Returning home after a busy, sleepless week in New York City attending BookExpo America 2010 (BEA), I spent a whole day in a couple of airports among the usual business travelers and familiies initiating their summer vacations. I certainly had a book along with me, as I always do, even when not traveling, but it was not one I had picked up at the show. This novel was sent to me by the author; I requested it and she graciously supplied me with a copy. I carried Margo Candela’s Good-bye to All That on the trip to NYC from Texas for my second attendance to the show.
Why do I mention this? Well, throughout my venture I was both frustrated and fired up by the lack of Latino authors invited, featured, and signing books, or not, at BEA 2010! Only my second show and certainly not a seasoned attendee, but I did have a plan of action and specific goals. One of which, with high priority, was to seek out and support as many of the Latino authors as possible. With a trimmed format, two days instead of the usual three, it was difficult to choose from the multitude of offerings that BEA made available to its attendees. However, success for this Latino goal proved to be unattainable; there were only two events scheduled, a panel on Leading Latino Authors and the 12th Annual International Latino Book Awards. This second tribute, by the way, had minimal attendance and even less authors in person to receive their award.
It astonishes the mind that Latinos are advocating, and often times demanding, that we be included and counted as a growing population to which to accommodate. Latinos want to be recognized as diverse individuals, yet integrated as part of the mainstream. We want our accented voices to be heard; however, don’t want to be singled out. We’ve got a distinctive cultural perspective to share, and yet go out of our way to assimilate it as much as possible. And, thus far, we have failed to show up and support our own.
What does this have to do with Ms. Candela’s latest novel, to be released in July 2010? A writer writes what she knows, what she has experienced. Margo Candela is Latina, a first generation Mexican-American, one that has chosen a profession that might be unfamiliar, foreign perhaps, for a Latino family living in the US. Her novels include Latino characters, however, the cultural experiences developed within the storyline can be that of a mainstream experience. Her novel can relate with and speak to the typical experience. She writes with the reader in mind and for that reader, but is it a Latino reader? Why not add a little more cultural color to this literary experience? I’m sure that a little more spice, added creatively, would only enhance the reading pleasure of all readers, mainstream and colored alike.
Good-bye to All That stars Raquel Azorian, a young professional striving to make a Tinseltown career while experiencing the trials of life. Learning to play the political game in a double-crossing Hollywood environment, maneuvering through a risky, yet exhilarating, office love affair, and trying to keep her family from falling apart without too much of her interference has Raquel juggling more than the usual mix of balls that life usually throws at once. She is up for the challenging role and manages quite well on her own, calling in a few favors with humor and a unique style. Smart, funny, and entertaining. Good-bye to All That is a good read while traveling, waiting, and people-watching, all the while noticing the truly diverse makeup that is the United States.
So why not spice it up? Let us advocate, demand, support, and accommodate the diverse makeup of the United States and write about the multitude of cultural experiences that should relate to all readers. Secondly, why not diversify your reading interests? Take the risk and purchase that book that you would not otherwise buy, simply because it has a foreign, unfamiliar, je ne sais pas, in its title and/or author. I guarantee that it will be a valuable intellectual venture. Finally, offer the opportunity to the independent bookseller first, to advocate, support, and sell your culturalist literature and go to your independent bookseller first to obtain this literary culturalist gem. I look forward to my third attendance at BEA 2011 and hope to find that my culturalist goal will be overwhelmingly successful with a Latino author at every turn, accompanied by her Latino agent, editor, and publisher. Perhaps then I will not have to request an advanced copy from the author herself, but actually meet her and have her sign a copy in person.By Teresa Carbajal Ravet Owner, Dulce Bread & Bookshop