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An Open Letter: The Need for Inclusive Research in Dominican Literature

I am Angela Abreu, the Executive Director of the Dominican Writers Association (DWA), a non-profit organization founded to amplify Dominican-American voices who have been often marginalized in the literary landscape. Our purpose goes beyond advocacy. We actively mentor Dominican-American writers, many of whom have won awards, signed with high-profile agents, and self-published successfully here and in DR. Some have been accepted into prestigious residencies.

During last night's launch event of Review 106, esteemed contributors like Aurora Arias, Josefina Báez, Zaida Corniel, Frank Báez, and Edgar Smith delighted us with works originally penned in Spanish and later translated into English for the review. It is without a doubt that these authors have made invaluable contributions to the Dominican literary landscape. Artists like Josefina Báez have, in fact, paved the way for many of us to become writers today. However, it was deeply disappointing to note the glaring omission of Dominican-American writers who ONLY publish in English.

In response to my question regarding the conspicuous absence of Dominican-American writers who publish primarily in English, guest editor, Prof. Rodríguez attributed the omission to a "lack of communication between groups" and his own unfamiliarity with such authors. This admission is particularly disconcerting coming from someone whose academic focus is Caribbean studies and area of interest lies on Dominican literature. A comprehensive understanding of the literary landscape—encompassing both renowned and emerging talents—is an expected prerequisite for someone in Prof. Rodríguez's position. The failure to conduct thorough research on this subject not only amplifies an existing pattern of exclusion but also compromises the educational objectives of our literary community. This oversight has significant implications, affecting not only the writers who are left out but also the students who are deprived of a more complete, diverse  understanding of their literary heritage.

In addition to celebrated authors like Julia Alvarez, Junot Díaz, Angie Cruz, and Elizabeth Acevedo, there's a wide ranging talent pool that significantly enriches Dominican-American literature. Names such as Jasminne Mendez, who excels in translation and in multiple genres; Adriana Herrera, a prolific romance novelist; Maya Montayne, Claribel A. Ortega, Julian Randall, and Hilda Eunice Burgos –  Dominican-American writers with a series; are among many who contribute to the richness and depth of our shared literary culture, all warranting academic and mainstream recognition. By consistently spotlighting both established and emerging voices, we can create pathways to lesser-known authors to achieve the same level of recognition as their renowned counterparts. At DWA, we are committed to fostering and amplifying these diverse voices. We take great pride in not only keeping track of award-winning authors but also promoting lesser-known writers and self-published authors. Their voices are equally important and deserve to be included in academic syllabi for a fuller understanding of our literary heritage.

While we appreciate the focus on Dominican literature, it is crucial to remember that the literary tapestry of a nation is not confined to geographical boundaries or language. It spans across diasporas and is enriched by the multicultural and multilingual experiences of its people. Excluding a portion of these voices on the grounds of “lack of communication” is not only a missed opportunity but ultimately undermines the authenticity and comprehensiveness of Review 106's content.

As we move forward, let this glaring omission serve as both an urgent call to action and a catalyst for meaningful dialogue among scholars, editors, and the wider community. This is far from the first oversight of its kind that I have witnessed. Those in influential academic and editorial positions have an ethical and professional responsibility to conduct thorough research and broaden their scope. They must make a concerted effort to include the entire spectrum of Dominican literary voices. Any omission is more than a missed opportunity; it's a failure of our collective responsibility to cultivate a comprehensive, inclusive literary culture. In taking such an inclusive approach, we enrich our shared literary landscape and ensure that future generations will not encounter the same barriers to recognition and inclusion that many of us have faced.

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Angela Abreu

Executive Director,

Dominican Writers Association

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