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Guatemalan literature is often associated with narratives of resistance—such as Rigoberta Menchú’s controversial I, Rigoberta Menchú—and, well, the Popol Vuh, a collection of Mayan myth and legend originally written in Quiché. And yet, contemporary Guatemalan literature, whether produced in Guatemala or by diasporic writers and immigrants, defies categorisation.
Here are my picks for five contemporary Guatemalan writers you should know (and read).
(Please note that this series predominantly focuses on authors and essayists. For poets from Guatemala, check out this post.)
Claudia D Hernández
Born and raised in Guatemala, Claudia D Hernández is a photographer, poet, essayist, and photographer currently based in Los Angeles. As well as founding the Today’s Revolutionary Women of Color collective, Hernández also wrote the memoir Knitting the Fog and edited the anthology Women, Mujeres, Ixoq: Revolutionary Visions. For Knitting the Fog, Hernández was awarded the Louise Meriwether First Book Prize in 2018.
Slam poet, essayist, and novel-in-verse writer Melissa Lozada-Oliva was born in 1992 to Guatemalan and Colombian parents. The author of three poetry collections—including peluda—Lozada-Oliva most recently published the freaky (her words) verse novel Dreaming of You about resurrecting singer Selena Quintanilla. You can currently find her presenting the podcast Say More alongside Olivia Gatwood.
Read my review of Dreaming of You here.
Quetzaltenango-born poet and short story writer Vania Vargas (1978) is the author of the microfiction collection Historias mínimas, the short story compilations Cuarenta noches and Después del fin, as well as several poetry anthologies including Quizá ese día tampoco sea hoy and Cuentos infantiles. She currently works as a copyeditor and journalist.
University professor, writer, and sociologist Denise Phé-Funchal is known for her novels Las flores, Ana sonríe, and La habitación de la memoria, as well as her short story collection Buenas costumbres. Phé-Funchal is also an accomplished poet. As a sociologist, she’s written essays for Oxfam and others, and also gives workshops on topics such as sexual violence and gender theory.
Jennifer de Leon
Jennifer de Leon was born in Boston to Guatemalan parents and currently works as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Framingham State University, as well as at Bay Path University. As a writer, de Leon has published the YA novel Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, as well as the Juniper Prize-winning essay collection White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, and Writing. She also edited Wise Latinas.