Author, professor, and artist Leticia Hernández-Linares, 49, has written Alejandria Fights Back!, a bilingual children’s book about a nine-year-old girl who fights an eviction with the help of her community.
Eviction “goes beyond blood, and is about community and neighborhood and about the struggles that immigrant and low-income families face in accessing resources and knowledge about their rights,” said the San Francisco State professor of Latino/Latina studies.
Living and raising her two children in the Mission, Hernández-Linares understands what it feels like to get an eviction notice. Hers came in 2016, when her landlord wanted her out of her house near San Jose Avenue and 25th Street. She had lived on that block since 1995.
“Where are we going to live?” asked her sons — one 11, and the other six. She had no answer for them.
Hernández-Linares said she “was really afraid,” but with the help of Tenderloin Housing Clinic lawyer Stephen Booth, she fought back and won.
That experience became grist for fiction when Hernández-Linares heard that the Rise-Home Stories Project, a national social justice multimedia storytelling collaborative, was looking for an author to write about gentrification and displacement. It was an opportunity meant for her, she thought. And, after a rigorous application process, she began writing in October of 2019.
While she had been able to stay in her home, others had not been as fortunate, and the changes began to wear on her.
“The neighbors that keep changing, the friends that keep moving —all of that is a lot to manage,” she said. The book became a way to express her emotions about the losses.
Four drafts later, she had a children’s book about a nine-year-old named Alejandria who finds out that her neighbor, Julian, has to move because the rent is too expensive for his family.
The text is written both in English and Spanish, and the English is dotted with Spanish words such as “hormiguitas” and “barrio.”
“We code switch; we don’t speak purely” in the Mission, said Hernández-Linares, who decided alongside the collaborative to make Alejandria from Nicaragua in part to “uplift Afro-Latinx identities and experiences.”
In the story, young Alejandria sees “For Sale” signs around Parkwood, a Mission-like fictional neighborhood, and then finds out that her landlord also wants her family to move. Her Mami and Abuela Tita are hesitant to fight back.
So: “Alejandria Fights Back!”
Her quest takes her to City Hall, where she tells officials, “ … everyone should have a place to call home, no matter how much money they have. I hope you can make a law about that.”
For Hernández-Linares, this moment in the story is special, as it parallels a proud mom-moment when her nine-year-old son spoke at San Francisco City Hall action to advocate for Galería de la Raza not getting evicted from its former building at 24th and Bryant streets.
Hernández-Linares wrote Alejandria Fights Back! so that young people can understand that they have agency and that they can use their voices to lead and fight back, she said.
“I want this book to encourage other people to not give up, to not lose hope, to find support, and to push back.”
Alejandria Fights Back! is available for pre-order from The Feminist Press.
It will be officially for sale at bookstores and online on Aug. 10. You can learn more about the book and other media projects related to the Rise Home Stories collaborative at alejandriafightsback.com.
In the meantime, Hernández-Linares and illustrator Robert Liu-Trujillo are doing readings and book giveaways at schools around the nation, encouraging tough conversations about rent increases, eviction, and immigration.
Watch and listen to Hernández-Linares read the book aloud on our Instagram here: