¡Mira, Look!: Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad

¡Buenos días! Today’s book fits perfectly with both National Poetry Month and Earth Day. Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad, written by Emma Otheguy, illustrated by Beatriz Vidal and translated by Adriana Domínguez, is a picture book biography  of the Cuban hero José Martí (1853-1985). It was published in 2017 by Lee & Low Press. Each page provides the text in English and Spanish, with Otheguy interspersing Martí’s own words alongside her narration of his life.

This book would be a wonderful contribution to children’s literature at any point, but it stands out in the present era as a timely resource for encouraging young readers to see injustice and seek change in the world around them. For a snapshot into why his life might inspire readers today, long after his death, the publisher’s description offers a useful biographical sketch:

As a young boy, Jose Martí traveled to the countryside of Cuba and fell in love with the natural beauty of the land. During this trip he also witnessed the cruelties of slavery on sugar plantations. From that moment, Martí began to fight for the abolishment of slavery and for Cuban independence from Spain through his writing. By age seventeen, he was declared an enemy of Spain and was forced to leave hisbeloved island. Martí traveled the world and eventually settled in New York City. But the longer he stayed away from his homeland, the sicker and weaker he became. On doctor’s orders he traveled to the Catskill Mountains, where nature inspired him once again to fight for freedom. Here is a beautiful tribute to Jose Martí, written in verse with excerpts from his seminal work, Versos sencillos. He will always be remembered as a courageous fighter for freedom and peace among all men and women.

Martí was a philosopher, poet, traveler, and, yes, “fighter for freedom and peace among all men and women.” His life is complicated and not easily conveyed to even adult readers, yet Otheguy, who is a scholar of Spain and colonial Latin America, has managed to do just that. In School Library Journal’s starred review, they acknowledged that she offers a “sensitive and poignant tribute to one of Latin America’s most important historical figure.”

Writing a children’s book is never easy. Writing a children’s book about a complex historical period and renowned figure is harder yet. Somehow, Otheguy does it. She manages to weave simple descriptions of Martí’s experiences into and alongside references to the broader history, politics, and cultural moments that shaped his philosophy. An epilogue at the end provides even more information about his life. This attention to detail is itself enough for the book to merit a prime bookshelf spot, but Otheguy does more than just situate him in history. Her carefully chosen verses also allow students to see the person behind the figure, and particularly his love of the naturalworld. With Earth Day upon us, it’s timely to read how she explores how the natural world influenced his philosophy.

This attention to the natural world is particularly evident inOtheguy’s descriptions of Martí’s time in the United States. During Martí’s exile to New York, he soon came to realize that the American’s fixation withmoney created a sense of indifference and apathy which he could not tolerate. In order to escape the city and its materiality, Martí would go tothe Catskill Mountains, where he would walk and write.Otheguy describes the Catskill Mountains as Martí’s way of dwelling in Cuba fromafar – the pine trees of rural New York forests paralleling Cuba’s palm trees and beaches. A love of homeland becomes a literal love for the land, leading to the notion that it was his time in the New York countryside which recharged Martí and prompted him to return to Cuba to fight for his people.

Stanzas taken directly from Martís work, Versos sencillos, ring boldly from each page and reinforce the nuanced importance of the landscape. Here, for instance, with few words he somehow manages to speak at once to the natural beauty of the New York and Cuban landscapes and his estranged longing for home:

“Mi verso es de un verde claro

Y de un carmín encendido:

Mi verso es un ciervo herido

Que busca en el monte amparo.

 

My song is of the palest green

And the fieriest crimson:

My song is a wounded deer                                                          

That in the countryside, seeks safety.”

Vidal’s soft and colorful illustrations perfectly accompany the words of both Otheguy and Martí. Her depictions of the New York and Cuban countryside, of battlefields and urban spaces and of pain andcelebration are breathtaking and dynamic. As much as each individual image is striking, it is her choice of juxtaposition that lingers. Images of rolling hills are matched by horses charging into battle.

