Category Archives: Young Adult Books

In the news: Arizona, awards, Mexico, Marquez, Saenz

Arizona:

• Wednesday will mark a National Day of Solidarity in which educators across the country are encouraged to teach the controversial Tucson, Ariz., school district curriculum – including Latino-themed books such as Occupied America. The district put away the books so it could still receive funding from the state, which has banned ethnic studies. Tucson teacher Curtis Acosta discussed the situation here.

• The Huffington Post wrote about Aztec Muse magazine’s Librotraficante caravan, which will distribute the banned books in Tucson in March.

The Progressive magazine features several articles about the situation, with reactions from banned authors Ana Castillo, Junot Diaz and Dagoberto Gilb.

Awards:

• Books by Meg Medina and Bettina Restrepo were named to the 2011 Amelia Bloomer list for their feminist themes. Medina was honored for Tia Isa Wants a Car and Restrepo was awarded for Illegal.

• Congratulations to California-based writer Jennifer Torres, who won the Lee and Low New Voices Award for her book, Live at the Cielito Lindo. She received a publishing contract from the publisher.

• The 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults list, chosen by the Young Adult Library Services Association, includes I Will Save You by Matt de la Peña, Under the Mesquite by Guadalupe Garcia McCall and What Can(t) Wait by Ashley Hope Pérez.

Mexico:

• Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa and 170 other writers signed a letter published in the Mexican newspaper El Universal calling for the end of violence to journalists in that country, according to the BBC.

Author profiles:

• Nobel winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez, left, talked to the Daily Sun about his return to journalism.

Benjamin Alire Sáenz discussed his writing and painting to the El Paso Times. The article noted that Sáenz, as well as Marquez and Pat Mora, made the list of the top 50 most inspiring writers in the world by Poets & Writers magazine in 2010. Salvador Plascencia was also included.

• Slam poet Jessica Helen Lopez received a nice profile from the San Antonio Express-News before a recent performance there.

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In the news

Awards: Pam Muñoz Ryan picked up the PEN Center USA award in Children/YA Literature earlier this month for her children’s book about poet Pablo Neruda, The Dreamer. Francisco Goldman took the Prix Femina Étranger, a French literary award, for his novel, Say Her Name, the first American to win since 2005.

• This is cool: The prestigious University of Iowa creative writing program is adding a master’s degree in Spanish Creative Writing, officials announced last week.

• Here’s some interesting articles about young adult authors: The Dallas Morning News profiled Ray Villareal (pictured at right), whose Don’t Call Me a Hero is published by Arte Publico Press, and NPR did a story about the popularity of Malín Alegría’s 2006 book Estrella’s Quinceanera.

• Spanish poet Tomas Segovia died last week. Segovia, who later lived in Mexico, won numerous awards for his work.

New releases: Luis Alberto Urrea’s Queen of America, the sequel to the awesome The Hummingbird’s Daughter comes out Nov. 29. Arte Público is releasing two books from Rolando Hinojosa Nov. 30: Partners In Crime: A Rae Buenrostro Mystery and A Voice of My Own: Essays and Stories. The Third Reich, written by the late Chilean author Roberto Bolaño, will come out Dec. 1 by Farrar Straus Giroux.

• The Hispanic Reader will return with reviews of those books after a weeklong holiday break. Happy Thanksgiving!

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In the news

Puerto Rican/Cuban-American poet Piri Thomas (pictured at left) passed away last week. His book, Down These Mean Streets, described his life growing up in Spanish Harlem and became a staple in classrooms, according to this New York Times obituary.

• Here’s the round-up in book festivals this coming weekend:

Luis Alberto Urrea will speak at the Louisiana Book Festival Saturday in Baton Rouge.

The Dallas International Book Festival, on Saturday, will feature novelist Esmeralda Santiago (pictured at right), children’s author Lucia Gonzalez, young adult author Ray Villareal and poet Joaquin Zihuatanejo.

The 31st Annual Book Fair of Santiago will run from Friday-Nov. 13 if you just so happen to be in Chile.

• Monday will be a big day for Arte Publico Press – it’s releasing several children’s and young adult books that day. The titles are: Don’t Call Me a Hero by Ray Villareal; The Lemon Tree Caper: A Mickey Rangel Mystery by René Saldana Jr.; ¡A Bailar! Let’s Dance! by Judith Ortiz Cofer and illustrated by Christina Ann Rodriguez; Clara and the Curandera by Monica Brown and illustrated by Thelma Muraida; and Adelita and the Veggie Cousins by Diane Gonzales Bertrand and illustrated by Christina Rodriguez.

Dagoberto Gilb, whose short story collection Before the End, After the Beginning comes out Tuesday, will tour several Texas cities with Aztec Muse magazine editor Tony Diaz. They’ll be in San Antonio Nov. 2; Dallas, Nov. 3-4; and Houston, Nov. 16-17. The Texas Observer covered his speech at last week’s Texas Book Festival, as well as Sergio Troncoso’s and Richard Yanez’s discussion about El Paso literature. (Scroll down the page for the articles.) Texas Monthly also excerpted a story in its latest issue. The Hispanic Reader will post a review of his book next week.

