Saludos, todos! A couple days ago I shared here the 2016 winners of the Américas Award. Today, I will be featuring the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award winners.
The Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award was established in 1995 by Texas State University College of Education to honor and celebrate the Mexican American experience. The award was named after Dr. Tomás Rivera, the first Mexican American to be selected as Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State University. Aside from being a prolific scholar and creative writer, Tomás Rivera was also a bona fide lover of Mexican American literature, and even became known informally as the Dean of Mexican American Literature in his social circles. He traveled extensively throughout the Americas and Europe reading his own writing, and promoting the general pursuit and awareness of Mexican American literature.
In last year’s post on the 2015 Tomás Rivera award winners, Keira nicely framed Rivera’s influential writing and the impact that he has had on Latin American literature:
Dr. Rivera was the author of …y no se lo tragó la tierra / And the Earth Did Not Devour Him (1971), a groundbreaking novel that provided one of the first visceral depictions of what it meant to be a migrant worker in the United States. While I encourage all our readers to visit the award website to read the more complete biography of Dr. Rivera, I also want to share here a bit of what they wrote about Dr. Rivera’s importance at the time and the ongoing legacy he contributed to Mexican, American, and Mexican-American cultures. It captures the importance not only of Dr. Rivera’s lifetime accomplishments, but also the significance of having a children’s book award named in his honor.
Tomás Rivera’s writings have provided tremendous hope for generations of migrants who had previously not had their lives inscribed and valorized in literature, ensuring with his literature that their lives were not lived in vain or forgotten. His enduring presence through his literature will long stand in the United States as an example of what the Mexican American community is capable of nurturing, educating, and producing. About our education, he said, “A highly quality education provided at all levels for the Hispanic communities will insure stronger individuals, and in turn a stronger community. This type of education must be one of our constant and basic demands. We can only insure this education if we lead, if we become involved in getting it, if we have in it, and most importantly, if we make it part of our prophecy.”
Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh, written and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Harry N. Abrams, 2015).
Funny Bones tells the story of how the amusing calaveras—skeletons performing various everyday or festive activities—came to be. They are the creation of Mexican artist José Guadalupe (Lupe) Posada (1852–1913). In a country that was not known for freedom of speech, he first drew political cartoons, much to the amusement of the local population but not the politicians. He continued to draw cartoons throughout much of his life, but he is best known today for his calavera drawings. They have become synonymous with Mexico’s Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) festival. Juxtaposing his own art with that of Lupe’s, author Duncan Tonatiuh brings to light the remarkable life and work of a man whose art is beloved by many but whose name has remained in obscurity.
Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez (Carolrhoda Lab TM, 2015).
“This is East Texas, and there’s lines. Lines you cross, lines you don’t cross. That clear?”
New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them. They know the people who enforce them. But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
Ashley Hope Pérez takes the facts of the 1937 New London school explosion the worst school disaster in American history as a backdrop for a riveting novel about segregation, love, family, and the forces that destroy people.