As we continue to learn about Hispanic Heritage Month and our family legacy, I sought out ways to teach Alina about my heritage as a Cuban. Growing up in Southern California, I was always thought to be Mexican by my peers. While I adore Mexican culture, the inner workings of my family life is wholeheartedly Cuban.
Hispanic Heritage Month: Cuban Legend José Martí
When author Magdalena Zenaida contacted me in regards to her first children’s book, I was pretty excited right off the bat. It’s not every day that I receive an email in reference to a Cuban legend that I grew up hearing about. Actually, this is the only children’s book on the life of Cuban legend, José Martí.
As many Cuban families do, my grandparents were proud members of the José Martí Social Club in Southern California. I had my debutantes there (a Cuban’s equivalent to the quinceañera) with other members of that social club, having spent countless hours practicing for our grand debut. Magdalena Zenaida agreed to send me a copy of A Honest Boy, Un Hombre Sincero to review for my readers. I was excited to read it!
Quite simply, I loved this children’s book. Especially to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with my bicultural, half Cubanita, An Honest Boy, Un Hombre Sincero was a beautiful and lyrical read. Since we read many bilingual books, I’m used to having to translate two exact texts – not that I like to. Magdalena Zenaida’s book is different in that the Spanish phrases interject within a sentence, usually being translated within the next line.
Perhaps because I am a bicultural Latina who speaks English predominantly, or because this style of half English and half Spanish (Spanglish) is more in keeping with how I think and speak, but I loved it. I enjoyed reading the book fluidly, switching between languages effortlessly, without having to stop the flow of the entire book to translate page by page. Personally, I feel this style is better for Alina’s conversational Spanish skills too.
Second to the beautiful writing, I adored the illustrations. The colors and images of a Cuba before many of us are aware of were enticing to both Alina and I. “An Honest Boy, Un Hombre Sincero conveys the message of Latin American hero José Martí’s poetry and essays within the framework of his life. His philosophies come together in a poetic way that ultimately becomes a call to Cuban freedoms and universal friendship that echoes long into the future…”
The book is also loosely connected to the lyrics of a uber classic Cuban song, “Guantanamera” of which the phrase “un hombre sincero” originates. I grew up on this song, and the pages of this children’s book ended with me singing it loudly! Alina thought it was hysterical, and I rejoiced in a simple moment of sharing my Cuban heritage with her. For us, this book is 100% a keeper.
Also, be sure to check back as we’ll be hosting Magdalena Zenaida for an exclusive interview on everything from writing the first children’s book on this Cuban legend to why it’s important for all children to learn the stories of Latin American history as we continue to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.