Monday, June 28, 2010


There is no shortage of Latina literary talent in America today!

One of my aims in this website is to highlight the writings of Latinas who came to the United States from different origins—often from families, and with families, who spoke little or no English. Yet these Latinas not only learned their adopted land’s tongue, but they mastered it in ways that reveal their giftedness, their artistry, and that set them apart as literary leaders in a nation that values creativity and innovation.

These Latina authors have contributed, and continue to contribute, greatly to the richness of our American literature—and they should be acknowledged as examples of newcomers to our nation who enrich our lives and our society with their intellectual gifts. Two such amazing authors are Caridad Piñeiro and Reyna Grande. These Latinas are widely different in their genres and backgrounds, yet both are masters of their art. These talented writers are the first to be honored in this section.


Caridad was born in Havana, Cuba, but was raised in Long Island, New York, where she quickly distinguished herself as a scholar, academic leader, and pioneering attorney (first woman partner in the Abelman, Frayne & Schwab law firm). Caridad recently said: “My family and I always watched scary movies, so the paranormal element always intrigued me. I was a science major in college and decided to blend that love of science with the paranormal.”

Luckily for all of us readers!

Author of 24 paranormal/suspense romance books, Caridad is often considered one of the superstars of this writing genre, distinguishing herself as a bestselling author on the New York Times and USA Today lists. In one year alone (2007), Caridad published six books and was honored with the Golden Apple Author of the Year by the New York City Romance Writers association. Other awards and honors bestowed upon her include: the Best Short Contemporary Romance of 2001 in the NJ Romance Writers Golden Leaf Contest; the Top Fantasy Books of 2005 and 2006 by Catalina magazine; and Top Nocturne of 2006 by Cataromance.

One of her newest romance novels is Sins of the Flesh (2009), in which a beautiful, terminally-ill musician, Caterina Shaw, who is of mixed ethnic heritage, becomes a guinea pig for medical experimentation that turns deadly. After she escapes from the tortures she’s being subjected to in the lab, she is targeted for death. Lonely, sardonic bounty hunter Mick Carrera is hired to kill her, but—as he learns more and more about Caterina—Mick switches his loyalty...and goes on a different mission. His loving Latino family, especially his physician sister, play a pivotal role in the plot. Caridad’s skilled weaving of mystery and suspense, spiced with scientific, futuristic possibilities of the medical world, keep the reader in suspense throughout.

Caridad’s dialogue is very realistic, and her descriptive prowess in depicting Caterina’s other-worldly transformations due to the drugs forced into her system fill the pages with excitement. Each character reminds us of someone we know, or of someone we could know; yet each character is unique in his or her presentation. Mick is a detective who rivals the classic good guys of commercial fiction for many decades past, yet Mick’s Latino heritage distinguishes him from other heroes.

At last, Latino readers have romantic heroes and heroines we bond with, we admire and root for, and these Latinos are, ultimately, the universal heroes everyone can relate to. Caridad reminds us that—even as we celebrate the cultural uniqueness of ethnic heroes—in the end, we are all the same, striving for the same dreams, feeling the same emotions, fighting the same fears.

Sins of the Flesh is available, along with Caridad’s other books, at or from your favorite bookstore. Visit her website at


California author Reyna Grande was born in Mexico in 1975 and came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant when she was 9 years old to reunite with her parents. In Los Angeles, Reyna quickly flourished in school and bonded with books at an early age. She became the first in her family to attend college, where she earned a Bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing/Film/Video from the University of California, Santa Cruz; and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Antioch University.

Reyna shares her deep love affair with literature with schoolchildren across the state and with college students across the nation, who study her books in their coursework. In addition, she teaches creative writing workshops in Los Angeles and volunteers in other literacy efforts, such as judging prominent literary competitions and coordinating the prestigious annual Latino Book & Family Festival in Los Angeles, which is slated for October 9-10 this year.

Reyna’s first novel, Across a Hundred Mountains (2006), won substantial critical acclaim, resulting in her winning El Premio Aztlan Literary Award (2006) and an American Book Award (2007). Her second novel, Dancing with Butterflies (2009), has also received wide praise and promises to become another literary pick for college course reading lists. It was selected by Las Comadres Book Club for January 2010, and it won a 2010 International Latino Book Award in its Best Women's Issues category.

In Dancing with Butterflies, four very different women, whose commonality is their affiliation with a folklorico dancing company, take turns narrating their lives. The women—Yesenia, Elena, Adriana, and Soledad—represent different generations with distinct challenges: a poignant struggle with middle age and its theft of vigor and beauty (Yesenia); the immense loneliness of widowhood and difficulty of fighting sexual temptation (Elena); the woundedness of growing up ignored and unloved (Adriana); and the sadness of severing cultural and familial roots for the sake of economic survival in a foreign land (Soledad).

Though Reyna’s characters are distinct from one another in their talents, goals, and needs, collectively they represent the suffering that surfaces in everyday life as we tackle demons we don’t always know we carry inside us. Reyna also underscores the interconnectedness of our lives, the webs that join us to one another to bring us solace, to heighten our pain, or to remind us that, for better or worse, all humanity is one.

Reyna’s language sweeps us from wherever we are while reading her book. We suddenly find ourselves on the edge of the stage as the swift, fluttering movements of butterflies, in all their color and grace, are recalled in the movements of folklorico dancers. Reyna writes: “Your feet seem to float over the floor as you twirl and twirl around and around before jumping into the arms of your partner....The stage is a flurry of dancers whirling and stomping. The audience breaks into a rhythmic clapping as they follow the lively song in 2/4 beat.” The fluidity and beauty of this iconic dance ultimately contrasts with the starkness and gracelessness of issues that litter our day and force our attention away from the grander things in life, away from love, serenity, confidence, and hope.

Reyna Grande is just getting started in making a memorable mark in our literary world. She is currently at work on a memoir. Both of her books can be purchased at your favorite bookstore or through Visit Reyna’s website at .

[This blog was originally posted on my other blog, LatinaWriter99, in June, 2010.)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010


Sandra Lopez, the author of the newly published young adult novel, Beyond the Gardens (2009), is a literary force to watch. She has been precocious for most of her life: reading books at the age of two, being the first in her family to graduate from high school and college, being one of the youngest emerging authors today. She recently received her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from California State University, Fullerton, and is ready to take on the literary world.

Her first novel was published before Sandra graduated from college. This debut book, Esperanza: A Latina Story (2008), depicts a teenager from a poverty-stricken home marked by domestic abuse, alcoholism and other drug abuse, gangland connections among her father and other relatives, and a saddening absence of hope for the future. Her barrio, Hawaiian Gardens in Los Angeles, could easily defeat her, as a friend tries to tie her down to early marriage at the cost of her education. When Esperanza enters high school, she faces bullies, peer pressure to meet low expectations, and the tremendous possibility that she, too, will become just another Latina dropout. Esperanza has no role models, no home support, but she finds strength she did not realize she had and fights against obstacles to fulfill her dreams.

In her new book, a sequel, Esperanza is now 18 years old and enrolled in an art college, pursuing her dreams with financial aid. Her life is upended when friends from her past re-enter: Carlos, who is now interested in her romantically, and his sister, Carla, who had urged Esperanza to marry her brother while in high school. Esperanza also contends with her roommate, a rich Chicana; and with Jake, a hunky mechanic who seems to be her soulmate. Life becomes complicated for Esperanza as she constantly wonders what is “beyond the gardens” of her barrio, and what life can possibly hold for her.

Both of Sandra’s books are available through You can visit her website at .