Finding Diversity and My Voice with a Flashlight and a Pen

Guest post by author Angela Cervantes
I am an original flashlight girl. You know the type. Hours after parents called for bedtime; I was still up under my bedcovers with a flashlight reading a favorite book. Many times, those books under the covers with me were the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis, Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Beverly Cleary’s Ramona Quimby books. The fact that the heroines of these books were white and I was Mexican American didn’t stop me from enjoying these books and rereading them several times. However, the more I fell in love with reading the more I questioned why there weren’t books like these with Latino characters. At the time, I remember thinking of all the girls in my neighborhood who were just as funny, spunky and adventurous as Ramona, Lucy and Laura. Surely there were books about them out there, right?
 
Not so much.

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Malín Alegría: A Road Map for Bicultural Youth

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Elementary-school-teacher-turned-writer and California native, Malín Alegría (Estrella’s Quinceañera), answers a few questions about her new teen series Border Town (Scholastic/Point), her struggles with self-image, puffy Princess dresses, and growing-up bicultural.

Can you describe your high school years? Are there echoes of Fabiola’s experiences in your past?

 
In high school I was a rebel — a tame, respectful, nice rebel. I was a late bloomer and utterly uncomfortable with my developing body and relationships with boys. 

In my junior and senior years, I was voted most creative and class clown. I was definitely on a mission to be different, to not suck up to the cool rich crowd, and to start my own trends. My hair color and identity changed every couple of months. I struggled with self-acceptance. There were no role models on TV or in magazines I could look up to and try to emulate. Many times I felt alone and misunderstood. 

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Feeding the Demand for More Diverse Books

An “It’s Complicated!” post by literary agent Stefanie Sanchez Von Borstel



While on faculty at the National Latino Writers Conference last Thursday, a timely

USA TODAY

headline read:

For the first time in US history, more than half of all newborn babies born last year are minorities. The entire US population is 36% minority, and this milestone shows how swiftly our nation’s youth is diversifying. 

Yet a recent study by the SCBWI found that in 2010 more than 90 percent of children’s/young adult books published in the US featured white protagonists. As a literary agent, I’ve found it’s important to show publishers there is a demand, and in turn help them feel confident to publish even more diverse voices. As an author advocate, I believe it’s critical for writers of color to see their fellow writers succeed. As a mother, I know it’s urgent that we make sure young readers see themselves in the books they read.

The debut middle-grade novel by Diana Lopez, Confetti Girl (Little, Brown), is an example of a book filled with diversity that doesn’t focus on diversity but instead wraps diversity around a wonderful story. Apolina “Lina” Flores is a sock enthusiast, volleyball player and science lover looking for answers about her life. Filled with colorful Mexican-American cultural details such as dichos, confetti-filled cascarones and cumbia dances, the story struck a chord with middle-schoolers nationwide. 

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