Jennifer De Leon Award-winning author, creative writing professor, and in-demand speaker

About the Author

Born in the Boston area to Guatemalan parents, Jennifer De Leon is the author of the novel Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From and the essay collection White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, and Writing which won the Juniper Prize by UMass Press. She is also the editor of the anthology, Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, which won the International Latino Book Award. Her forthcoming YA novel, Borderless, is set to publish in March of 2023, in addition to two children’s picture books—So Many Gifts, and a biography of Nobel Peace Prize winner, Rigoberta Menchú.

Her short story, “Home Movie,” originally published in The Briar Cliff Review, was the 2015 One City, One Story pick as part of the Boston Book Festival, where 30,000 copies were distributed around the city, and her stories and essays have appeared in over a dozen literary magazines and anthologies, including: Ploughshares, Iowa Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Guernica, and Best Women’s Travel Writing.

De Leon graduated from Connecticut College with a double-major in International Relations and French, earned a Master of Arts in Teaching from the University of San Francisco’s Center for Teaching Excellence and Social Justice while in the Teach For America program, and later, a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from UMASS-Boston. She has received several awards and residencies from organizations across the country, including the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, Hedgebrook, Macondo, VONA, Associates of the Boston Public Library’s Writer-in-Residence Program, and the City of Boston’s Artist-in-Residence Program.

De Leon is a winner of the 2016 Walter Dean Myers Grant, awarded by We Need Diverse Books, and named a 2020 Latinx Trailblazer by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After a decade teaching in Boston Public Schools, she is now Associate Professor of English at Framingham State University, and instructor in the Creative Writing and Literature Graduate Program at Harvard University . De Leon makes her home outside the Boston area with her husband and two sons.

Suggested Topics

  • The Power of Storytelling | 45 min-1 hour 

In this honest and interactive talk, Jennifer De Leon-editor, author, and professor of Creative Writing-will share some of the ways in which “story” can provide crucial insight into the complex intersection of race, class, and educational issues, dispelling myths and showcasing the diversity of our shared community’s experiences. She will reference excerpts from her books-the anthology, Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education, the Young Adult novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, and the essay collection, White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing-and engage audience questions and reflections.

  • Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From | 45 min-1 hour 

… How These Six Words Shaped Me. Where are you from? Where are you from-from? Where are you really from? These are questions that Jenn faced while growing up-and continues to face-as a person of color. They inspired her to write a young adult novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, in which first-generation Latinx Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, Liliana must decide what she believes in and take a stand. In this honest and energizing conversation about race and belonging, Jenn pulls the curtain back on her experiences-in life and in fiction. Concludes with an audience Q &A.

  • White Space: Lin Life and on the Page | 45 min-1 hour

As a freshman in college, Jenn was not prepared for the academic, social, cultural, and institutional differences she would confront at her private liberal arts college in New England that she says resembled a country club. In this heartfelt, honest talk, Jenn describes moments of conflict, roadblocks really, that she experienced as an undergraduate who dreamed of being a writer-roadblocks that she ultimately turned into stepping-stones. An inspirational keynote geared toward first-gen and students of color, but really for anyone who has ever faced adversity in any way, it concludes with a reading from her award-winning essay collection, White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing and an audience Q & A.

  • The Path to Publication | 45 min-1 hour

Jennifer De Leon, editor of Wise Latinas: Writers on Higher Education and author of the Young Adult novel, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From, and the essay collection, White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, & Writing, offers the story of her journey to becoming a published author. Featuring wrong turns, rejection, how her Latinx culture and identity influenced the story she wanted to tell, and plenty of hope, this presentation will engage an audience of any size. Concludes with an audience Q & A. Popular with MFA and undergraduate creative writing students.



Raves and Reviews

A funny, perceptive, and much-needed book telling a much-needed story.”

—Celeste Ng, author of the New York Times bestseller Little Fires Everywhere

Written with humor and grace, with intimacy and empathy, Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From is the perfect coming of age novel for our time.”

—Matt Mendez, author of Barely Missing Everything

A thought-provoking tale about navigating race and immigration issues.”


An energetically paced, boundary-pushing novel that raises important questions of race, identity, belonging, true friendship, and how to stand up for a cause you truly believe in.”


Familiar territory for readers who straddle two cultures, for anyone who has had to be a newcomer, and, in this era, anyone who has ever worried about the impact of deportation on families. A timely addition to most collections.”

School Library Journal

In the Media


Books by Jennifer De Leon

Don't Ask Me Where I'm From
White Space
Wise Latinas

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