WHITE SPACE

White Space

By Jennifer De Leon

University of Massachusetts Press, 2021

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About the Book

Sometime in her twenties, Jennifer De Leon asked herself, “What would you do if you just gave yourself permission?” While her parents had fled Guatemala over three decades earlier when the country was in the grips of genocide and civil war, she hadn’t been back since she was a child. She gave herself permission to return—to relearn the Spanish that she had forgotten, unpack her family’s history, and begin to make her own way.

Alternately honest, funny, and visceral, this powerful collection follows De Leon as she comes of age as a Guatemalan-American woman and learns to navigate the space between two worlds. Never rich or white enough for her posh college, she finds herself equally adrift in her first weeks in her parents’ home country. During the years to follow, she would return to Guatemala again and again, meet ex-guerrillera and genocide survivors, get married in the old cobblestoned capital of Antigua, and teach her newborn son about his roots.

Praise for White Space

White Space documents a life in flux, a life in the throes of becoming, and we applaud its subversive, metaphoric depth. We were both struck by Jennifer De Leon’s lively writing and engaged consciousness. We see her as someone who might well join the ranks of our leading essayists, such as Roxane Gay, Samantha Irby, Michelle Orange; soon, we hope. She is well on her way.”

—Madeleine Blais and Kathy Roberts Forde,
Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction Judges

 

Jennifer De Leon represents the new generation and exciting voices of Latinx storytellers. White Space makes space for all of us: it’s the book we need to be reading now as we create a more united América, which includes north and south.”

—Julia Alvarez, author of Afterlife

 

De Leon trains her gaze on the gaps in our conversations and conscious thoughts; she writes the invisible into existence; the awkward, even painful silences into language, and in that rendering, creates a new space where what was felt, but unacknowledged can be discussed.”

—Grace Talusan, author of The Body Papers

 

De Leon is a sharp observer and storyteller, and her essays are devastating, hopeful, inquisitive, honest. What a joy to read!”

—Jaquira Díaz, author of Ordinary Girls

 

White Space is the book I have been waiting for—a moving dispatch on family, country and creativity from a daughter of the Central American diaspora.”

—Daisy Hernández, author of A Cup of Water Under My Bed

 

Jennifer De Leon takes the register of fierce familial love built and held onto upon the harsh ground of dislocation like nobody else can. This is a collection not only for her ancestors and children but ours.”

—Ru Freeman, author of A Disobedient Girl

 

For years I have been following Jenn De Leon’s career, reading her essays in journals like Ploughshares and Fourth Genre and I am always compelled to share them with friends because they are so insightful and powerful. As a daughter of immigrant parents, I feel seen by them.”

—Angie Cruz, author of Dominicana

 

De Leon writes with such sly power, rendering intimate family moments with humor and compassion, uncovering her identity in what was said and unsaid. The essays in WHITE SPACE are lyrically deft and thrillingly honest, yes, but reading them what I felt most acutely was joy: the joy of watching a young woman write her way through the world and write her way into her own story, her own space of being.”

—Alex Marzano-Lesnevich, author of The Fact of a Body

 

This empathetic, wide-ranging look at De Leon’s growth as a thinker is a journey worth checking out.”

 

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