Afro-Latinos make up a quarter of the Latino community in the U.S. but are drastically underrepresented in the publishing world. According to the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, in the past 20 years, the number of multicultural books has lingered at around 10 percent, with a spike in 2015 to 20 percent.
However, there are several women who are uniquely talented and have developed their own literary styles and voices that illustrate the multitudes within Afro-Latinidad.
Here, seven Afro-Latina authors you should be reading.
1. Elizabeth Acevedo
Most recently, this dominicana has been dominating the literary scene with her debut young adult novel, “The Poet X,” but Elizabeth Acevedo has been capturing hearts with her slam poetry for years now. Her poem “Afro-Latino” is a proud exclamation of her roots, especially lines like “Viviremos para siempre, Afro-Latinos hasta la muerte.” The protagonist in “The Poet X,” Xiomara, mirrors the author’s passions, including using poetry as a tool to tackle colonialism, anti-blackness and sexism.
2. Ivelisse Rodriguez
Ivelisse Rodriguez’s upcoming debut collection of short stories, “Love War Stories,” follows generations of Puerto Rican women in the pursuit of love and has already received high praise from fellow Afro-Latino writer Junot Diaz. Born in Puerto Rico, Rodriguez founded The Contemporary Puerto Rican Literature Project and is currently a writer for Feminist Press while working on her next novel, “The Last Salsa Singer,” about ‘70s era salsa musicians in Puerto Rico.
3. Veronica Chambers
— Veronica Chambers (@vvchambers) March 16, 2017
Born in Panama, Brooklynite Veronica Chambers gained acclaim with her 1996 memoir, “Mama’s Girl.” More recently, she edited “The Meaning of Michelle,” a collection of essays about former first lady Michelle Obama. The writer also just released a young adult novel titled “The Go-Between,” a coming of age story that revolves around Camilla del Valle, the daughter of a telenovela star in Mexico City who moves to L.A. and has to adjust to a new world without the fame or comforts of home.
4. Naima Coster
I was walking around the Mission today with beloved friends when we stopped into Dog Eared Books and found none other than #HalseyStreet. So sweet to see it recommended by a member of the staff with a little slip of paper sticking out the top that read, “Superb!” California, you are too wonderful. Thanks to @dogearedvalencia! #debutnovel #bookstagram #womenwritersofinstagram #sanfrancisco #bayarea #indiebookstore #california ? thanks to @tpmcbride !
Naima Coster is a Brooklyn native of Dominican descent who recently released her debut novel, “Halsey Street,” which tackles gentrification, family, race and immigration. Coster recently wrote about what it’s like to have a Black editor in the predominately white world of publishing, saying, “During all my training in creative writing, I searched for writers of color to mentor me and help shape the projects I had imagined. In my nine years of study at three universities, I had three workshops run by writers of color, all of them men.”
5. Sofia Quintero
Sofia Quintero is a self-proclaimed “Ivy League Homegirl” who fully embraces the genre of chica lit, telling Gothamist, “The term Chica lit is just a name that we Latinas authors use to acknowledge and celebrate that we’re featuring women like ourselves yet still universal stories.” The Puerto Rican-Dominican writer has authored six novels, including “Divas Don’t Yield,” a book about four young Latinas on a road trip from New York to San Francisco who end up on a journey toward self-discovery, including sexual awakenings. Her breadth of work includes urban fiction, which she writes under the pen name Black Artemis, and erotica.
6. Raquel Cepeda
Shoutout to @eslamaestra for sending me this #EducatedLatina swag as I dive into another year as a #NYC Council of the Arts teaching fellow with @bea_activist, who you may know from #SomeGirlsDoc. After the success of last year’s #zine project in the #BoogieDown #Bronx, we chose to do this again but in #ElBarrio. I have an enthusiastic group of 23 junior high school #ESL students who have a lot to say and create. ??⚡️? #raquelcepeda ? Let’s go!
Raquel Cepeda is a multi-hyphenated talent working as a documentary filmmaker, award-winning journalist and podcaster, and in 2013, she published her memoir, “Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina.” In the book, the Harlem-born dominicana explores her roots after realizing that the near-loss of her father could’ve meant the possibility of never knowing her ancestral background. “I’ve been mistaken for being everything except what I am: Dominican. … While Latino-Americans share enough cultural traditions to relate with one another and whatnot, we are also crazy different. One size doesn’t fit all,” she wrote. Her documentary “Some Girls” explores similar themes of identity and culture as it follows a group of Latinas from the Bronx who use DNA testing to discover their roots and then travel to the Dominican Republic.
7. Mayra Santos-Febres
Los invito a todos a un evento bien especial para mí: me enorgullece saber que hoy estaré presentando mi novela La…
Mayra Santos-Febres, a multi-award winning writer, is one of Puerto Rico’s most celebrated and honored authors. Her acclaimed 2000 debut novel “Sirena Selena Vestida de Pena” is about drag-queen life in the Caribbean. It was later translated to English and published as “Sirena Selena.” Her ability to adeptly take on complex subjects is also evident in “Pez de Vidrio,” a collection of short stories exploring relationships involving race, sex, policial and social status in the Caribbean, which won the 1994 Letras de Oro literary prize. Even more, she founded the “Festival de la Palabra” with the goal being the “Internationalization of Puerto Rico and to promote reading and a better understanding of ourselves through literature.”