Mónica Ojeda (Guayaquil, 1988) is an Ecuadorian novelist, short story writer, and poet. In 2017, she was named as one of the Bogota39, a selection of the most talented and promising young writers in Latin America (awarded every 10 years, Bogota39 is a UNESCO World Book Capital project, in conjunction with the Hay Festival). In 2018, Ojeda published the novel Mandíbula, which tells the story of a teenage girl obsessed with horror stories and creepypastas who is kidnapped by her literature teacher. The book was widely acclaimed by critics upon its publication, with the Spanish newspaper El Pais calling it “one of the novels of the season.” In 2022, Mandíbula was translated into English by Sarah Booker and published by Coffee House Press as Jawbone — a translation that has been highly praised by critics and is currently a longlist nominee for the National Book Award in the U.S. in the translation category.
Early Life and Education
Mónica Ojeda Franco, born in Guayaquil, Ecuador in 1988, demonstrated an affinity for literature from an early age. This passion motivated her to participate and achieve victories in numerous intercollegiate story contests from the tender age of thirteen. She sought to deepen her understanding of literature and communication by obtaining her Bachelor’s degree from the Universidad Católica de Santiago de Guayaquil. She then traveled to Barcelona to complete a Master’s degree in creative writing at the Universidad Pompeu Fabra. Currently residing in Madrid, Ojeda is actively pursuing her doctorate.
Professional Writing Career
Ojeda’s writing prowess is showcased through diverse body of work, spanning several genres such as poetry, novels, and short stories. In 2014, her debut novel “La desfiguración Silva” won the Alba Narrative Award, cementing her position as a formidable new voice in Latin American literature. The following year, her poetic exploration of the fragility of childhood, “El ciclo de las piedras,” earned her the Desembarco National Poetry Award.
Throughout her career, she has gained significant recognition, including her inclusion in the prestigious Bogota39 in 2017, which celebrates the most promising young Latin American writers. Other esteemed members of the Bogota39 include Samanta Schweblin, Mariana Torres, Gabriela Jauregui, Liliana Colanzi, María José Caro, and Lola Copacabana.
Notable Works and Recognition
Ojeda’s second novel, “Nefando” (2016), pushed the boundaries of contemporary Latin American literature, exploring complex and often taboo themes of the body, sexuality, and violence. The novel was honored with a mention of honor from the Miguel Donoso Pareja Short Novel Award in 2015.
Her third novel, “Mandíbula” (2018, translated as “Jawbone” in 2022), garnered widespread critical acclaim and was lauded as “one of the novels of the season” by Spanish newspaper El Pais. This unnerving tale of a teenager with a horror story obsession who is abducted by her literature teacher catapulted Ojeda into the international literary limelight. It was also a finalist for the 2018 Mario Vargas Llosa Biennial Novel Prize and the English translation, by Sarah Booker, is currently a longlist nominee for the National Book Award in the U.S. in the translation category.
Ojeda continued her successful trajectory in 2020 with “Las voladoras,” a book of short stories that explores themes like gender violence, abortion, sexuality, and religion within an Andean Gothic framework. This work positioned her as a finalist for the Ribera del Duero Short Story Award.
One of the defining characteristics of Ojeda’s writing is her exploration of themes considered taboo in society, such as violent passions and the awakening of adolescent sexuality. She deftly navigates these themes while delving into the complexities of relationships, power dynamics, and familial bonds.
Her narratives are often laced with elements of fear, pain, and perversity, and she is known for her poetic exploration of these emotions. Ojeda also frequently examines the relationship between femininity and the monstrous, exploring how societal expectations and norms can distort and disfigure these concepts. In “Jawbone,” Ojeda explores the extreme passions between women, emphasizing the violence that these passions can engender.
Her work, such as “Nefando” (2016) and the short story collection “Las voladoras” (2020), is often classified within the “new Latin American Gothic” genre, alongside authors like Mariana Enríquez and Michelle Roche Rodríguez. This genre combines elements of the traditional Gothic with contemporary societal issues and settings specific to Latin America, contributing to a unique narrative style.
Beyond the present
Mónica Ojeda continues to shape contemporary Latin American literature with her compelling narratives, lyrical style, and provocative thematic exploration. Her work reflects not only her keen insight into the complexities of human emotion but also her ability to shed light on difficult and often overlooked societal issues. As she continues to write and garner recognition, it is clear that Ojeda’s impact on the literary world will remain significant and profound.
- 2014: Alba Narrative Award for “La desfiguración Silva.”
- 2015: Desembarco National Emerging Poetry Award for “El ciclo de las piedras.”
- 2015: Honorable Mention in the Miguel Donoso Pareja Short Novel Award for “Nefando”.
- 2017: Selected in the Bogota39 list.
- 2018: Finalist for the Mario Vargas Llosa Biennial Novel Award for “Mandíbula”.
- 2019: Prince Claus Next Generation Award.
- 2020: Finalist for the Ribera del Duero Short Narrative Award for “Las voladoras.”
- 2021: Recognized by Granta literary magazine and publishing house as one of the 25 best narrators in Spanish.
- Her novel ”Jawbone” is a longlist nominee for the National Book Award in the U.S. in the translation category.
- La desfiguración Silva (2015)
- Nefando (2016)
- Mandíbula (2018)
- El ciclo de las piedras (2015)
- Historia de la leche (2019)
- Caninos (2017), individual story
- Las voladoras (2020)