Latina Reads: 12 Colombian And Colombian-American Authors You Should Have On Your Bookshelf

When it comes to Colombian literature, Gabriel García Márquez is the name that most often comes to mind, but women’s literary contributions are just as worthy of praise. 

From writers in the South American country to those from the U.S., Colombian female authors faced several struggles in trying to make it in a world that was hostile to women — and many of them changed the literary game.

Here, 12 of Colombia’s fiercest lady writers.

1. Meira Delmar

Meira Delmar was born Olga Chams Eljach in Barranquilla, Colombia and took on her pseudonym at the age of 15 to publish her first set of poems. She went on to write seven books of poetry on themes including love, sadness and death through a distinctive female perspective. She is recognized as one of the most gifted poets throughout Latin America and, in 2008, Colombia created the Meira Delmar National Poetry Prize recognizing contributions by Colombian poets.

2. Laura Restrepo

Laura Restrepo gained fame for her political columns while working for the newspaper Semana, which addressed corruption and violence in her country. She’s both a journalist and novelist, having published 11 novels, including the acclaimed “Delirio,” which received Spain’s prestigious Alfaguara Prize. She takes on an investigative  journalistic approach to her detective fiction addressing violence in society. “I care very much about my people. I love my people very much. I know people are suffering a big deal in my country, so what I like to do is tell them, ‘your life is worthwhile; it’s a beautiful life. Your struggle is heroic, something will come out of this,’” she told Bill Moyers on PBS.

3. Daisy Hernández

She’s “bicultural, bilingual, bisexual,” and she made a name for herself in the literary world when she published her 2014 memoir, “A Cup of Water Under My Bed.” The 42-year-old Daisy Hernández comes from a Cuban-Colombian family, and in her book she wrote about lessons her family taught her on love, money and race while growing up in a working-class immigrant neighborhood in New Jersey. She was also the editor of Colorlines for six years and co-edited the essay collection “Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism” published in 2002. She is currently an assistant professor in the creative writing program at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

4. Amalia Andrade Arango

Amalia Andrade Arango’s 2015 debut novel “Uno Siempre Cambia al Amor de su Vida” received so much acclaim that the young novelist is releasing an English translation next year. The book includes her own illustrations and modern-day pop culture references, including a playlist to help with heartbreak. Last year, she released the autobiographical “Cosas Que Piensas Cuando Te Muerdes Las Uñas” as a guide to dealing with anxiety along with her own illustrations. Due to the success of her two books, and her unique writing style and art, the 32-year-old from Cali has been hailed as one of Colombia’s most talented young writers.

5. Soledad Acosta de Samper

As the daughter of famed Colombian explorer and historian Joaquin Acosta, Soledad had access to a better education and a sophisticated lifestyle since her birth in 1833. Because of this, she was able to write and  publish, something women simply didn’t do at that time. She wrote for several newspapers and lobbied for women to receive the same education as men. In her lifetime, she published 21 novels, 48 ​​stories, four plays, 43 social and literary studies and 21 treatises on history, devoting a large part of her work to studying the roles of women in society and becoming a pioneer feminist. Some of her books include, “Novelas y Cuadros de la Vida Suramericana,” “La Mujer En La Sociedad Moderna” and the biography of her father, “Biografía del general Joaquín Acosta.”

6. Patricia Engel

Patricia Engel is an award-winning writer recognized both in Colombia and the U.S. for her novels. Her latest, “The Veins of the Ocean,” won the 2017 Dayton LIterary Peace Prize, while “It’s Not Love, it’s Just Paris,” which published in 2014, won the International Latino Book award. Her 2010 debut novel “Vida” features nine stories narrated by the protagonist Sabina as she talks of the significance of various people and places that played a part in her growth, including both Bogotà and New Jersey, where Engel herself was raised. The book won the Premio Biblioteca de Narrativa Colombiana, Colombia’s national prize in literature.

7. Albalucía Ángel

Albalucía Ángel is considered a pioneer in Latin American postmodernism and continues to be an influential figure in literature since publishing her first novel, “Girasoles en Invierno,in 1970. She has published nine other works, with her most influential being Estaba La Pájara Pinta Sentada En El Verde Limón,which is set in Colombia during the period of “La Violencia”  and published in 1975. Colombia, as well as women’s rights and history, plays a large role in many of her works.  

8. Myriam Montoya

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Myriam Montoya was born in Antioquia in 1963 and resides in France, yet she continues to write Spanish poetry. She moved to Paris in 1994 and earned a master’s degree in Latin American literature and then began to make her mark in the literary world, publishing six books. Her poetry deals with exodus, death, birth and destruction, among other themes. Her most prominent pieces include her debut, “Fugas Fugues” (1997), and her latest, “The Flight” (2011).

9. Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a poeta and educator whose spoken word poem “My Spanish,” which focuses on the struggles faced by Latinos who  don’t speak Spanish, went viral. She is the author of chapbooks “Plastic Pajaros,” “Rude Girl is Lonely Girl!” and “Peluda,” which was published last year. The Guatemalan-Colombian is an MFA candidate at New York University’s creative writing program for poetry and the 2015 National Poetry Slam champion for her thought provoking poem on sexism and language,  “Like,Totally, Whatever.” Her poetry centers on feminism, body image and Latinidad with passion, raw honesty and her characteristic humor.  

10. Lucía Estrada

Born in Medellín on July 11, 1980, Estrada was just 17 years old when she published “Fuegos Nocturnos.” As one of Colombia’s most promising young poets, Estrada has already received the Poetry Award for both Medellín and Bogotá and was nominated for the 2009 UNESCO International Poetry prize.

11. María Mercedes Carranza

María Mercedes Carranza was born in Bogotá in 1945 and grew up in Spain surrounded by poetry as the daughter of poet Eduardo Carranza. As a writer, she arguably receives as much acclaim as her father for her contribution to the world of poetry. For 16 years, Carranza was the director of the Casa de poesía Silva in Bogotá, dedicating herself to teaching Colombians that words can replace bullets.” She suffered greatly after the kidnapping of her brother by  Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) and died by suicide in 2003 at the age of 58. Her last book,El Canto de las Moscas,” consists of a lyrical series of short poems about the violence suffered by the country.  

12. Piedad Bonnett Vélez

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Born in Antioquia in 1951, Colombian poet, playwright and novelist Piedad Bonnett Vélez’s works not only revolve around life as a middle-class woman in Colombia but also her own life experiences. Her book “Lo Que no Tiene Nombre” shares the story of the struggles of her son’s mental illness. Other themes present in her works include the enchantment and disenchantment with all kinds of love, from romantic to familial. Her latest book, “Los Habitados,” won the Premio Internacional de Poesía Generación del 27 in Spain.

Read: Latina Reads: 11 Salvadoran And Salvadoran-American Authors Whose Works You’ll Want To Pore Over

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