July-December 2018 Latinx Book Deals

 

Compiled by Cecilia Cackley

This is a series keeping track of the book deals announced by Latinx writers and illustrators. The purpose of this series is to celebrate book deals by authors and illustrators in our community and to advocate for more of them. If you are an agent and you have a Latinx client who just announced a deal, you can let me know on Twitter, @citymousedc. If you are a Latinx author or illustrator writing for children or young adults, and you just got a book deal, send me a message and we will celebrate with you! Here’s to many more wonderful books in the years to come.

July 3

Stacy Whitman at Lee & Low/Tu Books has bought 2014 New Visions Award finalist On These Magic Shores by Yamile Saied Méndez. The middle grade novel is about Minerva, who wants to be a normal kid and grow up to be the first Latina president of the U.S. But with her mother missing and no family to help her, she fights to keep her sisters safe and out of foster care—with the help of a friend and some fairy dust. Publication is planned for 2020. Author agent: Linda Camacho at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency.

 

Sylvie Frank at S&S/Wiseman has bought a middle grade novel, provisionally titled Santiago, by 2017 Pura Belpré Honor author Alexandra Diaz. The story is about a boy’s search for a family and a home as he navigates the perilous border between the U.S. and Mexico. Publication is slated for spring 2020. Author agent: Sarah Davies at Greenhouse Literary.

July 10

None.

July 12

Hannah Allaman and Emily Meehan at Disney Hyperion have acquired world rights to the graphic novel adaptation of Melissa de la Cruz’s The Isle of the Lost, book one of the Descendants series, adapted by Robert Venditti, illustrated by Kat Fajardo. Publication is planned for fall 2018. Illustrator agent: Linda Camacho at Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency.

 

Kristine Enderle at Magination Press has acquired world rights to Pat Mora‘s (l.) Singing Nana, illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez. The picture book, about a Latina grandmother who is showing early signs of dementia, has sprinklings of Spanish and a recipe for cherry empanadas. The book will release in September 2019. Author agent: Elizabeth Harding at Curtis Brown. Illustrator agent: Claire Easton at Painted Words.

July 17

None.

July 19

Ashley Hearn at Page Street has acquired Isabel Ibañez‘s debut fantasy, Woven in Moonlight, an #OwnVoices Bolivian-inspired political fantasy. In the book, a magically gifted weaver plays the role of double agent to restore her queen to a troubled throne, but upon confronting a masked vigilante and a warm-hearted princess, she discovers that corruption comes in all forms. Publication is set for fall 2019. Author agent: Mary C. Moore at Kimberley Cameron & Associates.

 

Ada Zhang at Sterling has acquired Serena Williams—G.O.A.T: Making the Case for the Greatest of All Time by Tami Charles (Like Vanessa), a nonfiction sports biography of Serena Williams that makes the argument that she is the greatest tennis player of all time, and aims to show readers how to make a clear, well-researched argument themselves. Publication is scheduled for spring 2019. Author agent: Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

July 24

None.

July 26

Shana Corey and Maria Modugno at Random House have bought world rights to Who Took My Nap? by Chris Grabenstein (l.), illustrated by Leo Espinosa. The debut picture book by Grabenstein, author of the Mr. Lemoncello’s Library series, tells the story of an energetic toddler who vehemently resists taking a nap until all the naps are used up and a spare one needs to be found. Publication is set for spring 2020.

July 31

None.

August 7

Monica Jean at Delacorte has acquired Lisa Allen-Agostini‘s Home Home, the story of a Trinidadian girl’s journey to recovery from a mental illness after she is sent to live with her estranged, lesbian aunt and removed from anything and everyone she knows to be home. Publication is set for spring 2020. Author agent: Margot Edwards at Rights Consultancy.

 

Tracey Keevan and Esther Cajahuaringa at Disney-Hyperion have acquired world rights to XO, Exoplanet by Deborah Underwood, illustrated by Jorge Lacera, a picture book told partly in letters between the planets of our solar system and an exoplanet. Publication is scheduled for summer 2020. Illustrator agent: John Cusick at Folio Literary Management/Folio Jr.

August 9

None.

August 16

Stephanie Owens Lurie at Disney-Hyperion/Rick Riordan Presents has bought world rights to Tehlor Kay Mejia‘s Paola Santiago and the Drowned Palace, about a 12-year-old aspiring scientist who begins to suspect that the infamous La Llorona is responsible for her best friend’s disappearance, and she must venture into an underwater world to prove it. Publication is scheduled for fall 2020. Author Agent: Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

 

Ellen Cormier at Dial has bought at auction author-illustrator Zara Gonzalez Hoang‘s picture book, A Piece of Wild, about Ren, who moves from the forest to the city, and Ava, who takes on the challenge of helping him find magic in his new environment. The story was inspired by the author’s father and his move from Puerto Rico to New York City. Publication is slated for spring 2020. Author agent: Andrea Morrison and Steven Malk at Writers House.

August 23

None.

August 30

Jill Santopolo at Philomel has preempted world rights to Tami Lewis Brown’s (l.) I Really [Don’t] Care, illustrated by Tania de Regil. Inspired by current events, the story is about a child whose selfishness turns into empathy when he discovers that our similarities matter more than our differences. Publication is set for fall 2019. Illustrator agent: Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literary.

September 6

Jennifer Ung at Simon Pulse has acquired North American rights, at auction, to Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s debut, Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything. Pitched as a Mexican Jessica Jones racing through a David Arnold novel with a pitstop in Roswell, the story centers on a Mexican-American girl who discovers that her mother was abducted by aliens. Publication is planned for summer 2020. Author agent: Elizabeth Bewley at Sterling Lord Literistic.

 

Eileen Rothschild at Wednesday Books has acquired world English rights to Francesca Flores‘s debut YA novel, Diamond City. In a city full of half-constructed subway tunnels, hidden magical dens, secret weapons markets, and wolf-sized spiders, a young assassin unravels a conspiracy that could rewrite her city’s history and—if it isn’t stopped—sink her country into a catastrophic war. Publication is set for winter 2020. Author agent: Pete Knapp at Park Literary & Media.

 

Kate Fletcher at Candlewick has bought world rights to Pura Belpré Author Award winner Meg Medina‘s (l.) new picture book, Evelyn Del Rey Is Moving Away, in which two best friends must say goodbye to each other when one of them moves away. Sonia Sánchez will illustrate; publication is slated for fall 2020. Author agent: Jennifer Rofé at the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

 

Candice Keimig at ABDO has acquired world rights to the hi-lo adventure series Gavin McNally’s Year Off by Emma Bland Smith (l.), illustrated by Mirelle Ortega. Gavin spends a year traveling the country with his family in an RV, a trip that provides action, adventure, and even danger, including racing from a wildfire, getting lost in a spooky mountain lodge, and saving baby alligators from poachers. Publication for the set of four books is planned for September 2019. Illustrator agent: Lucie Luddington at the Bright Agency.

 

Rotem Moscovich at Disney-Hyperion has bought The Magical Yet by Angela DiTerlizzi (l.), author of Some Bugs and Just Add Glitter. The book is about the special creature that accompanies each child and helps them accomplish the things they haven’t been able to accomplish—yet. Lorena Alvarez Gómez will illustrate. Publication is set for summer 2020. Illustrator agent: Anne Moore Armstrong at the Bright Agency.

September 11

None.

September 13

Nick Thomas at Scholastic/Levine has acquired The Moon Within author Aida Salazar‘s novel, The Land of the Cranes, a story inspired in part by her own childhood as an undocumented immigrant. The free verse middle grade novel tells the story of nine-year-old Betita, who believes that she and other migrants follow an Aztec prophecy to fly as free as cranes. When her father is deported to Mexico and she and her mother are detained by ICE, she turns to writing picture poems as her own way to fly above the deplorable conditions that she and other cranes experience while they are caged. Publication is set for spring 2020. Author agent: Marietta B. Zacker at the Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency.

