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Friday, May 29, 2009

Yeah, You Can Call Me J.Lo. (or D.Rod.)

So when I first started this blog, I wrote a post describing how I was a closeted Latina. Basically, because I grew up with pale skin, freckles, reddish hair and no Spanish accent, people weren’t exactly mistaking me for Selma Hayek. And because they treated me as if my last name were just some quirky accident, I sort of went into the closet about it.

Essentially, it took me a long time to find my inner Latina, but when I did, I figured why not go all the way and write a book about it? It’s what I do, right? So I created the character Mariana, who has my same ethnic background and is just now coming to terms with her multicultural identity.

And while it may sound like I suddenly became all evolved in a manner worthy of a reinterpretation of Roots, let me be honest here, I’m a bit of a chicken. And when I first started writing the novel, I remember worrying that people might call me a poseur, claim that I’m not “Latina enough” to write a novel with a Latina character. (My dad’s from Puerto Rico, by the way, and he doesn’t look any more like the Hispanic stereotype than I do. I'm just saying...) But all kidding aside, I was truly concerned about how my books would be received by the Latino community.

That fear almost seems crazy to me now.

The largest and most positive reactions I’ve received for the “Amor and Summer Secrets” series thus far have been from Latino teens. I had an event this morning for students from a Philadelphia charter school where most speak English as a second language—all of them were enthusiastic and carrying my book in hand. I had girls come up to me in Lancaster last week all giddy because they had been reading my books with their moms. And I can’t tell you how many emails I get from students who are half-Hispanic and thrilled that someone finally wrote a book they can relate to.

In fact, one was so sweet I’m sharing a piece of it here (I hope she doesn’t mind):

“Lately, I was questioned about my own Hispanic heritage and I have no idea about my own roots…This book was an eye-opener. I know I asked myself, ‘okay, I need something to help me find my roots and give me a clue in.’ I did, your book was one that I picked up randomly after that question was asked and now I believe I found my answer.”

How awesome is that? Seriously? It’s why we write, people.

That’s not to say that my books are written only for Latinas. That’s like saying Seinfeld’s comedy is only for Jewish Americans, or Kanye’s music is only for African Americans, or that the Real Housewives of New Jersey is only for overly pampered whiney princesses from the Garden State (wait, maybe that last one is true).

But my point is that I’m really proud to be “going all J.Lo.” now. And I always thought D. Rod was a pretty cool nickname. Too bad I’m not a ball player.

POP CULTURE RANT: General Hospital

Is it just me, or did Michael wake up from his coma more annoying than ever? Seriously. That kid’s always gotten on my nerves. But I thought that when they SORASed him (Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome), the character would be a bit more tolerable. Nope. Just got snottier. Thank goodness adolescent boys don’t watch this show, because that character’s whole attitude toward his mother makes me wanna slap him.


Anonymous nisha said...

Growing up, I was always really wary of my culture. I'm Indian and believe me, I really, really look Indian. The only thing was that I had no Indian friends growing up because i grew up in rural Pennsyl-tuky. :-) That's why I think my writing has the very basic theme of: 'accept your culture because it's part of who you are'.
It's great to connect to your roots as a writer, i think, because it helps others connect to theirs. Great job on Amor!


May 30, 2009 2:09 PM  

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