En Voz Alta: Texas Latina Writers You Must Read
We come from a rich storytelling tradition. It’s important to celebrate (and support) the Texas Latina writers who keep, invent and share them with the next generations. Whether through poetry, short story or the lengthy novel, these women have told the stories of our collective pasts and presents.
If you are just getting into Latino literature or seeking new books to devour, these are the books to start with by the authors you must read. The family love stories, tales of notorious relationships, accounts of fierce friendships and chronicles of motherhood and childhood remind me so much of my own story and those of the people around me.
Truth be told, these are some of my favorite authors, and I’m excited that their works are easy to find on Amazon. It’s not always the case in individual stores. And, I think it’s critical to support authors who make Latina lives part of the literary landscape. This post contains affiliate links.
Laurie Ann Guerrero is the San Antonio Poet Laureate, a feat in a city that has produced the likes of Carmen Tafolla and Rosemary Catacalos. And like both incredible writers, Guerrero is able to see beyond the mundane to find the supernatural in the every day. She often writes about the body, its heavy bones, the width of the hips, the allure of the mouth, and the impermanence of it all. She also often writes about the idiosyncrasies of growing up on San Antonio’s far South Side, growing up brown and living in her skin. Guerrero is the writer I dream of being, so it’s no surprise that I devour her work at every chance.
I’m of the opinion that works by Carmen Tafolla should be taught in every high school English or literature class in America. But I’ll settle for everyone just reading her work for now. Rebozos is one of those books that I’d put on the country’s required reading list. It is at once an art book and a poetry book that combines Tafolla’s beautiful and dreamy text and paintings by artist Catalina Gárate. Tafolla seems to find magic in the unfolding and tying of the rebozo, which becomes a symbol for the blossoming of a life. It’s incredible to see through her eyes.
I think Woman Hollering Creek is a book that should be on every Tejano’s bucket list. It’s simply one of those books you can’t forget. Loose Woman is an equally stunning work. Though Caramelo and House on Mango Street may receive more attention, Cisneros’ books of poetry cannot be overlooked. Through poems and short prose, we hear the voices of women past and present narrate their loves and losses. Every character is a vivid portrait, and as readers we can’t help but become the woman in the midst of a love affair, a girl turning 11 years old, or a young woman who dreams of a different life away from here. At one point or other, we’ve all been these women in our own way, so it’s no surprise that I have returned to it many times and likely will do so again for years to come.
The first time I encountered Amalia Ortiz and her poetry was on Def Jam Poetry Slam, which aired years ago on HBO. Shortly thereafter I worked on a small, indie movie as a production assistant, and she was the star. Not many people may have ever seen the movie Speeder Kills, but many, many others know her poetry. It’s lovely, fierce, unapologetic and challenging. So when I came across a review of her new book, I knew I had to have it. And finding a copy at the recent Texas Book Festival confirmed it. I’m currently reading it and am so very sad that it will soon end. It tells stories of life as we Mexican Americans know it – with all its politics, hope, romance, embracing of some traditions and total rejection of others. I love it.