12 Afro-Latinx Kid Lit Creators You Can Support Right Now

 

Today, we would like to spotlight 12 Afro-Latinx creators in Kid Lit because:

  • the Kid Lit publishing world is overwhelmingly white,
  • the Latinx creators who do get published are largely white or white-passing,
  • racism, anti-blackness, and colorism are systemic plagues in Latinx communities, in addition to our communities at large,
  • and, as a result of all of the above, Afro-Latinx creators do not get the regular attention and respect they deserve.

We stand with the Black community and will use our blog to amplify the voices and work of Black creators more often. Many of us are also educators who are working within the K-12, higher education, and library systems to combat racism, shrink the achievement gap, and best serve our Black students and other students of color. We will continue to do this work.

Below, you will find information about the creators, links to their websites, and links to any past posts from our site. If you click on the book covers, you will go to IndieBound.org, where you can put money behind your support by buying books!

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Elizabeth Acevedo

From her website: Elizabeth Acevedo is a New York Times bestselling author of The Poet X and With the Fire on High. Her critically-acclaimed debut novel, The Poet X, won the 2018 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. She is also the recipient of the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction, the CILIP Carnegie Medal, and the Boston Globe-Hornbook Award. Additionally, she was honored with the 2019 Pure Belpré Author Award for celebrating, affirming, and portraying Latinx culture and experience.

Our review of THE POET X: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2018/03/08/book-review-the-poet-x-by-elizabeth-acevedo/

   

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Lily Anderson  Headshot - credit Chris Duffey.jpgLily Anderson:

From her website: I’m Lily, the curly haired gal in the pictures. I’m a writer from the slice of suburbs between Sacramento and San Francisco that could never get it together enough to be the Bay Area. After spending my childhood searching for books about mixed race kids who talk too fast and care too much, I decided to start writing my own.

My books are about snarky girls and emotional intelligence and sometimes monsters. As a woman of Afro-Puerto Rican decent, representing a diverse world isn’t a trend for me—it’s my greatest joy.

Our review of UNDEAD GIRL GANG: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2018/11/19/book-review-undead-girl-gang-by-lily-anderson/

   

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TransientVeronica Chambers

From her website: Veronica Chambers is a prolific author, best known for her critically acclaimed memoir, Mama’s Girl which has been course adopted by hundreds of high schools and colleges throughout the country. The New Yorker called Mama’s Girl, “a troubling testament to grit and mother love… one of the finest and most evenhanded in the genre in recent years.” Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, her work often reflects her Afro-Latina heritage.

She coauthored the award-winning memoir Yes Chef with chef Marcus Samuelsson as well as Samuelsson’s young adult memoir Make It Messy, and has collaborated on four New York Times bestsellers, most recently 32 Yolks, which she cowrote with chef Eric Ripert. She has been a senior editor at the New York Times MagazineNewsweek, and Glamour. Born in Panama and raised in Brooklyn, she writes often about her Afro-Latina heritage. She speaks, reads, and writes Spanish, but she is truly fluent in Spanglish. She is currently a JSK Knight fellow at Stanford University.

Our review of THE GO-BETWEEN: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2018/02/08/book-review-the-go-between-by-veronica-chambers/

        

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PictureTami Charles

From her website: Former teacher. Wannabe chef. Tami Charles writes books for children and young adults. Her middle grade novel, Like Vanessa, earned Top 10 spots on the Indies Introduce and Spring Kids’ Next lists, three starred reviews, and a Junior Library Guild selection. Here recent titles include a humorous middle grade, Definitely Daphne, picture book, Freedom Soup, and YA novel, Becoming Beatriz. When Tami isn’t writing, she can be found presenting at schools both statewide and abroad. (Or sneaking in a nap…because sleep is LIFE!)

Our Q&A with Tami Charles: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2019/10/03/spotlight-on-middle-grade-authors-part-12-tami-charles/

         

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Robert Liu-Trujillo

From his website: Robert Liu-Trujillo is a life long Bay Area resident. Born in Oakland California, he’s the child of student activists who watched lots of science fiction and took him to many demonstrations. Always drawing, Rob grew up to be an artist falling in love with graffiti, fine art, illustration, murals, and children’s books. In that order, sort of. Through storytelling he’s been able to scratch the surface of so many untold stories. Rob is the author and illustrator of Furqan’s First Flat Top. He’s a dad of a teenage boy and a brand new baby girl. He loves ice cream and his wife who laughs big and corrects his grammar every chance she gets. Down with the system and soggy french fries!

Rob is a co-founder of The Trust Your Struggle Collective, a contributor to The Social Justice Childrens Bk Holiday Fair, The Bull Horn BlogRad Dad,  Muphoric Sounds, and the founder of Come Bien Books.

