Don’t let other people decide who you are.

Earlier today, Sil (@thebookvoyagers) posted a book aesthetic on the lovely Twitter account @diverseaesthetic (which you really should be following if you aren’t already!) that was inspired by The Infamous Miss Rodriguez. I loved everything about it–the model! the colors!–but what struck me the most was the quote: Don’t let other people decide who you are.

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Partly because it encapsulates my own struggle in trying to define myself in the face of other people’s expectations. If there’s one thing about Dominican society–and families, especially!–it’s that everyone has an opinion on how you should behave, dress, speak… I think I’m finally beginning to find a way to be less apologetic of what I want to be and what I want out of life, but it’s taken almost thirty years and it hasn’t always been easy.

But the quote also describes the Ciudad Real series with stunning accuracy. In the novella I’ve already published and the three novels that will make up the series, each of the protagonists is also struggling to define her own identity and desires and reconcile that with what’s expected of them as women in 1911, as members of their respective families and as people who hold particular places in society.

In The Infamous Miss Rodriguez, Graciela is determined to put an end to her aunt’s wish that she submit quietly to a marriage that will put funds in the family coffers but that Graciela desperately wishes to avoid. And she plans to, by any means necessary.

Beatriz, the heroine of The Respectable Miss Tolentino (the one I’m working on at the moment) wants no part of her mother’s idealizations of relationships and romance and sets out to build herself a marriage on her own terms.

Camila, who has always been the sensible one in her family, and who has always done what’s required of her, chafes under their expectations in The Reckless Miss Garcia, until she finds the courage to give in to her own desires, even when it seems reckless, selfish and irresponsible.

And then there’s Sofia, in The Penniless Miss Alcantara, an heiress who longs to be appreciated by something other than her fortune, and who isn’t sure how to make Society see who she really is. (Don’t worry–she will.)

It won’t be easy, but like Graciela, the other women will find a way to live their lives–and find love!– on their own terms. Because, as this other aesthetic made by Sil says, freedom, especially the freedom to be oneself, whoever that person is, is the ultimate luxury.

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