» By CONOR SCRUTON – cscruton@my.apsu.edu

Growing up in Virginia with a Puerto Rican background, poet and APSU English professor Blas Falconer read literature coming out of New York City’s strong Latin communities, but felt he had little to relate to.

But as he met more Hispanic writers with similar upbringings, Falconer began to question, “What does it mean to be Latino?”
That is the subject of the new essay anthology “The Other Latin@: Writing Against a Singular Identity,” which Falconer co-edited with fiction writer Lorraine Lopez.

The collection, which features 20 prominent poets and fiction writers, challenges the “mainstream” perception of Hispanic culture and explores the meaning of being a Latino without a community.

America’s strongest Hispanic communities have traditionally been centered in areas such as New York City and the American Southwest, but Falconer grew up in a suburb of Washington, D.C.

As a child, he would read Latin-American literature to try and connect with his mother’s Puerto Rican heritage, but failed to identify with many of their conflicts.

“A lot of [Latino literature] came from these centers of Latino communities … so a lot of the writing that came out of there addressed community concerns,” Falconer said.

Falconer had the idea for the project for years, dating back to meetings with Cuban-American Helena Mesa and Chicano Lisa Chavez. The two poets grew up in Pittsburgh and Alaska, respectively, and recognized Falconer’s frustration.

Falconer invited the writers, among others, to participate in a panel discussion at the Association of Writers and Writing Program’s annual conference.

The event piqued the interest of Falconer’s publisher at The University of Arizona Press, who asked if he had considered compiling a collection of essays on the subject.

Falconer then contacted Lorraine Lopez, fiction writer and English professor at Vanderbilt University, about co-editing the anthology. Apart from readings at APSU, Lopez hadn’t worked with Falconer on any projects , but in his words, “We made a great team.”

This is the second essay anthology Falconer has edited, the first being a 2010 collection on poetic craft titled “Mentor and Muse: Essays from Poets to Poets.”

Falconer’s second full-length book of poetry, The Foundling Wheel, will also be published later this year. “The Other Latin@” is available for purchase. TAS