 

Lisa Rosinsky at Barefoot Books has acquired the picture book That’s Not My Bed by debut author Erin Gunti (l.). Pitched via #KidPit on Twitter, the book is about a girl who is spending her first night at a homeless shelter with her mother, and who takes comfort in imagining they are on a fantastical adventure. Gunti drew on her experience as a child abuse and neglect investigator. Mexican artist Esteli Meza will illustrate; publication is set for fall 2019.

September 18

Alexis Orgera and Chad Reynolds at Penny Candy Books have signed a deal with debut picture book author Dani Gabriel and artist Robert Liu-Trujillo (Furqan’s First Flat Top) for world rights to Sam Not Samuel, a picture book about a transgender boy and his family’s journey through his transition. The book was inspired by the author’s son’s story, and will be published on September 10, 2019.

September 20

Liza Kaplan at Philomel has acquired Jenny Torres Sanchez‘s new book, In Exile. Told from the alternating points of view of four immigrant teens and the infamous death train known as La Bestia that carries them across the Mexican-U.S. border, the book charts the emotional and physical struggles of being forced to leave behind everything and everyone you’ve ever known in search of survival and a better life. Publication is slated for spring 2020. Author agent: Kerry Sparks at Levine Greenberg Rostan.

 

Nikki Garcia at Little, Brown has bought Jennifer Torres‘s The Fresh New Face of Griselda, a middle grade novel about Griselda’s struggles with the changes in her family after they lose their home, and her plan to fix their problems by selling makeup at school. Publication is planned for fall 2019. Author agent:  Jennifer Laughran at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

September 25

Connie Hsu at Roaring Brook Press has bought world rights to Kevin Noble Maillard‘s Fry Bread, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal. Told in verse, the book explores the culture and history surrounding this Native staple, and how it brings together family and community through love and tradition. Publication is scheduled for fall 2019. Illustrator agent:Stefanie Von Borstel at Full Circle Literary.

 

Karen Boss at Charlesbridge has acquired world rights to co-authors Jessica Betancourt-Perez (l.) and Karen Lynn Williams‘s (center) picture book, A Thousand White Butterflies, illustrated by Gina Maldonado. Isabella is new to the United States from Colombia, and she misses her papa; a snow day delays her starting school, but then she makes a new friend. Publication is planned for summer 2020. Illustrator agent: Lisa Musing at Advocate Art.

September 27

Karen Lotz at Candlewick Press has acquired, in a seven-house auction, librarian and Ambassador of School Libraries for Scholastic Book Fairs John Schu‘s debut pictdure book, This Is a Story. The story is an exploration of books, humanity, and the need for connection. Caldecott Honor artist Lauren Castillo (Nana in the City) will illustrate; the book is set to publish globally in 2022. Illustrator agent: Paul Rodeen at Rodeen Literary Management.

October 2

Jes Negrón at Kane Press/StarBerry Books has acquired world rights to debut author Valerie Bolling‘s (l.) Let’s Dance!, illustrated by Maine Diaz. The picture book showcases dances from all over the world, with rhythmic prose that encourages readers to tap, spin, and boogie along. Publication is slated for spring 2020. Illustrator agent: Mela Bolinao

October 4

Megan Tingley at Little, Brown has bought, in a preempt, world rights to three works by debut author-illustrator Ani Castillo, launching with Ping, a picture book that humorously explores the challenges and joys of self-expression and social connection. Publication is planned for fall 2019. Author agent: Samantha Haywood and Amy Tompkins at Transatlantic Agency.

October 11

None.

October 16

None.

October 18

None.

October 23

Ann Kelley at Random House/Schwartz & Wade has acquired world rights to Angela Burke Kunkel‘s (l.) Digging for Words: José Alberto Gutiérrez and the Library He Built, illustrated by Paola Escobar. The book tells the story of a garbage collector in Bogotá, known as the “Lord of the Books,” whose library project began with a single discarded book found on his garbage route, and has expanded to provide reading material to more than 200 schools, organizations, and libraries across Colombia. Publication is planned for fall 2020.

October 25

T.S. Ferguson at Inkyard Press has bought, at auction, world rights to Come On In, a YA anthology covering the experience of immigration, curated and edited by Adi Alsaid. The book features short stories by YA authors who are either immigrants or the children of immigrants, including Samira Ahmed, Zoraida Córdova, Alaya Dawn Johnson, Maurene Goo, Justine Larbalestier, Sona Charaipotra, and many others. The book is set for fall 2020. Author agent: Pete Knapp at Park Literary & Media.

 

Caitlyn Dlouhy at Atheneum/Dlouhy has acquired world rights to Jump at De Sun by Alicia D. Williams (l.) (Genesis Begins Again), a picture book biography of Zora Neale Hurston. Jacqueline Alcantara, the inaugural winner of the We Need Diverse Books Illustration Mentorship Award, will illustrate. Publication is scheduled for spring 2021. Illustrator agent: Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literary.

October 30

Weslie Turner at Macmillan/Imprint has acquired, at auction, Zoraida Córdova (l.) and Natalie C. Parker‘s YA fantasy anthology, Vampires Never Get Old, featuring fresh takes on old souls with vampire stories by Samira Ahmed, Dhonielle Clayton, Tessa Gratton, Heidi Heilig, Julie Murphy, Mark Oshiro, Rebecca Roanhorse, Laura Ruby, Victoria “V.E.” Schwab, and Kayla Whaley. Publication is planned for fall 2020. Author agent: Lara Perkins at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

November 1

None.

November 6

Joanna Cárdenas at Kokila has bought Each Tiny Spark, a middle grade novel by Pura Belpré Author Honor recipient Pablo Cartaya. In the story, sixth-grader Emilia Torres reconnects with her father over the art of welding as he adjusts from active duty to civilian life and their larger community reckons with the effects of redistricting. The book will publish in summer 2019. Author agent: Jess Regel at Foundry Literary + Media.

November 8

Erin Clarke at Knopf has bought, in an exclusive submission, author of Show and Prove and Efrain’s Secret Sofia Quintero‘s #Krisette, about a teenage girl’s struggle to understand why the police killing of her older sister Krisette fails to spark demands for justice. Inspired by #SayHerName, it features the central theme: “Krisette was deeply flawed and undeniably deserved to live.” Publication is planned for fall 2020. Author agent: Johanna V. Castillo at Writers House.

 

Kelsey Skea of Amazon/Two Lions has acquired world rights to Nancy Viau‘s Pruett & Soo, illustrated by Jorge Lacera, about an alien whose orderly black-and-white world is upended when he meets an alien from a colorful planet. Publication is set for summer 2020. Illustrator agent: John Cusick at Folio Jr./Folio Literary Management.

November 13

Jennifer Greene at Clarion has bought Natalia Sylvester‘s Running, a YA debut featuring 15-year-old Cuban-American Marianna Ruiz, whose father is running for president, in a novel about waking up, standing up, and what happens when you stop seeing your Dad as your hero—while the whole country is watching. Publication is planned for spring 2020. Author agent: Laura Dail at Laura Dail Literary Agency.

 

Amanda Ramirez at Simon & Schuster has bought world English rights to Anika Fajardo‘s debut middle grade novel, What If a Fish, featuring 11-year-old, half-Colombian Eddie Aguado. When his older half-brother’s trip to visit Eddie in Minnesota is canceled, Eddie—who has never left his hometown—is sent to spend the summer in Colombia instead. What follows is a generational story of family, identity, and all the things you can find at the end of a fishing line. Publication is planned for summer 2020. Author agent: Thao Le at Sandra Dijsktra Literary Agency.

