Saturday, January 27, 2007

Guest columnist René Colato, Speaking On Authenticity, Can An Author Write Books Outside His/Her Culture?

René Colato Lainez

I asked two children’s book authors about authenticity in books about Latinos. Then I searched through some editor’s guidelines. These are my findings.

Can An Author Write Books Outside His/Her Culture?

Amada Irma Pérez says:

I do believe someone outside the culture can write an immigrant story--they always do by doing research, etc. I don't believe it can be authentic because they are looking from the outside in. It would be impossible to include all the delicate and delicious little details that sprout from actual lived experiences. I don't like someone outside our culture writing "about us" but realize that this has been going on forever in order to learn about people of the past and from other cultures. Look at the "American Girl" series and other diary books.

An authentic story has specific details that are known only to the teller and the readers that come from the same culture. In our culture these include specific sensory images like the smell of menudo cooking, or the texture of the slime from nopalitos, the angst of culture clash, or machismo, the importance of family, the awareness of "mexican time..." It becomes even more authentic when dichos are quoted in the native language and lose too much in translation. Sometimes they cannot and should not be translated!

love and peace,

amada irma

Amada Irma Perez is the author of MY DIARY FROM HERE TO THERE and MY VERY OWN ROOM.

Blogmeister's note: Amada Perez' "My Diary from Here to There" was
reviewed by La Bloga Bloguera Gina MarySol Ruiz in November 2005.

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Jane Medina says on authencity in immigrant stories:

An immigration story needs to be three dimensional in order to be authentic. To say that to immigrate to another country is easy and wonderful is a lie. To say that to immigrate to another country is the worst thing that could ever happen to you is a lie too. To be genuine, an author must show the good things, the bad things, and also the ambivalent. The author needs to write a real story.


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This is what editors are looking for:

(Children’s Book Press) Multicultural stories reflect the diversity and experiences of minority and/or new immigrant communities in the United States today. We publish picture books about contemporary life in the Latino/Chicano, African American, Asian American, Native American, multi-racial and other minority and new immigrant communities. Folktales are not the focus of our current publishing program.

(Lee & Low Books) Our goal is to meet the need for books that address children of color by providing fictional stories and informational books that all children can enjoy and which promote a greater understanding of one another. We are not considering folktales and animal stories.

(Luna Rising) Our multicultural mission is to create books that work to preserve Latin American culture in the United States; books that value the strong language heritage brought to our country by children from Latin America, and books that promote bilingualism and will expand a child's cultural knowledge and perspective. We are especially interested in themes that deal with the contemporary bicultural experience of living in the United States, and stories that feature contemporary Latin American role models.

I will be attending Border Book Festival on April. This is a great festival, everyone is welcome. Here’s the Press Release …

Press Release

The Border Book Festival

P.O. Drawer T

Mesilla, NM 88046


The 13th annual Border Book Festival will take place April 20-22, 2007 in Mesilla, New Mexico. New Mexico’s oldest book festival offers a time of reflection and celebration as we remember our roles as global citizens, members of the universal family

Featuring a Trade Show, readings, panels and workshops, as well as its 2nd annual Children’s and Pet parade, the festival highlights include a reading. Poets Against War, on Friday, April 21 that features the work of some of the U.S.’s top poets including Martín Espada, who also serves as Master of Ceremonies, Sherwin Bitsui, Richard Shelton, Connie Voisine, David Romo and Mexican writers Selfa Chew and Osvaldo Ogaz. Music from Son Colombiano, a Juárez cumbia group will accompany the evening.

Saturday night’s Premio Fronterizo Gala features recognized writer Sandra Cisneros, author of Caramelo, and Espada, who has been called the “Pablo Neruda of North America.” Perla Batalla from Los Angeles will offer a concert following the reading. Batalla’s powerful and distinctive voice has graced albums with Leonard Cohen and K.D. Lang. She now performs with her group who will accompany her blend of world music.

