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Merci Suárez se pone las pilas:  A Newbery Winner Gets Translated into Spanish

By Guests, The Writing Life
I’ve had the good fortune of having most of my work made available in Spanish translation. Tomorrow Merci Suárez se pone las pilas comes into the world to join the others. The title literally means, “Merci Suárez puts in her batteries.” Funny, right? But that is the magic of translation, the ability to capture the spirit and heart of a work. Photo credit: Valerie Block It’s the first time I’ve worked with the fabulous Alexis Romay, who was hand-picked for the project by my former translator, the late Teresa Mlawer, whose long and storied career included translations of Where the Wild Things Are and Harold and the Purple Crayon. An author, translator, and teacher, Alexis brings to this work our shared Cuban roots. He also brings his quick sense of humor, warmth, and respect for young people. In so many ways, this translation is a physical representation of our bicultural lives. On every page, I could feel him channeling Merci and bringing her to life for me in the language I spoke with my mother. It was as if two parts of myself were being knit together with his guidance. Here below is a video post by Alexis where he gives thanks to the many people who helped bring our book into the world. I especially love his explanation – about midway through - of why books in translations matter for children. As part of our celebration, please leave a comment in the comments section, and I’ll enter you to...
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Guest Post with Ruth Behar: The Island that Remains in Us

By Guests, Latino Life
Hi everyone, From time to time, I have the pleasure of hosting guest authors on this site. Today it's my honor to kick off Hispanic Heritage month with a lovely guest post by 2018 award-winner Ruth Behar. Her latest book, Letters from Cuba, is historical fiction and was published last month (Nancy Paulsen Books/Penguin Random House.) It's set in Cuba during World War II, when the chokehold of anti-semitism could be felt far from Europe, in even the smallest far-flung towns. I admire Ruth's research and writing, and I think she captures the many ways that a Cuban identity has always been one of intersections. ¡Bienvenida, Ruth! We're ready for the inside story on this remarkable middle grade novel. _________________________________________________________ When I sat down to write Letters from Cuba, I knew I wanted the story to be set in Agramonte, a town in the sugar-growing region of Matanzas. I’ll always remember the first time I visited Agramonte on my own, about twenty-five years ago. I met elders who competed to greet me and bring me to their homes to relax in an old wooden rocking chair. They chuckled as they kept repeating, “Así que eres la nieta de los polacos, no me digas,” delighted the granddaughter of “the Poles” had come to say hello. Rocking chairs in a home in Agramonte where Ruth stayed while doing research for Letters from Cuba. Baba, my maternal grandmother, had bravely crossed the ocean alone to help her father, my great-grandfather, bring her mother...
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Lolo meets Grandpa Ray: A Rick and Merci Suárez Changes Gears Mash-up – plus swag!

By Guests, middle grade, picture book, middle grade, YA, Pre-order giveaway
I’ve always loved birthdays, especially book birthdays. They’re even better when you share them with a friend. That’s what’s happening next month. Merci Suárez Changes Gears appears en rústica (paperback) with its beautiful new art on April 7. (Thanks again, Joe Cepeda!)    Rick, the follow-up to George by Stonewall award-winner (and my book pal) Alex Gino, pubs on April 21. It has been starred in Kirkus, SLJ, PW, and Booklist! Both our books take a close look at friendships, bullies, and beloved grandpas. Which got Alex and me thinking:  What would happen if two of our characters – Lolo and Grandpa Ray – met in person? We were sure they’d have a lot to say about their grandkids, memories and secrets, so we decided to… um… listen in. Check it out, and read about our pre-order swag below!  The Scene: Lake Worth Beach pier, in Lake Worth Beach, Florida.  It is February and the sand is crowded with tourists, young families and their children, who are making sand castles or skim-boarding at the shore. Overlooking the sand is the paved walkway with benches. Two older gentlemen, LOLO (aka Leopoldo Suárez) and GRANDPA RAY (aka Raymond Ramsey) sit on either end of a bench along the walkway, facing the ocean. They are watching the waves and enjoying the roller bladers, the dogs racing for frisbees, the woot of the people fishing far out at the end of the pier. LOLO, white haired and wearing a Sol Painting, Inc. baseball cap, is digging...
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The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary: An Interview with NoNi Ramos

