Amada Irma Perez, Americas Award Books, Books, Summer reads for children

Summer Reads for Children

Studies show that children who read four or more books over the summer fare better on reading-
comprehension tests in the fall than their peers who read one or no books.

Here are some Américas Award book recipients, given in recognition of U.S. works of fiction or poetry published in English or Spanish that authentically portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States. The National Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs (CLASP) sponsors the award. These recipients rated excellent in: 1) distinctive literary quality; 2) cultural contextualization; 3) exceptional integration of text, illustration and design; and 4) potential for classroom use.

Clemente! by Willie Perdomo, 2010. This is a tribute to a man considered by many to be one of the finest baseball players ever–Roberto Clemente. A little boy who is the son of the president of “The Greatest Fans of Roberto Clemente Club, Boogie-down Bronx chapter,” tells the book in the first person. The story illustrates how this outstanding athlete lived his life amidst discrimination and troubles. His life had a tragic ending when the plane he was on, bound for Nicaraguan earthquake victims, crashed and disappeared.

 The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Inspired by the life of Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, the book’s prose is dream-like and lyrical. This is a wonderful introduction to the early life and work of Neruda. The main character, Neftali Reyes (Neruda’s real name), is a lonely boy with a stuttering problem. He is a child who experiences the world differently than most, and who is criticized by his domineering father for “foolishness.” Though written for children, it is a story readers of all ages will find engaging.

 My Diary from Here to There by Amada Irma Perez, Illustrated by Maya Christina Gonzales, Children’s Book Press, 2009. This Ventura County author also wrote “My Very Own Room,” a Tomas Rivera Award winner and Américas Honor Award and “Nana’s Big Surprise.” 

“My Diary from Here to There” is inspired by the author’s childhood and explores her feelings as she leaves Juarez, Mexico for Los Angeles. Her five brothers are excited but she has some concerns, which she keeps to herself in her journal. Her father tells her, “You are stronger than you think,” but Amada isn’t so sure. In this emotional journey, she discovers her strength, as well as a way to keep friends and relatives back in Mexico “in my memories and in my heart.” Any child who has moved and left a best friend or neighborhood can relate to this story. The book is beautifully illustrated and is bilingual.

You can find other award winning books at your local library. Better yet, take your child for an afternoon of browsing through the shelves of your favorite bookstore or the library. Make it enjoyable and make it a summer of reading.
Americas Award Books, Authors, Chingonas, fiction, Sandra Cisneros, Strong Women, Wisdom

Listening to Sandra Cisneros

“We all need to have art in our lives and writing is art.” I’m paraphrasing what I heard Sandra Cisneros say while I listened to her speak, in her melodious voice, to a standing room only crowd of over 200 people. She spoke at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural and Bookstore in Sylmar, California, located at the edge of a strip mall across from the new Fresh and Easy. Every seat was taken, every wall held up by shoulders, every piece of floor space and some laps taken up by listeners.

I’ve been to Tia Chucha’s twice, when visiting my friend Pati, who lives up the hill from there, but we either get there too early or too late and peer in the windows between the posters and flyers. Yesterday was the first time I’ve been inside. I’m early (no more Chicano time for me) and there are still seats. I give a quick glance at the book table and remember I don’t have “House on Mango Street” anymore because I lent it out to someone. The 25th Anniversary Edition of HOMS is there and I snag a copy.

There is an open seat towards the middle of the room filled with wall to wall fold out chairs and I settle in while the place overflows with more than 200 people.  Most of the audience drove from more than thirty minutes away, most are under 35 years old, and half attend college. I am in the ten percent of people over forty five years of age. I know this because she polled the crowd.

I mentioned Sandra’s dulcet voice ( yes I’m calling her by her first name as if we were comadres or amigas), because its softness and her inflections make you feel like she knows you. She can do this even in a huge university room, like Campbell Hall at UCSB where I heard her speak, in her cute pajamas, three months ago.  There is an intimacy in her written voice that touched my heart many years ago when I first read “House on Mango Street.”  Her stories and poems speak about where I have been, and that she’s been there too.

The selected reading was from her upcoming book, and I don’t remember it’s title but it’s coming out in the fall. She read a story about “Marie.” It was about two little girls looking for their lost cat in their neighborhood. Sandra read in several different character voices: male, female, young, old, and cat. I was there with her, looking under hedges, behind fences, peeking into dry yellowed backyards, pausing on stoops, knocking on doors. It takes an outstanding writer to do this to you, while you’re sitting in a hot crowded audience on steel fold out chairs. But she does.

Sandra invites people to ask questions. Yes she has two more books coming in the fall, she’s collaborating on several projects as co-author, her friend Lourdes Portillo is completely a screenplay for “House on Mango Street,” and the crowd is thrilled with that disclosure. She is entering into another part of her life now, seeking change, moving from San Antonio, Texas. Mexico is calling. I think it’s Oaxaca, only because her website has a recent photo of her in Oaxaca and she has a message to her readers about change.

I ask her whether she has thought about publishing e-books. “Yes, the publishing world is also undergoing change, shifting…” She will publish her books as e-books and she owns all of the publishing rights. Very smart woman. “I’m not married to a university or a rich man…so I don’t have a pension…further publishing (with e-books) is my pension.” I’m happy that she will do this and I want to tell her that, but I don’t. I know there are so many other questions to be asked.

The reading and question/answer period seemed short, a fleeting seventy-five minutes. The audience is instructed to line up in a certain area for book signings. The queue quickly forms to over fifty people before the second half of the building empties out. I hope Sandra has a wrist brace so she doesn’t tire out her writing hand. She has so much more art to create and I have so much more to read.

The photo of her is at the end, only because my BB takes crappy photos.