Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Even Latina Authors Get the Blues

I spend a lot of time thinking about books. I think about writing books, reading books and promoting books. I like talking to other authors about their writing process and I think about how I can get both of my books, Hair Story:Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America and Kinky Gazpacho into the hands of Oprah Winfrey and the Obama family. What I don't spend a whole lot of time thinking about is the plight of Latina authors and the books they write.

What, with Junot Diaz running around winning every award known to man, I kind of figured Latino/a authors were hot right now. But then I read this heart wrenching blog post by Latina author, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez. (If the link doesn't take you directly to the post, go to her diary and read the post from Tuesday, April 6). In it, Rodriguez rips the curtain off the presumed success of Latina authors, herself included, and rages against a racist culture that doesn't know what to do with Latino/a authors who don't want to write stereotypes of the Latin lifestyle. She rants:

"Then there is the issue of non-Latinos and my work. Because I do not write of Latinos as pitiable in any way, or from the dominant perspective of us (as do Junot Diaz, Sandra Cisneros, etc.) I am spurned in literary circles. If I wrote of Latinos as struggling, poor, miserable (like this post, for instance) I would have had a much easier time being noticed by, say, The New York Times, where the only valid story of Latinos must be one of tragedy and sorrow, barrios and gangbangers."

Ouch! This sounds so familiar. If you can, read the rest of the post and see if you learn something. I did. Now I know that it's not just Black authors struggling, even Latina authors get the blues. Perhaps Valdes-Rodriguez should start a website like my friend Carleen Brice who created the website White Readers Meet Black Authors when her frustration at Seg-Book-Gation became too great.

My goodness, I'll be so happy when all books will not only be created equally, but read equally.

And Speaking of Books. THE WINNER OF KATHLEEN GRISSOM'S, THE KITCHEN HOUSE IS ... Pernicious Panda!!!!
Pernicious, send us an email at with your name and address and we'll send you your book right away. Congrats and thanks to everyone who entered.


Carleen Brice said...

Thanks for the shout out. Sigh that it is necessary. At your kind invitation, I'll ask your readers to vote for White Readers Meet Black Authors in the Author Blog Awards contest. Maybe if I win we can draw more attention to these issues

nyc/caribbean ragazza said...

I read her post. Wow.

She's broke? How is that possible? After reading about cast members from "Jersey Shore" and Giuliana and Bill Rancic getting book deals I know publishing is in a weird place but a half million dollar advance plus royalties is a pretty big deal. Also she sold the films rights to at least two of her novels.

Maybe she needed a better money manager.

Comparing your success to other writers, regardless of their race, will do nothing but cause you to slit your wrists. Jennifer Weiner's second, third etc novels have all been monster international hits with strong reviews. There are many writers who wish they had Alisa's success.

Valdes-Rodriguez writes commercial fiction. Why would she expect to be praised in literary fiction circles?

I think she does Junot Diaz a disservice. He's praised because he's a brilliant freaking writer. It's not like Weiner is getting nominated for major literary awards either.

I thought "The Dirty Girls Social Club" was a fun read. Maybe some day it will still make it to the big screen.

It's tough being a writer of color (unless you are a comic) but we have to keep on keeping on.

LT said...

I hope you win. You deserve it for all you do to promote AA authors.

I know. It's kind of chilling. You make some good points though. I do agree that comparing yourself to others though is a sure way to hell.

Ola said...

Interesting. I've never read one of Valdes-Rodriguez's books but I thought she was a popular author simply b/c her books get a lot of circulation at the library where I work. When a new novel of hers hit the shelves there is sometimes a waiting list for it.

I'm inclinded to agree with Ragazza on this. Hopefully things will change. I know after this post i'll now put her on my list of authors to check out.