Our review of FURQAN’S FIRST FLAT TOP: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2016/12/15/libros-latinxs-furqans-first-flat-topel-primer-corte-de-mesita-de-furqan/

Our review of ONE OF A KIND LIKE ME: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2017/05/04/book-review-one-of-a-kind-like-meunico-como-yo-written-by-laurin-mayeno-illustrated-by-robert-liu-trujillo/

furqan  Unico_00-Rob Liu-Trujillo_72 dpi       

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IMG_5888Torrey Maldonado

From his website: What do you get from teaching nearly 20 years in a middle school in the Brooklyn community that you’re from & you’re an author? Gripping relatable novels and real-life inspiration. Voted a “Top 10 Latino Author” & best Middle Grade & Young Adult novelist for African Americans, Torrey Maldonado was spotlighted as a top teacher by NYC’s former Chancellor. Maldonado is the author of the ALA “Quick Pick”, Secret Saturdays, that is praised for its current-feel & timeless themes. His newest MG novel, Tight, is a coming of age tale about choosing your own path. Learn more at torreymaldonado.com

Our review of TIGHT: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2018/09/06/book-review-tight-by-torrey-maldonado/

Our Q&A with the Torrey Maldonado: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2018/09/04/spotlight-on-middle-grade-authors-part-6-torrey-maldonado/

   

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☆ Poet, Author, Editor, Lecturer, Scholar, ActivistTony Medina

From his website: Tony Medina is the author/editor of seventeen books for adults and young readers. Medina has taught English at Long Island University’s Brooklyn campus and Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY and has earned an MA and PhD in English from Binghamton University, SUNY. The first Professor of Creative Writing at Howard University in Washington, DC, Medina’s latest books are I and I, Bob Marley (Lee & Low Books, 2009), My Old Man Was Always on the Lam (NYQ Books, 2010), finalist for The Paterson Poetry Prize, Broke on Ice (Willow Books/Aquarius Press, 2011), An Onion of Wars (Third World Press, 2012), The President Looks Like Me (Just Us Books, 2013) and Broke Baroque (2Leaf Press, 2013).

   

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Yesenia_HeadShotYesenia Moises

From her website: Bronx native, Afro-Latina, and illustrator on Monique Fields’ debut picture book Honeysmoke: A Story About Finding Your Color, Yesenia is a freelance toy designer and illustrator. Her work has been featured on various media outlets such as SyFy and NBC News. On the toy side of things, she worked with Mattel and Spin Master and has even dabbled in comics here and there with Action Lab and Image. She enjoys creating colorful and whimsical illustrations that depict people of marginalized backgrounds in worlds where even ordinary life can be vibrant and full of wonder. In a time where the world can be a scary place, she wants it to be filled with big hair, bright colors, and lots of sazón from the heart!

Her author-illustrator debut, Stella’s Stellar Hair, is set to release in January 2021.

Our Q&A with Yesenia Moises: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2018/12/06/spotlight-on-latina-illustrators-lulu-delacre-cecilia-ruiz-yesenia-moises/

 

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MaikaMouliteandMaritzaMouliteMaika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

From their website: Maika Moulite is a Miami native and daughter of Haitian immigrants. She earned a bachelor’s in marketing from Florida State University and an MBA from the University of Miami. When she’s not using her digital prowess to help nonprofits and major organizations tell their stories online, she’s writing stories of her own. She also blogs at Daily Ellement, a lifestyle website featuring everything from diverse inspirational women to career guidance. She’s the oldest of four sisters and loves Young Adult fantasy, fierce female leads, and laughing.

Maritza Moulite graduated from the University of Florida with a bachelor’s in women’s studies and the University of Southern California with a master’s in journalism. She’s worked in various capacities for NBC News, CNN, and USA TODAY. An admirer of Michelle Obama, Maritza is a perpetual student and blogs at Daily Ellement as well. Her favorite song is “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

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Image may contain: one or more people and closeupSofia Quintero

Sofia Quintero is a writer, activist, educator, speaker, and comedienne. She is also the author of Show and Prove, Efrain’s Secret, and has written several hip-hop novels under the pen name Black Artemis. This self-proclaimed “Ivy League homegirl” graduated from Columbia and lives in the Bronx.

Our review of SHOW AND PROVE: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2015/06/18/libros-latins-show-and-prove/

 

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Eric VelasquezEric Velasquez

Eric Velasquez is an Afro-Puerto Rican illustrator born in Spanish Harlem. He attended the High School of Art and Design, the School of Visual Arts, and the famous Art Students League in New York City. As a children’s book illustrator, Velasquez has collaborated with many writers, receiving a nomination for the 1999 NAACP Image Award in Children’s Literature and the 1999 Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award for New Talent for The Piano Man. For more information, and to view a gallery of his beautiful book covers, visit his official website.

He is the illustrator of thirty books. Click here for a list of his work on his website.

Our review of GRANDMA’S GIFT: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2016/06/02/celebrating-pura-belpre-winners-spotlight-on-grandmas-gift-by-eric-velasquez/

Our review of GRANDMA’S RECORDS: https://latinosinkidlit.com/2014/02/13/libros-latinos-grandmas-records/

                 

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Ibi Zoboi

From her website: Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and holds an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her novel American Street was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book. She is also the author of Pride and My Life as an Ice Cream Sandwich, a New York Times bestseller, and Punching the Air with co-author and Exonerated Five member, Yusef Salaam. She is the editor of the anthology Black Enough: Stories of Being Young & Black in America. Raised in New York City, she now lives in New Jersey with her husband and their three children.

