5 Latino authors you should be reading now



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Many authors born in Latin America have produced some of their finest work while living in the United States.
Alvy Libros/flickr, CC BY-SA

Laura Lomas, Rutgers University Newark

José Martí and his son in New York in 1880.
Wikipedia

You likely recognize that the depiction of Latin American immigrants in politics today – as a menacing mass of recalcitrant Spanish-speaking invaders – is overwhelmingly negative.

What you may not know is that stereotypes suggesting that Latin Americans represent a threat to United States culture are not just morally repugnant – they’re also historically inaccurate. Spanish-language literature actually predates the Puritans’ writing in English by nearly a century.

As my research reveals, many renowned Latin American writers actually produced some of their finest work while living in the United States. Latina and Latino writers have made exceptional contributions to American literary history.

For a fresh take on what it means to be a Latina or Latino in the U.S. today, check out these five literary luminaries.

1. José Martí (Cuba, 1853-1895)

For Cubans, José Martí is the equivalent of George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman combined. Born in 1853 in Havana, Cuba, Martí wrote the bulk of his 28 volumes of prose, poetry and speeches in late 19th-century New York.

Working as a diplomat, translator, Spanish teacher and journalist, Martí interpreted current events and cultural questions from his office on Front Street, in lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport.

José Martí and his son in New York in 1880.
Wikipedia

He witnessed immigrants arriving by the boatload to New York – except the Chinese, who were banned in 1882. He knew about the lynching of black Americans and of atrocities against Native Americans. These stories found their way into Martí’s thinking about Latin America and its diaspora in the United States.

Martí also wrote dazzling accounts of New York, his adopted hometown, likening the cables of the brand-new Brooklyn Bridge to sated “colossal boa constrictors” resting atop towers.

Upon the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty in 1886, Martí alluded to the fact that his distant island home, Cuba, remained a Spanish colony: “Those who have you, O Liberty, do not know you. Those deprived of you must not merely talk about, they must win you.”

Martí died in 1895, fighting for Cuba’s independence. In 2018, he was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, alongside local luminaries Colson Whitehead and Alexander Hamilton.

2. Julia de Burgos (Puerto Rico, 1914-1953)

Puerto Rico’s greatest poet also migrated from her Caribbean home island, where she was a teacher, to the isle of Manhattan. Julia de Burgos recounts this literary journey in one of her most famous poems, “Yo misma fui mi ruta” – “I was my own route.”

De Burgos’ inventive, daring poetry did indeed forge a new path for feminists, Latina and otherwise, in the early 20th century.

Against pressure to identify as white, the mixed-race de Burgos proclaimed her African heritage, calling herself “Black, of pure tint.”

A postage stamp honoring de Burgos.
William Arthur Fine Stationery/flickr, CC BY-ND

In one experimental 1938 poem, de Burgos addresses the distance between her liberated identity as a writer and her constricted role as a woman.

“You in yourself have no say; everyone governs you; your husband, your family,” she writes in “To Julia de Burgos.” “In me only my heart governs, only my thought; who governs in me is me.”

In 1953, de Burgos was found dead, without identification, in uptown Manhattan and buried anonymously in a potter’s field on Manhattan’s Hart Island. A month later, her compatriots retrieved her remains and reburied her in Puerto Rico.

The New York Times featured de Burgos – a “poet who helped shape Puerto Rico’s identity” – in its overlooked women’s obituary series in May.

3. Gloria Anzaldúa (Texas, 1942-2004)

The poet and essayist Gloria Anzaldúa came from a family of Mexican-American farm laborers.

Anzaldúa’s work celebrated bilingualism.
Sandstein/flickr, CC BY

Her ancestors had for generations lived in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, near the border that Anzaldúa memorably defined as “an open wound where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.”

Anzaldúa’s work often celebrates her community’s bilingualism. She portrays it as an act of survival against the “linguistic terrorism” of the U.S. public school system, which required English-only teaching and offered “accent elimination” classes in a part of the U.S. that used to be Mexico.

Anzaldúa found such insults to her nonstandard way of speaking excruciating. “Until I can take pride in my language,” she once wrote, “I cannot take pride in myself.”

Anzaldúa is increasingly recognized as one of the 20th century’s most influential feminist and anti-racist essayists.

4. Sandra Cisneros (Chicago, 1954-present)

No list of Latino authors is complete without Sandra Cisneros, author of the beloved “The House on Mango Street,” which has sold nearly 6 million copies and has been translated into over 20 languages.

Why Cisneros has not received the same acclaim as Junot Díaz – a childhood sexual assault survivor who was recently accused of his own sexual impropriety – is perplexing.

