*This is a profile of a Latino writer/editor based in Colorado. But it’s also a call, of sorts, for Latinos to write about things other than immigration and identity. That’s the box that mainstream publishers have put us in. VL
By Esther J. Cepeda, NBC News (5.5 minute read)
NAME: Jonathan Marcantoni
HERITAGE: “Boricua de pura cepa” (true Puerto Rican)
HOMETOWN: Tampa, Florida now living in Colorado
OCCUPATION/TITLE: Publisher and author
Jonathan Marcantoni is a Puerto Rican novelist and publisher of the recently created La Casita Grande Editores, an imprint of Black Rose Writing, which specializes in Latino and Caribbean literature. His books “Traveler’s Rest,” “The Feast of San Sebastian,” and “Kings of 7th Avenue” deal with issues of racial politics and corruption in both the Puerto Rican diaspora and on the island. “Tristiana,” due out in 2017, will be his first Spanish-language novel. Marcantoni’s work has been featured in the magazines Warscapes, Across the Margin, Minor Literatures, PANK, and the news outlet Latino Rebels. He holds a B.A. in Spanish Studies from the University of Tampa and a Master of Humanities in creative writing from Tiffin University.
The biggest challenge in the Latino publishing scene is getting stories that go outside of immigration, identity and the American dream narrative, which is what Latino authors are stuck in. It seems like the big publishers feel that if you tell a story it has to include one of these three things because you’re really writing for a white audience. As a result there aren’t so many science fiction, crime or romance novels that are geared towards a Latino audience that kind of stand on their own as genre works.
They do exist but more often than not they’re coming out of the small presses, not the top five publishers – and those top publishers are looking for literary novels, not just stories about life and humanity. They are looking for Latino authors that are telling about their particular identity so you end up getting a lot of the same stories.
I want to find crazy surrealist novels and Indiana Jones-type novels set in Puerto Rico and I was able to find writers telling stories not expected from Latinos. We give them that space because we’re not bound by the pressure that the publishing industry puts on writers of color to fit narratives that are comfortable for white audiences. We want to give writers an outlet so that they can be different and not have to write stories about where they’re from but that focus on the writer’s imagination and appeal to universal themes.
Esther J. Cepeda is a Chicago-based journalist and a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda[Photo by Georg Mayer/Flickr]