“Talentoso!”: 10 Talented Afro-Latino Writers Who You Should Know And Read
The Afro-Latino community boasts a mad amount of talent, it’s no secret. This is abundantly seen on the entertainment front: talented dancers, artists, singers, athletes and actors showcase their skills. Faizon Love, Christina Milian, Mariah Carey, Melissa De Desousa, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez are only a few examples of what the Afro-Latino community has to offer. Members of this wonderful community have also touched other industries, including the publishing industry, riling the world with creative works of fiction, non-fiction, poetry and screenwriting. These agents of literature are representing their heritage well, and it’s about time that we listen.
Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat (yes, Haiti is a Latin American nation) was born in Port-au-Prince in 1969, and immigrated to New York at the age of 12. Danticat’s love for the written word led to her earning a BA in French Literature, and later on she earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Brown University. Her first novel Breath, Eyes, Memory… was published in 1994, and since, Danticat has written several other books, including the riveting novel, The Farming Bones. Danticat has won dozens of awards for her titles, including the Langston Hughes award and the National Book Award.
Veronica Chambers, Panama-born writer and editor who is best known for her memoir, Mama’s Girl, has made her mark on the entertainment and literary community through her prolific efforts. She’s worked as an executive story editor on the show Girlfriends, was a writer for the New York Times, she’s developed projects for the N and Fox, been a feature director at Glamour, and most recently serves as the deputy editor for Good Housekeeping. She’s also written more than a dozen children books, and a number of both fiction and non-fiction books.
Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic-native Junot Diaz is one of the hottest writers on the scene right now. He began his career with a short story collection entitled, Drown. Several years later, Diaz published The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao, a Pulitzer Prize winning novel that was a mix of comedic slam dunks and tragedy, that was on the New York Times bestseller list and gained acclaim across the literary community. Diaz’s latest novel, This is How You Lose Her, has been named as a finalist for the National Book Award. Diaz, in addition to writing, is working as a professor at MIT.
Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) poet Willie Perdomo began writing poetry as an angsty teenager. Over the years, he’s developed a voice and sound that greatly incorporates not only race and culture, but a sense of self. Perdomo is currently working on his next project entitled, Emergency Money, and he is the the co-publisher for Cypher Books, an independent publisher for poetry. Some of Perdomo’s more famous works are “N-Word-Reecan Blues,” 123rd street rap,” Clemente!, Where a Nickel Costs a Dime and Smoking Lovely.
The talented Brazilian author, Paulo Lins, who wrote the critically acclaimed masterpiece, City of God, was born in Rio de Janeiro. The novel, which was later adapted into a blockbuster film, met great commercial success, and helped propel Lin’s career. Lin’s most recent work is Desde Que O Samba e Samba (Ever Since Samba Has Been Samba). He was also the screen writer for two movies, Almost Brothers and Orfeu. Lins is currently writing for a Brazilian television series, O Amor Nao Presta.
Earning fame through her efforts as a journalist, television newscaster and author, Ifill has worked for the Boston Herald-American, Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post, The New York Times and NBC; and presently, Ifill resides as the managing editor and moderator of Washington Week and a senior correspondent for the PBS NewsHour. Ifill has covered six Presidential campaigns throughout her career, winning the George Peabody Award during the 2008 election for her live 10-city coverage, and she wrote the highly-acclaimed book, The Breakthrough: Politics and Race in the Age of Obama, which was released on Inauguration Day in 2009.
Born to an Afro-Cuban mother and an Irish-Australian father, O’Brien attended Harvard, alongside her five siblings. Despite not obtaining her degree until she returned to school in 2000, her journalism career began in the early ’90s, where she worked as an associate producer and news writer at WBZ-TV. She later worked on NBC Nightly News, Today, “The Know Zone,” The Next Step, and is behind Black in America. She was most recently the host of Starting Point on CNN. O’Brien has won an Emmy and NAACP Award. Also, she has appeared on “Top 100 Irish Americans,” “Groundbreaking Latina of the Year,” and in 2006 was featured as one of Newsweek’s “15 People Who Make America Great.” In 2010, O’Brien co-authored The Next Big Story: My Journey through the Land of Possibilities, which documents some of the biggest reporting moments during her career.
Piri Thomas, the writer of the best-seller, Down These Mean Streets –a memoir which showcases racism, poverty, gang violence, drugs and crime in Spanish Harlem, has written a great deal of social commentary on the topics of racial and ethnic identity. Thomas spent time delving into how African-Americans fail to recognize Afro-Latinos as Latino, and how being Latino is difficult as a dark-complected individual. His other works include A Matter of Dignity, Savior, Savior My Hand, Seven Long Times and Stories from El Barrio. He traveled around the world, conducting workshops and giving lectures. Thomas died from pneumonia in the fall of 2011.
Best remembered as the national poet of Cuba, Guillen began his writing career as a published writer in various magazines in the 1920s. The “Negrista” poetry market was initially dominated by White Cubans until Guillen came on the scene. With his black poetry, he created writing that was marked with African themes, and he helped to emphasize Afro-Cuban writing as a valid genre in Cuban Lit. He published his first work, Motivos de son in 1930, and his final work, Por el Mar de las Antillas anda un barco de papel: Poemas para niños mayores de edad, in 1977.
Carlos Guillermo Wilson
Wilson’s passion for writing was roused by his Latin American literature professor at UCLA. Since his debut, Wilson has written a novel about the people of African origin during slavery (The Grandchildren of Felicidad Dolores), and a collection of poetry, “Pensamientos del Negro Cubena,” which is a compilation of 51 poems that cover the topics that include slavery, love and racial consciousness. Wilson has published in both English and Spanish.