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Latina Reads: 13 Guatemalan And Guatemalan-American Women Authors To Make Room For On Your Bookshelves

Known as the “birthplace of chocolate,” Guatemala is home to natural beauty and a rich Mayan history that’s influenced some of the country’s most prominent writers, many of them women

This rich history coupled with political turmoil, like the Central American country’s civil war that spanned 30 years, inspired the work of early women writers and their progeny in Guatemala and the United States today.

1. Isabel de los Ángeles Ruano

Isabel de los Ángeles Ruano is a 73-year-old poet who has released six collections of poetry. Her most famous poem is dedicated to Spanish writer Luis Cernuda, who was exiled during Spain’s civil war and was open about his homosexuality despite the controversy. She published her first book “Cariátides” in 1966 and went on to receive the Miguel Ángel Asturias National Prize in Literature. Later in life, she began to suffer from mental health issues and has been rumored of selling her verses in the streets of Guatemala City wearing a suit and tie.

2. Ana María Rodas

(Photo Credit: Ministry of Culture and Sports of the Republic of Guatemala)

Known as the “Mother of Guatemalan Feminist Poetry,” Ana María Rodas’ poetry centers on the pain and loss of war and also includes erotic content. Rodas, 80, published her first book of poems in 1973, and in 2000 she was awarded the Guatemala National Prize in Literature. The Guatemala City-born writer, who has also had a career as a journalist, is considered one of the most prolific Guatemalan writers and became the Minister of Culture in 2015.

3. Aída Toledo

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One of Central America’s most significant writers, Aída Toledo’s work exhibits sensuality and feminism with philosophical undertones. Born in 1952 in Guatemala City, she studied literature at San Carlos University and Latin American literature and culture at Pittsburgh University. At 66, she has published six poetry books and a short story collection titled “Pezóculos,” which follows the stories of different women and the societal pressures they endure. An author and educator, she has taught at the University of Alabama, the University of Toulouse II – Le Mirail, the University of Arizona and Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala.

4. Carol Zardetto

(Photo Credit: Prensa)

Carol Zardetto is a versatile writer who has written scripts and novels mainly about life in Guatemala and her own experiences. Her first novel, Con Pasión Absoluta,” includes multi-generational female narratives throughout Guatemala’s political history. In 2014, it won the Monteforte Toledo prize. In 2011, Zardetto created a libretto for the Guatemalan opera Tatuana. The multi-talented writer also works as a lawyer and was vice-minister of Education and Consul General for Guatemala in Vancouver, Canada.

5. Elisa Hall de Asturias

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Elisa Hall de Asturias, born in 1900, is one of Guatemala’s most famous writers and also one of its most controversial following the publication of her 1938 book, “Semilla de Mostaza.” The book is the story of 17th century knight Don Sancho Álvarez de Asturias as he explored Spain and the then-Kingdom of Guatemala and was written with Old Spanish to maintain some authenticity to the period. The book received a lot of acclaim, but anti-feminist sentiments led many to deny it had been written by a woman. In response to the backlash, she released a second volume titled “Mostaza” in 1939, and she later compiled her sources in 1981 to provide further proof to the naysayers. She died the following year.

6. Luz Méndez de la Vega

Born in Retalhuleu, Guatemala, Luz Méndez de la Vega was a famed feminist writer, journalist, poet, academic and actress.  In 1994, she won the Miguel Ángel Asturias National Literature Prize, Guatemala’s most prestigious prize for literature, and a decade later took home the Chilean Pablo Neruda Medal, among several other literary awards.  In “Las voces silenciadas,” she wrote about how the violence, terror, injustice and misery of the war devastated women’s lives and how patriarchy enforced silence and repressed Guatemalan women and their concepts of identity and image. Her 2002 work, “Mujer, desnudez y palabras,” was considered so important that a documentary of the same name was released at the 7th National Congress of Writers in Guatemala in 2006.

