Latinas for Latino Literature – Blog Hop and Giveaway
I’m so excited and honored to take part in Latinas for Latino Literature‘s first ever Dia Blog Hop – a 20 day celebration of literacy, authors and illustrators. Since before I could remember, I’ve loved to read. I love depositing the love of literature into my kids even more! James Luna is a two time author of some wonderfully creative children’s books. Find out why he thinks Latino literature is so important, and be sure to enter the BIG giveaway to benefit the public or school library of your choice!
I find great joy in just posing the question: What is the state of Latino children’s literature? We’re discussing our literature because it exists! We are here in all our diversity and richness. We are here for our children, sharing stories, taking them on adventures so they can hold books up like mirrors to see themselves in our characters. And the depth of our wealth derives from the many ways of being “Latino.” We are first generation, born in another land, living and learning here. We are second generation, trying to hold on to our parent’s language, and speak as all those born here do. We are third generation, maybe Spanish is the language of our elders, and our parents talk about the place where their grandparents parent came from, a place removed from space and time, but not from our souls. Puertorriqueña, Mexicano, Salvadoreño, Cubana, and, yes, Norte Americano. We are many, varied in need and taste, yearning, like every child, for a connection to the world, a connection though books.
That’s where the author comes in. We too, exist in different states. Like our readers, some of us are new to America, and want to share that story, the story of how we came here. Like René Colato-Lainez’s My Shoes and I, these books connect us as new Americans. These authors tell their stories of leaving a home, a land, a country, and making that difficult journey in hope of a better life. Their books say to immigrant children, “You and I have so much in common! I bet you felt like this, too!” These books blend nostalgia and hope into bittersweet tales that affirm what so many of our kids experience. Others tell tales of growing up as a child of immigrants, of the split personality caused when our parents speak one language, and we have grown used to another. The books for these children offer sympathy for their dilemma, and characters with whom the reader can connect. The “new” Latinos, who are not so new, are the children of multicultural marriages. Books for them such as Monica Brown’s Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match, let them know how blessed they are, rich in love and heritages.
The stories we write reflect not only many Latino authors and experiences. We write books for every type of reader. For our youngest readers, there are picture books, nursery rhymes/rimas, filled with language that both engages and excites toddlers and preschoolers. There are Latino picture books filled with vivid illustrations and fun stories, books by Alma Flor Ada, Mara Price, Gwen Zepeda. We create fantasy books that combine the magical and the cultural, as in Laura Lacamara’s book and my stories. Many of our books recount our history, such as books by Pat Mora and Mara Price. For older readers, we create chapter books, series of books for the reader who likes to follow a character through many adventures like Rene Saldaña’s Mickey Rangel series. And there are books for teens, stories fraught with decisions about identity and relationships. Sad stories, silly stories, adventures, mysteries, stories of family, stories of loss. A reader of any age and parents of children at any age find something great to read.
Where are these books? That’s the rub. There are Latino publishers, websites, authors, yet finding children’s books by Latino authors at most bookstores is not easy even in September during “Hispanic Heritage Month.” As a teacher and author, I am frustrated with limited selection in the book club catalogs. I cannot remember seeing books by Latino authors featured in the catalogs my students receive. Though Scholastic does have a bilingual book club, Club Leo, the selection is limited to picture books and translations of English series, with very few truly Latino choices in the catalog. How can my students get a hold of books by Latino authors? How can a parent provide Latino literature for her daughter? Don’t despair. Get to a library. I have found that public libraries offer a variety of books, and often have a great selection of books by Latino authors. Librarians happily give me great suggestions to broaden my knowledge of books and authors. There is also the American Library Association site, listing winners of the Pura Belpré award for books written by Latino/Latina authors. Fortunately, the internet has become a source for sites, book lists, and reviews for Latino literature as well.
As a teacher, I have seen the effect that reading has on a child’s growth, not only academically, but personally. I have seen a student, a reluctant reader, pick up a book, meet a character that enticed him enough to finish a chapter book, and go on to complete a whole series. A student of mine a few years ago, a girl who thought “reading was boring,” met a girl named Naomi León in a book I suggested. Though she hadn’t finished a chapter book in years, she read “Becoming Naomi León” in just a few days, and searched the library for other books by Pam Muñoz Ryan. This is what reading does; it connects us to both our inner self and the wider world. A child can find a friend, a companion in a book, someone who understands her, who sympathizes, who faces problems just like her. A reader can laugh at a predicament, cry because of a loss, or cheer at a victory, all the while, affirming the power of humor, of empathy, or of bravery. This is why Latino literature matters not only to Latino children, but to all readers; our stories are both universal in theme and elements, and specific in our history.
Our literature is as real as our existence. Reading creates a shared memory, between author and reader, of course. That memory also occurs between parent and child. My sons and my daughter recall lines in books they heard when they were toddlers. The words and the emotions attached to them remain forever. Reading books by Latino authors about Latino life confirms for Latino children their lives, their neighborhoods, and their cultures. As an author, teacher and dad, my hope is that parents of all cultures will share with their children books by Latino authors, that our stories will become OUR stories, just as my sons and daughter have read books penned by a variety of authors. Perhaps, after reading some of our stories, a little Latina will put her book down, pick up her pen, and begin to write, for there is certainly more to come.
James Luna is the author of two children’s book, The Runaway Piggy/El Cochinito Fugitivo and A Mummy in Her Backpack/Una momia en su mochila both published by Piñata Books, Arte Público Press. Piggy was awarded the 2012 Tejas Star Award as chosen by the students of Texas. He has also had stories for children published in “My Friend” magazine, and an essay for adults “Doña Jedi” published in the anthology America the…. Currently, he teaches sixth grade at Madison Elementary School in Riverside, Californian. He completed an MFA in creative writing through National University, and is a fellow of the Inland Area Writing Project. When he isn’t doing any of those, he’s usually baking cookies with his wife and 3 children in Riverside, California. Visit his website: moonstories.com
L4LL has put together a wonderful collection of Latino children’s literature to be given to a school or public library. Many of the books were donated by the authors and illustrators participating in this blog hop. You can read a complete list of titles (as well as the blog hop SCHEDULE) here on the L4LL website.
To enter your school library or local library in the giveaway, simply leave a comment below.
The deadline to enter is 11:59 EST, Monday, April 29th. The winner will be chosen using Random.org and announced on the L4LL website on April 30th, Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros, and will be contacted via email – so be sure to leave a valid email address in your comment! (If we have no way to contact you, we’ll have to choose someone else!)
By entering this giveaway, you agree to the Official Sweepstakes Rules. No purchase required. Void where prohibited.