¡Mira, Look!: Napí

¡Buenos días! Today we will move further south in Mexico to a small Mazateca village in the state of Oaxaca with the children’s book, Napí,  written by the Mexican muralist/activist Antonio Ramírez and illustrated by Mazateca artist/activist Domi (Domitila Domínguez). The two have worked together as partners and activists, particularly within the context of indigenous activism and the Zapatista movement in Mexico, and together founded the Colectivo Callejero (the Streetwise Collective) in 1982.

Napí tells the story of a Mazateca girl of the same name. In the story, Napí introduces herself and takes us into her world of home, life, family and dreams. She carefully and intimately shows us different elements of her village; these elements are normal parts of her day to day life, however, her descriptions, accompanied by Domi’s captivating illustrations, demonstrate that there is nothing mundane about them. Napí moves along through the pages, illuminating the beauty of plants, animals and other elements of nature.

Napí describes her family, plants and animals with love and warm respect, and her depictions portray how the elements of nature, such as the large ceiba tree outside of her home, take care of her, and she trusts in them to do so. It is the ceiba tree that brings Napí dreams. Napí cherishes her dreams and explains them with excitement. Throughout the book we get the overall feeling that Napí is in a familiar, loving and supporting environment. As De Colores reviewer Bevery Slapin explains, “She [Napí] says she is poor, but that is belief by the richness of her land, her culture, and the community of which she is a valued part.”

The simple and direct language in the book is well-accompanied by Domi’s expressive, deep and colorful illustrations. Together they allow the reader to connect to Napí and her world. One of my favorite components of this story is that it expresses so much depth and understanding of such a small area, particularly by describing one place in particular at different times of day. Almost everything happens next to the river – Napí’s mother (Naa in Mazatec) braids her hair beside the river; Napí’s grandfather tells her stories there; during a certain time of day, that spot on the river is orange; during another time of day, it is purple; during her dreams it is similarly present. Napí associates each color with emotion and memory, illuminating the power of place.

In sum, I highly recommend this book for both your school and home libraries. Domi’s illustrations are breathtaking and could surely be used for inspiration with watercolors in the classroom. Ramírez’s descriptions of Mazatec life through the eyes of a young girl are also beautiful and inspiring. While the text does not ignore issues with poverty, it emphasizes value of family (human and non-human) and place. In this way, unlike many children’s books published in the US, this book neither romanticizes poverty nor lingers on it as a defining characteristic.

If you can’t get enough of Napí, you can continue to adventure with her in Ramírez and Domi’s other two books, Napí va a la montaña/Napi Goes to the Mountain, and Napí funda un pueblo/Napí Makes a Village. They are available in English and Spanish.

Here is a video about Mazatec traditions published by the Mexican State Center of Languages and Indigenous Cultures. It is spoken in Spanish. And here is another video of a poem spoken in Mazatec, accompanied by photos of the Mazatec region. It is important to also note that there are several different dialects of Mazatec.

Finally, this could be a good opportunity to talk about the recent earthquake disaster that happened in Oaxaca on September 7, 2017 and the importance of support and solidarity during these trying times. PBS has some available teaching materials about earthquakes that I recommend checking out. Also, here is an article titled “Los heroes del terremoto – Materials for Spanish teachers,” which elaborates on the effects of the earthquakes, describes personal stories of everyday people and support networks, and more.

Saludos,

Kalyn

November 17th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! We are already halfway through November! I cannot believe how fast this month is passing by. Here are this week’s resources.

#IndigenousReads by Indigenous Writers: A Children’s Reading List. For centuries, Indigenous people have been represented in literature with stereotypes created and perpetuated by people not of an indigenous background. Now, Indigenous writers are taking it upon themselves and breaking into the publishing industry to share their own stories. ‘Most of what kids see in books today are best sellers & classics that stereotype & misrepresent Native people in history. There’s a lot of bias in them. The books that I recommend are ones that can counter that bias in several ways. One, they’re not stereotypical. Two, most of them are set in the present day, which is important in countering what we see in a lot of children’s & young adult literature, which says that we vanished, we didn’t make it to the present day, and of course we did.’ -Debbie Reese, Nambe Pueblo, of American Indians in Children’s Literature”

– The social movement and organization We Need Diverse Books has released a curated, book-finding app for librarians and teachers who want to find diverse books. The app is called Our Story. “An interactive quiz helps you find the perfect book.”

