Hispanic Heritage Month: Latina American Writers

Posted by on Oct 6, 2021 in People and Culture

September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month in the U.S. It is a time to recognize and celebrate the cultures, achievements, and contributions of Hispanic Americans. One good way to honor Hispanic Heritage Month is to read a book by a Latino American author. This week, btw focuses on several popular Latina American writers, including Julia Alvarez, Marisel Vera, Lilliam Rivera, and Sandra Cisneros.

Julia Alvarez

Thirty years ago, Julia Alvarez wrote a celebrated novel called How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. The book is about four sisters from the Dominican Republic who come of age in New York City. It was celebrated for its portrayal of the experiences of immigrants in the U.S, especially from a female perspective. It has been translated into eleven languages in fifteen countries. Alvarez was 41 when the book was published. Her newest book is called Afterlife.

Alvarez was born in New York City in 1950, but soon moved with her parents back to their native Dominican Republic. She used some of her own life experiences to help inform her writing of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, such as the pressures of balancing the family culture of another country with that of the country where you live. Alvarez has received numerous awards over the course of her career, including the 2014 National Medal of the Arts.

Marisel Vera

Marisel Vera’s novel, The Taste of Sugar, deals with the impact of Hurricane San Ciriaco in 1899. The hurricane greatly destroyed the island of Puerto Rico, killing thousands and left the island in financial ruin. The 2020 book traces the relationship of two Puerto Rican families. It was published soon  after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in 2017.

photograph of a young woman reading an open book
Credit: ©IT Stock Free

Vera was born in Chicago to Puerto Rican parents. Her work explores the experiences of Puerto Ricans and the challenging political and cultural relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States. Currently, she lives in Pittsburgh and is at work on another novel, The Girls from Humboldt Park. It is a story of four Puerto Rican girls growing up in Chicago in the 1970s. Vera also grew up in Chicago’s Humboldt Park.

Lilliam Rivera

Lilliam Rivera has written several acclaimed books for young adults. Her most recent one, The Education of Margot Sanchez, is about a girl who gets in trouble for stealing from her family. She must spend the summer working in her father’s supermarket in the Bronx to make up for it. Over the course of the novel, she develops a deeper appreciation for her parents and their history.

Rivera, who was born to Puerto Rican parents, grew up in the South Bronx. She currently lives in Los Angeles. She has received several awards for her writing, including a 2016 Pushcart Prize.

Sandra Cisneros

Sandra Cisneros’s best-known work is called The House on Mango Street, a series of short tales about a Mexican American girl named Esperanza Cordero. Cordero grows up in Chicago and has big dreams for her future. The short observances from Cordero’s point of view might at first seem random, but they provide a window into her culture and her specific concerns growing up in the United States.

Born in Chicago in 1954, Cisneros has written poetry, fiction, and memoir. Her work has been translated into more than twenty-five languages, and she has received many awards such as the National Medal of the Arts, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a MacArthur Foundation “genius” grant. She is a dual citizen of both the United States and Mexico.

Dig Deeper Choose one of the writers mentioned here and conduct more research on other books they have written. Summarize what you learn and see if you can identify a theme that runs through their written work.