The Pittsburgh Foundation

Lorraine Avila

Lorraine Avila, image by ZOA photography
Lorraine Avila, image by ZOA photography

2023 Grant Amount:  $50,000 over two years

This grant will support the completion, editorial aid and marketing of two manuscripts, "DIEASERRA," a fiction novel, and "THAT GIRL," a poetry collection.

According to PEN America, "95% of American fiction books published between 1950 and 2018 were written by white people." While there are many systematic measures as to why publishing's metrics continue to elevate white writers, Avila says she believes that the most pressing is capitalism.

"As someone who has always known they were a storyteller who wanted to publish books, I had to undergo many shifts in my career through retail work and education jobs, to finally arrive at publishing's gates," she says. "Even upon my untraditional arrival, attaining the funds to sustain myself, create and uplift my body of work continue to be far from within reach to me as a Black Dominican-American woman."

The main reason this project seeks funds to market these books is because often times, publishing houses do not believe in the works of Black, Brown and Indigenous folks, even after they invest in them. This leads to weak marketing which affect the impact of their books.

"I believe storytelling is a life-force, and when Black, Brown and Indigenous folks are kept from sharing their stories through artistic pursuits, the ones who have always been at the top get to tell their version - very much shaping our physical realm. I believe the stories I have already put into the world, along with the ones I will put out in the near future, will serve as a counter-narrative to all of this, along with the stories of my peers and my storyteller ancestors," says Avila. 

"DIEASPERRA" is an adult literary mystery with elements of magical realism and fabulism and "THAT GIRL" is a collection of poems written under the guidance of poets such as Dawn Lundy Martin, Yona Harvey, and Diana Khoi Nguyen at the University of Pittsburgh.