– Our friends at De Colores have highly recommended the bilingual book, 13 Colors of the Honduran Resistance/ 13 Colores de la Resistencia Hondureña, by Melissa Cardoza and translated by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle. The book includes 13 short bilingual stories and essays compiled in honor of Berta Cáceres Flores, a social and environmental activist in Honduras who was assassinated in March of 2016. “Originally written in beautiful, poetic Honduran vernacular Spanish by Melissa Cardoza and with a careful idiomatic English translation by Matt Ginsberg-Jaeckle—along with 13 black-and-white photos that visually highlight the diversity of the struggle—13 colores documents the resistance of all the abuelas, powerful sisters, and mamas who struggle to feed their children.”

– Find out which books to keep or toss with the help of the blog Booktoss. Their latest post (“Volume 3”) suggests skipping Skippyjohn Jones and treasuring La Princesa and the Pea. “Booktoss means we, the Literary Gatekeepers, need to be willing to see the problems with books and simply toss them aside. Yes. I said it. Toss the book aside. No burning or censoring (understand the difference between censoring and  boycotting, please!). Just get rid of the racist, sexist, homophobic, ableist book and move on.”

– Congratulations to the 20 books that made it to the Premio Fundación Cuatro Gatos 2017. This year there were over one thousand publications representing 20 countries from which to choose!

– Lastly, Latinxs in Kid Lit shared a recent review in which Evangelina Takes Flight by Diana J. Noble is recommended for older young adults. The reviewer, Cris Rhods, a doctoral student at A&M University who focuses on the construction of identity in young adult literature, writes that “Diana J. Noble’s Evangelina Takes Flight is timely to a startling degree. As a work of historical fiction, Noble’s portrayal of upheaval in Mexico caused by the Mexican Revolution and Pancho Villa’s raids on farming villages remains relevant to this day. In confronting the racism and xenophobia rampant at the border, where shops display signs declaring ‘No Dogs! No Negroes! No Mexicans! No Perros! No Negros! No Mexicanos!’, Evangelina’s story parallels contemporary struggles for racial equality (92). As racial tensions build both in the text and in real life, Evangelina’s stand to keep her school desegregated feels remarkably current, and in its demonstration of child activism, Evangelina Takes Flight holds up a powerful example.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Holguin, Cuba. Reprinted from Flickr user Piviso under CC©.

Our Next Good Read

Join us on Monday, December 11th at Tractor Brewing (1800 4th St NW) from Like Water for Chocolate/ Como agua para chocolate | Vamos a Leer | Laura Esquivle5:00-7:00 pm to discuss our next book.  It’s another adult novel month! This month we decided to do a “fan favorite” and our book group chose Like Water for Chocolate/ Como agua para chocolate by Laura EsquivelThis book is available in both English and Spanish (each version is hyperlinked above)!

Here’s a sneak peek into the book: (from Goodreads)

A sumptuous feast of a novel, it relates the bizarre history of the all-female De La Garza family. Tita, the youngest daughter of the house, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But Tita falls in love with Pedro, and he is seduced by the magical food she cooks. In desperation, Pedro marries her sister Rosaura so that he can stay close to her, so that Tita and Pedro are forced to circle each other in unconsummated passion. Only a freakish chain of tragedies, bad luck and fate finally reunite them against all the odds.

We hope to see you there!

We’ll also be raffling off a copy of January’s featured book, Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller (Grades 2 – 7)Join us that evening to be entered!

¡Mira, Look!: The Princess and the Warrior

¡Buenos días!

November is Native American Heritage Month.  Typically, this means that the internet is flooded with underwhelming and endless lists of books highlighting “Indians and Pilgrims” – using this as the only opportunity throughout the year to discuss indigenous peoples of the US, and typically through a distorted lens.