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

As readers of this blog know, I like to introduce new Latinx writers, especially those whom I’m lucky to meet in person on the road. Today, I’m talking with debut novelist Noni Ramos about The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary (Carol Rhoda Lab Books/Lerner 2018; 292 pages; Young adult.) She’s a new voice, but it’s a startling and strong one, and I predict a long career of great work. Macy is the girl you’ve probably seen in school at some point. She’s the one who spends a lot of time in the office being “supervised” by long-suffering deans when things get too hot in the classroom, the one who has a million labels pinned on her. LD, ADD, disturbed, at-risk – the list goes on. Told in a dictionary format of the words that define her life, Macy’s story is about the girls who are at the heart of those labels and how they get there. It’s a heartbreakingly honest work and, at times, a darkly hilarious one, too. As an author, what Noni brings to the table is a master class on voice and edge. Here she talks a bit on finding the character and how her own experiences as teacher and foster mom led her to the story.  Congratulations on this as your debut novel. What kind of writing had you been doing leading up to this? How did you find Macy’s story? Muchas gracias! Poetry and plays are my first loves. It wasn’t until well after my MFA that I…

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The First Rule of Punk: A Guest Blog Post by Celia Pérez

By Guests

Feliz Año Nuevo, everyone! The holidays, a chest cold, and assorted family emergencies kept me off this blog for a few weeks. Sorry about that!  But I’m back with the best launch into 2018. As we head into award season, I’ve had a chance to think about so many of the books that I especially loved last year. Among my favorites of 2017 was a little gem of a middle grade novel: The First Rule of Punk by Celia Pérez (Viking Books for Young Readers 978-0425290408) Celia is a librarian, a mom, and a zine addict who has confirmed for me that, yes, folding those suckers can be the hardest part.  She’s also an advocate for quality Latinx lit for kids. What I especially love about Celia’s debut is that, like a good zine, she puts pieces of a girl together to give us something that feels completely fresh and new. Maria Luisa (MaLú) is the daughter of a college professor and a musician. She’s a punk rock fan – including Mexican punk rock –  and a kid from a blended heritage.  She’s also a kid who has to move to a new city for middle school because her mom has taken a teaching position in Chicago. Suddenly, MaLu is attending a majority Latinx school, where she’s promptly labeled a coconut – brown on the outside, white on the inside. This is a sweet and thoughtful novel, deserving of its many starred reviews and accolades.  Moving is never easy for a kid, and Celia handles all the…

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Traitor Angels: How motherhood helped Anne Blankman tackle Milton and Galileo in a YA novel

By Guests

I have a new neighbor –  and it’s none other than the fabulous YA author, Anne Blankman!  Anne, a former youth services librarian, is the author of three historical novels for teens, including her latest –  Traitor Angels – starred by Kirkus.  I invited Anne to post on writing the strong girl in history – and how she manages to tackle even the most sophisticated content so that teen readers can relate. Milton’s Paradise Lost? No problem… Here’s Anne Blackman.   My daughter was six months old when she gave me the courage to write. Yup, you read that correctly. Although I’d wanted to be a writer since I was a little kid, as an adult I couldn’t find the courage to “put myself out there.” Once I’d had my daughter and the first few sleep-deprived foggy-minded months had passed, though, I found myself gazing at her tiny, perfect face and knowing I wanted to be a good role model for her—which meant I had to stop surrendering to fear. I needed to start writing. Fast-forward a few years and two books later, and it was time for me to start drafting my third novel, the YA romantic historical adventure Traitor Angels. The idea had been growing in my mind for a decade, ever since I took a college course on English poet John Milton. One day in class I noticed something strange about the poem we were studying. Milton’s famous epic, Paradise Lost, is supposed to be about Adam and Eve in the Garden…

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¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Pura Belpré!

