Famous Latina Author Mistaken for the Help at a Gala
Moments of achievement are often rife with self-doubt. Particularly for those who have defied tremendous odds to represent a minuscule percentage of minorities in arenas of high acclaim and success.
Recently, award-winning author Reyna Grande was one of just thirteen Latinx authors (out of a total of 144) invited to attend a gala to fete the National Book Festival. That’s about 9%. Let that number sink in. It’s a fraction of the total.
Upon arrival at the Library of Congress that evening, Grande allowed herself to experience a wave of emotions—gratitude, discomfort, disbelief, joy. She stopped at the staircase to take in the grandness of the historic hall and the reality of her rightful place among a group of legendary guests. As she made her way through the party, longing to find familiar faces in the crowd, a white man stopped her to ask where the restrooms were. When she replied incredulously, he stuttered to apologize, having mistaken her for a member of the waitstaff.
I was unable to hold back tears as I read Reyna’s candid description of her experience as a brown woman in a white-dominated industry. As she wrestled with feelings commonly referred to as imposter syndrome, which can certainly be felt by anyone, she acknowledged the severe obstacles Latinos face in our fight for representation and the harmful effects of internalized biases and assumptions.
The statistics she cited which reveal the severity of our erasure are staggering and demoralizing. 82 percent of editors in publishing are white, more animals (27 percent) are featured in children’s books than Latino characters (5 percent) and only 4.5 percent of speaking roles in film have gone to Latino actors. We’re also grossly underrepresented politically with only 36 Latinos in the House and 4 in the Senate.
Despite the numbers, Grande’s conclusion was hopeful. “I had to write my way into existence,” she defiantly said, never denying her battle with feelings of inadequacy.
Her honesty gave me courage. I found the inspiration I’ve been seeking in this literary mirror. I’m so grateful to Reyna, which in Spanish means queen. A fitting name for a great woman and a trailblazing Latina.