At the end of the book, the Acknowledgments section allows Otheguy to tell readers how she places herself in relation to Martí and of her family’s experience as Cuban Americans in New York. She writes:

“This book was inspired by my parents, who read me stories from La edad de oro and who embody every day the capacity to hold two homelands, two cultures, and two languages within oneself. When I was a child, they talked endlessly about their lives in Cuba, while staying ever-present in the very different lives my brother and sister and I  shared. I hope this book captures my love for the palm trees of my parents’ homeland and the oak trees of nuestro Nueva York; I hope this book also conveys what it means to me that Martí, too, knew, loved, and was inspired by these two places.” Young readers who come from families and households that share multiple languages, places, and people may well relate to both Martí’s and Otheguy’s lives.

Here are some resources for you to check out while working with this book in the classroom:

  • PBS has a short documentary about Mosé Martí
  • Here is a lesson plan for using two of Martí’s poems and one of his letters
  • Here you can hear Martí’s famous poem, Versos Sencillos, read aloud. Excerpts of this poem are found throughout Martí’s Song for Freedom/Martí y sus versos por la libertad.
  • To help make connections between Martí and the present day, check out this informal piece from the Huffington Post on “What My Millenial Students Can Learn from José Martí
  • If you’d like to pair this title with other books on Cuba or other biographies, you might want to peruse Teaching for Change’s compiled Social Justice Books.

For those interested in the book itself, we suggest checking out:

I hope you enjoy this book as much as we do!

Saludos,

Kalyn


Images modified from Martí’s Song for Freedom / Martí y sus versos por la libertad

¡Mira, Look!: Sueño azul / Kallfv pewma mew

1Hoy vamos a hablar de Sueño Azul / Kallfv pewma mew del poeta y oralitor chileno Elicura Chihuailaf y de los ilustradores María de los Ángeles Vargas y Alberto Montt, ambos originarios del país andino. Durante esta crítica me referiré a la obra, Kallfv pewma mew, en su denominación mapuche; idioma también conocido como mapudungun. Es de resaltar la descripción del autor como oralitor, una figura acuñada por el mismo que pretende honrar a los antepasados mapuches y supone una mixtura de oralidad y escritura.

Kallfv pewma mew es un pasaje a las tierras de la Araucanía, en Chile central, donde el saber indígena de los mapuches no parece haber sido ultrajado por capas de colonialismo histórico. Supone un despertar poético del autor entre su tejido familiar, con los mayores como pilar vital para adquirir una posición de respeto por la lengua, las tradiciones y la naturaleza. Estos últimos se funden en un caluroso abrazo y dejan destilar los frutos de su unión para dar a conocer un estilo de vida que bebe del color azul, el poder de la tierra y la importancia de la oralidad como hilo conductor de su existencia misma. Dejémonos transportar por algunos de los evocadores pasajes:

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Pukem wamfiñ ñi tranvn ti pu koyam ti llvfkeñ mew wvzam tripalu

/ En invierno sentimos caer los robles partidos por los rayos […]

Che ta rumel mogen Mapu gelay Mapuche fey piley Mapu mu tripachi che piley

/ La Tierra no pertenece a la gente, Mapuche significa Gente de la Tierra […]

 

 

La obra ofrece un lirismo que fluye como las aguas de un río en lengua mapuche y castellana respectivamente (incluyendo la versión en inglés y francés hacia el final de la misma), y se deja confundir con recuerdos que no aparecen constreñidos por reglas gramaticales (el texto no está puntuado); recuerdos que dialogan con unas ilustraciones bidimensionales que proyectan el alma de la vida mapuche. Partiendo de su infancia, el autor va construyendo un arco vital cuajado de sabiduría ancestral y cómo esta forja su ser poético al calor de las hogueras. Una pasión que le hará viajar a otros países y que permite que se erija en un legítimo representante de la población indígena chilena.

3Elicura Chihuailaf es un poeta y oralitior chileno nacido en 1952 en la región de la Araucanía, hacia el sur de Santiago, la capital, en el centro del país. Kallfv pewma mew es su primera obra infantil, aunque tiene una extensa publicación de otros textos como El invierno, su imagen y otros poemas azules (1991), Recado confidencial a los chilenos (1999) o Sueños de luna azul (2008). Por su parte, María de los Ángeles Vargas y Alberto Montt son ilustradores y diseñadores chilenos que colaboran regularmente con varias editoriales y medios nacionales.

