Q&A with Pura Belpré Award Winning Author Guadalupe Garcia McCall

By Lila Quintero Weaver

otherUNDERTHEMESQUITEtentativefrontcover3-18-10We’re excited to host a conversation with acclaimed author Guadalupe Garcia McCall. Her first book, Under the Mesquite, won the 2012 Pura Belpré Award and was a finalist for the William C. Morris Debut Award. Her newest work is Summer of the Mariposas, a rich work of fantasy fiction doubly inspired by Homer’s The Odyssey and the mythology of Mexico.

Lila: Guadalupe, congratulations on your wonderful writing career! Welcome to Latin@s in Kid Lit! Let’s get started with a question you’ve probably heard before:

Under the Mesquite is a powerfully intimate coming of age story told in verse. It’s a quiet book. On the other hand, Summer of the Mariposas is a high-energy road trip full of other-worldly characters and action scenes. Describe the paths that led to these diverse creative choices.

Guadalupe: Interestingly enough, both books were born out of my classroom experiences. Under the Mesquite came about because I was teaching my students how to write poetry. I wrote for them, as a way of modeling how easy and accessible poetry is if they focus on using their memories to write poems full of life’s experiences. After many years of teaching poetry (and collecting my little poems in my poetry unit folder), I realized that I had a good size collection of poems about my childhood which I could submit for publication. With the help of Emily Hazel, my editor at Lee & Low Books, that collection eventually evolved into Under the Mesquite.

After Under the Mesquite, I was bouncing around ideas for my next book, not really committed to anything, when one of my female students made the comment that all the books we read in class (we were studying Homer’s Odyssey) were about men—men having adventures, men defeating monsters, and men becoming heroes. This really upset my female students, and on her way out of my classroom, that same young lady told her friend, “It’s not fair. We need our own Odyssey!”

And that was it. That was my “light bulb” moment. Actually, it was more like a giant, blinding spotlight cast over a dark, neglected corner of our classroom that I couldn’t ignore as I drove home that afternoon. My girls were right. They needed to see themselves in literature. They needed their own stories to show the world that they are strong, and courageous, and smart. So I took out the sticky notes and started plotting out a Girl-Power adventure story using the Hero’s Journey just for them, for my “muchachas.” But as I worked on it, something else came to mind. Why use the same old Greek gods and monsters? Why not use our own mythology? We have just as many great characters to choose from in Mexican lore. And so it began, the frenzied scribbling and joyous giggling that comes when you first start plotting out a story—the discovery, the freedom, the breakthroughs—it’s all very intoxicating! I have to admit, I had a lot of fun writing Summer of the Mariposas because I knew my girls were hungry to read something like it.

Lila: Along with its supernatural elements, Summer of the Mariposas carries an understated but clear message of feminine strength and resilience. You force your characters to confront family challenges and heartbreaks. What do you hope to give young readers through this story?

FINALmariposas_cover_loGuadalupe: When I started writing Summer of the Mariposas, I wanted to tell a fun female story. However, I also knew I wanted to showcase the strength and resilience that it takes for a young lady to come of age and embrace womanhood in our society. I wanted young girls to believe in themselves and trust that a female is just as equipped to take care of herself and her loved ones as her male counterpart. That they are lacking nothing—that all young ladies have the courage to take life by force and the wisdom to attain their goals.

Lila: I’m sure you’ve been attuned to the recent conversation on diversity in literature, especially in children’s and YA publishing, which has stirred up a lot of media attention. One article quoted Matt de la Peña as saying, “Where’s the African American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?” As a Latina writer, you must have well-formed opinions on this topic. What are your concerns? And what are your dreams for diversity in kid lit?

Guadalupe: Matt and I must be on the same wavelength because I asked a similar question about a year and a half ago, and I posted it on Facebook in a conversation with my publisher about gaps in children’s literature. We were talking about genre-specific gaps, and I asked a question along the lines of “Where is the Mexican-American Johnny Tremain?” I think it is very important that we start answering these questions. Not with words, but through action.

