The member diversity in the Women’s National Book Association (WNBA) makes our goal of connecting, educating, advocating, and leading possible. As Bookwomen, we believe “Books Have Power.”
The Bookwoman welcomes Hortensia Calvo (WNBA-New Orleans) to the “Power Behind the WNBA” interview series!
Tell us about yourself.
My background is in Latin American literature. I received an undergraduate degree or Licenciatura in Philosophy and Letters from Universidad de Los Andes in Bogotá. Then, I received a PhD in Spanish from Yale University.
Before coming to Tulane, I taught literature at Princeton University. And I served as Librarian for Latin America and Iberia at Duke University, where I also taught in the Romance Studies Department.
Since 2006, I have served as Executive Director of the Seminar on the Acquisition of Latin American Library Materials (SALALM), the foremost professional association for Latin Americanist academic libraries worldwide.
I’ve written, largely for academic audiences, on the Literary Baroque in Spain and Spanish American, as well as the social history of books and print culture in Latin America.
In 2015, I co-authored a book, Cartas de Lysi: La mecenas de Sor Juana en correspondencia inédita. The book is a critical edition of unpublished correspondence (that I recently discovered) written by Spanish Virreine María Luisa Manrique de Lara y Gonzaga, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s mentor.
Why did you join the WNBA?
I joined for the chance to get to know and to work with the extraordinary group of very talented and accomplished women that comprise the WNBA-NOLA.
What value does the promotion of books bring to your community?
Books and reading empower us, now more than ever. It is critical that we understand one another across cultures and continents. Imaginative literature in particular — fiction, poetry, et cetera — offers unique tools to explore our lives in ways that aren’t possible otherwise.
We make sense of our world by seeing it through the eyes of others. Film and other media surely can provide this kind of experience, but the culture around the physical (or virtual) book is unique.
What book has had a lasting impact on you?
There are so many, but One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez is probably one of the most memorable. It also doesn’t hurt that I’ve read it so many times! This book taught me the power of fiction to construct a truthful version of history.
Interview compiled by assistant editor Pam Ebel (WNBA-New Orleans).