Fantasy Author Zoraida Córdova Discusses Writing Diverse Characters and Creating a Place For Herself in Literature
This article is part of Palabras, the Latin Post Latino Author Series.
Zoraida Córdova, the acclaimed Young Adult novelist, immigrated to the United States from Guayaquil, Ecuador at the age of 6. Her relocation to the multicultural metropolis of New York City made a profound impression on her, and it deeply informed her writing. Her trilogy, "The Vicious Deep," owns Brooklyn as its backdrop, yet each character in the riveting, urban fantasy novels claims a small bit of Ecuador.
"The Vicious Deep," a series that depicts young love and destruction amid wartime in the deep blue sea, pairs Layla Santos, a half Ecuadorian and half Greek teenage girl, with a throne-seeking merman, Tristan Hart. Flawlessly, Córdova creates leads who differ from any presented to young Latino and non-Latino readers today. She's created characters who are mixed-raced, Ecuadorian and paranormal. Her writing does what little YA Fantasy literature has done, and that's diversifying characters.
In a conversation with Latin Post, Córdova asserted the importance of creating a place for readers when they don't feel represented in literature, television or film.
"I don't read much Young Adult with mixed characters, or Ecuadorian characters. My new Young Adult novel, which is slated for a Winter 2015 release, 'Encantrix,' is about a family of brujas. And I'm specifically calling them 'brujas' instead of 'witches,'" she said, explaining a desire to introduce aspects of Latino culture in the details and language.
Córdova explained that when she set out to become a writer, she wasn't trying to become a "Latina writer." Instead, she thought of herself as a young girl pursing writing, creating fantastic stories. She also acknowledged that some subject matter explored in Latino-focus literature wasn't necessarily applicable to all Latinos.
"There's a lot of literature that talks about the immigrant experience, and the struggle of assimilation. That's very important because it's still happening. But not all Latinos identify with that. I think there's a huge gap in the representation of Latinos and other [people of color] in fantasy and science fiction," Córdova said. "I hope other Latino writers start filling in those gaps."
Córdova would, additionally, like writers of all ethnic backgrounds to pay attention to uses of stereotypes. Córdova noted that YA employs an abundant use of the "Latino bad boy" archetype. The boy is normally a heartthrob from the wrong side of the tracks, has tattoos and numerous cousins who are involved in gang activity. And he normally falls for a blonde with a good family. Latino familes are also poorly portrayed; often "the parent is a maid or a drunk." This is problematic.
"I believe this is why I gravitate to fantasy and sci-fi. You can step outside of these social constructions and create something new. This is not to say that I'm never going to write contemporary novels. That's definitely in my plans," she said. "But, I'm more interested in creating a Latin protagonist who struggles with adolescence, as opposed to a Latin protagonist who struggles with their race."
Find out more about the YA author Zoraida Córdova on her website, Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads. Córdova's upcoming work "Luck on the Line," part of the new "On the Line" series, is due out Nov. 11.