Listen, this fence is about to crumble. It’s got so many holes in it. The change in the face of our nation (diversity in our classrooms) is not forthcoming. The Change is here. The Change is upon us. We “have” diverse classrooms—and our students are missing the sound of their voice in the narratives available to them. It’s too late to “think” about it or “research” it or “plan” for it. No. It’s time to take action. Publishers need to be addressing the fact that there are not enough diverse children’s and YA books to fill the huge gaps in children’s literature. They need to be actively seeking out new and existing talent and publishing the books that will fill those gaps.

Lila: In addition to authoring books with strong Latino themes, you’ve also taught middle school (and now high school) in Texas. What are your thoughts about turning young Latinos into readers and writers?

Guadalupe: There is this great attitude in South Texas, especially along the Rio Grande Valley, border area, and that is that books are amazing and that their creators, namely authors, are ROCK STARS! The teachers, administrators, district personnel, and especially the community have made it their mission to make books and their creators accessible to children. They seek out grants and special programs and make every concerted effort to continue to feature books and their authors in their schools. They see reading and writing as the greatest assets, the most important tools in their children’s toolbox. I really admire that. I wish that was the case with every teacher, every administrator, every district, and every community in the world. Life would be sweet if we were all about education. I know that I’m being very naive here (with all the other problems to be solved in the world), but I do truly believe in building life-long learners through reading and writing! Reading and writing make up the foundation of learning, and a good book can draw a child in as well as any electronic gadget if presented in the right light, with the right attitude, and with the same attention corporations give to marketing video games, apps, and cell phones. It would mean flipping a Goliath of a paradigm on its ear, and the willingness to take on the fight, but it can and should be done, for our children’s sake!

Lila: Let’s get practical. You work a full-time job and yet somehow manage to write complex novels. What are the habits that help you produce? Is there a piece of writing advice that a mentor gave you which still rings true? What have you discovered on your own that guides you in attacking a new project?

Guadalupe: My habits? Well, I sit down every day to tap at those keys. Sometimes I take a cup of coffee to the porch and write as the sun rises on the weekends. Sometimes, I write the minute I get home from work. And sometimes, I pull over on the side of the road and write in my vehicle on the way to the grocery store because I don’t want to lose that terrific line. Most often, though, I get up in the middle of the night and write in my jammies because that’s when my brain wants to create.

Whatever the case may be, it’s important for me to write every day, to “touch the work every single day!” I heard that somewhere, or maybe I read it. I’m not sure which, but it’s very true. I find that the longer I stay away from writing, the harder it is to get back in the groove of it. It’s like being an athlete. If you don’t keep working out, you lose muscle, and you won’t win any races or bring any trophies home if you don’t work out every day. So this is the advice I pass on to my students,” Work out those writing muscles every day. Read. Write. Read. Write. Read. Write. Oh, and don’t be afraid to catch the latest movie or keep up with your favorite TV show. It’s good research! “

Lila: Speaking of new projects, you must be working on something. What can you share about it?

Guadalupe: I am working on a YA historical set in Texas during the Mexican Revolution, after the discovery of the Plan de San Diego and all the strife and conflicts of that time period on this side of the border. It’s something that is very close to my heart because I think it’s an important time in “our history” that hasn’t been explored or talked about much in our classrooms. The maltreatment and persecution of Mexican Americans in South Texas during that time is either ignored or glossed over in our textbooks and there is literally little to nothing in YA fiction that touches on the struggles Hispanics experienced during that devastating time period in American history. I really can’t share too much of the plot except to say that it is my attempt at filling in a gap and answering the questions, “Where is the Mexican-American Johnny Tremain? Where is our historical perspective, our ancestral Mexican-American voice?”


IMG_2964 (2)Guadalupe Garcia McCall is the author of Under the Mesquite (Lee & Low Books), a novel in verse. Under the Mesquite received the prestigious Pura Belpre Author Award, was a William C. Morris Finalist and received the Ellen Hopkins Promising Poet Award, the Tomas Rivera Children’s Book Award, and was included in Kirkus Reviews’ Best Teen Books of 2011 among many other honors and accoladesHer second novel, Summer of the Mariposas (Tu Books, an imprint of Lee & Low Books), won a Westchester Young Adult Fiction Award, was an Andre Norton Award for Young Adult Science Fiction and Fantasy Finalist, and was included in the 2013 Amelia Bloomer Project List, the Texas Lone Star Reading List, and the 2012 School Library Journal’s Best Books of the Year.

