Crossing Borders: A Guest Post by Author Reyna Grande

dsc_0205In my memoir, The Distance Between Us, I write about my experience as a border crosser. Borders have always been a part of my life. It saddens me to see that the world—instead of tearing down border walls—is actually building more of them. There are more border barriers today than ever before. In 1989 there were only 15 border walls in the world. Today there are more than 63, and counting.

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The author’s childhood home

My first experience with borders came at the age of two when my father left Mexico to seek a better life in the U.S. Two years later, my mother also left to the land across the border, leaving me and my siblings behind. By the time I was five, I had no mother and no father with me, and a border stood between us, separating us. I was left behind to yearn for the day when my family would be reunited.

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Reyna (center) and siblings Carlos & Mago

At the age of nine I found myself face to face with that border. I had to run across it, become a ‘criminal’, break U.S. law for a chance to have a father again. I succeeded on my third attempt and began my new life in Los Angeles at my father’s house. I thought I was done with borders; I didn’t know there would be more to be crossed—cultural borders, language borders, legal borders, gender and career borders, and more.

As a Mexican immigrant, as a woman of color, as a Latina writer I’ve fought to break down the barriers American society puts up for the groups I belong to. It’s always been a struggle to be Mexican in this country, and especially so in these dark times. For over a year Mexican immigrants had been under attack, blatantly demeaned and vilified by Donald Trump, who began his presidential campaign by calling Mexicans rapists, drug dealers, criminals. He said he would literally build more border walls, and now that he’s been elected president, we will bear witness to his hatred of my people. But he’s wrong about many things—especially when he said that Mexico doesn’t send its best. Like most Mexican immigrants, I have given nothing but my best to this country since the moment I crossed the U.S. border. I’ve worked hard at learning the language, understanding the American way of life, at pursuing my education, honing my writing craft, so that one day I could be a contributing member of this society and use my skills and passion to keep this country great. This is what most immigrants do. Our work ethic, our drive, our perseverance, our passion, our commitment to succeed and to give our best is undeniable.

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Reyna in her college years

Being a woman has never been easy. In the U.S. we might have it better than other countries, but still, women here have always struggled to overcome the borders put before us. We’ve had a long battle to redefine our place in the home and the workplace, our right to earn equal pay to what men receive. To be seen as more than someone’s daughter, wife, or mother. We had a long fight for our right to vote and to have a political voice, and for the past year we were fighting for our right to lead. For the first time we could have had our first female president since the birth of this nation, but despite her qualifications, since the very beginning of her campaign, Hillary Clinton was held to a double-standard because of her gender. Because she was a woman. We let that man get away with saying the most insulting, offensive, and ridiculous things. But Clinton? We let her get away with nothing. We elected a man who has absolutely no experience in running a country, instead of the woman who was more than qualified to do that and more.

We witnessed, at a national level, what happens on a daily basis to women in the workplace—we lose to men who are less qualified than us.

Last week we bore witness to a white woman failing to tear down the wall put before her by a sexist, patriarchal society. The fight is even harder for women of color who struggle not just against gender inequality but racial inequality. Since race impacts our feminism, we’ve always fought two battles at the same time. As a woman of color, I fight for equality but I also fight for justice. For us women of color, it isn’t enough to integrate ourselves into the existing system. We seek to transform the system and end injustices.

As a Latina writer, I’ve been dealing with other kinds of borders throughout my career. Latinos are 17.4 % of U.S. population, around 55 million of us, but we’re only around 4% of working professionals— including artists, writers, actors. We’re often kept on the periphery of the arts—and we fight on a daily basis for the right to contribute our stories, our talent, our creativity to American identity and culture. Through our art, we aim to fight against the barrier of invisibility. If we aren’t in books, in film, in TV, in art galleries, in music, does that mean we don’t exist?

The publishing industry lacks diversity at every level. The majority of books are written by, and are about, white people. Eighty-two percent of editors are white. Eighty-nine percent of book reviewers are white. They’re la migra of the publishing industry, the border patrol. They decide who gets in and who doesn’t, who gets published, whose books get attention. Latino writers have often struggled to get across the border of the mainstream publishing industry, often ending up with tiny presses (who lack the resources to do right by them) or self-publishing.

But having successfully run across the U.S. border at the age of nine taught me one thing—I can cross any border. This is the biggest reason why I wrote The Distance Between Us. I want to inspire others to believe in themselves and to find the strength to overcome. It is this belief that has helped me succeed in ways I never dreamed of. I want to encourage our youth, immigrant and non-immigrant alike, to keep giving their best and continue striving toward their dreams, despite the obstacles they find along the way.

Now more than ever, let us continue fighting for social justice, for a world without borders, for our right to create art, for our voices to be heard. It is through our stories that we will build bridges and tear down walls.

Reyna Grande is the award-winning author of two novels and a memoir, The Distance Between Us, which was recently published as a young readers edition. See our review here, where you may also learn more about Reyna’s story and watch video interviews. Her official website offers additional information about her published works, speaking schedule, and career news.

(Left) The original version of The Distance Between Us; (right) the young readers edition.

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Celebrating Pura Belpré Winners: Spotlight on Doña Flor, illustrated by Raul Colón

PuraBelpreAwardThe Pura Belpré Awards turns 20 this year! The milestone will be marked on Sunday, June 26, from 1:00-3:00 p.m. during the 2016 ALA Annual Conference in Orlando, FL. According to the award’s site, the celebration will feature speeches by the 2016 Pura Belpré award-winning authors and illustrators, book signings, light snacks, and entertainment. The event will also feature a silent auction of original artwork by Belpré award-winning illustrators, sales of the new commemorative book The Pura Belpré Award: Twenty Years of Outstanding Latino Children’s Literature, and a presentation by keynote speaker Carmen Agra Deedy

Leading up to the event, we will be highlighting the winners of the narrative and illustration awards. Today’s spotlight is on Raul Colón, the winner of the 2006 Pura Belpré Illustration Award for Doña Flor: A Tall Tale About a Giant Woman with a Great Big Heart. Colón also received Pura Belpré Illustration Honors for Portraits of Hispanic American Heroes and My Name is Gabito: The Life of Gabriel García Márquez/Me llamo Gabito: la vida de Gabriel García Márquez.

