Diversity in literature teaches different cultures and new perspectives, Latinx authors say

By Layal Srour
October 22, 2020

For the last week of Latinx and Hispanic heritage month, two authors from the online reading app Wattpad said that more diverse characters in books films can open more doors for minority groups to feel more comfortable seeing people like them on their screens or in their favorite books.

“It is important to touch on topics, such as colorism or deportation, to show the realities behind the media, especially when given the platform to do so,” Bravo said to an audience of approximately 50 viewers on the virtual panel discussion.

On Oct. 8, a virtual panel with three authors, one of whom was the moderator, spoke out on what it’s like to be a Latinx author today. They mentioned the role of storytelling, how it plays in promoting diversity and what the authors are currently working on.

About the Panelists

The two panelists in this event were V.S. Santoni and Shay Bravo, along with the moderator, Johanna Ferreira. Santoni is the author of the book “I’m a Gay Wizard.” Santoni identifies as a “Latinx non binary guy.”

The event described Santoni as someone who “spends way too much time daydreaming, scouring YouTube for retro-anime movies, and sobbing to sad, old punk songs with his best friend. He has a Chihuahua named Darla. He lives in Nashville with his husband.”

On Oct. 27, 2020, Santoni is releasing his second book, “Im a Gay Wizard in the City.”

The second panelist, Bravo, is the author of 2019 Watty Award winning and first novel “Historically Inaccurate.”

Bravo is “a Mexican-born author who has now lived half of her life in the United States. She began sharing her work online through Wattpad when she was 15 years old and has connected with over 114 thousand followers.”

“Historically Inaccurate” by Shay Bravo (Left) and “I’m a Gay Wizard” by V.S. Santoni (right).
Photo via Instagram

Lastly, moderator Ferreira is a journalist and former deputy editor of HipLatina. Her writing centers around “culture, identity, race, beauty, and wellness often covered from a Latinx lens.” Her work has been published in Oprah Magazine, as well as many other well-known publications.

Thoughts on Diversity in Literature

Bravo believes her book has made a difference to the Latin community. “I think ‘Historically Inaccurate’ changed the portrayal of the Latin community.”

Santoni followed by saying his book “emotionally related to realities of the community.”

The characters of both books were developed to mirror their own experiences with growing up as Latin-Americans. Bravo said she based the characters’ emotions and experiences she felt when she emigrated to the United States at the age of 12.

Santoni also based his characters off his personal experiences. However, his was in the view geared to third generation Latin-Americans trying to “immerse in both cultures.”

“It’s very important to have diversity in books, it’s a way for us readers to put ourselves in the other persons shoes,” Nuresebah Alkadir, student ambassador in the diversity office, said. “It helps promote respect and empathy for all types of people.”

Fortunately, neither author had a difficult time incorporating both cultures in their books because they were able to write from experience as part of the Latin community.

Jose Rodriguez, chief diversity officer, said, “Diversity in literature gives readers the ability to get a glimpse and see things through a different perspective. It can be their own or someone else’s voice or identity.”

Although Santoni did not give his opinion, Bravo said, “Coping in a white community is about finding the balance. I was always worried about being too Mexican or not Mexican enough. Too white or not white enough. But it is all about being true to yourself and finding peace within your culture.”

Since both authors are diverse writers, they tend to touch on controversial topics that some people find it hard to talk about.

Santoni said, “It encourage the discussion of sensitive topics to educate the non-Latinos and younger generations.”

Implementing More Diversity

With more books and movies offering more diversity in their cast, it can open more doors for minority groups. They will feel more comfortable seeing people like them on their screens or their favorite books.

Rodriguez feels that classes should also be promoting diversity because it will get students more engaged.

He said, “The more resources and the more informed students are in these areas, the better students will understand other cultures, as well as their own. Also they will be prepared for better informed conversations.”

Santoni says that the entertainment industry “has to be more diverse. That starts with the structure behind the scenes (producers, directors, etc.) before we can make a real change.”

For non-Latin writers who want to write about Latin and Hispanic characters, Bravo suggests to “be authentic and do your research.”

One piece of advice that Bravo gave to Latin writers is, “Don’t be scared or intimidated by others judgments.”

Santoni gave his advice, saying, “Persistence is key. Don’t stop until you have accomplished your end goal.”

Santoni said that Wattpad changed his career. “It gave me a sense of community and comfort that allowed me to be more authentic in my writing.”

Rodriguez touched upon the importance of diversified literature at Cabrini. “It is important to implement this new diversity tab in the Loquitur. I would also like to see more diversity from the radio station to hear more diverse voices, music, stories, etc.”

Layal Srour

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