by NoNieqa Ramos
Worldwide, we are experiencing a global pandemic and global environmental catastrophes. The deep roots of systemic racism entrenched in the foundations of our nation have been exposed and those who thrive from it fight to bury the truth. Locally we are grappling with how to protect public health and sustain our economies. What are you, your family, and your friends grappling with in your community? Writers are trying to figure out how to find time to write when our children are home, and maybe if we should write at all in these worst of times. It’s natural to despair.
Debut writers are finding themselves having to readjust their marketing plans, their visions, and their dreams as they launch books at a time when many schools may continue to operate virtually and bookstores struggle to keep their doors open. Despite powerful diversity and equity initiatives by marginalized creators, Lee and Low reveals that 76 percent of people in publishing are still white. According to statistics from the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, 41.8 percent of main characters in literature are white, 29. 2 percent are animals, and only 5.3 percent are Latinx. Of that 5.3 percent, how many are actually #ownvoices Latinx writers?
With those abysmal diversity stats, I imagine 4-5 percent of the ever-evolving “Latinx story” being told. Only 4-5 percent of Latinx imagination unveiled. Only 4-5 percent of Latinx truth being revealed. But I also imagine how much we have accomplished in that 4-5 percent. In that 4-5 percent exist writers like Aida Salazar, Maika and Maritza Moulite, David Bowles, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Hilda Burgos, Alexandra Villasante, and more.
We Latinx change the world when we write our own experiences, histories, and mythologies. When we refuse to be interpreted by the lens of systemic racism and translate ourselves.
We wrestle power away from the hands of the oppressor when we take control from the gatekeepers and hand our marginalized brothers, sisters, and siblings the keys. Changing the world happens a word at a time, a sentence at a time, a poem at a time, a book at a time; a decolonized shelf at a time, a decolonized library at a time, a decolonized curriculum at a time.
Still, the numbers reveal the mountain Latinx and BIPOC writers have to climb, so why write? We write to cope with and conquer despair. We write despite and in spite of. We write because— because our words are shovels, pick axes, drills. Bulldozers. Our triumphs tunnels for those that come behind us. The communities we build in support of each other–dynamite. We write to expose the mountain for those who say it doesn’t exist and to prove it can and will be leveled. Every mountain of oppression we level by writing our #ownvoices books is directly translatable to the real world.
NoNieqa Ramos is an educator, literary activist, and writer of “intense” literature. She wrote the THE DISTURBED GIRL’S DICTIONARY, a 2018 New York Public Library Best Book for Teens, a 2019 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults Selection, and a 2019 In the Margins Award Top Ten pick. It earned starred reviews from Booklist, Voya, and Foreword. Lilliam Rivera, author of DEALING in DREAMS, selected her sophomore book THE TRUTH IS as a Bustle Book Club selection. Hip Latina included TTI in the “10 of the Best Latinx Young Adult Books of 2019.” Remezcla included TTI in the “15 Best Books by Latino and Latin American Authors of 2019.” Versify will publish her debut picture books BEAUTY WOKE January 1st, 2021 and YOUR MAMA April 6, 2021 . For more information about NoNieqa, check out her website and social media: