Calladitas No More

Four Latina Authors Get Real About Their Role in the Romance Industry

In 2015, the billion-dollar romance book industry represented 34 percent of all fiction sold in the United States. At the heart of these stories — whether they’re heartwarming, steamy or funny — is a fictional couple (or more) finding its way to a happily-ever-after. Not surprisingly, like much of the media we consume, white heterosexuals dominate this fictional landscape. But times are changing, and these four Latina romance authors, along with their contemporaries and others who preceded them, are writing stories where Latinx people get their fairytale ending, too.

Here, we share a few candid insights about Latinx representation in romance, our efforts to battle stereotypes, the importance of creating multi-dimensional characters from a variety of backgrounds and the need for progress in depicting Latinx intersectionality.

Alexis Daria, Puerto Rican, Author of Sexy Contemporary Romances

Positive representation in romance novels doesn’t just provide the joy of seeing yourself on the page; it’s an affirmation that you belong in the world of the love stories you love reading. When I read romances where only white characters show up on the page, I call BS. This is not just unrealistic, but negligent and lazy as well. As writers, we’re creating worlds we wish existed, where love triumphs over evil and where people can change and heal through the power of love before finding a happily-ever-after. If we can do all that, we can certainly include casts of characters who are diverse and richly developed, not propped up by tired — or worse, harmful — stereotypes.

Writing inclusively doesn’t require reinventing the wheel, but romance authors do have a responsibility to dig deeper into their character development tool boxes when crafting all characters in the story, not just the ones falling in love. Unless the protagonists are trapped in a remote cabin or lost in space, they will likely encounter other people over the course of the story. This is an opportunity for romance writers to stretch their skills by creating multidimensional characters from a variety of backgrounds. And while a character’s racial or cultural background does inform who they are, it should not be the only trait used to describe them.

As a Latina and native New Yorker, it’s important to me that the stories I write reflect the world I live in. My heroines are Latinas living in big cities, but they’re also surrounded by characters from diverse backgrounds who have their own lives separate from the protagonists’. It’s not enough for me to just include Latinx representation; my goal is to show these characters living, loving and interacting with people from a variety of backgrounds. Some might call that “diversity for diversity’s sake,” but I say it’s realistic and responsible storytelling.

Mia Sosa, Brazilian-Puerto Rican, Author of Steamy Romantic Comedies

Confession: I wept along with Gina Rodriguez when she accepted the Best Actress Golden Globe Award for her groundbreaking title role in Jane the Virgin. Why? Because representation matters. When you watch a television show or see a movie, it’s uplifting and gratifying to see aspects of your culture respectfully represented on the screen. But here’s the rub: Although we’re making inroads in showing positive examples of Latinx culture in mass media, the people and groups whose identities don’t fit the mold of the prototypical Latinx remain hidden from view.

Let’s face it, Latinx people are no strangers to anti-blackness and colorism, and many of us know people, perhaps individuals in our own families, who don’t embrace the LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, romance novels often suffer from the same erasure, my own first few works included.

As an Afro-Latinx romance writer who now understands the power of the metaphorical pen in my hand, I’m mindful that to be fully inclusive, the worlds I create in my books should represent the different skin colors, hair textures, socioeconomic backgrounds, sexual orientations and gender identities that make up our Latinidad. So when my publisher’s art department wanted guidance on the cover for one of my recent books, “Acting on Impulse,” I thought of my own daughters, with their brown skin and curly hair, and sent the team photos that captured the essence of the woman I was trying to portray. I couldn’t have been happier with the result, and when my girls saw the cover, they adored it. Now they’re not allowed to read the book for another decade or so (#sexytimesincluded), but it touches me to think that years from now they’ll be able to pick it up and read a love story featuring a person who looks like them.

There’s much more to be done, of course, and thankfully other authors are doing the work, too, but I hope I’m headed in the right direction.

Sabrina Sol, Mexican, Author of Erotic Romance and Women’s Fiction

The lazy construction worker. The over-sexed single mom. The drug kingpin.

These are the Latinx stereotypes we can’t get away from. Turn on the TV, and it won’t be long before one of these characters shows up on your favorite prime time network.

They’re in romance books, too, unfortunately. In fact, I remember being so angry about a book written by a USA Today best-selling (white) author where the only Latinx character in it was the day laborer who worked for the hero’s construction company. He never was in a scene or had any dialogue, but he was constantly referred to as the only employee who couldn’t be relied upon to show up for a job. I wanted to e-mail that author and ask why she felt the need to name the lazy worker “Juan” instead of “John.” I never e-mailed, though, because I already knew the answer.

