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Pregunta A Una Jefa: We Talked To Nina Moreno, Author Of Don’t Date Rosa Santos, About What It Takes To Be A Writer

Any avid Latina reader of the YA genre knows that it isn’t every day that the publishing world graces us with characters that mirror what we and our culture look like. For decades, the YA sphere has been occupied by sympathetic, tragic and heroic characters, ones who struggle with teen angst and alienation, battle dragons and daemons and ones who save entire countries and worlds. They’re admirable characters whose stories come packed with adventure and promise but, because most of their writers and publishers are white, often rarely speak to the experiences that our Latinidad has given us. Don’t Date Rosa Santos is a debut novel by Cuban author Nina Moreno that does just this. The book, which is being shipped as Gilmore Girls meets Practical Magic, follows a young Cuban-American girl in her senior year of college looking forward to her future as a college student while also hoping to uncover truths about her family’s past.

With cultural themes that dabble into the diaspora and generational trauma, Moreno weaves a story about a family curse, self-discovery, and love. For a better understanding of how she came up with her characters and came to be a published author FIERCE did a deep dive with a Q&A into YA lit’s most anticipated jefa.

Check it out below!

1. Fans of the YA genre don’t always get to see a lot of POC characters as the main subjects of books, but in your book Rosa is Cubana. Why did you decide to write a book about a Latina?

At first, it wasn’t a conscious decision so much as a continuation of always reimagining stories so they included us, front and center. I changed characters in my head and read between a lot of lines, but it was never enough. And it shouldn’t have been. When I started writing my own stuff it was this really exciting moment of realizing I had the power to put a Latina on the page in a story written for her.

2. How do you think Latinx representation in YA can affect young Latinas?

There’s power in being seen and having the space to engage with the things you love with your whole self. To get to be a teenager and Latina and a nerd and queer and whoever you’re still becoming. A lot of conversations about Latinx identity hinge on whether or not you count, especially for those of us in the states, or who are next-generation, because of language or race or distance or family issues and expectations, so having more and more Latinx representation everywhere helps expand the idea of everything you can be as a Latinx person.

3. Rosa Santos’ character has a Cuban grandmother who doesn’t like to talk about her life on the island. Why did you think this was an important element to include in your book?

Growing up after exile is complicated. That level of generational trauma buries itself deep. What does home mean when you can’t go back or share it with your children? How do you heal an inherited grief? Rosa desperately wants to connect with her family’s past, to better understand her place in the world, but her abuela sacrificed all of it—good and bad—to move forward. I wanted to explore that senior year moment of standing at the edge of everything and planning your future while feeling that insistent pull to look back and understand where your story began.

4. Did you feel as if you saw an accurate amount of Latinx representation in the books you read growing up? If so, how did this inspire you as a young reader? If not, how did this affect you as a young reader? 

For a long time, it felt like I had to leave parts of myself outside the door to get a seat inside. I didn’t contain multitudes, I held warring parts. I was another young, clumsily bilingual, insecure English major who was losing her mother’s words in the name of keeping up. I wasn’t connecting with the so-called classics, I was mispronouncing everything, and it was yet another space where I didn’t quite fit. We have our literary canon of classics that felt like finding a shooting star once a semester, but I wanted more. I wanted to find us now, painted happy and smiling on bright covers, too.

5. What was the first story you ever wrote about?

I can’t remember whether my Backstreet Boys or Dawson’s Creek fan fiction was first, but I know that in both a plucky new Latina moves to town, ready to steal every heart. But my first original story was a southern gothic, high drama romance that was such a novela.

6. How long did it take to write your book and what was your process? 

It took about two years from idea to where it is now. I put a lot of pressure on myself and questioned everything. Writing about Cuba wasn’t easy and I didn’t take it lightly. But I had to get out of my own way and learn to trust my place within my culture. That was a whole process I didn’t expect, but whenever I started to doubt, I slipped on my headphones, made another cafecito, and asked myself what Lin-Manuel Miranda would tell me. And then I got back to work.

7. What characteristics of Rosa Santos do you identify with the most?

Her nervous list-making and retro playlists. But I’ve never been able to commit to a bullet journal like Rosa’s and hers is actual art. Also, her instinct to heal, fix, and connect.

8. What books featuring Latinx characters are on your current reading list?

I’m currently reading Analee In Real Life by Janelle Milanes, who is also a Cuban-American author, The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes, a Maya adventure from the super cool Rick Riordan Presents imprint and Pride by the amazing Ibi Zoboi. 2019 is packed with some fantastic upcoming Latinx stories from other debuts like Tehlor Kay Mejia, Claribel Ortega, and Michelle Ruiz Keil. It’s an exciting moment for our stories.

9. What were your favorite books growing up?

I was a big fan of The Babysitter’s Club and also Katherine Applegate’s Making Out series, which I think were later republished under a different name, but I used to beg my mom for every new release. But there were two books that helped me find my voice. Sandra Cisneros’ The House On Mango Street was the first time I heard the rhythm of home in a classroom while Dreaming In Cuban by Cristina Garcia felt like discovering family secrets. Finding us on the page emboldened me to take that seat and stop leaving so much of myself outside the door.