7. Magdalena Spínola

(Photo Credit: Prensa Libre)

Born in 1896 and orphaned at a young age, Magdalena Spínola grew up next to one of Guatemala’s most celebrated authors, the Nobel Prize winner Miguel Ángel Asturias, and similarly pursued a career in writing. She was an ardent feminist, outspoken about several political issues, and was a trailblazer in the field of erotic poetry in Central America. She performed her pieces and often published them in the leading women’s magazine of the era, Nosotras. Her first book, “Gabriela Mistral: huésped de honor de su patria,” was a biography released in 1968 on Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, the first Latin American author to receive a Nobel Prize in Literature, which included a preface by her childhood friend Asturias.

8. Claudia D. Hernández

(Photo Credit: Nacor Rios)

Claudia D. Hernández was born and raised in Guatemala, though she currently works as a photographer, poet, translator and bilingual educator in Los Angeles. She is the founder of the ongoing project Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color, which highlights resilient women. Her first book, “Knitting the Fog,” is set to be released in 2019 by the Feminist Press. In the book, she shares the story of her family’s migration from her homeland to the U.S. through poetry and narrative essays. She was the recipient of the 2018 Louise Meriwether First Book Prize awarded by the Feminist Press. Hernández is the editor of the photography  anthology “Women, Mujeres, Ixoq: Revolutionary Visions,” which published this year.

9. Carmen Matute

Born in Guatemala City, Carmen Matute is the author of eight poetry collections, many of them written through a feminist perspective. She is the author of  “El Cristo del Secuestro” with Elizabeth Andrade and received the 2015 Miguel Ángel Asturias National Literature Prize. Her poetry has been translated into English, French, Swedish and Italian, and her work has appeared in anthologies published in England, Spain, France, Italy, United States, Sweden, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina, Ecuador, Costa Rica and Guatemala.

10. Rigoberta Menchú Tum

Rigoberta Menchú Tum is a Mayan k’iche’ activist born in 1959 in Chimel, a small Mayan community in the highlands of Guatemala. Rigoberta spoke publicly about the plight of the Mayan people in Guatemala while in exile. In 1983, she published “I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala” and catapulted the civil war into global headlines. In 1992,  She received the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation and respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

11. Melissa Lozada-Oliva

Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a poeta whose work centers on feminism, body image and Latinidad with passion, raw honesty and her characteristic humor. Her spoken word poem “Like Totally Whatever” challenged the policing of women’s language by men, while “My Spanish,” which focuses on the struggles faced by Latinos who  don’t speak fluent 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. She was also featured on our list of Colombian authors.

12. Denise Phé-Funchal

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Denise Phé-Funchal is a writer and sociologist who is currently a professor at Universidad del Valle de Guatemala where she teaches courses in composition and European literature. She is the author of the novel “Las Flores,” the poetry collection “Manual del Mundo Paraíso” and the short story collection “Buenas Costumbres.” She writes about intra-family issues and social violence, and, in “Ana Smiles,” she explores how the lives of three sisters drastically change over the course of 12 hours.

13. Ilka Oliva Corado

Ilka Oliva Corado studied psychology at the University of San Carlos de Guatemala and immigrated to the U.S. in 2003. She is the author of 12 books, including Historia de una indocumentada travesia en el desierto de Sonora-Arizona,” which was inspired by her own experiences. She currently contributes to her daily blog, Crónicas de una inquilina.

Read: Latina Reads: 13 Argentine Women Writers Whose Works You’ll Devour

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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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These Books by Latina Authors Prove that Latinx Writers and The People Who Publish Them Understand the Real America

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These Books by Latina Authors Prove that Latinx Writers and The People Who Publish Them Understand the Real America

Our LGBTQ hating, xenophobic Vice President, Mike Pence will hate the upcoming middle-grade book, The Moon Within by Aida Salazar, and the publishing industry doesn’t care. The Moon Within about Celi Rivera, a young bi-racial Puerto Rican and Mexican girl who dances bomba and has a gender fluid best friend is set to be published by Scholastic later this month. While Latinx folks are still largely ignored on television and in film, publishers of middle-grade and young adult books know there’s a market for books about people of color and LGBTQ folks.

Hailed, by Kirkus Reviews, as a “worthy successor to Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, The Moon Within is written in an elegant, swift verse.

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It tells the story of the budding Celi, a young accomplished dancer whose mother insists on announcing to the whole family that Celi is developing into a woman and insisting on holding a pre-Colombian style moon ceremony when Celi starts her first period.