Recursos relacionados con la promoción de la poesía, el respeto por el saber tradicional y la naturaleza:

Esta publicación tiene un sentido especial para mí por varias razones: la primera es que uno de mis amigos más importantes, de esos que aunque pase el tiempo y no os veáis todo sigue igual cuando tenéis oportunidad, es chileno. La segunda tiene que ver con el hecho de aunar poesía, saber ancestral y naturaleza. Este triángulo mágico que transporta y evoca de forma tan poderosa.

¡Nos vemos en próximas publicaciones, estad atentos al blog!

Santi

¡Mira, Look!: Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

¡Buenos días! Continuing with National Poetry Month, today we will be taking a look at Bravo!: Poems About Amazing Hispanics, written by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López. Engle’s work is wonderful to read at any time, but seems even more apt right now given that she is currently serving (2017-2019) as the Poetry Foundation’s Young People’s Poet Laureate. People who hold this position aim “to raise awareness that young people have a natural receptivity to poetry and are its most appreciative audience, especially when poems are written specifically for them.”

In this particular book, Engle invites and inspires young readers with a collection of poems about 18 different Hispanics who lived between the years of 1713 and 2011. The people whom she highlights come from a variety of backgrounds, and they worked in many different fields. What they share in common is that they left an important impact on our world, and they are from the Americas.

Before I dive further into the review, I want to have a short conversation about the term “Hispanic” and how it’s used in the book. This is one of many terms that have been chosen by or applied to peoples of Spanish and Latin American descent, alongside terms such as Chicano, Latino, Latinx, Mexicano, Mestizo and Spanish, among others. The use of these terms, including who gets to choose them and why they choose them, is part of a much larger history than we can offer here. Nonetheless we want to pause to acknowledge their complexity and offer at least a starting point for understanding the use of the term “Hispanic” in Bravo!

“Hispanic” first appeared in the 1970s on the US Census, after activists had lobbied for the use of an umbrella category that would more thoroughly document the breadth of Spanish-speaking individuals in the US. Previously, individuals had either marked themselves as “White” or identified by their country of birth. In current parlance, “Hispanic” has evolved into a much more complicated word whose meaning changes depending on the context. It can be interpreted as neutral, hegemonic, politically-charged, inclusive, or exclusive. We’ve included resources further below in case you want to tease apart some of the implications surrounding it. In the case of Bravo, Engle uses the term in a positive sense and interprets it fluidly, beginning the book with this note to her readers:

“This is not a book about the most famous Hispanics. These poems are about a variety of amazing people who lived in geographic regions now included in the modern United States. They are people who have faced life’s challenges in creative ways. Some were celebrated in their lifetimes but have been forgotten by history. Others achieved lasting fame…”

She then goes on to highlight the achievements of both well-known and less famous Hispanics throughout time. Some of the impactful Hispanic people she highlights include: Juan de Miralles from Cuba, who helped America achieve independence from England; the fierce Juana Briones who was born in Spanish California and was a rancher, healer and midwife; Mexican-American botanist Ynés Mexía; Aída de Acosta from Cuba, who was the first female pilot; and Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, who was a New Mexican teacher, nutritionist and writer. After highlighting each historical figure, Engle writes a poem encompassing even more Hispanics who have had a large impact on our world today. It would be an endless job of fitting so many heroes into one book, and one can sense her struggle with wanting to include and celebrate as many people as she can.

Alongside Engle’s writing, Rafael López’s illustrations are magnificent. With simple outlines and saturated colors, he captures the lively personalities that shine through Engle’s poetry, and uses carefully chosen background elements to tease out details of their lives. For example, in the illustration of botanist Ynés Mexía, she is surrounded by plants and flowers. Luis Agassiz Fuertes, painter of birds, is surrounded by birds and stands in front of a background of trees. Juana Briones, healer, rancher and herbalist, stands in a field amid herbs.