Sandra Cisneros.
Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA

My favorite of her novels is “Caramelo.” In this transnational coming-of-age story, a Mexican-American woman digs into her family history.

Learning from her abuela, Soledad, she discovers hidden truths about family tensions, border crossings and why her doting migrant papá, Inocencio, is not so innocent after all.

5. Cristina Henríquez (Delaware, 1971-present)

Cristina Henríquez, who was born in the U.S. after her Panamanian father went there to pursue graduate studies, is the best novelist you’ve never heard of.

Featuring first-person perspectives of Central and South Americans and Caribbean migrants, her books dramatically expand the popular conception of the U.S. Latino, long centered on Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans.

The best book you haven’t read.

The Book of Unknown Americans” tells the story of recent arrivals from Paraguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico and Mexico who live in a dingy apartment complex, enduring the back-breaking labor of harvesting mushrooms. Sometimes, after a 12-hour shift in the dark, they eat only oatmeal for dinner.

The teenage love story between the characters Maribel and Mayor – written in prose that The Washington Post says rises “to the level of poetry” – may help American readers appreciate the myriad reasons why Latin Americans migrate north, including dictatorships, a lack of specialized health care and violence.

That is, I think, Henríquez’s hope. As one Mexican character angrily states, in the U.S. he feels both invisible and vilified.

The Conversation“I want them to see a guy who works hard, or a guy who loves his family,” he says. “I wish just one of those people, just one, would actually talk to me. … But none of them even want to try. We’re the unknown Americans.”

Laura Lomas, Associate Professor of English, Rutgers University Newark

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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Males Earn More


The link below is to an article that looks at how male named authors earn more than female named authors.

For more visit:
https://www.fastcompany.com/40562484/want-to-earn-more-as-a-book-author-a-male-name-will-help

Five books by women, about women, for everyone



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Get stuck in.
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Stacy Gillis, Newcastle University

Women’s writing has long been a thorn in the side of the male literary establishment. From fears in the late 18th century that reading novels – particularly written by women – would be emotionally and physically dangerous for women, to the Brontë sisters publishing initially under male pseudonyms, to the dismissal of the genre of romance fiction as beyond the critical pale, there has been a dominant culture which finds the association of women and writing to be dangerous. It has long been something to be controlled, managed and dismissed.

One of the ways that publishers, booksellers and critics use to “manage” literature is through the notion of genre: labelling a book as “detective fiction” becomes an easy way to identify particular tropes in a novel. These genre designations are particularly helpful for publishers and booksellers, with the logic running something like this: a reader can walk into any bookstore, anywhere, and go to the detective fiction section and find a book to read, because s/he has read detective fiction before and enjoyed it.

What complicates this is who makes the decision of which genres are deemed to be appropriate, and which books are put into which category. Genre is also complicated by the idea of women’s writing. Can we have a genre that is designated solely by the sex of the author? What if we turned this around, and rather than a genre, women’s writing was a term we used to simply celebrate writing about women?

Here are five novels by women – and about women – from across the 20th century. These novels all grapple, in very different ways, with women and independence.

Agatha Christie, The Man in the Brown Suit (1924)

South Africa on a whim.
Jeremy Crawshaw, CC BY

Anna Beddingfeld, a self-mocking heroine, who is very aware of the conventions of gender and genre, impulsively buys a ticket to South Africa because the boat fare is the exact amount she has left in the world. She ends up taking down an international crime syndicate with aplomb and panache.

Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Blue Castle (1926)

Doss is the expendable unmarried older woman in a Victorian novel. But in this story, she walks out on her largely uninterested family to move into a cabin on an island with a man she has met only briefly. A fantasy of the Canadian wilderness, the novel was one of Montgomery’s few novels for adults.

Mary Stewart, Nine Coaches Waiting (1958)

A rewriting of Jane Eyre, the novel contains all the tropes of the Gothic romance – a castle, a family secret, murder – but these are challenged by one of Stewart’s finest protagonists, Linda Martin. Martin is employed as a governess by an aristocratic family, but rejects the trappings of romance to protect her charge, and her own integrity.

Octavia Butler, Kindred (1979)

Edana Franklin wakes up in hospital with her arm amputated and the police questioning her husband. It is revealed that she has been travelling back to 1815, where she comes into repeated contact and conflict with Rufus, one of her slave-owning ancestors. A novel that raises important questions about masculinity, power and violence.

