Hurricane Maria Anniversary Auction to Support Latinx Youth

 

A year ago today, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, killing more than 3,000 people and leaving everyone on the island without power for months. The anniversary of the hurricane hitting the island coincides with both National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) and back to school time.

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We all know that teachers in certain areas are woefully underfunded and that Latinx children are often years behind their peers because of a lack of resources. Therefore, Latinxs in Kid Lit is organizing an auction to benefit people working directly with Latinx youth both on the island and the mainland. We will buy books and supplies for three youth groups on the island, and we will try to fund as many Donors Choose projects that will benefit Latinx students.

Our own Sujei Lugo has been working directly with the three programs listed below. She says, “A goal of these collaborations is to acquire books, art supplies, and materials to support their work. These projects are also a pillar to youth and the community’s reading and informational interests and provide emotional, recreational, and educational support. Many students in these areas are also homeschoolers due to the massive school closures, and parents, community activists, and retired educators are working together to support children’s education.”

Here are descriptions of the projects in Puerto Rico that we will help with whatever money we raise.

33553600_10216125610396942_4440778016905232384_nEnvironmental Educational Program & Creative Art Therapy, Camp Tabonuco (Jayuya, Puerto Rico)

This is a collaboration with Rosaura Rodríguez, Puerto Rican artist and educator. Rosaura works with youth by providing workshops on creating art therapy and autobiographical illustrated narratives. She also works with and is the co-founder of an environmental educational program, Camp Tabonuco, that fosters youth leadership and collaboration through sustainable agriculture, art education and environmental literacy.

La Torre Community Library/Center (Sabana Grande, Puerto Rico)

A collaboration with Angelo Rivera, Puerto Rican educator and activist from Sujei’s hometown of Sabana Grande. The only elementary public school in the rural community of La Torre was recently closed due to the Department of Education of Puerto Rico post-Hurricane María school closures, abandonment, and privatization plans. The community doesn’t have access to the school, but were able to claim the school’s sports complex and rooms to create a community library. Angelo and several community members created a non-profit organization named COSECHA (Centro, Oportunidades, Servicios, Educativos, Comunitarios, Hermandad, Artes–translates to Center, Opportunities, Services, Educational, Communities, Kinship, Arts) to help coordinate and manage community activities, programs, and a library.

La Maleta Cuentera

A collaboration with Isamar Abreu Gómez, Puerto Rican librarian, activist, theatre performer, and storyteller. La Maleta Cuentera (Storytelling Travel Bag) is a social justice literacy project created post-Hurricane María, that intersects children’s literature, activism, and children’s experiences with their natural and social environments. She “travels” to schools and communities to share stories and activities with children, and showcase that the travel bag, not only is used to migrate to other places, but also to transport stories and experiences.

 

 

What to do:

Click onto the tab HURRICANE MARIA ANNIVERSARY AUCTION 2018 in the main menu of our website. Under that tab, you will see a page link for each of the items being offered in the auction. In the comments section, leave your name, email, and your bid. We will contact you after the auction if you are the winner. We will leave the auction open for one week, ending Thursday, September 27, 2018. Shipping of books will be limited to the continental U.S. and its territories.

Here are the items up for bid:

Author Francisco X. Stork is offering to read a full middle grade or young adult novel and provide a one-page critique.

Author Meg Medina is offering a signed copy of three of her books–a young adult, a middle grade, and a picture book. She is offering a copy of Burn Baby Burn, Merci Suárez Changes Gears, and Mango, Abuela, and Me.

Author Zoraida Córdova is offering a signed copy of each of her young adult novels: the Vicious Deep trilogy in paperback and the first two books in the Brooklyn Bruja series in hardcover.

Author Pablo Cartaya is offering a signed, personalized copy of each of his middle grade novels: The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamora, a Pura Belpré Honor Book, and Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish. He is also offering a 30-minute Skype session!

Author Mia García is offering a signed copy of her young adult novel, Even if the Sky Falls, and a 50-page manuscript critique of a middle grade or young adult novel.

