“A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.”
—Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own
There is no singular Latinx experience. To assert such would be to reduce the histories of nations and continents, of imperialism and genocide, of liberation and expression to one set of eyes, one lifetime, one breath.
Every Latinx person lives a Latinx experience, whether or not it resembles that of another. Naturally, though, certain similarities arise among stories written by or about Latinxs, especially where the Latinx diaspora in the United States is concerned. Themes of exile, longing, (un)belonging, and isolation create a common thread through many Latinx stories, while differences in culture, race, and gender bear new iterations of the Latinx identity with each generation.
My story begins in my birthplace, Puerto Rico. Before my first birthday, my family left the island, settling in South Florida where I grew up surrounded by other Latinx kids for whom communicating in Spanish was nothing but natural. The same was true in college in Miami, where students’ conversations were peppered with Spanish phrases and most employees expected you to address them as “usted” instead of “you.” This constant confirmation of my Latinidad molded my self-definition; before all else, I am Boricua, the product of an island inextricable from its language.
Even though I lived away from the rest of my family, frequent visits to my island and confidence in my Spanish assuaged much of the uncertainty I felt around my cultural identity growing up. In the years since leaving South Florida, however, I have noticed gaps in my Spanish vocabulary where there once were none, and this unwelcome discovery has caused me to question myself. Am I Latina enough? It’s a concern I’ve heard echoed by other Latinxs in the diaspora, and one which I hope to ease as this column unfolds.
“A House of Our Own” is a love letter to Latinx literature. With an intersectional collection of writings, I hope to tease out the common narratives that tie each of us to Latinidad. This column will cover writings in different genres written by Latin American authors who either immigrated to the U.S. or are the descendants of those who did. With its limited scope of twelve books, this column is not my attempt to define Latinidad with any degree of certainty. Rather, I hope to piece these authors’ stories into a mosaic to which readers can relate, regardless of their cultural identity.
Each month, I will post a new book response. The books have all been released or are slated for release in 2021 and 2022. I hope to interview as many of the authors as possible and incorporate their words into my writing. The tentative reading list is as follows:
October: Variations on the Body by Maria Ospina
November: Dreaming of You by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
December: Gordo: Stories by Jaime Cortez
January: We Are Owed by Ariana Brown
February: Wild Tongues Can't be Tamed by Saraciea J. Fennell
March: x/ex/exis by Racquel Salas Rivera
April: Andale Prieta by Yasmin Ramirez
May: Muscle Memory by Kyle Carrero Lopez
June: Velorio by Xavier Navarro Aquino
July: Desgraciado: (the collected letters) by Angel Dominguez
August: A Woman of Endurance by Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
September: The Kissing Bug by Daisy Hernandez
I hope you will take this journey with me, that your own anxieties about identity will be somewhat eased, and that you find some part of yourself reflected in these words.