By Awards and news, Guests, Latino Life, The Writing Life

This week marks the birthday (as far as historians can tell) of Pura Belpré, New York City’s first Latina librarian after whom the esteemed award is named. The Pura Belpré award was established in 1996 and celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. So you see, it’s time to kick off this year-long party! To honor this special day, I’ve invited guest blogger Dr. Marilisa Jimenez Garcia of Hunter College. She is a passionate advocate of Pura Belpré’s legacy and studies issues pertaining to Latino children’s lit. Here Dr. Jimenez Garcia examines the lasting impact of an author visit – and how it led to her own interest in this fascinating librarian. As a child, one of my favorite book series was Kids of the Polk Street School by Patricia Reilly Giff. I am almost certain I found the series by looking through my sister’s books. She was three years older, cooler, and always had the best books. She was beyond the little frogs and cats learning to dress themselves and brush their teeth in the books I read. Her books had full-blown characters that went to school, got into trouble, and made plans for the future—things I found much more intriguing. I know now that my love for these books was greatly due to Giff’s ability to engage me as a young reader. One day my mother found out that Giff was going to be at a local library in Long Island. My mother usually took us to local libraries to rent videos and take…

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Meet the Enchanting Margarita Engle

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

For more than two decades, Margarita Engle has produced award-winning work for children of all ages. Among her many distinctions, she is a multiple recipient of the Pura Belpré medal, the Américas Award, and the Jane Addams Award. She is also the first Latina author to have earned a Newbery Honor Award for her 2008 novel-in-verse, The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom. Margarita has long been known for impeccable research and thoughtful books that shine new light on figures in history. But her new project goes inward. Her memoir-in-verse, Enchanted Air (Simon and Schuster,) arrives in book stores this week. Here at the dawn of the United States’s new relationships with Cuba, Margarita tells us about her book, her own relationship to Cuba, and what it means to write from the heart.  *** When we speak of reciting poems “by heart,” we mean “from memory.” That is because memories live in the heart, in emotions, in a past that remains swirled together with the present and future. Memories are the one place where time is defeated by love. Writing about one’s own childhood is a process of writing by heart. There are no guidelines, no patterns to follow, no research to depend on, no papery or digital maps of the mind. When I decided to write ENCHANTED AIR, Two Cultures, Two Wings, all I had was my own memories, and the emotions they still contain, long after adulthood has made an unusual childhood seem like someone else’s strange, impossible life. I wrote this memoir…

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Check out SCBWI from the art director’s view

By Appearances, Guests

A while back, I had the pleasure of being on the SCBWI faculty in Atlanta where I met Guiseppe Castellano, Art Director for Penguin Random House. I’ve been making a habit of hanging out at illustrator sessions these days even though I have absolutely zero skill in the visual arts. (Why God, why?) I go for the same reason I like to see dance performances: to be amazed by the talents of other people and to broaden my own toolbox for storytelling. There’s a lot to be learned about narrative if you strip out words. You learn to see, I think, how to use negative space – what is NOT said – to your advantage. Anyway, Guiseppe is offering some good advice on his blog about how to make the most of your SCBWI experience, and he includes thoughts from a range of spiffy speakers, like Arthur Levine, Pat Cummings, and others. I’m in there, too, speaking on how to make the most of both serving as faculty and as an attendee. Check him out and follow him on Twitter @pinocastellano. Happy reading!  

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An audio documentary on migrant deaths on our border

By Guests

Catherine Komp, radio producer at Virginia Currents on NPR (locally WCVE 88.9 FM,) recently sent me the audio documentary below. Created by her colleagues for a show called Making Contact, it examines migrant deaths on our borders. When I was writing The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, I struggled many times as I wrote scenes of unspeakable violence.   Should I write such gruesome things for young people?  Was it necessary or gratuitous? In the end, I chose to include the awful details, leaning toward telling fiction as honestly as I could. I hope you’ll carve out a little time to listen to the audio. January ushers in a new Congress and a fresh immigration battle. The debate will be heated on both sides, a healthy – if painful – exercise. What I continue to ask is that we remember that, in the end, we are talking about people, about human beings, and about the ethics of addressing suffering.