At twelve, I read and loved Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, and as a small-for-my-age, Xicana, I identified with Margaret who felt her body was developing slower than those of her school friends. I also understood that the lavender covered book with the very blonde girl on the cover who wanted to “get her period” was very different kind of book than books like Little House on the Prairie that I had also read and loved, despite their flaws. But as a Xicana raised by a single mom in a run-down small town, the only place we could really afford to live in California, I felt distanced from Margaret’s life in many other ways. Her suburban neighborhood with sidewalks, her tidy house, her busy but attentive mother, and a father who worked and drove her to parties at friends’ houses, all seemed very far away and very white to me.

Judy Blume wrote for all children, but Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret is about a particular social class of girl, while Salazar’s The Moon Within is about family that is rich in other ways, culturally rich, artistically rich, and deeply rooted by their particularly close and caring community of artists and healers.

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Celi’s mom, an herbal healer, who grows herbs in the yard is actually, however, similar to Margaret’s mother in that she wishes to help her daughter to grow into womanhood without shame. Interestingly, the particular brand of the shame that both mothers hope to help their daughters avoid is rooted in Christianity. Celi’s mom, Mima, rejects the misogyny of Catholicism that encourages women to fear and despise their bodies, bodies that have the capability to give life  — and that’s all they’d do if Mike Pence had anything to with it.

And it’s this impulse of conservative men to dirty everything that isn’t cis-male centered that The Moon Within is such an important book right now and ever, especially in light of the racist and homophobic attack that severely injured, Empire’s, Jussie Smollet.

In a recent appearance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, queer actor, Ellen Page, called out Mike Pence, blaming the Trump administration’s outward hate for the LGBTQ community,  “Connect the dots,” she said, “this is what happens if you are in a position of power,” referring to the attack on Smollet. She continued, “and you hate people and you want to cause suffering to them, you go through the trouble, you spend your career wanting to cause suffering, what do you think is going to happen. People are going to be abused and they’re going to kills themselves, and they are going to die in the street.”

Children’s books agents– a surprising number of whom are people of color, like Marieta B. Zacker of Salazar at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency and  Amara Hoshijo at Soho Press– seem to know that even and even though equity and decency for all has seemed to have reversed in our country, that books like The Moon Within are the antidote to hatred, bigotry, and ignorance amongst the actual people who make up America.

As former pre-school teacher who did much of the book ordering for my pre-school library, and a current English professor, it’s comforting to know that the education of America’s children, is somewhat in the hand of these agents and publishers willing to listen.

It seems that publishing children’s, middle-grade and YA books by and about people of color is no longer considered a risk.

After the publication of Celia C Perez’s The First Rule of Punk, we can officially all stop being surprised by the fact middle-grade and young adult book publishers are the seemingly most willing to publish books about people who exist in the real world that their counterparts in the past would have considered niche: Latinx kids who are into punk, Latinx kids with parents who are artists, or young Latinx feminists, as in the upcoming We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia and several other books written for middle-graders and young adults set for publication this spring and summer.

Pues, check out this list of exciting books about to be published and remember that pre-ordering these books is not only the best way to support the authors, but it also guarantees that your chamaquitx won’t have to wait to read books about characters who look and/or have lives like theirs.

We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia

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This fiercely feminist YA novel features a young Latina who attends a prestigious school under the pretense that she is not a member of the upper echelons, a fact that she must keep hidden in order to have a chance of success in the real world. Apparently, fans of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood are bound to love this debut by Mejia. This Xicana dystopian lit nerd eagerly awaits the release and the accolades that will surely follow.

All Of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Keil

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Or if you liked 2017s The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez, you should pre-order the YA, All of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Keil, a book set in San Francisco and blends Aztec rituals and punk rock.

The Grief Keeper, by Alexandra Villasante

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Available in June, The Grief Keeper, by Alexandra Villasante features a young Salvadoran girl who must leave El Salvador and attempt to cross into the US after her brother is murdered in order to save herself and her younger sister’s life.

The Last Eight, by Laura Pohl

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Perhaps you know a young reader who likes to read science fiction, due for publication in March, The Last Eight, by Brazilian author, Laura Pohl, is about Clover Martinez, one of the last eight teenagers left on Earth, teenagers who survive an alien attack.

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