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Publishers shouldn't confine Latino authors to just 'immigrant stories'

Esther J. Cepeda on

But when "Tristiana," an experimental novel about a group of artists trying to decide their place in a Latin American Marxist revolution, came out a few weeks ago, reception was tepid.

"When I released 'Tristiana' I contacted all those people who said they wanted a Spanish book, and any time I reached out it was crickets, absolute crickets," said Marcantoni. "I post excerpts of my novels on social media and when I post in English, I get an avalanche of responses. But the Spanish ones bomb. So where are all these Spanish readers?"

According to Pew, 68 percent of all Hispanics speak English proficiently. And, in 2013, the center noted that they tipped over into preferring English-language news, signaling that there may be some mismatch between what Latino readers say they want and what they will actually consume.

But Marcantoni says that the more important issue is not language, but better selection in the kinds of stories Hispanics want to see themselves in and, in turn, read.

"When I meet readers who are into genre work -- like experimental stories, science fiction, mythology and fantasy -- they've been brought up reading white authors because Latino authors are marginalized into the 'immigrant stories' category," Marcantoni told me. "It's not that Latino readers are not educated but there's a dearth of content that they like, written by their own people."

This indicates that there are some literary niches to fill. If Hispanic readers really are on the lookout for well-written horror stories, erotic fiction, hard-boiled detective mysteries, comedies and alternate histories that have a cultural component, then what we really need is for the Latino Patricia Cornwell, Stephen King and E.L. James to step up.

More importantly, however, is for large, mainstream publishers to recognize that Latino readers aren't interested exclusively in stories about culture shock or marginalization. When Latino writers who are not telling "immigrant stories" come forward, they need to be given a chance.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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