   

 

 

Book Review: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe by Carlos Hernandez

         

(Left: The paperback cover of Sal & Gabi Break the Universe with the 2020 Pura Belpré Award sticker. Right: The sequel, Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe, released May 5, 2020.)

Review by Toni Margarita Plummer

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents a brilliant sci-fi romp with Cuban influence that poses this question: What would you do if you had the power to reach through time and space and retrieve anything you want, including your mother, who is no longer living (in this universe, anyway)?

How did a raw chicken get inside Yasmany’s locker?

When Sal Vidon meets Gabi Real for the first time, it isn’t under the best of circumstances. Sal is in the principal’s office for the third time in three days, and it’s still the first week of school. Gabi, student council president and editor of the school paper, is there to support her friend Yasmany, who just picked a fight with Sal. She is determined to prove that somehow, Sal planted a raw chicken in Yasmany’s locker, even though nobody saw him do it and the bloody poultry has since mysteriously disappeared.

Sal prides himself on being an excellent magician, but for this sleight of hand, he relied on a talent no one would guess . . . except maybe Gabi, whose sharp eyes never miss a trick. When Gabi learns that he’s capable of conjuring things much bigger than a chicken—including his dead mother—and she takes it all in stride, Sal knows that she is someone he can work with. There’s only one slight problem: their manipulation of time and space could put the entire universe at risk.

A sassy entropy sweeper, a documentary about wedgies, a principal who wears a Venetian bauta mask, and heaping platefuls of Cuban food are just some of the delights that await in his mind-blowing novel gift-wrapped in love and laughter.

MY TWO CENTS: This is Carlos Hernandez’s first middle grade novel, published by the Rick Riordan Presents imprint at Disney. The imprint publishes books which draw from the mythology or folklore of underrepresented cultures. Unlike other books they’ve published, and Rick Riordan’s own books, Sal & Gabi Break the Universe doesn’t involve a half-god protagonist and aloof or sinister gods. Hernandez isn’t drawing from any mythology for his fantasy world, but rather from science and the idea of parallel universes, which is really refreshing. The Cuban aspect is there, absolutely. The book is set in Miami and we see Cuban culture everywhere, from the language to the food to the mannerisms. Sal is the best and most charming narrator we can hope for, taking us on a vibrant journey as he starts at a new school in a new city.

Culeco Academy of the Arts is not Hogwarts. There’s no magic or super powers. But artistic and creative kids will be itching to enroll! Students take classes in Textile Arts (costumes!), Health Science and the Practice of Wellness (rock-climbing!), and Theater Workshop (dancing, puppets, kata!). Detention is one big educational party.

An important but not defining part of Sal’s character is that he has diabetes, and we see how that affects his life and choices in very concrete ways. Some of the characters, including a teacher, need to be educated on what having diabetes means. Once they get it, they see that although he has some limitations, Sal is a kid just like any other. Scratch that. He’s a talented magician who always has a trick up his sleeve, especially his GOTCHA! stamp. Oh, and he can also open portals into other universes.

What stands out most in the novel are the relationships. Sal’s classmate, Gabi, a future lawyer, is a fantastic character who wears her feminism proudly and literally (all her T-shirts bear inspiring lines from women). The friendship she and Sal build is tentative at first, but cements over the course of the novel. It’s a beautiful thing to witness these two resilient and utterly delightful young people join forces to help each other. The relationships they have with their families are also wonderfully rendered. Sal lives in a big house he calls the Coral Castle with scientist Papi and principal American Stepmom who likes to say, “Phew!” Gabi spends a lot of time with her mother and her many Dads (an entertaining lot!) at the hospital, where her baby brother is in the NICU. I loved the interactions between these families as well. It’s all so intriguing, in fact, that whatever cosmic danger is brewing due to not-closing portals seems to take a back seat. And despite the book’s title, nothing catastrophic actually happens.

One word of caution: Sal’s mother passed away some years ago and he misses her so much that sometimes he inadvertently brings back an alternate Mami, who he calls Mami Muerta. If you are considering giving this to a child who has lost a parent or someone else close, you may want to consider how that particular child will respond to this aspect of the story. On the one hand, it’s maybe comforting, and mind-expanding, to think your loved one exists in other universes, just slightly different. On the other, it could be a little unnerving. Sal’s grief over his late mother is very real and sympathetic, as are his conflicted feelings about wanting her back while also knowing that his father has moved on and is very much in love with his new wife, who happens to be a lovely woman.

There is a lot of compassion to go around in this novel. Even the bully gets a chance to show there’s more to him than what meets the eye. Carlos Hernandez has created a universe infused with possibility, with love, and with acceptance. It’s a place that holds both true sadness and genuine laughs. This debut is an engaging and fun-filled read for middle schoolers.

Carlos Hernandez's pictureABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carlos Hernandez has published more than thirty works of fiction, poetry, and drama, most notably a book of short stories for adults entitled The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria. He is an English professor at City University of New York, and he loves to both play games and design them. He lives with his wife, Claire, in Queens, New York.

