Ni Bárbaras ni Malinches: Antología de narradoras en español en Estados Unidos. Selected by Fernando Olszanski. Chicago: Ars Communis Editorial. 2017. 172 pages.
Venezuelan writer and academic, Naida Saavedra, defines the New Latino Boom as a recent literary movement comprised of Latin American authors, universities, cultural venues, and other organizations who publish and promote works in Spanish written in the United States. A series of anthologies which have been edited in the last few years are a direct result of this ongoing and active literary movement, sprouting collections that provide fresh perspectives of the encounters, resistance and the reinvention of the self in the new place and the new culture.
We find an important promoter of this New Latino Boom in the director of Ars Communis Editorial, Argentinian writer and editor Fernando Olszanski. Within the frame of what he calls “Literatura del Desarraigo”, Olszanski’s editorial initiative has already achieved an important catalog of publications which includes several anthologies. The latest one, Ni Bárbaras ni Malinches, Antología de narradoras en Estados Unidos, selected by Olszanski himself, presents fifteen women writers – fourteen from Latin America and one from Spain – who have contributed to this collection with enlightening stories and diverse interpretations of life in the Unites States. With a unique style and perspective, the pieces in this anthology are linked by narratives in which, either as a victim or villain, women are the sole protagonists. Having female characters at the center of the stories is aligned with one of the main objectives behind this publication: challenging stereotypes of the Latin woman, as explained in Olzsanski’s introduction.
Among the authors who achieve this objective masterfully we have Teresita Dovalpage, who surprises the reader with a one-sided dialogue between a woman and her traditional mother, unraveling a self-reflection of the protagonist as she comes to terms with her sexuality; Ana Merino, whose main character looks back on her life and the consequences of her choices without falling in the victim mindset, affirming that for better or for worse, she has been in control of her own story; Gizella Heffes, who maintains the tension in her narrative through the use of the second person, building a psychological game around a spine-chilling walk through airport security; and Jennifer Thorndike, whose story echoes the challenges and pressures of the academic life and includes an endearing tête-à-tête between the protagonist and her cat.
While the biographies of each one of the authors selected in Ni Bárbaras ni Malinches present and contrast diverse backgrounds, careers and literary achievements, they all seem to share an urgency to vindicate women’s place in literary history. A recent social media uproar, prompted by the news of a Colombian delegation selected to attend activities in Paris at the Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal being composed solely of male writers, underscores this urgency: stereotypes need to be challenged and women’s voices and their stories must become an integral part of any literary movement or conversation from the start; not as an after-thought or mere political correctness.
Melanie Márquez Adams
East Tennessee State University