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Latina Reads: Here’s 14 Chilean Writers Who’ve Changed The Literary World For The Better

Home to not one but five UNESCO World Heritage sites, Chile’s literary history is also rich with wonders. From iconic writer Isabel Allende to the history-making career of Gabriela Mistral, Chilean women are trailblazers not just for their country but all of Latin America. Inspired by their homeland and the political trials it endured, the 14 women on this list used their words to make strides and advocate for the empowerment of women. 

Read on to learn more about these fierce escritoras.

Isabel Allende

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The most well-known female Chilean author is undoubtedly novelist Isabel Allende who rose to fame with her acclaimed novel, “The House of Spirits.” Born in Peru in 1942 to Chilean parents, Allende started her literary career writing for magazines in Chile. While living in Venezuela to escape the violence in Chile, she received news of her grandfather’s impending death and decided to write him a letter in an attempt to keep his spirit alive. The letter served as inspiration for “The House of Spirits” which was published the following year in 1982 and became famous for its use of magical realism. In 2010, she received Chile’s National Literature Prize and in 2014 President Barack Obama awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Fluent in English, she was granted U.S. citizenship in 1993 and resides in California. She has released more than 20 fiction and nonfiction books including “City of the Beasts,” “Zorro” and her latest, “In the Midst of Winter.”

Gabriela Mistral

There are many reasons why Gabriela Mistral is one of Chile’s most prominent writers including becoming the first Latin American author to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. The multi-talented Mistral not only published beloved works of poetry, she also worked as a diplomat and educator. Born Lucila Godoy Alcayaga in 1889 in Vicuña, she began publishing under her pen name in 1908 and received her first award in a national contest in Chile in 1914. She released her first book, “Desolacion” in 1922, a collection of poems about motherly love, religion, morality and nature. One of her most quoted poems is “Su Nombre es Hoy.”

Marcela Serrano

Praised as one of Latin America’s most successful writers, Marcela Serrano has been an award-winning writer since she published her first novel in 1994 at the age of 38.  “Nosotras Que Nos Queremos Tanto,” won the Literary Prize in Santiago, and her second book, “Para Que No Me Olvides,” won the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize for women writers in Spanish. She received the runner-up award in the renowned Premio Planeta competition in 2001 for her novel “Lo Que Está En Mi Corazón.” Her writing centers on feminism and the experience of being a woman in a patriarchal society.

Carla Guelfenbein

Gracias @lore_palavecino por las fotos #LlevameAlCielo

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Born in Chile to a Russian-Jewish family and educated in England, Carla Guelfenbein, 59, gained fame as an editor and novelist. She worked as a fashion editor for Elle magazine in Chile and has published several award-winning novels including “Contigo en la Distancia” which won the Alfaguara prize. The book is a literary thriller inspired by Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector intertwining the lives of three characters sharing a love story and a passion for literature. Her other novels include “El Revés Del Alma,” “La Mujer De Mi Vida,” “El Resto Es Silencio,” “Nadar Desnudas” and her latest, “Llévame al cielo.”

Soledad Fariña Vicuña

One of Chile’s most prominent contemporary poets, Soledad Fariña Vicuña has released eight poetry collections since 1985. Her latest collection is actually entitled “1985” after the year she started writing it, and it follows four characters in Santiago during the time of the Pinochet dictatorship. Being a female poet in the 80s in Chile garnered a lot of negative attention and she touches on the subject of feminism and femininity in various ways in her own works. “They said to me, about my book, ‘men are going to think it’s shit,’ “and they did. But now look!” she told Revista Revolver.

Diamela Eltit

Diamela Eltit, 68, is widely recognized for her avant-garde style and illustrious career as a novelist. She published her first novel, “Lumpérica,” in 1983 and has since published 20 works including her latest novella, “Sumar.” In her writing, she has examined post-coup Chile including its violent effects and how they intersect with gender, identity and class. Eltit co-founded the Collective for Artistic Action (Colección de Acciones de Arte) in 1979 as a form of cultural resistance against Pinochet’s dictatorship. She is currently the Distinguished Global Professor of Creative Writing in Spanish at New York University. 

Nona Fernandez

Seguimos bajo el velo de Sor Juana. ✨Gracias Totales!

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Patricia Paola Fernández was born in Santiago in 1971 and starting at a young age, she has gone by the name Nona Fernández. The triple threat is an actress, screenwriter and novelist. She published her first collection of stories entitled “El Cielo” in 2000 followed by her award-winning novel “Mapocho” two years later. In 2016 she released “La dimensión desconocida” about an undercover Chilean agent who confesses to a journalist about crimes against human rights during the Pinochet dictatorship. When the truth is revealed it opens the door to a “universe” of brutal torture, disappearances and mass graves that had never be known before. The book was awarded the 2017 Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz prize.

