Barry McNamara  |   Published November 05, 2020

Thorndike in Literary Movements

Modern languages professor in two different groups of Latin American authors.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Well before the COVID-19 pandemic, Monmouth College professor Jennifer Thorndike was writing about masks and using Zoom, which she’s done as part of her involvement in a literary movement being called “the New Latino Boom.”

JENNIFER THORNDIKE: Part of The New Latino Boom and New Latin American Gothic.&... JENNIFER THORNDIKE: Part of "The New Latino Boom" and "New Latin American Gothic."Thorndike is also part of what a leading national newspaper in Spain (El País) calls “New Latin American Gothic.” The newspaper featured her last week along with other female fiction writers who have turned “their eyes to fantasy. After years of realism and autofiction, the darkest imagination is used to portray social, political and gender issues.”

A professor of modern languages, literatures and cultures at Monmouth who is from Peru, Thorndike is part of a growing number of Latin American authors writing in Spanish who live in the United States and publish their works in this country. Authors in “The New Latino Boom” movement no longer have to look only toward Spain, Mexico or Argentina to publish their works in Spanish.

A second edition of Thorndike’s short story collection Antifaces was published last month. The translation of the word antifaces is masks that only cover the eyes, or domino masks.

“The world is full of imposters,” reads a blurb about the book on Amazon.com. “But it is also full of people who fight every day to stop being the kind of person they never wanted to be. … Thorndike consolidates a very personal voice within Latin American contemporary literature.”

“I like being part of (the movement). In the last five years, publishers have been working to build readership and a wider market for literature in Spanish. It’s exciting.” Jennifer Thorndike

“The characters are in the process of changing their lives or their personality, which is the contrary to what happens to the writers identified with the New Latino Boom movement,” said Thorndike. “I like being part of it. In the last five years, publishers have been working to build readership and a wider market for literature in Spanish. It’s exciting.”

Thorndike has invited some of the other writers in the movement to speak to her classes, using Zoom as a way to connect with them even before it became the norm due to the pandemic.

The original 2015 edition of Antifaces featured five short stories, but Thorndike has added three more to the collection, all written in the past five years and previously published in anthologies, but never collectively.

Thorndike’s work in the gothic realm includes her three novels – two of them previously published and one due out next year.

“Death is the central topic of my two novels: the story develops after one of the characters dies,” she said. “The same happens in my next novel. The atmosphere is dark or macabre, and the situations and feelings of the characters are not sugar-coated. They tell what they think and feel, without hiding their truth.”

Thorndike said that is also a characteristic present in many of her short stories.

“The (El País) article focuses on Latin American literature moving away from the traditional realistic genre to a more macabre turn to talk about social and political problems in this region,” she said. “That is why they use the term ‘gothic.’”

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