Writer Alisa Valdes is one of the most well-spoken, intelligently opinionated and prolific authors in America – a woman described by her master’s advisor at Columbia University as having “a mind that gives off sparks like steel on flint,” and a personality he summarized as “soundly pugilistic”. Writer Tom Wolfe says Alisa “is one of the most important social critics of our time,” and once named her the writer of the year at his alma mater, Washington & Lee.
Alisa also happens to be one of the 25 Most Influential Hispanics in the nation, according to Time magazine, a NY Times and USA Today bestselling novelist whose work has been published in 11 different languages worldwide. She recently inked a deal with Authentic Media to executive produce a reality show based on her first novel, The Dirty Girls Social Club – a book that got Alisa named a Breakout Literary Star by Entertainment Weekly, a Woman of the Year by Latina magazine, one of the nation’s 100 most important Latinos by Hispanic Business, and one of CNN’s 20 most influential Hispanics. She recently gave a TEDx talk in New York City on the lies advertisers tell companies about the “Latino” category (including the myth that all Latino should or do speak Spanish in the US) which raised plenty of hackles. She heads her own entertainment production company, and is at work developing her first feature film.
Alisa describes herself as a “recovering” journalist; she was the youngest staff writer every hired by the Boston Globe (when she was 24), where she was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for features numerous times, and named the top magazine essayist in the nation. Alisa went on to be a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times as well, where she won awards for short features. Alisa additionally holds an Emmy for public service journalism from her time as an on-air reporter for WHDH-TV in Boston.
Raised in a rabidly Marxist household, Alisa is a decided progressive, though her moderate views on some issues – and conservative views on others – tend to disappoint and surprise some more radical leftist elements, including her sociology professor father, an immigrant from Havana, Cuba. Alisa’s mother is American of English and Irish descent, and Alisa counts Ethan Allen and Roger Conant among her ancestors on that side; she is the 7th generation to be born in what is now New Mexico, and hopes one day to be the first Cuban American to join the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Alisa’s first memoir questions some tenants of the extreme feminism she was raised under in the 1970s, and embraces some traditional views on gender, and generated no shortage of response, both good and bad. The controversy got her invited to be one of the first guests on fellow free-thinker Meghan McCain’s TV talk show. “I love Meghan,” Alisa says, “because she doesn’t let anyone put her in a box. We have that in common. Our dads would probably claw each other’s eyes out, which makes it all the more amazing we ended up so much alike.”
Alisa’s friend Mario Solis Marich, head of the Baby First Americas network and a radio personality, says of Alisa, “She’s always in trouble, but she doesn’t court it. I see Alisa as someone who is deeply thoughtful, always honest, funny as hell, and so she naturally serves as a national lightning rod. It’s what I love most about her – the fact that she’s always under fire for something, and I’ve never seen her so much as flinch. Alisa just grins, and keeps being Alisa. It’s a beautiful thing.”
Alisa is a divorced mother of a gifted 12-year-old son. She lives in New Mexico, and in September will marry Michael D. Gandy, founder and director of the nonprofit New Mexico Volunteer Network, 14 years her junior. Alisa is a certified Zumba instructor and former fitness catalog model. “I’ve been told that in certain light I resemble a certain star,” she says. “I guess a good shorthand for me could be ‘the chubby, intellectual JLo, except that my ‘block’ wouldn’t be in the ‘hood, unless it was a hood with a rare bookstore in it where I could curl up and read Dickens on rainy afternoons.’”