 

Jes Negrón at Kane Press has acquired world rights to the Boys of Fire and Ash and the Movers series author Meaghan McIsaac‘s debut picture book, The Book of Laughs, illustrated by James Rey Sanchez (Irving Berlin, the Immigrant Boy Who Made America Sing), an interactive rhyming read-aloud. Publication is scheduled for spring 2020. Illustrator agent: Alexandra Gehringer at the Bright Agency.

 

Alexis Orgera and Chad Reynolds at Penny Candy have acquired world rights to Luli Gray‘s (l.) final book, The Pear Tree, a retelling of a folktale about an old woman named Esperanza who tricks Señor Death. Madelyn Goodnight will illustrate; the book will be published in late 2019. Author agent: Anna Olswanger at Olswanger Literary.

November 15

Cassandra Pelham Fulton at Scholastic/Graphix has bought, in a four-house auction, two Clementine Fox graphic novels by Leigh Luna. The humorous debut middle-grade series features a cast of animal friends who set off for a day of exploration at a mysterious local island; what follows is an unexpected day of adventure, friendship, and lessons learned. Book one is scheduled for 2020. Author agent: Jen Linnan at Linnan Literary Management.

November 20

None.

November 27

None.

November 29

None.

December 4

Reka Simonsen at S&S/Atheneum has bought at auction Emma Otheguy‘s (l.) picture book, A Sled for Gabo, about a boy and his family’s adjustment to snowy weather and their creative solutions for enjoying a wintry day. Pixar artist Ana Ramírez González will illustrate; Atheneum will publish simultaneous English- and Spanish-language editions in fall 2020. Author agent: Adriana Dominguez at Full Circle Literary. Illustartor agent: Andrea Morrison at Writers House.

December 6

None.

December 11

Mark Siegel at First Second has acquired Call Me Iggy, Jorge Aguirre (l.) and Rafael Rosado‘s middle grade graphic novel about Iggy, a Columbian-American teen who gets help from his grandparent’s ghosts to win over his crush. Publication is scheduled for 2021. Author agent: Tanya McKinnon at McKinnon McIntyre.

December 13

Eileen Rothschild at Wednesday Books has bought, in a six-figure preempt for North American rights, Romina Garber‘s Wolves of No World. Inspired by mythology from Garber’s native Argentina, the story weaves together contemporary issues with fantastical elements to explore the immigrant identity and what it means to be “illegal.” When her mother is arrested by ICE, a 16-year-old girl who thinks she’s hiding in Miami because she’s an illegal immigrant discovers it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal—it’s her entire existence. Publication is planned for spring/summer 2020. Author agent: Laura Rennert at Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

December 18

Anne Hoppe at Clarion has acquired world rights to Rebecca Gomez‘s (l.) picture book Federico and the Wolf, illustrated by Elisa Chavarri, a gender-swapped retelling of “Little Red Riding Hood” with a Mexican-American setting. Publication is scheduled for spring 2020. Author agent: Pam Victorio at D4EO Literary Agency. Illustrator agent: Claire Easton at Painted Words.

December 20

Sonali Fry at Little Bee has bought world rights to Silvia Lopez‘s (l.) Selena Quintanilla: Queen of Tejano Music, a picture book about the iconic queen of Tejano music, Selena Quintanilla, whose trailblazing success opened the door for other Latinx entertainers. Paola Escobar will illustrate; publication is scheduled for spring 2020. Author agent: Karen Grencik at Red Fox Literary. Illustrator agent:Amy Kitcherside at Pickled Ink.

 

 

cecilia-02-originalCecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

Latinx Book Reviewers Having Their Say, Part 3

This is the third and final installment in a roundtable conversation with some of the reviewers on our team. It can’t be said too often: we’re overflowing with THANKS for the hard work and wisdom they pour into their reviews! Still, we figured they’d have more to say on the topic of children’s and YA lit, so we posed a few questions. 

Latinxs in Kid Lit: Tell us about yourself as a child reader. How do those experiences color your impressions of the books you read now?

Araceli Méndez Hintermeister

Araceli Méndez Hintermeister is a librarian and archivist with a background in public, academic, and culinary libraries. I was an avid reader as a child and have very fond memories of Scholastic Book Fairs. My dad, who was a teacher, was one of my biggest literacy advocates. He would bring home piles of books and advanced reader copies that his colleagues shared with him. As a Mexican immigrant, he was mostly happy that these books were in English. It made for a really diverse set and rarely included bestsellers. Today, I still look for diversity in genres and aim to search for hidden gems. I also tend not to read bestsellers until years after their release.

Maria Ramos-Chertok is a writer, workshop leader and coach with The Butterfly Series. As a bi-cultural child (Cuban immigrant father/Jewish American mother) growing up in a majority white neighborhood in the 1960 and 70s, I did not have any books that reflected my Latinx heritage. As a result, it was very challenging for me to articulate my identity. My father, who spoke English with a heavy accent, chose not to teach us Spanish. That further compounded my confusion as child named “Maria Diana Ramos” who did not speak or understand Spanish.

Cecilia Cackley is a performing artist, creator of puppet theater, and a children’s bookseller based in Washington, DC. I was a voracious reader as a child and it has been a huge part of my identity since I was about six or seven years old. In elementary school, I mostly read historical fiction—I didn’t get into fantasy or sci-fi until I was in middle school. I read a lot of what we term the ‘canon’ like Anne of Green Gables, Little Women, etc and only as an adult have I realized that I never read a chapter book about a Latinx character as a kid. Even though I went to a dual immersion school, most of the Spanish books in the library were translations of things like the Little House series. I work hard to hold onto the mindset of a kid when I read, especially when reading books about Latinx characters and try to imagine how they would have affected me if I had read them earlier in life.

LiKL: What is your reviewing process like? Do you take notes throughout your reading time? Are there sticky flags involved? Are there sticky fingers involved (because: sugary snacks)?

Cecilia Cackley

Cecilia: I usually read a book through once and often I’m not sure if I’m going to be the person reviewing it. Since I’m a book buyer, I’m reading most books about six months ahead of publication date and my first thought is always for whether or not I’ll purchase this book for the store and what short blurb I can write to get a customer interested in it. Once I know I’m reviewing it for the blog, I make a list of points that I thought were especially interesting about the book and I read it a second time, paying close attention to those elements.

Maria: I tend to read a book and then sit with it for a bit before writing. I like to see what it makes me think about. I don’t typically take notes or use sticky flags and I avoid eating when I write because I find it distracting (I take a dedicated break when I eat). I really don’t like people who earmark pages in books or who write in books with pen, so I avoid doing both. Over the course of a few days, I might jot down some phrases to jog my memory for when I do sit down to write. I prefer an organic flow on the page to the pre-outlined, thoughtful preparation. I’m that way in a lot of my life –not just writing (spontaneous versus planned).

Araceli: Most of my reading happens during my long commute on the Boston T, so I keep tools to a minimum. Before writing a review, I keep a document on my phone filled with notes by categories — overall thoughts, teaching connections, and related readings. I make a note of quotes and page numbers that speak to me and my Latina identity. On my happiest reading days, I sit on my couch next to my dog. Unfortunately, this means keeping my snacks to a minimum.

LiKL: Your work as an educator, youth librarian, scholar of children’s literature, or author of books for young readers is bound to affect your work as a reviewer. Help us understand the professional perspective you bring to the evaluation of texts.

Cecilia:  I used to be a third grade teacher and now I am a bookseller (I still teach art as a freelancer). My number one goal has always been to give kids and teens books they will love, books that will give them a greater understanding of the world and books that will reflect their own experiences. However, as a bookseller, I’m focused on selling, and I try to figure out who the audience is for the book and the best way to describe it in order to move it off the shelf. I’m not a trained critic and haven’t studied literature in an academic way, so a lot of how I approach books is from the point of view of “Who will read it?” and “How do I sell it?”

Maria Ramos-Chertok

Maria: In my youth, I worked a lot with kids who had severe challenges (sexual abuse, emotional disturbance, severe physical disability). I always had an acute awareness of how dependent children are on adults, and how the information we provide them, including the stories we tell, influences their development and sense of self. I never wanted to betray any child’s trust, so in my evaluation of texts I look for honesty and stories grounded in truth. I had my own children later in life, age forty and forty-two, and that perspective is what guides me most as a reviewer. I want a book that I would feel good reading to my two sons; I want a book that will make them think; I want a book that has characters that look like them.

Araceli: As a librarian, I try to be open-minded. While I may sometimes find fault with the story line or characters, that does not make a book bad. It just means it may not be for me! Reading is all about finding the right fit for yourself. I don’t believe there are people who aren’t readers, I just think they haven’t found the right literature yet. With so many formats, genres, book lengths, and topics, the possibilities are endless. With this perspective, I try to think about what type of reader each book is aimed for and highlight what they would find the most interesting.

LiKL: Let’s draw up a wish list for authors and publishers. Which genres, storylines, locations, representations, or other considerations do you pine for in books for children or teens?

Maria: I am the daughter of a mother who came out as a lesbian when I was fourteen. That was in 1976 and there were no books that I knew of then that spoke to my circumstance or to my changing family construct. I love that there are books on alternative families now, but I also want characters who are racially and culturally mixed. I want layered characters and I also want strong feminist characters.

Cecilia: Central-American representation, PLEASE! I live and work in a city where the majority of the Latinx community has ties to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. Across the river in Virginia, we have a huge Bolivian community. I almost never see these kids represented in books, especially by authors who share their heritage.

LiKL: Now let’s flip the coin. What are your reading pet peeves? Specify the tired tropes, stereotypes, or overused plot machinations that cause you to roll your eyes—or to slam a book shut.

Cecilia: Books that treat Dia de los Muertos like Halloween, books where everyone from Latin America lives in a little village, books where all the Latina characters are the “tough girl,” books where all the Latinx characters are poor or in a gang.

Maria: I’m tired of girl meets cute boy and they have a crush. I know that sells, but there are many other realities related to sexual orientation that are non-binary and gender fluid. That is a huge challenge for kids and I’d like to see more fluidity in the gender roles and stories.

LiKL: What is your current hot read and which books are at the top of your to-be-read list?

Maria: Someone just sent me a copy of Dear Madam President: An Open Letter to the Women Who Will Run The World. It’s not a book I would have bought for myself, but I found it interesting and think it’s a good read — especially for young adult women. Also, two dear friends of mine Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy wrote the book Yes! We are Latinos (2013) and gifted me a copy. I absolutely love that young adult book because it does exactly what I’ve always wanted in a book: share a diverse grouping of stories about the many different ways to identify as Latinxs. I wish I’d had a copy when I was growing up, but having it now is healing something inside of me.

Cecilia: I’m about to start WE SET THE DARK ON FIRE by Tehlor Kay Mejia and I’m super excited for it!

—————————————————————————————-

In case you missed the previous posts in this series, here are links to Parts 1 and 2.

Unfortunately, not every current or recent contributor was available to respond to this Q&A. Here’s a list of those reviewers–mil gracias to each one! 

Chantel Acevedo reviewed Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad.

Dora M. Guzmán loves covering picture books. Here are her thoughts on Alma and How She Got Her Name/Alma y como obtuvo su nombre.

Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros supplied great insights on Jabberwalking.

Christa Jiménez did an excellent round-up review of baby books from indy publishers.

Marcela Peres provided her insights on Sci-Fu: Kick it Off.

Lettycia Terrones gave us a breakdown of The First Rule of Punk.

 

Latinx Book Reviewers Having Their Say, Part 1

Latinxs in Kid Lit owes tremendous thanks to the wonderful contributors who review books for us!  We were curious to learn how they conduct the reviewing process and which books sit atop their TBR lists, along with other topics. This post brings you Part 1 of a roundtable discussion with some of our current team members. Stay tuned—there’s more to come! 

Latinxs in Kid Lit: Tell us about yourself as a child reader. How do those experiences color your impressions of the books you read now?

Sanjuana Rodriguez

Sanjuana Rodriguez is Assistant Professor of Literacy and Reading Education in the Elementary and Early Childhood Department of Kennesaw State University.  I attended kindergarten through second grade in Mexico, where I was born. Since most of my reading there was in workbooks, my first memories of actual books was after we moved to the United States, where I read as a way to learn English. I vividly remember searching the library for books that included Latinx characters. There were only a handful, including a biography of Gloria Estefan, which I read about 100 times. This is partly why I developed an interest in books by and about Latinx. My own background taught me the importance of kids seeing their experiences reflected in texts.

Cris Rhodes is a lecturer in English, who recently completed her doctorate in literature. My mom was an elementary school teacher, so she knew the importance of reading to my twin sister and me. Because of this, I became an avid reader. I read and reread the Josefina American Girl series. She was the first character I encountered who looked like me, and I used to put on traditional dresses to pretend I was her. As an adult, I’ve revisited those books and am sad to say they’re pretty awful, as far as representation goes. Now, when I do research on representation, I keep my child-reader self in the back of my mind. That little girl deserved better, so I let that inform how I read and advocate for the many excellent Latinx children’s books available today.

Mark Oshiro, the author of Anger is a Gift, is also the driving force behind the website Mark Does StuffI started reading at a very young age, and after reading almost everything in my school library, I moved on to my local branch. But few books had characters like me. Prior to high school, I recall only Bless Me, Ultima, which I have not revisited in a long time. Reading The House on Mango Street, at 14, is what made me realize that people like me could be in a novel. It’s one of the most important books in my life.

Katrina Ortega is the young adult librarian at the Hamilton Grange Branch of the New York Public Library. As a child, I was just as avid a reader as I am today. My first experience with Latinx characters didn’t come until high school, when I was assigned to read Bless Me, Ultima. Before that, I was only exposed to Latinx characters through books published in Mexico, read to me by my mom. I was never exposed to characters who came from similar situations as my own—Mexican-Americans whose families had lived in the U.S. for generations— and my view of “normal” book characters was very different from what I saw in my own life. Looking at some of the books currently available, I cannot imagine how much more I might’ve related to characters who looked like me or lived in environments like the one in which I grew up.

LiKL: What is your reviewing process like? Do you take notes throughout your reading time? Are there sticky flags involved? Are there sticky fingers involved (because: sugary snacks)?

Mark Oshiro

Mark: For my Mark Does Stuff reviews, I record myself while reading, so no note-taking there! But for publications like Latinxs in KidLit, I do take notes. What stands out? Which parts do I want to comment on? I keep track of my thoughts and how they develop as I experience the text. Those transitions can often be the coolest part of reading.

Sanjuana: My first step is to read the book just for fun! As I reread, I begin to think about my impressions of the text. My last step is to see what resources already exist online that teachers or librarians may find helpful.

Katrina: I read through the book first, then write down my initial thoughts about characters, setting, plot-lines, and go back through certain parts to read them more closely. My style of reading is such that I sometimes get completely consumed by the story and forget to stop and write things down. 

Cris: I bookmark important moments and quotations with sticky flags as I go, but I also tend to have a document open on my computer or phone where I type out some rough sentences and thoughts that may make it into the final review. I end up Frankensteining these notes together after finishing the book.

