‘Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed,’ a Book by and for the Latino Diaspora

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Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices From the Latinx Diaspora, one of the books we have been most eagerly awaiting, is finally out under Flatiron Books.

Coordinated and edited by Saraciea J. Fennell, the collection of personal essays and poems dialogues around the construction of our identity as Latinx as we navigate the bittersweet diaspora.

“Too often, individuals from the Latinx diaspora are placed into a box, into stereotypes, that society deems necessary in order to define us. But we are so much more than the myths, than the stereotypes, than what white people and Western ideals want us to believe,” writes Saraciea, who is also the founder of The Bronx is Reading, in the introduction of the book.

The table of contents of this brilliant anthology features the likes of Elizabeth Acevedo, Naima Coster, Ingrid Rojas, Janel Martinez, and Cristina Arreola.

“I hope you read with an open mind, and think critically about the topics discussed,” Fennell writes. “More importantly, to the children of the diaspora, I hope you feel seen and always know that you matter – no matter what the world tries to tell you.”

It is precisely this need to be seen that led the editor to put together Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed. As she told PopSugar, her identity as a Honduran Afro-Latina, and the constant struggle to be recognized as a Latina, led her to seek out other voices that echoed her experience.

“It was a frustration over the last couple of years and honestly most of my life. As soon as I was old enough to find out I was Latina and what that meant, I’d look at media, books, TV, movies and think, where am I reflected? Even as a Honduran American, I’m still searching for that,” she said. “I just have America Ferrera, and she’s amazing, but she’s not a Black Honduran. Where is the representation? I know that we exist because, in my everyday life, I’m seeing these people. But what is it about us? What is it about the marginalized Latinx diaspora that we are always pushed to the side? We’re not reflected the way that we should be. We want to be praised. We want to be celebrated.”

The importance of the word “Diaspora”

The word “diaspora” is often associated with dispersed populations without territory, as was the case with the Jewish community for centuries.

Contemporarily, the word “Diaspora” encompasses any population that identifies with a homeland but lives outside of it, as is the case of Latinos in the world.

As Fennell said, the introduction of the term in the anthology was entirely intentional.

“If you belong to a marginalized group within the Latinx diaspora, I hope that you feel seen and know that you are not alone. For all the people out there who question where they fall within the spectrum of Latinidad, it doesn’t even matter,” she said.

On colorism and anti-blackness in the Latinx community

Another reason behind the Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed anthology was to open up the conversation around colorism and anti-blackness within the Latinx community.

The Latinx community’s insistence on erasing Afro roots — something often associated with colonialism and the eradication of indigenous identity — has deeply divided our community. The intent of her book is thus to expose through personal experiences the need to bridge the gap.

“Though we are having more and more open conversations about these pain points in our community, there are those who still tend to put Whiteness in the spotlight,” she told CNN. “We’ve seen media, beauty brands, and book publishing do this, claiming that a character or person is Afro Latinx, but then only highlighting those on the lightest spectrum of the color wheel. It’s time these things change, there’s room for darker skin and coily hair, and we deserve to be in the spotlight too.”

The book includes Mark Oshiro’s essay “Eres un pocho,” which explores the identity of a Latino boy adopted by a white mother and Japanese father and who always has to explain who he is to others. Also included is Cristina Arreola’s essay “The Land, the Ghosts, and Me,” in which she discovers herself feeling the spirits of her ancestors but never feeling sufficiently Mexican.

The book also features Zakiya N. Jamal’s story, “Cuban Imposter Syndrome,” about the Cuban community’s lack of acceptance of her as a black Cuban, and Ibi Zoboi’s “Haitian Sensation,” about growing up in New York in the 1980s during the height of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, at a time when Haitians were heavily discriminated against and blamed for the spread of the disease.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora can be purchased here.