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Five Questions for Kwame Alexander

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA

Kwame Alexander’s latest middle grade novel, The Crossover, stole my heart this summer. It’s a novel-in-verse about two brothers – both basketball phenoms – and what threatens to pull them apart. At its heart, this powerful book is about family, young men, and the choices we make as we grow up – all all told in an irresistible, thumping  style. Kwame will be speaking at the James River Writers Conference,  which is one of my favorite conferences each year. Here Kwame joins me for a quick taste of what he’ll bring to conference-goers. We talk dialogue, why poetry makes sense for boys, and the one thing he’s learned about the writing life.   1. The dialogue in He Said, She Said is absolutely amazing in evoking character. How do you go about crafting dialogue? What advice would you give writers about the line between authentic sound and going too far? Yeah, I took some chances with the dialogue in HSSS. It took a minute to commit to the language and style of the characters, but once I did, it was ON! I work with young people, through my Book-in-a-Day program. So regularly, I am interacting with them over lunch, teaching poetry, making jokes, and eavesdropping on their conversations. I am very perceptive (and nosy), so I stole a lot of what I heard, felt, participated in. Also, I try to remember how my friends and I kicked it back in the day. I think that when you’re writing for young people, the trick is…

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My writing process is a mess and other confessions

By Guests, The Writing Life
Blog tour is the phrase of the day. I'm also on Latinaish today (April 21) talking about diversity and how all kids connect with stories. But my own little blog is also a stop on the My Writing Process Blog tour.My friend, Maya Payne Smart, asked me to join. By way of introductions, I should tell you that Maya is the first lady of VCU basketball. But I've known Maya as a compassionate friend, a fellow writer and as a thoughtful community supporter. Her blog specializes in business, travel and lifestyle journalism. Some highlights from her bio. "Her articles have appeared in Black Enterprise, CNNMoney.com, ESSENCE, Fortune Small Business and numerous other business and consumer publications. She earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in social studies from Harvard University and a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism." She writes about dynamic women and the pursuit of happiness, meaning and productivity at MayaSmart.com. So, on to notes on my process: What am I working on?  Right now, I'm working on a YA novel set in 1977 in NYC. It explores the insanity of the city at that time and secret violence in families. The main character is 18-year-old Nora López. Feminism, mental health, serial killers, drugs, looting. Everything you could ask for in a work for young readers. (Yikes.) It's due to my editor on May 1. Keep me in your thoughts because this is going to require some divine intervention. How does my work differ from...
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Football, Racism & Latino History for Teens: A talk with Sandra Neil Wallace

By Guests, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, What I'm reading

The holidays are a time to invite friends to your house, and that’s true for this blog, too. I’m honored to have Sandra Neil Wallace with me this week. Sandra is a former ESPN sportscaster and author of Muckers (Knopf 2013), a YA novel for anyone who loves fútbol Americano and underdog stories. But more important to me, it’s also a thoughtful look at anti-Latino racism in the 1950s and the difficult circumstances of Mexican-American families in Arizona at that time. Based on true events, the novel follows Red O’Sullivan, team quarterback, and his friend Cruz as they cobble together their high school’s last football season.  It offers us not only an inspiring look back, but also a way to ask questions about where we are now in sports and race. [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IecqNriZVBY&w=420&h=315] ________________________ How did you discover this story? I was living in Sedona, Arizona, working as an ESPN announcer and discovered the Muckers story in a box of letters written to the principal of Jerome High School. Most of the letters were from young Mexican-American men who had graduated and gone to war. The letters helped me uncover the incredible sports triumph of the 1950 football team. Despite being the smallest squad in the state, playing on a rock field, and facing ridicule for being an integrated team, they made a run for the state championship. The football season in Muckers is modeled after theirs, and I interviewed surviving players to create characters I’d imagine experiencing the hardships of that time…

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Strap on some literary walking shoes for a new class at University of Richmond