LiKL: Your work as an educator, youth librarian, scholar of children’s literature, or author of books for young readers is bound to affect your work as a reviewer. Help us understand the professional perspective you bring to the evaluation of texts.

Cris Rhodes

Cris: It’s really hard to turn off my scholarly training when I’m reading, so whatever I consume is filtered through that lens. I always have questions running through the back of my mind: How might this book be approached from a critical standpoint? Does feminist theory apply? Queer theory? Trauma studies? Sometimes those questions don’t make it into a review. Regardless, they’re always present, even if on the periphery, and they generate other modes of analysis that do come out in the reviews.

Katrina: The area I live and work in is a predominantly Latinx community. One of my main responsibilities as a teen/young-adult librarian is making sure the youth I work with find content to which they can relate. This doesn’t mean characters have to be from Harlem or the Bronx, although that definitely is a huge selling point. Instead,  the books I suggest must have genuine and honest characters, situations, and conversations. When I review a book, I ask myself, “Is this believable? Would a teen say something like that or behave in that way?” Authenticity in the representation of characters and situations is super important. 

Sanjuana: My work as an elementary teacher shapes the work I do as a reviewer. I am always thinking about how texts could be used in the classroom and how those books can facilitate conversations, particularly around difficult or controversial issues, such as immigration. In my current role, working with pre-service teachers, one of my goals is introducing them to books they’re unlikely to encounter in their field-experience classrooms. I want them to see the value of diverse characters and experiences in books, which they will hopefully include in their own future classroom libraries.

Toni Margarita Plummer is an award-winning writer of short stories, who has also worked in publishing. I was an acquiring editor for many years, meaning I was the one always hoping for good reviews for my titles, for those one or two golden lines I could put up online or on the paperback. I think the best reviews accurately describe what the book is about, place it in context, and highlight the successes and shortcomings of the work, all toward the end of helping readers to discover books they will enjoy. That is what I try to give in my reviews, along with those few golden lines of praise someone can pluck.

LiKL: Let’s draw up a wish list for authors and publishers. Which genres, storylines, locations, representations, or other considerations do you pine for in books for children or teens?

Katrina Ortega

Katrina: I love reading stories about the border. It’s where I grew up, and writers like Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Benjamin Alíre Saenz take me back to the desert and open skies of West Texas. I also love reading fantasy that is Latinx-character centric. The Brooklyn Brujas series by Zoraida Córdova is by far my favorite. In addition, I’d love to read more about Latinx families that have been living in the United States for generations, like mine has—families that have sprawled across the country, and their stories of traversing back and forth.

Mark: More Afro-Latinx rep is super important to me. I’m always on the lookout for more rep of queer Latinx, LGBT Latinx, and ace Latinx!!! The tradition I write in deals with the difficulties Latinx people face, historically and in our present time. But these days, I am also super into fluffy beach reads. I want some big Latinx rom-com YAs. Soon. I may be writing one myself!

Cris: As a Latina who grew up in a rural area with no other Latinxs besides those I was related to, I want more stories like that–more diverse Latinx experiences represented. We need more queer Latinx stories, more Latinxs who don’t speak Spanish, more Latinxs living outside of big cities, more Latinxs who don’t have large, extended families. We also need to make being Latinx not a plot point—I love books where being Latinx is incidental to what’s going on.

Sanjuana: I see a need for more books that represent diversity in the immigration experience, as well as more bilingual texts that reflect the growing number of multilingual students in schools.

LiKL: Now let’s flip the coin. What are your reading pet peeves? Specify the tired tropes, stereotypes, or overused plot machinations that cause you to roll your eyes—or to slam a book shut.

Cris: In continuation of my previous answer, I’m tired of books that homogenize the Latinx experience, even if they don’t mean to do so. Not all Latinxs act, live, and think the same way.  I encounter certain plot lines over and over: barrio life, single-parent homes, racism and xenophobia. That’s not to say these things aren’t valid experiences or necessary for a certain readership.

Mark: My reading pet peeves? Writers using a very easily solved misunderstanding to fuel their plot. Plots that could be solved by people just TALKING to one another. Also, Latinx drug lords. I’ll roll my eyes at the inevitable ICE or US border story written by a white person, with an attitude of “how can this possibly happen in our country?” Spoiler alert: it’s been happening for far, far longer than this past year.

Sanjuana: I don’t like to read books that paint a perfect picture of the world. I believe that literature should represent current realities and issues that children and teens are grappling with.

Katrina: My biggest pet peeve? When authors use Spanish in their characters’ dialogue, but then repeat the dialogue in English. It drives me up the wall to have to read the same thing twice! 

LiKL: What is your current hot read and which books are at the top of your to-be-read list?

Toni Margarita Plummer

Toni: I am reading Roshani Chokshi’s Aru Shah and the End of Time, from the new Rick Riordan Presents imprint at Disney. Naturally, I am eager to read the imprint’s forthcoming Latinx titles by J.C. Cervantes and Carlos Hernandez. I think it’s so exciting that children will be invited to explore Latinx mythology through these books! I also still need to read I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L Sánchez and The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sanjuana: This a list of books currently on my desk ready to be read: Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Dear Martin by Nic Stone, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson, The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez ( I know that I’m late reading this one!). Picture books I can’t wait to read and share with kids: The Day you Begin by Jacquline Woodson, Dreamers by Yuyi Morales, and Imagine by Juan Felipe Herrera.

Mark: Just read Gabby Rivera’s Juliet Takes a Breath and it was just as stunning as I’d thought it would be. I’m about to read and review the newest Anna-Marie McLemore, and then am eager to start The Resolutions by Mia García!

Cris: My current “hot read” is any book I’m using for my dissertation, but I’m particularly enjoying digging into Celia C. Pérez’s The First Rule of Punk. My current TBR is anything I’m not using for my dissertation! I’m very excited to dive into Zoraida Cordova’s Brooklyn Brujas series. I recently began Lila Quintero Weaver’s My Year in the Middle, and there are some rad looking anthologies that have been recently released!

Katrina: I just finished Javier Zamora’s Unaccompanied, a semi-autobiographical (or so it seems) account of the journey north from Central America, written in verse. It’s heartbreaking and redemptive and beautifully put together. 

Our warmest thanks to the reviewers who participated in this roundtable discussion! We’ll continue the conversation in the next installment. 

 

Bilingual Border Kids: The Dilemma of Translating Summer of the Mariposas into Spanish

By David Bowles

Pretty soon after Summer of the Mariposas was published by Tu Books in 2012, teachers in the US started asking for a Spanish translation. This story of Mexican-American sisters who go on an odyssey into Mexico, confronting obstacles both supernatural and all-too-human, resonated with Latinx readers, and teachers especially wanted immigrant children and other Spanish-dominant ELLs to have full access to the narrative.

But author Guadalupe García McCall (and editor Stacy Whitman) had a very specific vision for the translation. The novel is narrated by Odilia Garza, oldest of the sisters, and it was important that her voice stay true to that of border girls like Guadalupe, even in Spanish.

Ideally, that vision meant hiring a Mexican-American from the Texas-Mexico border to translate the novel.

Five years later, Stacy approached me (full disclosure: she’s publishing a graphic novel that Raúl the Third and I created, Clockwork Curandera). I was excited at the chance to translate a book that I loved and had been teaching at the University of Texas Río Grande Valley, one written by a great friend, to boot!

Guadalupe and I dug in at once. As I translated, she was always available as a sounding board. I’ve discussed the particulars of our collaborative process on the Lee and Low Blog as well as in the journal Bookbird, but here I want to focus on a particular post-publication issue.

Some people just don’t like the translation.

Specifically, a couple of reviews—in Kirkus and elsewhere—fault the Spanish used in the translation as occasionally a “word-for-word” echo of the English, replete with Anglicisms.

