As the founder of the book festival, The Bronx is Reading, Saraciea J. Fennell is always searching for stories from the Latine diaspora. The writer feels strongly that there’s room for more of us in every genre, whether it be non-fiction or fantasy. A few years ago, her idea for an anthology by Latine writers took root. But then came the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
“There were all of these different stereotypes about us that were just being perpetuated, and it started to really make my blood boil,” Fennell tells Remezcla. “I decided young people really need to know that this isn’t the only image of us. We can define who we are because we’re so much more.”
Fennell began to draw up a list of writers who go against stereotypes, break barriers, and discuss subjects that are taboo in our communities. The result is Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices From the Latinx Diaspora, out on Nov. 2. Edited by Fennell, the anthology features both established and emerging voices who bring forth personal essays as varied as the Latine lived experiences themselves. Fennell was very intentional on who she asked to contribute to the collection, and also penned an essay about her own complex relationship with her roots.
“Where are we? It’s a question I am always asking: ‘Where are we?’ Myself as a Black Honduran, I’ve always been searching for other Black Honduran writers, and I can’t find them,” says Fennell, who is also the founder of a collective and online presence called Honduran Garifuna Writers. “I’m really big on creating community, but also trying to force the publishing community to pay attention to these things because there are lots of underrepresented stories within the Latinx diaspora.”
Below, Fennell takes us through a few of the essays in the anthology that resonated with her the most. The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity purposes.
“Eres Un Pocho” by Mark Oshiro
“Mark is a transracial adoptee and I feel like their experience is just something that is not really highlighted within the community. There are so many writers who write about many different things in the Latinx canon, but I haven’t really found a story about being an adoptee child and trying to explore your roots, and then come to terms with who you are as an individual. Mark’s structure of walking us through what it was like to be a child, and then a teenager, and then an adult—and to go through all of these different things—was really well done. It’s also painful at certain turns to see those betrayals, to see their struggle with learning the language, and with religion, which are things that are super important to our community. I was on a roller coaster with emotions [after reading Oshiro’s essay]. I know exactly how that feels because I was in foster care for a little bit. And so having that disconnect from my culture really stuck. As I grew up, in asking questions and researching, I felt like I was very in line with what they were going through… trying to find that history and that connection.”
“More than Nervios” by Lilliam Rivera
“Alcoholism and mental health are things we don’t talk about in the Latinx community at all. I feel like Lilliam is speaking her truth and telling people, ‘It’s okay for you to struggle with these things, and it’s okay for you to seek therapy.’ Suicide among Latinas is really high, and I feel like this is something that young people really need to read. After I read Lilliam’s essay, I felt like I could use it to have conversations with people in my family who I feel have struggled with suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and also with alcoholism. I’ve been telling people that this is one of the ways that you can use this anthology: as a conversation starter among family, friends, and etc.”
“Cuban Impostor Syndrome” by Zakiya N. Jamal
“I felt a very strong connection to this essay, as another Black Latina. She’s a Black Cuban, and growing up, embracing your culture and saying ‘Yea, I’m Cuban, too,’ but then having a white Cuban look at you and sort of try and discount that was really disheartening. Her college experience is also something that I connected to because you navigate these spaces as a Black person, but you want to be able to also celebrate that Latin part of yourself. I just felt like so many people will also identify with that because we’re all asking ourselves, in one way or another: Are we Latinx enough? The answer is yes. Yes, you are. You are Cuban. You are Latinx enough.”