By Guests, The Writing Life

Meet Angela Leeper, the Director of Curriculum Material Center at the University of Richmond, a native Virginian who relocated to Richmond four years ago. Turns out, that’s great news for our city’s literary scene. Angela has served on YALSA‘s prestigious Printz Award and Morris Award Committees; reviews children’s and YA lit for Booklist, Kirkus, and BookPage; and is currently collaborating with educators across the state to create the Virginia Readers’ Choice for high school. Since moving here, she’s not only been absorbing Richmond’s  history, but as a children’s and young adult literature specialist, she’s reached out to local authors, too. This January, she’ll combine both those interests in a course for educators who love kids books, local history – and walking. Children and YA in RVA, a reading and walking tour of children’s literature in our city, will be offered at the University of Richmond from January 22 – April 30. Registration is open NOW, so hurry. (See below) It’s not everyone who sees a clear path between kids books and a good pair of walking shoes, but exploring her new city sparked the idea. “After many afternoons walking in and around RVA, I imagined how exciting it would be to offer a class like this to educators,” she says.  After discovering that no class like it existed, she created  Children and YA in RVA, a professional development course for teachers, librarians, and other educators interested in learning about Richmond’s literature and history – and  bringing that information back to their classrooms. The course will include visits from local historians and authors,…

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EE Charlton Trujillo and the FAT ANGIE tour

By Guests

It’s National Anti-bullying month, so I have a treat for you. E.E. Charlton Trujillo, author of FAT ANGIE is stopping in Richmond this coming week as she continues her cross country book tour.  Here we talk about her  writing and  film-making –  and how,  in the darkest times,  a book can be a kid’s lifeline. How did you find the seed of the story for FAT ANGIE? Imagine. Winter. Four foot snow stacks. Below zero temp and the smell of recycled heat in a mom and pop diner in Madison, Wisconsin. I polished off a scrambled egg something kinda breakfast. Rolled the wheel to my iPod Classic right and landed on Lenny Kravitz’s “Are You Gonna Go My Way.” Something in the shredding of that guitar riff sent me into the what would become FAT ANGIE. I snapped up a pen from a waitress named Grace, grabbed a napkin and connected thought to world. Now, this is what you gotta understand. That song never appears in the book but the energy of note to lyric to note ignited the hostile confrontation, humiliation and revelations of the book. I could see the beginning and the end and it was such a fantastic high. If I ever bump into Lenny on the street/event, I’m gonna say, “You inspired a book that changes lives. Thanks for ripping that sound beast-pretty.” You are also a filmmaker, and I could see its influence on this novel. By that I mean references to “beats,” cutaways, vintage…

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James River Writers Conference Spotlight: Elizabeth Huergo

By Adult books, Guests, Latino Life

About this time of year, I start to perk up with bookish anticipation. The autumn brings us the Virginia Literary Festival (Oct 16 – 20, 2013), anchored in part by the James River Writers Conference. Now in its eleventh year, the JRW Conference is a special treat for the writing community since it gathers nationally-recognized and bestselling authors in our city for three days of fun and learning. This year, I’m especially happy to find debut novelist (and fellow Latina author) Elizabeth Huergo on the impressive roster. Elizabeth is a scholar of literature (receiving her M.A. in 19th-century American Literature and her Ph.D. in British Romanticism from Brown University), and she has taught at a number of colleges and universities, including Rhode Island College, American University, and George Mason University. Her novel, The Death of Fidel Perez (Unbridled Books, 2013), is set in modern day Cuba against the eternal question, What if Fidel fell? Here Elizabeth and I talk about our shared cultural roots and the challenges of conveying the pain and complexities of political history in writing. You left Cuba as a girl during the years immediately following the Cuban revolution. What had your life been like until then? Where did your family settle in the United States? I was born in May of 1959. My mother and I left Cuba when I was about three years old. My father had to leave about a year before us for political reasons. He lived alone in New York for a year, working, saving,…

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Q & A with Christina Díaz Gonzalez

By Guests

It’s a pleasure to introduce you to Christina Diaz Gonzalez as we head into the final week of Hispanic Heritage Month. You may remember her from her debut novel, The Red Umbrella. Her follow-up, A Thunderous Whisper, is also historical fiction, this time set in Europe during the Spanish Civil War. Told through the eyes of 13-year-old Ani, the novel shines a light on yet another corner of World War II. Before we jump into your new novel, I’d like to know a little bit about you. I understand that you were an attorney at one time. Now, you live in Florida and write lovely books that celebrate Hispanic history. How did you go from one career to the other?  I was a practicing attorney when my kids learned to read.  Watching their love for books grow rekindled my secret, childhood dream of being a writer.  Soon there was no stopping me and I became passionate about writing. One of the things I most admire about A Thunderous Whisper is that it brings world history to life for American kids.  You take us to a very specific corner of history (specifically to the Spanish Civil War as it connected to Franco’s relationship with Hitler during WWII. You also introduce young American readers to the Basques. Why did this particular episode in history attract you?  A series of seemingly unrelated events (spread out over the course of several months) led me to write A Thunderous Whisper.  There was a brief discussion with a…

