#Kidlitwomen: Immigrant Voices Want To Tell Stories

KL1

When I self-published my first book a few years ago, I was confronted with questions I had not expected: “Did you write a book? In English?” was the most popular. “Is it about some cultural things from your country?” was a close second.  I’m a non-native English speaker originally from Peru. I am the owner of an accent which I have learned to accept with the years. I fight daily with those dangling modifiers, the darned prepositions, and the ridiculous subjunctive. Pronunciation is still hard, even after years of living in the United States. But here I am, writing the stories I want to tell. And it is that I believe immigrant writers don’t want to be pigeonholed in the role of cultural ambassadors. Immigrant writers like me want to tell stories that feel real to us and our children. I believe my cultural background and unique experiences will inevitably impregnate my stories, but I don’t want to be defined by the place I was born and raised into. I belong, mostly, to the world.

But I have discovered a place where I do take advantage of my roots: my school visits. I visit schools on Skype and in person on a regular basis. You have no idea how the eyes of children of Hispanic origin brighten when they hear me present at their school. Maybe I remind them of their mother, or an aunt. My accent feels relatable and the language doesn’t sound like a barrier anymore. It thrives like an advantage. And imagine the impact of a person with my accent and skin color in front of a mostly white classroom! The reality is, many kids have only heard an accent like mine from the janitor or the fast food worker. I stand in front of them representing immigrants who want to tell stories.Screenshot (325).png

I can’t speak for all immigrant voices. We have different colors, cultures, experiences, and backgrounds. But I can speak as an immigrant woman of Latino roots and tell you that many women like me face the challenge of a macho society where women don’t typically shine brighter than their spouses or children. And being an artist of any kind feels like the wrong kind of shining. For years I’ve wanted to attend conferences and seminars but being married and the main caregiver for my children proved to be an obstacle. Furthermore, my (Latino) husband objected many times my eagerness to participate in conferences. He said men go to those gatherings to prey on unsuspecting women, to take advantage of their dreams. I dismissed his comments, but after revelations of sexual harassment  and inappropriate advances in the kidlit world, I realize he wasn’t completely wrong. My husband, a man who is not close to the publishing world at all, was able to see a cross-cultural/cross-industry macho code which has tainted our society like a cancer.

KL2But, I have faith (and I have signed up for two conferences this year, yay!). I’m glad for the #metoo and the #kidlitwomen movements for giving us the opportunity to raise our concerns. We have so many things to fight for that, at times, it feels like an interminable task. The road seems long and steep, but I encourage you to look back and see how much we have advanced. Women are no longer quiet. Even women of color, immigrants who have a different kind of voice want to speak up and be able to tell stories.

What can we do? Let’s keep pushing forward! Let’s hush when we need to listen. Let’s talk when we need to be heard. And let everyone have a voice:

“The voice of the immigrant woman muffles under the weight of her tongue.

It feels like a rock. Heavy, rough, slow. But her willingness to speak will soften it

and make it sing. Look at it flying over mountains, walls, and frowning faces.

Look at it shining, lighting hearts, making rainbows. Look at it cradling babies

humming lullabies. See it. Hear it. For it isn’t meant to be invisible

or quiet.”

cropped-21.jpgMariana Llanos

http://www.marianallanos.com

Please check all the AMAZING posts for Women’s History Month on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/kidlitwomen/

Advertisements

6 Comments

  1. Hello Mariana! It was so nice to read your post today! As a Latino author myself, one who also refuses to limit herself to writing “latino specific” books, it was refreshing to read you. I often feel Latino authors in the US are limited by that alleged requirement to write about migration and the cultural differences. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, I’ve never actually seen myself as Latino. I’m Puerto Rican, and in my world, this whole “Latino” thing seems very “North American” to me. In my book, you would be Peruvian, though of course, I would not presume to tell you what or how you should identify yourself. I’m not sure if other Latino’s feel this way, but I do. Seems like it’s too big of a category, based solely on language. I’m very happy to learn there are other native Spanish speakers who don’t want to be limited by their roots and yet manage to make the most of it. I hope you the best in these conferences you will be attending soon. Have a beautiful day!

    Like

    Reply

    1. I hear you, Maricel! I am Peruvian and I would say you’re Puerto Rican…. the whole Latino/Hispanic thing is so people in the US won’t get too confused. 🙂 I believe most Latinos feel this way. There’s no such thing as a Latino culture or race. We’re a ix of flavors, colors, shapes, sizes, cultures. That’s what makes us so rich!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  2. I so relate to several aspects of your post and experience, Mariana. People have also asked me if I wrote my stories and books myself. Or if I wrote them in French first and hired a translator. I am white but having an accent is not always easy to wear. When we speak with an accent we are either cute or not very smart. Thank you for voicing your experience and best to you with your writing.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Evelyne, you’re so on point. Some people will treat you a little like a dummy because of the accent or when we occasionally don’t understand part of a speech. I have experience that too and it’s so frustrating. Thanks for sharing your insight.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

  3. I hear you. Or should I say, I read you.

    Your post hits a sore spot in my writing life. When people find out I am originally from India and that I write romances, they always wonder why I don’t write about more “serious” things, like poverty in India or child marriages. However, as a reader, things that have interested me enough to further my education on the subject have always come out reading romances.

    For example, my love for and interest in Knights Templars came out of reading a romantic suspense by Linda Howard called Son of the Morning. The Heroine is a translator of ancient manuscripts who is tasked with translating documents suspected of belonging to the last Knight Templar. That one book lead to years of reading books about Knights Templars that survives to this day.

    Stories should fire the imagination. My stories may not be about “serious” matters but I hope that they encourage people to educate themselves on the subjects that interest them.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply

    1. Thanks for sharing this Vinita! Once I had a person telling me to my face that I didn’t look Peruvian, that Peruvian wear those funny hats to the side… SIGH. I know, some people are so full of stereotypes,and maybe it is up to people like us to educate them. Many are surprised to learn my childhood favorites were William Shakespeare and Antoine of Saint Exupery. The truth is, “cultural” (for lack of a better term) literature has its place but what appeals to most are books with universal themes.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s