We at ALBTALBS welcome Carmen Baca for her debut guest post. Carmen joins us for Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month, sharing how she incorporates pieces of her life into her debut romance novel El Hermano. We hope you enjoy!
Using Nuestra Cultura in Romance
The night of his brother’s wedding, she came to him in a dream. Although the details were lost in a misty fog, her dark brown eyes and jet black hair haunted him in the days which followed. He was twenty-six, a bit long in the tooth for a man to still be a bachelor in the 1920s. Hell, all his primos and compadres had been married for years, and he didn’t even have a single prospect in sight. So when the dark-eyed beauty came into his dreams night after night, he became obsessed with finding her.
*ETA from Priscilla: To all our family and friends in Puerto Rico, our hearts and prayers go out to you. For those interested in donating to help those devastated by hurricane Maria, please consider this organization: https://hispanicfederation.org/donate
We are super excited to have author Priscilla Oliveras join us at ALBTALBS for Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month! Not only is Priscilla guest blogging, but her first novel debuts this month on September 26th. Congratulations, Priscilla!
Nourishment for My Latino Soul
The Latino culture is rich and vibrant. Full of color and essence. Of different flavors and sounds. Within our culture, you’ll find nuances unique to specific countries and areas. Evidence of this is readily apparent in the beautiful homage titled “Latino Cultures in the US” compiled by Google Arts & Culture.
Hispanic Heritage Month is almost over! (And does anyone know why the month runs from September 15 to October 15? … I guess I should’ve looked that up…) BUT! More importantly, today we have Inés Saint who was a total rockstar and great about doing things right off the cuff. So, I hope you enjoy this post! Also, welcome Inés because she’s new to ALBTALBS! We want her to like us! 😉
When Worlds Collide
I moved to the United States from Puerto Rico for the first time when I was four years old and I remember being very nervous about the move. My biggest fear: learning a new language. The day before we left, my mom and my aunt were upstairs, talking about our big move, and I would interrupt them from time to time, yelling up from the bottom of the stairs, asking my mom if a word I’d just made up meant something in English. After throwing out at least twenty made-up words, I hit upon a real one: cake. I felt so proud!
My first days of school in New Jersey were riddled with misunderstandings. I didn’t know how to tell my teacher I didn’t like chocolate milk, so I pinched my nose and poured it down a drain to show her. She was not happy. Another day, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be writing on a brown paper bag the teacher had passed out, so I copied the kid next to me. The teacher said something like, “Your name’s not Michael!” when I turned it in, and everyone laughed. I knew that’s what she’d said because I knew the kid’s name, but I never would have guessed that’s what the boy was spelling out!
Little by little, I learned the language, and little by little, I fit in. By the time we moved to Boston, I felt like I belonged. Boston especially was a wonderful place for me. Everyone there seemed so proud of their heritage. So many of my friends’ parents were interested in my culture, and they knew their own so well. Everyone was ‘one eighth this, or one fourth that’.
But a few years later, I was back on the island. I had forgotten so much Spanish! The mistakes and misunderstandings began again. Imagine a shy seventh grader mistaking the word bracelet for bra and the word embarrassed for pregnant. It wasn’t a fun time. After a while, though, I became friends with a girl who grew up in Tallahassee and our experiences were so similar, everything felt like it would be okay. Soon, I became friends with kids who had grown up in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and even Ireland! It helped to know others like me, who felt caught between two worlds. They got the way I felt.
Throughout the years, I continued to move back and forth. I’ve lived in both places every decade of my life. Sometimes it feels like I have one foot on the main land and the other on the island. There are times when I feel I don’t really belong in either place, and there are times when I feel like my experiences make me fit in anywhere. I’ve also had moments when I’ve been judged and rejected because of the language I speak and because of my heritage. In both places.
But I’m thankful for each and every experience because I believe they’ve all made me a more compassionate person. I’m always able to spot a person who feels left out and few things make me happier than making a person feel welcome. My own children moved with my husband and me from Puerto Rico to Ohio a few years ago and they say it helped that I understood what they were going through. My oldest child says he felt he belonged the day he said the word, “dude”, and it came out naturally. I knew exactly how he felt.