Nina Moreno is the Cuban-American writer of Dont Date Rosa Santos, it is her debut book and it comes out on shelves and online bookstores May 2019. Preorder it here


Read: Find Out What Is In Store For You This October With This Month’s Tarotscope

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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: ‘Pride’ Is The Afro-Latinx YA Novel You Wish You Read As A Teen

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Latina Reads: ‘Pride’ Is The Afro-Latinx YA Novel You Wish You Read As A Teen

It’s no secret that Latinx representation is severely missing in media, especially for Afro-Latinos. Although the numbers are slowly getting better on television, movies and in music, the literary space is still lagging behind. But all of that is slowly changing in particular thanks to critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi, whose first novel, American Street, told the tale of young Haitian immigrant Fabiola Toussaint navigating the dangerous streets of Detroit on her own after her mother is detained by U.S. immigration.

Now, Zoboi brings us a timely update on the classic novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin — but this time told through the perspectives of Zuri Benitez (a.k.a. Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (a.k.a. Mr. Darcy).

Zoboi’s latest masterpiece is titled Pride.

In Pride, we first meet Zuri, an Afro-Latina teen who has plenty of pride. She has pride in her roots, pride in her family and, most of all, pride in Brooklyn. But when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri isn’t sure that her pride is enough to change the gentrification that is quickly happening in her beloved neighborhood. Even worse, her older sister Janae starts to fall for charming Ainsley at the same time as Zuri is thrown together with the arrogant Darius, who she can’t stand and wants nothing to do with.

It’s an unexpected joy to be drawn into the world of Pride, where so many changes are happening all at once. As Bushwick changes and families that used to live there for ages are priced out and Zuri begins to fight to keep her home, we readers are drawn into her battle quickly.

She is just the kind of Latina that we rarely read about before: She is smart, quick-witted and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She is passionate, cares deeply about her family and is, in a sense, even a little fearless. But she’s also still a teenager, which is part of what makes this novel so irresistible.

Zuri has all the hope and fears that we all had as kids about to turn into adults.

She sees the world changing and she doesn’t know what she can do about it but she wants to do something. It’s that passion and drive which makes her both a captivating character and someone we can relate to.

And perhaps because Zuri is a teenager or because this is a remix of Pride and Prejudice, there is the predictable romantic chaos. Soon enough, Zuri finds herself being pulled in different directions by her growing attraction to Darius, who she still kind of hates, and the oh-so-cute Warren (a.k.a George Wickham), who Darius kind of hates.

One of the most surprising and enchanting things about the novel, however, is the way the characters speak. Zoboi doesn’t try to dumb down or change their language. She doesn’t try to make them sound high-brow or proper, which some reviewers had a problem with, but she does make them sound like exactly who they are: An Afro-Latino family growing up in today’s Brooklyn. Zuri is unapologetically herself and the way she speaks is beautiful, complicated and not even remotely make-belief.

One of the big wins of Pride is that Zuri and the other characters sound like themselves with no pretense and just the right amount of class and a dash of sass.

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Repost from @owlcrate We were so thrilled to include Pride by @ibizoboi in our October box! It’s a modern day Pride and Prejudice remix set in Brooklyn, NY. It deals with many complex issues but is also totally swoon-worthy. And Ibi’s writing is absolutely stunning! ???? The edition we included featured an exclusive cover, exclusive end papers, exclusive color hardback, and it was SIGNED! The publisher truly put a lot of love into the design of this book! ???? Want to get your hands on a copy? We have some extras available for purchase at shop.owlcrate.com while supplies last. ???? Have you read Pride yet? What did you think?? ???? Photos tagged with the original creators! ???? OwlCrate Photo Challenge: Pride & Hot Pink. #ocbookstore ???? #owlcrate #subscriptionbox #bookstagram #pride #ibizoboi #exclusiveedition #bookmail #happyreading #currentlyreading #epicreads

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Without revealing too much about how the novel ends (you’ll have to actually read all of Pride for that), it’s safe to say that Zoboi deserves all of the praise that she has received for her work. But what really matters in a book like this isn’t how she “skillfully balances cultural identity, class and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic” (from the book’s back cover), though these things are all great too, but rather what it represents and means for future generation of Latinx kids picking up this young adult novel at their library, local bookstore or online.

A book like this can mean so much to those of us who grew up without seeing ourselves in the pages of the books we were taught in school or the books we found at the library. It’s why today, even as adults, we still pick up YA novels with the hopes of seeing our younger selves in their pages. A book like Pride reminds us of that. It reminds us of what it’s like to be a teen and it reinforces the importance of seeing yourself in literature.

The Haitian author, who recently took down an “insulting review” of Pride that made us all wish we had her clap-back game, touched on something special in the story of Zuri the Afro-Latina in Brooklyn. Here’s hoping Zoboi continues to write her black and Latinx representative novels for a long, long time.

Read: 13 Latina Fantasy Books For the Sci-Fi Lover in Your Life

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