I am sure this was an honest mistake, but according to Reyna, it was (is?) a trigger. What do you think? Whatever it was, it is a story that needed telling.
Reyna Grande is the author of “A Dream Called Home” and “The Distance Between Us.” Originally from Guerrero, Mexico, she entered the United States as an undocumented child immigrant. I don’t know her, but I know her story all too well. Her statistics regarding (Latino-specific) diversity in the publishing industry put my brown skin on edge.
Her experience at the National Book Festival Author Gala is depressingly laughable. “‘…I thought you were…’ His voice trailed off. He had assumed I was one of the waitstaff.” But she uses the dinner menu to bring herself back to the power of her identity, and its place and needfulness in American culture. “As I watched the tacos being enjoyed by all the distinguished guests — all of us under the fancy ceiling of the library — I realized that if tacos belong at the Library of Congress, so do I.”
We have come so far…and it’s only about two inches in the grand scheme. The Latino perspective echoes the Black perspective (my perspective), without even trying to get into the nuance of gender politics, the Rep vs. Dem gang war, and unchecked violence against students in learning institutions. We are in the melting pot, but someone took us off the fire.
But that is why ALL of our stories matter. Writers have power to break down walls and call out crap. It is a sacred calling and a singular (powerful, lonely, hateful, heartbreaking, satisfying, nailbiting, etc.) job. I love A Word With You Press because our fearless leader, Thorn, made me do the work. The contest comments made me do the work. The friends I made in the writing groups made me do the work. Even our parties made me do the work!
As the President of the San Diego Book Awards Association (and a freelance editor), I have read some truly magnificent words from Southern California alone. I’ve read perspectives I disagreed with wholeheartedly but learned from in the context of the story. That is what is most important–our stories. That is why Maya Angelou’s voice is still as necessary now as it was when she was alive. Same with Pablo Neruda, a million other poets, and the San Diego Writers I see entering the San Diego Book Awards. After having read this article, I wonder what our San Diego judges would have done with Reyna Grande?
I know they would have loved her books.