Her poems for adults have appeared in more than twenty literary journals across the country and abroad, and her poems for children are included in The Poetry Friday AnthologyThe Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School, and The Poetry Friday Anthology for Science. Ms. Garcia McCall was born in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. She immigrated with her family to the United States when she was six years old and grew up in Eagle Pass, Texas (the setting of both her novels and most of her poems). She is currently a high school English teacher in the San Antonio area and lives in Somerset with her husband, Jim, 2 dogs (Baxter and Blanca), 1 cat (Luna), and her two (of three) college age sons, Steven and Jason.

Libros Latin@s: Sanctum: Guards of the Shadowlands, Book One

13482750By Cindy L. Rodriguez

This month we are taking a look at Latin@s in science fiction and fantasy. On Monday, we had a Q&A with Sarah Fine, author of the Guards of the Shadowlands series. Today, we take a closer look at her debut novel, first of the series, Sanctum, which features a 17-year-old Latina protagonist.

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

MY TWO CENTS: Sanctum by Sarah Fine offers an engaging blend of fantasy, action, romance, and contemporary social issues, sure to appeal to a variety of readers. Protagonist Lela Santos has spent most of her life in foster homes and the sexual abuse she suffers at one causes her to attempt suicide. Her abuser interrupts the suicide, but Lela was gone long enough to glimpse hell. When her best friend Nadia kills herself and Lela dies accidentally soon after, she is determined to save her friend from the city that preys on souls’ worst fears, insecurities, and vices.

Problem is: Lela doesn’t belong there. The city won’t sustain her, which puts her at risk of dying–again.

Another problem: Creepy creatures called Mazikin claim broken souls and are preparing to bust out of the city. The fights are fierce between the Mazikin and the Guards, and Lela proves to be a badass even before any formal fight training.

Yet another problem: Lela is falling in love with Malachi, the leader of the Guards. And while the romantic tension between them is hotter than Hades itself, a love affair in this setting isn’t likely to last. Plus, Lela is still healing from traumas experienced in her mortal life, which means she doesn’t easily trust people even in the afterlife.

One of the things I liked most about Sanctum was the development of the characters’ emotional journeys through pain and into healing. They all suffered so severely in life they decided to commit suicide, and that decision landed them in a place that continues their torment. Still, as difficult as it is, in life and this afterlife, some are able to overcome the worst experiences and find purpose in life and even love. I won’t give away what happens when Lela finds Nadia, but I will say I wasn’t entirely surprised at Nadia’s response to the rescue effort. The point that we all heal at our own pace is an important one to remember (in real life) when trying to help people with mental health issues.

TEACHING TIPS: One thing the Common Core State Standards asks is for students to compare different treatments of the same subject or analyze how one work of literature has influenced another. One way Sanctum could be used in the classroom, even if only parts are used, is to compare Fine’s version of hell with other versions of hell and purgatory in literature. Discussions about the afterlife and the particular fate of those who commit suicide would be appropriate in higher level English classes that consider the Bible’s influence on literature and history/social studies courses that include a comparative study of religions.

AUTHOR: Sarah Fine is the author of the Guards of the Shadowlands, a YA urban fantasy series (Skyscape/Amazon Children’s Publishing), including Sanctum (October 2012) and Fractured (October 2013). The third and final book in this series comes out in October 2014. In May 2014, Putnam/Penguin published Scan, the first of two thrillers she co-authored with Walter Jury. Her gothic young adult novel Of Metal and Wishes will be published by McElderry/Simon & Schuster in August 2014. When she’s not writing, she’s psychologizing. Sometimes she does both at the same time. The results are unpredictable.

Author Sarah Fine Talks About Hell, Trauma, and Creating Diverse Characters

13482750By Cindy L. Rodriguez

This month, we are taking a look at Latin@s in science fiction and fantasy. Today, we have a Q&A with Sarah Fine, author of Sanctum and Fracture. (Book three is in the works.) Here is a partial description of Sanctum, which features Lela Santos, a Latina main character, a foster child from Rhode Island who has experienced abandonment, neglect, and sexual abuse:

A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.

