Read Related: Improving Latino Children’s LiteracyFor any minority, the problem of not being well represented in trade fiction is systemic. The minorities we’re talking about are not represented in the publishing industry either. Literary agencies and the big publishing houses have very, and I mean very few Latino agents and editors working for them. The Association of Writers Representatives does not have a single Latino name in its roster. Literary agents are the gateway to mainstream New York publishing. What this means is that books that might have Latino or other ethnic characters could get rejected if they don’t fit the parameters of most Latino fiction that has already been published. This is because Anglo agents and editors just don’t get it, and are unwilling to risk publishing works that might present something other than an “escape from the barrio” plotline.
Books by and about Latinos began to appear and do well, but they had to have magical qualities and soulful writing. They also had to be about assimilating into U.S. culture or making it out of the ghetto—think Cristina Garcia’s Dreaming in Cuban, Ernesto Quiñones’ Bodega Dreams, and How the Garcia Sisters Lost their Accent by Julia Alvarez. Just look at how the titles have “Garcia” and “Dreams” in common. Latino fiction won a broader audience only when it was about escaping the “Latino condition.”