Karla Cornejo is a finalist for the LA Times' Book Prizes
The Los Angeles Times announced its Book Awards shortlist this week and Ecuadorian-American author Karla Cornejo is a finalist in the Current Interest category.
The Los Angeles Times Book Prizes recognize outstanding literary works of the past year in 11 categories, plus three special awards. The finalists for the 41st L.A. Times Book Awards were announced on 2 March, and it was confirmed that the ceremony will take place next Friday, 16 April, in a virtual format.
In this edition, the five finalists for the Current Interest category present works that have a lot to say about (in)justice in society, addressing freedom, immigration, mental health, migrant violence, and racism.
Ecuadorian-born writer Karla Cornejo Villavicencio participates in this category with her book The Undocumented Americans. Villavicencio wrote "I'm an Illegal Immigrant at Harvard," an essay she published anonymously in the Daily Beast that received a lot of attention for the strength of her writing.
After the 2016 election, she decided to no longer hide. She began to travel around the country to discover and tell the stories of other immigrants who, like her, were undocumented.
Her book chronicles a four-year reporting and writing journey and represents a strong new voice in American literature.
"I didn't write for white people," Cornejo Villavicencio tells CNN in an interview. And the dedication of his book confirms it.
Cornejo pays tribute to Claudia Gomez Gonzalez, who was killed by a Border Patrol agent in 2018. "(Claudia) came here because she wanted a better life, which is classically what Americans have been told this country is for, but she no longer accepts it. (...) I chose to write for children of immigrants. I chose to write for immigrants. I chose to write for people of color. And, you know, that's why it's a book that has base notes. It's not just a fragrance."
Cornejo stresses the importance of immigrant stories being told by immigrants themselves.
She competes against other writers with powerful stories in this category: Brittany K. Barnett and her A Knock at Midnight: A Story of Hope, Justice, and Freedom; Christine Montross with Waiting for an Echo: The Madness of Incarceration in America; Jacob Soboroff, Separated: Inside an American Tragedy; and Isabel Wilkerson, Casta: The Origins of Our Discontent.
Since 1996, the awards have been presented as part of the Los Angeles Times Book Festival, a space that has brought together emerging writers, poets, artists, filmmakers, musicians, and storytellers. This year the intention is to maintain that interaction at least virtually.