Cindy: First, let me say that I loved Sanctum. The only part that frustrated me was how long it took for Lela and Malachi to kiss :.)

Sarah: I’m so glad you enjoyed it, and I hope the kiss was worth the wait!

Cindy: The premise of Lela going into hell to retrieve Nadia is similar to the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice, but obviously this is not a retelling. How influenced were you by that myth or mythology in general?

Sarah: I actually didn’t think about that particular myth at all as I was generating the idea for this book. When I read that comparison in a review, I was like … you know, that’s actually quite apt! I was a little more influenced by Jewish and Mesopotamian mythology. The Mazikin are mentioned in the Talmud as evil spirits or demons, and the inhuman Guards are very loosely based off protective deities called the lamassu in Mesopotamian myths, where they’re described as half-man, half-bull.

Cindy: Your setting is an interesting kind of hell, with the buildings being alive and able to feed off its inhabitants. How did you create and develop this idea? What kind of research do you do for fantasy world creation?

Sarah: This idea was inspired by the way C.S. Lewis wrote about his version of hell/purgatory in The Great Divorce. The “grey town” is this massive, depressing city where it’s always raining, always twilight—and here’s the part that really got me: people could have whatever they wanted, but it was of low quality. That Grey Town at the very beginning of that book completely inspired the dark city in Sanctum. Obviously, I changed it a lot, including the idea that the city is really one living, breathing entity that grows off the depression of the people residing within, but I give Lewis the credit for the basic idea (and he was clearly influenced by Dante in that work, so he deserves credit as well.)

17667916Cindy: Do you continue to work as a child psychologist? Did your work experiences help you to portray the emotional recovery Lela and the others have to go through in order to heal from trauma?

Sarah: I do, but in a different capacity than I have in the past, when I did a lot of home-based evaluations and therapy. Now I direct programs and supervise clinicians who provide those services to children and adolescents who are at risk for out-of-home placement in psychiatric hospitals or residential treatment facilities. Our goal is to work with families to keep these kids at home and in their communities, where research clearly shows they do best.

My work definitely influences how I see the complexity of trauma and what it takes to heal. A huge percentage of our clients have experienced some type of trauma, and usually not what we think of as single event, “simple” trauma. Though that can be devastating, it’s actually easier to treat than the complex developmental trauma we often see, where the trauma is more chronic and ongoing. This is actually the type of trauma Lela’s experienced—multiple disruptions in attachments, several instances of abuse or neglect. As I show her fragile but growing relationship with Diane, her foster mom, that’s always on my mind. I definitely explore more of that in book three.

Cindy: In addition to the great action scenes, this story focused on the characters’ battles with their personal demons. Thinking about author choices here…because of the issues the characters face, this story could have been developed as a YA contemporary. What led you to decide to develop the story as fantasy instead?

Sarah: I guess it’s a preference thing. There are some brilliant, brilliant authors who have explored these issues with contemporary YA (Nina LaCour, for example), but I wanted to place these characters in an environment where the depression was a tangible, living thing. This fantasy world gave me the chance to explore a lot of philosophical issues, like what is heaven, really, and how could it possibly be the same for everyone? What if you’re not emotionally ready to be there and accept what it offers? To me, that’s not a religious question, but a more concrete way of exploring something very emotional–Can you have some version of that goodness in your life, no matter where you are? What would you have to understand and embrace to receive that?

Cindy: Again with author choices….Obviously you could have created characters of any race, ethnicity, etc. What made you decide to create a Latina MC?

Sarah Fine

Sarah Fine

Sarah: Lela Santos really just materialized to me in that form. However, I will tell you that the majority of the school children in the urban core of Rhode Island, where Lela’s from, are Latino/a. Also, in general, children of color are overrepresented in terms of involvement in the juvenile justice system in this country (with harsher sentences as well—we’ve had court workers outright say that they’re harder on these kids because of the racism they face within society, which is a totally twisted logic that over-penalizes those children and in my opinion perpetuates that racism). Once I considered those facts, it seemed wrong to consider making her anything other than what she was from the beginning.

