Skip to main content
Tag

Hispanic Heritage Month

Writing the Bitter Truth: A Convo this Week with Rex Ogle

By Appearances, What I'm reading
This Wednesday night, Oct 6 at 8pm, EST, I’ll be in conversation with Rex Ogle. He’s the author of the much-lauded YA memoir, Free Lunch, which was the YALSA 2019 Non-fiction winner. His newest memoir, Punching Bag, which explores abuse, mental illness, and family. Anderson’s Bookstore will be our host. I don’t know Rex, so this is the first time we’ll be speaking together. I’m grateful to meet him during Latinx/Hispanic Heritage Month (his mother was of Mexican descent) since mental health is so often a taboo subject in Latinx families. Seeking professional help is not the norm, or even financially feasible, typically. As a result, families under pressure continue their slow simmer with lasting, hurtful effects. As his fans know, Rex’s work cuts close to the bone as he dives into the world of a family that is imploding. My own YA work - Burn Baby Burn and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, has explored similar terrain, except through fiction. It’s fair to say, though, that both of us have chosen writing as a way to make sense of what we actually saw as children and teens. The difference has been the vehicle. Here’s what’s the same, though. When you write a book about painful family life through the eyes of teens, you’re virtually guaranteed some pushback. Adults have a strong distaste for these tales, although we all know that adults often fail young people in big ways and small. What follows is an urge to shame...
Read More

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...
Read More

Some titles for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Latino Life, What I'm Reading
Repeat after me:  "I will read works by Latinx authors throughout the year." It goes without saying that good books are good books - any time of the year. And yet, I know it's Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 through October 15. So, here's a quick look at a few hot-of-the-press works that I think you might want to pick up. Prev 1of7 Next Dancing Hands by Margarita Engle and illustrated by Rafael López (picture book, August 2019) The Gumazing Gum Girl: Book 4 Cover Blown by Rhode Montijo (chapter book, October 2019) Strange Birds:  A Field Guide to Ruffling Feathers by Celia Pérez (middle grade, September 2019) The Fresh New Face of Griselda by Jennifer Torres  (middle grade, August 2019) Each Tiny Spark by Pablo Cartaya (middle grade, August 2019) The Other Half of Happy by Rebecca Barcarcel (middle grade, August 2019) The Truth Is by NoNieqa Ramos (young adult, September 2019) For more great title ideas all year long (remember, you promised,) visit my go-to site for the latest in Latinx kid lit: Latinosinkidlit.com
Read More

Banned On the Run…

By Appearances, Latino Life, The Writing Life

It’s a double whammy! Banned Books week and Hispanic Heritage month, so I’ve been on the road with no sign of rest in the near future. Fellow REFORMISTA Loida Garcia Febo just shared this link to Latino books that have been challenged and banned, including the book that turned me to writing in the first place: The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros.  Que cosa mas grande… Gracias, Loida. Lists like this inspire me to write more books that might cause alarm and discomfort – and hey, even thought. And they make me feel especially fired up about my first teaching gig at Las Comadres Writers Conference in Brooklyn this weekend. Las Comadres is more than a conference. It’s a movement based on the core principle of mentorship and culture. On Saturday, established Latina authors and publishing pros will come together at Medgar Evers College to help yet-to-be published authors learn the ropes. What’s in it for me?  Mostly getting more Latino voices at the literary table, especially those writing for kids since this year, for the first time,  our public schools will be a majority minority. Besides, I’ll be helping to create more amazing books that will end up on banned book lists. So, hermanas, if you have a story, if you’ve been too shy to admit that you want to be a writer, if you just don’t know where to begin, register for Las Comadres. Finally, here are a few pictures from my recent travels to the DC area.  I’m exhausted, but so grateful to Candlewick…

Read More

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…

Read More

A Little Bit of Fiesta at City Hall

By Appearances, Community work

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! This is a month for everybody to channel their inner Latino, but don’t worry if you don’t know an empanada from a salsa. I can help you, especially if you’re in the downtown Richmond, Virginia area next week. That’s because on Monday, September 17, 2012 The Hope Tree Project comes to the lobby of City Hall at Broad Street and 9th Street! (Map here.) We’re having a little lunchtime party as the kickoff, and I hope you’ll come. You’ll remember that this exhibit of the hopes and dreams of Richmond’s young people started out as a collaboration between me, eight area high schools, and the folks at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden last spring, when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind first pubbed. Well, we’ve moved the exhibit to its final phase —  the concrete jungle — where the public can see what our kids are thinking about themselves and our community. The exhibit is, of course, free and open to the public. The lobby doesn’t have trees (bummer) but I have a plan. Or I should say… my friends at Pine Camp Art Center (Shaun Casselle) and the Office of Multicultural Affairs (Tanya Gonzalez) have a plan. All those twigs that fell out of trees during last month’s gusty days?  Yep, they’re being recycled into the show. (How’s that for clever use of resources?) We’ll be spending our Saturday putting them in place. If you work downtown, please come down and join us for the  reception…

