For Latinx authors, and other writers of color, navigating the publishing industry can feel impossible. Not only do they not get to tell their own stories, but if they break into the field, they don’t always have the help they need and deserve.
“The publishing industry is difficult to get into,” says Hilda Eunice Burgos, author of Ana Maria Reyes Does Not Live in a Castle. “Selling your books is an additional hurdle.”
Knowing that a support system fosters success, Burgos and a group of Latinx authors teamed up to launch Las Musas, a collective featuring women and nonbinary Latinxs who wrote middle grade and young adult books.
According to its official site, “Las Musas is the first collective of women and nonbinary Latinx middle grade and young adult authors created in an effort to support and amplify debut or sophomore novels in U.S. children’s literature.”
As it stands, Latinx authors can feel isolated in the industry. The Cooperative Children’s Book Center reports that from the 3,320 books it received in 2018 from U.S.-based publishers, only 240 – or about 7% – are about Latinxs. This number is significantly less than the 18.1% of Latinxs in the United States. With a large portion of this country’s population being underrepresented in the US publishing industry, it’s clear why Las Musas’s work is necessary.
For this group, Las Musas is about coming together – because as Aida Salazar, author of The Moon Within, says, “unidas hacemos la fuerza.” As a unit, they work to amplify the work of Latinx creators and to provide a broader understanding of Latinx diversity to young readers.
While YA and MG aren’t the only genres with a lack of stories from our communities, Las Musas is focusing on a formative time in people’s lives. Las Musas believes its alliance will provide a broader understanding of Latinx diversity to young readers who can build a more just and empathic world.
Salazar began Las Musas in 2017 after the announcement of her debut novel, The Moon Within. At that time, she noticed there were several other kidlit writers of color publishing books, too.
“I immediately knew that we could create something entirely new … a debut marketing group of our own,” Salazar says.
Using her artivism background, she reached out to Jen Cervantes, Yamile Saied Mendez, Emma Otheguy and Claribel Ortega to begin organizing. The group officially launched September 2018 during Hispanic Heritage Month, first promoting Cervantes’ middle grade novel, The Storm Runner. By the end of the year, Las Musas had grown to 20 members, and it continues to add more writers on a rolling basis.
“This group represents strength, support and a willingness to step up and make a meaningful contribution to Latinx readers and writers.”
For these Latinx authors, the name Las Musas serves as a symbol of the ongoing conversations writers have with inspiration so they can “be storytellers, the vessel by which stories are told and to rely on the muse within ourselves to deliver [a] story is part of the magic of writing,” Salazar says.
Each author has to apply to join Las Musas as an hermana, where they can receive for marketing help, manuscript suggestions, and more about the ins and outs of the industry from more established writers, such as Zoraida Cordova, Isabel Quintero, Guadalupe Garcia McCall and more. Las Musas shows that in publishing, it’s not just about getting your foot in the door, it’s about having the proper tools to thrive.
“This group represents strength, support and a willingness to step up and make a meaningful contribution to Latinx readers and writers,” Cervantes says. “We support one another through book promotion. We use our social media channels as well as lend an ear about publishing, writing, or any other issue we want to talk about.”
For the next few years, Las Musas is backing an exciting roster of writers, including Mary Louise Sanchez, Tami Charles, Nina Moreno, Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite, Michelle Ruiz Keil, and many more.
Though Las Musas has been groundbreaking, this doesn’t fix the problems within the publishing industry. Most of the authors in Las Musas are either white or white-passing Latinx, and that alone should be eye-opening to publishers who look to acquire our stories. We need more writers who are Afro-Latinx, Asian-Latinx and Indigenous creating their stories, and when this finally happens, we can count of Las Musas to be there to uplift them.