This is a collaborative guest post by Khrisma McMurray and Sydney Villegas, both interns in the Library’s Archives, Heritage and History Advanced Internship Program (AHHA). During the fall of 2023, they have worked with the Library’s archived author talks to spotlight authors you may know and enjoy. This month, they have put together some highlights from the archived author talks by Hispanic and Latino authors.
Juan Felipe Herrera was the 21st Poet Laureate of the United States, serving from 2015-2017. Throughout his life, Herrera has used his Chicano identity and love for community to teach others. As the first Latino Poet Laureate, he created space for the country to see the beauty in the diverse voices of people from various cultures and ages. He reflects on his time as laureate in his 2017 National Book Festival Talk.
- 19:05: Herrera discusses how the door needs to be opened to poets from across the world to hear voices we have not heard before
- 30:46: Herrera explains the purpose that fueled his five projects during his 2 year term
- 43:57: “You have to bring both poles together. The concerns for our communities and for ourselves and for what’s taking place in our nation, and our joy. We cannot let go of our joy and just keep the fire burning. We need the fountains of our joy and we need the fire, too.”
Juana Medina is an author and illustrator born and raised in Bogotá, Colombia. Medina’s Juana and Lucas (2016) won the 2017 Pura Belpré Author Award for representing and celebrating Latino culture using humor, cartoon imagery, and a heartwarming story. During her 2019 National Book Festival appearance, you can see her passion for children and hear her desire to bring Hispanic heritage to young readers across the world.
- 9:25: Medina works with the youth in the audience to create dog illustrations based on her book, “I’m a Baked Potato!” (2019) (Screenshot above)
- 19:18: Medina shares how Juana and Lucas was inspired by her childhood frustration of having to learn what she calls “The English.”
Juana Medina’s book, Elena Rides (2023), has been praised by the 2023-2024 National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, Meg Medina, as a fun read-aloud book that can be read in Spanish or English. You can watch more of Juana Medina’s previous National Book Festival appearances and also check out her illustrations for Juan Felipe Herrera’s laureate project, “The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon.”
Justin Torres is a novelist and short-fiction writer of Puerto Rican descent. He is the author of the short story collection We The Animals (2011) and Blackouts: A Novel (2023). At the 2012 National Book Festival, Torres speaks about We The Animals. His writing includes elements that mirror his life and carry the same emotional truth. Daring to be fearless, Torres has shown how we can struggle with loving our family but still find beauty in it.
- 21:58: Torres explains his use of animal imagery and descriptions to show savage and passionate love.
- 28:17: Torres describes the process of showcasing a character dealing with a cultural clash of machismo and their queer identity.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine is an author of Chicana, Indigenous, and Filipino descent who was born and raised in Colorado, where her family has resided since the 1930s. Her books—the novel Woman of Light (2022) and short story collection Sabrina & Corina (2019), a winner of the American Book Award—are inspired by her experiences growing up listening to the oral histories told by the women in her family and living across the American West. Fajardo-Anstine is a 2023 Guggenheim Fellow. In her 2020 National Book Festival talk, Fajardo-Anstine discusses her background, her focus on writing stories for and by women and girls, and activism, writing, and justice.
- 5:07 Fajardo-Anstine speaks about the importance of promoting innovation in the arts and supporting writers from nontraditional backgrounds and pathways.
- 9:49 Fajardo-Anstine describes her hopes that readers of Sabrina & Corina will learn about her culture, Chicana and indigenous ancestry, and the American West.
You can access and watch more of Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s videos at past Library of Congress events here.
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa, and India. Her books include Sidewalks (2013), Faces in the Crowd (2011), Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (2017), Lost Children Archive (2019) and The Story of My Teeth (2015), a stunning surrealist novel that was written in close collaboration with Mexico City-based factory workers. Luiselli was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 2020 and has received two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes for her work. In her 2015 National Book Festival talk, Luiselli talks about the process of writing The Story of My Teeth, the complexities of translation and language, the ways music, literature and art are interconnected, and identity formation.
- 6:06 Luiselli speaks about English being her “daughter tongue” and her relationship with language in her writing.
- 36:36 Luiselli talks about how her self-perception of her own identity has shifted throughout her life depending on where she lives and who she is surrounded by.
Carmen Maria Machado is a queer writer of Cuban descent from Pennsylvania. She is the author of the gothic-inspired short story collection Her Body and Other Parties (2017) and the memoir In the Dream House (2019). She is the recipient of a 2019 Guggenheim fellowship and won the Lambda Literary Award for Lesbian Fiction in 2018. Her writing is deeply influenced by culture and identity; her work challenges common cultural assumptions made about lesbian relationships and explores the dark and uncanny sides of femininity, drawing from horror and thriller genres. In her 2020 National Book Festival panel she explores the memoir-writing process and talks of having to dive into the self and past experiences, the impact of the pandemic and reaching diverse audiences through writing.
- 6:34: Machado tells the interesting story of how she came up with the title and structure of her memoir “In the Dream House.”
- 20:16 Machado speaks to the surprise of having readers connect with her memoir in unexpected ways and “writing into the unknown.”
Carmen Maria Machado brings together horror, science fiction, fairytales and popular culture to explore gender, sexuality, and bodies in thought-provoking and experimental ways.
Her memoir In the Dream House explores her experiences with domestic abuse while in a lesbian relationship. The ‘Dream House’ itself, a Victorian-style home in Bloomington, Indiana, serves as both a symbol and a guide for how the memoir is structured. The facade of the Morris-Butler house in Indianapolis, Indiana shown in our collections invokes and resembles the haunting nature of the ‘Dream House’ that Machado describes.
Another way the books connect with history is Luiselli’s novel The Story of My Teeth (2015), which focuses on the life of Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sánchez, who formerly worked in a Mexico City Jumex juice factory and works as an auctioneer who collects and sells celebrity teeth. Luiselli worked closely with Jumex factory workers in creating her portrayal of Sánchez, submitting drafts of the novel to the workers who would add notes and discussions. The following collection items provide a historical contextualization for Mexico City and its factories, providing both a fantastical historical map of the area and a historical depiction of factory work.
One of the best parts of working at the Library is that you start seeing connections among the everyday and the historical. Tell us about your forays into literature and archival materials!