Writing

Author Rosie Molinary on coming of age as a Latina and how to support teens – Charlotte Five

Courtesy of Rosie Molinary.

Rosie Molinary, 45, has always seen herself as an educator. “I have a keen passion for education and educational access,” she said. After a career as a high-school teacher in Charlotte, Molinary wrote two books, “Beautiful You: A Daily Guide of Radical Self-Acceptance” and “Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image and Growing Up Latina.”

Growing up in Columbia, South Carolina, Molinary said she dealt with challenges coming of age as a Latina in the U.S. “One of the things I faced was other people’s limiting beliefs about what they thought was possible for me. It didn’t matter how successful I was academically — I still had brown skin and a different native language. They bought into the limited beliefs that too many people have about people of color and, in my case, about Latinos,” she said.

These challenges inspired Molinary to write her two books and later help found Circle de Luz, a nonprofit that aims to support high-school age Latinas through mentorship, community and scholarship funding.

We chatted with Molinary and asked her five questions about her career, her inspiration and her organization.

(1) You wrote your first book in 2007, “Hijas Americanas: Beauty, Body Image, and Growing Up Latina. What inspired you to write this book?

“One of the things that I recognized as a teacher was that voice — being connected to one’s voice — can really save you. And when I saw that my students sometimes struggled to find their voices, that become a real mission of mine in the classroom. Because how I had accessed my voice was through reading and writing, I decided that I wanted to be as good at using that tool as possible. So I went and got a master’s in fine arts and creative writing.

My intention was to be back in the classroom, but when you get an MFA, you have to write a book-length work. Mine was about my coming-of-age experience. At the time, there wasn’t much published by Latinas who were coming-of-age in the U.S. Fortunately, that’s changing. But I was challenged to meet a need in that space. 

I thought I didn’t really need my book to be published, but I could try to tell the story of Latina women. I had the incredible opportunity to interview 100 Latina women and do a survey of 500 women and share their stories in “Hijas.” “Hijab” was really giving voice to an experience that wasn’t really being captured in the literary world.”

[Related: 5 questions with muralist, yogi and arts activist Sydney Duarte]

(2) What do you look for in each new class of girls at Circle de Luz?

“Ultimately, what we want to do is to choose a class that is well-rounded in what they have to offer the group and what each girl’s needs are. So, we don’t want everyone who’s shy — we want a couple people who might be shy, but also might have other skill sets. How can we make a group that might have a dynamic impact on her life, and how will they form as a group?”

Photo by Ginger Wagoner
Rosie Molinary, left, with Jeniffer, a 2015 Circle de Luz alumn and a 2019 alum of Guilford College.

(3) What about the program do you most enjoy? 

“I think one of the richest parts of the experience for me now is the relationships we develop with the families as a whole and the incredible partnership we have with the families.

“It is so incredibly brave and inspiring to raise your family in a country that’s not your native country. So many of these families have made brave choices in order to make opportunities possible for their families. It’s really an honor to get to know our families and be connected with them. It gives me such profound perspective on my parents own journey in this country.”

Courtesy of Circle de Luz.
Rosie Molinary, the board of Circle de Luz and some of the Circle de Luz alumnae.

(4) If you could take a path not taken, what would you do?

“One thing I do wish is that when I graduated from college, I didn’t feel such a profound need to immediately start my career. I wish I’d done something just absolutely ridiculous. What I would have said back then is, ‘I wish I could be a roadie with a band.’ I just wish I could have been like ‘Oh, you can hop in a van for year.’”

[Related: 5 questions with artist, activist and renegade Deborah Triplett]

(5) How can someone unfamiliar with Circle de Luz or the challenges faced by Latina girls get involved?

“We are actively recruiting for a new circle to support our class of 2025, who will join us this fall. All it takes is less than $10 a month to make a profound difference in the life of a girl in Charlotte. Visit Circle de Luz’s website. One thing I think is cool about our organization is it’s very much a choose-your-own-adventure—some people just want to be financial donors and some people want to do a little bit and some people want to do a whole lot.”

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