National Book Award-winning author Elizabeth Acevedo is currently on tour across the country promoting her newest young adult novel With the Fire on High. The novel follows the story of Emoni Santiago, an Afro-Puerto Rican teen mother who aspires to become a chef. The book is already a New York Times bestseller and has attracted a lot of praise, The Atlantic said it “deploys magical realism in a tradition that Acevedo likens to the Mexican author Laura Esquivel’s seminal novel, Like Water for Chocolate.”
In a short interview with New York Public Media’s All Arts TV, the author talked about her inspiration behind the book and spilled some truths about teen pregnancy and the stigma surrounding it.
“I remember when I was growing up, the statistic was like one in two Latinas will be pregnant by the time they’re 21. Right? It was like this massive statistic,” she said. “That’s changed. The stigma has not changed.” We checked, and the number has reduced significantly: according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016, 17 percent of Hispanic adolescent females would give birth by their 20th birthday.
Acevedo then added that within literature, some books have chosen to focus on the decision of whether or not a teen should keep a pregnancy. She wanted to write a story about what happens after. “There’s no right answer that they can make of their own volition and be allowed to have without shame,” she said.
Watch a short clip below, or read the full interview here.