Mariela Griffor

Mariela Griffor, 56, is a poet, editor, and publisher who has published three renowned collections of poetry. “Exiliana,” “House,” and “The Psychiatrist” are mostly about her experience living as an exile in Sweden and the U.S. during the Pinochet regime. She is co-founder of the Institute for Creative Writers at Wayne State University and Publisher of Marick Press as well as honorary consul of Chile in Michigan where she resides.

Lina Meruane

Lina Meruane, 48, is one of the most acclaimed contemporary Chilean writers recently winning the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize for her 2012 novel “Sangre en el ojo.” The novel is a loosely autobiographical tale of a young woman — who, like Meruane — deals with blindness and faces her past in Chile after moving to the U.S., with pivotal events happening on September 11th in both nations. She earned her doctorate in Spanish-American literature at New York University where she currently teaches. She is the founder and director of the independent label Brutas Editoras.

María Luisa Bombal

Feminist writer María Luisa Bombal was born in Viña del Mar in 1910 and became an influential figure in the magical realism genre. Her novel “House of Mist” is one of the first magical realism works from South America, it tells the story of a young bride struggling with her marriage and her mysterious lover. The book came after the success of the Spanish version, “La última niebla” published in 1935, which also focuses on a woman’s dissatisfaction with her marriage and with society’s expectations for her as a married woman. A later edition published in 1973 included three short stories exploring similar themes, all originally published 1939–41: “El árbol,” “Islas nuevas,” and “Lo secreto.” In her second novel, “La amortajada  released in 1938, the deceased protagonist, while watching her own funeral, contemplates her failed love affairs before embracing death a second time. She studied literature and philosophy in Paris and lived in Argentina for a time before returning to Chile where she died in 1980.

Paulina Flores

Paulina Flores, 30, was born in Santiago and spent her childhood in Conchalí later studying at the University of Chile and teaching at a local high school. She’s most famous for her short story “Qué vergüenza” which won the Roberto Bolaño Prize. Her first collection of stories was published under the same title in 2015 and won the Municipal Literature and Art Critics Circle awards.

Mercedes Valdivieso

Born in Santiago in 1924, Mercedes Valdivieso became famous for her work, “La Brecha.” The novel does away with the notion that a women’s life is tied to a man with the heroine realizing her own happiness and self-worth in the end. Valdivieso co-founded and directed Adan, a men’s magazine, and Breakthrough, a feminist publication in Houston named after her famous book. She taught literature at multiple universities throughout Texas and had a stint teaching at the University of Peking in Beijing. She died at the age of 69 in Chile. 

Martina Mercedes Eugenia Barros Borgoño

A forerunner of feminism in Chile, Martina Mercedes Eugenia Barros Borgoño gained fame when she published a translation of “The Subjection of Women” by John Stuart Mill in 1872. The then 22-year-old released it with the title “La esclavitud de la mujer” in the Santiago Journal. She received backlash from fellow women who called her a “dangerous girl” for her support of such radical ideas about a woman’s place at that time. While she did not write extensively, she published her memoir “Recuerdos de mi Vida” in 1942, two years before her death, where she alluded to the importance and value of the liberation of women to aid in the progress of Chile itself.

Cecilia Vicuña

Poet, artist, activist and filmmaker Cecilia Vicuña, 70, has published 22 art and poetry books with themes on decay, cultural homogenization and eco-feminism. Born and raised in Santiago, she has been in exile since the early 1970s living in London, Colombia and New York City. In 2009 she co-edited the “The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry: 500 years of Latin American Poetry” and released “Selected Poems” last year. She was the Messenger Lecturer 2015 at Cornell University and most recently had an exhibition entitled “Cecilia Vicuña: Disappeared Quipu,” at the Brooklyn Museum. She now splits her time between Chile and New York.


Read: Latina Reads: 10 Peruvian Writers You Need to Add to Your Reading List

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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: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

Lilliam Rivera has written two novels featuring strong Latinx female characters including her latest Dealing in Dreams. The Puerto Rican YA author released The Education of Margot Sanchez in 2017, a romantic coming of age story set in South Bronx that explored family dysfunction and the importance of being true to yourself. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Rivera penned the ode to her hometown after relocating to Los Angeles. The book was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Fiction by the Young Adult Library Services Association and Rivera has also been awarded fellowships from PEN Center USA, A Room Of Her Own Foundation, and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Speculative Literature Foundation.

In Dealing in Dreams, Rivera takes readers on the kind of fantasy adventure she imagines her teenage self would’ve wanted to read. The feminist dystopic novel is clearly influenced by Latinx culture following the adventures of sixteen-year-old Nalah and her all-girl crew Las Mal Criadas and her dreams of escaping Mega City to the exclusive Mega Towers. Read on to learn about the strong Latinx women in the book, why she chose to portray toxic femininity, and how immigration came into play. The book will be out March 5 and she’ll be talking at bookstores throughout the U.S.

The story focuses on an all-girl crew, can you tell me more about Las Mal Criadas and how you developed these characters?

Nalah is the sixteen-year-old leader of Las Mal Criadas, an all-girl crew who patrol the streets of Mega City. They are notoriously fierce but Nalah is wary of the violent life. She believes the way off the streets is securing a home in the exclusive Mega Towers where her leader Déesse lives. She’ll do anything to reach that goal. I wrote a draft of Dealing In Dreams six years ago and Nalah came to me first. I had just given birth to my second daughter and there were people, mostly women, who remarked how my dream of being a published author would have to be placed on hold. Rage can be a great incentive for generating art. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I wrote this draft while taking care of a newborn and I put it away for six years, workshopping a chapter here and there, until a year ago when I returned to the manuscript and still felt its relevance.

Can you describe Mega City and the Mega Towers and their significance in the story?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I based the concept of the Mega Towers on the housing projects I grew up in the South Bronx. The Twin Park West Housing Projects is a U-shaped structure connected by three buildings. With the Bronx slowly being gentrified I could just imagine how these buildings will soon be so desirable for those in power. In Dealing In Dreams, the towers are the only structure that survived the Big Shake, a man-made disaster caused by drilling. The Mega Towers is where the elite live and it’s where Nalah believes she can secure a home for her crew if she plays by this society’s rules. There are a couple of hints that Mega City is the Bronx but only a person from there would discover those Easter eggs.

The book is being described as a feminist Latinx dystopia and The Outsiders meets Mad Max so suffice it to say it’s a fierce book, how would you describe it to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? 

I would describe Dealing In Dreams as a young adult book about a girl who grew up in a violent world and must decide if that path is truly her only salvation to a better life.

There is a very clear Latinx influence in the city and characters, why was that important to you?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I grew up reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels (Ray Bradbury, George Orwell…) and didn’t see any of my people in them. Where were the Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx crushing monsters? The same holds true of current films. I love Star Wars and have watched it hundreds of times but how amazing is it that my kids get to see Oscar Isaac being a part of the Star Wars canon? The future I envision in my novels is very brown and very black, just like my upbringing. I want to write Latinx characters that are flawed and heroic, who fall in love and discover their voice.

This is your second time writing a teenage Latinx protagonist, why is it important to you to tell these stories through the lens of a Latina?

These are the type of stories I craved for when I was young, desperately trying to connect with protagonists in novels. I think there’s more than enough room in bookstores and libraries for different Latina stories.

You take toxic masculinity and flip it to women instead, what was your intent in doing this?

There’s this great image of activist Angela Peoples taken during the Women’s March. Angela holds up a sign that reads “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for Trump.” I thought of that image when I was rewriting the novel. I also kept thinking of how our own people will gladly throw us under the bus in order to secure a place beside someone in power. Sometimes our own family are quick to lead us to destruction. I wanted to explore those two realities in Dealing In Dreams.

What are some of the main concepts you wanted to tackle when you wrote this book and why?

I was thinking of books I’ve read that inspired me as a young person such as Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was drawn to their violence and also to the idea of formed families. I wanted to explore this idea of blood family versus the family you create but I wanted to come from the point of view of a Latina.

The idea of finding a better home is a concept that’s all too real for many Latinx in the US, was it a conscious decision to have Nalah’s journey mirror the immigrant experience in a sense?

@lilliamr / Instagram

The quest for home is so rooted in my family’s history. My parents left Puerto Rico to find a better home in New York. Each decision they made, however hard, was made with the intention of providing us with the tools to succeed. Almost everyone who wants to enter the United States come with that hope. There’s an amazing painting by the artist Judithe Hernández titled “La Muerte De Los Inocentes” and it is of a child who clutches a ribbon that states: “We come but to dream.” I feel that painting really captures Nalah’s journey and the journey of so many who come to the U.S. searching for a better life.

There’s a lot of action in this book, what was it like writing those scenes featuring all women?

I had the best time writing those scenes! I think it’s so rare to see young women owning their strength on the page and not being afraid to use it. I love that my characters are unapologetic about it. I also didn’t want to give the reader a chance to rest, to think of putting the book down, so I tried to inject as much action as I could.

What do you want readers to take away from Dealing in Dreams?

I want readers to be transported to a place that looks at times familiar and completely new. I want Nalah, Truck, Nena and the rest of Las Mal Criadas to leave an imprint on the readers long after they read the last page.

Read: YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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