Digame is a monthly series featuring prominent Latinx leaders, activists, entrepreneurs, and public figures uplifting the community and making a difference.
Saraciea J. Fennell is a Black Honduran writer and the founder of The Bronx is Reading, an organization that promotes reading for all ages and hosts book events including Bronx Book Festival – the largest literary event in the Bronx. She is also a book publicist and editor, most recently having edited and contributed to the Latinx anthology, Wild Can’t Be Tamed (2021). In the book’s introduction, she wrote, “We are letting our truths run wild, and pushing against whatever it is you think is the ideal Latinx individual.” In her short story for the book, “Half In, Half Out” she wrote about her own evolution in understanding her roots after a stint in foster care in a white neighborhood in a more affluent part of Brooklyn. She shared what it was like navigating the world as a Black Latina and constantly being questioned about her identity, even being misidentified as Puerto Rican by her cousin at one point.
Fennell sits on the board for Latinx in Publishing as well as on the Advisory Board of People of Color in Publishing. She is dedicated to amplifying Afro-Latinx stories in publishing and diverse representation of Latinidad as a whole in the industry.
Which Latina(s) have had the greatest impact on your life and why?
There have been several Latinas who have had an impact in my life. Growing up JLo being from the Bronx and so successful was a great thing for young me to look up to. America Ferrera being one of the first Honduran actresses I discovered as a teen was a game changer for me, as there aren’t many Honduran American actresses. And of course Tatyana Ali, one of the first Afro-Latinas I watched on screen in one of my favorite shows growing up, The Fresh Prince!
If you could meet a Latina icon who is no longer alive, who would it be and why?
Celia Cruz no question. I love her music and although I’m not the best singer, I imagine doing karaoke with her, and just having a blast singing our hearts out.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Always go after your dreams. Nobody got you, like how you got you!
If you could pursue a career in an industry other than your own, what would it be and why?
If I could pursue a career in another industry, it would probably have to be Hollywood. I am a writer and do have dreams of one day writing for television and movies. I’m so inspired by creatives like Shonda Rhimes, Issa Rae, America Ferrera, and Jordan Peele these days.
Who was the first person to believe in your dreams/goals?
The first person to believe in my dreams/goals was my family. They saw something special in me and encouraged me to dream big, it’s because of them that I grew up feeling confident enough to go after them!
What do you wish more people understood about what you do?
I wear many hats so I’ll mention a few things I wish more people understood — that publicists can’t guarantee media/events coverage – but we do pitch our hearts out. As a writer, I wish people understood that it’s a career we spend our entire lives honing our skills to better our craft. The learning never stops.
What motivates you?
Both my passion to change the world and the support of my family and community motivates me.
How did you end up on the professional path you’re on now?
I stumbled into publishing while I was in college, after landing an internship at Simon & Schuster, I knew book publishing was the right place for me. I have always been a storyteller and writer so becoming an author was a natural path for me.
What is your greatest professional achievement so far? Personal achievement?
Wow, there are so many achievements I’ve accomplished over the years both professionally and personally. One of the greatest ones has been creating The Bronx is Reading – a multi-dimensional social good company that fosters a love of reading among people of all ages, especially young people, and the Bronx Book Festival – the largest literary event in the Bronx! A personal recent achievement has been having Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana, nominate me for Good Morning America’s Inspiration List!
What is a goal you have that you haven’t accomplished yet and what are you doing to get closer to accomplishing it?
A goal that I haven’t accomplished yet is opening up a brick and mortar bookstore in the Bronx. I’m currently fundraising to bring me one step closer to opening up the bookstore in the near future.
What pop culture moment made you feel seen?
Honestly speaking? The In The Heights movie backlash was a pop culture moment that made me feel seen as a Black latina. Media and people need to be called out on their crap when they continue to erase us and try to stifle us.
How do you practice self care?
I practice self care these days by unplugging on the weekend. I try hard not to go on social media, not to answer emails, basically not to engage with screens other than my television, ha! I spend my mornings meditating, and relaxing. Finding time for self care is very hard right now because the world constantly feels like it’s on fire, so tuning out the world for just a couple of days allows me to reset and just enjoy “me” time, and family time.
Shoutout an Instagram account that could use more love and tell us why you’re a fan:
I’m a huge fan of Afro-Latina toy designer / illustrator @Yeseniadraws I think everyone should be following her so they too can admire her gorgeous and vibrant art
Shoutout your favorite Latina owned business and why:
Bomba Curls owned by Dominicana Lulu Cordero, their hair products are chef’s kiss