Cindy: Your secondary characters have interesting back stories as well, which suggests to me that including diversity in your writing is important to you. Some authors shy away from including diverse characters for fear of “getting it wrong.” Did you have any concerns about creating diverse characters? What advice, if any, would you give to fantasy writers about diversity in the genre?

Sarah: This story takes place in the afterlife, and the idea that the only people residing there would be Anglo-American, or any kind of American, is pretty laughable. The world is a BIG place—and the afterlife would be the same, minus the country divisions. Everyone would be there together, right? The dark city where most of Sanctum takes place is where everyone in the world who committed suicide has gone (with some exceptions, I think, but that’s a different interview!). I felt very strongly that having Lela coincidentally meet up with people who were American would just be false and icky.

I did have concerns, of course, because I really wanted these characters to have an impact, and to feel like real people. I did quite a bit of research. I also focused on writing from the inside out, trying to focus on each of those characters as human beings who loved and hoped and despaired in their own ways. I don’t think I’m some kind of expert on this. I’m certain I’ve made mistakes. But I’m curious and always wanting to learn about people who are different from me. And I started from the premise that all those diverse characters—Lela, Malachi, Ana, Takeshi—were on their own profoundly personal journeys, armed only with their intelligence, resilience, perseverance, and the capacity to risk their lives and hearts for a chance at peace. The rest flowed from that.

Check out these other works by Sarah Fine:

17733363  13451410  17303139

Libros Latin@s: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis

By Zoraida Córdova

This month, we are taking a look at Latin@s in science fiction and fantasy. Today, we’re highlighting OTHERBOUND, a debut novel by Corinne Duyvis, which has received excellent reviews, including starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly, School Library Journal, and The Bulletin of The Center for Children’s Books.

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKETAmara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.

MY TWO CENTS: Otherbound by Corinne Duyvis is an ambitious novel that breaks the norm of YA fantasy.

Nolan is a seventeen-year-old boy with a prosthetic leg who has seizures, at least, what the grownups think are seizures. In actuality, he has a vivid connection with a girl named Amara who lives in the Dunelands—definitely not Arizona where Nolan and his family live.

The dual perspective—even the dual reality of it all–is interesting. I thought it might get distracting to have breaks where Amara’s world cuts into Nolan’s perspective in bold. But if Nolan can handle the after effects that come with what is pretty much a psychic invasion and still try to have a life, then I can handle it as a reader.

From the very beginning, we’re set up to understand the following things: Nolan leads a pretty average life. As average as it gets for a low income Latino family in Arizona. He has parents who work three jobs to pay for his meds. He has a younger sister who is 15 and has an attitude. Their Latin-ness isn’t brought up except for mentions of Grandmother Perez’s food and how Nolan’s parents go back and forth between speaking Spanish. The Spanish is always typed out in English, but since I speak Spanish I translated it in my head as I read along. And even though this is a fantasy novel, Duyvis makes a note of Nolan’s father writing angry letters to his school about banned books. It’s Arizona, you have to! So props.

After experiencing Nolan’s day-to-day, we’re then thrown into a completely different world with its own rules to understand. Amara is a servant. By nature of her birth she can’t read, write, or speak (literally, servants have their tongues cut off and are branded by palace). I love how the author didn’t shy away from the brutal life that this young girl has to endure. At the end of the day, Amara is a girl who is kidnapped and held against her will. She’s a slave, whose sole purpose in life is to protect a cursed princess through Amara’s ability to heal herself. Should princess Cilla’s blood spill, the curse will be unleashed. The Dunelands come with their own royalty system, magic, political intrigue, and adventure, which keeps the pace moving.

Nolan and Amara live in separate dimensions/planets but are both faced with disabilities that impede them from an autonomy that others take for granted. Amara’s ability to speak has been stolen from her. Never the less, she tries to over come this by learning how to read, despite the terrible punishment that awaits her if caught. While she does fear and question the people around her, she isn’t exactly a wallflower. She’s brave, loving, and loyal, traits that a physical disability can’t change.