Shirley Jackson, Patchwork Girl (1995)

One of the earliest pieces of electronic fiction, this retelling of Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Baum’s The Patchwork Girl (1913) places the narrative in the hands of the reader, who pieces together the story through illustrations of parts of a female body.

Often popular novels by women have a narrative arc that is visible from the outset: the protagonists will find a romantic partner in the end. In some of the above books, some of the women do, and some of them don’t, find a romantic partner. For those who do, the romance is secondary to the work they do, and the choices that they make about their own lives.

What unites the novels is an exploration of the choices that some women have to make as a result of their sexed and gendered embodiment, whether travelling to South Africa on a whim, being jolted unwillingly back onto a slave plantation, or making an explicit call to the (woman) reader to make choices about how the electronic story develops.

The ConversationWriting about women (and often by women) gives us some examples of how to challenge the status quo, if only for a little while. Each challenge, however, provides another example of how to effect change in a patriarchal culture. Here’s to the writers about women who have done this – from Jane Austen to Shirley Jackson, from Frances Burney to Josephine Tey, and from Angela Carter to Val McDermid.

Stacy Gillis, Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Literature, Newcastle University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

We, robot: the computer co-authoring a story with a human writer



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Leah Henrickson, Loughborough University

In Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot, a collection of nine short stories about robotics, Asimov explores the possibilities of human-computer interaction. How can humans and computers co-exist? How can they work together to make a better world?

A research group from the Meertens Instituut in Amsterdam and the Antwerp Centre for Digital Humanities and Literary Criticism recently introduced a new digital creative writing system. Using a graphical interface, an author drafts a text sentence by sentence. Then, the system proposes its own sentences to continue the story. The human and the computer work together to create what the system’s developers call “synthetic literature”.

The paper detailing this project describes the text generation system as an attempt to:

Create a stimulating environment that fosters co-creation: ideally, the machine should output valuable suggestions, to which the author retains a significant stake within the creative process.

How to train your robot

To learn language and sentence structure, the system has been trained using the texts of 10,000 Dutch-language e-books. Additionally, the system was trained to mimic the literary styles of such renowned authors as Asimov and Dutch science fiction author Ronald Giphart by generating sentences that use similar words, phrases, and sentence structures as these authors.

As part of this year’s annual Nederland Leest (The Netherlands Reads) festival, Giphart has been trialling the co-creative writing system to write a tenth I, Robot story. Once Giphart’s story is completed it will be published at the end of a new Dutch edition of Asimov’s classic text. Throughout November, participating libraries throughout the Netherlands will be offering free copies of this edition to visitors to get people thinking about this year’s festival theme: Nederland Leest de Toekomst (The Netherlands Reads the Future).

As Giphart types new sentences into the system’s graphical interface, the system responds by generating a selection of sentences that could be used to continue the story. Giphart can select any of these sentences, or ignore the system’s recommendations altogether.

The point of the system, its developers explain, is to “provoke the human writer in the process of writing”. Giphart says he still considers himself “the boss, but [the system] does the work”. One article even described the system as being ideal “for those who have literary aspirations, but who lack talent”.

Can a computer be creative?

The “synthetic literature” referred to by this system’s developers implies a combined production effort of both human and computer. Of course, the human still guides production. As co-developer Folgert Karsdorp explained: “You have numerous buttons to make your own mix. If you want to mix Giphart and Asimov, you can do that too.” The system follows its user’s direction, responding by using its own capacity for creativity.

But can a computer ever be truly creative? This is a question that the field of computational creativity has been studying since computers were invented. The field generally accepts that a computer can be called creative if its output would be considered creative had it been produced by a human.

Computational creativity debates are all rooted in one underlying question: is the computer merely a tool for human creativity, or could it be considered a creative agent itself? In a discussion about computer-generated art, creativity scholar Margaret Boden noted that:

It is the computer artist [the developer] who decides what input a system will respond to, how the system will respond, how unpredictable the system’s output will be, and how transparent the system’s functionality will be to users.

Even the most unpredictable output, according to Boden, results from choices the computer artist has made. While a developer may not be able to predict a system’s exact output, the output nevertheless reflects the choices the developer has made while programming.

Computer systems can be trained to mimic the language and sentence structure of particular writers.
Shutterstock

The co-creative writing system Giphart is using isn’t able to produce an entire book by itself, but it can produce paragraphs that continue Giphart’s story for him. Giphart, though, ultimately has the power to choose what computer output he uses.

But does this mean that Giphart alone will be credited as the author of his Ik, robot story, or will his computer be given credit as a co-author? It’s still unclear. Although it could be hotly debated whether the creative writing system is just a tool for Giphart’s vision or could be considered an agent itself, we won’t be seeing the demise of human authors any time soon.

