For Latina Millennials and members of Gen X, there were only a few places we could find representations of ourselves in the media when growing. Latinas were not often represented in T.V. and books. Caricatures that relied on stereotypes instead of true Latina representation were more often what we saw. Books like “The House on Mango Street” and “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” were the closest images of ourselves in literature. Though these books are still valuable reads, it’s painful not seeing ourselves more represented in the world around us. It limits the scope of our world. It tells young Latinas that they are only destined for so many narratives.
Still, our potential is as boundless as the personalities in our Latinidad. Our media should reflect it. That’s why books such as Anna Meriano’s “Love Sugar Magic” are such important reads and why we need more Latinas telling our stories.
The first book in “Love Sugar Magic” series, “A Dash of Trouble,” introduces readers to Leonora Logroño and her magical family bakery. Growing up as the youngest in a family full of sisters, Leo constantly feels like she doesn’t always measure up. However, when her friends are in need of some help, Leo bends the rules of her family’s Brujeria in order to save the day. In an interview with FIERCE, Meriano dove into concepts regarding the need for Latina storytellers and the magic of authentic representation.
“A Dash of Trouble” is Meriano’s debut book. The story’s creation was a collaborative effort between the author and CAKE Literary, a book developing company focused on releasing diverse and high-concept stories. Meriano first became involved with the developing company while in the middle of a two year MFA program. When she discovered CAKE was interested in the concept of a magical bakery in Texas, the writer embraced it.
Meriano drew from her personal life. She incorporated her own experiences as a Latina into the development of Leo’s world.
“They were very open to me bringing my own ideas and experiences into the story,” Meriano explained about the process. “It gave me a lot of room to show things that are so real in Texas, like Latinx folks who aren’t Mexican, white-passing people who speak Spanish, and all the different kinds of insecurities my friends and I have about our Latinx identities.”
She had plenty of material for the real world aspects but got creative with the supernatural ones. A big fan of fantasy books as a girl, Meriano wanted to create an imagined magic that has roots in cultural magic— essentially a brand of Brujeria solely found in the pages of “A Dash of Trouble” and its February 2019 follow up, “A Sprinkle of Spirits.”
Meriano is skilled at utilizing the diversity of the Latinidad within her uniquely crafted realm. This enables her to create genuinely relatable characters. The Logroño family alone features five sisters and these girls definitely aren’t carbon copies of the same Latina stereotypes. Though they are alike in their connection to family magic, each girl is utterly unique in personalities and motivations.
In creating the Logroño family, Meriano went for authentic representation over perfection.
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Diverse Fantasy in the Real World #KidLitCon2019 Panel with Zetta Elliot (@zettaelliott), Anna Meriano, Rajani LaRocca (@rajanilarocca), and moderated by S. R. Toliver. Middle grade fantasy set in the real world can be a great escape for young readers, but just as importantly, it can offer new ways of seeing what is “real,” bringing attention to critical issues and making visible histories that maybe aren’t part of the standard curriculum. And of course it’s important that we have books with diverse protagonists to reflect the diversity of the real world; every kid should have the chance at magic! As well as addressing diversity gaps in fantasy, and how to fill them, this panel considers what makes good real world fantasy—how much magic do kids want? What stories resonate, and with whom? And how do gatekeepers know when the fantastical elements in a story warrant putting the little unicorn sticker on the spine, or when the magical realism of a particular culture falls on the side of realistic fiction? #middlegrade #kidlit #fantasy #ownvoices #zettaelliott #annameriano #rajanilarocca #srtoliver
“If I thought of them as an ‘ideal of a Mexican American family,’ then I would get stressed out that I was getting everything wrong,” the author explained. “So, I had to really focus on what made them specific and real and who they were as people.”
Due to this attention to characterization, you’re likely to see a lot of parallels between your family and the Logroño. The oldest who sometimes serves as a surrogate parent in their maturity. The sibling who acts like they’re too cool for the family. The youngest who wants to be included in every bit of family chisme. There is just about every family; especially the Logroños.
Representing such universal themes with a Latinx family is especially important in the current social and political climate. During this time, our people are being horrifically slandered. Having Latinx characters present unifying themes is essential to combating this violent rhetoric.
“We’re in such a strange place with Latinx culture right now. The US is simultaneously really excited to consume Day of the Dead media and also really reluctant to accept immigrants and it’s just very disconcerting,” Meriano admitted. “I hope that we keep getting more Latinx books, especially diverse ones that tell all kinds of stories, and that people keep reading them. We need an antidote to the hate and misconceptions.”
It’s those diverse stories that keep Meriano writing.
It’s knowing that there are still Latinx experiences to still unpack gives her the inspiration for her work.
“I always have moments when I realize that there are so many more experiences I’m not showing,” the Texas author explained. “But I have to keep in mind that no single book or character has to represent everyone. We’re not a monolith.”
It’s a concept that serves as a testament to why we need to be creating media that’s representative of Latinas and Latinos. Instead of packing the plethora of experiences into a few projects, Latinx creatives need platforms to tell our stories. Both the universal tales and those special to our community deserve to be heard.
To see these Latinx-centric projects become a reality, creatives throughout the Latinidad need to feel empowered to tell their stories. For creatives in the process, Meriano suggests surrounding themselves by people on the same path. Whether it’s through school, an online community, or friends, having support keeps goals in perspective when times are hard.
“I think it goes back to what Leo learns as she explores her magic and talks to her family,” Meriano shared, explaining the theme of the series. “I want readers to come away recognizing the power they have, and realizing that they get to define it for themselves.”