I want books. Good books by and about Latinos. Since Latinos comprise a large and growing part of the U.S. population, with increasingly significant purchasing power, I naturally assumed that these figures would have translated into a flood of new Latino to Latino products, like books. But, as highlighted by a recent New York Times article, “For Young Latinos, An Image is Missing,” there aren’t so many published Latino authors out there. While there are various Latino authors who have had bestselling works, for example, Sandra Cisneros, Esmeralda Santiago, Junot Diaz, Julia Alvarez, Alisa Valdes-Rodriguez, and Gary Soto, this list should be much longer, with names I haven’t heard of yet
There are many theories as to why Latino authors aren’t getting published as much as they should: the economy, there aren’t enough “good” Latino authors, Latino authors lack connections, publishing houses are prejudiced, Latino authors’ books don’t sell.
At the same time, Latino authors and lovers of books are actively working to help Latino authors get their name out there and break into the publishing world. For example, a national network of Latina women, Las Comadres para las Americas, has established a book club that features books written by a Latino authors, an annual Comadres y Compadres Writers Workshop and they are now venturing into producing their own books; in 2012, they released Count on Me: Tales of Sisterhoods and Fierce Friendships and have just released a Spanish version of the book. Other examples of networks for Latino authors include Latinidad and the Latino Authors and Writers Society. Several bloggers have even started a public campaign, “Latinas for Latino Literature ” to increase Latino representation in the publishing industry.
Finally, some major publishing houses are starting to get the hint and have started to recognize and promote Latino authors. Harper Collins and Simon and Schuster both have divisions that focus on Latinos. Other firms, like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, are allocating a significant percentage of their content to works with Latino characters.
While these efforts are progress, we still have a way to go before we can enter a bookstore and find an endless selection of works by Latino authors. But luckily we can do something. Perhaps the most effective way for Latinos to get more books by and about Latinos is to send a message with our wallets. Fellow book lovers, it’s time to start showing the publishing houses that that the demand for Latino authors’ works is here.
By Being Latino Contributor, Alexandra Aquino-Fike. Alex is Senior Manager for Corporate Relations at Hispanics in Philanthropy in New York, where she seeks to increase the participation of the corporate sector in the advancement of the Latino communities. She was born in El Salvador but immigrated to the U.S. at the age of four and grew up in a mash-up of Salvadoran, Irish American and Berkeley cultures.