Today I feel like ranting so that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
So here’s the thing –I only started reading #OwnVoices books and focusing on that movement back in January of this year, when I did some research and discovered this was a thing. Start reading OV books was one of the best decisions I’ve taken reading-wise, because it has allowed me to discover amazing things from other cultures, countries, etc. It given me the chance to put myself in the shoes of someone with a life very different from mine, but also introduced me to characters where I can see myself in.
That said; if you want to read diversely, please prioritize Own Voices authors.
Taking a trip down memory lane, my reading unfortunately wasn’t very diverse and very much white. I only started reading in English on August 2019 and most of the books that were accessible to me before that were the pretty popular ones: Shadowhunters, Throne of Glass, Harry Potter, the infinite amount of John Green books, To All the Boys… and some less popular ones but still, available in Spanish. (P.S: What I’ll say next doesn’t apply to all the books I mentioned before, and I have all my books sorted by year on my Goodreads account)
These popular books included Latinx characters, and the way they were portrayed made me mad. Today I want to tell you about the stereotypes popular books by white authors have created on Latinx people and why they’re wrong and need to stop. So, let’s debunk the lies, shall we?
Not all Latinxs are Mexican.
I can’t believe I need to explain this, but apparently most white authors believe that we all come from Mexico. Why is that so? When a Latinx character appears on the book, the word TACO is mentioned several times. They take the MC or their love interest to eat tacos; they make tacos at home, taco, taco, taco.
Listen clearly: I have never in my life eaten a taco. They look delicious, yeah, and I think a store sells them on a mall in my city. But I have never eaten them.
Most references to the Latinx culture in books by white authors include mentions of chili (never tried it before as well), guacamole (all I know is that it has avocado), and Mexican shows, singers and other artists. And I just want to tell them, do you know there are more Latinx countries on the map?
Just to make my point crystal clear: Mexican representation on books is amazing and necessary. I can’t remember a time where Mexican culture didn’t play a role in my life, one way or another. But other Latinxs shouldn’t have to conform to reading Mexican references only. Yes, we can understand them, and sometimes also relate to them, but it’s not the same and white authors have to do better if they want to keep including Latinx characters in their books.
Not all Latinxs have a “Latinx looking” name.
Authors feel the need to name all their Latinx characters something like Maria, Carla, Cristina (Cassandra Clare I see u), and if they’re boys then its Pedro, Juan, Carlos… idk. The surnames are ALWAYS very much common, like Rodriguez, Perez, something along those lines.
I don’t have anything against any of the names I just mentioned (they’re just examples to make my point). I won’t lie and say this isn’t realistic because of course it is, many people here in Latin America have names similar to those, but not all Latinx people have those kinds of names and surnames. It’s not a mandatory rule to make you a Latinx.
Yes, my name is Cielo. But I have two other names on my ID that I haven’t shared here and they aren’t Latinx, but French and German. We aren’t in the old days back when babies’ names where decided on what appeared on the Calendar. Moms and dads do research and sometimes the name they like isn’t very common. And what about made up names? Here in Latin America people love to mix names and create a unique one. I haven’t seen something like that in non-OV books with Latinx characters.
And the surnames are a whole other thing, which takes me to the next point…
Surprise! There are Latinx biracial people.
I won’t speak for other countries, so I’ll just put mine (Venezuela) as an example. This is a country with a very high amount of immigrants in it, despite the crisis we’re going through. Many immigrants came to look for a better future when the country was thriving and they stayed; therefore, there are many biracial people here (including me). Most immigrants include East and South Asian, Portuguese, and Italians mainly.
Can you expect us to look exactly the same to those who aren’t biracial? To have the same surnames? Well, nope.
I was really happy when I read the summary (and saw the beautiful cover) of Furia by Yamile Saied-Mendez and saw that the MC is biracial, doesn’t have a “common surname” and didn’t look like most Argentinian people. I can’t wait to read that book because even when I’m not Argentinian, nor do I like football, I felt seen.
