Author Cristina Henríquez Shares How Family Experiences Shaped Her Cultural Identity

On Thursday, September 30, award-winning author Cristina Henríquez spoke to Upper School students at a gathering in McAneny Theater hosted by the Community Multicultural Development Team. Henriquez, the first guest of this year’s CMDT speaker series, visited virtually as part of the School’s month-long acknowledgment of Hispanic Heritage Month and was introduced by Darling Cerna, Assistant Director of College Counseling and Upper School CMDT representative (see photo below). 

Underscoring the School’s theme of inclusion and belonging, Henríquez answered thoughtful questions posed by students in the Latinx Student Union about her experiences as a Latina woman, her life and her career. Most notably, she spoke engagingly and with humor about her experience as an English speaker growing up and spending her summers in Panama with her Spanish-speaking family: “It took me a long time to even admit that I couldn’t speak Spanish very well! My cousin would ask my mother a question about me in Spanish, and then my mother would ask me the question in English, and she would essentially act as my translator. Sometimes I would struggle with that, and what it meant about my identity, but those visits shaped me as a person and a writer. I don’t think I’d have the perspective of the world that I do without those experiences.” 

Chris Rhodes, Head of the Upper School, appreciated the power of authentically shared perspectives, noting that “Ms. Henríquez touched upon her journey to accept herself as a full and complete person, despite the many different parts of her identity. She highlighted the challenges and roadblocks, but emphasized that persevering and accepting failure is part of becoming stronger and better.”

Henríquez is the author of The Book of Unknown Americans, which was designated a New York Times Notable Book of 2014, became one of Amazon’s Top 10 Books of the Year and received numerous other awards and recognitions. Henríquez is also the author of The World In Half, and Come Together, Fall Apart: A Novella and Stories, which was a New York Times Editors’ Choice selection. Now living in Chicago, she earned her undergraduate degree from Northwestern University and is also a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

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