Congratulations to Yomari Lobo, one of the recipients of the 2022–23 Ooligan Press Diversity Scholarships!

We are honored to share Yomari’s application essay here:

Latinx individuals are vastly underrepresented and under-included in many parts of the media world. There’s a lack of books written by and for Latinas. Literary gatekeepers are overwhelmingly white and straight and less likely to read or uplift works written by writers of color. Even though literary gatekeepers are unlikely to read Latina work, one of the biggest hindrances lies within us. Talented storytellers haven’t seen themselves represented in publishing which leads to us thinking that we can’t be authors because we cannot envision it. If you walk down the aisles of a good book store, book after book, you will see a story about a white girl and sporadically you will see a story about a Black girl, but it is rare to see a story with a Latinx character leading it. Why? Shouldn’t everyone be represented? Shouldn’t everyone have the opportunity to read a book and relate to the characters and see themselves having the same adventure as all the other characters in books? Shouldn’t talented Latinx writers get an opportunity to show their work to the masses? Most people think that since there aren’t any books that are targeted for my demographic means that there are no writers for it, but there are tons of amazing Latinx writers, they just don’t have the same resources and opportunities to get published. We have to work ten times as hard to get something published compared to other writers and it is not fair. If a Latinx writer gets the opportunity to get published their stories are harder to sell, especially if it is a fantasy. Writers of color cannot just write a fantasy book and market as such, there has to be a cultural aspect to it in order to make the story fantasy. While white writers get the chance to write a simple fantasy, writers of color have to have something to back up the fantasy aspects of the story to make it more ‘convincing’ and it is not fair.

Representation is important, especially as a developing child. Stories matter in our society and it affects people more than some people think. The Latinx community should have the opportunity to be able to pick a book, of any genre, and relate to the character, from their looks to their customs. Growing up I read a lot of books that starred a white girl as the main character. I didn’t find my first POC main character till I was in high school and I didn’t read my first Latinx written book with a Latinx main character till I was 19. That lack of representation affected me. I thought it wasn’t possible to be a writer because there wasn’t a Latinx to look up to, to compare myself to. I felt unimportant because there was no one to admire. My favorite thing to do is read yet the industry doesn’t target its book to me, an Afro-Latina. My community goes through the same emotions. They don’t get the representation in the literary world and they are placed in the background only being noticed by the negative stereotypes that are placed in multiple areas of media. The lack of representation shows how much Americans don’t get a full understanding of Latinos and their contributions to society. At the worst it invites politicians to exploit negative stereotypes for political gain. American media, including print journalism, has relied on stereotypes of Latinos. How can we change the perspective of my culture without anyone in the empower position helping us do so? Society needs to be educated on the positive facts about Latinos. They should see that we want adventure and romance and our history told correctly. We are not just criminals, we are readers and writers and artists.

I hope to be the voice of the Latinx community. I want to fill the gap between the Latinx writers and the publishing industry. Being able to provide feedback from the perspective of the book’s targeted audience and bring in diverse freelance readers and reviewers is one of the ways I want to help my fellow Latinx writers. I want to encourage media institutions to reflect the faces of America because then we believe the stories will be more accurate and more reflective of the truth and less stereotypical. One of my main goals is to be in a position that allows me to support marginalized writers who may encounter obstacles in their path. I want to pick up on potentially harmful practices that some POC authors have endured. I want to look for stories that reflect all types of experiences, not just my demographic but everyone’s demographic. But most of all I want to listen to these writers and give them a chance to speak and be heard.

Diverse books aren’t just for the diverse. They are for everyone. Books are powerful. They can help us build bridges of cultural understanding and promote tolerance. Books allow people to develop an appreciation for other cultures. There shouldn’t be a demographic that is underrepresented. Everyone should be able to pick up a book or movie or magazine and see themselves reflected back. Everyone’s voice should be heard. Everyone’s voice is important.

The 2022–23 Ooligan Press Diversity Scholarships are awarded in honor of Indigo: Editing, Design, and More and poet Wopashitwe Mondo Eyen we Langa. Scholarships are awarded annually to incoming students to the Ooligan Press Master’s in Publishing program at Portland State University. Learn more here.