Author Jenny Torres Sanchez is offering a signed copy of her latest young adult novel, The Fall of Innocence. She is also offering a 25-page critique of a middle grade or young adult novel.

Author Lilliam Rivera is offering signed copies of her young adult novels, The Education of Margot Sanchez and Dealing in Dreams (releases 3/19). She is also offering a tote bag and a query letter critique.

Author Christina Soontornvat is offering signed copies of her middle grade novels, The Changelings and In a Dark Land: A Changelings Story. She is also offering to critique the first 10 pages of a middle grade novel or a full picture book manuscript.

Author Anna-Marie McLemore is offering signed copies of her first three young adult novels, The Weight of Feathers, When the Moon Was Ours, and Wild Beauty.

Author Traci Sorell is offering to critique a full fiction or nonfiction picture book manuscript.

Author Kristina Pérez is offering to critique 50 pages of a young adult manuscript.

Author-illustrator Carolyn Dee Flores is offering two signed copies of The Amazing Watercolor Fish, a piece of artwork from the book, and a 30-minute Skype school visit.

Author Cindy L. Rodriguez is offering a signed copy of When Reason Breaks and Life Inside My Mind: 31 Authors Share Their Personal Struggles. She is also offering bookmarks and will make a personal donation, matching the highest bid, up to $500.

Author-artist Lila Quintero Weaver is offering a signed copy of her middle grade novel, My Year in the Middle, related swag, and a piece of original art from her graphic memoir, Darkroom: My Life In Black and White.

Author Diana Rodriguez Wallach is offering a signed copy of three of her books and a bookmark. The titles are Amor and Summer Secrets, Proof of Lies, and Lies that Bind.

Author Karen Bao is offering a signed copy of each of her books in The Dove Chronicles trilogy. The titles are: Dove Arising, Dove Exiled, Dove Alight.

Author Ashley Hope Pérez is offering a signed, personalized copy of each of her YA novels: Out of Darkness, a Printz Honor Book, as well as The Knife and the Butterfly, and What Can’t Wait.

Author Claudia Guadalupe Martinez is offering a sensitivity read of a manuscript with Xicanx or Latinx content. The winner will work out the details with Claudia.

Author Sofia Quintero is offering an ebook bundle of five books, all by Puerto Rican authors.

Author Monica Brown is offering a signed set of the Lola Levine chapter books (#1-6), illustrated by Angela Dominguez.

Illustrator Rafael López is offering a signed print and a signed book. To honor the 1-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, Rafael painted a portrait of Chef José Andrés (who he had the pleasure of meeting) as an homage to his work of serving food to millions of people in Puerto Rico. Rafael will send a signed print and signed copy of his newest book, We’ve Got the Whole World In Our Hands/Tenemos el mundo eterno en las manos, published by Scholastic.

Seven-Book Middle Grade Prize Pack: Authors Diana López, Darlene P. Campos, Celia C. PérezTami Charles, Aida Salazar, Yamile Saied Méndez, and Jennifer Cervantes are offering signed copies of their  books. The titles are: Lucky Luna, Summer Camp is Cancelled, The First Rule of Punk, Definitely Daphne, The Moon Within, Blizzard Besties, and The Storm Runner.

Six-Book Picture Book Prize Pack: Author Yamile Saied Méndez is offering two of her favorite picture books: Dreamers by Yuyi Morales and The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by Rafael López. Illustrator Elisa Chavarri is offering a signed copy of Rainbow Weaver/Tejedora del Arcoiris. Author-Illustrator Robert Liu-Trujillo is offering a signed copy of Furqan’s First Flat Top, and author-illustrator Juana Martinez-Neal is offering a signed copy of Alma and How She Got Her Name in English and Alma y cómo obtuvo su nombre in Spanish.

Linda Camacho, a literary agent with Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency, is offering a query letter critique.

Adriana Domínguez, a literary agent with Full Circle Literary, is offering a query letter critique plus a critique of five pages of a middle grade or young adult novel or a full critique of a picture book.

Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel, literary agent and co-founder of Full Circle Literary, is offering a critique of a full picture book manuscript or the first 25 pages of a middle grade manuscript, plus a 20-minute conversation about the project.