Review by Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez

DESCRIPTION FROM THE PUBLISHER: Doña Flor is a giant lady who lives in a tiny village in the American Southwest. Popular with her neighbors, she lets the children use her flowers as trumpets and her leftover tortillas as rafts. Flor loves to read, too, and she can often be found reading aloud to the children.

One day, all the villagers hear a terrifying noise: it sounds like a huge animal bellowing just outside their village. Everyone is afraid, but not Flor. She wants to protect her beloved neighbors, so with the help of her animal friends, she sets off for the highest mesa to find the creature. Soon enough, though, the joke is on Flor and her friends, who come to rescue her, as she discovers the small secret behind that great big noise.

The creators of Tomás and the Library Lady, Pat Mora and Raul Colón, have once again joined together. This time they present a heartwarming and humorous original tall tale—peppered with Spanish words and phrases—about a giant lady with a great big heart.

MY TWO CENTS: Doña Flor, written by Pat Mora and illustrated by Raul Colón, tells the story of a giant woman that sleeps on clouds and makes piles of big tortillas. She protects her village from harm and she must do just that when the villagers inform her that a giant mountain lion threatens their safety. The biography of Raul Colón included on the dust jacket describes his illustrations as “an intriguing combination of watercolor washes, etching, and colored and litho pencils.”

When I look at Colón’s illustrations, the etchings remind me of fingerprints. The loops, the arches, the whorls, and all the lines that we might associate with fingerprints are visible in Colón’s illustrations. I am not familiar with techniques or the technicalities of etching and in saying that the illustrations remind me of fingerprints I do not mean to devalue the art in any way. My favorite illustration in this story is of Doña Flor using her thumb to carve out a riverbed in the village. Doña Flor is in a squatting position with her white skirt covering her thighs, and she has used her thumb to make a squiggly path for the water while the villagers look on. The riverbed has the details I associated with the fingerprints which, in this case, could be Doña Flor’s own prints.

Colón’s illustrations are beautiful, colorful, and magical. That I saw fingerprints when I looked closely at his illustrations speaks to the uniqueness of his art. While Doña Flor wears a blue shirt in most of the illustrations sometimes the shirt looks like it is embroidered and sometimes it looks like a plain T-shirt. The clouds on one page look round and fluffy and in the illustration where she’s made her bed of clouds it appears like she’s left her own fingerprints on the clouds she has gathered. Despite the uniqueness I see in his illustrations, there is certainly a sense of cohesion throughout the story. I’ve decided to focus on the etchings, the lines, and how much they appear like fingerprints because as I examined his illustrations, I also got the thought that our stories are as unique as our fingerprints. Colón’s illustrations in Doña Flor affirmed that for me. I couldn’t help but connect the details I saw in his art to the significance of the Pura Belpré award and the necessity for more Latinx children’s and young adult literature by and for Latinx.

TEACHING TIPS:

  • For younger readers: Ask younger readers to pick their favorite illustration and to pick a part of the image they’d like to recreate. For example, in the illustration with Doña Flor making the river, students can attempt to recreate the river, the clouds, the trees and hills, etc. Ask students to outline their chosen part and to fill it in by dabbing their fingerprints. This will recreate the etching effect they see in the illustrations.
  • For middle grade readers: Discuss with students the effect and affect of etching. Does the etching force the reader to focus in a certain direction or a certain part of the page? How do the illustrations make you feel? For example, in the illustration where Doña Flor hugs the wind the lines of the etchings point in the same direction, making it appear like she is floating away with the wind.
  • For young adult readers: By the end of the story Doña Flor learns that the loud roaring frightening the village is coming from a small puma roaring into a hollow log. Discuss with students the importance of perceptions and misconceptions. How might we connect the villagers’ fear and the puma’s amplified roars to racial/ethnic stereotypes?

 

FullSizeRender (1)Dr. Sonia Alejandra Rodriguez’s research focuses on the various roles that healing plays in Latinx children’s and young adult literature. She currently teaches composition and literature at a community college in Chicago. She also teaches poetry to 6th graders and drama to 2nd graders as a teaching artist through a local arts organization. She is working on her middle grade book. Follow Sonia on Instagram @latinxkidlit

A New Year, A New List of Books: At Least 45 New Latin@ Titles Releasing in 2016

 

Happy new year, everyone! 2016 looks to be a promising year for Latin@s in Kid Lit! Below, we have posted information about titles releasing in 2016 that are by/about/for Latin@s. Some are written by non-Latin@s but have Latin@ content. Others are not Latin@ themed, but are collaborations with Latin@ writers or illustrators, such as the first title listed, which is illustrated by Raúl Colón. If we have missed any upcoming releases, please let us know in the comments. Since these are new titles, we have not read them yet, and therefore, we cannot vouch for each one. We do, however, plan to read and review as many as we can, with a focus on celebrating the ones we love. As you browse the titles, you’ll see new releases from well-known authors and illustrators, like Eric Velasquez, Yuyi Morales, Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Meg Medina, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, and e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, as well as many debuts. We are especially excited for blog-mate Zoraida Córdova, whose LABYRINTH LOST releases this year! Happy reading!

 

Picture Books & Early Readers

27221844Solving the Puzzle Under the Sea by Robert Burleigh and Raúl Colón: Marie Tharp was always fascinated by the ocean. Taught to think big by her father who was a mapmaker, Marie wanted to do something no one had ever done before: map the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. Was it even possible? Not sure if she would succeed, Marie decided to give it a try. Throughout history, others had tried and failed to measure the depths of the oceans. Sailors lowered weighted ropes to take measurements. Even today, scientists are trying to measure the depth by using echo sounder machines to track how long it would take a sound wave sent from a ship to the sea floor to come back. But for Marie, it was like piecing together an immense jigsaw puzzle. Despite past failures and challenges—sometimes Marie would be turned away from a ship because having a woman on board was “bad luck”—Marie was determined to succeed. And she did, becoming the first person to chart the ocean floor, helping us better understand the planet we call home. January 5.

