Q&A: Lynda López On the Rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spent the first few years of her life living in the south Bronx. It was just a few blocks away where journalist Lynda López (and her very famous sister Jennifer) grew up. They are both descendants from Puerto Rican families and suffered firsthand the alienation and othering that’s felt when you are raised in New York City as a Latina. 

This is one of the central themes explored on Lopez’s new book AOC: The Fearless Rise and Powerful Resonance of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a 17-essay collection from some of the most important voices today, including New York Magazine columnist Rebecca Trasiter, former MSNBC correspondent Mariana Atencio, and Gen Mag’s senior writer Andrea González Ramírez. 

The book – edited by Lopez and prefaced by Keegan Michael-Key – dives into Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s rise as a political star since she won her primary in 2018 and the impact on policy and national discourse on race, inequality, the environment, and immigration she’d had in the halls of Congress. Other essays discuss the symbolism of AOC’s red lipstick and her odd-beating story that led her to become the youngest Congressperson in history. 

Emperifollá caught up with Lynda Lopez to discuss growing up in the south Bronx, the impact of AOC, and why her swearing-in outfit means so much to the Latina community. 

E: First off, why AOC? 

I was fascinated with her from the minute that I found out about her during her primary run. Immediately as I saw her become a person in the public eye, I saw right away that the conversation about her was going to get reduced to sort of this basic political thing that always happens. But it was not looking at, or not acknowledging, the bigger conversation that we’re having right now about race and color in this country and communities whose voices aren’t always truly heard. 

Lynda López.

E: You are both a writer and editor in the book, alongside a wide range of female writers. What do you think their voices bring to the table? 

L: I wanted to take all the amazing women in this book– women who are mostly women of color– and elevate their voices in this way that you might not normally see. I love that they’re not all big fans of her or her policies necessarily, but each one of them could see into her impact and her importance now. And a lot of them had a personal connection to that. Those were the voices that I was so happy to get to include in here. As a Puerto Rican woman myself, I know how many strong voices there are. I know how often they don’t get heard or elevated. 

E: You grew up in a very similar context than AOC, what does she represent to you? 

L: The representation and the visibility she gives to so many young people, people of color, young women, it’s important. It holds power. She’s just showing that you can carve a path. It’s a very big deal for those of us who grew up and did not see many people like her who were in power or elected or are leaders. I think I say this in the book, but it’s hard to be in that community and see someone who wants to fight for it and not root for it.

E: One image stands out throughout the book and it’s AOC’s swearing-in ceremony outfit, why do you think this was so impactful? 

L: So many of the women who wrote for this book said the same thing, just looking at her white suit, red lipstick, black hair, Brown skin. And she was standing there with her mom and her brother, and so many Latinos, especially, you know, the women, as we had conversations, as we’re all writing our essays and putting the book together, we’re so many were surprised by how much that meant to them, how meaningful it was and, you know, resonant and emotional. 

E: What do you hope people take from this book? 

L: I hope they see that larger point, that larger conversation that we’re having in the country right now. We’re finally able to talk a bit more about race and communities of color and what the different impacts are for them and sort of what the reality is and challenges for them. And if they can see that looking at that and having that conversation is worthy, it should be elevated and look beyond just the partisan politics of it. 

AOC: The Fearless Rise and Powerful Resonance of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by Lynda López, $19, available at amazon.com

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Frances Solá-Santiago

Born in Puerto Rico, based in New York City. She is the editor-in-chief on Emperifollá. Her work has been published in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, NPR, Glamour Magazine, Numéro, Refinery29, Remezcla, and Bustle.

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