Fair enough. I’m not going to actually claim there’s no truth to the critique. But there are some things you should definitely know before you leap to judgment.

The most important one is … most of that English flavor? It’s on purpose.

Quick digression. When I hear these sorts of complaints, they feel to me like code for one or more of the following: 1) this doesn’t read like typical juvenile literature written in Spanish; 2) this isn’t a recognizable Latin-American dialect of Spanish; 3) this feels too English-y in its syntax (though not ungrammatical); and 4) this has been clearly translated by someone who grew up in the US and was schooled primarily in English.

What none of those points takes into account is an obvious and pivotal fact. This book is a first-person narrative, by a Mexican-American teen. The strange Spanish? It’s how she sounds.

Guadalupe Garcia McCall and David Bowles

Let’s talk for a minute about Guadalupe García McCall and David Bowles. Both Mexican-American (yes, I’m half Anglo, but my family is Mexican-American and I identify as such). Both from the border (Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras versus McAllen/Reynosa). Both schooled EXCLUSIVELY in English (no bilingual education, no early efforts to promote our Spanish literacy). Both of us were robbed of that linguistic heritage. Both of us went on to earn degrees in English that we used to teach middle- and high-school English courses.

Our native dialect is border Spanish. Pocho Spanish, some would rudely put it. Rife with English syntax and borrowings, centuries-old forms and words that the rest of Latin-American might giggle or roll their collective eyes at. But it’s Spanish, yes it is. Aunque no te guste.

Now, I started studying formal Spanish in high school, then went on to minor in it for my BA and MA. I ended up teaching AP Spanish Literature for a time, etc. This process gave me a second, formal, literary dialect. I also have lived in Mexico, and I married a woman born in Monterrey. That’s where my third dialect arises, a version of Northern Mexican Spanish.

So, when I set out with Guadalupe to craft the voice of a border kid who loves to read and still has roots in Mexico, this mestizaje of Spanish dialects is what we hit upon.

It amazes me to no end that writers can do odd and/or regional dialogues all the time in English, but a similar attempt in Spanish elicits disapproving frowns.

I’m sorry, but not all books need to be translated into some neutral, RAE-approved literary Spanish. Some are so deeply rooted in a place, in a community, that we have to insist on breaking “the rules.”

To wrap this apologia up, I’ll just toss out two excerpts from chapter 8. No critic has added specifics to their negative reviews, but I will.

As a counter to the implication that the translation is too word-for-word, let’s look at this passage.

“Yup. According to this, the National Center for Missing and Exploded Children is looking for us,” Velia continued reading on.

“Exploited,” I corrected.

“What?” Velia asked, looking at me like I was confusing her.

“Exploi-t-ed, not exploded,” I explained. “The National Center for Missing and Exploi-t-ed Children.”

“Whatever,” Velia said.

Here’s the Spanish version.

—Pos, sí. Según esto, el Centro Nacional de Niños Desaparecidos y Explotados nos está buscando —continuó Velia—. Qué bueno que en nuestro caso no hay bombas.

—Claro que no hay bombas, mensa —corregí.

—¿Cómo? —preguntó Velia, mirándome como si la confundiera.

—Explotados en el sentido de “usados para cosas malas”, no explotados como “volados en pedazos por una bomba” —expliqué—. Ese centro busca a niños secuestrados, esclavizados, etcétera.

—Ah, órale —dijo Velia.

With the exception of “mirándome como si la confundiera” (someone else might’ve said “con una mirada confundida” or some other less English-y variation), the passage doesn’t ape the English at all. Sure, I can see some Spanish speakers objecting to “como si la confundiera,” expecting it to be followed by “con X cosa” (confusing her with X thing). But, yikes, this is pretty much the way lots of border folks would say it.

The other example is from the first paragraph of the chapter:

After I got back to the dead man’s houseI told Inés they were all out of newspapersthen we ate breakfast in record time.

Cuando volví a la casa del difuntole dije a Inés que ya se habían agotado los periódicos y luego desayunamos en tiempo récord.

Yes. Each part of that Spanish sentence is a (grammatically correct) mirror of its English equivalent.

Yes. There are multiple ways to have translated it more freely so that it doesn’t echo the original as much.

Yes. There are more “Mexican” ways of saying “in record time” than the (still pretty common) Anglicism “en tiempo récord.”

But that’s not what we were going for here. As a result, some people are going to not like my translation, just like some editors don’t like the peculiar voices of writers of color in English, with their code-switching and so on.

There are gatekeepers everywhere. Pero me vale.

ABOUT THE WRITER-TRANSLATOR: A Mexican-American author from deep South Texas, David Bowles is an assistant professor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Recipient of awards from the American Library Association, Texas Institute of Letters and Texas Associated Press, he has written thirteen titles, most notably the Pura Belpré Honor Book The Smoking Mirror and the critically acclaimed Feathered Serpent, Dark Heart of Sky: Mexican Myths, and They Call Me Güero: A Border Kid’s Poems. In 2019, Penguin will publish The Chupacabras of the Rio Grande, co-written with Adam Gidwitz as part of The Unicorn Rescue Society series, and Tu Books will release his steampunk graphic novel Clockwork Curandera. His work has also appeared in multiple venues such as Journal of Children’s Literature, Rattle, Strange Horizons, Apex Magazine, Translation Review, and Southwestern American Literature.

May and June 2018 Latinx Book Deals

 

Compiled by Cecilia Cackley

This is a bi-monthly series keeping track of the book deals announced by Latinx writers and illustrators. The purpose of this series is to celebrate book deals by authors and illustrators in our community and to advocate for more of them. If you are an agent and you have a Latinx client who just announced a deal, you can let me know on Twitter, @citymousedc. If you are a Latinx author or illustrator writing for children or young adults, and you just got a book deal, send me a message and we will celebrate with you! Here’s to many more wonderful books in the years to come.

May 1

Claudia Gabel at HarperCollins has bought Meteor by Anna-Marie McLemore (l.) and Tehlor Kay Mejia, in which two friends, one made of stardust and one fighting to save her family’s diner, take on their small town’s 50th annual pageant and talent competition in the hopes that they can change their town’s destiny, and their own. Publication is set for 2020. Author Agents: Taylor Martindale Kean at Full Circle Literary and Jim McCarthy at Dystel, Goderich & Bourret.

 

May 3

Amy Fitzgerald at Lerner/Carolrhoda has bought M.G. Velasco’s debut middle grade novel, Cardslinger. Set in 1881, the novel follows 13-year-old Jason “Shuffle” Jones on a quest to find his missing father, the creator of a popular card game that may offer clues to his whereabouts. Publication is slated for fall 2019. Author Agent: Dawn Frederick at Red Sofa Literary.

May 8

None.

May 10

None.

May 15

Karen Boersma and Karen Li at Owlkids have acquired world rights to Malaika’s Costume and Malaika’s Winter Carnival author Nadia L. Hohn‘s nonfiction picture book about Louise Bennett-Coverley, a Jamaican poet, performer, and champion of Jamaican Patois popularly known as Miss Lou. Publication is slated for fall 2019; the author represented herself.

Olivia Valcarce and Aimee Friedman at Scholastic have acquired Yamile Saied Méndez‘s Blizzard Besties, in which a 12-year-old girl teams up with new friends at a ski resort to rescue her brother who might be stranded in a blizzard. Publication is scheduled for December 26, 2018. Author Agent: Linda Camacho at Gallt and Zacker Literary Agency.

May 17

None

May 22

None.

