Natalia
Young Adult & Adult Novelist
International Latino Book Award
Travels from: Miami, FL

“So many of our students included quotes from her presentation in their research papers about the writing process.” — Laura Cottam Sajbel, St. Edward’s University

Natalia Sylvester is the award-winning author of several novels for adults and young adults. Chasing the Sun was named the Best Debut Book of 2014 by Latinidad, and Everyone Knows You Go Home won an International Latino Book Award and the 2018 Jesse H. Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Natalia’s debut YA novel, Running, was a 2020 Junior Library Guild Selection and a 2021 Rise: A Feminist Book Project List selection. Her most recent YA novel, Breathe and Count Back from Ten, is out now from HarperCollins/Clarion Books. A Maleta Full of Treasures, Natalia’s first picture book (illustrated by Juana Medina), will be published by Dial Books in 2024.

Natalia’s non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Bustle, Catapult, Electric Literature, Latina magazine, and McSweeney’s Publishing. Her essays have been anthologized in collections such as A Map is Only One Story and A Measure of Belonging: Writers of Color on the New American South.

Born in Lima, Peru, Natalia came to the US at age four and grew up in Florida and the Rio Grande Valley in Texas. She received a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Miami, was a 2021 Visiting Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and was formerly a faculty member at the Mile-High MFA program at Regis University.​

Natalia’s Authors Out Loud Profile: 

Breathe And Count Back From Ten

Clarion Books |
YA Novel

In this gorgeously written and authentic novel, Verónica, a Peruvian-American teen with hip dysplasia, auditions to become a mermaid at a Central Florida theme park in the summer before her senior year, all while figuring out her first real boyfriend and how to feel safe in her own body.

Verónica has had many surgeries to manage her disability. The best form of rehabilitation is swimming, so she spends hours in the pool, but not just to strengthen her body.

Her Florida town is home to Mermaid Cove, a kitschy underwater attraction where professional mermaids perform in giant tanks . . . and Verónica wants to audition. But her conservative Peruvian parents would never go for it. And they definitely would never let her be with Alex, her cute new neighbor.

She decides it’s time to seize control of her life, but her plans come crashing down when she learns her parents have been hiding the truth from her—the truth about her own body.

Running

Clarion Books |
YA Novel

When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.

In this authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written debut novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals.

As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

Everyone Knows You Go Home

Little a, |
Novel

An International Latino Book Award winner.

Everyone Knows You Go Home is prescient, tackling issues of family division, the arduous journey of crossing from one country into the next, and the sacrifices we make in exchange for a better future.” —Houston Chronicle

The first time Isabel meets her father-in-law, Omar, he’s already dead–an apparition appearing uninvited on her wedding day. Her husband, Martin, still unforgiving for having been abandoned by his father years ago, confesses that he never knew the old man had died. So Omar asks Isabel for the impossible: persuade Omar’s family–especially his wife, Elda–to let him redeem himself.

Isabel and Martin settle into married life in a Texas border town, and Omar returns each year on the celebratory Day of the Dead. Every year Isabel listens, but to the aggrieved Martin and Elda, Omar’s spirit remains invisible. Through his visits, Isabel gains insight into not just the truth about his disappearance and her husband’s childhood but also the ways grief can eat away at love. When Martin’s teenage nephew crosses the Mexican border and takes refuge in Isabel and Martin’s home, questions about past and future homes, borders, and belonging arise that may finally lead to forgiveness–and alter all their lives forever.

Chasing The Sun

Lake Union Publishing |
Novel

Andres suspects his wife has left him—again. Then he learns that the unthinkable has happened: she’s been kidnapped. Too much time and too many secrets have come between Andres and Marabela, but now that she’s gone, he’ll do anything to get her back. Or will he?

As Marabela slips farther away, Andres must decide whether they still have something worth fighting for, and exactly what he’ll give up to bring her home. And unfortunately, the decision isn’t entirely up to him, or up to the private mediator who moves into the family home to negotiate with the terrorists holding Marabela. Andres struggles to maintain the illusion of control while simultaneously scrambling to collect his wife’s ransom, tending to the needs of his two young children, and reconnecting with an old friend who may hold the key to his past and his wife’s future.

Set in Lima, Peru, in a time of civil and political unrest, this evocative page-turner is a perfect marriage of domestic drama and suspense.

