From ‘Dirt’ to dignity: How to join the movement to promote Latinx voices

Just like that, the conversation has moved from frustration to inspiration.

My post yesterday about the misguided bestseller “American Dirt” was not quite as constructive as I usually like the Daily Boost to be, but our fearless leaders were already miles ahead: the key voices of protest against the novel had already hatched a plan for positive action. The brand-new #DignidadLiteraria campaign aims to revolutionize publishing and get publishers to prioritize Latinx voices.

The founders are writers Roberto Lovato, David Bowles, and flat-out badass Myriam Gurba, whose scathing piece “Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck: My Bronca with Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature” sparked a lot of the current conversation. (She deserves some sort of award simply for starting a headline with “Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck.” You can listen to her starting at about 8:05 on this episode of the Latino Rebels Podcast, where, unsurprisingly, she continues to not pull any punches: as she introduces herself, she calls the book like “a narconovela written by a gringa who went to Acapulco for the weekend… It’s ghastly.”)

#DignidadLiteraria is showing the full power of a hashtag. People are using it to share books you should read instead of “American Dirt,” offer their services as publishers or editors to Latinx writers who have a manuscript that needs supporting, and more. If you are interested in this topic, or just in seeing how people can pull together in the face of something that could have been simply infuriating and exhausting, then follow #dignidadliteraria on Twitter or whatever social media you use.

If your main interest is checking out Latinx writers and journalists, here are the first four that have actually made it onto my Kindle or reading pile after following the hashtag. (I know, Amazon is bad, but one thing at a time.)

  1. Children of the Land,” by Marcelo Hernández Castillo, 2020 – This is a brand-new memoir about growing up undocumented in the United States. As #dignidad boosters are saying, let’s make this one a gargantuan bestseller! What’s more, a book about post-immigration life in the United States addresses a huge truth that “American Dirt” gets wrong: life after crossing that border is not a bed of roses. 

2. “Enrique’s Journey,” Sonia Nazario, 2006 – As I wrote yesterday, this book really did change the way I understood migration. It’s based on a Pulitzer Prize-winning series in the LA Times and is absolutely extraordinary. Like “Children of the Land,” it also focuses extensively on the long-term impact of a migration journey after arrival in the U.S.

3. Um, all of these books in this photo from @booksonthepark! Although “The House of Broken Angels” by Luis Alberto Urrea is calling my name in particular, as is his “The Devil’s Highway.”

4. “Tell Me How It Ends,” by Valeria Luiselli, who was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Africa, recounts her experiences as a translator for child migrants in New York. It sounds like it needs to be read with a stiff drink in hand, but so do all of these books.

The Texas Observer published a list of many more books to read, and #dignidadliteraria will keep ’em coming in the days ahead. What are your favorite books on immigration or by Latinx writers in general? Do you subscribe to any media, magazines, ‘zines that help support writers of color in your community? I’d love to learn more, because it’s all hands on deck to turn this around.

(If you’d like to learn more about some amazing young Costa Rican writers, you can check this out.)

I’m a writer in San José, Costa Rica, on a year-long quest to share daily posts on inspiring people, places and ideas from my adopted home as a kind of tonic during a rough time in the world. Sign up (top right of this page) to receive a little dose of inspiration every weekday in your mailbox; tell a friend; check out past posts; and please connect with me on Instagram or Facebook! You can also find me churning out small, square poems on any topic under the sun (here on the site, on Instagram or Twitter).  

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