The Premio Fronterizo will be awarded to Espada. This prestigious award honors a writer for their literary body of work that transcends borders, real and imagined. The Premio celebrates the best of our contemporary writers who have done much to transform inner and outer worlds and bridge the many borders between people, real and imagined. Past recipients have included: Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, N. Scott Momaday, Barbara Kingsolver, Keith Wilson, Luis Rodríguez, Gary Soto, Sabine Ulibarrí, Luis Urrea and Joy Harjo among others.

Winners of the Sunshine Community Service award are Roberto Estrada from Roberto’s Restaurant and Jesús and Elsa Rodríguez from Ranchway BBQ and Mexican Restaurant. This award is given to local businesses that support the arts through their commitment to all people.

The 2nd annual children’s parade invites pets to join the festivities on Saturday morning. All children who participate in the parade receive a free book. Children’s activities include The Tent of Wonders, a family and children’s storytelling tent and activity area.

Invited children’s authors include Malín Alegria, author of Estrella’s Quinceañera, René Colato Laínez, author of Loteria and Rene, the Boy, Monica Brown, winner of the 2004 Americas Award for children’s literature, author of My Name is Celia, about Celia Cruz.

Other featured writers include Reyna Grande, author of the haunting immigrant tale, Across A Hundred Miles, Sherwin Bistui, Navajo poet and recent winner of the Whiting Poetry award, Richard Shelton, University of Arizona professor and director of the longest running prison writing workshops in the U.S.

Mexican poet Osvaldo Ogaz is Arts Director of La Escuelo de Mejoramiento para Menores in Juárez, a Juevenile prison, and Chinese Mexican poet Selfa Chew is currently a resident of El Paso working on a degree at The University of Texas at El Paso. David Dorado Romo, a true fronterizo/border citizen is the author of Ringside Seat to a Revolution: The Cultural History of Juárez and El Paso, winner of various awards. Romo the son of Mexican immigrants, is an essayist, historian, translator, and musician. Connie Voisine is a an assistant professor of creative writing at New Mexico State University and author of Cathedral of the North, winner of the 2001 AWP Prize in Poetry.

The 2007 festival will include musicians New Mexico treasure Cipriano Vigil, Johnny Flores, Johnny Whelan, Nancy Green, Afro-Mexican musician and an Irish group comprised of various members of the Deming Fusiliers including fiddler Rus Bradburd, author of Paddy on the Hardwood.

Poet, translator and historian Estevan Arellano will give a plática/talk on Ancient Agriculture accompanied by the music of Cipriano Vigil, who is composing a corrido for the festival.

Each aspect of the 2007 festival will include its accompaniment in the musical realm.

On Sunday, April 22, the festival finale will be a Música de La Gente, a musical celebration of world music. Dr. Enrique Lamadrid, musical historian and writer will be the MC. Other artists include Micaela Seidel, puppeteer, Michelle Otero, who will offer a Writing and Yoga Workshop, and Melinda Palacios and Steve Beisner, directors of Ink Byte, a Santa Barbara zine that will feature the work of creative writing workshop participants.

The BBF will be bringing various authors in to visit local schools, community centers and special audiences. If you are interested in sponsoring an author visit, please contact the BBF. Trade show applications are also available. Volunteers are needed and welcome.

For more information contact the BBF at its home base at the Cultural Center de Mesilla, PO Drawer T, Mesilla, NM 88046. 505-523-3988.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Another great post, René Colato. Glad you're with us.

Cultural appropriation--the Euro-American conquerors, establishment, and accompanying intellectuals have been doing it to the rest of us since Bishop Landa burned the Maya Bonampak library and then got some indigenous ghostwriters to make his own codex.

I'd add there's one exception--a rarity--where a non-Chicano, non-etc. can capture the authenticity of another culture: when they were raised in it or genuinely adopted it as their own. Defining what constitutes genuine adoption is of course a gray area, meat for the literary discourse grinder.