¡Bienvenidxs! Bem-vindxs! September 15 through October 15 is Hispanic/Latinx Heritage Month and the Library wants to celebrate with you! Want to know which Hispanic and Latinx titles our Library colleagues are reading? Follow the conversation between Video Collections Librarian Leigh Rockey and Librarian for African American and African Studies Katrina Spencer to discover some titles they recommend from around the world that are available in the Library’s collection. For research regarding represented geographies, peoples, and cultures, please contact Latin American and Iberian Studies Librarian Miguel Valladares-Llata.
Katrina: Leigh, what’s the latest work you’ve read by a Hispanic or Latinx writer?
Leigh: I found a great sci-fi/speculative fiction anthology with stories written by U.S. Latinos and Latinas. It’s called “Latinx Rising,” edited by Matthew David Goodwin. Even if you aren’t a sci-fi fan, you’ll encounter fascinating reading in the tales of outer space migrations which are really allegories for what’s happening in our real world. One story involves a “mixed race” half-ghost, half-living detective who stumbles on a way to end centuries of continuing injustice by opening the graves of enslaved people. Another involves a character, Anahita, whose life literally slips down the drain, but maybe that’s okay, what with her abusive boyfriend and job pressures. Other stories feature fantastic things such as feathered souls, Texanization, and superportation. A common thread that runs through all of the stories is that they’re about family and friends in whatever ways you define them. Anything this good on your reading list, Katrina?
Katrina: You know, I was once a liaison to a department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies, and the Hispanic and Latinx world represents more than twenty countries, so brace yourself!
One book I’m reading is “A Most Imperfect Union: A Contrarian History of the United States,” text by Ilan Stavans and images by Mexican American cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz, whose L.A. Times comic strip “La Cucaracha” I read back when I was a tween in the 1990s. “A Most Imperfect Union” is told as a black-and-white comic and takes a stab at what we call “revisionist history,” challenging the popular myths that have surrounded some of our most beloved national narratives, and supplying some of the uglier, less palatable truths that many people are reluctant to confront. It’s really on point with contemporary discourse surrounding critical race theory.
Leigh: Sounds great! Any others you’ve found interesting?
Katrina: So many! I was paging through some essays by Salvadoran author Dr. Clelia O. Rodríguez’s short memoir “Decolonizing Academia.” It deals with a Latina woman’s navigation through the “ivory towers” of North America, drawing on the author’s experience at the University of Toronto and her feelings of not fitting in.
Speaking of not fitting in, the first essay in Jennine Capó Crucet’s memoir “My Time Among the Whites” recounts similar sentiments, beginning with the experiences of a first generation, Cuban American college student who learns the ins and outs of higher ed on a bumpy ride through the Ivy League — financial aid, campus living, etc.
If you’re comfortable reading in Spanish, Desirée Bela-Lobedde’s “Ser mujer negra en España” is about being a Black woman in Spain. Bela-Lobedde’s family is from Equatorial Guinea, a country in West Africa that Spain had once colonized. Her combined African and European background brings compelling attention to the wave of immigration from Africa to Europe, and provides new answers to what it means to be Spanish and what a Spaniard looks like.
Another voice from Spain is Chenta Tsai Tseng’s in “Arroz Tres Delicias.” Born in Taiwan and raised in Madrid, Tsai writes in Spanish about discrimination he has faced on account of having looks that don’t conform to the historical Spanish norm and being gay.
Among authors who are Latinx but whose language is Portuguese, there is Marcelo D’Salete’s award-winning graphic novel from Brazil, “Angola Janga,” which tells the story of enslaved people fleeing bondage and creating independent communities. The UVA Library has the English translation.
And Comédias para se ler na escola by Luís Fernando Veríssimo was the first book I read in Portuguese. It’s an exquisite collection of “crônicas” — recountings and commentaries on everyday life in Brazil. Veríssimo’s unique talent is in pinpointing ironies that pass us by without scrutiny in the speedy, unexamined rhythms of modern life. Veríssimo is a national (and prolific) treasure whose works are sure to delight.
So much reading, so little time! I literally cannot keep up!
Leigh: I know the feeling!