Tuesday night, I attended the launch party for The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera. After hearing buzz around the novel for months, I traded in a night of writing to see a novel officially enter the literary space.

I’m working on a young adult novel with elements of The Little Mermaid that will deal with teenage hardships, gang violence, academic pressures, and young love. So when I heard about this novel, I waited with anticipation and luckily received an invitation through my book club.

The story surrounds the title character punished for stealing her father’s credit card to buy designer duds to wear at her prep school. Her punishment is to become one of the cashieristas at her family’s market. Coming of age in the Bronx as a young Latina juggling with class issues and gentrification was a story rarely seen in the young adult genre. 

The past two years have exploded with more characters of color ushering a new face to the genre. When I was a teen devouring library books, all the heroines I admired were presumably white, with the race of other characters defined. I saw my personality traits in those characters but wished at least one or two could look like me on the cover and understand my brown-skinned world. With Lilliam Rivera and Nicola Yoon, who presently has both her latest novels on the bestseller’s list at the same time, the game is evolving for the generation of girls looking for characters they can relate to, on a cultural and racial level. 

The party attracted around 60 people at Other Books in Boyle Heights, a neighborhood undergoing gentrification, and incorporated the book’s New York flavor with a deejay blasting hip-hop goodies. I usually bail on book launch parties because they take place after a long day at work, but it was nice to see a celebration for a book and the author talking about it with others.