On OprahMag.com, we celebrate Latinidad and all identities every day. But for Hispanic Heritage Month September 15 through October 15, we're highlighting stories from Latinx perspectives, which you can read here. Disfruten!
There was a moment a few years ago when I realized I was reading too many white people. Talented by all means, but as a Puerto Rican woman, I was ashamed to see how few Latinx authors I read. But thankfully, Al Gore’s internet is free, and there were thousands of #bookstagrams and book-ish YouTube channels (affectionately known as BookTube) to help me course correct.
The latter is where the hosts of the literary readathon "Latinx-a-thon" found each other—and were inspired to create a 10-day reading challenge that kicked off Hispanic Heritage Month on September 15.
Like me, co-hosts Andrea, Jocelyn, Priscilla and Yvette wanted to diversify their reading lists. As they connected via BookTube with each other and other readers, they realized there was an opportunity for a dedicated read-a-thon to purposefully celebrate Latinx authors and characters—similar to what their fellow BookTubers do for February’s Black-a-thon and May’s Asian Read-a-thon. Setting it during Hispanic Heritage Month made sense, since “it’s a time of year that is dedicated to Latinx people, which we are,” says Jocelyn, who is Cuban-American, while her three co-hosts are Mexican-American.
There are five challenges for the Latinx-a-thon: Voices, Latinidad, Roots, Heritage, and a group book, The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante. These prompts aren't only to encourage you to read more Latinx authors, but to also think more about intersectionality. By design, the “x” in Latinx is a more inclusive, gender-neutral alternative to Latino or Latina, but the read-a-thon's other prompts consider the identities and experiences we don't hear as much about. The Voices challenge, for example, encourages readers to pick up a book written by an Indigenous or Afro-Latinx author; the Roots challenge is about reading a book that's been translated, and the Heritage challenge invites readers to discover an author from a non-Spanish speaking, Latin American country like Brazil.
“We wanted to make it well-known that our challenges are about uplifting voices from the community,” Jocelyn says.
1. VOICES— Latinx-a-thon (@latinxathon) August 18, 2019
Read a book written by an Indigenous or Afro-Latinx author. pic.twitter.com/sj7qsqKR8c
Choosing The Grief Keeper as the years’ group book—essentially, the official book club pick for the 10-day challenge—was also intentional. It’s a story about two young girls from El Salvador who get caught crossing the U.S. border, a reality for so many today, Priscilla says—so the hosts felt it was an important story amid our current political climate. For further incentive, the author, Villasante, sent a signed copy of her book and some swag for the co-hosts to giveaway to one lucky reader. Through the giveaway, the hosts surpassed their $100 goal to raise funds for RAICES—but donations are still coming in, Andrea says.
The official Latinx-a-thon only lasts 10 days, but the hosts will remain engaged on social media throughout Hispanic Heritage Month, including a social media takeover with Latinx Book Club and Latinx Book Bingo, a Twitter Q&A with Villasante on October 3, and a collaborative YouTube video featuring Latinx readers' reviews of their favorite books. Already, the hosts have noticed an increase in excitement, and participants have been sharing their TBR (to be read) lists with some of the books the hosts introduced them to—titles they might not have picked up otherwise, Andrea says.
"We’re all really supportive of each other,” adds Yvette. “The Latinx community is small—but mighty."