Why I Write about the Immigrant Experience

Contributed by Reyna Grande, Author

I learned to read in English in the 8th grade. As a child immigrant from Mexico struggling to adapt to the American way of life, I had a hard time finding my experiences reflected in the books given to me by my teachers at school or the librarian at the public library. Closest were the works of the Chicana writers I’d read in college, such as Sandra Cisneros and Helena María Viramontes, where I found bits and pieces of myself. But I did not find books that spoke directly to my experience as a child immigrant.

I did find books about adult immigrants and the struggles that adults—like my parents— experience when they arrive in the United States: low paying jobs, abuse and discrimination in the workplace, fear of deportation, struggles to assimilate and learn English, and the hardships of navigating and understanding the nuances of American culture and society. But as a child, wasn’t I as much a part of the immigration narrative? Weren’t my pain and heartbreak, struggles and triumphs, also worth telling? Didn’t I also risk my life and fight just as hard for my dreams?

Why weren’t children’s voices being heard?

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Check out the 2015 International Latino Book Awards!

Here are some amazing stats:

  • The Int'l Latino Book Awards has grown to become the largest Latino literary and cultural awards in the USA
  • Winners in 2015 are from across the USA and from 17 other countries
  • Sales of books by past ILBA winning authors have totaled more than 200 million copies
  • Latinos in the USA will purchase over $650 million in books in both English and Spanish.

The Power Of Dehumanizing Language

Meg Medina Highlights Her Experience at the National Latino Children's Literature Conference

Read more of this wonderful takeaways post by Meg Medina on her blog here.

A Conversation With Ruth Tobar, Chair of the 2014 Pura Belpré Award Committee

Interview conducted by Wendy Lamb

Wendy Lamb:

Can you please tell me something of your background, and your work in children’s books?

Ruth Tobar:

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I worked as Publisher and Executive Director at Children’s Book Press and have been involved with REFORMA, the National Association to Promote Library & Information Services to Latinos and the Spanish Speaking for over a decade.  In that time I have helped to plan and identify resources for the 10th and 15th Pura Belpré Anniversary Celebraciones and served on the 2010 Pura Belpré Award Selection Committee.  I have participated on other committees and have worked with the leadership of REFORMA to strengthen the association at many levels.  I have volunteered at REFORMA’s RNC IV Conference in Denver and have assisted in any way I can.  As a person of color and a publisher of multicultural children’s books, I saw the value of having children of color reflected in published works and involving the community that is reflected in the books as well.

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Lives Undocumented: An Interview with Maria E. Andreu

Interview contributed by Lyn Miller-Lachmann

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Maria E. Andreu’s debut novel, The Secret Side of Empty (Running Press Kids, March 2014), offers an honest, authentic portrait of an undocumented high school senior who carefully hides her circumstances even from her closest friends, and cannot apply for college despite her near-perfect grades. Even before publication, the novel received glowing reviews and accolades, including a spot on the Junior Library Guild’s spring 2014 list. In this interview for CBC Diversity, Andreu talks about her own life as an undocumented immigrant and how things have or haven’t changed for these bright, promising young people who live in the shadows.

You have stated publicly that much of M.T.’s story is based on your own experience as an undocumented immigrant from Spain in the 1970s and 1980s. What are some of the specific parallels between your own story and that of your protagonist?

I like to say that the facts are all different but the feelings are the same.  I felt the same isolation and hopelessness that M.T. feels.  I didn’t know how I would go to college. I felt the economic disadvantage. But I was a teenager during the 1980s so of course I didn’t connect with my high school boyfriend on Facebook and didn’t have a cell phone. I felt it was important to make M.T. a modern teen so that readers today wouldn’t get bogged down in the 80s references. But the experience is genuine, if fictional. And, fun side note, the post-it scene and the “slow speed chase” both really did happen.

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20 More Authors Who Promote Diversity in School Visits

We had such a great response to our post, “15 Authors Who Promote Diversity in Author Visits” that we felt it was time to add more names to the list. For teachers and librarians who are looking for diverse authors for school and library events, here are 15 more authors to consider.

