Latinas continue to be underrepresented in the publishing industry, a study from Lee & Low Books found that Latinxs make up 2 percent of editorial and 3 percent at executive positions, but more and more Latina authors are making a difference. Romance novelist Annette Chavez Macias, who published her beloved debut novel Big Chicas Don’t Cry last fall, continues to be one of those groundbreaking writers thanks to her newest book. Released on March 21, Too Soon for Adiós centers on a young woman named Gabby who meets her biological father for the first time on the day of her mother’s funeral, further complicating her grief, loss, and memories of the relationship with the woman who raised her. Featuring a whirlwind romance, Gabby’s love of cooking, and found family, it all comes to a head when she discovers she is a direct descendant of an Adelita—one of the female soldiers who fought in the Mexican Revolution and were an instrumental, yet little-known part of the war—finally allowing herself to embrace her Mexican roots, family, and where she comes from.
“When I pitched the story, I already knew that that the main part, besides her grief and getting over her mother’s death, was about this woman who goes on this journey to rediscover her past through her Mexican heritage,” Macias tells HipLatina. “But I wasn’t sure how that was going to happen until I saw this TikTok video about the story behind the Valentina hot sauce and how the name is supposedly inspired by an Adelita. I’d never heard of them but I did research and was inspired and moved by these women who went to go fight in a war.”
Many people in the community, even Mexican Americans, even Macias whose great-grandfather rode with Pancho Villa during the Revolution, have never heard of the Adelitas despite the undeniable role they played in one of the country’s most important fights. If they weren’t cooking for the troops, they dressed up in men’s clothing and fought alongside their fellow soldiers, sometimes their husbands, at the expense of their families, marriages, and the goodwill of their neighbors who often ostracized them upon their return to their villages—think Mulan but Mexican-style.
“it was something that was important to them, something that they were passionate about, or something they did to make sure that their families survived,” Macias explains. “This is the story of women who played an important role in a major historical event but are not widely known for their efforts, who were footnotes in history. We should be talking about them more and be inspired by what they went through because who goes off to war when you don’t have to?”
After many years in the making, Macias was ready to release Too Soon for Adiós and share this extraordinary story of loss and rediscovery with the world. But she’s been writing and storytelling for much longer, beginning with reading constantly and writing short stories and poems in childhood, then transitioning to journalism in college and later, public relations and marketing which she still pursues as a day job. Though she was still technically writing, she reached a breaking point after many years as she was about to turn 40, entering a midlife crisis spiral of regrets and thoughts about “whatever happened to me becoming an author,” and motivating herself to finally follow her dream.
From there, she entered multiple contests, joined writing groups, talked to published authors, and submitted her manuscript to agents. But it wasn’t until she participated in a pitch contest on social media that she finally landed an agent, not to mention a two-book publishing deal for Big Chicas Don’t Cry and what would later become Too Soon for Adiós. Big Chicas Don’t Cry follows four cousins and best friends Mari, Erica, Selena, and Gracie as they spend their childhood swapping secrets and sharing family traditions, ended by Mari’s parents splitting up and moving away, then reuniting fifteen years later in the face of personal loss, hardships, and crises. Upon its release, her debut became a huge success, especially in the Latinx romance community, receiving critical acclaim and named on notable book round-ups in 2022.
Since then, it’s been an important mission for her to depict the joys and romance of life for her characters in all of her work without completely disregarding the hardships, which she explores throughout her new novel as well.
“Because of the heavy subject of grief, I wanted to have those threads of hope weaved through the story. You can find that through the romance but also through the cooking. There are a lot of scenes of cooking and talking about food, how much Gabby enjoys it, and how much joy it gives her. She rediscovers that by working on these new recipes and cooking with her estranged father.”
For Macias, cooking is an essential part not only of her life but also of her storytelling. With scenes of Gabby devouring and making everything from meatball sliders to sopes to salsa, the book covers a large range of cuisines to reflect her—and Gabby’s—love of food, which goes hand in hand with her heritage.
“Coming from a big Mexican American family, food is and has always been a big part of our gatherings,” she says. “There are certain foods that we always have for different celebrations. As I got older and had a family of my own, I wanted to learn those recipes. It’s a way for me to connect to my culture, show that to my children, and be proud of the foods that we eat. Most of my books will probably always have some type of food in them just because it plays a big role in my life and my culture.”
A large reason for this celebration comes from the fact that Macias rarely was able to read books about Latinx characters, whether she didn’t seek them out or they didn’t exist yet, which led to feelings of resistance, rejecting the idea that stories told by white people were the only ones that mattered and crafting the stories she needed for herself.
“When I started writing, I made the conscious effort to write books about Hispanic characters, mostly Mexican American but also other ethnicities and cultures, drawing from my own experiences growing up as a Mexican American in Southern California,” she says. “I wanted to read and write books where I can see myself and my family and my food reflected in the pages.”
Ultimately, however, she wants all of her work (including her next romance book which she hopes will be available to readers soon) can offer universal messages of hope and healing for all readers. As she continues chasing the dream she’d had ever since she was a young girl, even though it began later in life than expected by the industry or even other writers, it’s important for her that readers of all walks of life can not only sympathize but empathize with the characters she crafts on the page. She notes:
You don’t have to be Mexican American to relate to the story because the overall theme of the story is about the different ways we process our trauma and our grief. I hope readers walk away being able to work through their own personal grief journey because sometimes it’s helpful to see others going through it and to feel supported.