This book would be great to use while working with classroom units involving poetry. Each poem is told from a first person point-of-view, which demonstrates a specific approach to writing a poem that might segue well with encouraging students to bring their own voice and experience into the classroom conversation. It could also encourage students to study historical figures and envision their experiences. For example, here is the poem Engle wrote about Paulina Pedroso (1845-1925, Cuba):

 

“José Martí and all the other exiled poets

meet in my Florida home, where they recite

beautiful verses, and discuss ways to bring freedom

to our homeland.

They call me a heroine for creating

a friendship society of black and white cubanos,

all of us living in exile, where we help each other,

and help the needy – orphans, widows, the poor…

 

When my friend and I walk arm in arm,

it is a wordless statement of equality,

Martí’s light skin and my dark skin

side by side.”

 

Below are a few lesson plans involving poetry that I suggest checking out to accompany Bravo!:

  • readwritethink.org has some great lesson plan ideas and resources for using during National Poetry Month.
  • The Poetry Foundation has a variety of resources, including poems for children in particular. Poems by Margarita Engle outside of those found in Bravo! are on this website.
  • On her website, Margarita Engle has two videos with tips for teaching poetry to children.

Given that Bravo! centers around individual stories and we are inviting you to use it as a tool for focusing on your students’ stories, it might be worthwhile to bring in an activity from Rethinking School’s book, Reading, Writing and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word, by Linda Christensen.  While the whole book can be purchased as a PDF for $14.95, a sample lesson plan is available for free. It’s called “To Say the Name is to Begin the Story,” and it offers a community building lesson on the personal and cultural significance of naming. Check out the book link for the lesson plan and related resources.

Returning briefly to the above conversation about Hispanic and Latino/Latinx, here are a few quick resources to add to the conversation (note: we’re not suggesting that you use these as definitive sources):

Finally, if you enjoy Engle’s work as much as we do, you might appreciate reading our reviews of her other books, including Drum Dream Girl and Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal, in addition to our educator’s guides for The Surrender Tree / El árbol de la rendición (available in both Spanish and English), Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck, and The Lightning Dreamer. We also posted an interview with Margarita Engle that I recommend checking out. And we also recommend you head over to Latinx in Kid Lit for their complementary review of Bravo.

We hope you enjoy this book as much as we did, and that it will be useful for you in the classroom during National Poetry Month and beyond!

Saludos,

Kalyn


Images modified from: Bravo: Poems About Amazing Hispanics

¡Mira, Look!: Rubén Darío

Hoy vamos a hablar de Rubén Darío de la autora puertorriqueña Georgina Lázaro y el ilustrador nicaragüense Lonnie Ruiz, una obra incluida en la serie de literatura infantil cuando los grandes eran pequeños. Esta última es un acercamiento a los grandes autores de la literatura hispanoamericana. Si quieres sumergirte en la vida de Rubén Darío, magnífico poeta nicaragüense y artista precoz como el que más, acompáñame a descubrir su propia historia.

Rubén Darío es una invitación a conocer la vida y desarrollo artístico del poeta del mismo nombre en lengua castellana; una historia compuesta por estrofas de cuatro versos octosílabos que riman entre sí y combinan con evocadoras imágenes que acompañan el arco cronológico, entretejiendo un desarrollo personal y profesional marcado por la pasión por las letras. Los colores, de tono claro, generan una paleta donde la poesía es la auténtica protagonista. El libro viene introducido por un extracto final de un poema del autor titulado A Margarita Debayle y fechado a 20 de marzo de 1908:

 

Ya que lejos de mí vas a estar,

guarda, niña, un gentil pensamiento

al que un día te quiso contar

un cuento.

 

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La historia se desarrolla sin prisa pero sin pausa, reflejando una tierna infancia del autor en San Marcos de Colón (Honduras), marcada esta por la convivencia con su madre y la ausencia del padre, el contacto con la naturaleza primigenia, la posterior mudanza a León (Nicaragua) y su adopción por parte del coronel Félix Ramírez y su esposa Bernarda Sarmiento; tía y madre adoptiva de la madre de Rubén Darío, cuyo nombre real es Rubén García Sarmiento.

