Saludos todos! This week we are taking the time to feature Ashley Hope Pérez, a wonderful author whose book, Out of Darkness, is our featured title for this month. Katrina and Keira even had the pleasure of meeting Hope Pérez recently when they were in Washington, DC, celebrating her receipt of the Américas Award.
Out of Darkness, Hope Pérez’s most recent book, has been acknowledged with a range of awards and accolades, including, in addition to the Américas Award, the 2016 Printz Honor for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and the 2016 Tomás Rivera Book Award. Out of Darkness is our featured book in October and we’re looking forward to discussing it later tonight at our monthly meeting at Tractor Brewing.
The story is powerful and compelling and, according to a review by the New York Times, “Her layered tale of color lines, love and struggle in an East Texas oil town is a pit-in-the-stomach family drama that goes down like it should, with pain and fascination, like a mix of sugary medicine and artisanal moonshine.” Other books by Hope Pérez include The Knife and the Butterfly and What Can’t Wait.
Hope Pérez works as a professor of world literatures at Ohio State University and earned her PhD in comparative literature at Indiana University. Her husband is also a professor at Ohio State University, and they live in Columbus, Ohio, with their two sons. Hope Pérez identifies as an avid lover of reading, writing and teaching and, before becoming a university professor, also spent time teaching bilingual kindergarten, Montessori middle school, and high school. According to her personal website, Hope Pérez’s experience teaching young students was a transformative time in her life and career as a writer: “I especially enjoyed my three years teaching high school in Houston, where many of my students were convinced they hated to read and write at the beginning of the year and equally persuaded of the opposite by the end of the year. I credit them with transforming me into an author, and I jump at the chance to reconnect with young readers through school visits and events.” Hope Pérez also wittily recounts why she never became a librarian, despite her profound love for books: “Reading is one of my passions, and maybe if I hadn’t also fallen in love with teaching, I might have become a librarian just so that I could be around as many books as possible. But I’m also a big talker, a tendency that doesn’t evaporate when I cross a library’s threshold. No doubt I would have been blacklisted before I even got through my library science degree or, at the least, branded ‘The Loud Librarian.’“
Although there is still so much to say and learn about this wonderful author, I think returning to her most recent novel is a great starting point for familiarizing oneself with her work, her values, and her life. As she has said herself, “Out of Darkness deals with layers of tragedy, and pieces of my own broken heart are embedded in it.” In a Huffington Post piece, Black and Brown Bodies in Public Spaces: An Interview with Novelist, Ashley Hope Pérez, Daniel A. Olivas praises Hope Pérez’s writing: “This novel is as stunning as it is truthful, a narrative shaped by history and love that honestly explores racism, abuse and a young woman’s tenacity to fashion a life on her own terms. Pérez has contributed an important, meticulously crafted book to young adult literature.” Olivas also interviewed Hope Pérez on some of the choices she made while writing the book, where her inspiration came from, and what kind of responses she’s received. When asked about the book’s impact, Hope Pérez states: “I’m especially honored when readers make important connections between the novel and the injustices that persist in our society, especially the vulnerability of black and brown bodies in public spaces. Above all, I hope Out of Darkness shows how reckoning with the darkness of the past can make us hunger for light — and for a more just future.” This is one of the reasons we love featuring Out of Darkness on the blog, and getting to know Hope Pérez a bit personally—many of her values and objectives fall perfectly in line with our ambitions here at the blog. We highly commend her dedication to social justice and to giving a voice to the voiceless through the power of literature.
When asked in the same interview about the historical context of her novel, she states: “I also knew early on that my book would center on characters from the margins of mainstream history… I imagined these possibilities because the historical record only addressed the white experience in New London. I wanted to write from that erasure, to narrate from that silence.” As such, Hope Pérez’s work is an incredibly valuable contribution to Latinx literature, multicultural literature, and our general goal of diversifying children’s literature and promoting social justice through books.
For more information about Hope Pérez, here are some additional links:
- Ashley Hope Pérez’s personal website
- Ashley Hope Pérez’s Facebook page
- Latinx in Kid Lit Q&A with Ashley Hope Pérez (a blog to which she contributes regularly)
- Brazos Bookstore Q&A with Ashley Hope Pérez
Stay tuned for my regular ¡Mira, Look! book reviews resuming next week in continuation of our October themes!