We don’t throw Spanish words on every sentence.
There might be Latinx people who are like this (and that’s totally okay), but once again we’re not all the same. Some people do it more, some less; some not do it at all. Personally, I don’t feel the need to use Spanish words when talking to someone who doesn’t speak Spanish. But some authors make us seem as we’re actually unable to stick to one language. For example, in Lady Midnight, Cristina used Spanish a little more than necessary (on almost every sentence, as I said) and you can tell the author was putting it out there as if to remind the audience that Cristina is Latinx (Mexican, I think, but I can’t remember).
One thing that white authors got (kinda) right…
Family bonds. Once again this is not applicable to all Latinx families, and it’s necessary to tell stories of complex Latinx family dynamics on literature (see The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo for a great OV book on this topic. Acevedo does a great job addressing it not only in this one but on her other two books as well).
But in Latinx culture is common to have big families and all being very close and supportive of one another (and also being on each other’s business a bit more than necessary, lol). I loved the family dynamic on The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren because it showed just that, when Olive was heartbroken and having a rough time after losing her job they were like a protective army and helped her with what she needed.
Once again, not all Latinx families are like this. Some are not supportive, some aren’t close to each other and some aren’t big (like mine), but this is a little detail I want to acknowledge because I’ve seen it in a couple of books now and I thought it was worth noticing.
White authors need to do better. Educate on real life stories of Latinx people, their dreams, struggles and backgrounds. Please don’t write an unrealistic Latinx character just to say you wrote a diverse book. We won’t see ourselves correctly portrayed in them and it’ll just help to make a fake image of us on those who read your book.
To the readers, if you want to read a book with a Latinx MC my best suggestion is to read an Own Voices book. You’ll find lots of very diverse stories about many different topics and most importantly you’ll see an accurate portrayal of Latinx culture. You won’t find a carbon copy of the stereotype I mentioned before, but very different stories because we Latinx people are very different from one another.
Time for some recs!
After that long rant, I want to share with you some recommendations of books with Latinx rep, from me and fellow bloggers.
- One of the best posts I can include here is the one made by Sofi from Aelin’s Kingdom in which she gives 265 Latinx book recommendations for the Latinx readathon (the books’ genre and other reps are included too!).
- I wrote a post a while ago about 10 upcoming Latinx releases for the second half of 2020 so I suggest you to check it out! (Some of these books are already out!)
- The bloggers listed on my Latinx Book Blogger Directory give amazing recommendations on books with Latinx rep, so check the directory and take a look at the amazing blogs in there!
That’s all for this post! What’s your favorite book with Latinx representation? Do you agree with the points I made? Let’s talk in the comments!
30 thoughts on “DISCUSSION: Latinxs in literature – what white authors got wrong”
Great post. I completely agree not all Latinx people have Latinx looking name. In all the books I’ve read written by white people, i’ve only encountered the names you have mentioned. I’ll surely check out the recommendations you’ve mentioned.
I hope you like the books from the posts I linked! The names in those books pretty much never vary😅 so yes, that’s something that needs to change!
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This is so important! Thank you for sharing this with us.
Own voices represent is so damn important and stereotyping is legit the worst thing ever.
Thank you s for sharing these amazing recommendations 💕
I love this article and reading your statements. I am bookmarking it to read later.
Thank you so much for writing this post!!! It’s so so so important and I totally agree. Your points are *on point* and I wish non-Latinx people would realize that! Thank you also for including biracial Latinx people, sometimes I have to admit I feel like a fraud because not my entire family is Latinx 😂 aaaaand finally thank you so much for including my post in this!!! ❤️
This is so on point! As someone who is from the south of Chile, it bothers me to see all Latine people represented as Mexicans when we have so much diversity in Latam and different traditions. I’m also so excited to read Furia! Even if I’m not Argentinian, I grew up near the Argentinian border (well, one could argue that Chile being so skinny, you are always kind of near the border?) and I really like to see more OV books from Latine countries that are not in Central America.
