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.

2017 Pura Belpré Award Recipients

¡Buenos días a todos y todas! Last week we announced the 2017 Américas Award recipients, and today I will continue highlighting Latinx children’s and young adult literature with the 2017 Pura Belpré Award Winners. The Pura Belpré Award is named after the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. Like the Américas Award, it is an award which we regard highly within the world of Latin American/Latinx children’s and young adult literature.

According to the Association for Library Service to Children website, the Pura Belpré Award, established in 1996, is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino cultural experience in an outstanding work of literature for children and youth. It is co-sponsored by the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association (ALA), and REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library and Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish-Speaking, an ALA affiliate.

Below you will find the 2017 Author Award Winner, Illustrator Award Winner, Author Honor Book and the Illustrator Honor books. The 2017 Pura Belpré selection committee included Chair Eva Mitnick, Los Angeles Public Library; Marissa Alcorta, Pima County Public Library, Tucson, Ariz.; Laura Duncan, Oxnard Public Library, Oxnard, Calif.; Cyndi Giorgis, University of Texas at El Paso; Linda M. Pavonetti, Oakland University, Rochester, Mich.; Lettycia Terrones, Los Angeles Public Library; and Junko Yokota, Center for Teaching through Children’s Books, Skokie, Ill.

Stay tuned for Mira, Look! posts featuring these books among others. Also, we highly recommend visiting the award website to see a list of previous medal winners. We hope these books will make it to your classrooms! Also, stay tuned for a post about the Tomás Rivera Book Award recipients next week!

Saludos,

Kalyn

 

Author Award Winner

Juana & Lucas written and illustrated by Juana Medina. Candlewick Press, 2016. ISBN: 978-0763672089

Juana & Lucas presents with breezy humor the day-to-day reflections and experiences universal to childhood—school, family and friendships—through the eyes of the invincible Juana, growing up in Bogotá with her beloved dog, Lucas. This charmingly designed book for young readers portrays the advantages—and challenges—of learning a second language.

“Juana’s transformation from frustrated learner to enthusiastic speaker of ‘the English’ is portrayed with authenticity and plenty of appeal,” said Mitnick.

 

 

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April 14th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! This week’s resources are interesting and diverse. Enjoy!

– Remezcla recently reviewed Lilliam Rivera’s novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez, is a YA novel about a young Nuyorican growing up as a South Bronx Latina who struggles to fit in at her white prep school. “So she’s just trying to navigate that world. She’s going to assimilate and copy the people who are in power — and usually the people in power are the white people. Because that’s what her parents are teaching her to do.”

— Check out this book review of Here We Are: Feminism for the Real World edited by Kelly Jensen. This “is a scrapbook-style teen guide to understanding what it really means to be a feminist,” and it includes a number of essays focused on the intersection of Latinx culture and feminism.

– For those of you who are teaching seniors and junior students, they might appreciate reading the story about Chelsea Batista, a Latina Accepted by 11 Med Schools [Who] Has a Message For Those Who Credit Affirmative Action. Chelsea expresses, “I was absolutely terrified that I wasn’t going to get into even one school that’s why I filled out so many applications.”

— Also, you can read about how one teacher invited her Students to Confront and Examine Their Own Biases Using the Images on Covers of Picture Books. She writes, “I have to help my students to recognize their own biases. I have to help them to see the biases that they hold and recognize what an impact they have on the way that they interact with the world.”

–Here is a quick preview of the book trailer for the beautiful Mexican children’s book Ella trae la lluvia by Martha Palacio Obón. On one level the story is about “a lost voice and a witch with blue hair that seems to know everything,” But one review also called it a story about “la violencia y los desplazados a partir de un relato fantástico y marítimo.”

– As Earth Day gets closer (April 22), you might want to check out Lee and Low Books Earth Day Poetry Collection.

— Lastly, listen to Latin America’s greatest authors read their works in this online treasure trove. Authors include Jorge Luis Borges, Enrique A. Laguerre, Amanda Berenguer, and many more.

Abrazos,
Alin Badillo


Image: #niunamenos. Reprinted from Flickr user Fernando Canue under CC©.

 

April 7th | Week in Review

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¡Hola a todos! This week I found interesting resources, I hope you enjoy!

– You might appreciate Mexican author Valeria Luiselli’s book-length essay, Tell Me How It Ends, if you are teaching about Central American migration, and especially about child migrants. “Until it is safer for undocumented folks to share their own stories, to argue on their own behalf, Luiselli makes for a trusted guide.”

— Check out these three authors shortlisted for the Burt Award for Caribbean Literature. “The finalists were selected by a jury administered by the Bocas Lit Fest and made up of writing, publishing and educational professionals with expertise in young adult literature.”

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March 31st | Week in Review

 

¡Hola a todos! Here are a few resources I’m happy to share with you.

– Diego Huerta traveled around Mexico as a photographer, capturing the  Breathtaking Beauty of Mexico’s Indigenous Communities. As Huerta says, “in Oaxaca something very interesting happens: there is a mix of the modern and the traditional, of the indigenous people and the mestizo people, that fight to conserve that indigenous part that they inherited,”

–Check out how you can use Books To Jump-Start Family Conversations on Race. “Combating racism doesn’t just mean changing the hearts and minds of bigots; it requires that passive bystanders become proactively engaged.”

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Feliz Año Nuevo y Sobre Enero: Celebrating Lesser Known Stories & Unsung Heroes in Children’s and & YA Latin@ Literature

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Feliz año nuevo a tod@s! We’re excited to come back in 2017 with a renewed dedication to sharing and celebrating the wealth of literature focused on Latin@ experiences in children’s and YA books. We start the year inspired by the outpouring of community-focused sentiments and social justice emphases that have emerged in the last two months. With this in mind, we’ve decided that now is a good time to focus in on a conversation about social change and how it happens. How do we achieve a more just and equitable world? A world that prioritizes multicultural experiences and backgrounds rather than denigrating differences?

Though these questions merit much larger conversations than we can engage in here, we can offer at least one approach: to think of change as something brought about not only by famous, charismatic leaders, but more so by thousands of individual actions. We’re talking about actions that may be public or private, societal or familial, formal or informal, quiet or loud, compassionate or fierce, to name but a few of the many variations. To get at what this spectrum of change looks like in practice, we’re using the month of January to move beyond traditional heroes and to consider lesser known stories and “unsung heroes” in children’s and YA Latin@ literature.What are the stories in Latin@ literature that can spark change and inspire young readers?

We hope you’ll join us along our journey now and in the coming months. As always,  thanks for being here and we look forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas!

En solidaridad,
Keira


Image: Adapted from photograph of mural commemorating the Madres de la Plaza del Mayo in Argentina.  Reprinted via CC © from Flickr user Seven Resist.

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