Right now, we’re still in Ohio. We’re lucky to live in a place with a wonderful Puerto Rican population. I’m also very involved in my kids’ schools and I’ve made some great friends who’ve lived right here in Ohio their whole lives. Last Christmas, our Puerto Rican friends planned a Parranda for us. A Parranda is something like Christmas caroling, but Puerto Rican style… LOUDER! The music is fun and rhythmic and I knew some of my American friends would enjoy it (for the record, I know we’re all Americans ;)).
Over one hundred people came to our Parranda and our house was filled with music, laughter and friendship that night. Our American friends and their children truly appreciated getting a glimpse of a fun and important part of Puerto Rican culture. We served a traditional chicken stew and I was touched by how interested everyone was in learning about our food and customs.
It was the first time my two worlds had collided and it was a beautiful moment for me. I realized I didn’t really live between two worlds. We all live in one world, made up of the people we choose to surround ourselves with.
. To this day, people in my town talk about the Parranda. I’ve been asked when we’ll host another one, and people I’ve never met who have heard about it have asked if they can come to the next one. It’s hard to explain how absolutely proud this makes me. Proud of my Puerto Rican friends for always being so generous and willing to share everything they can about our culture in such fun ways, and proud of my American friends, for wanting to learn, enjoy, and share the experience with others.
When I told my son the story of how I learned my first word in English, he made an important observation: at the end of the day, we’re all just ‘dudes’ (and ‘dudettes’?) who eat ‘cake’. I wish more people understood this! The world would be a better place indeed.
I love this post! And not just because I LOVE cake! 😉 Also, I’m now not sure what my first word was. And that makes me a little sad. Cake is a great first [English] word. 😀 I’d love to hear your thoughts! Come on, who couldn’t be happy and warm fuzzy after reading this?
Hi friends! I’ve fallen behind again, but today I’m here! With another guest celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month with us! Whee! Everyone – I hope you chime in. I’m grateful for all of you <3 (and for copy + paste)! Please give Ana a very warm welcome!
Reading while Latina by Ana Canino-Fluit
I am Latina romance reader and reviewer. Born and raised in Puerto Rico I have now lived nearly half of my life in the US Mainland and Canada. I have inter-married like so many Hispanics do, and I am raising my daughters to appreciate their multi-cultural (Dutch-Canadian & Puerto Rican) heritage. I am school librarian and I read and review romance as hobby. I read nearly all the romance sub-genres, everything from historical to science-fiction, although I tend to steer clear of inspirational and westerns. Romance like the rest of mainstream literature can be overwhelmingly white and while I am always thrilled to discover Hispanic authors and characters when selecting books to read I don’t limit myself to reading books written from a Hispanic point of view. But I do find myself looking for certain tropes, and story elements that in some way resonate with my experience of being a Latina. The particular tropes and story elements that appeal to me won’t necessarily appeal to another Latino or Latina whose experiences and background is different from mine but these are the tropes and story elements that I find reflect a bit of my reality.
I love stories of newcomers or new people finding a place to belong in a small town or community. I left Puerto Rico to attend college and I have lived in many places across Canada and the US for work since then, so reading stories about the importance and process of finding supportive friends, and becoming part of a new community appeals to me. Two of my favorite series that return time and time again to the challenges and rewards of finding love, making friends and building relationships with peoples and places are Shannon Stacey’s Kowalski Family and Jill Shalvis’s Lucky Harbor books.
