luego tenemos gente que quiere hablar por encima de nosotros. Lo que obtenemos de eso es una vista plana y homogénea de medio continente. ¿O que no estamos ya familiarizados con el filtro amarillo que usa en las películas cuando quieren representar a un país tercermundista?

Así que si, el Mes de la Herencia Hispana—o Mes de la Herencia Latinx porque no todos los Latinxs hablan español—importa. Somos mucho mas que pobreza y carteles de drogas. Nuestra historia y cultura es rica y también lo es nuestras contribuciones al mundo literario. Nuestras historias importan y tenemos muchas mas que no son sobre sufrimiento latino. No puedo decirte que o que no leer, al final del día esa es tu decisión, pero si quieres leer sobre Latino América, el lugar y la gente que viene de ahí, por favor hazlo de ellos, la gente que sabe como es en realidad. No solo en el sentido moral, también te prometo que lo vas a disfrutar mucho más.

Y si quieres recomendaciones, aquí te dejo unas.


Featured image via pinterest

‘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.

Read more

'Juliet Takes a Breath' Cover

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with ‘Juliet Takes a Breath’

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month beginning today, it only seemed to right to share a wonderfully written YA novel by the Puerto Rican, queer, Bronx-born icon Gabby Rivera. She is the first Latina to ever write for Marvel and the mastermind behind the America comics series, starring America Chavez. Juliet Takes a Breath is Rivera’s first fiction work—and an utterly smashing one at that.

The story opens with Juliet Milagros Palante, a queer, Puerto Rican college student with a whole lot of questions. And, a whole lot of hope. At only nineteen years old, Bronx-born Juliet is still trying to figure out how all the aspects of her identity come together. Her first year of college brought her her first girlfriend, Lanie. Amongst all the excitement and puppy eyes that come with your first love, Juliet can’t ignore two unsettling facts: Lanie refuses to introduce her to her parents, and Juliet has yet to come out to her own family. Juliet also has to battle anxiety-induced asthma and growing insecurities around her chubby brown body. It’s at this crossroads that she finds the book that will change her life: Harlowe Brisbane’s Raging Flower: Empowering Your Pussy by Empowering your Mind.

Gabby Rivera

Author gabby rivera | via nbc news

Excited by her first exposure to queer-centric, radical feminism, Juliet emails Harlowe to ask if she can spend the summer interning with the acclaimed feminist in Portland, Oregon. To Juliet’s surprise, and delight, Harlowe emails her back. It’s a yes.

That’s how Juliet ends up in the middle of quirky, weird, and very white Portland. If being dropped in a city that feels like another planet weren’t disorienting enough, Juliet’s head is still reeling from coming out to her family the night before she left. It didn’t go well. Nevertheless, she persists and launches herself into Portland life. The vibrant people she meets not only help her begin to make sense of her identity, but also realize that it’s okay to not have the answer to every single question.

She learns what preferred gender pronouns are and what it means to not conform to gender entirely. She meets expecting queer parents and a writing circle comprised entirely of Black female authors. She faces the reality of hegemonic whiteness and its enduring detrimental effects on feminism. She meets an adorably cute, motorcycle-riding librarian who actually makes her feel appreciated for who she is—something she can’t say about Lanie. Juliet’s relationship with her family, though strained at times, evolves in ways that both break your heart and put it back together. Through it all, Juliet remains curious with the world. She allows herself to feel her pain and emotions with full force and learns from them. Most importantly, she refuses to be deterred from living and loving with beautiful conviction. When Juliet embraces her identity as a queer, Puerto Rican, Bronx-born, and burgeoning intersectional feminist, you can’t help but feel proud.

Juliet in comic form

Juliet in comic form | Via los angeles times

That’s one of the most special things about Juliet. She’s fiercely independent and entirely vulnerable at the same time, demonstrating that the two qualities aren’t mutually exclusive. They make her, and every single one of us, all the more human. Rivera writes with unmistakable authenticity. Every interaction, every train of thought, and every depiction feels real. You can’t help but knowingly laugh when Juliet is a sweaty disaster over talking to a pretty girl. Your chest aches during Juliet’s tense phone calls with her mother. And, you know the excitement, nerves, and relief that all come when she walks into the middle of a huge, gay party because she’s finally found her people. Rivera confronts the monolithic white, cis stereotype of the queer woman with grace and uses her platform to highlight the actual diversity of the queer female community. That’s why Juliet Takes a Breath is so important. It’s rare that queer women are given a narrative written with so much care in representing all of the unique identities that exist within our community and lived experience. As a queer woman who’s in her early 20s and also still trying to figure everything out, reading Rivera’s words really is like taking a breath. She makes you feel understood, and she makes you feel like you’re not alone.

Feature image via purewow