Others might not have noticed—or even cared. But I knew there were readers out there, like me, who did.

That’s when I started writing romance, and I made a conscious decision to only write Latina heroines. I work hard to stay away from negative stereotypes and, instead, make an effort to give my characters full and complex lives. The romance is just the cherry on top.

My heroines and their heroes are usually college-educated and excel in their white collar, professional careers. They are celebrities, own their own businesses, live in expensive homes and make tons of money. And if they’re blue-collar workers, then I purposefully depict them as being dedicated, successful honest and hard-working.

Because while there is nothing wrong with having a character be a day laborer or a maid, there is absolutely everything wrong in writing them as if that is all they are.

Priscilla Oliveras, Puerto Rican-Mexican, Heartwarming Contemporary Romance Author

While my debut novel released last fall, I’ve been writing for a long, LONG, time — let’s say I began in utero, OK? Actually, I was a 20-year-old military spouse, new mom and college co-ed when I first sat in front of an electric typewriter to peck away at what I assumed would be the next romance best-seller. Reality check!

Back then, I’d been devouring romances for years, reading and re-reading my favorites. So when I had to take a semester off due to a military move, I figured I’d try penning my own. My first two manuscripts will never see the light of day, but they were valuable learning tools, highlighting the need to hone my craft and find my personal author voice.

The problem was, I mimicked the type of stories I’d read, rather than trusting the creative meanderings in my mind. In those early days, I honestly can’t recall reading any books with Latinx characters. Not as the main ones anyway. So basically I was trying to force the stories in my head into someone else’s mold. But the narratives I wanted to tell were about diverse characters that lived and loved in a diverse world. Much like my own.

It wasn’t really until 1999, when Kensington Publishing opened their Encanto line with authors like Caridad Pineiro, Berta Platas, Lara Rios and others, that I saw stories like the ones I imagined, written by authors I identified with. And while the line folded after only two years, the possibility that my stories could find a home took root. Meeting those ladies at a Latina writers conference later gave me the confidence to cultivate my voice in a world that needs #ownvoices.

Sí, I write contemporary romance with a Latinx flavor. I write stories about Latinx familias living and loving and finding their way in a multi-cultural world that isn’t always easy to navigate. I write romances that celebrate the joy, pain, frustration and blessings that are universal, no matter where we’re from or where we live. There’s a place at the romance table for my work and me. There’s a place for all of us.

Read: Meet Angela Maria Spring, The Latina Creating Space For Book Lovers Of Color In Washington, DC

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

Fans of magical realism rejoice. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it acquired the rights to Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and will be turning the literary masterpiece into a Spanish-language series.

This is the first time the 1967 novel, considered “one of the most significant works of the 20th Century,” will be adapted for screen. For years, the author, who died in 2014, refused to sell the film rights, believing the story could not be done justice through a two-hour project, according to Deadline.

Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha, García Márquez’s sons, who are serving as executive producers on the show, believe a series is an appropriate approach to the book.

“For decades, our father was reluctant to sell the film rights to Cien Años de Soledad. He believed that it could not be made under the time constraints of a feature film, or that producing it in a language other than Spanish would not do it justice,” Rodrigo Garcia told BuzzFeed News, adding that the “current golden age of series,” with “the level of talented writing and directing, the cinematic quality of content,” changed the family’s mind.

“The time could not be better to bring an adaptation to the extraordinary global viewership that Netflix provides,” he continued.

The series will be filmed in Colombia.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of the multi-generational Buendia family, whose patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia founded Macondo, a fictional town in the South American country.

The book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 46 languages.

In a statement, Francisco Ramos, Netflix’s vice president of Spanish-language content, said, “We know our members around the world love watching Spanish-language films and series and we feel this will be a perfect match of project and our platform.”

He’s right. Since announcing the adaptation, fans of the magical realism novel have been celebrating the news.

There’s no word yet on when the series will debut and who will star in it.

Read: This Film About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is At The Center Of The Most Expensive Sundance Documentary Deal Of All Time

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Latina Reads: ‘Pride’ Is The Afro-Latinx YA Novel You Wish You Read As A Teen

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Latina Reads: ‘Pride’ Is The Afro-Latinx YA Novel You Wish You Read As A Teen

It’s no secret that Latinx representation is severely missing in media, especially for Afro-Latinos. Although the numbers are slowly getting better on television, movies and in music, the literary space is still lagging behind. But all of that is slowly changing in particular thanks to critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi, whose first novel, American Street, told the tale of young Haitian immigrant Fabiola Toussaint navigating the dangerous streets of Detroit on her own after her mother is detained by U.S. immigration.