A distinct but related category of these types stories are romances about immigrants & ex-pats. People who not only leave their hometowns or states but are building lives in other countries. I love reading about the adjustments required to live in a different culture, the ideas and traditions we sometimes unconsciously carry from our home cultures and how they complicate our relationships. As someone who has negotiated the sometimes fraught waters of inter-cultural romance I love reading about it. Kat Latham has written a couple of stories with Ex-pats and bi-national couples which I really enjoyed (Knowing the Score & Mine Under the Mistletoe). I loved Mary Ann Rivers’ Live with its homesick Welsh hero, set on going home while slowly falling in love with a girl that has never left home. I also love Laura Florand’s novels, both the Amour et Chocolat and La Vie en Roses series, where the lovers often have to discover all that is lost in translation, the little cultural nuances, mores and cues that can lead to misunderstandings beyond simply not sharing the same first language.
I love stories of misfits and outsiders, people who don’t quite fit in or and are not fully accepted by the culture at large. When I was growing up in Puerto Rico, I knew that I didn’t quite fit the idealized Puerto Rican image of beauty, and when I left home as light-skinned Latina, I got and still get lot of comments like “you don’t look Puerto Rican” and those comments are exhausting and wearying as they make you feel not quite right. Meljean Brook’s Iron Seas series while first and foremost action packed stories of adventure and love that I fell in love with for their intricate world-building and steam-punky goodness, are also populated with people of color whose lives are complicated by how they look, what their heritage is or they ways their bodies have been modified. Delphine Dryden’s geeky and kinky characters in the Theory of Attraction series are misfits and outsiders of a different sort. I connect with these smart men and women whose differences from those around them might not be readily visible but still set them apart, and make them feel slightly out of sync with the rest of society.
I love strong and complicated family relationships. It is cliché to point out that Hispanics and Latin@s deeply value family, but what is less well understood is how complicated and difficult those extended family relationships can be. Divorce, substance abuse, distance, family expectations and aspirations complicate our families. In Lauren Dane’s books from her Brown Family series and its related novels to her Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction I find depictions of complicated families that are both honest and raw. Her family relationships are rarely straightforward; instead they are often sources of both strength and conflict. I love that she can acknowledge the role of our families of origin play in the families we build and their power to affect our relationships for good or ill. I recently read her novella Sway from the Delicious series, where we see both Daisy Huerta’s loving, healthy yet not idealized Mexican-American family and Levi’s complicated but close-knit WASPY family and how concern and conflict from both sides nearly derailed Daisy and Levi’s love affair.
I love to read stories that assume and portray a multicultural world, which is rarer than you might think. I love books where the communities and groups of friends depicted are not all white and include more than a token person of color. I wish I saw more authors that realized that you can find people of color in all sorts of communities, big, small, urban and rural. I loved how vibrantly diverse Jenn Bennett’s 1920’s San Francisco is in her Bitter Spirits series, and the fact that we see people of color in all sorts roles going about their lives. In contemporary romance I really enjoy Audra North’s books for its everyday inclusion of people of color as main and supporting characters. I know when I read a person of color in her romances, their race isn’t “the issue”, but instead just a part of who they are.
When I was growing up in Puerto Rico it sometimes felt like machismo was the default male philosophy, and culturally we were raised to accept that you could tell the good ones from the bad ones because they listened to their Abuela, watched out for their nieces and sisters and that all the novias & chulitas would be set aside for the right one. Although I never let myself date a Machista or ever wanted a real live rake I still have a soft spot for stories of reformed rakes, of big strong men who know they are beat when they face a fierce grand-aunt like Lady Osbaldestone and are drawn to strong bossy women who don’t simply sit waiting to be rescued. I found my fix for this trope in the dozens of Stephanie Laurens Cynster series and Nalini Singh Psy-changeling novels which I binged on when I first found romance novels.
One of the most enduring telenovela tropes is that off a cross-class/Cinderella romance. In the telenovelas I watched as a child some rich guy was always falling for some girl from the wrong side of the tracks (who often conveniently was some of other rich guy’s secret baby…but that is another story). As a result of prolonged and sustained exposure to this trope, I have become very picky about the kind of cross-class romances I can enjoy. Unlike the telenovelas I watched as kid I want authors to address the real obstacles and sacrifices involved in those kinds of relationships. Two of my favorites are Jeannie Lin’s Lotus Palace, whose portrayal of deep family bonds, loyalty and sacrifice lend weight to Bai Huang and Yue-ying love and Cecilia Grant’s A Gentleman Undone, where Will and Lydia’s love is truly costly to them, costing them financially, in social esteem and even family contact.