As for Nolan, he lost a leg at a young age from a freak accident (brought on by the vision-seizures). While he can still be active, swim, go to school, and move around on his own, when you add painful “seizures” to that, the results are not good. It’s not a mental disability in the way that we treat depression or being bipolar, but it is in his head. On his part, he tries not to feel like a burden in his household. He’s constantly trying to give people the “right” kind of smile, and often lies about how he feels to get the grown-ups off his back about whether or not he’s “okay.” I think there’s a big pressure put on kids to “be okay” and it’s more for the adults than for the kids. Still, as he realizes the sacrifices his parents make for him, he takes to even the smallest chores–dishes, laundry, helping his sister rehearse for a play–to show that he can be present in his world, that he can be helpful.

Then the unexpected happens—through some circumstance of their connection (and the new meds), Nolan’s role goes from simply watching to doing. He can make Amara move. He can run through her, and it’s great to watch Nolan find the ability to move through Amara’s magical world. The levels of magic are complicated, and when Nolan and Amara discover each other, they become reliant on one another for survival. I mean, I’d be pissed off if some guy who was watching me for years and years, suddenly shows up and can control my body. Amara’s first reaction is to be mad, but Nola isn’t a creeper. He’s been part of her life for years and he truly cares about what happens to her. True, Amara would like to kiss the person she likes without Nolan snooping, but without Nolan, Amara’s ability to heal would not manifest. She needs him there for her to pass as a “healing mage.”

As he gets more and more involved in the political schemes of Amara’s world, Nolan is determined to make sure Amara survives, even if it means he feels pain. The way I read it is that he would much rather feel that physical pain than deal with the pressures of his reality. With everything that goes on in his real life–the meds, school, pressure, parents who constantly hover–Nolan gets a taste of being a hero without the Earthly limitations. As for Amara, her payoff is that Nolan gave her the ability to heal. There were so many times when she was tortured because her captor knew she would heal soon enough. Without Nolan, she would have probably died sooner. I can’t spoil the end, but Nolan’s connection came super in handy at the end. Even though their connection had to end sometime, it was great to see a relationship between a boy and a girl that wasn’t sexual, but bonded through adversity.

When I say that I’ve never read anything like this, I mean it. While I do feel like I know more about the characters than the actual fantasy world, I think I’m okay with that. There’s a young Mexican-American boy with a prosthetic leg who can see into another dimension and inhabit the body of an alien servant girl. This servant girl is bisexual and used as a ploy to a political regime way beyond her control. Definitely not your average YA.

AUTHOR: Corinne Duyvis is a lifelong Amsterdammer and former portrait artist now in the business of writing about superpowered teenagers. In her free time, she finds creative ways of hurting people via brutal martial arts, gets her geek on whenever possible, and sleeps an inordinate amount. Visit her at www.corinneduyvis.com or say HI on Twitter!

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT Otherbound, visit your local library or bookstore. Also check out worldcat.orgindiebound.orggoodreads.comamazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.

Guest Post: Stephanie Diaz, YA Author of EXTRACTION , talks about diversity and her debut novel

This month, we are taking a look at Latin@s in science fiction and fantasy. Today, we have a guest post from Stephanie Diaz, debut author of Extraction, which releases July 22.

By Stephanie Diaz

Extraction coverThanks so much to Latin@s in Kid Lit for having me here on the blog today! I wanted to share a few of my thoughts on diversity in science fiction, stemming from my experiences as a half-Latina writer of YA.

My father’s side of my family is Latino, primarily of Mexican and Spanish descent. My mother’s ancestors were white Europeans, mostly French and German. I grew up in an English-speaking household, in a Southern California town a state away from my dad’s side of the family. As such, I’ve never been hugely in touch with the Latina side of my roots, except during Christmas vacation, and for a long time it had no great influence on my writing.

My first book, which I wrote in middle school, was a story about a family in the Civil War era. My second book was a fantasy with demons and magical swords. The book I wrote in college and sold to a publisher, Extraction, was my first try at writing science fiction. It wasn’t until I was well into revising the novel that conversations about diversity in fiction grew more widespread and caught my attention. For the first time, I took a long, hard look at my characters and realized I’d made some of the supporting characters different races, but the main characters of the cast were pretty much all white. And my book was supposed to be set on a planet in a completely different galaxy! Here I’d had so much potential to diversify my made-up world, and I’d wasted it.