One Nederland Leest blog post compares this new method of writing to the evolution of the electric guitar. It may have existed for nearly a century, but it wasn’t until Jimi Hendrix showed us how to really play the instrument that its potential was realised. Similarly, we still need to discover how to “play” this writing system to get the best results, whatever they might be.

So is synthetic literature the future? Maybe. Keep reading to find out.

The ConversationA video explaining the project is available here, in Dutch.

Leah Henrickson, PhD Candidate, Loughborough University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Should authors’ unfinished works be completed?



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Claire Squires, University of Stirling

The scene: a field in southwest England. The sun is shining for a quintessentially British event, the Great Dorset Steam Fair. A six-and-a-half tonne steamroller takes centre stage. This, the Lord Jericho, goes head-to-head with a computer hard drive, and in a battle of old and new technologies, rolls over it several times. Then, just to be on the safe side, the hard drive is placed in a steam-powered stone crusher.

A scene from a fantasy novel? No. The hard drive was from the late author Sir Terry Pratchett’s computer, and it contained the files of, it is thought, 10 unfinished novels.

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Pratchett, author of the much-loved Discworld series, wrote more than 60 books in his lifetime. But it was his wish that any unfinished works remained unpublished, and so he instructed that the hard drive containing his remaining works be crushed by a steamroller.

Raising Steam

Commenting on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, authors Patrick Ness and Samantha Norman asserted Pratchett’s absolute right to determine the future of his unfinished work. In recent years, though, both authors have completed unfinished novels by other writers. In Norman’s case, it was The Siege Winter, a book by her late mother, Ariana Franklin. For Ness, it was Siobhan Dowd’s A Monster Calls, now adapted into a hit film.

Unfinished work abounds in literary history, from Jane Austen’s Sanditon and Charles Dickens’ The Mystery of Edwin Drood to F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Love of the Last Tycoon.

For each of these canonical authors, their unfinished texts add to our accumulated knowledge of their writing, their rich imagination, and the development of their thinking. After completing Dorothy L Sayers’ last novel, Jill Paton Walsh went on to create warmly regarded new novels featuring Lord Peter Wimsey and Harriet Vane. J R R Tolkien’s son Christopher likewise has worked painstakingly on unfinished works by his father, including The Children of Hurin.

Unlike Pratchett, the strict instructions left by some authors about their legacy have been ignored, sometimes to the reader’s benefit. Max Brod’s decision to counter Franz Kafka’s wish for destruction is to literary history’s benefit, as it led to the publication of The Trial, The Castle, and Amerika. Emily Dickinson left no instructions on what to do with the approximately 1,800 unpublished poems she wrote before her death in 1886. Fortunately, her sister Lavinia took it on as her mission to see them made public.

When Swedish crime novelist Stieg Larsson died suddenly, unmarried and with no will, his estate came under the control of his father and brother. They commissioned ghostwriter David Largenrcrantz to create new works using Larsson’s characters, with the latest, The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye due in September 2017. Larsson’s bereaved long-term partner is in possession of the author’s laptop which is believed to hold Larsson’s last unfinished novel, but she has refused to turn it over to his family.

Reaper Man

The biographical figure of the author has, despite Roland Barthes’ critical articulation of “The death of the Author” in 1967, never been more present. Now, readers have unprecedented access to the names on the spines of their books, thanks to festivals, talks and social media.

While some authors may not want to show the struggle of their early drafts to the world, there is both an industry (famous author’ manuscripts can sell for high figures) and scholarship attached to them. Formal archives of Pratchett’s work exist in Senate House in London, for example – including some tantalising glimpses replete with coffee stains and notes to the publisher. Salman Rushdie has even given a desktop computer and several laptops to Emory University in the US.

There is no doubt that Pratchett was within his rights to deprive readers of these last rough-hewn gems, though understandably fans may be disappointed with his choice. However, the rumours swirling around the appearance of Go Set a Watchman – the original version of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird – suggest that elderly and infirm authors can potentially be preyed upon. Pratchett’s wish to control his literary legacy was consonant with his advocacy for assisted dying. He, more than anyone else, understood the power of letting things come to an end.

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The ConversationAs an author who had “Death” as one of his major recurring characters, Pratchett had thoroughly tested its presence in human life. But now, even knowing that Pratchett’s crushed hard drive will soon feature in an exhibition, we can’t but regret the loss of these early, unfinished drafts, which contained the very last doorway into the Discworld.

Claire Squires, Professor in Publishing Studies, University of Stirling

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.