Celebrating Afro-Latinx Voices With Tamika Burgess, Aya de León, and Torrey Maldonado

Phoebe Swan Guiot, Senior Librarian, Acquisitions,
Afro-Latinx authors: Torrey Maldonado, Tamika Burgess and Aya de Leon

There is an enchanting power in stories woven by voices from diverse backgrounds. Stories from voices enrich our understanding, taking us on journeys through cultures and experiences we might never have known otherwise. We're privileged to explore three exceptional Afro-Latinx authors: Tamika Burgess, Aya de León, and Torrey Maldonado. These writers all create captivating narratives that promote unity and cultural appreciation, and they all understand the vital role that libraries play in ensuring these voices are heard, appreciated, and celebrated.

Tamika Burgess, a gifted storyteller, possesses a unique ability to unveil intricate layers of identity through her literature and storytelling. Her work delves into Black Panamanian culture, something she believes should be celebrated and understood beyond the confines of stereotypes. "I use literature and storytelling to share information I feel people should know about," she explains. In her work, Tamika dismantles the notion that people fit neatly into boxes, instead recognizing the diverse experiences that each individual brings.

Aya de León's literary world is a tapestry of collaboration, where Black and Latina women and girls come together to overcome challenges and celebrate their shared experiences. "My stories generally are about collaborations between Black and Latina women and girls, and some are AfroLatina," Aya reveals. She envisions a world where solidarity between Black and Brown communities can flourish, both in fiction and reality.

Torrey Maldonado, hailing from a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, understands the power of storytelling in connecting with readers. Torrey emphasizes the importance of infusing love and respect into his storytelling. "No one likes someone who hates them, and no one likes a book that hates them," he wisely observes. "If our writing loves the reader, the reader will love our writing." But Torrey's impact extends beyond the pages of his books. His storytelling is a bridge that unites diverse communities and promotes cultural understanding. Torrey's dedication to literature to amplify marginalized voices continues to inspire.

Libraries have always been sanctuaries for the written word, and they continue to be on the frontlines of promoting diverse voices and fostering inclusivity. They are places where stories from all walks of life are welcomed and celebrated. Tamika Burgess emphasizes libraries' critical role in supporting underrepresented communities: "Carrying books that bookstores don't always purchase to sell and hosting author events that showcase the work of authors whose books are not widely known." By doing so, libraries promote representation and provide opportunities for readers to see themselves in the stories they read. Aya de León, too, recognizes the transformative potential of libraries. She advocates for libraries to hire librarians who reflect the diversity of their communities. By doing so, libraries can ensure that their collections and programs are inclusive and representative of the people they serve. As for Torrey Maldonado, his works serve as a bridge between communities within school walls. Schools have adopted his books for "One School, One Book Read" initiatives, fostering discussions on racism and allyship. His storytelling becomes a catalyst for important conversations facilitated by libraries' nurturing environment.

In the enchanting realm of literature, Afro-Latinx voices shine brightly as beacons of culture, identity, and unity. Through their storytelling, authors like Tamika Burgess, Aya de León, and Torrey Maldonado invite us to explore the complexities of identity, foster solidarity, and envision a more inclusive world. Their words resonate with the power of unity, representation, and love, reminding us of the boundless potential of literature to transform hearts and minds. Through their narratives, we are encouraged to embrace the diverse voices that enrich our world and celebrate Afro-Latinx authors who make a difference, one story at a time.

Tamika Burgess, Aya de León, and Torrey Maldonado will be featured authors at the Los Angeles Libros Festival, a free bilingual book festival for the whole family celebrating stories and music from Latin America and the United States. L.A. Libros Fest will be streamed live on YouTube on Friday, September 29, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon. The Festival will be in-person at Central Library in Downtown Los Angeles on Saturday, September 30, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Recommended Reading

Book cover for Undercover Latina
Undercover Latina
De León, Aya

Book cover of Sincerely Sicily
Sincerely Sicily
Burgess, Tamika

Book cover of Hands
Maldonado, Torrey

Book cover for What lane?
What Lane?
Maldonado, Torrey

Book cover of Tight
Maldonado, Torrey