Author-illustrator Lulu Delacre is offering two watercolor illustrations from the Rafi and Rosie series (coquí siblings from Puerto Rico) along with an autographed set of the Plunge Into Reading series; three titles in the series are published in English and Spanish.

**Note: Guadalupe Garcia McCall is donating three signed copies of All the Stars Denied directly to the programs in need. Ismée Williams is donating copies of Water in May.

Thank you in advance to everyone who bids and shares information about our auction. Thank you for supporting Latinx youth!

 

 

Book Review: Tight by Torrey Maldonado

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This review by Lila Quintero Weaver is based on an advance uncorrected galley.

PUBLISHER’S DESCRIPTION: Bryan has a good idea of what’s tight to him—reading comics, drawing superheroes, and hanging out with no drama. But “no drama” doesn’t come with the territory of where he’s from, so he’s feeling wound up tight. While his mom encourages his calm, thoughtful nature, his quick-tempered dad says he needs to be tough because it’s better for a guy to be feared than liked.

And now Bryan’s new friend Mike is putting the pressure on—all of a sudden, his ideas of fun are crazy risky. When Bryan’s dad ends up back in jail, something in Bryan snaps and he allows Mike to take the lead. At first it’s a rush as Bryan starts cutting school and subway surfing. But Bryan never feels quite right when he’s acting wrong, and Mike ends up pushing him too far.

Fortunately, if there’s anything Bryan has learned from his favorite superheroes, it’s that he has the power to stand up for what he believes.

MY TWO CENTS: Starring an Afro-Puerto Rican character from Brooklyn, NY, this entertaining middle-grade novel is a brilliant read layered with emotional richness and nuance. Along with its primary selling point as a solid and strongly voiced story, Tight delivers an important but subtly threaded message on self-respect and moral courage. Bryan’s internal wrestling match, one brought on by a questionable friendship, lies at the crux of the story. In the hands of a lesser writer, this story line could have easily devolved into a morality play. But Maldonado avoids such cardboard cutouts in favor of a skillfully crafted portrait of a relatable middle-grader facing down his vulnerabilities and learning how to choose the higher road.

Sharply drawn from head to toe, Bryan is a sympathetic character with a mounting dilemma that begins as soon as a boy named Mike makes his appearance. Initially, Bryan feels suspicious of the new boy, but lets go of those reservations when Mike reveals a kindred love of superhero comic books. Still, subtle things about Mike continue to nag at Bryan, setting up an undercurrent of mistrust. As Mike works his charisma on Bryan, gradually opening doors to dangerous and alluring pastimes, Bryan begins to rationalize his original misgivings. To complicate matters, things on the home front are going south, too. Bryan’s father, who’s recently gotten out of jail, seems to be courting trouble again, putting the whole family in a state of tension.

Although at times Bryan succumbs to risky behavior, he seems most like himself when the drama is dialed way down. He actually relishes the peace and quiet of his “office,” an unused desk at his mother’s workplace, where he spreads out his homework. In this vein, we also witness him happily chatting on a park bench with his mom, who he endearingly refers to as “my heart.”

You cannot help but love Bryan. He reads as a real boy, with a real life, and a rings-true voice that expresses rich interiority. But as if to test his tender side, Bryan’s world is complicated by the code of machismo. At his school and in his neighborhood, the message telegraphed at boys is don’t be soft. This refrain of warped masculinity features in many a Latinx treatment. Fortunately, Maldonado lifts the story above such tropes by enlivening Bryan with contradictory currents and introducing fresh possibilities that will keep readers on their toes.

Other elements of Latinx life include food (chicharrones, alcapurrias) and observations on ethnic identity. In an early scene, Bryan reveals that he purchased the new Miles Morales Spider-Man comic because “he’s my age and looks like me. He’s half black and half Puerto Rican. I’m full Rican but heads rarely guess right.”

It’s obvious that Bryan has a lot on his plate. Here he is at the corner bodega presenting a note from his mom, in which she appeals for store credit.