 

25387409Hillary by Jonah Winter and Raúl Colón: In this beautiful and empowering picture-book biography of presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Timesbestselling author Winter and award-winning illustrator Colón illuminate her distinguished life and career. This stunning project follows Clinton from her early years as an outspoken student at Wellesley College and Yale Law School to marrying Bill Clinton and raising daughter Chelsea, to becoming First Lady of the United States and then a U.S. Senator and Secretary of State. Here is the inspiring story of the woman who may soon change the world—into a place where a girl can dream of growing up to be president. January 5.

 

26516190Looking for Bongo by Eric Velasquez: Oh no! A boy’s beloved stuffed toy, Bongo, is missing. No one can help him. When he asks hisabuela where Bongo is, she answers, “Yo no sé. I don’t know.” Mom and Dad haven’t seen Bongo either. Gato just says “Meow,” and runs away. When Bongo finally turns up behind Dad’s drum, the problem of Bongo’s whereabouts is resolved . . . but it doesn’t answer how Bongo got there! The boy decides to set a trap to catch the Bongo thief. Rich illustrations help tell the story of a mystery cleverly solved. February 1.

 

25898696Fearless Flyer by Heather Lang and Raúl Colón: On November 19, 1916, at 8:25 a.m., Ruth Law took off on a flight that aviation experts thought was doomed. She set off to fly nonstop from Chicago to New York City. Sitting at the controls of her small bi-plane, exposed to the elements, Law battled fierce winds and numbing cold. When her engine ran out of fuel, she glided for two miles and landed at Hornell, New York. Even though she fell short of her goal, she had broken the existing cross-country distance record. And with her plane refueled, she got back in the air and headed for New York City where crowds waited to greet her. March 1.

 

25897837Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed a Neighborhood by F. Isabel Campoy, Theresa Howell and Rafael López: What good can a splash of color do in a community of gray? As Mira and her neighbors discover, more than you might ever imagine! Based on the true story of the Urban Art Trail in San Diego, California, Maybe Something Beautiful reveals how art can inspire transformation—and how even the smallest artists can accomplish something big. April 12.

 

ADA's Violin CoverAda’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay by Susan Hood and Sally Wern Comport: Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation. May 3.

 

26244910Thunder Boy Jr. by Sherman Alexie and Yuyi Morales:  Thunder Boy Jr. is named after his dad, but he wants a name that’s all his own. Just because people call his dad Big Thunder doesn’t mean he wants to be Little Thunder. He wants a name that celebrates something cool he’s done, like Touch the Clouds, Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth, or Full of Wonder. But just when Thunder Boy Jr. thinks all hope is lost, he and his dad pick the perfect name…a name that is sure to light up the sky. May 10.

 

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La Madre Goose by Susan Middleton Elya and Juana Martinez-Neal:   The itsy arañitaclimbed up the water spout/Down came la lluviaand washed la araña out.
Classic Mother Goose rhymes get a Latino twist in this cozy collection. From young Juan Ramón sitting in el rincón to the three little gatitos who lost their mitoncitos, readers will be delighted to see familiar characters in vibrant, luminous scenes brimming with fanciful detailsJuly 19.

 

25688982Marta! Big and Small by Jennifer Arena and Angela Dominguez: Marta is una niña, an ordinary girl . . . with some extraordinary animal friends! As Marta explores the jungle, she knows she’s bigger than a bug, smaller than an elephant, and faster than a turtle. But then she meets the snake, who thinks Marta is sabrosa—tasty, very tasty! But Marta is ingeniosa, a very clever girl, and she outsmarts the snake with hilarious results. August 23.

 

These do not have covers yet:

¡Celebración! by Susan Middleton Elya, illustrated by Ana Aranda. The story, written in Elya’s signature rhyming English/Spanish mash-up, recounts the activities surrounding a small town’s summer celebration. Publication is planned for fall 2016.

Mamá the Alien by René Colato Laínez and Laura Lácamara: The bilingual story features a girl who sees her mother’s old Resident Alien card and lets her imagination run wild, convincing herself that her mother is an alien from outer space. May 15.

A new chapter book in the Sofia Martinez series: My Vida Loca by Jacqueline Jules.

 

Middle Grade

23153010Lola Levine, Drama Queen by Monica Brown. Seven-year-old Lola Levine is fierce on the soccer field. She can do a slide tackle (although she’s not supposed to) and even likes gooey worms. Nothing scares Lola! That is, until she is auditioning in front of EVERYONE for her class play. After Lola is overcome with stage fright, she’s cast as Squirrel #2, a non-speaking part! Lola is more than a little disappointed, and she looks to her bubbe for advice and comfort. But on opening night, the curtain rises, and she finds herself smack in the middle of an exasperating turn of events. January 5.

 

25582717To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson: Jackson Greene is riding high. He is officially retired from conning, so Principal Kelsey is (mostly) off his back. His friends have great new projects of their own. And as he’s been hanging out a lot with Gaby de la Cruz, he thinks maybe, just maybe, they’ll soon have their first kiss. Then Jackson receives a link to a faked security video that seems to show him and the rest of Gang Greene flooding the school gym. The thugs behind the video threaten to pass it to the principal–unless Jackson steals an advance copy of the school’s toughest exam. So Jackson devises a three-part plan to foil the blackmailers, clear his friends’ names for good, and trap the true bad guys along the way. As Gang Greene executes another multi-step caper full of twists and turns, they learn that sometimes it takes a thief to catch a cheat. January 26.

