InBooks, Meditations

Where are the Dominican authors?


Dominican Authors 3 Where are the Dominican – American authors?

 I love to read. Though the word love does not really encapsulate what I feel. In the words of Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) from the movie Annie Hall, “I luuurve, you know, I loave, I luff” reading. It feeds my soul. It’s the escape from reality that I enjoy most, entering a world of the unknown and seeing it through someone else’s eyes, or coming across a metaphor that is unique and really conjures an image. Those are the great ones. And it’s the original stories that leave an imprint. I’ve read A Thousand Splendid Suns from Khaled Hosseini and was able to get a peek into the Afghan society. I read the The White Tiger which gave me a second hand experience in the daily life of an Indian servant.  I read Living to Tell a Tale as I journeyed through different cities/towns in Colombia, such as Bogotá and Cataca. However, where are those stories closest to my heart?Dominican Authors 4

There aren’t many renowned Dominican writers recognized in today’s Latin American literature classes or mentioned amongst current literary giants. Yes, we have Junot Diaz (Pulitzer Prize winner) and Julia Alvarez but both have an American education and write in English. It really makes no difference to me where they were educated. Don’t miss my point. I’m talking about writers who are educated in Dominican Republic, literary masters in the country’s language; Spanish.  I’m talking about writer’s whose work is recognized outside of the island. It would of course take a literary genius but where is he/she? There was Joaquin Balaguer and Juan Bosch, both former presidents of DR, but they’re dead. And unless you live in the Dominican Republic you really don’t read about Pedro Mir whose only novel, Cuando Amaban Las Tierras Comuneras (When They Loved the Communal Land) is highly regarded internationally. Then there was Salomé Ureña, a poet and a pioneer for women’s education in DR, but where is the modern voice? A voice of today that can appeal and represent not only the country’s literary array but internationally as well.

Dominican Authors 6Balaguer, Bosh, Mir, and Ureña are all in the past. Dominican Authors 5Where are today’s literary works? I don’t want to just hear about those who have already assimilated. I’m far too familiar with that story, though not personally. I want to hear about those who lived there for a big part of their lives. Someone who can share a story on how they spent their Sunday afternoons walking around El Malecón with their family after a movie and buying candy from el paletero. Take a look at Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude), and Chile’s Pablo Neruda (Nobel Prize winner) whose Veinte Poemas de Amor y Una Cancion Desesperada, (Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair) is his most highly acclaimed book of poetry, or Isabel Allende who wrote La Casa de Los Espíritus, (The House of Spirits).  So what’s going on with the Dominicans who seem to have been stigmatized for having success in American Baseball Dominican Authors 2
and for their shameless debauchery such as crime, violence, and drugs? Unless we’re talking about Baseball, Dominicans don’t really hold a positive light in the American eye. Is it a fault of the education system? Anti-literacy in the popular culture?  Maybe because we’re too small of a country, and hence have a very small market for publishing? I don’t know, but can’t help to ask.

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9 Comments

  • Yessy Cardoso

    I hope I don’t offend anyone as those are not my intentions. I truly believe the reason we do not have many authors from Santo Domingo or othere areas similar to this country is because of the education system these places. Im sure the people in these countries can tell amazing stories but maybe they can’t put it into words. What if you speak to some of these people and write their story for them. Check out my aunt’s non profit organization. She tries to help kids in the DR but their education system is lacking. Maybe we can plan for next summer to train some teachers to teach there. They do this everywhere else. This may spark the literary dreams of a future writer.

    February 23, 2013 at 8:10 pm Reply
    • soulconalas

      Hi Yessy,

      Though I know that poverty exists in Dominican Republic as it does everywhere in the world, I don’t believe that poverty is a direct correlation to the poor education system. All poverty really does is hinder people, by not providing the avenues to project themselves.
      It’s about earning the bread. Earning the bread is more important than following their passion which could be writing. For them it’s about making a living.