We’re taking a different route, one that will celebrate the lesser-told stories of individual cultures and stories among Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

A brief aside: There are amazing educators out there who are debunking, challenging, and critiquing how to teach Native American Heritage Month in the classroom. A few of them offer resources that we wanted to put at your fingertips: Check Your Curriculum? Are Native Americans in the Past Tense? by Zinn Education Project; Some Thoughts About Native American Month and Thanksgiving by Debbie Reese of the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog; and the Rethinking Columbus guide from Rethinking Schools. These are just a few. As you find others, please add them to the comments below.

Since we at Vamos a Leer have been engaging in this conversation every November for the past few years, we’ve compiled other resources that may be useful to you. You might consider checking out our content on teaching about Indigenous Peoples, as well as our related materials on Rethinking Thanksgiving. And finally, you might refer, too, Reading Roundup of “10 Books About Indigenous Peoples of Latin America” – some of which we’ll cover in more depth in this month’s reviews.

We begin our reviews this month with the children’s book, The Princess and the Warrior, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh. This title is an Illustrator Honor Book of the 2017 Pura Belpré Award and a Commended Title for the 2017 Américas Award, among others.

In this book, Tonatiuh tells his own version of the legend of Iztaccíhuatl and Popocatépetl, which are the two volcanoes southeast of Mexico City. Tonatiuh recounts the legend of how these volcanoes came to be, but adds his own twist to this well-known Mexican story.

The book is a love story about the beautiful princes Itza, who falls in love with a warrior, Popoca. Itza’s father, the emperor, prefers that Itza marry a powerful tlatoani, or ruler, rather than a simple soldier. However, he concedes that if Popoca is able to defeat Jaguar Claw of the neighboring area, with whom they have been at war, Itza and Popoca can marry. Although Popoca fights bravely and eventually triumphs over Jaguar Claw, a twist in the plot leads Itza to believe that Popoca has actually been defeated. In her grief, Itza drinks a special octli (fermented beverage) and cannot be awoken. Popoca, grief stricken, lays her on a bed of flowers and remains by her side throughout time. And that is how the two volcanoes came to be. As Kirkus Reviews writes, it’s a story “equal parts melancholic and transcendent – a genuine triumph.” Continue reading

November 10th | Week in Review

¡Hola a todos! I am always delighted to assemble the resources for you!

— Here are the Premio Fundación Cuatrogatos 2017. Cuatrogatos is a nonprofit organizations that works to promote Spanish culture, language, and education, with a focus on children’s and young adult books. Its annual award was established to recognize high quality books created by Ibero-American writers and illustrators. This year’s list of award winners highlights 90 books written in Spanish.

Latinxs in Kid Lit shared the book reviews of Lola Levine Meets Jelly and Bean as well as The Rooster Would Not Be Quiet by reviewer Dora, a bilingual reading specialist for k-3. Dora includes great teaching tips in her review!

– If teaching kindergarten, you might want to check out The Latino Family Literacy Project’s short book trailer for the children’s book Fun with ABC’s – Loteria Style.

– For those teaching older grades, you might be interested in teaching about the Role of Women in Drug Cartels as represented in popular media. “In short, the reality is this—on screen, we’re accustomed to seeing the women of the drug cartels as mere background players. But on the ground, things couldn’t be more different. Now that the DEA has captured El Chapo, it is a “queenpin” from the Medellín cartel’s past—Maria Teresa Osorio de Serna—who remains one of the few figures left on their most wanted list.”

– You might already be familiar with “the 12-year-old-trailblazer fighting for equality in kids’ books,” but if not you should definitely read more about her story and be inspired for how you and your students can help change the world.

– Still looking for more inspiration? How about reading “How YA Literature is Leading the Queer Disabled Media Revolution”? “When you’re marginalized, it’s hard to find yourself reflected in media. When you’re marginalized in multiple ways, that difficulty is multiplied tenfold…”

– We hate to break it to you, but Dr. Seuss’ work is “complicated.” Read more about how “Dr. Seuss Draws Fresh Scrutiny.” “Seuss, like any other author, was a product of his time,” Martin said. “Fortunately, some authors grow and figure out that maybe some of the things they wrote early on were harmful and they try to make amends. Seuss did that.”