 

25691913Hunter of Chaos: The Circle of Lies by Crystal Velasquez: Ana’s life changed dramatically when she accepted a position at an exclusive boarding school in New Mexico. She found three great new friends—Shani, Doli, and Lin—and together, they discovered that they each had the power to turn into a wildcat. Their new friendship and powers were put to the test in a battle against the god Anubis and his newly resurrected Brotherhood of Chaos. After defeating the Brotherhood, Ana learns that her aunt and uncle have gone missing. Her friends are ready to help her find them, but then Shani is accused of vandalizing school property and expelled. While Ana and the others head to Mexico to search for her family, Shani travels to Mumbai to stay with her father. But strange things are happening in the Indian city. Has she stumbled upon another sinister plot? Meanwhile, Ana, Doli, and Lin have gone to Mexico to try and track down Ana’s family, and in the heart of Chichen Itxa, they find new dangers—and more proof of the Brotherhood’s growing power. With the four wildcats separated by thousands of miles, is this Anubis’s chance to rise again? February 16.

 

22453777Hour of the Bees by Lindsay Eagar: While her friends are spending their summers having pool parties and sleepovers, twelve-year-old Carolina — Carol — is spending hers in the middle of the New Mexico desert, helping her parents move the grandfather she’s never met into a home for people with dementia. At first, Carol avoids prickly Grandpa Serge. But as the summer wears on and the heat bears down, Carol finds herself drawn to him, fascinated by the crazy stories he tells her about a healing tree, a green-glass lake, and the bees that will bring back the rain and end a hundred years of drought. As the thin line between magic and reality starts to blur, Carol must decide for herself what is possible — and what it means to be true to her roots. Readers who dream that there’s something more out there will be enchanted by this captivating novel of family, renewal, and discovering the wonder of the world. March 8.

 

23299584The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi: Life is confusing for Mateo Martinez. He and Johnny Ramirez don’t hang out anymore, even though they used to be best friends. He and his new friend Ashwin try to act like brave, old-time knights, but it only gets them in trouble. His parents keep telling him to hold his sister’s hand when crossing busy streets, even though she’s the one who always runs ahead. And last night, two skunks stole Mateo’s old trike. Wait—two skunks stole his trike? Mateo is too big for that rusty kid toy. He has a cool, shiny new bike anyway. But Mateo also has a neighborhood to protect. And he’s about to begin a big, stinky quest to catch the thieves. March 1.


Allie, First at Last CoverAllie, First at Last by Angela Cervantes
: Junko Tabei: The first woman to reach the top of Mount Everest. Rita Moreno: The first Hispanic actress to win an Academy Award. Gwendolyn Brooks: The first African American author to win the Pulitzer Prize. Allie Velasco: ???

Allie Velasco wants to win. Something. Everyone in her family is a standout in some way and Allie is determined to make her mark. When a prestigious school competition is announced, Allie knows this is her shot. There’s just one problem–her biggest competition is her ex-best friend Sara. Can Allie take top prize and win back a friend–or is she destined to lose it all? March 29.

 

26030714Nothing Up My Sleeve by Diana López: Sixth-graders Dominic, Loop, and Z stumble upon a new magic shop in town and can’t wait to spend their summer mastering cool tricks to gain access to the Vault, a key holders-only back room bound to hold all kinds of secrets. And once they get in, they set their sights even higher: a huge competition at the end of the summer. They work on their card tricks, sleights, and vanishing acts, trying to come up with the most awesome routines possible. Problem is, the trip is expensive, and it’s money that each guy’s family just doesn’t have. To make things worse, the shop-owners’ daughter, Ariel (who just so happens to be last year’s competition winner), will do anything to make sure the boys don’t come out on top. Even pit them against one another. Will they make it to the competition? And if so, at what cost? April 19.

 

25861939Lowriders in Space: Lowriders to the Center of the Earth by Cathy Camper and Raúl the Third. The lovable trio from the acclaimed Lowriders in Space are back! Lupe Impala, Elirio Malaria, and El Chavo Octopus are living their dream at last. They’re the proud owners of their very own garage. But when their beloved cat Genie goes missing, they need to do everything they can to find him. Little do they know the trail will lead them to the realm of Mictlantecuhtli, the Aztec god of the Underworld, who is keeping Genie prisoner! July 5.

 

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A Kingdom Beneath the Waves by David Bowles: The sequel to Pura Belpré Honor Book The Smoking Mirror will be released in April. The Garza family’s Christmas vacation in Mexico is cut short by the appearance of Pingo, one of the elfish tzapame. The news is grim: a rogue prince from an ancient undersea kingdom is seeking the Shadow Stone, a device he will use to flood the world and wipe out humanity. Now Carol and Johnny must join a group of merfolk and travel into the deepest chasms of the Pacific Ocean to stop the prince and his monstrous army with their savage magic.

 

The Distance Between Us CoverThe Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande: The young reader’s version of Reyna Grande’s memoir releases in September. When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his wife and three children behind in a village in Mexico to make the dangerous trek across the border to the United States, he promises he will soon return from “El Otro Lado” (The Other Side) with enough money to build them a dream house where they can all live together. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years. When he summons his wife to join him, Reyna and her siblings are deposited in the already overburdened household of their stern, unsmiling grandmother. The Distance Between Us captures one girl’s passage from childhood to adolescence and beyond.

These do not have covers yet:

Morning Star Horse/El Caballo Lucero by Margarita Engle: a bilingual, illustrated, middle grade historical fantasy; translated by Alexis Romay.

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz: In this contemporary middle-grade novel about illegal immigration, a boy flees his home in Guatemala to seek a new, safer life in the U.S.

Lou Lou and Pea and the Mural Mystery by Jill Diamond: About two best friends with a flair for intrigue who uncover a string of mysteries in their community, set against the backdrop of Día de los Muertos. Fall 2016.

Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez: The sequel to Moving Target will be released in September 2016.

Young Adult

24529123This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp:  10:00 a.m.: The principal of Opportunity, Alabama’s high school finishes her speech, welcoming the entire student body to a new semester and encouraging them to excel and achieve. 10:02 a.m.: The students get up to leave the auditorium for their next class. 10:03: The auditorium doors won’t open. 10:05: Someone starts shooting. Told over the span of 54 harrowing minutes from four different perspectives, terror reigns as one student’s calculated revenge turns into the ultimate game of survival. January 5.