      If you look at the history of authors, not all of them have the highest forms of education -And probably the reason those people are able to write is because their thoughts are raw. Once you’re educated you have been influenced, perhaps and hence become a conformist. I’m just surmising here. Don’t hold me to that.

      I think your idea of travelling to the poor towns of the country and listening to these people’s story is brilliantly noble. I have always been inspired by that.

      What is your aunt’s non-profit org site? I would love to look into it.

      Thank you for always giving me a different perspective.

      Come back soon!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:17 pm Reply
  • Josie

    I think Yessy’s post is a thoughtful one. I would also like to add another dimension to the conversation which is that even in the most privileged educational spaces in the DR and other Caribbean countries, there remains remnants of colonial values where it is usually the European, canonical texts that are celebrated. If the society consistently looks abroad to find ‘valuable’ literature, then how will the next generation of writers prosper? Having said this, I love Nelly Rosario and Loida Perez along with of course, the amazing Julia Alvarez and Junot Diaz! Thank you, Linjen for beginning the conversation!!!

    February 25, 2013 at 4:47 pm Reply
    • soulconalas

      Hi Josie,

      This is a great point. I don’t know how to agree with you without quoting your words, that’s how articulate and accurate you are.

      Thank you for adding your thoughts to the conversation. Please come back soon!

      February 28, 2013 at 10:00 pm Reply
  • Raquel

    Honestly my dear, this is very hard to find. As Yessy mentioned, the education systems are not great, but not only that, the US is not known for broadening its horizons and really looking beyond the 50 states that comprise it. We are not good at recognizing talent from other countries and publicizing it – look at our news stations as an example. The news that is found on national broadcasts are almost 90% about domestic issues and not international ones. Unless a tragedy has arisen, we seldom hear about news abroad. For us to hear about Dominican authors, they would have to be a name that has risen to stardom. I have no doubt the talent exists on the island, but finding out about them here in the US is another story.

    And whilst you are seeking for “authenticity” in writers who have not assimilated and are “purely” Dominican (though you don’t use the word, it seems that is what you are insinuating), what, might I ask, makes the story of a Dominican-American less authentic or pure? If they have as mastery of the Spanish language, would that make them more authentic? Or do they simply need to be educated in DR? What if they have lived in DR for 15 years? What barriers are you putting on their identidad that makes them less Dominican? To me, that is a far more interesting question and one that I have studied and tackled for many years myself.

    February 28, 2013 at 5:54 pm Reply
    • soulconalas

      Hi Raquel,
      I’m not sure one can blame it entirely on the education system. I asked that to start a conversation, to throw ideas out there, thoughts that others may come up with. I don’t actually believe it’s the education system in Dominican Republic. I honestly think it all boils down to the population. We are a small country unlike Colombia and Brazil. I disagree when you say that the US does not recognize renowned writers in other countries, specifically Latin America. As I mentioned in this story, there’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, there’s Pablo Neruda, Isabelle Allende, and those that I didn’t mention Mario Vargas Llosa, Miguel de Cervantes, Jorge Luis Borges, and many more. Hence the US does recognize them. Considering the US is very representative and a fairly inclusive culture. With that being said I completely agree with you on the dearth of global news in our nation. Coincidentally it’s a favorite topic of conversation for me lately as I feel very strongly about it. Hopefully one day that will change.

      I would like to address all your questions.

      I’m not necessarily insinuating that a Dominican-American story is less authentic or pure. On the contrary, every writer no matter where they are from has a story. That already makes it authentic. What I am trying to convey is I want a story from a native who has lived there for an extensive amount of time. For example, my mother who was born there and lived there and built memories there, now starts narrating her first hand experience of her first 20 years in Santo Domingo, and in Spanish. The Spanish reference that I made is only because I want to read in Spanish not a book that was translated in Spanish; a book that was actually written in Spanish. This is the kind of story I desire. Does that make that person more Dominican than the Dominican-American? No. Absolutely not. That would mean that I myself am not as “Dominican” as those born there because I myself have been assimilated. With that being said, and perhaps this is a side note, I do believe there is a vast difference between the Dominican who was not only born there but lived there all their life, compared to a Dominican who was born there and left to come to the US early in their childhood.- And that can be argued about any culture not just a Dominican.

