I was excited about this book and I just couldn’t wait to order it. Once I was able buy books again, this particular book was one of the first ones that I’ve bought. I first heard about it from Elizabeth Acevedo’s Instagram page. She was one of the authors featured in it and anything that that woman writes, I buy. She’s on the same level as Jason Reynolds to me. This book is a collection of essays about growing up or their (the contributors) experience with being Latinx. Some of the stories broke my heart. Some made my heart swell. I won’t talk about every essay featured but I will mention the ones that stood out to me the most, even though they all were fantastic!
In Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, bestselling and award-winning authors as well as up-and-coming voices interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx diaspora. These fifteen original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes, to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth. Full of both sorrow and joy, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is an essential celebration of this rich and diverse community.
The bestselling and award-winning contributors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Cristina Arreola, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Naima Coster, Natasha Diaz, Saraciea J. Fennell, Kahlil Haywood, Zakiya Jamal, Janel Martinez, Jasminne Mendez, Meg Medina, Mark Oshiro, Julian Randall, Lilliam Rivera, and Ibi Zoboi.
I enjoyed it. My favorite essay was “More than Nervios” because I identified so much with it, as someone struggling with Anxiety and Depression. It was written by Lilliam Rivera and she talked about how mental health wasn’t something that they dealt with in their family. Like in my family, Depression was a word that was never uttered. She mentioned how there was a picture of her when she was younger with her siblings and how she had a serious look on her face. She was labeled “the quiet one” like me. She stated that “a negative tape continuously ran through my head, stating I was too ugly, too stupid, and too poor”. She even spoke on the time she attempted to unalive herself. In the BIPOC community, Depression is seen as a weakness and not that big of a deal. We need to change that soon!
In “Alaiyo”, Jasmine Mendez talked about how when she was growing up, she knew she was Dominican and NOT African American, even though just by looking at her, any other person would’ve just assumed she was Black. She spoke on her experience growing up and acting and not getting certain parts in productions simply because she didn’t look the part, not on her acting ability. She felt boxed in because she would only be casted in side roles and not the main starring role because she wasn’t White. She also experienced some of that same treatment with Black theatres because she didn’t look “Black enough”. How messed up is that? Needless to say, she struggled finding her place.
“Invisible” was one essay that boiled my blood by the end of it I was shouting from the rooftops my praise for the author, Ingrid Rojas Contreras. She married into a super conservative family who tried to push their beliefs onto her and a family who never argued or did not handle confrontation well, which was the opposite of what she experienced in her family. Her mother-in-law tried to force her to have kids (spoilers…she didn’t get pregnant), they family “didn’t see color” but hated immigrants. Her hubby’s mother would gaslight her and then wonder why she was being so “difficult”. She tried to tell her hubby and his siblings that their parents were racist or held racist beliefs but they didn’t listen until the parents voted for Trump. The dad even gifted her a book on Eugenics…how messed up was that? In the end she chose to create peace for her life and made some changes in order to get it (again…I was proud of her).
I learned about how a town in Panama became populated with Black people in the essay “Paraiso Negro” and how the US was a factor in how there was segregation in Paraiso. Kahlil Haywood, the contributor, spoke about how in the 90s, the term Afro-Latinx didn’t really exist back then and how he struggled with how to identify himself. He also mentioned how Afro-Caribbeans culture are all very similar, like with food. For example, he mentioned that what they call patacones in Panama, Dominicans call tostones and Hatians call bannann…it’s all the same: fried plantains.
Several contributors mentioned how people found it confusing when they’d see a black person speaking Spanish or from a Spanish speaking country. I was a little surprised by it because if you didn’t know, I’m from Miami and you see Black people who are Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, you name it. Now whether they claim their blackness is a different story but the point is that it is something that I’m used to and I always thought that people in New York will think the same way but that’s not the case sadly. I’m just glad that the term Afro-Latinx is getting more well-known.
In the essay “Half In, Half Out”, the editor, Saracieo Fennell talked about how people always saw her dark skin and they assumed she was just a regular black girl. She brought up how relaxing her hair wasn’t the only anti-Black thing imparted on her but also the issue of skin bleaching. I wrote a post on this recently. She talked about how she was instructed to apply bleaching creams on their dark spots of their bodies. She had to deal with her family being anti-Black and with their colorism.
I gave this book 4/5 stars and I highly recommend this book! This is great for Latinx folks and people who are curious about the Latinx Diaspora. If you want a book that feels like home, this is the book for you
Title: Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed
Author: Saraciea Fennell (Editor)
Publication Date: November 2, 2021
Buy it here: Bookshop.org
Have you read a book that was a collection of essays? Will you read this one? What book do you suggest I read next?