 

25665016The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork: When Vicky Cruz wakes up in the Lakeview Hospital Mental Disorders ward, she knows one thing: She can’t even commit suicide right. But for once, a mistake works out well for her, as she meets Mona, the live wire; Gabriel, the saint; E.M., always angry; and Dr. Desai, a quiet force. With stories and honesty, kindness and hard work, they push her to reconsider her life before Lakeview, and offer her an acceptance she’s never had. But Vicky’s newfound peace is as fragile as the roses that grow around the hospital. And when a crisis forces the group to split up, sending her back to the life that drove her to suicide, Vicky must try to find the strength to carry on. She may not have it. She doesn’t know. January 26.

 

25184383Kill the Boy Band by Goldy Moldavsky: Okay, so just know from the start that it wasn’t supposed to go like this. All we wanted was to get near The Ruperts, our favorite boy band. We didn’t mean to kidnap one of the guys. It kind of, sort of happened that way. But now he’s tied up in our hotel room. And the worst part of all, it’s Rupert P. All four members of The Ruperts might have the same first name, but they couldn’t be more different. And Rupert P. is the biggest flop out of the whole group. We didn’t mean to hold hostage a member of The Ruperts, I swear. At least, I didn’t. We are fans. Okay, superfans who spend all of our free time tweeting about the boys and updating our fan tumblrs. But so what, that’s what you do when you love a group so much it hurts. How did it get this far? Who knows. I mean midterms are coming up. I really do not have time to go to hell. February 23.

 

25898435 Beyond the Red by Ava Jae: Alien queen Kora has a problem as vast as the endless crimson deserts. She’s the first female ruler of her territory in generations, but her people are rioting and call for her violent younger twin brother to take the throne. Despite assassination attempts, a mounting uprising of nomadic human rebels, and pressure to find a mate to help her rule, she’s determined to protect her people from her brother’s would-be tyrannical rule. Eros is a rebel soldier hated by aliens and human alike for being a half-blood. Yet that doesn’t stop him from defending his people, at least until Kora’s soldiers raze his camp and take him captive. He’s given an ultimatum: be an enslaved bodyguard to Kora, or be executed for his true identity—a secret kept even from him. When Kora and Eros are framed for the attempted assassination of her betrothed, they flee. Their only chance of survival is to turn themselves in to the high court, where revealing Eros’s secret could mean a swift public execution. But when they uncover a violent plot to end the human insurgency, they must find a way to work together to prevent genocide. March 1.

 

Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina: Nora Lopez is 17 during the infamous New York summer of 1977, when the city is besieged by arson, a massive blackout, and a serial killer named Son of Sam who shoots young women on the streets. Nora’s family life isn’t going so well either: her bullying brother, Hector, is growing more threatening by the day, her mother is helpless and falling behind on the rent, and her father calls only on holidays. All Nora wants is to turn 18 and be on her own. And while there is a cute new guy who started working with her at the deli, is dating even worth the risk when the killer likes picking off couples who stay out too late? March 8.

 

Head of the Saint (English translation) by Socorro Acioli: After walking for days across the harsh Brazilian landscape only to be rejected by his last living relative, Samuel finds his options for survival are dwindling fast – until he comes to the hollow head of a statue, perfect for a boy to crawl into and hide. Whilst sheltering, Samuel realizes that he can hear the villagers’ whispered prayers to Saint Anthony – confessing lost loves, hopes and fears – and he begins to wonder if he ought to help them out a little. When Samuel’s advice hits the mark he becomes famous, and people flock to the town to hear about their future loves. But with all the fame comes some problems, and soon Samuel has more than just the lovelorn to deal with. March 8.

 

Future Shock CoverFuture Shock by Elizabeth Briggs: Elena Martinez has hidden her eidetic memory all her life–or so she thinks. When powerful tech giant Aether Corporation selects her for a top-secret project, she can’t say no. All she has to do is participate in a trip to the future to bring back data, and she’ll be set for life. Elena joins a team of four other teens with special skills, including Adam, a science prodigy with his own reason for being there. But when the time travelers arrive in the future, something goes wrong and they break the only rule they were given: do not look into their own fates. Now they have 24 hours to get back to the present and find a way to stop a seemingly inevitable future from unfolding. With time running out and deadly secrets uncovered, Elena must use her eidetic memory, street smarts, and a growing trust in Adam to save her new friends and herself. April 1.

 

25810644A Fierce and Subtle Poison by Samantha Mabry: Everyone knows the legends about the cursed girl–Isabel, the one the senoras whisper about. They say she has green skin and grass for hair, and she feeds on the poisonous plants that fill her family’s Caribbean island garden. Some say she can grant wishes; some say her touch can kill. Seventeen-year-old Lucas lives on the mainland most of the year but spends summers with his hotel-developer father in Puerto Rico. He’s grown up hearing stories about the cursed girl, and he wants to believe in Isabel and her magic. When letters from Isabel begin mysteriously appearing in his room the same day his new girlfriend disappears, Lucas turns to Isabel for answers–and finds himself lured into her strange and enchanted world. But time is running out for the girl filled with poison, and the more entangled Lucas becomes with Isabel, the less certain he is of escaping with his own life. April 12.

 

24218983Even if the Sky Falls by Mia Garcia: Julie is desperate for a change. So she heads to New Orleans with her youth group to rebuild houses and pretend her life isn’t a total mess. But between her super-clingy team leader and her way-too-chipper companions, Julie feels more trapped than ever. In a moment of daring, she ditches her work clothes for DIY fairy wings and heads straight into the heart of Mid-Summer Mardi Gras, where she locks eyes with Miles, an utterly irresistible guy with a complicated story of his own. And for once, Julie isn’t looking back. She jumps at the chance to see the real New Orleans, and in one surreal night, they dance under the stars, share their most shameful secrets, and fall in love. But their adventure takes an unexpected turn when an oncoming hurricane changes course. As the storm gains power and Julie is pulled back into chaos she finds pretending everything is fine is no longer an option. May 10.

