Part I of this topic reviewed the early years of Hispanic literature in the United States, starting with one of the first books published in English, a novel printed in 1872 by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, writing under the pen name C. Loyal. I discussed recurrent themes in previous centuries and focused on the "Chicano literary renaissance" of the 1970's and 1980's. Part II carries us forward into the latter part of the 20th century and contemporary times.
This article was first published recently in Aurelia Flores' blog, "Powerful Latinas," under a different title and in a slightly different form.
Some of the best-known Latina/o authors today got their publishing start in the 80’s, 90’s, and in the early 2000’s. Many of these literary stars graduated from university creative writing programs, which afforded them better access to publishers and other influential contacts in the writing industry. Examples are Denise Chavez, actress, playwright, and novelist; Sandra Cisneros, whom many consider the best-known American Latina author today, and author of the iconic House on Mango Street; Julia Alvarez, author of the best-selling How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991); and Oscar Hijuelos, the first American Hispanic, male or female, to win the coveted Pulitzer Prize for fiction, with his sexy novel based in Cuba, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love (1990). The prequel to this bestseller, Beautiful Maria of My Soul, was published this year.
Some modern authors have become national best-selling authors in the recent past, and their stars are rising fast. This includes New York attorney Caridad Piñeiro, author of the SIN Series of compelling paranormal romance books, including Sins of the Flesh; Daniel Silva, writer of the five blockbuster political thrillers starring Gabriel Allon, such as Prince of Fire; and Junot Díaz, highly lauded author of the short story collection, Drown (1996) and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008).
Other prominent Latina/o authors today, as was sometimes the case with our early literary pioneers, are college and university professors and thus perhaps have a more steady access to publishers. Examples are James Diego Vigil (University of California, Irvine); Susana Chávez-Silverman (Pomona College, California); Teresa Dovalpage (University of New Mexico, Taos); Mike Padilla (UCLA); and Sandra Cisneros (Our Lady of the Lake University, San Antonio, TX).
There must be a new Renaissance going on! Here are some of the exciting, highly talented American Latina/o authors today who are winning awards, winning fans, and making their marks on our literary world in different genres. (This list is by no means comprehensive, and I apologize for my omissions. I plan to continue learning about as many of our Latina/o authors as I can and share information about them in future blogs here.) Authors’ names are followed by only one title, which is meant to be a sampling of their work. Many of these authors have published multiple works. Some authors appear in more than one genre, a testament to the versatility of our Latina/o writers:
• MEMOIRS: David Pérez, WOW! A South Bronx Memoirito of Growing Up in Catholic Schools; Randy Jurado Ertll, Hope in Times of Darkness: A Salvadoran-American Experience; Susana Chávez-Silverman, Scenes from La Cuenca de Los Angeles.
• “CHICK LIT”: Marta Acosta, Casa Dracula series; Margo Candela, Life Over Easy; Mike Padilla, The Girls from the Revolutionary Cantina; Victor Cass, Telenovela; Sofía Quintero, Divas Don’t Yield; Marisa de los Santos, Love Walked In.
• NOVELS: Montserrat Fontes, Dreams of the Centaur; Reyna Grande, Across a Hundred Mountains; Chuy Ramirez, Strawberry Fields; Teresa Dovalpage, Habanera: A Portrait of a Cuban Family; Daniel A. Olivas, The Book of Want; Victor Cass, Love, Death, and Other War Stories; Melinda Palacio, Ocotillo Dreams; Raul Ramos y Sánchez, América Libre; Ana Castillo, The Guardians; Sandra Cisneros, Caramelo.
• SHORT STORIES: Stephen D. Gutierrez, Live from Fresno y Los; Mike Padilla, Hard Language; Stella Pope Duarte, Women Who Live in Coffee Shops and Other Stories; Daniel A. Olivas, Anywhere but L.A.; Toni Margarita Plummer, The Bolero of Andi Rowe; Daniel Alarcón, War by Candlelight; Sandra Cisneros, Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories.
• POETRY: Luis J. Rodriguez, Poems Across the Pavement; Vanessa Libertad Garcia, The Voting Booth After Dark; Ricardo Lira Acuña, Greetings from Heaven and Hell; Yago S. Cura, The Rubber-room; Melinda Palacio, Folsom Lockdown; Luivette Resto, Unfinished Portrait.
• NONFICTION: Roberta Martínez, Latinos in Pasadena; Manny Pacheco, Forgotten Hollywood, Forgotten History; Alex Moreno Areyan, Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles; Sandra Gutiérrez, Teatro Chicana: A Collective Memoir and Selected Plays; Laura Contreras Rowe, Aim High: Extraordinary Stories of Hispanic & Latina Women; Mayra Calvani, The Slippery Art of Book Reviewing; James Diego Vigil, Barrio Gangs.
• CHILDREN’S LITERATURE: Daniel A. Olivas, Benjamin and the Word; Rene Colato Lainez, Rene Has Two Last Names; Amada Irma Pérez, My Very Own Room; Meg Medina, Tía Isa Wants a Car; Mayra Calvani, Frederico, the Mouse Violinist.
• YOUNG ADULT LITERATURE: David Bueno-Hill, Mr. Clean’s Familia; Gary Soto, Dreams of the Onion.
• MISCELLANEOUS (Humor, Graphic Novels): Gustavo Arellano, Ask a Mexican!; Philip Victor, Jaguar Spirit.
This is just a sampling of what our Latina/o literary landscape looks like at this moment in time. You can learn much more about the evolution of Hispanic literature in the lands destined to become the United States, and in the early centuries of our nation, by reading Reference Library of Hispanic America (Chapter 16, Literature): Volume III, edited by Sonia G. Benson.
Also, please visit my other blog, “The Literary Self,” where you can read my reviews and feature articles about other authors not mentioned here. Finally, my own two books—The Heavens Weep for Us and Other Stories and Breath & Bone—are reviewed by others on my website, on amazon.com, and in various other blogs. See the links below, and thanks for dropping by!
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