Structured around a life-changing trip to Guatemala, Jennifer De Leon’s White Space is a lively collection of personal essays about becoming a writer and growing up the child of immigrants.
When she was a teenager, De Leon’s father left her family to drive toward his home country, Guatemala, making it as far as Washington D.C. before turning around. White Space is divided into three sections: before, during, and after De Leon’s own Guatemala trip, taken in her twenties to discover the country that almost lured her father away.
De Leon unifies the collection with frequent references to her Guatemala trip. At the same time, she covers a variety of subjects, including complicated family dynamics, body image, feeling out of place at an elite New England college, struggling to find footing as a writer, and the challenges of international travel.
The title unifies the book as a powerful metaphor that captures the intersection of race and writing. Many of the essays describe De Leon’s struggles as a woman of color working in a field—creative writing—that is dominated by white people. The book is, in part, a journey toward claiming her right to take up space, whether it be space on a page, in the classroom, or on the street as a world traveler.
The essays are engaging, funny, and thoughtful, written with an appealing ease and directness. Whether describing climbing a mountain in Guatemala, disobeying her father, or taking her first creative writing class, De Leon writes with honesty and warmth. Members of her family become memorable characters, particularly her mother and father, as De Leon describes their strengths and flaws with vibrant details.
Jennifer De Leon’s White Space is an entertaining, thought-provoking personal essay collection that explores race and writing with humor and wisdom.
Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The publisher of this book provided free copies of the book to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. No fee was paid by the publisher for this review. Foreword Reviews only recommends books that we love. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.