Read More

The Hope Tree Project

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

There are all sorts of ways of launching a new book into the world. This time around I’ve decided to go big. I’ll have my regular launch at the ever-fabulous bbgb tales for kids on March 17. But when The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind pubs next month, I’ll have about 500 high school students to help me celebrate, too. That’s because they’re part of a project I’m working on in partnership with The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden and eight area high schools here in Richmond. The Hope Tree Project is a connection of art, reading, and community building for young people – a good addition to the Virginia Commission of the Art’s Minds Wide Open 2012 celebration of children and the arts. The students and their art or ESOL teachers have agreed to create Latin American ex votives — or milagros — that symbolize a hope or dream that they have for themselves or for the community. When they’re done, we’ll decorate five crape myrtle trees in the beautiful children’s garden with their collective wishes. Milagros are part folk art and part religious votives in Latin America. The tiny charms are attached to statues of saints, to the walls of churches, or even to women’s jewelry. Why? To ask for a favor or to thank a saint for help, of course. It’s a connection of the sacred or mystical to every day needs. Not that this is new, of course. The ancient Romans made them, too, as did many…

Read More

For my Holladay ES Peeps

By picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life

So fun to visit Holladay ES this morning. They’ve been reading MILAGROS in the fourth grade and also TIA ISA in the second grade.  We ran out of time for questions, so as promised, I’m answering here. From grade 2: How did you get to be so good at writing? Practice, practice, and more practice. I took lots of writing classes in high school and in college. Even today, I will take a writing class to learn how to tell a story better. Best of all, I have a writing group where I share my work with author friends and get their advice.   How do you go about writing a book? I usually start with a good character who has one big problem to solve — but that’s all I know. I write for a few hours every day, and I always start my day by fixing what I wrote the day before. (Sometimes that means I throw it all out and start that work again!) Slowly, slowly — chapter by chapter — the story starts to take shape. One secret is that I usually rewrite the first chapter after I’ve finished writing the whole book. Why? I like the first chapter to give a good hint about everything that is going to happen in the rest of the book.  Since I don’t know what’s going to happen until the book is done, I have to go back and redo it.  What was your favorite book when you were…

Read More

A Day at Marie Reed Elementary School

By The Writing Life

Last Thursday, I trekked up to DC to spend a day at Marie Reed Elementary School in Adams Morgan. Four years into my life as a published author and I’ve realized that I’d rather do a thousand school visits than a book signing, which for me are often skimpy on attendance. There’s something about being around little people with no teeth that is much more satisfying. Marie Reed is a lovely school, if a little oddly appointed. (Partitions offer a reminder of the open education experiment of the 1960s.) Truly, if Christine Reuss, my host, hadn’t been with me, I would never have found my way around. There’s a surprise around every corner. They have a garden that Michelle Obama planted to help them attract butterflies, and they have murals of the late salsa goddess Celia Cruz (¡azucar!) and Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor. The auditorium is an amphitheater. What I loved most about this little gem of a school, though, is that it offers both an English only and a dual language curriculum. This seems so much more sensible to me than trying to teach a language in middle school, when we all know that their tongues go thick and their courage, thin. To see an Asian kindergarten student rattling off “Asi Baila Juanito” like a native is about the loveliest thing I can imagine. I read to the students, told them about how I wrote Tia Isa Wants a Car and Milagros.Then I listened to their songs and dances,…

Read More

Sweet Endings

By Latino Life, The Writing Life

Whew!  We just finished the JRW Conference – two amazing days of friendship, good writing, and inspiration. My own high points were being on a panel with fabulous children’s book authors Kathi Appelt and Troy Howell. Mermaids, dragons, revision, writing across age groups – we chatted about all of it.  I also reconnected with poetry thanks to Hermine Pinson, whose wisdom and calm drew me in completely. This year, the conference ended with a hilarious, nail-biting session of Pitchapalooza, where authors had a mic and 1 minute to pitch their novels to an agent panel. Two hundred people doing belly laughs and erupting into applause is a wonderful thing to experience. I was actually sad to see the conference end. But speaking of endings… We’re also getting to the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. I’ve been sharing recipes this month, so how about a sweet ending to our meals, too. Today, amigos, I bring you my flan recipe. Ingredientes 4 eggs 1 c whole milk 1 can evaporated milk 1 can condensed milk 1 tsp vanilla 2 cups of sugar (divide into 1/2 cup and 1 1/2 cups) Instrucciones Heat oven to 350 degrees In a pan, melt 1 1/2 cups of sugar. It will take about 5 – 7 minutes over medium heat. You want to stop at a light brown liquid. Remove from heat as soon as the last of the sugar dissolves. Pour into a bundt pan and coat all sides. In a blender:  eggs, all three milks, 1/2 c…