 

 

 

PlummerABOUT THE REVIEWER: Toni Margarita Plummer is a Macondista and the author of the story collection The Bolero of Andi Rowe. She hails from South El Monte, a working-class suburb of Los Angeles, and works as an acquiring editor at an independent publisher in New York City. Toni lives with her family in the Hudson Valley.

 

Review of Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chicanx and Latinx Young Adult Literature

Reviewed by Cris Rhodes

Publisher’s Description of the Book: 

Contributions by Carolina Alonso, Elena Avilés, Trevor Boffone, Christi Cook, Ella Diaz, Amanda Ellis, Cristina Herrera, Guadalupe García McCall, Domino Pérez, Adrianna M. Santos, Roxanne Schroeder-Arce, Lettycia Terrones, and Tim Wadham

In Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chicanx and Latinx Young Adult Literature, the outsider intersects with discussions of race, ethnicity, gender, and sexuality. The essays in this volume address questions of outsider identities and how these identities are shaped by mainstream myths around Chicanx and Latinx young people, particularly with the common stereotype of the struggling, underachieving inner-city teens. 

Contributors also grapple with how young adults reclaim what it means to be an outsider, weirdo, nerd, or goth, and how the reclamation of these marginalized identities expand conversations around authenticity and narrow understandings of what constitutes cultural identity. 

Included are analysis of such texts as I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Shadowshaper, Swimming While Drowning, and others. Addressed in the essays are themes of outsiders in Chicanx/Latinx children’s and young adult literature, and the contributors insist that to understand Latinx youth identities it is necessary to shed light on outsiders within an already marginalized ethnic group: nerds, goths, geeks, freaks, and others who might not fit within such Latinx popular cultural paradigms as the chola and cholo, identities that are ever-present in films, television, and the internet.

MY TWO CENTS: In a departure from my usually reviewed materials for this website, I was delighted to jump into an academic text. I’ve reviewed fiction for Latinxs in Kid Lit, but this is a work of scholarship and thus, a very different read. Usually, when I review, I try to temper my scholarly focuses and think about what a readership of young people would enjoy. Here, however, the intended audience of the text is scholars like me! Thus, the publication of this edited collection was exciting, dating back to the moment when I spotted the original call for chapters and hoped that it would be just the right addition to our field. It is.

As scholars of Latinx children’s literature know, there is a paucity of edited volumes on the subject. In fact, only a few have been published, and all within the last several years. Importantly, Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks furthers existing scholarly conversations about Latinx children’s literature by looking at “outsiders within an already marginalized community” (from the Introduction by editors Trevor Boffone and Cristina Herrera). For those outside of Latinx children’s literature scholarship: This area of study tends to focus on stereotypical portraits of young Latinxs–that is, the chola/a/x, inner-city kids, at-risk youth, etc. But, in focalizing other Latinx youth populations, this volume encourages engagement with very real, seldom interrogated Latinx adolescents. 

The book itself is neatly divided into different categories, allowing readers to hone in on chapters of particular interest to them. Though the title indicates that the book centers nerds, goths, geeks, and freaks–it actually does more than that, analyzing Latinx adolescents who are bookworms, or superheroes, or queer, or artists, in addition to those who fit within the identities listed in the book’s title. Such analyses of Latinxs who don’t settle in the stereotypical image of Latinx youth are much needed in the field of literary study and are also essential conversations for those of us who read and enjoy Latinx children’s books. Using the frameworks provided by Boffone and Herrera and their authors encourages us to spotlight Latinx youth literature that defies the single story often perpetuated about Latinxs. 

Cris Rhodes, the reviewer, in her teen years

For someone who identified, at some time or another throughout my own teen years, as a Latina nerd, goth, geek, and freak, seeing explorations of these identities in literature is affirming. I would’ve loved to have had a book like Gabi, A Girl in Pieces when I first decided I wanted to be a writer or The First Rule of Punk when I dyed half of my hair purple (not nearly as cool as the quetzal green Malú uses in the book). As a current scholar of children’s literature, I consider conversations about these textual moments as doing much good to our field. They highlight that studying Latinxs isn’t a niche occupation, but is integral to studying children’s literature as a whole. And, as a consumer of Latinx youth literature, I’m glad to see these books given their critical due. 

The chapters in this collection are academically rigorous and critical, yet accessible. This is one of the few scholarly texts that I would recommend for general readers (not just scholars), and particularly for older, adolescent readers headed into college. The writing modeled throughout is the kind of cogent, scholarly writing their professors and teachers will be looking for. Additionally, it should be largely understandable for those without a critical scholarly background, as each author does a good job of providing a foundation for the analyses they make. And, for anyone not fully comfortable reading scholarship, I encourage them to at least peruse the Table of Contents for ideas on quality fiction to read!

All in all, Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chicanx and Latinx Young Adult Literature is a solid academic text, a great invitation for new, Latinx youth literature scholars, and an intriguing library of excellent Latinx children’s books. 

