Saturday, September 24, 2011

A marvelous literary moment in Denver

by Rudy Ch. Garcia

On a planet-wide, historical scale, ascending to the cima of Teotihuacan's Pyramid of the Sun [something I did when it was still permitted and the vista wasn't marred by the effrontery of having to look down at a WalMart] makes you realize the awesomeness of one of the Siete Maravillas of the World. Others have told me how visits to Machu Picchu similarly impressed themselves into memory. Unforgettable.

What most of us regularly experience outside of vacations or treks rarely reaches such heights, being of a smaller scale, but maybe that imparts them with a more unique charm, since the scale acts to concentrate the experience, the way a magnifying glass focuses sunlight--short of grandiose or monumental--but making for a more personal experience. Like watching the birth of your child in a delivery room, or maybe the feelings Melinda Palacio underwent when she read from her first published novel to an Arizona audience last week. Exhilaration, internalized, even if surrounded by sixty people in the same room.

Last Friday, me and my eighteen first-grade bilingual students were privileged to experience one of those smaller wonders. René Colato Laínez, in Denver for the REFORMA Nat. Conf., kindly agreed to visit the elementary school where I work, along with Mara Price who shared her book El Chocolate de Abuelita. Mara gave us Maya history, the discovery of chocolate and made the kids hungry for more than treats.

In Rene's thirty-minute presentation, largely in Spanish, he burst the envelope of what I've seen of author readings. René pranced and danced, he sang, chimed, and theatrically stroked us with descriptions and quotings from his books, primarily The Tooth Fairy meets El Ratón Perez. Accompanied by a powerpoint of his making, René transported us his audience to a small moment where entertainment was left behind and wonderment took us elsewhere.

He told us about his book, his own history, his aspirations as an immigrant child and a young man who grew into a successful writer of children's books. In the process, he concretized the mystery of authorship behind a book into something that I as a teacher will benefit from in the coming year. I saw the same look on the face of one of my fellow teachers. And from many of the students.

The next time I sample my students for "what do you want to be when you grow up?" I'm certain there will be at least a few "I want to write books, like René." I'll need to adopt a prompt for them when they get writer's block: "What do you think René might have done or tried?"

These photos of the event I share with you only scratch the surface of that morning, and I doubt even a video would mean much more, because what the kids received was a culturally relevant thrill of published Latino authors telling them about their shared culture.

I guess I write this to highly recommend that you grab René if you ever get the chance and just enjoy that small moment with him, probably made more exhilarating if you're surrounded by a bunch of primary-school aged kids who understand his native Spanish. It won't just make your day.

Es todo, hoy



Melinda Palacio said...

Now there's a picture!

Anonymous said...

¡Me encantó! What a wonderful experience for your kids. Your love for teaching is such an inspiration, Rudy!

Rene Colato Lainez said...

Muchas gracias Rudy,

I enjoyed presenting to your students.

Annette Leal Mattern said...

Hey Primo- You really wrote this beautifully. It drew mw in and I wanted to know Rene along with you.