Read More

Latino reads for you

By Adult books, Latino Life, picture book, middle grade, YA, The Writing Life, What I'm reading

Last Saturday I did a Hispanic Heritage presentation at Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore. Here is the list a couple of you have asked for. These are some of my favorite Latino reads, oldies and new releases, from picture books to adults. I could list dozens more, but here is a start. Feel free to add recommendations in the comments section. (P.S. Fountain had most of these titles on their shelves, so give them a call.) Picture books  Los Gatos Black on Halloween by Marisa Montes and Yuyi Morales A poetic spanglish romp on Halloween night. Gorgeous illustrations. Fantastic bilingual vocabulary http://marisamontes.com and http://yuyimorales.com La Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos A farm maiden decides to make arroz con leche – rice pudding. Energetic, bilingual vocabulary, gorgeous illustrations. www.samanthavamos.com Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, by Carmen Agra Deedy Carmen is a storyteller of Cuban origins. Also the author of Growing Up Cuban in Decatur Georgia. This is a classic folktale about how to find the right mate in life. The illustrations are gorgeous and the text gets at kids funny bone. http://carmenagradeedy.com/ My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown Brown presents a beautiful bilingual biography of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. In 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. http://www.monicabrown.net Middle Grade  The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sis This middle grade novel is about the early life of poet Pablo Neruda. It is written in a style that parallels Neruda’s THE…

Read More

Moors and Christians

By Latino Life

Our foodie celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month continues… ¡Ay  frijolito negro! No Cuban kitchen is without black beans of some kind. You can serve  them as soup, thicken and pour them over white rice, or…you can make moros con cristianos — Moors and Christians. The name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to Arab influence in Spain. In our house, we serve this dish at major holidays — including Thanksgiving. Ingredientes bag of dry Goya black beans 3 C white long grain rice (Tío Ben brand is our favorite) 1 onion, finely chopped 1 green pepper, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, crushed 6 strips of bacon 2 bay leaves 1 T oregano salt 1 envelope of Sazón Accent sin Achote or 1/2 tsp of cumin a couple of splashes of red wine vinegar Pressure cooker or large pot Instrucciones Inspect and rinse bag of beans in a colander. Fry bacon strips and crumble. Remove from pan. Sautee vegetables in remaining bacon oil until onions are transparent. (Sorry cardiologists!) In a pressure cooker place rinsed beans, sauteed vegetables, vinegar, and 6 cups of water. Cover and pressure cook for 20 minutes after the steam starts spouting. When 20 minutes are up, remove cooker from stove and put it in the sink. Run cool water over the lid until the steam stops completely and it is safe to open. (If you don’t have a pressure cooker (!que pena, chica!), simmer this mixture covered in your pot until the beans are soft but not mushy…maybe an…

Read More

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month. Let’s eat!

By Latino Life, The Writing Life

September ushers in the strangely straddled Hispanic Heritage month (Sept 15 – Oct. 15). I’ll be doing lots of appearances around town to celebrate, but this month I thought I’d share some Latin magic through my kitchen. Here’s Arroz con Pollo – chicken and yellow rice. It’s one of those dishes that every Latin cook aspires to make well, the kind women fight about and secretly criticize behind each other’s backs. There are a million recipes, but here’s mine. Ingredientes Olive oil (about 5 T) 1 whole chicken cut up or (better) a collection of thighs and legs 2 T red wine vinegar 1 T dried oregano ½ pound medium grain white rice 1 small red pepper, finely chopped 1 small onion, finely chopped 3 cloves of garlic mashed 1 small tomato, seeded and chopped ¼ cup pimento-stuffed olives (I cut these in half) 1 T tomato paste 1 beer 2 ½ c water 1 c white cooking wine salt to taste Also, the following spices you’ll have to borrow from me or pick up at the International Food aisle: Bijol Sazón Accent con azafrán (comes in a box) Instrucciones: You’ll need a pot that’s not too deep. I have a nifty pan for this, see? It’s large, but a little shallow. A dutch oven works fine, too. Put your chicken pieces, vinegar, salt and oregano in a gallon-size ziplock bag. Squish around to coat. Let marinate for at least an hour. Pat each piece dry. Using half your olive oil,…

Read More