I plan on doing a better job in the future. I’m still working on the second and third books in the Extraction trilogy, making sure I pay attention and don’t automatically whitewash every new character I introduce to the cast. I’m also working on an unrelated YA sci-fi with a multi-racial/multi-species cast. The beauty of stories set in the future or in distant worlds is that there are so many ways for a writer to imagine how cultures will grow and influence one another over time. Science fiction allows me to imagine all sorts of possibilities that don’t exist in real life, but real life has to be an influence to make the story believable.

My goal is to tell stories that show life the way it is and the way it could evolve—and life is diverse. In physical characteristics, but also in a wealth of traditions. I’m learning that understanding the differences in all the world’s cultures is key to creating new ones, whether they be human or a made-up species.

My hope is that my own books and other books in this genre will grow more and more diverse in the coming years, drawing on little-known cultures to expand the worldview of all readers. I hope to be able to pay homage to my Latina heritage, as well as the other cultures in my blood, in future novels I write. But more than that, I hope to tell many stories about different kinds of people, not just the people I know best. After all, how can I grow as a writer—or a person—if I never venture out of my comfort zone?

Stephanie Diaz author photoTwenty-one-year-old Stephanie Diaz wrote her debut novel, Extraction, when she should’ve been making short films and listening to class lectures at San Diego State University. When she isn’t lost in books, she can be found singing, marveling at the night sky, or fan-girling over TV shows. Visit her online at www.stephaniediazbooks.com.

Twitter​   *  Blogger  *  Facebook  *  Tumblr  *  Pinterest  * 

You can email her at: stephaniediazbooks@gmail.com

Extraction, published by St. Martin’s Press, releases July 22. Here is a description of Stephanie’s debut novel:

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her 16th birthday when she’ll be tested for Extraction, in the hopes of being sent from Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves promising enough to be “extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life. What she finds initially at the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid—but life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too. Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet’s leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued.

Cover Reveal for When Reason Breaks, a 2015 Young Adult Debut

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

I’m really excited to reveal the cover for my debut novel, When Reason Breaks, which will be published 2/10/2015 by Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books. I’m equally thrilled to share it here because one of the main characters is Latina and the first blurb the novel received is from the wonderful, generous, super-talented Margarita Engle.

Before you scroll down to see the cover, here’s a description of the novel:

A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz’s English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson’s poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.

In an emotionally taut novel with a richly diverse cast of characters, readers will relish in the poetry of Emily Dickinson and be completely swept up in the turmoil of two girls grappling with demons beyond their control.

An extra tidbit for any big-time Emily Dickinson fans: Almost all of the characters represent a real person from ED’s life. Emily and Elizabeth represent Dickinson herself, sharing personal traits and experiences. Tomás Bowles represents Thomas Wentworth Higginson and Samuel Bowles, two important men in ED’s life, etc. You’ll have to read more in the author’s note!

So, now for the cover……………





Keep scrolling…(I was told to build suspense. Isn’t this suspenseful?)












I love it for lots of reasons! The dark and light, focused and unfocused elements symbolize what the characters experience with their emotional and mental health issues. Same with how the letters start out solidly colored and then fade. Not seeing the girl’s face is also perfect since it’s a mystery as to which of the two girls attempts suicide. And here is the full quote from Margarita Engle, which will be included in its entirety on the back cover:

When Reason Breaks is infused with a rare blend of suspense and sensitivity, despair and hope. The poetic spirit of Emily Dickinson shines through the gloom of daily struggles faced by modern teens, as they discover the possibilities where they dwell.”

I’m so excited to share my debut novel with the world–starting now with a giveaway! One winner will receive a signed ARC of When Reason Breaks. Click on the Rafflecopter link below to enter. I’ll choose a winner in a week!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CindyRodriguez150For more information about me and/or my debut novel, check out my website. You can also find me here on the About Us page and on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads.

When Reason Breaks is available for pre-order here:

Indiebound Barnes and Noble | Amazon Powell’s Book Depository | Books-A-Million