On October 11, 2022, Alexandra Méndez, term lecturer in Spanish & Latin American Culture, published her new book, What the Jaguar Told Her. Méndez has received effusive praise for the book, which was described in Kirkus as “a thoughtful, richly woven tapestry illuminating the pains and joys of growing up.” The novel follows a young girl coming-of-age after a move to Atlanta from Chicago for her mom’s new job.
The protagonist, Jade, encounters a jaguar living in the woods behind her house who assumes the form of Itztli, a kind elder who shares with her art and magnificent oral history dating back to Mesoamerican civilizations. She’s shocked to see that the struggles Itztli recounts in his tales parallel those she is going through in 2001, from getting her first period to settling in a new location. The work lavishly explores Jade’s Latina identity, friendships, affections, grief, and quest for solutions to life’s most difficult challenges. Through a Latine cultural lens, this piece highlights the difficulties of being a tween girl trying to discover her place in the world and connections to her ancestors.