The United States’s publishing industry is translating more works than ever before. Add in a boom of new, exciting voices coming out of Latin America, and we’ve got an amazing flood of new poets, novelists and essayists being translated into English for the first time. To help guide you through the deluge, here’s a list of nine of our new favorite writers, alongside esteemed authors that are due a revisit.
Alia Trabucco Zerán
The Remainder is Chilean writer Alia Trabucco Zerán‘s first novel. The book circles three friends as they embark on a road trip through Chile to reconcile their parents’ violent pasts in the Chilean dictatorships. The Remainder, translated by Sophie Hughes, was published last year in the U.K., where it won the prestigious Man Booker International prize. It will be released in the U.S. in August, and promises to be a fantastic read.
Norah Lange was heavily associated with Buenos Aires’ avant-garde in the 1950s, but less as a writer, and more as a kind of femme fatale figure who was married to poet Oliviero Girondo and who broke Borges’ heart. Literary historical misogyny aside, one of Lange’s novels, People in the Room, has recently been translated into English by Charlotte Whittle. She’s begun the process of establishing herself as a writer in her own right. The book is dreamy, strange and deeply mysterious, and Whittle is working on bringing more of Lange into English.
The oldest stories can be made new, again and again. Based on Sophocles’ play, Antígona Gonzáles, translated by John Pluecker, tells the story of a sister looking to give her brother a proper burial. However, rather than a Greek princess trying to bury a brother who died in battle, the brother of Antígona Gonzáles is a desaparecido in Mexico’s drug wars. Using snippets of articles, poetry and translations of the original Antigone, Sara Uribe weaves together a modern tragedy. While Antígona Gonzáles is her only book currently in English, Uribe has published several other books that will hopefully be translated soon.
A fun way to discover new writers is to follow the careers of translators. The ANTENA collective is made up of two translators, Jen Hofer and John Pluecker. They specialize in avant-garde, playful Spanish (especially poetry); Myriam Moscona is their dream collaborator. Together, they translated her memoir Tela de Sevoya-Onioncloth, a mix of memoir, narrative and an exploration of Sephardic history. It includes a deep dive into the possibilities of Judeo-Spanish, also referred as Ladino. Hofer translated a book of Moscona’s experimental writing, Ivory Black, that can be read in a nonlinear fashion.
Emma Reyes was a Colombian artist in the 1950s and ‘60s who, after a childhood of immense poverty, won a scholarship to study art in France. She ended up collaborating with Diego Rivera and telling stories to Frida Kahlo. The Book of Emma Reyes, translated by novelist Daniel Alarcon, is a collection of her letters written to a friend who encouraged her to tell her childhood stories. In these letters, we can see the traces of an extraordinary artists’ eye, a vivid attention to detail and the remarkable journey of her life. While there aren’t any other works by her, even in Spanish, the book serves as a remarkable introduction to an artist and writer that history has brushed by the wayside.
Sexographies is Gabriela Wiener’s only work translated into English as of now; and as you might be able to tell, it’s a book about bodies. More explicitly, it’s a book about bodies and Wiener’s relationship to other bodies through her own. Bringing in personal experience, theory, anecdote, and story, Wiener is writing into the tradition set out by other authors like Maggie Nelson. Wiener’s other books span a variety of different genres (poetry, fiction, etc.), but also have a deep concern with bodies.
Born in Puerto Rico, Mayra Santos-Febres is a poet and novelist who takes history’s often-ignored characters and turns them into a story’s focal point. Sirena Selena is about a teenage drag queen with a talent for boleros; and her latest novel, Our Lady of the Night, is about Isabel “La Negra” Luberza, a legendary Puerto Rican madam. She also works hard as an editor and promoter of Puerto Rican literature. Her anthology, San Juan Noir, celebrates writers focusing on the darker side of the capital.
When she was only a few months old, Claribel Alegría’s family was exiled from their native Nicaragua for protesting human rights violations during the U.S. occupation. As a result of her divided upbringing, Alegría became a Nicaraguan-Salvadoran poet that wrote from a love of both countries, and of justice. Although Alegría died in 2018, she left behind three books translated into English, as well as a deep well of other writing for an enterprising translator to pull from. Her book, Sorrow, translated by poet Carolyn Forché, is a beautiful meditation on the grief of losing a lifelong partner.
Enriqueta Lunez is a Tzotzil writer from Chiapas. She writes not in English nor in Spanish, but in an Indigenous language — one just beginning to take on a written form. Her first chapbook translated into English, by Ugly Duckling Presse, is set to debut at the end of this year, but you can read poems of hers and an interview with her in Latin American Literature Today. In her poems, she echoes and takes up the refrain of the women in her community, and makes new art from them.