The un-employment rate in Puerto Rico has been very high for a very long time, so my whole life my parents have the stressed the importance of education and work-ethic to the point that I didn’t realize that till I was in college that many people did not in fact go on to get a college education, but in my life it simply wasn’t optional. I was taught to value and respect those who humbly worked hard jobs to provide for their families and to provide opportunities for paid for work for others whenever possible. I look at my family, at my grandmothers who both worked and managed business. My great-grandparents who farmed and ran a bakery and as result I rarely feel a romance is complete if it doesn’t address the significance and value of work or the impact of struggling to make ends meet. I find myself deeply drawn both to stories where characters have to negotiate work-life balance because the characters love their work, are so good at it that it can easily consume them, like Julie James’ FBI series novels and Emma Barry’s Easy Part series and to novels where characters work hard in less than glamorous settings (Cara McKenna’s After Hours and Hard Time), where work is not identity but necessity.
This is just a small part of the tropes and story elements I enjoy, as I haven’t mentioned some of my favorite writers and books, but their appeal to me is not something I can easily tie back to my Latina experience but are instead things I like simply because of all the other things that form who I am beyond my race, like my love-hate relationship with librarian romances and my aversion to billionaires. What are the tropes and story elements that connect the most deeply with you? I would love to hear your recommendations of books that fit some of these tropes and elements and I haven’t discovered yet. You can find me on twitter as @anacoqui and find my reviews on my blog.
So – what are your thoughts?! Chime in! (And have you read any of these books?)
Hello! My friends – I confess – I >.> actually didn’t get a chance to read this post until formatting it. Elvira Ashton found me on twitter when I put out a call to Hispanic Romance Authors. And … I’m bending the rules (in apparently many ways) – but I figured … hey. You know? Variety is the spice of life?
Without further ado… Ms. Ashton!
Heroes and Heroines from Spain
When I think about which one is gonna be the next hero or heroine in my story, I ́m pretty sure about what kind of man or woman I would inspire in. Here in Spain we have some of them to take as an example.
A man I always have on my mind as a possible hero is Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar, better known as “El Cid”. He was a brave man born in eleven century and, as a King ́s knight, he had a plenty life full of action, adventures, and love, of course. I like to think he was in love with his wife, Jimena, for ages, and that their love survived across the adversities of their lives, even when he was sent to “el destierro” (banishment), where he had to live far away of Jimena for too many years. At the end they finally joined and today both of them are buried in Burgos Cathedral, together.
So “El Cid” is one of my favorite Spanish heroes and Jimena is a wonderful heroine, but I invite you to learn about some others and to write about them, and also I would be very happy to know about your own heroes and heroines!
My goodness this year has been flying by! Technically yesterday was the start of Hispanic Heritage Month, but ALBTALBS doesn’t do Monday posts. >.> To kick off this new celebration of Smithsonian Heritage Month I got the wonderful Dee Tenorio to come visit! I really loved this post and I hope you’ll chime in. 🙂
What Culture Means To Me
My mother and I were discussing culture the other day, as one of our local grocery stores was having a sale for “Dia De Las Patrias”. Now, I didn’t remember that being a holiday and neither did my mother and she was a bit confused. Allow me to explain. My mother is a Native American and in California, that often means she speaks Spanish, because that’s the language the Indians were allowed and it’s kind of stuck. Now, me? I mangle my father’s language horribly. I can understand it to a degree (especially Spanglish), but I read it a heck of a lot better than I verbalize it. Between the two of us…yeah, we didn’t know what that was. It translates to “Day of The Homelands”, which seems to be a very sweet reference to the Mexican Independence celebrations going on down south. To which my mother asks, “Why are we celebrating that here? It’s not OUR independence.”
