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Heroines of Spanish

Spanish a wonderful language, and a useful one to study. Here are our favourite female authors and other heroines of the Spanish language.

Alicia Gaspar de Alba

Alicia Gaspar de Alba is a scholar, cultural critic, novelist, and poet whose works include historical novels and scholarly studies on Chicana/o sexuality, art and culture. Gaspar de Alba was born in 1958 in El Paso, Texas, near its border with Ciudad Juárez. She received a Bachelors in 1980, a Masters in 1983 in English from the University of Texas at El Paso. In 1994, she earned her Ph.D. in American Studies at the University of New Mexico. In the mid-nineties, she was one of six founding faculty members of the then César Chávez Center for Interdisciplinary Instruction in Chicana and Chicano Studies at University of California, Los Angeles. Gaspar de Alba has published extensively and her novels have won several literary awards: her 2005 novel, Desert Blood: The Juárez Murders, won the Lambda Literary Award for Best Lesbian Mystery Novel and the Latino Book Award for Best Mystery Novel. That novel is based on the female homicides, around which Gaspar de Alba researched and organized a conference.

Rosa Montero

Acclaimed as both a journalist and a novelist, Rosa Montero has created incredible narratives and has conducted fascinating interviews. Her novel The Delta Function is regarded as a significant work of contemporary feminist thought and explores the dualities of female life. Montero’s later novel, The Lunatic of the House, won both the Qué Leer Prize for best book published in Spain and the Italian Grinzane Cavour Prize for best foreign book. She currently works for El País and has won the National Journalism Prize multiple times.

Sónia Hernández

Another inductee into Granta’s Best Young Spanish-Language Novelists, Sónia Hernandez was originally a literary critic and poet. In 2008, she published her first work of fiction, a collection of stories Los enfermos erróneos (The Wrong Patients), a highlight of which, “The Survivor” was published in an English translation by The Guardian. Hernandez is also the coordinator of the literary research magazine Quaderns de Vallençana, dedicated to the humanist Juan Ramón Masoliver.

Sandra Cisneros

Mexican-American Sandra Cisneros has done a lot for Chicana literature. Her first novel arguably remains one of her best: The House on Mango Street (1984) is a slim, slight text, easily devourable in one sitting and explores the coming-of-age story of Latina-in-Chicago Esperanza Cordero. Often heartbreaking but simultaneously joyous, The House on Mango Street is a classic text in the Chicana literary canon. It explores the cross-cultural presence of misogynistic attitudes towards women. However, Cisneros’ short story collection Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories (1991) perhaps has a more explicitly feminist focus: she presents women – particularly Chicana women – as empowered protagonists, critiquing patriarchal structures through their experiences which resonate with so many women, Mexican-American or otherwise.

Marcela Serrano

A big hitter on the Chilean literary scene is Santiago native and feminist Marcela Serrano. She has published nine novels and several short stories. A theme which dominates much of her writing is the way in which it explores women’s lives: something that has drawn repeated criticism from misogynistic critics. The 2011, novel Diez Mujeres gives biographical flashes into the lives of ten women, nine of whom are the patients of the final one, Natasha—a therapist. Serrano’s clear, lucid prose shines here, as she rather impressively tackles the creation of ten distinct biographies in one novel. Other stand-out Works by Serrano include: El albergue de las mujeres tristes (1997) and winner of the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz prize, Nosotras que nos queremos tanto (1991).

Carmen Boullosa

Broadly dealing with feminist issues in Latin America in her repertoire of eclectic and genre-spanning writings, Carmen Boullosa is an exceptionally talented novelist, poet, and playwright. Her works generally deal with gender roles in Latin American society and other feminist issues. One of her better known texts is Leaving Tabasco (2001), in which Delmira Ulloa richly describes her life 30 years before, in a quirky, tiny town in the state of Tabasco, where magic is the stuff of everyday life. This well-written novel, which of course evokes the magical realism so popular in Latin America, displays a self-awareness of its literary heritage, as Delmira is at one point handed One Hundred Years of Solitude to read on a plane. A fascinating text, Leaving Tabasco is enthralling, wordy, thought-provoking.