Afro-Latinidad has finally come front and center and as we celebrate its exposure in music and film – there are still so many areas where Afro-Latinos, especially Afro-Latinas, are still working hard to find a spotlight. In literature, the canon is generally decided upon by the same ivory tower institutions over and over again until the end of time. There’s a reason why we still read F. Scott Fitzgerald, Harper Lee, John Steinbeck, and Ernest Hemingway in high school despite the presence of other more culturally relevant authors. No shade, books like The Great Gatsby and Of Mice and Men are classics, but they are classics because we have been told that they are the pinnacle of great literature. So as Black History Month comes to a close it’s a good time to celebrate the Afro-Latinas who’s work contributes to the global conversation by continuing to provide the literary world with alternate voices, new textures and different perspectives.
The Devil’s Nose by Luz Argentina Chiriboga
This historical fiction is a story of the thousands of Jamaicans journeyed to Ecuador at the end of the nineteenth century, with hopes for a brighter future. However, to make that dream a reality, first they had to build Presidente Eloy Alfaro’s ambitious project – a railroad system that would connect Guayaquil and Quito. And in order to do that they had to conquer one of the most dangerous peaks in the Andes – la nariz del diablo (The Devil’s Nose) – one of the greatest feats of engineering from the viewpoint of the people who built it.
La amante de Gardel by Mayra Santos Febres
Carlos Gardel is the most prominent figure in the history of Tango. In this story we see the world through the eyes of his lover. Febres unpacks issues of race, gender, diaspora and the internal conflict of a woman willing to give everything up for love.
A Woman of Endurance (coming soon) by Dahlma Llanos Figueroa
This moving story is about a Puerto Rican slave that is caught trying to escape in the very first scene of the book. You can imagine why the title is significant, Figueroa illustrates the very different experiences Puerto Ricans lived based on their skin color as well as the sexual abuse of female slaves during colonial times. You can read the first chapter here.
Bad Hair Does Not Exist by Sulma Arzu-Brown
Bad Hair Does Not Exist is a bilingual book children’s book for Afro-Latinas, biracial and mixed girls who don’t always see themselves and their hair represented as beautiful. It teaches girls other positive ways to describe their hair and to respect each other’s differences.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Award-winning slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel-in-verse is about a young Dominican heroine who discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her life in Harlem and her place in the world.
Mama’s Girl by Veronica Chambers
Mama’s Girl is the story of a strained mother/daughter bond and all of the ways traditions, gender, circumstance and hindsight affect the way a young Panamanian Bronx girl in the 1970’s becomes a woman.