– We were excited to read that “A New Database Catalogues 1,300 Children’s Books About People of Color.” And they’re cataloging the books with nuanced search terms, which means that we can both find diverse literature and analyze how stereotypes can be reproduced even within the so-called diverse book world. “So far Aronson and her team have read and processed 1,300 books, with around 200 backlogged books left. The database can be searched with combinations of tags, like ‘Vietnamese,’ ‘Muslim,’ and ‘beautiful life’ to find books appropriate for different occasions, lessons, and readers. The database also reveals patterns in the ways kids are taught about people of color: Of the 10 books starring a Brazilian kid currently published in the US, half are about soccer. Half the books about Asian or Asian American characters are about culture, like The year of the sheep, about Chinese Zodiac signs, and a quarter are about folklore, like The ghost catcher, a retelling of a myth about a Bengali barber. About 2% of these have characters categorized by the database as ‘oppressed.’” Check out the Diverse Book Finder to explore its catalog.

– Finally, we have to share a recent post from The Open Book blog run by the wonderful folks at Lee & Low Books: Celebrate Native American Heritage Month + Poster Giveaway.  “Historically, Native people have been silenced and their stories set aside, hidden, or drowned out. The #NoDAPL movement and the fight against racist portrayals for sports mascots  brought Native American voices to the forefront of the news last year, but the issues that the community still have to deal with shouldn’t be brushed aside. This is why it’s especially important to continue to read stories about Native characters, by Native voices which brings us to some exciting news: last month, we brought back to print a special 40th Anniversary  edition of Simon J. Ortiz’s beloved children’s book The People Shall Continue, which traces the history of Native and Indigenous people in North America. It includes updated illustrations by Sharol Graves and a new afterword by the author. It’s also available in a Spanish translation which you can purchase here.”  Visit their blog to learn more and request a free poster for your classroom!

 

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Valparaiso, Chile. Reprinted from Flickr user Paula Soler-Moya under CC©.

Author’s Corner: Ibi Zoboi

Saludos a todos! This week we are taking a moment to celebrate and feature author Ibi Aanu Zoboi, the writer behind this month’s featured novel, American Street, which we’ll read next week on November 13th at Tractor Brewing on 4th. Like with our previous authors, we take this time to feature the breadth of the author’s oeuvre, as well as more personal details that have informed her work.

Ibi Zoboi was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.  She immigrated to the United States as a young child alongside her mother and currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and their three children.

She holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and is an accomplished writer, with publications in The New York Times Book Review, the Horn Book Magazine, and The Rumpus, among others. Her debut novel, American Street, was published by Balzer + Bray, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, this year. Her work has a received an impressive range of awards, accolades and recognition, but, most notably, American Street was nominated for a 2017 National Book Award, one of the greatest literary honors in the country.  Her next YA novel, Pride, is due out in the Fall of 2018, and a middle grade novel, My life as an Ice-Cream Sandwich, is forthcoming.

Zoboi’s writing is powerful and rooted in a celebration of her Haitian heritage. More than celebratory, however, her writing confronts and challenges how Haitian culture is generally portrayed – and how young women of color, particularly young Black and Latinx women, appear in literature and the media.  She grapples openly with questions of poverty and institutional racism, white supremacy and violence.  And in the process, her writing helps to humanize individuals whose lives are too frequently dehumanized, degraded, and stigmatized  in popular media – if they’re fortunate enough to appear at all. As Zoboi writes in her blog, “what matters most is that we black content creators within all-white industries take the helm and steer the ship to tell stories that are true and humanizing – narratives that pull from lived experiences and are based on a deep love for black people.”

