Jennifer
Young Adult & Memoir/Essay Author
Award Winning Latina Writer
Travels from: Boston, MA

“De Leon’s debut handles issues such as immigration, deportation, assimilation, and Trump-era racial tensions in a humorous yet resonant way.”-Publishers Weekly

Born in the Boston area to Guatemalan parents, Jennifer De Leon is the author of the novel Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From (published by Simon & Schuster/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books in 2020) and the essay collection White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, and Writing (winner of the Juniper Prize and published by UMass Press in 2021). She is also the editor of the anthology, Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education (winner of the International Latino Book Award and published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2014).

Jenn graduated from Connecticut College with a double-major in International Relations and French, earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice while in the Teach For America program, and later, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from UMASS-Boston. She has received several awards and residencies from organizations across the country, including the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, Macondo, VONA, Associates of the Boston Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence Program, and the City of Boston’s Artist-in-Residence Program. Her short story, “Home Movie,” originally published in The Briar Cliff Review, was the 2015 One City, One Story pick as part of the Boston Book Festival (30,000 copies were distributed around the city), and her stories and essays have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines and anthologies, including: Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, and Best Women’s Travel Writing. De Leon is a winner of the 2016 Walter Dean Myers Grant, awarded by We Need Diverse Books, and named a 2020 Latinx Trailblazer by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

After a decade teaching in Boston Public Schools, Jenn is now Associate Professor of English at Framingham State University, and instructor in the Creative Writing and Literature Graduate Program at Harvard University.

In 2022 Jenn founded Story Bridge LLC. Story Bridge programs bring people together from all walks of life to shape, share, and hear each other’s unique stories. By the end of the program, every participant walks away with new, unforgettable connections.

Jenn currently makes her home outside the Boston area with her husband and two sons. Her latest YA novel, Borderless, was published in April, 2023. Also on the way are two children’s picture books—So Many Gifts, and a biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchú.

Borderless

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books |
Young Adult

Caught in the crosshairs of gang violence, a teen girl and her mother set off on a perilous journey from Guatemala City to the US border in this heart-wrenching young adult novel from the author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From.

For seventeen-year-old Maya, trashion is her passion, and her talent for making clothing out of unusual objects landed her a scholarship to Guatemala City’s most prestigious art school and a finalist spot in the school’s fashion show. Mamá is her biggest supporter, taking on extra jobs to pay for what the scholarship doesn’t cover, and she might be even more excited than Maya about what the fashion show could do for her future career.

So when Mamá doesn’t come to the show, Maya doesn’t know what to think. But the truth is worse than she could have imagined. The gang threats in their neighborhood have walked in their front door—with a boy Maya considered a friend, or maybe more, among them. After barely making their escape, Maya and her mom have no choice but to continue their desperate flight all the way through Guatemala and Mexico in hopes of crossing the US border.

They have to cross. They must cross! Can they?

White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing (Juniper Prize for Creative Nonfiction)

University of Massachusetts Press |
Creative Non-Fiction/Personal Essays

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.

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From

Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books |
Young Adult

First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Liliana Cruz is a hitting a wall—or rather, walls.

There’s the wall her mom has put up ever since Liliana’s dad left—again.

There’s the wall that delineates Liliana’s diverse inner-city Boston neighborhood from Westburg, the wealthy—and white—suburban high school she’s just been accepted into.

And there’s the wall Liliana creates within herself, because to survive at Westburg, she can’t just lighten up, she has to whiten up.

So what if she changes her name? So what if she changes the way she talks? So what if she’s seeing her neighborhood in a different way? But then light is shed on some hard truths: It isn’t that her father doesn’t want to come home—he can’t…and her whole family is in jeopardy. And when racial tensions at school reach a fever pitch, the walls that divide feel insurmountable.

But a wall isn’t always a barrier. It can be a foundation for something better. And Liliana must choose: Use this foundation as a platform to speak her truth, or risk crumbling under its weight.

Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education

University of Nebraska Press |
Non-Fiction/Essay Collection

College can be a complex time for Latinas, who are traditionally expected to leave home when they get married. In her essay “Only Daughter,” author Sandra Cisneros remarks, “After four years in college and two more in graduate school, and still no husband, my father shakes his head even now and says I wasted all that education.”

Wise Latinas is a collection of personal essays addressing the varied landscape of the Latina experience in higher education. For some Latinas, college, where they are vastly underrepresented, is the first time they are immersed in American culture outside their homes—and where the values of two cultures often clash. Wise Latinas is in part a response to this widening gap.

Featuring acclaimed writers such as Sandra Cisneros, Norma Cantú, and Julia Alvarez, to name a few, Wise Latinas shows that there is no one Latina college experience. With thoughtful and engaging pieces, Wise Latinas provides a platform for Latina writers to share their experiences in higher education and gives a voice to the many Latina women who have taken risks; embraced the new, confronted change; and maintained (and in some cases found) their roots.

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The Power of Story Telling

In this honest and interactive talk, Jennifer De Leon—editor, author, and professor of Creative Writing—will share some of the ways in which “story” can provide crucial insight into the complex intersection of race, class, and educational issues, dispelling myths and showcasing the diversity of our shared community’s experiences. She will reference excerpts from her books—the anthology, Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, the Young Adult novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, and the essay collection, White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing— and engage audience questions and reflections.

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Don't Ask Me Where I'm From

…How These Six Words Shaped Me. Where are you from? Where are you from-from? Where are you really from? These are questions that Jenn faced while growing up—and continues to face—as a person of color. They inspired her to write a young adult novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, in which first-generation Latinx Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, Liliana must decide what she believes in and take a stand. In this honest and energizing conversation about race and belonging, Jenn pulls the curtain back on her experiences—in life and in fiction. Concludes with an audience Q & A.

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White Space: In Life and on the Page

As a freshman in college, Jenn was not prepared for the academic, social, cultural, and institutional differences she would confront at her private liberal arts college in New England that she says resembled a country club. In this heartfelt, honest talk, Jenn describes moments of conflict, roadblocks really, that she experienced as an undergraduate who dreamed of being a writer—roadblocks that she ultimately turned into stepping-stones. An inspirational keynote geared toward first-gen and students of color, but really for anyone who has ever faced adversity in any way, it concludes with a reading f from her award-winning essay collection, White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing and an audience Q & A.

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Conversations on Race and Belonging

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Diversity in Children's Literature

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A Day in the Life of a Writer: Writing, Revising, and Beyond!

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Workshops on the Writing Craft

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Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month

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Women's History Month

Jennifer De Leon on “White Space”

Jennifer De Leon, YA author of Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From

Meet the Shelf Queens: DON’T ASK ME WHERE I’M FROM by Jennifer De Leon

Jennifer’s Press page

Jennifer’s Media Page

Jennifer’s Link to Story Bridge

Jennifer’s Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

Winner of the 2016 Walter Dean Myers Grant
Named a 2020 Latinx Trailblazer
Winner of the Juniper Prize (White Space)
Winner of the International Latino Book Award (Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education)
2020 Top 10 “New” Latino Latinx Authors You, Your Family, and Teachers Need To Read (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From)
10 Best Young Adult Books by Latinx Authors to Read Now (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From)
The 20 Best Young Adult Books You’ll Read All Year (Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From)

Media Kit

By clicking the link below you will be directed to a Google Docs Folder
where you can download author photos and cover images.

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