The Pura Belpré Award was established in 1996 and honors Latino writers and illustrators whose works of art best portray, affirm and celebrate the Latino cultural experience in a book for children. It is named for the first Latina librarian who distinguished herself for her storytelling and outreach work with children and their families while working for the New York Public Library during the first decade of the twentieth century.
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Margarita Engle received the 2016 Pura Belpré Author Award for Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster).
Thank you! Gracias, y gracias a Dios! I am so incredibly grateful to the Pura Belpré committee, REFORMA, ALSC, my editor Reka Simonsen, Justin Chanda, Candace Greene McManus, Michelle Leo, illustrator Edel Rodríguez, and everyone at Atheneum/Simon & Schuster.
I’ve written many historical novels, but writing non-fiction about my own life was terrifying. Some of the memories were joyful, but others were excruciating. I chose to focus on travel, those childhood summers with the extended family in Cuba. I decided that free verse would allow me to transform the past into present tense, bringing childhood emotions back to life, and softening the blow of history with the rhythmic comforts of language. Even though this book was written at a time when there was no public glimmer of hope for renewed relations between Cuba and the U.S., I wanted it to be read as a story about hope.
The 2016 Author Honor Book Award... ¡qué emoción! Thanks to the Pura Belpré Award committee, REFORMA and ALSC, as well as to Gerry Huntman and the rest of the team at IFWG for believing in the Garza Twins and their romp through Mesoamerican mythology. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the unending support of my wife Angélica and our three children—Helene, Charlene, and Angelo.
Of course, the people I really owe a debt of gratitude are librarians in general. Sure, I learned my love of leyendas y cuentos at the knee of my Grandmother Garza, in my tías’ kitchens, on my tío’s ranch, from my father’s bedtime tales. But it was librarians who took my hunger for story and transformed it into literacy, guiding me through the stacks to books they knew would bridge the gap between my family’s working class lore and the widened vistas reading could afford me.
Thank you, everyone.
It’s such a pleasure to be here with you all on the occasion of the twentieth anniversary of the Pura Belpré Award. I want to thank the 2016 committee for selecting Mango, Abuela, and Me as an Honor Book, especially during this very symbolic and important year for this award. I’m grateful to the Pura Belpré committee members—this year’s group and the volunteers from every year prior—for having been so generous with their time and expertise, and for having the sheer grit to insist on an award that celebrates the Latino experience in the US.
This is and always will be a most meaningful award for those of us who receive it. At least, it is that way for me. It has been earned by some of my literary heroes and is an affirmation of who we are in the deepest and most personal way. It is an award that celebrates roots, loss, and the gaining of a new identity. It is also an award that I believe has opened doors for so many of our voices to be heard in classrooms and libraries across the country.
Back in the mid-1950s, a young woman secretly enrolled in the UNAM School of Architecture in Mexico City. She joined the first generation that moved into the brand-new modern campus. A big deal! 293 male students and only seven women enrolled that year pretty shocking numbers! But that didn’t seem to bother her. Ever since she was a child, she had always wanted to build things for other people. She loved building for her younger sisters, too. As a fourteen-year-old, she didn’t hesitate to test drive the small wooden plane she put together with an old thin bucket and some pieces of lumber for wings, confidently pushing her younger sister Carmen off the rooftop of their house for a test flight, with very predictable consequences. Thankfully, Carmen survived and the unexpected results didn’t deter the young builder from continuing to build things.
And build she did: models of dreamy houses, impossibly tall circus tents, castles and caves and fantasy cities made of balsa wood and cardboard that she shared with her sisters and friends.
When Cinco Puntos offered me the chance to illustrate My Tata’s Remedies, I was excited because my own grandmother used traditional medicine. If my legs ached, Abuela would wrap them with herbs soaked in rubbing alcohol. Actually, one of the herbs she used was marijuana! Tata’s story also made me remember my grandmother’s home, which was marked by warm hospitality. I reflected on those things as I was illustrating, trying with each image to show the love and generosity that are such a part of our Mexican culture. It was a rich pleasure to illustrate this book. Imagine my delight to be doubly rewarded with the Pura Belpré award!
I am honored to accept this award and thankful to the members of the Pura Belpré committee for giving it to me. I am also grateful to Lee, Bobby and John Byrd of Cinco Puntos Press for asking me to illustrate My Tata’s Remedies and to Roni Capin Rivera- Ashford for writing this wonderful story of a grandfather’s love for his grandson.
I’m so happy to be here today. I’m delighted to be here among friends, colleagues, and my family. I know my family is especially happy to be here because tomorrow we are going to see Harry Potter and then Disney World later on in the week.
In all sincerity, this is incredible. I can’t believe I’m up here again about to receive my second Pura Belpré Honor.
When I received the honor for Maria Had A Little Llama, it really did change my life. It gave me that extra validation I needed to leave San Francisco and move to New York to be closer to the center of publishing.
Good afternoon. It is great to be here. I want to thank Ana-Elba Pavon and the committee for this honor. And I wish to congratulate the Pura Belpré, and all the people who make it possible, on its 20th anniversary. I greatly appreciate and I am very proud that my books have been consistently recognized by the award.
I want to congratulate my fellow authors and illustrators. I am happy that I have been able to spend time with several of you. You are not only my colleagues, you are my friends. I feel fortunate to be a part of this supportive, creative, and strong community.
I want to thank Abrams for making this book possible: Howard, my editor, who continuously publishes quality multicultural literature; Maria, who did an excellent job with the typography and design of the book; Jason, who is always working and making sure the book gets into the right hands; and the Abrams team as a whole, who have always been supportive of my work and have always made me feel welcomed.