Pronto el futuro maestro de las letras quedó fascinado con los libros, y entre fiestas populares, amor paternal e interminables historias, su imaginación iba escalando imparablemente hacia los cielos; allá donde solo los privilegiados que confluyen con las artes tienen acceso. La muerte de su padre adoptivo agrió su imparable ascenso, pero no impidió que un día, alumbrado por la poesía, siguiera su camino, granjeándose el apodo 2del niño poeta y consiguiendo la publicación de un poema en un diario de León a los 12 años. Entre amores de niñez de los que marcan de por vida y agrietan corazones, Rubén Darío termina mudándose a la capital del país, Managua, donde hace de la biblioteca su templo y se termina casando. Allí galopa incesante hacia aguas internacionales, sigue afilando su pluma y se erige como el que para muchos es el padre del modernismo literario.

Georgina Lázaro es una autora puertorriqueña con extensa trayectoria en literatura infantil que cuando comenzó se sentaba en una mesita con lápiz y papel y así redactaba los cuentos que luego les leía a sus hijos a la hora de dormir. Entre sus libros de la serie cuando los grandes eran pequeños destacan, además de Rubén Darío, autores de la talla de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Pablo Neruda o Federico García Lorca. Lonnie Ruiz, por su parte, es un ilustrador nicaragüense que además practica la docencia universitaria y ha participado en bienales de España, México o Rusia.

Recursos relacionados y enfocados a la promoción de la poesía:

¡Como siempre, espero hayáis disfrutado de esta obra y seguimos con la serie de poesía del mes!

Santi

 

Mira, Look: Photographic, The Life of Graciela Iturbide

photographicSaludos a todxs,

Today’s post will highlight a recently-released graphic novel about which we are very excited: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, written by Isabel Quintero and illustrated by Zeke Peña. We’re thrilled to see this book released from Getty Publications, but we have yet to hold it in our hands. So, our full review is pending. Instead, we’re offering this preview inspired by the author’s and illustrator’s upcoming visit to Albuquerque! If you’re in town, save the date for April 10th, when they’ll be speaking at Hodgin Hall on UNM’s campus!!!

This beautiful graphic novel is available as the English edition (linked above) and as a full, Spanish-language edition called Iguana Lady: La vida de Graciela Iturbide. The novel documents the life and work of the Mexican photographer Graciela Iturbide.

Direct from the publisher, here is a summary of the book:

“Graciela Iturbide was born in Mexico City in 1942, the oldest of thirteen children. When tragedy strikes Graciela as a young mother, she turns to photography for solace and understanding. From then on Graciela embarks on a photographic journey that takes her throughout her native Mexico, from the Sonora Desert to Juchitán to Frida Kahlo’s bathroom, to the United States, India, and beyond. Photographic is a symbolic, poetic, and deeply personal graphic biography of this iconic photographer. Graciela’s journey will excite young readers and budding photographers who will be inspired by her resolve, talent, and curiosity.”

The J. Paul Getty Museum’s website has videos that document Iturbide’s work as a photographer, the process for how Quintero and Peña put together this beautiful graphic novel, and also classroom resources to help share the book with students. The website also provides a thoughtful, extensive digital preview of the text as part of the educator resources.photographic_preview (1)_Page_04

In addition, Getty has also put together:

Our copies are already on the way, so we’ll be back in the near future to share a full review with you.

In the meantime, we’ll dwell for a moment on Quintero and Peña as the creators behind this fascinating publication.

Here on our blog we have highlighted Isabel Quintero as a Featured Author. We have also reviewed and created an educator’s guide for her first YA novel, Gabi: A Girl in Pieces. It is one of the absolute favorites among our local book group! She’s also written the recently-released Ugly Cat and Pablo for younger readers, among other essays and poems. Her work is always incredible, be it lighthearted or gritty, as you can read more about in this article, “Author Visit REHASH: Isabel Quintero, YA, and Children’s Writer (and Poet!)” from this blog on children’s literature run by English & Comparative Lit department at SDSU.

