Newbery award winner and New York Times bestselling author

Posts tagged ‘diversity in children’s literature’

Diverse Book Love in Virginia This Week

I’m on a plane back home this morning, but I’ll have just enough time to toss the dirty clothes in the washer and head west on I-64 to Charlottesville for the Virginia Festival of the Book being held this week.

Here’s the schedule; as usual, something for all tastes – from chefs and cookbooks, to cultural icons and children’s book authors. No need to worry that you’ll feel out of your comfort zone. Just get out there and support the literary life of you home state, friends.

My own visit is quick this year. Two school stops (Southwood Boys & Girls Club and Jack Jouette Middle School) but also an important Thursday evening panel that comes against the backdrop of the alarming national conversation (if we can we still call it that) about immigrants in this country.

I hope you’ll attend Beyond Background Characters: Life in Hyphen-American. Check out the author bios, and join us!

When: Thursday, March 17, 2016, 8:00 PM

Where: UVa Culbreth Theater (109 Culbreth Rd, Charlottesville, VA 22903)

Who: 

Sara FarizanFarizan_TellMeHow_jkt_pbk_rgb_2MB

Sara Farizan, author of Tell Me Again How a Crush Should Feel, is the daughter of Iranian immigrants, and was born in Massachusetts. She is an MFA graduate of Lesley University and holds a BA in film and media studies from American University. She is also the author of If You Could Be Mine.

 

Lamar GilesEndangered

Lamar Giles, author of the YA thrillers Endangered and Fake ID, which was a 2015 Edgar Award nominee, is a speaker and founding member of We Need Diverse Books. 

 

BurnBabyBurn_cvrSktch-7 copy 2Meg Medina

You know this lady?

 

 

 

Wendy Shang9780545609586_a5cd3

Wendy Shang, author of The Way Home Looks Now, lives in northern Virginia. Her first book, The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, received the Asian-Pacific American Librarians Award for Children’s Literature and was placed on several state reading lists.

 

1200x630bfModerator: Gustavo Pérez Firmat

Gustavo Pérez Firmat, author of A Cuban in Mayberry: Looking Back at America’s Hometown, has published a number of books of literary and cultural criticism, as well as several collections of poetry in English and Spanish.

See you in Charlottesville!

Spend a Weekend in VA with Poets – and, um, me

A blue 1973 Camaro - like the one Pablo drives in Burn Baby Burn. Wish I had these wheels for my travels!

A blue 1973 Camaro – like the one Pablo drives in Burn Baby Burn. Wish I had these wheels for my travels!

After a long rest at home this winter, which featured DIY painting several rooms of my neglected house, I’m getting ready to hit the road with Burn Baby Burn.  I won’t be in town for the official publication date, so I guess I’ll celebrate on the move this time.

On Wednesday, March 2, I’ll drive up to Bridgewater College to visit YA literature classes that have been reading Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, and then I’ll lecture that evening at their March convocation. (Details here.) My visit is made possible by the Alison Yowell Pazmino Memorial Fund, named for a young woman who had planned to dedicate her life to teaching children with challenges.

furious-flower-logo-172x215On Thursday night, March 3, I’ll drive up the road to James Madison University for the Mirrors and Windows Conference at the Furious Flower Center, which, if you don’t know, is our country’s first academic center devoted to African American poetry. It provides education, research, and publishing to JMU and the surrounding area of Harrisonburg. As a kid lit advocate, I like that it also offers summer poetry camp for kids and opportunities for slams – among much more.

When Dr. Joanne Gabbin, the FF’s executive director, invited me last year, I was sure she’d made a mistake. Me? I write novels and picture books, with only a few poems here and there. “You’re poetic,” she said to reassure me. “I hope you’ll come.” So, here I go – honored to be included in this powerhouse faculty. 2016-featured-writers

Anyway, if you write for young people – and if you’re truly interested in developing your ear and mind around writing about diverse people, this is the conference for you. It’s inexpensive ($75 includes two poetry readings, hands-on writing workshops, and a banquet.) And more important, you’ll work closely with Newbery-award winner Kwame Alexander, Mahogany Browne, Tony Medina (no relation) and me.

Check out the site here to read about us, see what we’re teaching, and to REGISTER.  

Now I just have to figure out how to split myself so I can sit in on other people’s sessions. Hmmm…

See you on campus!

Cariños de,

Meg

¡Feliz Cumpleaños, Pura Belpré!

Pura Belpré storytelling at La Casita Maria community center in East Harlem

Pura Belpré storytelling at La Casita Maria community center in East Harlem

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!

Bright air balloonsTo 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.


9780440404859As 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 out books. She knew that taking her girls to see one of their favorite authors would be a special treat.

Patricia Reilly Giff would go on to receive the Newbery Honor medal in 2003

Ms. Giff would go on to receive the Newbery Honor medal in 2003

I remember sitting in the library that day. The chairs were set up differently, and everyone was much more excited than usual. Giff spoke to us like a friend, and she read from one of her books. Afterward, she promised to stay after her talk and sign books. I saw it as a golden opportunity to ask a question.