TEACHING TIPS: Listen, I think all professors in the humanities (heck, also in STEM) should be teaching something about Latinx youth. If they’re not, then they’re doing a disservice both to their students and to the growing population of Latinx youth throughout the world. That being said, this volume would serve well in college-level education courses, especially for students at predominantly white institutions who have little previous exposure to studying Latinx youth or Latinx children’s literature. Additionally, I would teach the chapters in this volume in general literature courses or more specialized children’s or Latinx literature courses. (In fact, I’m a little miffed this volume wasn’t released before I taught my “Latinx Youth and Their Literatures” course!). Finally, as I explained in my review, the tone of each of the chapters is exemplary of good scholarly writing, thus I would also encourage teachers/professors to show this to students as a model of scholarly research and writing. 

The following chapter titles offer an additional glimpse of themes explored in Nerds, Goths, Geeks, and Freaks: Outsiders in Chicanx and Latinx Young Adult Literature:

Chapter 5: “Afuerxs and Cultural Practice in Shadowshaper and Labyrinth Lost“, by contributor Domino Pérez

Chapter 8: ” ‘These Latin Girls Mean Business’: Expanding the Boundaries of Latina Youth Identity in Meg Medina’s YA Novel, Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass,” by editor-contributor Cristina Herrera

Chapter 12: “The Coming-of-Age Experience in Chicanx Queer Novels What Night Brings and Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe,” by contributor Carolina Alonso

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Cris Rhodes holds a Ph. D. from Texas A&M-Commerce. She is an assistant professor of English at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, where she teaches writing, culturally diverse literature, and ethnic literatures. In addition to teaching, Cris’s scholarship focuses on Latinx youth and their literature or related media. She also has a particular scholarly interest in activism and the ways that young Latinxs advocate for themselves and their communities.

Review: Running by Natalia Sylvester

 

Reviewed by Elena Foulis

SUMMARY FROM THE PUBLISHER: When fifteen-year-old Cuban American Mariana Ruiz’s father runs for president, Mari starts to see him with new eyes. A novel about waking up and standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching.

In this authentic, humorous, and gorgeously written debut novel about privacy, waking up, and speaking up, Senator Anthony Ruiz is running for president. Throughout his successful political career he has always had his daughter’s vote, but a presidential campaign brings a whole new level of scrutiny to sheltered fifteen-year-old Mariana and the rest of her Cuban American family, from a 60 Minutes–style tour of their house to tabloids doctoring photos and inventing scandals. As tensions rise within the Ruiz family, Mari begins to learn about the details of her father’s political positions, and she realizes that her father is not the man she thought he was.

But how do you find your voice when everyone’s watching? When it means disagreeing with your father—publicly? What do you do when your dad stops being your hero? Will Mari get a chance to confront her father? If she does, will she have the courage to seize it?

MY TWO CENTS: Natalia Sylvester’s YA debut novel, Running, is remarkable in many ways, but particularly in its attention to youth culture and the important role teens play in activism. Mariana (Mari) Ruiz, the protagonist, is a fifteen-year-old Cuban American girl, whose father is running for president but who has been in politics for most of his life. While the novel focuses on this Cuban-American family, and centers on Miami, Florida, as the geographical location of the story, it is not only about this. Sylvester masterfully weaves the complexity of growing up Latina/o with current issues of the region that resonate in other parts of the country, or are in some ways universal.

For example, Sylvester uses Spanish in the novel, especially in the dialogue between Mari’s parents and her abuelo, who lives with them, and we know that Mari understands it. At various points throughout the story, the protagonist reflects on the complexity of living in two languages and how incomprehensible literal translation is. I particularly enjoyed her reflection on the word desahogarse because I have used this word myself so many times and realize that some of the meaning is lost when you translate it. The novel also paints Latinx/Cuban-American identity by way of family traditions and food.

In the story, there are sociopolitical issues that Mari has heard about most of her short life but without understanding their gravity. For example, gentrification, water safety issues, and immigration. There are several moments throughout the novel when Mari is forced to think more critically about all these issues. She understands the impact of gentrification and water contamination more fully when her best friend, Vivi, along with Vivi’s recently divorced mother, are forced to leave their neighborhood. When Vivi moves to Miami Beach, she and her mother have to live in a small apartment with her aunt because they cannot afford anything in their old neighborhood. We also learn that Vivi’s grandmother ends up in the hospital due to water toxicity.

Mari, however, does not connect the dots that easily. She is also dealing with being the daughter of a politician. Along with this comes the pressure to be a perfect and supportive family. She also suffers the loss of privacy, which leads to cyberbullying–not to mention the usual challenges of being a teenager. When Vivi is forced to leave their high school, Mari connects with a group of students who are fighting for change by protesting and holding local leaders accountable. The group, called PODER, is made up of peers who are of Haitian, Dominican, and Peruvian ancestry, all with personal connections to some of the issues they advocate for. For example, Didier, whose family is Haitian, explains to Mari the different paths to immigration that Cubans and Haitians have had; one considered an exile and the other a refugee. It is through these encounters and personal stories that Mari begins to come into her own consciousness and political awareness; indeed, the political becomes very personal to her as she looks further into her own father’s voting record and his stand on issues. It is through PODER that she begins to understand the power of social media and technology in general. Yet, because of her family’s public life, she does not have access to these modes of communication and the political impact they wield.