 

Pages from photographic_previewZeke Peña likewise holds a place in our hearts. He is the illustrator behind Photographic and also the illustrator behind the hand-drawn sketches and collages in Gabi. Peña, a cartoonist and painter from El Paso, Texas, writes on his website that, “Most of my work is inspired by living on the border and remixes historical narratives with what’s going on today. I use comics to subvert American history and reclaim stories that were burned by colonialism; resistencia one cartoon at a time.” You can learn more about how identity is forefront in his work in this article by Remezcla, “The river holds our history: Artist Zeke Peña Traces the Rio Grande’s Place in Fronterizo Identity.

We hope that this post inspires you to explore this work of art more thoroughly; we know we are excited to read it!

Saludos,
Kalyn & Keira

¡Mira, Look!: Lucía the luchadora

Hoy hablaremos de Lucía the luchadora, una historia de la escritora Cynthia Leonor Garza, que hizo su debut en literatura infantil ilustrada en 2017 y actualmente reside con su familia en Nairobi (Kenia), y la ilustradora Alyssa Bermudez, afincada en Tasmania (Australia). Acompáñanos y salta para derribar prejuicios con nuestra Lucía, quien hace todo lo posible por seguir su propio camino en una red de caminos fuertemente señalizada.

El libro está compuesto por una amalgama textual (en lengua inglesa) y colorido visual que se complementan y crean un conjunto evocador. Lucía the luchadora es una niña entusiasta a quien la indiferencia y ciertos comentarios prejuiciosos de otros niños le hacen cuestionarse su propia valía. Como ser lleno de energía, de aquellos que no se amilanan con los cortapisas de los demás, juega incansablemente en el parque; haciendo acrobacias de todo tipo, a la vez que se da cuenta del poco interés que genera. Incluso algunos niños sostienen con cierto desdén que ese tipo de acrobacias y juegos, propios de los superhéroes, no está hecho para las niñas: ¡las chicas no pueden ser superhéroes!

2Pero no pueden estar más equivocados, porque al día siguiente, cuando Lucía aparece en el parque después de haber ideado un plan con su abuela y vestir su máscara de luchadora, es la sensación total de todo el parque. Todos los presentes se animan a seguir sus juegos, marcando tendencia en los próximos días con luchadores y luchadoras al unísono. Pero, hete aquí que los prejuicios entran en escena de nuevo cuando ciertos rasgos como el color rosa descubren quiénes son las luchadoras. De nuevo aquel las chicas no pueden ser superhéroes surge como un dardo envenenado que Lucía salva con gracia al evitar que su perrito caiga por el tobogán; y tras lo cual descubre su identidad. Ahora todos saben quién es ella, y genera un seguimiento que hará que todos se unan en su disfrute por las acrobacias, dejando a un lado aquellas diferencias que sirven para separar.

3De nuevo una historia pensada para el público infantil trasciende las fronteras de la lectura naíf para reposar en la reflexión social sobre un tema acuciante y recientemente traído a la palestra con mayor vehemencia de la mano de la industria del cine: la igualdad de género, la creación de espacios no restrictivos para que las mujeres ejerzan su derecho a participar activamente de nuestras sociedades sin paliativos. Lucía es una luchadora, metáfora mexicana en el cuadrilátero de la lucha libre, que representa la voz femenina e infantil; aquella que no ha sido coartada por los prejuicios y que tiene el potencial de atajarlos porque no ha conocido el continuo y rotundo no. Sus saltos y acrobacias tienen el poder de hacerle llegar a los demás, generando una suerte de unión que está por encima de lo divisorio.

Aunque parcialmente enmascarada, Lucía se da cuenta de que el miedo a exponerse, en definitiva a ser vulnerable, es simplemente otra forma más de autocensurar el lugar que merece en el parque: con todos. Lucía the luchadora extiende sus tentáculos hasta el mundo adulto para hacernos ver la fuerza de la identidad propia, de la autodeterminación en un ambiente de cierta hostilidad. Una hostilidad que, si bien cargada de malicia o ignorancia, deja espacio no obstante para verse empequeñecida cuando la valía personal, más allá del género, la raza o la sexualidad emerge para desafiarla.

