The importance of diversity in literature has long been a topic of discussion among the bookish community. Campaigns like We Need Diverse Books and Reading Without Walls have helped immensely in their campaign to bring of representation to the forefront and celebrate of authors and stories from all around the world. But there is still something uniquely empowering about seeing a reader create her own movement, especially through something as simple and ubiquitous as social media. That’s what Sabrina Rodriguez is doing with her Instagram account LatinxReads, a scrollable treasury of Own Voices books. The vibrant floral photos highlight books written by Latinx authors and about Latinx people.
“After taking my first Latino Studies class in college, I realized how disconnected I was from my Latino heritage,” Sabrina Rodriguez tells Bustle. “I was one of those kids who didn’t grow up speaking Spanish and I didn’t know what it meant to be Latino. The first thing I turned to was books and literature. I have always been an avid reader, and reading is a way to really immerse yourself in the world of someone else. I created the Instagram for people, like me, who aren’t immigrants, who might not have grown up speaking Spanish, or who may not even have parents who are immigrants. The people who feel disconnected from their Latino heritage and are confused as to where they fit in the Latino community.”
Many Latinx adults grew up without reading many — or any — Latinx stories. This can have long-term negative affects on how people perceive themselves and their place in society.
“Because I’m white-passing, I never really regarded whether I was being represented in the books I read because I often had comparable features to those in the books,” Rodriguez says. “But as I entered high school and began reading the so-called ‘Classic’ books, it clicked that something wasn’t right.”
She says, “I’ve gained a lot of hope now because of how many books I’ve found that are written by [and] about Latinxs, but even that has its limitations. There are so many books written about Mexicans, Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans; mainly because those are the most common nationalities you can find in the U.S. It’s something we still need to make progress in.”
So, what does Rodriguez hope will change when it comes to publishing Latinx authors? First, she says publishing needs to move away from boxing Latinx stories into only one category: immigration. While it is undeniable that the immigrant narrative is a huge part of the identity of many Latinx people, it does not tell the whole story.
“Our stories are not just about immigrating to the U.S. for a better life, living in poverty in the U.S., and facing discrimination and racism in the U.S. Though these are all important and very real aspects of being Latinx, having a story that debunks popular stereotypes about Latinos is just as important. We can be rich, gay, trans, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, fat, skinny. Latinx literature is about telling the stories of each and every one of these people,” she says.