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Here Come the Américas Awards! Q & A with author Monica Brown

By Guests

This Friday, I’ll be trekking back to DC for another happy occasion. For starters, I will be visiting the Library of Congress for the first time, one of country’s most beautiful buildings. But even better is the fact that I’ll be there  for the Américas Awards. Established in 1993 by the Consortium of Latin American Studies Programs, the Américas Award honors outstanding fiction for children that offers realistic portrayals of Latin American culture.This year’s winners are Monica Brown and illustrator Julie Paschkis, for their lovely picture book Pablo Neruda, Poet of the People (Henry Holt, 2011); and Margarita Engle for her novel in verse, The Hurricane Dancers (Henry Holt, 2011). I have been an admirer of their work for a long time, and it’s exciting to be able to join in honoring them. I got a chance to ask Monica some questions in preparation for the big day – pretty amazing considering what she’s up to. She’s just back from a trip to Peru, on the cusp of  pubbing a new picture book, and (of course) frantically packing. How did you turn to writing and literature? Were you always passionate about books and story? What were the books and stories that inspired you as a child? I’ve always loved books, of all sorts.  As a young child I like everything—Dr. Suess, ghost stories, and National Geographic books.  As a teenager, I can honestly say books helped me survive adolescence.  I entered college a declared English major at 17, and have built my career…

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Hispanidad Meets First Fridays: Helene Ruiz at Art6

By Community work, Guests, Latino Life

This month you’ll find celebrations of Hispanic heritage in all sorts of corners of the city – and that’s thanks in part to the efforts of Helene Ruiz. The Bronx native lives in Mechanicsville VA these days, but nothing has slowed her commitment to artists, culture and the community. Before we launch into the quick Q & A, here are two events to keep track of: Sabor Feminina (Female Flavor) at Pine Camp Cultural Arts Center through November 2. The free show features Ruiz’s Goddesses series, with nods to Cuban Yoruba spiritualism.   Mon – Fri 10 – 7 pm. Saturday 10 am – 2 pm. ¡Azucar! at Art6 Gallery, Oct 5, 5 – 10 pm. Ruiz ushers in First Fridays doing what she does best: gathering artists together to celebrate in one voice. This multimedia event will feature the work of several Latin visual artists as well as the Latin Ballet of Virginia and Cuban percussionist (click to listen) Melena la Rumbera. Five questions with Helene Ruiz What’s a nice Bronx girl like you doing in Mechanicsville? My parents moved to Virginia almost 30 yrs ago. My father passed back in 2001, my mom is getting old and my sister suffers from MS, so I figured, why not move there, help out with the house and help them? After all, art is everywhere anyway! I can always get back and forth to NYC whenever I need, it’s not that far away. Why did you think it was important to pull together ¡Azucar! in…

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Fighting for the Story

By Appearances, Guests, The Writing Life

This is a new shirt I bought at La Casa Azul last week, a sweet Latino-themed bookstore on 103rd Street in Harlem. How could I resist? It reminded me of the hours I spent as a kid watching Lucha Libre wrestling — that masked Mexican drama. My uncle was a big fan, and my grandmother and I soon joined him. “Do you think it’s real?” Abuela would ask as someone got slammed with a chair. How stupid,  I thought. Of COURSE it’s real. My shirt says Lucha Libros, of course. Much more civilized — but maybe not. I’m a writer, after all, and as any of us in this business will tell you, you can get sucker punched and slammed with a folding chair at every turn. A lousy review, an unimpressed agent, an editor who says something just isn’t ready. Dios de mi alma, it’s tough. I’m thinking about all this because in two weeks I’ll be taking you inside the horror with debut author Aimee Agresti whose debut YA novel, Illuminate, has received great reviews. (It’s the first book in a planned Harcourt trilogy.) We’re doing a panel for one of my favorite writing organizations, James River Writers, as part of The Writing Show. Ours is the last Writing Show of 2012, and I’m excited that it’s about writers wrestling. Aimee has agreed to show her manuscript from the early, on-the-napkin stage, all the way to the picky line edits, all in the hope of helping other writers see with…

