Hi friends! Scheduling is off (my fault) so we’re sliding in here with a post to ~close out Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month with guest Jude Sierra. Jude has been kindness itself, and provided us with a wonderful post I really hope you’ll check out. Also of note, Jude is a first time guest to ALBTALBS, so roll out the welcome mats!
A Time for Introspection
- “Recently some painful truths have come out about the publishing industry’s perception of our value and how that continues to hinder access and visibility for authors of color who write Romance. This is a time for introspection, and it seems very clear, some changes need to be made,” PoC Queer Romance Authors Community
As a Latinx author, and as a writer and book blogger, I was very excited by the sudden swell of activism, communication and organization undertaken to create community resources connecting authors with artists, editors. From the start of my writing career I felt it was vital to represent diversity in my stories, both responsibly and honestly.
As the wonderful minds behind PoC Queer Romance Authors Community (Adriana Herrera and Harper Miller) began collecting names, other romance bloggers and readers were creating lists on twitter, suggesting names of other authors and creators who represented queer PoC in the romance community. I was in the hospital with my mother when I saw a post by Corey Alexander recommending my name. I had to take some long moments to sort my very complicated feelings. I identify as Latinx, but including myself on a list of PoC felt very much like taking space at a table I had no right to take. Terrified that I was going to overstep or say the wrong thing, I decided to reach out to Corey and others to talk this through.
I’ll begin candidly by stating that while I identify as Latinx, I do so as someone with a tremendous amount of privilege. While my father was Venezuelan, he was also first generation with Spanish ancestry. The vastly different lived experience, past and present, of Latinx community members from African and colonized indigenous peoples vs. those of European ancestry can’t, and shouldn’t be ignored.
I was born and raised in Brasil, and consider my upbringing there as foundational in the formation of who I am, my roots and identification as Latinx. But the truth is that while I was blessed with my father’s dark hair and eyes, I undeniably have my mother’s very light Irish skin.
Raising the voices and work of PoC is vital. I won’t ever back down or walk away from this. It saddens me to see how often the work of lifting those voices is left to authors and readers of color, with traction gained in the kind of work Adriana and Harper have done cresting for a moment in the romance community at large before and then ebbing. As someone who studies twitter in my academic life, what I see playing out in these spaces is a heartbreaking lack of intersectionality in feminist and queer politics. The voices and struggles creators of color become ephemeral moments within a larger space.
A part of honoring this fight, of continuing this fight, of working for visibility for a community is being careful to recognize privilege as you raise the voices of those who are oppressed. And what I messaged Corey reflected this fear. “I don’t want my privilege to speak above the voices of others who face many struggles I do not.” In our conversation Corey said that they would respect any choice I made about deleting my name from the list they had compiled, but also articulated something I needed to be reminded of. Being Latinx is also about heritage.
The Latinx community has a beautiful, complex, painful and multifaceted history that uniquely informs how we write and what we write. And I think that my work reflects that. I strive continually as a writer to honor what it means to be a Latinx author. I so badly want to be sure I’m never taking space from someone else that I struggled for years to allow myself to publicly identify as Latinx. And this is an important part of this story: the ways in which this fear informed a self-imposed isolation from community.
In my late teens and early twenties, I had a beautiful family life. I’d grown up far from cousins, uncles and grandparents, who all lived in Venezuela or Michigan while we were in Brasil. In 1994 we left Brasil and moved to Michigan, beginning a very painful separation from a culture that was embedded in the fabric of who I was. It was the 2000’s my father began helping his family get out of Venezuela. For a few years, my uncles, my grandmother and my cousins lived with us. This was honestly one of the happiest times in my life because my family was my community in a very non-Latinx world. Together, we created a space that connected us to heritage, to identity, to a selfhood that was distinctly different from the surrounding suburban American community we lived in.
In the span of two years, my father, Tio John, and Abuela died. My cousins moved to Europe. I really can’t speak to how devastating these loses were on their own, and it’s difficult to articulate the feeling of losing something as intangible as a community we created together in that pocket of family. Once that was gone, I no longer knew how to be a part of a Latinx community. I didn’t know how to access one (I hadn’t discovered internet communities yet, of course). That feeling of isolation has haunted me ever since. Once I began graduate school, years later, I did discover more of these communities but somehow found those experiences even more lonely. I was often challenged to prove that I was Latinx enough or even really Latinx at all.
The beautiful thing about the work of the PoC Queer Romance Authors Community is the space they’ve created for the many, many voices of authors who want to share their stories, their heritage, their lived experiences. The community they are creating and extending. That when I went to them and said, I don’t know if I belong here, I don’t want to take away from others, they welcomed me as a Latinx author.
Those of us in the Latinx community are represented by people of many colors, our histories touched by legacies of slavery, colonization, diaspora, and immigration from all over the globe. We are represented by different dialects, multiple languages, and a multitude of individual cultural knowledges. Many of us, such as myself, carry privileges (from skin color to language skill to economic positionality) that others don’t. But we are still Latinx. These are conversations we should be having; these are the stories of our history, of our community, of identity. These conversations are a part of that time for introspection, a movement toward change.
Jude Sierra is a Latinx poet, author, academic and mother working toward her PhD in Writing and Rhetoric, looking at the intersections of Queer, Feminist and Pop Culture Studies. She also works as an LGBTQAI+ book reviewer for From Top to Bottom Reviews. Her novels include Hush, What it Takes, and Idlewild, a contemporary LGBT romance set in Detroit’s renaissance, which was named a Best Book of 2016 by Kirkus Reviews. Her most recent novel, A Tiny Piece of Something Greater was released in May of 2018. Shadows You Left, a co-written novel with Taylor Brooke will arrive spring of 2019 from Entangled Press.
Thank you so much for this lovely post, Jude! I think you’ve given us all a lot to think about. <3