Growing up an avid reader, there were very few books that reflected my Dominican-American experience — an experience that’s unique depending on one’s race and class. In the past 20 years, we have seen an influx of Dominicanas in literature. These women put in words the rich culture of Afro-Dominicanidad, tough conversations revolving around race and identity, the generational traumas that consume our beings and the much healing still left to assume.
Currently based out of Dallas, Melania Luisa Marte is one of the strongest Afro-Dominican voices today. Her initiative to add “Afro-Latina” in the dictionary along with her poem has sparked a much-needed conversation in the Latinx community. Her book entitled Mela unpacks the emotions relating to culture, love, and healing. “I wanted Dominican-American girls to have access to poems that reflected their existence, their culture, their experiences,” she tells Hip Latina. “I wanted to carve space for a world that allowed us to be unapologetically Black, Caribeña, and proud of the lineage of women we come from who taught us to worship the magical fruit we are made of.”
Amanda Alcantara’s book comprised of journal entries, short stories, and poems, Chula, is filled with Carribean tones that tell the story of her early life and struggles but more importantly her Afro- Carribean identity. ”I want them to know that no matter how complicated their story is they can also heal. All of our healing journeys are very different and to embrace their individuality. Whatever else they get from the book, please do. I want them to be badasses, too,” she said to HipLatina last March.
Launching on the 5th of October, Malcriada & Other Stories focuses on the lives of several Dominican immigrants boarding an illegal voyage from their island to Puerto Rico. More importantly, the story deals with trauma and the coverups that take place. Avila was motivated to write the book while experiencing life’s hardships: death, a break-up and the rupture of a friendship.”I honestly have never read about a set of Dominican kids in heaven or about complicated relationships between Dominican sisters and friends due to respectability politics,” she tells HipLatina. “I like to believe the entire book is written from an authentic DominicanYork voice. I wrote these stories in the way we speak: in tangents and ongoing sentences.”
New York Times best-selling author of Poet X and Fire on High Elizabeth Acevedo is most known for pushing Afro-Latinx narratives to the forefront in the publishing space.”I write for us. I write for us to see ourselves depicted with tenderness and nuance and ferocity and unflinching honesty,” she told HipLatina last April. “I hope young Latinx readers, particularly if they are Afro-Latinx, see that they are allowed to be the heroes, they are allowed to live loudly and colorfully and with their whole selves. I hope they know they are seen and loved and that I’m rooting for and cheering on, their triumphs.”
Dominican-American experiences and the island’s political history was well represented in books like In the Times of The Butterflies and How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. As one of the most critically acclaimed Latin American writers, Julia Alvarez built a career on writing assimilation and cultural identity-focused essays, poems, and novels. Her books serve to many of this generation, the first acts of representation found in American literature.
Falling under the umbrella of Raquel Cepeda is a journalist, auto-biographer, critic, and film-maker. Her autobiographical book Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina, details her early upbringing as a Dominican-American growing up in Washington Heights. The tale of self-discovery similarly aligns with the experience of many first-generation Afro-Carribeans, an experience filled questioning one’s roots and identity, belonging in the world and the non-conventional conversations that must take place.
The Fort Greene, Brooklyn native Naima Coster made her debut with Halsey Street, which reveals the hardships of a family undergoing a transition in a gentrified New York City neighborhood. This was inspired by Coster’s concern about a changing Brooklyn and the material losses related to that transition. Topics on race, class, and ethnicity are highlighted as the main character, artist Penelope returns to her old neighborhood and finds it unrecognizable.
Washington Heights native Angie Cruz made her grand debut with Soledad. Recently she launched Dominicana, a book that tells the story of a 15-year-old Ana who marries a man twice her age as a way to chase the American dream and help her family. Set in the 60s during the height of Dominican politics, Cruz unravels an immigrant’s story in a generation experiencing turmoil.
Dr. Ana-Maurine Lara
Born in the Dominican Republic, LGBTQ activist and novelist Dr. Ana-Maurine Lara’s work centers on ancestry and the liberation questioning of black and indigenous women. Her book Erzulie’s Skirt was a finalist for the Lambda Literary Award in Lesbian Debut Fiction. The story focuses on the lives of three women living in the poor barrios of Santo Domingo, and sugar cane plantation and rural villages of la isla as they grapple with love and tragedy.
The self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegurl” Sofia Quintero has written fiction hip-hop and erotica novels under the pen name Black Artemis. The Dominican-Puerto Rican writer is known for works like Explicit Content, Divas Don’t Yield, and her award-winning young adult fiction debut Efrain’s Secret. The Columbia University grad is an educator who mentors at Urban Word NYC.