Now, Zoboi brings us a timely update on the classic novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin — but this time told through the perspectives of Zuri Benitez (a.k.a. Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (a.k.a. Mr. Darcy).

Zoboi’s latest masterpiece is titled Pride.

In Pride, we first meet Zuri, an Afro-Latina teen who has plenty of pride. She has pride in her roots, pride in her family and, most of all, pride in Brooklyn. But when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri isn’t sure that her pride is enough to change the gentrification that is quickly happening in her beloved neighborhood. Even worse, her older sister Janae starts to fall for charming Ainsley at the same time as Zuri is thrown together with the arrogant Darius, who she can’t stand and wants nothing to do with.

It’s an unexpected joy to be drawn into the world of Pride, where so many changes are happening all at once. As Bushwick changes and families that used to live there for ages are priced out and Zuri begins to fight to keep her home, we readers are drawn into her battle quickly.

She is just the kind of Latina that we rarely read about before: She is smart, quick-witted and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She is passionate, cares deeply about her family and is, in a sense, even a little fearless. But she’s also still a teenager, which is part of what makes this novel so irresistible.

Zuri has all the hope and fears that we all had as kids about to turn into adults.

She sees the world changing and she doesn’t know what she can do about it but she wants to do something. It’s that passion and drive which makes her both a captivating character and someone we can relate to.

And perhaps because Zuri is a teenager or because this is a remix of Pride and Prejudice, there is the predictable romantic chaos. Soon enough, Zuri finds herself being pulled in different directions by her growing attraction to Darius, who she still kind of hates, and the oh-so-cute Warren (a.k.a George Wickham), who Darius kind of hates.

One of the most surprising and enchanting things about the novel, however, is the way the characters speak. Zoboi doesn’t try to dumb down or change their language. She doesn’t try to make them sound high-brow or proper, which some reviewers had a problem with, but she does make them sound like exactly who they are: An Afro-Latino family growing up in today’s Brooklyn. Zuri is unapologetically herself and the way she speaks is beautiful, complicated and not even remotely make-belief.

One of the big wins of Pride is that Zuri and the other characters sound like themselves with no pretense and just the right amount of class and a dash of sass.

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Repost from @owlcrate We were so thrilled to include Pride by @ibizoboi in our October box! It’s a modern day Pride and Prejudice remix set in Brooklyn, NY. It deals with many complex issues but is also totally swoon-worthy. And Ibi’s writing is absolutely stunning! ???? The edition we included featured an exclusive cover, exclusive end papers, exclusive color hardback, and it was SIGNED! The publisher truly put a lot of love into the design of this book! ???? Want to get your hands on a copy? We have some extras available for purchase at shop.owlcrate.com while supplies last. ???? Have you read Pride yet? What did you think?? ???? Photos tagged with the original creators! ???? OwlCrate Photo Challenge: Pride & Hot Pink. #ocbookstore ???? #owlcrate #subscriptionbox #bookstagram #pride #ibizoboi #exclusiveedition #bookmail #happyreading #currentlyreading #epicreads

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Without revealing too much about how the novel ends (you’ll have to actually read all of Pride for that), it’s safe to say that Zoboi deserves all of the praise that she has received for her work. But what really matters in a book like this isn’t how she “skillfully balances cultural identity, class and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic” (from the book’s back cover), though these things are all great too, but rather what it represents and means for future generation of Latinx kids picking up this young adult novel at their library, local bookstore or online.

A book like this can mean so much to those of us who grew up without seeing ourselves in the pages of the books we were taught in school or the books we found at the library. It’s why today, even as adults, we still pick up YA novels with the hopes of seeing our younger selves in their pages. A book like Pride reminds us of that. It reminds us of what it’s like to be a teen and it reinforces the importance of seeing yourself in literature.

The Haitian author, who recently took down an “insulting review” of Pride that made us all wish we had her clap-back game, touched on something special in the story of Zuri the Afro-Latina in Brooklyn. Here’s hoping Zoboi continues to write her black and Latinx representative novels for a long, long time.

Read: 13 Latina Fantasy Books For the Sci-Fi Lover in Your Life

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