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Read Latina: 7 Cubana Writers Conveniently Left Off Your High School Required Reading Lists

The first books I remember truly falling in love with were ones written by Afro-Latinas like myself, ones like Veronica Chambers and Nancy Osa. As much as I cherished my copies of “Catcher In The Rye” and books by Jane Austen, I often found myself being assigned to read stories of worlds, cultures and characters with dilemmas I could not entirely relate to. Mostly because they were so overwhelmingly white. Of course, the reason isn’t because the writers of color aren’t there. In fact, even in eras where women were banned from learning how to read and write, some managed to create beautiful works of their own that easily rival the likes of George Orwell and John Steinbeck.

For the Latina who loves to get lost in Austen or has a hankering for the gothic tales of Mary Shelley, here’s a list of 7 Cuban writers to put at the top of your to-read list.

1. Cristina Garcia

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Cuban-born American journalist Cristina Garcia has written for New York Times, The Boston Globe and Time Magazine. In 1992, she published her first novel, “Dreaming in Cuba,” which tells the story of three generations of Cuban women divided both in politics and location by the revolution. The book is beautifully and intimately written with language that will touch any reader who has been personally affected by the diaspora and loves magic realism writers like Isabel Allende and Gabriel García Márquez.

Check out her books here.

2. Ruth Behar

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Born into a Jewish-Cuban family in Havana in 1956, Behar was four when she and her family immigrated to the U.S. after Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. At the time, 94 percent of Cuban Jews fled the country after witnessing thousands of Jews be forced into labor camps in the 1960s because of their middle-class status. In 1988, after earning her master’s degree from Princeton University, Behar was awarded a MacArthur fellowship and became the first Latina to receive one. These days, Behar is an anthropologist and writer who works as a professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan. Her most recent literary book, “Lucky Broken Girl,” which published in 2017, tells the multicultural coming-of-age story of a young Jewish girl who emigrated from Castro’s Cuba to New York. The book follows Ruthie Mizrahi, who struggles with her identity as she goes from knowing herself as smart girl among her peers in Cuba to a student who is considered unintelligent because of her struggle to master English.

Check out her books here.

3. Gertrudis Gómez de Avellaneda

Ten years before Harriet Beecher Stowe penned one of the most raved about novels in American literature, Avellaneda wrote and published a book called “Sab.” The novel, published in Madrid in 1841, tells the story of the book’s titular character who is an enslaved African that falls for the white daughter of his master. While Avellande’s novel gained both praise and disapproval for its message on antislavery and critique of the institutions of marriage, it did not receive publication in Cuba until 1914.

Check out her books here.

4. Achy Obejas

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Cuban-American writer Achy Obejas has used her work to explore notions of personal and national identity. Her works typically focus on sexuality and nationality. The writer once spoke about the duality of both her U.S. and Cuban identities, explaining that “I was born in Havana and that single event has pretty much defined the rest of my life. In the U.S., I’m Cuban, Cuban-American, Latina by virtue of being Cuban, a Cuban journalist, a Cuban writer, somebody’s Cuban lover, a Cuban dyke, a Cuban girl on a bus, a Cuban exploring Sephardic roots, always and endlessly Cuban. I’m more Cuban here than I am in Cuba, by sheer contrast and repetition.”

Her book “We Came All the Way from Cuba So You Could Dress Like This?” was published in 1994 and is a collection of stories about people who have not traditionally been accepted in the U.S., including people with AIDS, immigrants, the mentally ill and those living with addiction. Her other works include “The Tower Of The Antilles” and “Havana Noir.”

Check out her books here.

5. Maria Cristina Fragas

Fragas was the daughter of an enslaved Creole and an unknown father who wrote under the name Cristina Ayala. She was born free in Güines and eventually published her works in various newspapers and journals, including El Pueblo Libre and El Sufragista, as well as Minerva, a magazine she founded and dedicated to Black women. She is largely considered to be the first Afro-Latina writer to discuss race in poetry. For English-only readers, Fragas’ books will be a little harder to get a hold of because of publication rights.

Check out more information on her books here.

 6. Lydia Cabrera

Goodreads.com

Carbrera wrote and published more than 100 books throughout her career as a literary activist. The Havana-born writer grew up in a family of financial privilege during the early 1900s and gained her first interests in Afro-Latinidad through the Afro-Cuban servants that would take care of her and her siblings. Through them, she learned a bit about African folklore, traditions and religions. While never formally educated in anthropology, her works typically took an anthropological approach and often focused on the marginalized Afro-Cuban populations on her island. In “Afro-Cuban Tales = Cuentos Negros De Cuba,” she writes, “They dance when they’re born, they dance when they die, they dance for killings. They celebrate everything!”

Check out some of her books here.

7. Mayra Montero

Amazon.com

Montero is the well-known Cuban-Puerto Rican writer behind “The Braid of the Beautiful Moon,” a finalist for the Herralde award, one of Europe’s most prestigious literary awards. Born in Havana in 1952, the author moved with her family to Puerto Rico in the mid-1960s. These days, Montero is an acclaimed journalist based out of the island who writes the weekly column “Antes Que Llegue El Lunes” (Before Monday Arrives) for El Nuevo Día.

Check out some of her books here.


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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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“Love Sugar Magic” Is The Book For Young Latinx Readers You Totally Would Have Wanted As A Judy Blume Fan

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“Love Sugar Magic” Is The Book For Young Latinx Readers You Totally Would Have Wanted As A Judy Blume Fan

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

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“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.”

Read: A Little Over 27 Million Latinxs Are Eligible To Vote This Year, These Latinas Are Doing Their Best To Make Sure They Do Despite Poor Track Records

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