      I do not think that because one is fluent in Spanish that makes the story or the author more authentic either. It’s not a language barrier I was referring to.

      I will never put barriers on writers. That would go against my conviction as a writer. The best part about writing is breaking those barriers.

      Thank you for comments and taking the interest, especially trying to understand my opinion. Truly means a lot that you took the time to read and share your thoughts with me.

      Come back soon!

      February 28, 2013 at 9:04 pm Reply
  • Jenny

    I appreciate your post and careful analysis of the need for more native Dominican authors. I work in book publishing and was born and raised in Dominican Republic, so I can tell you first hand that the book publishing business on our dear island is not profitable nor as big as it should be for the talent that does exist. This may be one of the reasons why Dominican-born authors of merit do not get the opportunities they should. There is a very small to practically non-existent publishing market in DR to publish their works. At the end of the day, you can go to the most prestigious universities in any country, and be an amazing writer, but if you cannot convince someone to invest in you, there is really no way to do it unless you publish it yourself. While on vacation on the island last September, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of English authors whose work had been translated to Spanish and displayed for sell all across our beloved country. Our island is becoming more “Americanized” everyday, so it is no surprise that our amazing authors would rather come to the US to gain notoriety than stay on an island that 1) Doesn’t find reading and literary a priority 2) is still economically depressed 3) where the vast majority of people struggle to put food on the table and so cannot afford books. In the US mainstream publishers still struggle to find talent in Int’l Latin American Markets. I can guarantee that if Dominican-born authors could get their works published and gained some acclaim in our homeland, we would see more and more of them. I believe there is untapped talent on our island and we just have to find it and get it out there.

    March 20, 2013 at 11:27 am Reply
    • soulconalas

      Hi Jenny,

      I enjoyed reading your perspective and must say that I agree with all your points. Am saddened that our beloved country is becoming more Americanized. I, who, believe that keeping your roots displays honest integrity. If we lose our identity as a Country, how will this affect the native Dominican writers? (Question that I am playing with as I read your response)

      The reality saddens me for personal reasons. Literacy is consequential. Books, no matter the genre, have always been my teachers. As a matter of fact, it is through reading that my prejudices subside and it is through reading that my heart and my mind open up. Literature teaches us much more than how to read. It opens the eyes of our souls.

      I can only hope that this changes one day in the Dominican Republic. We have so much to offer to the world! Much more than just our beautiful beaches, and our delectable food. We have passion too! And it manifests in our music, the lyrics in those songs, in our dancing. I’m certain it will reflect as well in our story books, if the native Dominican authors were only given the chance, and if only the country had the medium for it.

      April 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm Reply
  • Jenny

    I appreciate your post and careful analysis of the need for more native Dominican authors. I work in book publishing and was born and raised in Dominican Republic, so I can tell you first hand that the book publishing business on our dear island is not profitable nor as big as it should be for the talent that does exist. This may be one of the reasons why Dominican-born authors of merit do not get the opportunities they should. There is a very small to practically non-existent publishing market in DR to publish their works. At the end of the day, you can go to the most prestigious universities in any country, and be an amazing writer, but if you cannot convince someone to invest in you, there is really no way to do it unless you publish it yourself. While on vacation on the island last September, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of English authors whose work had been translated to Spanish and displayed for *sale all across our beloved country. Our island is becoming more “Americanized” everyday, so it is no surprise that our amazing authors would rather come to the US to gain notoriety than stay on an island that 1) Doesn’t find reading and literary a priority 2) is still economically depressed 3) where the vast majority of people struggle to put food on the table and so cannot afford books. In the US mainstream publishers still struggle to find talent in Int’l Latin American Markets. I can guarantee that if Dominican-born authors could get their works published and gained some acclaim in our homeland, we would see more and more of them. I believe there is untapped talent on our island and we just have to find it and get it out there.

    March 20, 2013 at 11:28 am Reply
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