 

The Shadow Hour (The Girl at Midnight, #2) The Shadow Hour by Melissa Grey: Everything in Echo’s life changed in a blinding flash when she learned the startling truth: she is the firebird, the creature of light that is said to bring peace. The firebird has come into the world, but it has not come alone. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and Echo can feel a great and terrible darkness rising in the distance. Cosmic forces threaten to tear the world apart. Echo has already lost her home, her family, and her boyfriend. Now, as the firebird, her path is filled with even greater dangers than the ones she’s already overcome. She knows the Dragon Prince will not fall without a fight. Echo must decide: can she wield the power of her true nature–or will it prove too strong for her, and burn what’s left of her world to the ground? Welcome to the shadow hour. July 12.

 

These do not have covers yet:

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: Bruja magic runs in her blood, but a curse to get rid of it may cost Alex more than her power. Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in her family. But she’s hated magic ever since it made her father disappear into thin air. So while most girls celebrate their Sweet 16s, Alex prepares for Deathday – the most important day in a bruja’s life, and her only opportunity to rid herself of magic. But the curse she performs during the ceremony backfires and her family vanishes. Left alone, Alex seeks help from Nova, a brujo who covets power for himself. To get her family back they must travel to Los Lagos, a land in-between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland.

Lion Island, Cuba’s Warrior of Words by Margarita Engle: a young adult historical verse novel about the freedom struggle of indentured Chinese laborers.

Good Girls Don’t Lie by Alexandra Diaz: pitched as a Mexican-American Juno, a realistic coming-of-age story starring good girl Josie Figueroa.

Shame the Stars by Guadalupe Garcia McCall: A YA Romeo and Juliet retelling set in 1915 Texas during the height of the Mexican revolution, about a Mexican-American teen trying to protect his family’s ranch and his sweetheart’s safety while caught between the Texas Rangers and Mexican revolutionaries.

Salsa for Fidel: Or a Beginner’s Guide to Cat Videos by Tom Crosshill: Rick Gutierrez, avowed nerd and self-styled Cat King of the Internet, travels to Cuba for a summer of learning salsa and reconnecting with his mother’s roots. He’s determinedly not doing any of this to impress Ana Cabrera, his just-out-of-reach dance partner. In Cuba, however, they discover that there is a lot more to the country than they first suspected—and the greatest danger may lie where they least expect it.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: When the Moon Was Ours follows two characters through a story that has multicultural elements and magical realism, but also has central LGBT themes—a transgender boy, the best friend he’s falling in love with, and both of them deciding how they want to define themselves.

Happy Hanukkah from Latinos in Kid Lit!

by Zoraida Córdova

Happy Hanukkah!

Stockphoto.com

Hanukkah is the eight-day festival of light celebrated during the beginning in the Jewish month of Kislev.

Let’s get serious for a minute. I wanted to do some research about the intersection between Latino and Jewish people.

Latinos and Jewish histories have been intertwined for a long time, and most of it is full of wrong-doing by part of the Spanish. There’s the horrific moment in Spanish history when in 1492 the king of Spain ordered Jewish people to convert or to leave or be put to death. (Why don’t we learn from history?) Because of this, many Jews did convert to Catholicism to stay in their homes. In 2008, a study showed that 20 percent of men in Spain have Sephardic ancestry. In the Latin Americas, those who did go over to the New World kept their faith hidden. More recently, there was the immigration, asylum, refuge, and forced displacement of Jewish people during and after World War II. Thousands of refugees and Nazi camp survivors were able to find homes in South American countries though others barred their entry due to anti-Semitism.

During a visit to Ecuador in my teens, I remember driving past a Jewish home. How could I possibly know that they are Jewish? They had a beautiful Star of David in a mosaic on the outside gate. I say gate, but I mean a wall. Homes are mostly made of cement in Ecuador because of the humidity. Anyway, the neighbors largely mysticized them because they mainly kept to themselves. We have this perception of Jewish people as being separate. But when we spend the entire history of the WORLD marginalizing and trying to convert a group of people, and taking away their lives and rights, how can we even begin to call ourselves neighbors and allies? Today there is still a lack of intersectionality between minority groups and Jewish people.

Meanwhile, I keep thinking about how Jewish culture has enriched Latin culture. As a kid, I listened to lots of salsa music because of my mom and grandma. They listened to the Fania All Stars religiously. There was this guy nicknamed “El Judio Maravilloso” which translates to “The Marvelous Jew.” His name was Larry Harlow and his love and study of Afro-Cuban music spawned some of the best salsa we have. If you love Celia Cruz, she sang a beautiful version of Hava Nagila. For more on the Latino-Jewish music connection, listen to this NPR podcast: Bagels and Bongos. Music has a way of bringing people together.

This brings me to books. As we mix cultures and religions, where is the representation of the growing Latino-Jewish community? I have Ecuadorian-Jewish cousins. My friend (Jewish) and his wife (Bolivian) are celebrating their daughter’s first Hanukkah. They need books that show her different identities. When we talk about representation and diversity, we have to mean it. Latino-Jewish history is steeped in a painful past, but our present has wrought some excellent music and literature. And we need more. Here are eight books, by or about Jewish-Latinos, to get your started.

 

“My name is Marisol McDonald, and I don’t match. At least, that’s what everyone tells me.”
Marisol McDonald has flaming red hair and nut-brown skin. Polka dots and stripes are her favorite combination. She prefers peanut butter and jelly burritos in her lunch box. And don’t even think of asking her to choose one or the other activity at recess–she’ll just be a soccer playing pirate princess, thank you very much. To Marisol McDonald, these seemingly mismatched things make perfect sense together.
Unfortunately, they don’t always make sense to everyone else. Other people wrinkle their nose in confusion at Marisol–can’t she just be one or the other? Try as she might, in a world where everyone tries to put this biracial, Peruvian-Scottish-American girl into a box, Marisol McDonald doesn’t match. And that’s just fine with her.
A mestiza Peruvian American of European, Jewish, and Amerindian heritage, renowned author Monica Brown wrote this lively story to bring her own experience of being mismatched to life.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N *

