Books, Writing

How to Increase Latinx Representation in Children’s Literature

Graphic by Tatiana Gardel, Illustrator

 

Hi everyone.  I was on a COVID hiatus during the spring and summer, but I am back to posting.

I hope you were all well and managed to avoid the virus as it has wreaked havoc with so many people, including my son, who lives in New York City. Thankfully, he successfully battled the virus and is doing so much better.

The cute graphic up top is an illustration of the varied shades of Latino’s or Latinx children. More so than in my generation, children are multi-ethnic, bi-racial, or multi-racial as my children are and several in our extended families.

Stories by Latinx are not only about one or two subjects, just like Latinx people are not one ‘type,’ but this rich heritage is often not reflected in the written language of children’s books or adult books for that matter.

There is a concept in education called “Windows and Mirrors.” A mirror is a story that reflects your own culture and helps you build your identity. A window is a resource that offers you a view of someone else’s experience.

When students read books where they see characters like themselves who are valued in the world, they feel a sense of belonging. Rudine Sims Bishop

This fact motivated several writers, authors, editors, illustrators, and others in the publishing arena to increase and publicize the stories they have to tell.

I belong to one such group, LatinxPitch, modeled after the Twitter groups, PitchMad and DVPit. I’m a co-founder of LatinxPitch, along with eleven other authors.

Recently, the esteemed NPR featured LatinxPitch and the other groups on their Book News and Features.

There are so many good things happening in the world of increasing representation in children’s literature. I hope you check out the article and descriptions of picture books, middle grade, and Young Adult literature that is highlighted.

In early December, there will be an online Latinx Kidlit Book Festival.

Latinx Kidlit Book Festival

 

Keep the list of children’s books handy for the holidays or to request from your local library.

Stay safe and be well,

Latino Literature, Writing

Building A Writing Portfolio One Story at a Time

https://www.amazon.com/PALABRITAS-Fall2018-Ruben-Reyes-Jr/dp/1790492963/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1544741026&sr=1-1&keywords=palabritas
An Anthology of Poetry and Prose, Harvard College Press

Once in a while, one of my mom’s stories gets a hold of me and begs to be written. A few months ago, she told me of an experience she had. She saw spirits.

I wrote a blog post about it, but her story was more than seeing ghosts.  It’s what the story meant to her which begged for a longer look.

The idea of life and death, the spirit realm, and Mexican culture inspired me to create a short story about Mom’s experience.

An example of an ofrenda for Dia De Los Muertos

A couple of months ago I read about a call for submissions for fiction, non-fiction, and poetry entries from a debuting literary magazine, Palabritas out of Harvard. There was no submission fee and the post said that an editor would assist in the rewrites. What did I have to lose, except another ‘no’ response? And from Harvard!

One of my writing goals is to submit stories for publication, once a year. My main goal is to submit my manuscripts. To date, my manuscripts have been ‘liked’ but not ‘loved’ enough for a lit agent to take a risk of offering their representation. 

Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.

George Orwell

So, submitting short stories are something I do to develop my writing skills and to keep up my motivation. Published short stories add to my writing portfolio and that’s a good thing. To date, I’ve had three short stories published.

Short stories are a good way to write within a framework of an established work count, learn how to trim the fat and I do love receiving free feedback from an editor.

I took a chance and rewrote the blog post about Mom seeing ghosts and developed it into a short story.  Lucky was born.

On the day I posted, on a couple of Facebook groups I belong too, about how bad I felt from rejections of my manuscript,  along came an acceptance letter for Lucky.

The letter pulled me out of the doldrums and reinvigorated me. The editor requested revisions (twice) and the story was accepted. Last week the anthology was published. 

Yes, my story published, in a book, very nicely formatted and with a cover as you can see up there at the top. 

I’m so excited to be in this anthology alongside excellent poets and writers. It is these events that keep me going-and writing- for the long haul.

One of these days, one of my novels will be published. And I’ll celebrate and take a picture of that cover too. 

poetry

Ten Latinx Poets on #NationalPoetryDay

I want to do what spring does to cherry trees-Pablo Neruda

Yesterday was the first day of Spring and the first day I caught a breath. A weeklong cough and a road trip of 1100 miles will do that to you.

Today is National Poetry Day. BookRiot published a list of “25 Gateway Poets to Start Reading for World Poetry Day.”

This had me thinking about the first time I became interested in reading poetry. It wasn’t any of the poets in my English Lit classes in high school.

In college, I bought, and read, my first book of poetry:

1-Floricanto by Alurista. His words caught me up in poetry, the poems reflected my childhood, my experiences. My favorite: “We Walk On Pebbled Streets.”  I still have the old book, weathered and marked up in the margins with images that resonated, made me think, ask questions.

 

Poetry book by Alurista
Floricanto by Alurista

The following are Latinx poets I’ve read.

2- Sandra Cisneros: My Wicked, Wicked Ways and Loose Woman. Every woman finds themselves in her poetry. My favorite, a three-page poem:

You bring out the Mexican in me

The hunkered thick dark spiral

The core of a heart howl

The bitter bile.

The tequila lágrimas on Saturday all

through next weekend Sunday.

3. Margarita Engle writes novels in verse, many of the novels are for Middle Grade and Young Adult readers. The Lightning Dreamer : Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist and Poet Slave of Cuba are favorites.

4. Frank Acosta publishes poetry on Facebook. Here’s a post about his poetry.

5. Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino Poet Laureate and awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for his collection of poems “Half of the World in Light.”

6-Gloria Anzaldúa, a NEA award winner and co-author with writer/playwright Cherríe Moraga of Borderlands.

To live in the Borderlands means to

put chile in the borscht,

eat whole wheat tortillas,

speak Tex-Mex with a Brooklyn accent;

be stopped by la migra at the border checkpoints;

Living in the Borderlands means you fight hard to

resist the gold elixir beckoning from the bottle,

the pull of the gun barrel,

the rope crushing the hollow of your throat

7. Jimmy Santiago Baca‘s poetry is gut-wrenching and intense. He’s written several books of poetry besides a screenplay, Bound by Honor.

8. Verónica Reyes, Chopper Chopper centers on poems from “Bordered Lives.”

Poems by Veronica Reyes

9. Melinda Palacio. I first read “Folsom Lockdown” her chapbook, and went on to  “How Fire is a Story Waiting.” My favorite is “Things to Carry,” her poem about visiting her father in prison.

10. Ada Límon. “Sharks in the River.” She made a blog entry that described a feeling I also had:

I feel like everything these days is just notes. No completed thing, just notes. But I am taking them and walking with them and move them around in my body and flying them like kites and listening to them rustle and maybe someday I will make something.

Now go read some poetry, an old favorite and someone new.