Am I Latina Enough? (Essay featured in Latina magazine’s May 2014 issue)

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In May 2014, my essay “Am I Latina Enough?” was featured in the pages of Latina magazine. It was an honor to write this piece, which is very near and dear to my heart.

Below is an image of the story, followed by the full text in case that’s easier to read:

[Images FROM TOP: Writer Irina Gonzalez at age 3 in Cuba; as a bundled-up baby in Moscow.]

Am I Latina Enough?

After years of struggling with this question, a Russian Cubana comes to terms with her identity. 

I am a Russian Cubana, and proud of it—though most of my life I didn’t know what it meant to be Latina.

Born 28 years ago in Moscow to a Russian mother and Cuban father who fell in love in what was then the USSR, I grew up in a mostly wintry landscape, eating traditional beet-and-cabbage borscht and reading fairy tales written in the Cyrillic alphabet. And while my dad spoke to my brother and me in Spanish, it was Russian culture that predominated.

When I was 8, my parents moved us to the Cuban enclave of Hialeah, near Miami. And that’s when my identity crisis began. The swaying palm trees, the fast-talking Spanish all around and rice and beans on every dish made me feel out of my element. But what impacted me most was the machismo of Cuban men, always half joking that their women needed to cook, do the laundry and take care of the kids even after a full day’s work. Since I’d been raised by parents who were strong willed, independent and equally in charge, those sexist attitudes were an immediate turnoff to Latin culture. (And yes, Russian men are also known to be macho, but the men in my mom’s family were the antithesis to that.)

Coming to grips with my Latina identity became even more complicated when my parents relocated us to a predominantly white county in Florida, where I spent my teen years. The only exposure to my Latin roots happened at home, through language and food. But that was the extent of it; in school, the focus was American history, in which Cubans were merely a footnote. And since I didn’t have any Latino friends, I continued to feel like a transplanted Russian as I became more Americanized.

But I was also Latina: my last name, my curves and my weakness for bistec de palomilla told me so. Yet I didn’t go beyond the surface of what that meant until I moved to New York for college. It was in this multicultural metropolis that I started meeting young Latinos of different backgrounds—Puerto Ricans, Colombians, Salvadoreans—who shared my ideals of equality for all genders, races and sexual orientations. They taught me that Latinas come in all shapes, sizes and colors, including the multiracial variety.

That’s when I began to embrace every part of who I was. I soaked up as much Latin culture as I could, devouring books by Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and Chilean author Isabel Allende, and became obsessed with getting my hair done in a Dominican salons and perfecting my bachata steps. I also studied Cuban history, reading about the sugarcane boom in the 1800s and the events that led to Castro’s revolution.

These days, whenever I feel homesick, I ask my friends to join me at my favorite Russian restaurant to share a big bowl of pelmenyi dumplings with sour cream. Other times, those gatherings happen around a batch of abuelita’s ropa vieja (a recipe passed down from my mother, who learned how to make it from her suegra). And in the summer we get together and nosh on juicy burgers because, just like my food cravings, I’m a mix of different things—Russian, Cuban, American—and I want to share that with the world.

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April 2017 Writer’s Life: My new blog & new gig at Romper [#yearofwriting]

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Well, here we are! It’s April in my #yearofwriting adventures and I have not one but TWO big announcements, so let me start with those…

1. I started a new blog, The Cookie Dough Life!

The first week of April was not good for me. I hadn’t slept very well and I was increasingly frustrated about, to tell you the truth, I can’t even remember what. But out of my frustration was born a new blog that I have called The Cookie Dough Life.

While you’re totally welcome to read the full story of why I started the blog (and I hope you do!), here’s the main thing you need to know: Being cookie dough is the realization that I’m not done baking yet… Meaning that I haven’t figured it all out, and maybe that’s okay. Living The Cookie Dough Life is about embracing the fact that life is constantly changing and evolving, and so am I.

And, of course, I am going to take you on that journey. Really, it’s going to replace me writing random stuff on this site, which I am keeping as more of a portfolio site going forward. Oh, and in case you’re wondering, here is my favorite post so far: A year ago, I was single, unemployed, homeless, broke, fat and drunk.

2. I’m a Lifestyle Writer at Romper as of May 1st! 

In even MORE exciting news, I am happy to (finally) announce that I am joining Romper as a PT Lifestyle Writer starting Monday, May 1st! WOO HOO!

I will be covering various topics but, for those that don’t know Romper: They are a parenting site for millennial moms and are the sister site of Bustle (which is for millennial women in general). I’ve been a huge fan and follower of both since their launch, and am absolutely thrilled to be joining the team.