 

 

 

When Isobel is invited to Aunt Luisa’s for Hanukkah, she’s not sure what to expect. Aunt Luisa has recently arrived from Mexico. “At Aunt Luisa’s you’ll get to celebrate the Hanukkah Moon,” Isobel’s father promises. Isobel’s days at Aunt Luisa’s are filled with fun and surprises — a new camera, a dreidel pinata filled with sweets, and a mysterious late night visit to welcome the luna nueva, the new moon that appears on Hanukkah. An unusual Hanukkah story with a multi-cultural focus, this title celebrates a little-known custom of the Latin-Jewish community.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jalapeno bagels are the delicious coming together of two cultures as the son of a Jewish baker and his Mexican wife decides what to bring to school for International Day. This warm story, illustrated by rich watercolors, comes complete with recipes for all the items that Pablo helps his parents make. Full color.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Nono’s Kisses for Sephardic Children” is Flori Senor Rosenthal’s first of the Legacy and Literacy Scholastics Series. The book contains beautiful illustrations representing Ladino phrases. It was written to teach and encourage the usage of the Ladino language to children between the ages of 4 and 9. However, all ages will enjoy it and find it useful. Ladino or Judeo-Spanish is the language of Sephardic Jews. According to the United Nations, it is an endangered language. With each Ladino phrase found in the book, there is a question relating to its picture. This question, engages the parent and child into conversation. Ladino vocabulary words, pronunciations and English translations are provided to be used in these and other conversations and games between parents and their children. To make the learning experience even more fun, there is a hidden butterfly, in every illustration, to be found by the child. Ms. Senor Rosenthal’s father inspired her to write “Nono’s Kisses for Sephardic Children”. She wrote it to honor a tradition known specifically to Sephardic Jews. The book is an extraordinary teaching and learning tool for Ladino, and the Sephardic culture. However, those interested in the Spanish language and its history will also find this book interesting. Ms. Senor Rosenthal believes that her series will spark renewed interest in the Ladino language with the goal of having it removed from the endangered language list.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N 

 

Lola Levine likes writing in her diario, sipping her mom’s cafe con leche, eating her dad’s matzo ball soup, and playing soccer with her team, the Orange Smoothies. So what if she doesn’t always fit in?

Lola is fierce on the field, but when a soccer game during recess gets too competitive, she accidentally hurts her classmate Juan Gomez. Now everyone is calling her Mean Lola Levine! Lola feels terrible, but with the help of her family, her super best friend, Josh Blot, and a little “pencil power,” she just might be able to turn it all around.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An eleven-year-old’s world is upended by political turmoil in this “lyrically ambitious tale of exile and reunification” (Kirkus Reviews) from an award-winning poet, based on true events in Chile.

Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile—until one day when warships are spotted in the harbor and schoolmates start disappearing from class without a word. Celeste doesn’t quite know what is happening, but one thing is clear: no one is safe, not anymore.

The country has been taken over by a government that declares artists, protestors, and anyone who helps the needy to be considered “subversive” and dangerous to Chile’s future. So Celeste’s parents—her educated, generous, kind parents—must go into hiding before they, too, “disappear.” Before they do, however, they send Celeste to America to protect her.

As Celeste adapts to her new life in Maine, she never stops dreaming of Chile. But even after democracy is restored to her home country, questions remain: Will her parents reemerge from hiding? Will she ever be truly safe again?

Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet’s catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N

 

Emily is a Jewish girl from the suburbs of New York. Her mother has family in Puerto Rico, but Emily has never had contact with them—- ever. Then Emily’s grandmother dies and Emily is forced to go to the Caribbean for her funeral. Buttoned-up Emily wants nothing to do with her big, noisy Puerto Rican family, until a special person shows her that one dance can change the beat of your heart.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shirin is an Iranian princess; Ingrid, a German-Canadian eccentric; and Vivien, a Cuban-Jewish New Yorker culinary phenom. The three are roommates at a Swiss boarding school, where they spend their summers learning more than French and European culture. As the girls’ paths cross and merge—summers together, school years separate—they navigate social and cultural differences and learn the confusing and conflicting legacies of their families’ pasts. In the spirit of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Shirin, Ingrid, and Vivien grow together even when they are apart, forming unbreakable bonds along the way.

Goodreads * Amazon * B&N *

 

 

 

 

 

 

317988_632439229822_92623787_nZoraida Córdova was born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, where she learned to speak English by watching Disney’s The Little Mermaid and Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker on repeat. Her favorite things are sparkly like merdudes, Christmas, and New York City at night. She is the author ofThe Vicious DeepThe Savage Blue, The Vast and Brutal Sea, Luck on the Line, Love on the Ledgeand Life on the Level.

Book Review + Giveaway: Moving Target by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Moving Target 2

Reviewed by Lila Quintero Weaver

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK:

What if you could control destiny?

Cassie Arroyo’s world is ripped apart when her father vanishes. What could anyone possibly want with a middle-aged art history professor? But there’s no doubt that he’s being chased by a dangerous organization called the Hastati—and Cassie is their next target.

Cassie learns that she is a descendant of an ancient bloodline that enables her to use the Spear of Destiny: an object that in the right hands can shape the future, and in the wrong hands destroy it. But the spear has been missing for years. It seems that the Hastati will do whatever it takes to control it—and if they can’t find the spear itself, they’ll go after the ones who can use it.

On the run, with only her best friend, Simone, to help her, Cassie must stay one step ahead of the Hastati as she tries to decipher the clues that will lead her to the spear. Her life—and the fate of the world—depend on it.

MY TWO CENTSMoving Target is a middle-grade fantasy thriller starring Cassie Arroyo, a Cuban-American expatriate living in Italy. It’s the first in a series, with the sequel scheduled to release next fall. The plot rides on the journey of three teen characters: Cassie, her friend Simone, and Asher. Asher is the nephew of Brother Gregorio, the monastic figure who provides shelter to Cassie after her father is struck by a hail of bullets, whisked off to surgery, and then vanishes, as far as his daughter can tell. When Cassie discovers that she, not her father, is the main target of the assassins, she teams up with Asher and Simone to recapture the Spear of Destiny, a medieval artifact mysteriously linked to Cassie’s family line and the reason that her formerly blasé life at a private school is shattered overnight. In their quest, the kids must decode cryptic clues, navigate secret tunnels, hitch rides with sketchy characters, and elude menaces by the dozens, including the lurking possibility of betrayal from people entrusted with their care.