This inspiration is apparent in American Street, a novel that brings individual stories to life through empathy, emotion, and truth – while also acknowledging complexities of  immigration, poverty, love, patriotism, religion, ethnicity, culture, language, and so much more. In truth, Zoboi’s writing is deeply intersectional and multilayered, nuanced with keen observations about lived experiences. In an interview with Zoboi, Alice Cary of BookPage hones in on this complexity, calling Zoboi “a novelist who digs deep into what happens when cultures, nationalities, races, and religions collide.”  It fits, then, that Zoboi’s  work appears in literary outlets which emphasize speaking with honesty. Her award-winning story, “At the Shores of Dawn,” for instance, first appeared in the literary journal of One?Respe!, an educational organization focused on the power of reflection, taking its name from a creole expression loosely meaning Honor and Respect.

Perhaps just as important as the themes she addresses are the audiences for which Zoboi writes. Her audiences range from children to adults, leading s blogger for Kreyolicious to observe that, “to call writer Ibi Zoboi ‘versatile’ is an understatement. Her pen will write a compelling essay one minute, a short story the next, and a children’s book the next.”

After reading through Zoboi’s work, it is clear that part of her trademark style is a rare ability to write fluid, internal dialogue that fleshes out social nuances often difficult to put into words – and to write stories on behalf of lesser-known, lesser-voiced protagonists who are too often omitted from the broader publishing world. Hers is most certainly a writing worth seeking out, be it one of her essays, her children’s book, or her first YA novel. We highly recommend it.

And for those who want to learn more and about from the woman herself, we encourage you to visit Zoboi’s website and blog, where she describes her writing in more detail, tackles issues of representation and blackness in literature, and explores and what it means to write children’s literature with empowered brown characters.

~ Keira

p.s. special shout out to LAII graduate student, Jacob Sandler, for his help with writing this feature!


Photograph of Ibi Zoboi reprinted from author website.

November 3rd | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! I cannot believe we are already in November! Time is going by fast. I hope you enjoy the compiled resources; I always enjoy gathering them.

– Puerto Rico is still very much in our hearts and minds here at The University of New Mexico, but apparently it’s not in most US classrooms. Courtesy of Teaching for Change, here is a list of “Puerto Rican Children’s Literature for Social Justice: A Bibliography for Educators” by Marilisa Jimenez Garcia, PhD. “Recent national news reflects the public’s lack of knowledge of the U.S. as a country in possession of colonies, such as Guam and Puerto Rico. In a 2016 poll, many Americans were unaware that Puerto Ricans born on the island were U.S. citizens. Moreover, Puerto Ricans remain one of the largest Latinx populations in the U.S. with a continuous migration and diaspora resulting from over a century and half of U.S. interventions and economic upheaval.”

– Latinx in Kid Lit continue with their excellent reviews of recent books by Latinx authors. Among their more recent reviews are Marta Big and Small and The Chupacabra Ate the Candelabra, as jointly reviewed by Ruby Jones. Ms. Jones has worked in public libraries since 2007.

– De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children always brings us sharply focused reviews of Latinx children’s books – many not by Latinx authors. In one of their latest features, they share some of the reasons why Home at Last by Susan Middleton Elya is not recommended “…But this unrealistic and didactic story serves only to reinforce the stereotype of Mexican women…”

– La Bloga recently shared an interview with Hector Luis Alamo, an editor and publisher for Enclave as well as a guest columnist for Chile’s Prensa Irreverente. In this interview, this Latino artivist shares his experience of how he became passionate about reading, his favorite poems, and how he came to find his career path.

– In our offline conversations, we talk frequently about how books can serve as windows, mirrors, and doors. Lee & Low Books focused on the “mirrors: possibilities in their latest post on their blog, The Open Book, where they emphasized the importance of “Mirror Books” in the classroom.

– Lastly, as Día de los Muertos takes this week, we thought it important to share Teaching Tolerance’s recent post on Let Día de los Muertos Stand on Its Own. “This holiday, which is distinctly different from Halloween, presents a wonderful opportunity to foster empathy among students.”

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: Monumento al Nazareno, Venezuela. Reprinted from Flickr user Wilmer Osarlo under CC©.