When I finally have everything, I go to the counter. Hector checks if the list matches what I got. I can’t have nothing extra.

I stare back at the chocolate powder we can’t afford to buy. Chocolate milk tastes so good.

Right then, this girl Melanie from my school comes in and watches as Hector bags my stuff and hands me a Post-it. “This is how much your father owes.”

Dang! Why’d he have to mention us owing money? I nervous-smile at Melanie, and just like I thought, she eyes me all in my sauce and trying to know the flavor.

What’s for her to figure out? I’m a broke joke.

Does it need pointing out that Maldonado nails the art of voice?

In addition, he commands a spare approach to description, choosing a handful of small details for the sizzle they bring. One of my favorite examples of colorful scene-setting occurs when Bryan and Mike pass through a crowded train station. “Mike ducks under a turnstile and races up the steps. ‘PAY YOUR FARE!’ the teller’s voice yells through the microphone in the MetroCard booth. It sounds extra scary because it’s all metallic, like Darth Vader’s voice.”

This is a novel that kid readers across the board will go for, and that readers hungry for Afro-Latinx representation will cheer on. In Bryan, Maldonado has created a vivid, relatable character with a lot going on between his ears. He has also built a fascinating and realistic world for this character to occupy, and spun a story that packs punch, enclosing within it hidden, but never preachy, lessons about life and love and healthy self-respect.

IMG_5888ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  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

Click here to see our recent Q&A with Torrey Maldonado.

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Lila Quintero Weaver is the author of a graphic memoir, Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White, and a novel for kids, My Year in the Middle. Connect with her on Twitter, where her handle is @LilaQWeaver.

 

 

 

 

Summer Break Begins!

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No matter where you’re headed— beach, mountains, big city, or settling down to a lovely staycation—please don’t forget to pack Latinx books for your young readers–and YOU!

 

As of today, we are on summer vacation! When we return in September, we’ll celebrate more books by Latinx creators. Through the remaining summer weeks, we’ll keep in touch by tweeting past posts you may have missed, but shouldn’t!

You keep in touch, too. If you would like to contribute a blog post related to our mission, or request a review of a book, please contact us through the form on the blog or by emailing: latinosinkidlit@gmail.com. Note: We regrettably cannot guarantee a review for every book, as you’ll see in our reviewing policy.

So look for new posts in September, and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Happy summer, everyone!

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Happy Book Birthday to My Year in the Middle!

Happy book birthday to My Year in the Middle! What you are gazing at is my debut children’s book. It’s a middle-grade novel featuring a 12-year-old Latina character named Lu Olivera— a story of friendship, self-discovery, athletic challenges, and the courage to stand up to racism. 

Here is what Shelf Awareness wrote about My Year in the Middle: “Weaver, who previously published a graphic memoir called Darkroom: A Memoir in Black and White, writes vividly about the spaces in the middle, between black and white. Any reader who has struggled to find a safe and happy place between polarities will appreciate Weaver’s deep understanding of just how difficult–and rewarding–this can be.” (You can read the whole review here.)

And now, for a quick rundown of the story’s major points, follow this picture essay, complete with sticky notes and chalk dust.  

NOTE: Each chapter starts off with a pencil drawing that I created. I hope young readers enjoy the vintage touches these images bring.

 

And did I mention there’s running? One day in PE class, it hits Lu that she can run like the blue blazes! Field Day is around the corner—and with it comes the chance to race against a fierce and accomplished competitor.

Racial and political drama is everywhere—in the headlines, at the breakfast table, in the classroom. Based on historical events that I remember from my own youth, the gubernatorial primary playing out in the story’s background serves as a textbook case for nasty elections. Somehow Lu gets caught in this tangle.

Is there romance? Oh yes!

Also: MUSIC. Lots of timeless rock & roll and delicious soul music, just the way Lu and her friends dig it!

Okay, this is only a blitz tour! If you’d like to learn more about the novel itself and the story behind the story, please visit my website. There, you will find extensive information, including a downloadable discussion guide developed by education specialists at Candlewick Press, as well as links to early reviews—plus some My Year in the Middle extras for young readers!