I realize that’s not really an April writing thing, but I did apply, interview for and get the job in the month of April, so I think it should count. Oh, and in case you’re wondering: No, I’m not a mom (yet, in fact, I write about that here) but I know I will be someday and I have plenty of experience writing about mom topics previously. So, needless to say, I am just OH SO EXCITED!

And now on to the rest of the month…

What was published: 

Breaking into three new publications has been pretty fun this month, especially because they were all posts that were very personal to me: The first about being bisexual (even though I plan to marry a man), the second about my fertility fears (a subject near and dear to my heart) and the third about how to party sober (since I’m in recovery).

All of those stories were written last month, with the fertility fears story actually being written in January. Can you believe how long I had to wait for it to publish?! But this happens, and it was still thrilling to see the story live… FINALLY!

How much I wrote: 23,487 words

How much I made: $1750

This has been my most successful writing month BY FAR, I have to say. I basically wrote double of what I had in February and March, and made as much money as I did in January (except that two stories back then were on spec, which didn’t get picked up).

Part of the reason that I wrote so much was also because I am counting my words for The Cookie Dough Life. Maybe that’s a little bit unfair because I’m not getting paid for that so, at first glance, it seems as if I am getting paid less to write more… but that’s not the case, because this writing is personal and just for me.

Pitches sent out in April: 5
Pitch rejections: 0
Pitch non-replies: 3
Pitch acceptances: 2 (sort of)
Pitch reply with question: 0

Follow-ups with previous pitches: 6
Pitch rejections: 1
Pitch non-replies: 5
Pitch acceptances: 0

Of course, the story gets a little bit more complicated when you look at the pitches I sent out this past month. Basically, let’s face it: they suck. I barely pitched, and most of it wasn’t until the very end of the month (last week, in fact) and that’s that.

I don’t love the way that looks, to be honest, but part of the reason is because I’ve been busy this month, my organization has recently gone to shit and I was actually doing a lot more writing than usual (as you saw above) which obviously meant a lot less time for pitching.

I don’t love this, but I will say that I wrote four brand-new-to-me freelance pieces in January, two in February, two in March and six in April. I’m pretty proud of those numbers and I guess I just have to live with the fact that in a month where you freelance more than before, are in the middle of a job application (as I was for a while) AND also start a new blog, you just won’t be able to fit everything in. And that’s okay.

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Today I voted because I’m a bisexual Latina immigrant and it’s important

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Today is Election Day!

If you don’t know or understand the importance of the 2016 election, then it’s very possible that you have been lying under a rock for the past year and a half. And that’s totally NOT okay. So this is my very last and final plea with you: GO OUT AND VOTE!

And yes, I am totally biased about who you should vote for. But, you know, I kind of have to be… One candidate is the most qualified person for the office of the presidency of the United States of America and the other person is an orange popsicle filled with hate. As someone who self-identifies as a bisexual Latina immigrant (what else would you call me anyway?), there is only ONE message that I care about and that is a message of hope, tolerance and understanding.

And, hey, look! I even wrote about it. Check out I’m a Bisexual Latina Immigrant. I Can’t Wait to Vote on Dose.com now!

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

The truth behind why Millennials don’t care about owning cars or houses

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Earlier this year I wrote about Millennial wedding trends and a couple months ago I wrote about how asking a millennial to carry cash is absolutely terrible. Today I’m back writing about Millennials once more! This time it’s about why we Millennials don’t really want to buy cars and houses quite as much as generations of the past.

For me, it mainly comes down to memories being more important than material possessions… But there’s a lot more to it too. Plus, BIG ANNOUNCEMENT: This is also my very first story published for my new contributor gig at Dose.com and OMGFacts.com. YAY!

Check out In Defense Of Being Cheap AF on OMGFacts.com!

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

My new job at Brit+Co!

Please subscribe to my newsletter and read more of my writing on my personal blog, The Cookie Dough LifeThank you!

I have BIG news!

As of today, I have joined Brit+Co as their new freelance lifestyle community editor.

My new job is pretty great, to be honest. The company is based in San Francisco, but I will continue to work from my home in New York City. Mostly, I am thrilled to join the lifestyle team at a company that is committed to inspiring women and girls to be more creative. As the lifestyle editor, I will be overseeing food (duh!), pets and weddings content.

I’m really excited to get started, and I can’t wait to see what the end of 2015 brings and – even better – all of my adventures in 2016.

P.S. If you’re a publicist friend looking to reconnect or pitch me in any of these areas, you can email me here.

Want more? Subscribe to my newsletter to get writing news and updates on my memoir (Moscow Chica). Then check out my personal blog and find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest!

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