May 24

Amara Hoshijo at Soho Teen has bought Latinx author Michelle Ruiz Keil‘s debut novel, All of Us with Wings, a YA fantasy imbued with elements of Aztec mythology. The book follows Xochi, a teenage governess living with her young ward Pallas’s glamorous rockstar family in San Francisco. When Xochi and Pallas perform a cathartic punk-rock ritual on the Equinox, they accidentally summon a pair of ancient creatures determined to avenge transgressions from Xochi’s troubled past. Publication is set for summer 2019. Author agent: Hannah Fergesen at KT Literary.

May 30

None.

June 5

Jessica MacLeish at HarperCollins has acquired, in a two-book deal, Efrén Divided by Ernesto Cisneros. The #ownvoices middle grade debut novel follows middle schooler Efrén as he takes on increased home responsibilities, while also dealing with a contentious school election and a fight with his best friend, after his mother is deported to Mexico and his father takes on a second job to earn the money to bring her back to the U.S. Publication is slated for early 2020, with an untitled second novel to follow in 2021. Author agent: Deborah Warren at East West Literary Agency.

June 7

None.

June 12

Allison Cohen at Running Press Kids has acquired world rights to a picture book by Tracey Kyle (l.), tentatively titled Alpaca Pati, about an alpaca who loves to dress up and what happens when she learns her beautiful coat will be sheared. Yoss Sanchez will illustrate. Publication is scheduled for fall 2019. Illustrator agent: Aurora Meyer.

June 14

None.

June 26

Brian Geffen at Henry Holt has acquired world rights to Blackwater, a debut YA graphic novel by Jeannette Arroyo and Ren Graham. When Tony, a restless star athlete, and Eli, a quiet outsider, form an unlikely friendship in their small Maine town, they find themselves tracking down the source of a werewolf curse and heeding the warnings of ghosts, all while exploring their budding feelings for each other and dealing with typical high school drama. Publication is scheduled for 2020.

June 28

Johnny Temple at Akashic/Black Sheep has acquired world English rights to Party: A Mystery, the first picture book by Antiguan novelist Jamaica Kincaid, to be illustrated by Ricardo Cortés. Initially published in the New Yorker in 1980, the story tells of three children flitting about an extravagant anniversary party for the Nancy Drew novels, until they see something scary that can’t be unseen. Publication is set for spring 2019. Author agent: Jeffrey Posternak at Wylie Agency. Illustrator agent: Stephen Barbara at InkWell Management.

 

 

Cackley_headshotCecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, DC. A longtime bookseller, she is currently the Children’s/YA buyer and event coordinator for East City Bookshop on Capitol Hill. Find out more about her art at www.ceciliacackley.com or follow her on Twitter @citymousedc

A Conversation with Dr. Frederick Aldama, Author and Scholar

Frederick Aldama’s Latino/a Children’s and Young Adult Writers on the Art of Storytelling is a compilation of creator interviews. Its table of contents includes many names familiar to readers of Latinxs in Kid Lit, such as Malín Alegria, Lulu Delacre, Margarita Engle, Maya Christina Gonzalez, Pat Mora, Daniel José Older and 27 others. The following post, an interview with Dr. Aldama, is a conversation about his conversations with writers and illustrators, illuminating the joys and challenges encountered by Latinx creators who work in young people’s literary arts. 

 

Cristina Raquel Rivera: First things first, this book is a major and undeniable milestone to larger communities that include not only the publishing and academic world, but also anyone who reads as and to children and young adults. Yet, through all the interviews a reoccurring topic came up suggesting a much-needed conversation regarding the lack of Latinx representation the publishing world. Can you speak to this theme? Did it play a role in the compilation of the book? How would you outline modes for changing the underrepresentation of Latinx in children’s and young adult literature after speaking with the authors in your book? Do you think that a greater Latinx representation in the children’s and young adult publishing community could change the political arena of today?

Frederick Luis Aldama: In many ways, you and the Latinxs in Kid Lit community are the ideal readers of my book. By this I mean, as Latinx parents, guardians, aunties and uncles, older siblings and so many others, we all think about and put into practice on a daily basis the use of Latinx children’s and young adult fiction and nonfiction. It’s the heart that beats in our chest. It’s a central part of the development of the many growing minds around us.

However, much work needs to be done not only to open eyes to many more and to show the world that this is a serious area of pedagogical practice and scholarly inquiry. And along with this, there needs to continue this conversation around issues of Latinx representation. By this I don’t mean that we become prescriptive, telling Latinx authors and artists what they should or shouldn’t do. In all Latinx art there should be total freedom. This said, from our local libraries all the way up to those pearly gates of the titans of the publishing world, there remain blinders to the resplendent ways that Latinx children’s literature and YA fiction can and does guide minds to wondrous new places. In this sense, they prove to be less an edifying device as a set of puentes or bridges that carry us into newly imagined storyworlds packed with characters who experience all sorts of emotions, thoughts, and feelings that make new our sense of self in the world.

With our Latinx community increasingly hunted and imprisoned, along with the ripping of children from families, there’s so much deep traumatic scarring happening today. We must fight not only to be sure that our fellow creators have the space and freedom to create literature for all ages, but also fight with our boots on the street to bandage this bleeding out of Latinx youth. This is not only happening in the most brutal way along the US/Mexico border with the US sanctioned concentration camps being set up that allow for the abuse of Latinx children. It’s happening in our schools where Latinx youth are disproportionately punished and suspended in ways that lead to a push-out then lock-out system. It’s happening all across the country with the underfunding of public schools that disallow teachers to have the adequate resources for growing Latinx minds to realize their full potentialities. It’s happening dramatically in Puerto Rico with a quarter of its schools permanently shuttered. It’s happening in higher education that’s becoming more and more expensive for Latinx and other working families in this country.

What I’m getting at is that our work as scholars is important. To put it bluntly, it’s a way to legitimize what you and I know to be a significant space of exploration of our past, present, and future. And, it’s important to keep in mind that historically we know that the only way to prevent further hemorrhaging of Latinx youth is to take a stand. One way or another, you’ll see this echoed by the Latinx creators I had the great fortune to interview for this book. It’s why my students choose not only to pursue PhDs, but to also work with LASER/Latinx Space for Enrichment Research. As a LASER Hub Co-coordinator, you meet weekly with Latinx students at Centennial High, working with them to ensure that they have as full an access as possible to knowledge and creativity—and the tools for further refining and shaping for a better tomorrow. You see clearly that it’s a two-pronged approach: your own scholarly work to further solidify and enrich Latinx children’s literature as an important area of study; and, to be working in the community in ways that materially and directly impact new generations of Latinx youth.

CRR: Throughout your interviews you touch on the narrative elements and devices that change when authors incorporate Latinidad in works for children and young adults. These conversations described narratives attempting to depict more than just youth culture but also what a Latinx childhood feels like. Looking back at these interviews, do you find that there are particular structures of narrative that are more useful or successful in the creation of works for the Latinx community? Do you find that these differ between literature for adult and children/YA? How do you see the narrative structures these authors spoke of addressing layers of experience? In other words, are these emerging experiences changing the publishing community or do you find them at any risk when being separated into its own category?

