Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is out now.
Edited by The Bronx Is Reading founder Saraciea J. Fennell and featuring an all-star cast of Latinx contributors, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is a ground-breaking anthology that will spark dialogue and inspire hope
In Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, bestselling and award-winning authors as well as up-and-coming voices interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx diaspora. These fifteen original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes, to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth. Full of both sorrow and joy, Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is an essential celebration of this rich and diverse community.
The bestselling and award-winning contributors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Cristina Arreola, Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Naima Coster, Natasha Diaz, Saraciea J. Fennell, Kahlil Haywood, Zakiya Jamal, Janel Martinez, Jasminne Mendez, Meg Medina, Mark Oshiro, Julian Randall, Lilliam Rivera, and Ibi Zoboi.
By Nawal Qarooni Casiano and Cornelius Minor
Tradition matters. It can stifle. It can inspire. And if we are intentional about how we honor it, it can liberate. Black Honduran writer/curator, Saraceia J. Fennell, knows all of this and that powerful knowing is on full display in her masterful curation of Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed.
The title, a reference to Gloria Anzuldua’s seminal Borderlands/La Frontera, is an acknowledgement that the Latinx diaspora is not a monolith, and that the stories that it has to tell are diverse and confrontational and comforting and universal and singular all at the same time.
There is so much to admire about this book. It would be easy to talk about the genius of the writing here. Each writer in this collection shows up with an authenticity that awes and affirms. But before we consider the content, it’s important to stop and admire Fennell’s curation here. She has elevated the act of gathering beyond art. In Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed, gathering is a divine act of claiming and asserting identity. We are so lucky to have books like this.
There is something in there for everyone, and there is nothing else out in the world like it. It’s about whose stories deserve to be told, and how we view ourselves. And you don’t have to be Latinx to connect to this. To hear her tell it, the “spark” for this anthology came during the election, when she had to explain to her 10-year-old son why our country’s president called people who looked like him violent criminals.
“It wasn’t the greatest experience,” she said. “It got me thinking – what books or stories are out there?”
That is how Wild Tongues was born, from Saraceia asking, “Who are the people who are talking about issues in the community? What are they talking about?” All of the stories describe intricate relationships with roots. From exploring experiences with language, colorism, alcoholism, and depression to experiences around proximity to whiteness, relationships with uncles and fathers, reflections of beauty and complicated in-laws and cousins, the breadth of the essays are expansive in scope.
This book is all of those things, and it is more. It is cause for concern, and it is comfort. It is an articulation of the challenges, and it is the key to solving them. This book is everything because the diaspora is everything.
Though it is complicated, family is everything. “When you come from a marginalized background, at some point you’re living with an aunt, uncle or cousin, and they had a hand at shaping your existence,” Saraceia said.
There was effort in the curation. Saraceia brought together lots of different voices.
“I looked at the shelves and asked myself, ‘Where are the Honduran writers? Where are the Central American voices traditionally underrepresented? Where are the Black Panamanians? How about Black Cubans?” she said. “These are the people whose stories I want to hear.”
The hope is that folks will grab this collection off the shelves all year long but also, for example, during Black History Month, when we often learn about the same influential people.
“We want to hear from the hidden figures, poets and storytellers,” Saraceia said.
And then of course, this collection is about understanding ourselves.
“How do I find spaces in myself to learn about my ancestral history and make peace with that part of me?” she said. “These communities exist outside of our immediate bubbles and Black kids who speak Spanish, for example, deserve to know that. Community gathers in that way.”
This gorgeous exploration of the Latinx diaspora—with all its texture, variation and truth—is critical for young people especially. It is a conversation starter. It is a balm. It feels like camaraderie and understanding.
“We have to be sharp with the information we give our children when they’re in the diaspora because someone will always challenge their identity,” she said.
“Someone out there will define it for you if you don’t. But as long as we know the answers, we can define ourselves.”
Saraciea J. Fennell is a Black Honduran writer and the founder of The Bronx is Reading. She is also a book publicist who has worked with many award-winning and New York Times bestselling authors. Fennell is board chair for Latinx in Publishing, on the Advisory Board of People of Color in Publishing, and the creator of Honduran Garifuna Writers. She lives in the Bronx with her family and poodle, Oreo.
Nawal wakes each morning to a cup of strong coffee and a head full of stronger ideas. One time zone away, Cornelius does the same thing, but with tea. Over the years, the two of them met through these ideas , and they soon learned to grow many others. Together. As book people, parents and educators, they believe in the power of storytelling as a way to connect our imperfect past to the infinite potential of our future. For families. For children. And for the world.
They are both educators who work in many capacities, but the capacity that energizes them the most is that they share and discuss stories with young people. There is power in this. Especially when it is done with an intentional focus on diversity. They believe that seeking words and experiences that are different from our own help us be more human.