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Bodies of Water: Writing our fluid truths

For: Students | Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Breathe and Count Back from Ten
Curricular Connections: Language Arts or General Assembly

It can be difficult to write about our bodies, especially if you’ve ever felt like your body is different from that of people around you. But the safety of the water and its mythical sea creatures can provide a beautiful outlet. In this workshop, Natalia Sylvester shares her personal experiences as a disabled Latina immigrant who experienced bullying, and how writing Breathe and Count Back from Ten was a form of expression and healing. She then guides students through writing exercises that empower them to write their truths.

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The Shape of Language: On words, power, and who gets to decide

For: Students | Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Breathe and Count Back from Ten

Curricular Connections: Language Arts or General Assembly

In this interactive presentation, Natalia Sylvester invites students to journey alongside words whose meanings have changed over time. Together, we ask what shaped their original definitions, and why, and how these meanings influence our everyday realities. We also explore what happens when the power of defining words is shared with people from all walks of life. Inspired by Vero, the protagonist in Breathe and Count Back from Ten who writes her own dictionary definitions, we explore the mighty ways that language can change perception. “I know language doesn’t evolve by accident…words don’t just have meaning, they’re given meaning. It turns out we define things by how we see them. By how we feel about them.” — Vero, Breathe and Count Back from Ten

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Tell me again: Retelling fairytales, legends...and our own stories

For: Students | Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Breathe and Count Back from Ten

Curricular Connections: Language Arts or General Assembly

When stories are retold, they change—but not by accident. In this workshop we’ll look at popular fairytales and how they are mirrors of the people and cultures who retell them. In doing so, Natalia Sylvester will invite students to examine stories they’ve been told and repeated in their own lives, and consider how they might also shape the narrative going forward. Using two stories retold in Breathe and Count Back from Ten (The Little Mermaid and the Peruvian mermaid legend of Huacachina) this interactive presentation celebrates the collective power and responsibility of storytelling.

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See Our Joy: On Seeing The Full Humanity Of People & Characters (educators, advocates)

Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Read all titles

Curricular Connections: History, Social Studies

Geared to audiences serving marginalized communities (of all ages) this presentation invites educators, advocates, and readers to imagine us in all our complex wholeness rather than through the narrow lens of oppression. There’s a difference between working towards equality and inclusion and reducing someone to a singular aspect of their identity. Through her personal perspective as a disabled, Latina immigrant, Natalia Sylvester shares ways that we can truly be more intersectional in our work.

 

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Power, Privilege And POV - Examining How We Teach & Learn Creative Writing (educators, advocates)

Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Read all titles

Curricular Connections: Creative Writing, Language Arts
A workshop for educators and advocates who work with writers of all ages. By examining subtle yet impactful ways that power dynamics and privilege are embedded in the traditional ways we teach (and learn) creative writing, Natalia Sylvester presents alternative, reimagined methods for telling stories in a more inclusive, empowering way.
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“One Day, All of This Will Matter” (educators, youth advocates)

Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Read all titles

Curricular Connections: History, Social Studies
A workshop designed to help us reconnect with our younger selves and honor the memories of our teen years—the joy and hardships—to rekindle an intergenerational understanding of today’s youth.

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“More Than a Heritage Month” (educators, librarians, youth advocates)

Duration: 60 minutes | Preparation: Read all titles

Curricular Connections: History, Social Studies, Language Arts
A talk that interrogates and explores new, actionable possibilities for the ways we teach and present literature during BIPOC heritage months. Who are we centering? Who are we leaving out the remaining eleven months of the year?

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One Day, All of This Will Matter

A workshop designed to help us reconnect with our younger selves and honor the memories of our teen years—the joy and hardships—to rekindle and intergenerational understanding of today’s youth.

Authors-Unbound_icon-web-link.png

More Than a Heritage Month

A workshop designed to help us reconnect with our younger selves and honor the memories of our teen years—the joy and hardships—to rekindle and intergenerational understanding of today’s youth.

Natalia’s Blog

Natalia’s Upcoming Events

Honors, Awards & Recognition

2023 Schneider Family Award Honor Book
2023 Pura Belpré Award Honor Book
2023 Rise: A Feminist Book List Selection
Junior Library Guild Selection
International Latino Book Award Winner
Latinadad Best Debut Book
Real Simple Best Book of the Year
2021 – A Feminist Book Project by the American Library Association
2021 Kansas NEA Reading Circle Recommended Titles selection
2022 Rhode Island Latino Book Awards selection
2022 Isinglass Award nominee
Junior Library Guild Selection, 2020
Jean Flynn Award for Best Young Adult Book finalist, Texas Institute of Letters, 2020

Media Kit

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

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