FLA: I’ve approached this question of narrative shaping device both as a scholar and creator. As a scholar, I dedicated my first theory books (a trilogy of sorts) to grappling with whether there are specific techniques used by Latinx authors—and not other authors. In my Postethnic Narrative Criticism (2003), Brown on Brown (2005), and A User’s Guide to Postcolonial and Borderland Fiction (2009), I sleuth out the narrative devices used by Latinx authors and poets to give shape to their respective images, characters, and storyworlds. (Later in my career I also consider the question of shaping device with regards to poetry in the book, Formal Matters in Latino Poetry.) And, like the children’s and YA fictions I discuss in this recent work of mine, I’m deeply interested in what these Latinx creators who have been historically pushed to the margins are interested in shaping for their audiences. At the same time, I’m careful not to collapse what I see as a shaping device or tool (whether a choice of meter in poetry or use of free indirect discourse in prose) with ideology. This doesn’t mean that Latinx children’s and YA fiction can’t transform. It does, and even radically. But it’s a transformation that takes place in its recalibration of our planetary periodic table of narrative fiction. Let me use the example of magical realism—something that I focus on in Postethnic Narrative Criticism. I distinguish between a Latinx author’s reconstruction of reality in magical realist fictional format and that of everyday material reality. I do so to remind myself and others that while narrative fiction is referential, there is a difference between it and everyday lived reality. So, while magical realism opens our eyes to new ways of perceiving, thinking, and feeling about the world, actual material transformation of our reality requires additional intellectual, interpretive, and material work that goes beyond the narrative fiction. Just as realism is an available shaping device for Latinx creators, so too is magical realism. We will leave it to the individual creator to decide how best they want to shape their story.

I have recently completed my first children’s book, With Papá. Together with artist Jason “Gonzo” Gonzalez (of La Mano del Destino fame) we worked together to slice into the building blocks of reality and reconstruct the synesthetic sensory education of a Latinx child with her papá. We worked long and hard to find then use specific storytelling devices that would convey the way children’s experience of the world is synesthetic and polymorphous: they smell tastes, touch sounds, visualize sounds. . . Choices of color and point of view proved important, too, as we wanted to create a story that celebrated Latinoness. And, I’m in the middle of a YA novel that gravitates around a set of Latinx teens living in Columbus, Ohio. I decided not to give shape to the story through the perspective of one character. Instead, I decided that each chapter would be told from the point of view of the respective character that makes up this storyworld. This allowed me to immerse readers in the subjectivity of all the different ways that Latinxs are in the world in terms of gender, sexuality, and class.

In my scholarship, discussions with Latinx children’s and YA authors, and my own creative work it’s clear to me that we are free to choose any and all shaping devices to tell reconstruct those building blocks of reality that make up our respective storyworlds.

CRR: Noticeably, breaking into the publishing industry has always held obstacles created by “gatekeepers.” Considering that most author’s in your book speak to the complicated nature of publishing in general, what are some ways of battling these gatekeepers to create greater representation of Latinx as consistently called for in your book? How do you see the work of these authors and the work you do in your book changing the academic field as a whole? How might Latinx studies in combination with children’s literature/young adult scholars improve the gap between “traditional” academic literature and children’s and young adult conversations? What challenges do you see the Latinx publishing community face in the current moment and upcoming future?

FLA: Unfortunately, Latinx authors continue to run up against road-blocks deliberately built by industry gatekeepers. We can and do create our fictions and nonfictions, but once we push these out into literary marketplace we face obstacles of all kinds.

The wonderful creators I interviewed for this book have all had a certain amount of struggle getting their work into the hands of readers—of all kinds. For this reason, we have been creating our own venues for getting Latinx children’s and YA literature into the world, from internet distribution to book series and grassroots grown publishing houses like Arte Publíco, Floricanto, Cinco Punto, Groundwood Books, Cedar Grove, and others. This fall I will launch a Latinx children’s and young adult tread-press series with University of Pittsburgh Press. And, internet venues like Latinx Kids Lit offer much needed forums for identifying all of our resplendent talent. This fall I will launch The Latinx Book Club through LASER, with an especial focus on children’s and young adult fiction. This will largely be an online forum moderated by myself and LASER Coordinator, Carlos Kelly. The Latinx Book Club will provide books to read and topics to consider as well as guide online discussions that will likely touch on all aspects concerning life for us Latinxs in the US.

CRR: Most the authors you interviewed in your book were college educated. Due to the lack of Latinx student who don’t even make it out of high school, do you find that publishing for Latinx youth a privileged position? Can you speak to how this level of education plays a role in publishing works about Latinx children/adolescents and childhood in general? Do you see the education level of the authors interviewed playing a viable role against the “gatekeepers” in the publishing world? Do you think this attribute may also deter aspiring Latinx authors who haven’t graduated high school? Or do you see the education level of so many Latinx authors influencing Latinx communities in a different way?

FLA: Education is becoming a scarce resource—no, commodity. So, growing a mind in a soil-rich learning environment where one can not only learn to read literature and undertake scientific discovery is becoming more and more for the Haves—and in this country, this remains steadfastly held by race (white) and gender (male) privilege. Until there’s a level playing field where all have access to the resplendent wonders of reading, writing, creating, making science and all else, this will be the case.

Latinx creators don’t have it easy by any means. Most of the Latinx authors interviewed in the book make huge sacrifices on a daily basis to be able to create their children’s and YA fictions. By this I mean, even the most, say, commercially successful authors work other jobs; the more fortunate find jobs attached to universities where they can teach (creative writing courses, for instance) that doesn’t intrude quite as much as jobs in completely unrelated areas.

CRR: Given that the literary academic community often belittles the study of children’s and young adult literature (or better put—doesn’t take it seriously), how do you think your book might change the way we talk about this issue? In other words, what role do you see Latinx children’s and young adult literature playing in the grand scheme of things?

FLA: Unfortunately, people confuse the seeming simplicity of children’s and YA fiction with simplemindedness. The scholarly work that you and I do along with our colleagues here at OSU like Michelle Abate and others across the country like Mary Pat Brady, Jamie Naidoo, and Philip Serrato, to name a few, not only reveals, say, the complexity of children’s and YA literature, in the long run and by accretion it legitimizes further, deeper study. Today you are writing a dissertation dedicated to Latinx children’s literature. This wasn’t possible when I was writing my dissertation—and not by a long shot.

CRR: What was your favorite part of publishing this collection of interviews? What other work are you considering pursuing on the topic of children’s and young adult Latinx themes?

FLA: As you can imagine, my favorite parts were: re-reading and reading anew all the fiction created by the many authors interviewed; and, learning deeply from the creators themselves. We know intuitively and even through our scholarly study a lot about how this literature works. However, it’s not until you speak with the creators that this knowledge comes alive—and is even radically revised.

As far as new work in this area, I’m singularly focused on creating a space for reading seriously (the LASER Latinx Book Club) and publishing (University of Pittsburgh Press trade-book series) Latinx children’s and YA fiction. As I mentioned already, I’ve just finished my children’s book, With Papá, and amcompleting a YA novel that’s filled with all variety of teen Latinxs.

CRR: Lastly, what advice would you give to anyone in the Latinx community who wants to pursue a career in the publishing world or artistic world—in and outside of academia?

FLA: My simple and brief advice: write and learn what you are passionate about and don’t take no for an answer.

For ordering information, visit University of Pittsburgh Press.

Author: Frederick Luis Aldama is Arts & Humanities Distinguished Professor and University Distinguished Scholar at The Ohio State University. In addition to Latino/a Children’s and Young Adult Writers on the Art of Storytelling, Dr. Aldama has published over 30 works of scholarship and fiction, including Your Brain on Latino Comics: From Gus Arriola to Los Bros Hernandez, and Long Stories Cut Short: Fictions from the Borderlands. He is creator of the first documentary on the history of Latinx comics and editor of numerous book series, including Latinographix—a trade-press series that publishes Latinx graphic fiction and nonfiction. Learn more at ProfessorLatinX.

Interviewer: Cristina Raquel Rivera is a Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University. She has published numerous articles on Latino/a children’s literature and animation, including recently “Branding ‘Latinohood,’ Juan Bobo, and the Commodification of Dora the Explorer” in The Routledge Companion to Latino/a Pop Culture. She works as a Hub Co-Cordinator for OSU’s LASER/Latinx Space for Enrichment Research to create higher education pipelines for Columbus’s Latinx youth.