As an orderly reader who reads books from beginning to end, I did not get to the author’s note which explains that the novel was inspired by real events until I had finished the story. Yet, throughout the novel, I kept thinking about the role played by young women like Emma Gonzalez from Parkland, Florida; Mari Copeny from Flint, Michigan; and Greta Thunberg, from Sweden, who have used their voices and the reach of social media to bring about action regarding gun control and environmental justice.

Instead of a traditional coming-of-age story, or even a love story, what Sylvester shows us is the growth of a leader and an activist. Mari—who grew up in politics, hearing her father’s speeches regarding family, justice, and community—slowly becomes aware of her own blindness on these issues. Although not fully explored in the novel, I would also like to add that the author reveals some of the dangers of technology. In this case, Mari becomes a victim of cyberbullying, but her newfound community helps her see that what happens is not her fault. This part of the story briefly addresses issues such as consent, shame and victim-blaming.

Given our current political environment, during a presidential election year and in the middle of a pandemic, I find this novel especially timely.

Note: This book’s release date is July 14, 2020, but is now available on pre-order. 

Photo credit: Eric Sylvester

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Natalia Sylvester is the author of two novels for adults, Chasing the Sun, and Everyone Knows You Go Home, which won an International Latino Book Award. Born in Lima, Peru, she grew up in Miami, Central Florida, and South Texas, and received a BFA from the University of Miami. Running is her YA debut. She lives in Austin, Texas, and can also be found at nataliasylvester.com

 

 

 

 

Elena Foulis

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Elena Foulis has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas. Her research and teaching interests include U.S. Latina/o literature, and Digital Oral History. Dr. Foulis is currently working on a digital oral history project about Latin@s in Ohio, which is being archived at the Center for Folklore Studies’ internet collection. Some of these narratives can be found in her iBook titled, Latin@ Stories Across Ohio. She is also producer and host of Ohio Habla.

 

 

Review: The Adventures of Chupacabra Charlie by Frederick Luis Aldama, illus. by Chris Escobar

Reviewed by Elena Foulis

SUMMARY FROM OHIO STATE PRESS: In their debut picture book, Frederick Luis Aldama and Chris Escobar invite young readers along on the adventures of Chupacabra Charlie, a polite, handsome, and unusually tall ten-year-old chupacabra yearning for adventure beyond the edge of los Estados Unidos. Little does Charlie know when he befriends a young human, Lupe, that together, with only some leftover bacon quesadillas and a few cans of Jumex, they might just encounter more adventure than they can handle. Along the way, they meet strange people and terrifying danger, and their bravery will be put to the test. Thankfully, Charlie is a reassuring and winsome companion who never doubts that he and Lupe will return safely home.

With magical realism, allegory, and gentle humor, Aldama and Escobar have created a story that will resonate with young and old readers alike as it incorporates folklore into its subtle take on the current humanitarian crisis at the border.

MY TWO CENTS: Based on real and imagined tales, The Adventures of Chupacabra Charlie, tells the story of a young Chupacabra whose life at the border is full of adventure, if you dare to follow. Charlie lives in the attic of a Bordertown in Mexico. He tells the reader about how, although considered a monster and sometimes feared, he is a kid who is looking for adventures. He tells us about his family life, and we see and read about the importance of family, education, and creativity. For example, the author and illustrator provide a wonderful scene of Charlie’s family dinner, the long tradition of family storytelling and the importance of listening to and learning from these stories. The story provides a great, balanced view of the value of learning in formal and informal settings and of using our imaginations to solve problems. The storyline always warns us about forgetting those family values and how that sometimes leads into negative stereotypes that can affect an entire community. While this is a children’s story, the writing and illustrations help young readers see how the poor choices of a few bad apples can impact the welfare of others.

Despite some of the obstacles and negative perceptions that Charlie faces, this story is about a voyage of bravery, and the meaning of friendship, even with people who do not look like you. We can choose to share life together. Charlie’s new friend, Lupe, becomes Charlie’s partner in an adventure that provides more than a thrill for them; indeed, their mission becomes to free children al otro lado of The Wall, who have been kept in cages. This young readers’ book is refreshing in the way it incorporates life at the border, through bilingualism and storytelling rooted in Latin American traditions such as Realismo Mágico.

One thing that catches our attention is the use of Spanish. While it only incorporates a few words and phrases, it only writes them in italics once, and if the word or phrase is used again, it uses the same font as the rest of the story. This is significant, in my view, because it allows the reader—who may or may not be bilingual—to pause, but then it expects them to learn and normalize bilingualism. Indeed, much of what this book presents are topics that are often complex or controversial and frequently void of the human perspective. More specifically, in the thinking about The Wall that separates the U.S. and Mexico, accepting people’s use of Spanish as part of who they are, and the reality of family separation at the border, which includes putting young kids in detention centers that are cage-like, often times, we forget to broadly think about how real people are deeply affected by all of this. The book tackles those topics in a way that is natural and promotes acceptance and heroism, as we dare to imagine that we can all do something to make someone else’s life a little or a lot easier.