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In the News

• Writer Sandra Cisneros (pictured at right) will be featured in HBO’s documentary, The Latino List, which premieres tonight. Other Hispanics profiled in the show include former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, actress Eva Longoria and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayer.

Cristina García, as well as dozens of other young adult novelists, will appear at the Austin Teen Book Festival Saturday. Garcia’s latest book, The Dreams of Siginificant Girls (Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers), was released earlier this year.

Héctor Tobar’s critically acclaimed novel, The Barbarian Nurseries (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), comes out on Tuesday. The Hispanic Reader will post a review the same day.

• Also on Tuesday, Luis J. Rodriguez will release It Calls You Back: An Odyssey Through Love, Addiction, Revolutions, and Healing (Touchstone), a sequel to his book, Always Running.

• Rodriguez will be one of several speakers during the 6th Annual San Diego City College Int’l Book Fair Monday-Oct. 8. The event will also include a discussion on “Chicano Poetics: the Enduring Experience and Perspective,” with poets Manuél J. Velez, Angel Sandoval and Manuel Paul López.

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Meet novelist Guadalupe Garcia McCall

The seeds for Guadalupe Garcia McCall’s career as a novelist began in school, when her teachers encouraged her to become a writer. McCall’s first young adult novel, Under the Mesquite, was published earlier this month by Lee & Low Books.

McCall was born in Mexico and grew up in Eagle Pass. She is working on a second young adult novel and her poetry has been published in several literary journals. She also works as a junior high English teacher.

Q: Tell me more about your book, Under the Mesquite.

Under the Mesquite is a novel in verse, which came about because my editor, Emily Hazel, came across a small collection of poems I had submitted to Lee & Low. The poems were nothing more than small vignettes, glimpses of my life on the border, but Emily loved the poems so much she asked if I would work with her on turning the collection into a book. I agreed and thus began a three-year journey. Through several revisions, Emily and I decided to make it a work of fiction to allow for more freedom in the creative process.

Under the Mesquite is the story of Lupita, a young Mexican-American girl living the American dream, trying to fit in, dealing with normal teenage angst, until she learns her mother has cancer. The news devastates the family, but Lupita is determined to do whatever it takes to help Mami get better, and that includes taking on the role of parents while her parents travel to Galveston for her mother’s treatments. Unfortunately, life gets harder and harder, and Lupita’s journey is long and painful. However, because she is strong in love and faith, Lupita learns to cope and ultimately survive this difficult time in her life.

Q: What inspired you to become a writer?

Both my parents were an inspiration to me. They were hard-working people, with little education, so they always stressed education for us. My parents wanted great things for each and every one of us. They always made sure we saw how special and talented we were. From an early age, they looked for and fostered our “qualities” or talents.

However, my teachers played an integral role in my desire to become a writer. My third grade teacher, Mr. Hernandez, read a story I wrote in Spanish and asked me if I was going to become a writer. That planted the seed. Then, in high school, Ms. Garcia and Ms. Urbina were convinced I had the talent to become published. Even Ms. Moses, my mentor and math teacher, wanted that for me. I’ll never forget that she gave me a Writer’s Digest book for my high school graduation. I have all my wonderful teachers to thank for this beautiful dream I am living. They planted and nurtured the seed within me. All I had to do was believe them.

Q: What Latino/a authors have been your biggest influence and why?

There are so many authors I admire. I love Sandra Cisneros and Gary Soto and Julia Alvarez. As far as fiction is concerned, the author I love reading is Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I love his One Hundred Years of Solitude. I’ve read and reread that book so many times, and yet, every time, it feels like the first time because there is so much depth to that book. Someday, I want to grow up to write just like him. However, I am especially fond of Pat Mora, who has such beautiful lyrical poetry for children. I love her Dizzy in Your Eyes. She is my inspiration and my idol and “Dia de los Ninos” (her celebration of family literary) is close to my heart.

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Tough crowd

School will start soon, and many Hispanic teenagers will be stuck reading about white people again.

When I taught English at a high school with a predominantly Hispanic population, I struggled to get my students to enjoy any type of book. But it was even tougher to find young adult books with Hispanic characters. Of course, Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima are part of the canon. When students were looking for books for independent reading, I steered students toward Gary Soto’s novels – and then I had to recommend non-Hispanic authors.

It’s crucial to get young Hispanics to read. In 2009, 17 percent of Hispanics dropped out of high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Hispanics had the highest dropout rate for any ethnic group, although the rate has been decreasing each year.

Here are a few good resources for finding Hispanic-oriented young adult fiction:

• Houston–based publisher Arte Publico has its own young adult section, which includes You Don’t Have a Clue: Latin Mystery Stories for Teens, a book of 18 short stories, according to AARP VIVA.

• The American Library Association lists several Hispanic-themed books in its 2010 Best Books for Young Adults, including David Hernandez’s No More Us for You and Matt de la Pena’s We Were Here.

• The Austin Public Library’s Connected Youth website features a great list of Hispanic-oriented books for young adults.

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