Much to my surprise, I had a good answer: Because it’s their culture. Your culture is part of you no matter where you are.
I’ll be honest, being brown in Southern California has had some serious drawbacks in my time. (It was worse before my time, but that’s a different story.) So a lot of my sense of being Hispanic is wrapped up in my sense of being rejected because of it. Folks get it in their head what Hispanic means and judge accordingly, whether that’s good or bad or blasé. Being born Mexican didn’t make me automatically a “wetback”, it didn’t mean I would magically know the language. I didn’t have a mental blueprint for cutting lawns and I wasn’t inclined to clean houses or serve. That’s what it means to a lot of people here.
For me, being Hispanic—being Mexican—is a lot about food, lol. It’s about my Grandmother’s kitchen and the music she loved to listen to. It’s telenovelas starring actresses with fabulous hair sobbing streaks of make up down their cheeks while we peeled potatoes and stared in awe, demanding Grandma tell us what was going on. It’s about the sound of my grandfather speaking Spanish so fast no one could tell where any words ended. My mom teaching us Cumbias and and the utter glory that is pan dulce, fresh from the bread man’s truck. And, yes, it’s a lot about tortillas. There is a sound that not a lot of people recognize anymore—the sound of a metal rolling pin hitting the wooden cutting board with this perfect “ting” every time it comes down and rolls the masa into a perfectly circular shape. That’s the sound of being Mexican for me, a chime that encapsulates the smells and voices and memories of my childhood.
We talked then, about how culture isn’t just where you are or even where you come from. It’s about the experiences you have with your family and the traditions that you share with the ones who came before and the ones you bring up. My kids all know the sound of the tortillas being rolled out. They know the smell of the beans and deliciousness of menudo. But I think the best thing we’ve been able to share with them is the togetherness we feel when we sit at the table together and create memories they can share with their children. Hopefully memories filled with laughter, spices and commitment…and maybe a little cumbias on the side.
About the Author: Dee Tenorio has a few reality issues. After much therapy for the problem—if one can call being awakened in the night by visions of hot able-bodied men a problem—she has proved incurable. It turns out she enjoys tormenting herself by writing sizzling, steamy romances of various genres spanning paranormal mystery dramas, contemporaries and romantic comedies. Preferably starring the sexy, somewhat grumpy heroes described above and smart-mouthed heroines who have much better hair than she does.
The best part is, no more therapy bills!
Well, not for Dee, anyway. Her husband and kids, on the other hand…
If you would like to learn more about Dee and her work, please visit her website.
The only thing more dangerous than passion is the truth.
Retired Marine and new Sheriff’s Deputy Cade Evigan is hanging onto his damaged soul—and his personal code—by a thread. His current mission? Weed out a violent motorcycle crew from a small mountain town. The problem? Katrina Killian, a woman standing firmly on the other side of the law, smack in the middle of the gang he’s there to destroy. She may get under his skin, but the sultry biker has criminal written all over her. So why can’t he see her like any other convict?
For two years, Katrina has been a DEA agent hiding in plain sight amidst a pack of killers, working to put an end to the gang that has terrorized her hometown. The last thing she needs is to fall in love with a man who could blow her cover—and her heart—to pieces, but Cade’s become an addiction she can’t break. Unable to risk either of their lives with the truth, she plays both ends against the middle to keep him safe. But lies can only last so long, and Katrina’s time has just run out…
Hello darlings! The plan this year was to celebrate all the Smithsonian Heritage Months. We’re still in the process – and who knows, there might be a repeat. But! I just wanted to let you know what “SHHM” stands for because you’ll be seeing it in front of all the posts from September 15 – October 15. Which, actually, is when Hispanic Heritage “Month” is. (I don’t get it either.) Anyway … Yay Hispanic Heritage Month!!!
I also wanted to let you know that I’m basically coming out of a 4+ month hiatus, so fingers crossed things will finally look up and stop being so crazy!
Thanks so much for sticking with me – I miss you all! <3