Lastly, the illustrations are detailed and complement the storyline beautifully. I like how the images pay attention to details of city and rural life, highlighting cultural and geographical markers with care, such as el paletero, los nopales, the Wall, and even the flying car and the jar of pickles.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frederick Luis Aldama is Irish-Guatemalan and Mexican Latinx. His mamá was a bilingual elementary school teacher in California. As a kid, he couldn’t get enough of his abuelita’s stories of El Chupacabra, La Llorona, and El Cucuy. Today he is a Distinguished University Professor at The Ohio State University. He is the author, coauthor, editor, and coeditor of 36 books.

 

 

ABOUT THE ILLUSTRATOR: Chris Escobar is a printmaker and cartoonist currently living in Savannah, Georgia. He has an MFA in Sequential Art from the Savannah College of Art and Design. Chris has created illustrations for the comic anthology Floating Head and editorial illustrations for Dirt Rag magazine, among other publications.

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Elena Foulis has a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature and Cultural Studies from the University of Arkansas. Her research and teaching interests include U.S. Latina/o literature, and Digital Oral History. Dr. Foulis is currently working on a digital oral history project about Latin@s in Ohio, which is being archived at the Center for Folklore Studies’ internet collection. Some of these narratives can be found in her iBook titled, Latin@ Stories Across Ohio. She is also producer and host of Ohio Habla.

 

Our Stories Are the Remedios We Need Right Now

by Tracey T. Flores

I think about my city and all the changes that it’s been through. And all the changes that will come. But I know that here in our little house, there are things that will always be the same.  ~from My Papi has a Motorcycle by Isabel Quintero

My Papi Has a Motorcycle, written by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña, tells the story of young Daisy Ramona, a girl who eagerly awaits her Papi’s return home after a long day at work. When he arrives, Daisy Ramona and her Papi will take a ride through their city on the back of his motorcycle. Their ride takes us on a journey through their changing neighborhood, where we get a glimpse into the places and people that make her community so special. On their ride, Daisy and her Papi pass the local panadería where they buy conchas on Sunday mornings, the post office, and their abuelito’s yellow house (where the food always tastes better). They greet each person they meet with a nod of the head or a wave, letting readers see the closeness of this comunidad. Daisy’s ride with her Papi reminds us that although the world outside their home is changing, the love inside will always stay the same.

I love this cuento. I have shared it with my 4-year old daughter, Milagros, my graduate students in our family-and-community literacies course, and the mamas that I work alongside and learn from at our partner school. Recently, I revisited this cuento and found healing and comfort in it, like a warm bowl of sopa de fideo.

Currently, when I watch the news, it is easy to feel scared and helpless. The impact of this moment on our familias and comunidades is real and heartbreaking. At times, I have found it difficult to imagine our world after this moment. Will my parents be okay? How will my daughter remember this time? What will our comunidades look like after this moment?

In these questioning moments, these moments of uncertainty, I am finding healing, comfort and strength in the lessons and wisdom of our collective Latinx stories.

In our stories, I feel the deep, unconditional love that is the foundation of our familias.

In our stories, I remember every day moments with my loved ones.

In our stories, I bear witness to the fight of our Nanas and Tatas and the obstacles they have overcome in their lives so that we can thrive.

In our stories, I am gifted our history and the wisdom and lessons of our ancestors we carry with us as tools of resistance, hope and survival.

It is in the telling and retelling of our stories that I remember good times, where I am reminded that although the world outside our homes is changing, there are things like our familial love, the strength of our comunidades, and the fight of our gente that will always stay the same.

I offer more cuentos for you to turn to in this moment. From these cuentos, our cuentos, I hope you find peace, comfort and healing. In addition, I invite you to reflect on and remember the cuentos from your own life, those gifted to you by your elders, and those you share with the younger generations—write them down, record them, create art around them—and never forget them, for they are your strengths.

Abuelita Full of Life/Llena de vida

Written by Amy Costales & Illustrated by Martha Aviles

When José goes to the park with Abuelita, they have a walk. At first he misses his bike. But, he likes when Abuelita holds his hand and he can feel the strength that flows beneath her wrinkly skin. She teaches him the names of the trees and the flowers they see on the way. José is amazed by how much he used to miss by rushing by on his bike.

These words capture the loving relationship that José develops with his abuelita when she comes to live with the family. Abuelita brings life, love and pride into their home. In her company, he learns healing remedies, the beauty of English and Spanish, and the deep love of his abuelita. This book reminds me of the wisdom and love that is deeply rooted and embodied in the stories, histories and ways of knowing and being of our Nanas, Tatas, and Abuelitos, and the healing that comes from their presence in our lives.

 

Tía Isa Wants a Car

Written by Meg Medina & Illustrated By Claudio Muñoz

But Tía Isa is already touching the front seat, big enough for three. She nods when I show her there’s room in the back for more of us, who’ll come soon.

“You’re right mi hija,” she says. “This one will take us all where we want to go.”

