April 18, 2010

TSS: Snapshots in Diversity: Special Series- MAYRA

Today is the second part in the series, Snapshots in Diversity, which is taking place for the rest of April here at Lost in Books.

If you don't know what prompted me to begin this special series of posts, I am fascinated with cultural diversity. I seek it out in the books I read, the movies I watch, the food I eat, and the friends I make whenever I can. April is Cultural Diversity Month and I wanted to do something special to celebrate all that is unique about people in our world. I have the privilege of getting to present to you, dear readers, some of the world's great book bloggers sharing about their cultures.

Today I asked author and Examiner book reviewer Mayra Calvani to share with us a snapshot of her culture. Please read, enjoy, and leave a comment- even questions! And be sure to bookmark Lost in Books as the series continues through the rest of the month.


Though I was born in Puerto Rico, I’ve been living abroad for most of my adult life. For this reason, I’m not your typical Latina. My mother’s family was Spanish and Dutch and my father’s family was Corsican and Lebanese, so already I had all these influences while growing up. One weekend, I would go to my Spanish grandmother’s house and she would be serving arroz con leche; the next weekend I would go to my Lebanese grandmother’s house and she would be preparing kibbeh. Later, I lived for few years in the States and then Turkey. Now I’m settled in Belgium, where I have been for the past decade. I’m a result of all these cultures. In this sense, I consider myself a citizen of the world and not so much as belonging to one particular group.

I’ve been asked at times if I’ve ever experienced discrimination as a Latina. The answer is No. Maybe it has to do with the fact that I’ve lived abroad for so long, or possibly because, physically, I’m not your ‘Latina’ stereotype. By this, I mean I don’t have dark hair and brown skin. Also, my Spanish and English accents are hard to identify because I also speak Turkish and French.

The stereotype of the Latina woman bothers me at times, especially in books. Why are often Latinas portrayed as uneducated women from the barrio? Or, if they have money, why are they often portrayed as airheads with curvy bodies and mulatto skin? Latinas can also have pale skin, blue eyes and blonde hair and be very thin, you know. LOL. All stereotypes are bad, no matter what the culture. I’d like to see more books with Latina protagonists who break all of these conventions. The other day I was asked to review a novel by a Latina writer… It was terrible. The young Latina protagonist was flippant and just plain dumb. I don’t understand why an author would want to depict her own culture in such a way, why she would want to keep that stereotype alive.

That aside, there are a lot of Hispanic authors writing wonderful books these days. Reading their works and interviewing them and discovering their stories are some of the perks of writing my column, Latino Books Examiner. I’d like to invite readers to take a look. Writing this column has connected me back to my roots, and that’s great for a homesick Latina living abroad.

--Mayra Calvani writes fiction and nonfiction for children and adults. Visit her websites at www.MayraCalvani.com and www.MayrasSecretBookcase.blogspot.com.

Snapshots in Diversity (c) is a special series running on Lost in Books through the end of April. Please be sure to bookmark the blog or become a subscriber/follower so you can catch the next wonderfully interesting personal essay/interview.


  1. Those are some really interesting thought on Latina women in ficion. Thanks

  2. Thanks for featuring me on your blog, Rebecca.

  3. So many of us now are racial mixes that it's interesting to see how we describe ourselves. It's fun to see how Mayra identifies herself culturally when she was presented with multiple cultures as a child. It's becoming more difficult to stereotype, isn't it?

  4. Becky- I think so, too!

    Mayra- Thank you for sharing!

    Kristen- And thank God for that!

  5. Wow--Mayra embodies diversity! Thanks for introducing her!

  6. I totally love this series! Mayra, I love your name!! It's one of my faves.

  7. Great essay! I had no idea Mayra was such a citizen of the world. And I agree 100% with her about the depiction of Latinas in books.


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