The setting for Moving Target is Rome and its surrounding countryside. It’s the perfect backdrop for a contemporary story with ancient implications, one that pairs narrow alleyways with Vespas, and Italian Renaissance art with cell-phone-dependent teenagers—not to mention gun-toting assassins. These combinations feel familiar and cinematic, since many of us have acquired such mental images from the world of high-adventure movies. Christina Diaz Gonzalez seems comfortable in the realm of taut intrigue. Her previous novels capture similarly tense life-and-death stories set The Red Umbrellaagainst vivid backdrops. The Red Umbrella takes place in revolution-era Cuba, with threats encroaching on the main character’s family before and after she and her brother escape to the United States, courtesy of the Pedro Pan airlift. In A Thunderous Whisper, the plot bristles with espionage and Thunderous whispermortal danger: the main character’s father fights in the Spanish Civil War, and the family loses everything in the Nazi bombing of Guernica, their hometown. The intensity remains in Moving Target, but here the author replaces history with fantasy, drawing liberally on religious iconography, mythology and elements of the supernatural.

Cassie Arroyo may be Latina, but as a plot-driven novel, Moving Target’s focus is on adventurous twists and turns. Cassie’s ethnicity remains mostly in the background, although Spanish dialogue and cultural references do occasionally find their way into the picture. In the thriller genre, where protagonists tend to be Anglo by default—as pointed out by Matt de la Peña in a comment published on CNN’s website—books like Moving Target help to normalize the presence of Latina characters in all types of stories, even fantasy thrillers. This is something to applaud.

Christina GonzalezChristina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of The Red UmbrellaA Thunderous Whisper, and Moving Target. Her books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, a Notable Social Studies Book and the International Literacy Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award.  She speaks to students across the country about writing, the importance of telling their stories and the value of recognizing that there is a hero in each one of us. Visit her website at www.christinagonzalez.com for further information.

Check out Christina’s recent guest post for this blog’s Cuban series here.

 

IMG_1291Lila Quintero Weaver is the author-illustrator of Darkroom: A Memoir in Black & White. She was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Darkroom recounts her family’s immigrant experience in small-town Alabama during the tumultuous 1960s. It is her first major publication. Lila is a graduate of the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Paul, are the parents of three grown children. She can also be found on her own websiteFacebookTwitter and Goodreads.

 

ENTER HERE TO WIN A COPY OF MOVING TARGET, PLUS A POSTER, BOTH SIGNED BY CHRISTINA DIAZ GONZALEZ.

 

Christina Diaz Gonzalez’s MOVING TARGET Stars a Latina Action-Adventure Heroine

The final Hunger Games movie, Mockingjay Part 2, raked in $75.8 million over the holiday weekend, landing in the number one spot for the second weekend. One article reported the action adventure has made $440.7 million worldwide so far and is inching closer to $3 billion total for the series. The success of the Hunger Games and other best-selling children’s books series, coupled with the dearth of children’s books with people of color as main characters, led author Matt de la Peña to say this in a 2014 interview with CNN.com: “I hope more commercial books feature more characters of color. That would change the game. Where’s the African-American Harry Potter or the Mexican Katniss?”

Few novels depict Latin@ main characters in action adventures. We’ll pause here to highlight a few, which would make great holiday gifts for your action-loving young reader:

The Living  23202520  The Culling (The Torch Keeper, #1)  Sanctum (Guards of the Shadowlands, #1)  17571252

And, this summer, one more title was added to the list: Moving Target, a middle grade featuring a young Latina caught in a Divinci-Code-like European adventure. On Thursday, we will post a review of the novel by Christina Diaz Gonzalez, who is also giving away a signed copy of the novel and a poster. See the link at the end of this post to enter. First, though, read what Christina had to say about her inspiration for Moving Target.

Christina Diaz Gonzalez: While growing up, I loved action/adventure stories where the hero went on a quest or a mission and often had to fight villains in order to fulfill their destiny. Whether these stories were in books, TV, or movies there was one thing that was always true… none of the heroes ever looked or sounded quite like me. Years passed (many, many years) and today there are still very few heroes that reflect the diversity of today’s readers.

23734473So, when I came up with the idea of writing my own action/adventure novel (that has been described as  “Percy Jackson meets Da Vinci Code with a dash of Indiana Jones”) it only seemed natural that the main character would be someone my ten year-old self would have loved to see as the heroine. That was when the character of Cassie Arroyo first popped into my head. She’s an American girl with a Hispanic background (like me) who discovers that she is part of an ancient bloodline that is connected to the legendary Spear of Destiny (this part is definitely not like me). In the story, there are riddles to decipher, mysteries to solve, and assassins to evade… all the things that I loved to read about when I was kid. (Okay, who am I kidding? I STILL love to read about all that stuff!) And one of the best parts about writing this story (which is part of a series) is that it’s another small step forward in the general realization that heroes come in all shades and ethnicities.

So buckle up and enjoy a thrilling ride with a brand new heroine… the smart, courageous, and Latina, Cassie Arroyo.

 

Christina GonzalezChristina Diaz Gonzalez is the award-winning author of The Red UmbrellaA Thunderous Whisper, and Moving Target. Her books have received numerous honors and recognitions including the American Library Association’s Best Fiction for Young Adults, the Florida Book Award, the Nebraska Book Award, a Notable Social Studies Book and the International Literacy Association’s Teacher’s Choice Award.  She speaks to students across the country about writing, the importance of telling their stories and the value of recognizing that there is a hero in each one of us. Visit her website at www.christinagonzalez.com for further information.

Check out Christina’s recent guest post for this blog’s Cuban series here.