Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a special, month-long series on Pop! Goes The Reader in which we celebrate the literary female role models whose stories have inspired and empowered us since time immemorial. From Harriet M. Welsch to Anne Shirley, Becky Bloomwood to Hermione Granger, Her Story: Ladies In Literature is a series created for women, by women as twenty authors answer the question: “Who’s your heroine?” You can find a complete list of the participants and their scheduled guest post dates Here!
About Adrianna Cuevas
Adrianna Cuevas is a first-generation Cuban-American originally from Miami, Florida. A former Spanish and ESOL teacher, Adrianna currently resides in Austin, Texas with her husband and son. When not working with TOEFL students, wrangling multiple pets including an axolotl, and practicing fencing with her son, she is writing her next middle grade novel. She is represented by Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel of Full Circle Literary.
When I think back on my childhood to find a literary heroine I relate to, I have to sort past the constant stream of Minecraft information my son feeds me, whether I bake guava pastelitos for 25 or 35 minutes, and if I remembered to drink my coffee this morning.
In short, my memory is terrible.
I’m more aware of what I didn’t read growing up than what I did. The thought of taking care of someone else’s kids was absolute horror, so The Baby Sitters Club series might as well have been written by R.L. Stine. I never read Jane Austen since there was a distinct lack of zombies and gore. And I’d rather be run over by a covered wagon than read the Little House books. Growing up, my favorite book was an illustrated anthology of Edgar Allen Poe short stories and poems in all its deliciously horrific glory.
Selecting a meaningful heroine from literature I’ve loved is further complicated when I recognize that book characters who represent my culture and experiences are few and far between. For me, reading stories featuring strong female characters isn’t enough when those characters are white. But the section in the bookstore about snarky Cuban girls balancing two cultures while figuring out their place in the world is most likely hidden behind the twelfth installment of Twilight.
Eventually I gave up looking for myself in stories and learned to be content with substitutes, all the while feeling like something was missing, thinking maybe my stories and experiences didn’t have a place in publishing.
Then last year I met Rosa Santos.
Within the pages of Don’t Date Rosa Santos, author Nina Moreno introduced me to a Florida girl who resembled me in so many ways, I had to check the book cover to make sure my picture wasn’t plastered on the front. In her final year of high school, Rosa faces big decisions regarding her future, her education, and her family. Most of all, she wants to make a real connection with her Cuban heritage.
Sure, Rosa embodies the universal themes of YA that any reader can relate to: uncertainty about the future, identity struggles, and learning about first love. But she is also unmistakably and specifically me. Rosa has a sopa-making abuela who believes in a wide variety of superstitions, just like I had. She gorges herself on the pastelitos, croquetas, and lechon I love. She speaks fluent Spanglish and the Cubanisms I heard growing up in Miami. Her family has been through the same trials mine had in their quest for freedom. She is a child of the diaspora, longing to connect with a country just out of reach, instead learning about her history through food, language, and stories.
Reading Rosa’s story I couldn’t help but wonder if this is what it’s really like to see yourself reflected on the page. To walk into a bookstore and find shelf upon shelf of your experiences, your culture, and your family all woven in a story. A character who looks like you and thinks like you whispering in your ear and telling you you’re not alone, you’re not the only one.
Every reader deserves to find their Rosa.
Title The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez
Author Adrianna Cuevas
Intended Target Audience Middle Grade
Publication Date July 21st 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR)
Find It On Goodreads ● Amazon ● Chapters ● The Book Depository ● Barnes & Noble ● IndieBound
In this magical middle-grade debut novel from Adrianna Cuevas, The Total Eclipse of Nestor Lopez, a Cuban American boy must use his secret ability to communicate with animals to save the inhabitants of his town when they are threatened by a tule vieja, a witch that transforms into animals.
All Nestor Lopez wants is to live in one place for more than a few months and have dinner with his dad.
When he and his mother move to a new town to live with his grandmother after his dad’s latest deployment, Nestor plans to lay low. He definitely doesn’t want to anyone find out his deepest secret: that he can talk to animals.
But when the animals in his new town start disappearing, Nestor’s grandmother becomes the prime suspect after she is spotted in the woods where they were last seen. As Nestor investigates the source of the disappearances, he learns that they are being seized by a tule vieja ― a witch who can absorb an animal’s powers by biting it during a solar eclipse. And the next eclipse is just around the corner…
Now it’s up to Nestor’s extraordinary ability and his new friends to catch the tule vieja ― and save a place he might just call home.