Early on in my writing, other writers asked me whether I wanted to be known as a Latina author. They said it was important that I define myself. It didn’t seem like it needed explanation. I’m Latina. I’m a writer. Where were we going with this?
When I write, I’m not thinking: Is this Latina enough? Did I stick enough Spanish words in the text? My protagonist may be eating soft rolls with coffee for breakfast. Is that action true enough to the Latino experience? When I write, does the fact my antagonist eats macaroni and cheese not make him a true Latino? My experience of being born in New York City to parents who were both born in Puerto Rico has me thinking that I am Latina enough. But, we ate arroz and gandules pretty much as often as macaroni and cheese.
Our cultures inform how we think, what we do, and who we are. The outside world experiences the explicate order of things. The flour that is turned into a wonderful cake cannot be separated out. It is part of the cake, without which there would be none. Most people aren’t thinking of the flour, eggs, and butter. They are concentrated on the finished product- the cake.
One editor I’ve worked with suggested I remove the italics from the Spanish words in my text. Good idea. We speak Spanish all the time. For me, it’s often that NuyoRican breed of Spanglish. Why italicize my words? They are merged in with the whole.
I wholeheartedly agree with the notion of identification and celebrate the ways other writers creatively make the implicate explicate. Of course, I want to be known as a Latina author but that’s amongst other things. Experiences may not be generalizable but they are transferable.
I recently heard Moshe Schulman read his work written from the perspective of being Jewish and his family experience at La Casa Azul. The human understanding was vivid and palpable and I identified. I wonder if he wants to be known as a Jewish writer or a great one? Either way, he fits the bill.
Write on…creative people…identifying… and having the nerve to put it all down… on paper…