This was a big step for me since I was a relatively shy child—waiting until I felt I could trust the environment. We had moved from Puerto Rico only the previous year, and I had only recently gotten used to English. Once I started speaking it, I couldn’t stop, but you had to be just the right person for me to open up. I had also gotten used to people thinking I couldn’t speak English and brushing me off. Sometimes I went along with it out of pure exhaustion with trying to explain where I was from. Honestly, it was quite a lot to have to negotiate as a six-year-old.

Marilisa and her book-loving mom on the doorstep of La Casa Azul

Marilisa and her book-loving mom on the doorstep of La Casa Azul

Mami helped me walk to the front of the room with my copy of Polk Street. Giff asked me my name and where I was from. I didn’t mind telling her. “My name is Marilisa, and I am from Puerto Rico.” Giff told me that my name was beautiful which confirmed my feelings about her awesomeness. She then began to dedicate my copy of Polk Street: “To Marilisa.” She spoke with Mami about going to the library. Mami told her that I loved her books.

I realized that we were about to leave, so I knew it was time for me to ask my question. “You know, maybe you should write a book about a little girl named Marilisa?” I said. Giff looked at me and smiled, saying, “Yes, that sounds like a great idea.” I was so serious about the whole thing that I began to tell her how the story should go. It would be a regular story like those I had read in Polk Street, except there would be a character named Marilisa, she would be fabulous, and she had to own a horse. That last part was imperative. Giff nodded her head, and I left believing that we had just concocted a plan.

Screen Shot 2016-02-07 at 11.36.43 AMLooking back at this moment, I realize now what I, as a child, was trying to say to a renowned author. “Do you think you could write more books with people like me in them? You see, because I keep reading all these books at the library, and they are wonderful, but I just don’t seem to exist in any of them. I realize I must use my imagination, but I just know that there is room in your imagination for someone like me.”

Years later, I would be in another library looking for reflections of my culture. This time it was 2008 and I was in Gainesville, Florida at the Baldwin Library of Historical Children’s Literature at the University of Florida. I was a Ph.D student looking for a research project that utilized the archives. I had just had an ugly incident at a local store where someone who heard me speaking to Mami on the phone in Spanish had told me to “go learn English.” I remember thinking, “Wow, here I am teaching a course in English literature. I did a program in British literature at Oxford. I am in a Ph.D program in English, and here I am again, being told that I need to speak English.”

03_Perez and Martina- LP Front Cover_70dpi.previewAt the Baldwin, I wondered what would happen if I typed “Puerto Rico” into the catalogue. The collection was meant to reflect American culture. Immediately, the name Pura Belpré came up on my screen. “Oh great, something new,” I thought to myself. I found a catalogue entry of Perez and Martina published in 1932. “Wait…1932,” I said. “Why is this the first time I hear about this?” I discovered that librarian Pura Belpré had spent her life advocating for books for Latino/a children, and I had never seen them on the shelves. Actually, I had never read a Latino/a author in school or in college. And even though Pura Belpré is the namesake of an award, few know who she was or that she wrote books. My doctoral education was marked by this moment, and my life really took a turn that would lead to my writing on Belpré, and ultimately the history of Puerto Rican literature for youth in the United States.

Marilisa and Meg at NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis

Marilisa and Meg at NCTE 2015 in Minneapolis

As a child, and even as a young woman, I didn’t know that I was looking for books that reflected me. I didn’t know that I was looking for ways to articulate what I felt when I felt nonexistent in American culture. I think this is why my work in this area is more than just a research project. It is a question I have been asking for a long time. “Could you write a story about a girl named Marilisa?” This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Pura Belpré Medal. Along with other authors, librarians, and scholars, it is my sincere wish that we would take the time to learn more about Pura’s life and writing. Hopefully, all Latino/a children can know that there are people and stories that have worked to reflect their histories and cultures in books.


 

Marilisa_Jimenez-GarciaMarilisa Jimenez Garcia is a research associate at the Center for Puerto Rican studies at Hunter College, CUNY. Her dissertation, “Every Child is Born a Poet: The Puerto Rican Narrative within American Children’s Culture” (2012) won the 2012 Puerto Rican Studies Association Best Dissertation Award. She is an NCTE Cultivating New Voices Among Scholars of Color Fellow. Look for her contribution (“The Pura Belpre Medal: The Latino/a Child in America, the Need for Diversity, and Name-branding Latinidad’) in Prizing Children’s Literature (Routeledge 2016) by Kenneth B. Kidd and Joseph Thomas (ed.) 

twitterFollow Marilisa on Twitter @MarilisaJimenez

Learn more about Marilisa’s research 


More Pura Belpré news:

Check out this video trailer!  Buy here from Centro (Center for Puerto Rican Studies)

alaac16Coming to ALA in June?  Join in the 20th anniversary party to honor Pura Belpré’s memory and the many books and authors who have been selected over the years! Sunday, June 26, 2016, 1 – 3:30 PM. Free with your conference fee!

Want to help preserve Pura Belpré’s legacy?  Join REFORMA as a community supporter!

Introduce young readers to Pura Belpré with The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez and illustrated by Lulu Delacre

Add winners of the Pura Belpré medals to your school or personal collection.