 Tía Isa shares with the family that she wants to buy a car. Her declaration is met with resistance and ridicule from everyone except her young niece, who imagines all the places this car will take them. Together, Tía Isa and her niece save money to buy a car, one big enough for the entire family to travel to the sea. This cuento truly touches my heart, as I see the faces of all the women in my familia represented in Tía Isa. In this cuento, I remember the strength, determination and creativity of my own mama, nana and tias, and I think about the ways they always speak and manifest their dreams and goals into reality for our entire family. It also reminds me of the strong bond of our familias and the importance of always sticking together.

In My Family/En mi familia

Written & Illustrated By Carmen Lomas Garza

My grandmother is holding a baby. She was holding the babies. And, feeding them, and putting them to sleep.

Through detailed illustrations and short vignettes, artist Carmen Lomas Garza captures the essence of the love for her familia and comunidad that are central to her childhood memories of growing up in Kingsville, Texas. Each illustration features special moments spent with her familia as they gathered for birthday parties, to cook tamales, to make cascarons and dance en el jardín. This book reminds me of the beauty and remedios of our family memories and the joy that is present in our daily lives.

The Christmas Gift/El regalo de la navidad

Written by Francisco Jiménez and Illustrated by Claire B. Cotts

Most of us have a favorite Christmas story to tell…Like all of my short stories, it is based on an experience I had as a child…It took place in a farm labor tent camp in Corcoran, California.

Author and storyteller Francisco Jiménez (Panchito) shares a Christmas story from his childhood. A few days before Christmas, the family had just moved again to a new camp to find work, money and food was scarce. For Christmas, Panchito was hoping to receive a red ball. When he awoke on Christmas day to find that he did not receive a ball, but a bag of candy, he was disappointed, until he saw the thoughtful gift that his father gave to his mother. I love all books written by Francisco Jiménez, and this book is one of my favorite stories to share with others. In his story, I am reminded of my own family, especially my mother and father, and all the sacrifices they have made and continue to make for our family. It makes me remember the important things in life – our health, our bond as a family and the gift of being together.

Imagine

Written By Juan Felipe Herrera & Illustrated by Lauren Castillo

If I jumped up high into my papi’s army truck and left our village of farmworkers and waved adios to my amiguitos. Imagine.

 Poet Juan Felipe Herrera journeys us through his life recounting moments of both triumph and struggle as he continued imagining the future. His words take us from the village where he lived as a small child, to his first day of school in a new country, all the way to the steps of the Library of Congress where he reads his poetry and signs his books with “Poet Laureate of the United States.” The poetry of his experiences that he shares can teach us to always imagine endless possibilities for our lives and our worlds. In his words, I am reminded to always have hope and to never stop being a learner.

 

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Written by Anika Aldamuy Denise & Illustrated by Paola Escobar

Now a published author, puppeteer, and storyteller, Pura travels from branch to branch, classroom to classroom, to churches and community centers…planting her story seeds in the hearts and minds of children new to this island who wish to remember la lengua y los colores of home.

 This book stories the life of librarian, author, puppeteer, and storyteller Pura Belpré. As the first children’s librarian from Puerto Rico, Pura Belpré planted seeds of cuentos from her homeland, retelling traditional stories, in English and Spanish, to bilingual children and families in New York. Noticing a lack of Spanish books in the library, Pura Belpré wrote and published the traditional stories she orally shared and opened space in the library for the Spanish-speaking comunidad to feel included and at home. This book reminds me of the power of our stories and the necessity of sharing them with others. Also, the importance of writing and recording them for future generations.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

Written and Illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh

The Mendez family did not give up. Time and time again, Sylvia hear her father talk with coworkers, friends, and other parents. “It’s not fair that our kids have to go to an inferior school,” he said. “It’s not only the building that’s a problem—the teachers at school don’t care about our children’s education. They expect them to drop out by the eighth grade. How will our children succeed and become doctors, lawyers and teachers?”

 This book tells the true story of Sylvia Mendez and her parents’ fight to end school segregation in California in the historic Mendez v. Westminster decision. The Mendez decision was reached seven years prior to the Brown V. Board of Education case which dismantled the “separate but equal” doctrine in public education. From this story, we learn about the key role that our familias and comunidades had in the desegregation of our schools, which is often absent from the history we learn in school. In this book, I witness the courage and advocacy of the Mendez family and I am reminded of our proud history and our collective power when we come together.

Tracey T. Flores is an assistant professor of language and literacy in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Texas at Austin. She is a former English Language Development (ELD) and English language arts teacher, working for eight years in K-8 schools throughout Glendale and Phoenix, Arizona. Tracey is the founder of Somos Escritoras/We Are Writers (www.somosescritoras.com), a creative space for Latina girls (grades 6-8) that invites them to write, share and perform stories from their lived experiences using art, theater and writing as a tool for reflection and examination of the worlds. She can be contacted at: tflores@austin.utexas.edu and on Twitter @traceyhabla.

Don’t miss Tracey’s write-up for Latinxs in Kid Lit about her work with Somos Escritoras!