Grades 7 – 12 / Middle School & High School

Coe Booth (New York, NY)

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Coe Booth is a graduate of The New School’s Writing for Children MFA program, and a winner of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Young Adult Fiction. She is the author of several books including Tyrell (Push/Scholastic) and will make her middle-grade debut this fall with Kinda Like Brothers (Scholastic Press). A life-long resident of the Bronx, Coe often presents to small student groups and teacher conferences.

http://coebooth.com/

Christina Díaz Gonzalez (Miami, FL)

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Christina Díaz Gonzalez is the author of The Red Umbrella (Yearling/Random House) and A Thunderous Whisper (Knopf Books for Young Readers). Her novels have received numerous honors including the ALA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults and the IRA Teacher’s Choice Award.  Available for in-person as well as virtual visits, her presentations focus on the road to becoming an author and what happens afterward.

http://www.christinagonzalez.com/

Sharon G. Flake (Pittsburg, PA)

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Sharon G. Flake is the Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award author of The Skin I’m In (Jump at the Sun/Hyperion). Her most recent novel, Pinned (Scholastic Press), received starred reviews and is included on various state reading lists. During her presentations she discusses her journey to overcome low self-esteem and encourages students to consider writing and publishing as a career.

http://www.sharongflake.com/

Eric Gansworth (Niagara Falls, NY)

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Eric Gansworth is a Professor of English and Lowery Writer-in-Residence at Canisius College. An enrolled member of the Onondaga Nation, he was born and raised at the Tuscarora Reservation. His young adult debut novel, If I Ever Get Out of Here (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic), was selected for ALA’s 2013 Best Fiction for Young Adults and was named an American Indian Youth Literature Award Young Adult Honor Book.

http://www.ericgansworth.com/

Sherri Smith (Los Angeles, CA)

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Her novel Flygirl (Putnam Juvenile/Penguin) was selected as one of the ALA’s 2010 Best Books for Young Adults. Born in Chicago, she spent most of her childhood in Staten Island NY, Washington DC, and Upstate New York. Today she travels all over the west coast visiting schools and libraries.

http://www.us.penguingroup.com/static/pages/youngreaders/teachers-librarians/author_appearance/smith.html

Tim Tingle (Canyon Lake, TX & Oklahoma City, OK)

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Tim Tingle is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a frequent speaker at tribal events. The author of six books, including How I Became A Ghost (The RoadRunner Press) and House of Purple Cedar (Cinco Puntos Press), Tingle was a featured speaker at the Native American wing of the Smithsonian Institute in 2006 and 2007.

http://www.timtingle.com/author.html

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Diversity 101: Inserting Spanish language into the English text to create an atmosphere

Contributed to CBC Diversity by Alma Flor Ada

My Personal Connection

A few years ago I was asked to contribute a story to an anthology. The story, which contained some words in Spanish, had been edited and proofread. And then, the editor told me, very enthusiastically, that her son, who was taking Spanish in High School had caught a mistake in my Spanish.

She then went on to explain to me that, in Spanish, words that refer to feminine beings end with an –a not an –o, and thus, the mother in the story calling her daughter “cariño” and not “cariña” was a mistake detected by her son that she had hastened to correct.

 The word “cariño” is used in Spanish as an endearment, similar to “darling, love, sweetheart.” It has only one form. The word “cariña” does not exist, that is, it has never been used by any group of speakers, anywhere.

We all can make mistakes and I will always be thankful to anyone who discovers a typo or that queries a statement. But to believe that an English speaking High School student by having taken some Spanish courses is qualified to correct, without consulting, a native speaker with a PhD in Spanish literature shows the kind of presumption that generates prejudice, racism, and the stereotypes we want to eliminate.

There are two morals to this story.

  1. Knowing a little bit of a language can get one into trouble.
  2. Respect is deserved by all language and all speakers.

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