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John Parra and the Art of Libros

By Guests

If you ask me, it’s a great time to be interested in Latino children’s books, mostly because there’s a strong talent pool – one  that includes John Parra. John is a tall, quiet guy whose beautiful, award-winning work is well-known in publishing circles. Luckily for the rest of us, it will also be on display and for sale next Saturday at La Casa Azul, a new indi bookstore in Harlem that celebrates Hispanic authors, artists, and readers.  The show is called Infinitas Gracias (Infinite Thanks). I’ll be there to ooh and ah with all his other fans. Mark your calendars and join us. John was nice enough to put down his paintbrush and talk to us  about his work. You are a long, long way from California, where you grew up. How did you end up in Queens? Has living in t New York impacted your artists’ palette in any way? I ask because I’m from Queens, and I find that the city creeps into my books and stories pretty often, which I love.  I moved to New York in 2000. I actually drove across the country from California. It took about a week and was a great adventure. The main reason for the move was to do more illustration work in publishing and advertising here.  Plus I always had it in my mind that I would really like to live in New York.  I think the city has influenced my work a bit giving me a more cosmopolitan and sophisticated sensibility but…

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Meet Cristina Dominguez Ramirez: RPL’s newest non-shushing Latino librarian

By Guests, Latino Life

“I don’t do much shushing. In fact, patrons ask me to turn down the volume; I have a strong voice.” So says Cristina Dominguez Ramirez, an exciting new face at Richmond Public Libraries. She’ll be managing the renovated Broad Rock branch, which reopens next Tuesday. Ramirez, recently of VCU Library systems, also has a strong vision. The daughter of two retired academics, she brings to her new job hopeless curiosity and a rich cultural background that includes Jewish, Moorish, Basque, and Visigoth blood on one side, and Spanish and American Indian ancestors on the other. More important, she also brings her dream to make our whole community a living library. I chatted with Cristina via email about books, Richmond, and the role of libraries in the lives of Latino families.  What appealed to you about the position at Richmond Public Library?  It was a perfect match for me. I will manage one of the busiest branches in the Richmond Public Library, and I will get to work directly with community partners and leaders to create programming and events for a large number of underrepresented groups in Richmond. My passion ever since entering the profession has been to reach out to and encourage Latino and African American youth to stay in school and pursue their dreams. I feel very fortunate that I had parents that encouraged my learning so I want to pay it forward for other children and youth. Finally, I love the mission of Richmond Public Library-Inform, Enrich, Empower….

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Hate Crimes, YA Lit & Latinos: An interview with Caroline Bock, author of LIE

By Guests, picture book, middle grade, YA

LIE Caroline Bock St. Martin’s Griffin, 2011 978-0-312-66832-7 I can’t say it’s a pleasure to read a book about hate crimes by teens. But since hate crimes against Latinos have seen  the highest spike in more than a decade – according to the FBI, over 66% of hate crimes in 2010 targeted Latinos – I was intrigued to find LIE by Caroline Bock. This debut novel tackles the topic by taking us inside the minds of both victims and victimizers. Ten lives intersect one horrible night when two brothers – one an immigrant from El Salvador, one a natural US citizen – are brutally assaulted by a group of Long Island teenagers. The novel lays bare the land mines of power groups among teens, racism, and ineffective adults. Mostly, though, I admire this powerful book for making us consider the bigger question of how hatred this dark can take root in people who are young, bright, and at the beginning of everything. I’m honored to introduce you to Caroline Bock in my first Q & A feature, where we’ll talk about both craft and content. Congratulations on a great debut, Caroline. To start us off, would you tell us a little bit about yourself in terms of what brought you to writing? What made you move from film and marketing to the world of writing for young people?   Thank you so much, Meg. I feel like I’m in terrific company with you and your readers! I’ve always had dual career…

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