I will definitely check out the recs, thank you!
Definitely. It’s not that we don’t understand the references, but there’s more to Latin America than just Mexico. My country isn’t as close to Argentina but there’s many Argentinian content on the TV and i’m familiarized with their culture and some traditions. Furia definitely seems to be a great book and I can’t wait to read it either!
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Great post! I haven’t noticed a lot of these things (I’m Mexican and I have the most popular Latinx last name in the US, no joke) but these are so valid and not something I usually consider when reading! But I do agree, white authors and non-Latinx in general need to step up their research game when writing Latinx characters
Thank you for sharing this. Everything you said makes so much sense, and I’m definitely going to be checking out some Own Voices stories (I hadn’t heard of this before, so again, thank you!).
Looking forward to reading more of your posts 😊
Thank you Meg! I really hope you end up loving the books you choose from this lists😊
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Loved this post so much! ❤ Thank you for sharing it. Reading more inclusive has become very important to me unfortunately, that wasn't my priority in books when I was younger. Ownvoices novels are great and important. 🙂
This was so interesting to read Cielo thank you for sharing! This is a really important topic and your points were all so great and well written. I love reading and finding new Latinx stories, I’m definitely going to check out the links that you added.
This is a very important topic and you addressed it so eloquently. Thank you so much for sharing this with us! The points you made were really well written, and it’s good to know all these things. By the way, Cielo, your name is very pretty 😀
Thank you Eleanor, you’re so sweet! You have a very pretty name too😊 i’m really glad you liked the post💜
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Loved reading this post. Thanks for sharing! I will need to check out some of those recommendations in the future!
This is such a great post!! I used to work with a girl from Central America named Nancy and people would always ask her what her “real name” was. 🙄 I’m loving all the own voices Latinx literature that I’ve read, and it’s so important! Thank you for sharing this post and all the amazing and comprehensive recommendations. 💕 And you really should try a taco. They’re delicious!
Thank you for reading! I’d really like to eat a taco sometime in the future, just without beans because I hate them hehe. Nancy is quite a common name in Latin America! One of the teachers in my Middle School was called like that, and also a famous Latinx TV host. But people just aren’t educated enough on Latinx culture and always expect us to be a certain way, it’s awful
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I always just go with the assumption that a person’s name is exactly what they say it is. And my default is that if I don’t know something, I ask politely – it’s the best way to learn about a different culture! I actually didn’t know that Nancy is a common Latinx name, so thank you for teaching me something new! 💕
FYI – tacos don’t usually have beans in them (at least the ones I’ve had).
This is such a wonderful post, thanks for sharing! we really need more ownvoices diverse reads ❤
Thank you for writing this post!! Representation is so so important, but it’s also important to get it RIGHT- that’s why I am always on the hunt for Own Voices reads. And thank you for sharing the recs, definitely adding some of those to my own TBR 🙂
This is such a great posts! And thank you for including the recommendations. I’m having trouble knowing where to start with Latinx books and needed a good list.
I especially liked your point on biracial latinx being ignored! Even if there is representation, it’s always white + [insert other race].
Thank you! I hope you can find your next read in one of the posts I linked!
And you’re right. When including biracial people, white authors always make them something-american and it’s tiring. There’s many other biracial people that just AREN’T from the US, ugh
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Very interesting post. There is so much to learn about people and culture through books. I’m from Latin America and I’m happy to see people reading more and understand more about that part of the world.
This discussion is amazing, Cielo. Thank you for writing this!!
Great points and great posts! I will definitely check out some of your recommendations!
This is such an important discussion! Thank you so much for writing this. I have been trying to read more own voices books this year too (The Poet X is such a great book!) and I can’t wait to read more. It is so important to feel seen and I am so happy you found yourself in these own voice books. Great post!