Please ask your librarian to acquire My Year in the Middle for your community or school library! It’s also available for sale at many independent bookstores and all major national booksellers. It’s listed here in Candlewick’s catalog. 

One more thing: I wrote a from-the-heart guest post for Nerdy Book Club. Please check it out by clicking HERE—and while you’re there, enter their giveaway (time sensitive). Each of four winners will receive a copy of My Year in the Middle, plus one of the original art pieces I created for the book. Here’s an advance peek of what winners will receive.

 

Book Review: All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry

Review by Elena Foulis

DESCRIPTION FROM THE AUTHOR’S WEBSITE: Sarah Jacqueline Crow and James Holt work in the vast maguey fields that span the bone-dry Southwest, a thirsty, infinite land that is both seductive and fearsome. In this rough, transient landscape, Sarah Jac and James have fallen in love. They’re tough and brave, and they have big dreams. Soon they will save up enough money to go east. But until then, they keep their heads down, their muscles tensed, and above all, their love secret.

When a horrible accident forces Sarah Jac and James to start over on a new, possibly cursed ranch called the Real Marvelous, the delicate balance they’ve found begins to give way. And James and Sarah Jac will have to pay a frighteningly high price for their love.

MY TWO CENTS: All the Wind in the World by Samantha Mabry is a novel that offers a different type of love story. Although the book description focuses on the protagonists’ love relationship, the novel is much more than that. Situated in the maguey fields where Sarah Jac and James work as skilled jimadors, along with many others, the landscape is as important as Sarah Jac and James’ commitment to stay together. That is, their love story is rooted in the realization that family and commitment go beyond romantic feelings, this, I find, offers a fresh alternative for YA readers.

After an accident in Truth and Consequences—that results in the death of one of the foremen—our protagonists are forced to flee and find work at a different farm. They travel by jumping onto trains, staying together and pretending they are cousins when people are around. Despite the warnings of danger and out of necessity, they end up at the Real Marvelous, another maguey plantation.

Mabry names the farm the “Real Marvelous” alluding to the narrative genre of lo real maravilloso first used in Alejo Carpentier’s The Kingdom of This World (1949). In lo real maravilloso, and in Carpentier’s novel, the characters and the action create a fantastical world—full of folk stories, cures, rituals and in which the environment are part of the lives of the people who inhabit it. Indeed, the place called the Marvelous Real requires the reader to accept a new logic and people’s relationships to place and belonging. In this sense, predictions and premonitions are believed and taken seriously by the people who hear them, and each tragedy is connected to a type of curse. The identification with the land, as experienced by the jimadors and others who live in this place, is made palpable by how the weather affects their work, moods and even horrific accidents such as the one when a girl is chewed and killed by one the foreman’s mastiffs.

The Marvelous Real, both the place and genre, embraces disorder and confusion. Sarah Jac and James love is threatened when they are made to work in the owner’s home. Sarah works as a horse trainer for Bell the youngest daughter and James works in the house, close to Farrah the oldest daughter. For Sarah, it is evident that James is under a spell and has forgotten about their plan to save enough money and buy land on the east coast. Mabry does an excellent job of slowly disclosing background information about how Sarah and James meet, Sarah’s life before James and the death of her sister Lane.

The ending of this story stays true to the rest of the narrative technique. There is confusion, disorder, half-truths, and a large-scale rebellion between the jimadors, foremen and land owner. This brings about freedom and a new life for Sarah Jac, James and a new sister.

TEACHING TIPS: Because this novel talks about the lives and condition of low-wage transient jimadors and maguey farming, it would be appropriate to discuss this in more detail. The use of Lo Real Maravilloso is essential to a better understanding of the action of the novel and the connection with Latin America and indigenous communities in the southwestern United States.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR from her websiteSamantha Mabry grew up in Dallas and attended college at Southern Methodist University. She majored in English literature, minored in Spanish, and studied Latin and Classics. She received a master’s degree in English from Boston College. She teaches in a community college in Dallas and spends as much time as possible in the west Texas desert.

 

 

 

 

ABOUT THE REVIEWERElena 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.

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.