4Todos aquellos que en algún momento hemos sentido rechazo o indiferencia por ser nosotros mismos, somos también Lucía. Tenemos el potencial para hacernos oír, y si somos pacientes, con el tiempo descubriremos que, a pesar de todo, sí es posible ser auténticos con nosotros mismos y con los demás.

Cynthia Leonor Garza ha debutado con Lucía the luchadora como escritora de literatura infantil ilustrada en el año 2017. En su recorrido profesional ha participado como periodista en las publicaciones The Houston Chronicle o el Fort Worth Star-Telegram, además de escribir ensayos. Por su parte, la ilustradora Alyssa Bermudez ha trabajado con clientes de la talla de The New York Magazine, Pearson Publishing o Hobart City Council.

Recursos relacionados y enfocados a la promoción de la inclusión en las aulas:

Espero que os haya gustado la recomendación de hoy y que, al igual que Lucía, os animéis a derribar los rancios prejuicios que nos rodean ¡Seguid atentos a la serie del mes!

Santi

Author’s Corner:

Saludos a todxs,

Our Vamos a Leer book group meets this evening to discuss the young adult novel, The Only Road, by Alexandra Diaz.

While we always want to take a moment to highlight the authors being read in our local meetings, Diaz has special significance for us because she’s right here in New Mexico with us as a resident of Santa Fe!

In describing herself, Diaz writes that all her life she has had “an overactive imagination [which] had her making up stories at an early age and led to getting an MA in Writing for Young People from Bath Spa University. The daughter of Cuban refugees, she is a native Spanish speaker who currently lives in Santa Fe, NM.”

Beyond that succinct summary, we can add that she is the author of several young adult novels which have been well received. Her most recent book, The Only Road, was designated as a Pura Belpré Honor Book and an Américas Award Winner in 2017. As the publisher writes, “Inspired by true events, The Only Road is an individual story of a boy who feels that leaving his home and risking everything is his only chance for a better life. It is a story of fear and bravery, love and loss, strangers becoming family, and one boy’s treacherous and life-changing journey.” It some ways, it reads as an even younger version of Enrique’s Journey, although here we learn of Jaime and his sister, Ángela, as they come northward from Guatemala to escape the violence surrounding his family.

Here at Vamos a Leer, we found that Diaz had managed an interesting feat – she had taken the harrowing, traumatic experiences of youth migrants and somehow tempered their story for younger readers. In reviewing the book for Latinxs in Kid Lit, Cris Rodes highlights Diaz’s decision to write the text for young readers, noting that while its gritty attention to reality may make it difficult for younger readers, they should nonetheless be given the chance to appreciate this novel. The harsh details of the story are smoothed, Chris writes, “with familiar stylistic choices and tropes of children’s and middle-grade texts. From its large print and short chapters, to the straightforward, albeit lyrical language, this text remains easily accessible to young readers.”

According to an interview with KidLit441, Diaz acknowledges that the idea for the book came from her editor, writing that “A few years ago there was a huge wave of unaccompanied immigrant children arriving into the U.S. when previously it had been the adults who would immigrate and then send for their families later on. This wave was sparked in part by violent gangs taking over villages in Central America and forcing children into their gangs, or being killed. My editor knew that someone had to write these children’s story and I was asked to do it. As the daughter of Cuban refugees, immigration is something that I have grown up with and it close to my heart. Even though my parents’ experience was different than what is happening today, at the core the stories are the same—having to leave your home for a new place because it’s the only choice.”

It’s perhaps that last point which captures most accurately why the book drew us in – Diaz’s ability to speak to a sense of shared humanity. This is a book to balance out the apathetic or dismissive news headline, and instead draw out an empathetic understanding of youth migrants.

Best,
Keira

 


Image: Photo credit to Owen Benson. Reprinted via KidLit441.