We welcome Daniela Ottolenghi, an author and academic from Buenos Aires, Argentina. Daniela specialises in digital reading practices among young people and today she introduce us to three Argentinian YA novels and their writers who have yet to be translated into English…
Young adult fiction in Argentina is a rapidly evolving and expanding literary field. Whilst a strong literary tradition, the genre has only recently gained more attention and recognition. There are many excellent authors who are contributing unique and diverse perspectives to the world of young adult fiction. I have selected some interesting and recent books from authors who I also interviewed because they showcase the richness and variety of this growing genre.
OG En castellano Y
Written by Verónica Salinas
Published by Macmillan Argentina (2018)
I am from Argentina.
I speak Spanish.
I live in Fredrikstad.
This is how OG En castellano Y begins. Written by Verónica Salinas, an Argentine actress and writer who lives in Norway, many elements of this story are autobiographical. It is about a girl who decides to go to Norway to work as an au pair due to the 2001 crisis in Argentina.
Verónica currently lives in Norway and success surprised her. She studied for a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Portuguese Literature at the University of Oslo and also studied at the Norwegian Institute of Children’s and Youth Literature. She told me that this experience at the Institute was fundamental in her career as a writer, as it helped her strengthen her self-esteem and believe that she was capable of writing. Around eighty people apply to this institution every two years and only twelve are accepted. Not only was she selected, but she was also the only foreigner. Despite Norwegian not being her native language and her limited mastery of it at the time, the Institute’s director said she wrote beautiful stories. That was the push she needed to say, “I can write what I want” and she was now brave enough to do it.
This novel is a blend of narrative and poetry, a story that finds its graphic form in poetry. Verónica pointed out that this form allowed her to reflect on how a foreign language is spoken in a “concise, economical” way. “For every hundred words waiting in line to be spoken in Spanish, there are only 20 in Norwegian,” Verónica tells me. In addition to being an actress and writer, she works at the House of Literature in Oslo, where her main task is to democratize literature.
Og en castellano Y is a beautiful novel which travels from Argentina to Norway, from past to present interweaving the difficult process of immigration.
Radiografía del instante
Wrriten by Melina Pogorelsky
Published by Ediciones SM (2019)
Radiografía del instante is a book by Melina Pogorelsky that can be defined as a collection of everyday short stories. However, it is more than that. It is a collection of experiences narrated with simplicity but also detail, which manages to capture the different voices of the characters with fluidity, grace, and believability.
In some of these stories, dialogue predominates, in others, action, but all of them present familiar themes with which we can identify, especially if the reader is a teenager. Topics such as insecurity and self-esteem, illness, virality, shame, online identity, abuse, heartbreak, misunderstandings, and miscommunication are some of the themes we encounter.
When I asked her about the inspiration behind this book she said that the first thing to come to her was the title: “That marked a path and a certain kind of tone for me. The idea of a “scan”, of capturing, if you will, different moments that would each allow a peek beyond what is shown. As if the narrator of each of the stories were playing, showing and overlapping the complete story”.
Melina is a contemporary voice which is fresh and interesting. She doesn’t underestimate young adult fiction and she is willing to try new things and show diverse voices.
Written by Ezequiel Dellutri
Published by Norma (2018)
Shortlisted for the White Ravens 2019
“Koi” was written by Ezequiel Dellutri, an Argentine writer and Language and Literature teacher, winner of the 2018 Norma award.
This is a story about Laura, a teenager on a profound search for meaning in her life and those around her. But then Laura meets her younger half-brother, and the story becomes not just about her search but also about the bond that begins to form between them.
For some time now, I have been reviewing different types of stories in which we read about interesting relationships: grandmother and granddaughter, mother and daughter, siblings. This is one of those cases. It is a very enjoyable narrative to read – it makes you smile – but it also moves you. It focuses on diversity, shining a light on people we sometimes do not understand, people that make us hesitant to approach because we think they are too different. And yet, this book shows how beautiful it is when those encounters happen and prejudice is put aside.
Dellutri visits schools regularly and when I asked him about his writing style he said:
“My literature is made up of few words, almost for the sake of ambiguity. I use minimal descriptions because I am interested in having the reader complete what I don’t tell, to imagine it in their own way. I don’t want to tell them how things are:;I want them to invent them with me.”
I then asked him about young people as readers, and he answered that “The teenage reader is prodigious because they enter the game without hesitation, commit to the story, give themselves permission to be moved, or angry, or laugh, or cry. And, to disagree with the author and question their decisions.”
These books, whether they be short stories or novels, tackle important and compelling themes through engaging and well-crafted narratives. While some of these works are already being incorporated into school curricula in Argentina, they remain relatively unknown to readers outside the country. To fully appreciate and understand the diverse perspectives and shared concerns across cultures, it is imperative to seek out literature from different voices. I hope to have piqued your interest in exploring these works further.
Daniela is a lecturer at the University of San Isidro, Beunos Aires, with a PhD in digital reading practices among young people. She’s published a book on the topic (Leer se volvió viral: Prácticas de lectura y escritura en plataformas digitales) and has a YA fiction book coming out soon. She lived in the UK for a year, where she got a Master’s in Digital Education. She loves the UK, and she may miss the squirrels, but not the grey weather. She wants to visit again, but the exchange rate is a bummer. Find her on Instagram