Saturday, March 22, 2014

NY Review of Books asks for latino classics

Last week in my post of NYRB's colorless list for U.S. kids, I described how NYRB's Children's Collection list of seventy books contains none by latinos. Should we expect something more intelligent from "the premier literary-intellectual magazine in the English language" in the U.S.?

Responding to that post, the NYRB sent the following message:
"Our children's series (like our Classics series for adults) resurrects out-of-print works of interest and merit—and thus can't help but partially reproduce publishing sins of the past.

"We're only a small group of people and want to hear from a broader swath and really do rely on readers, booksellers, librarians, etc. If you have suggestions for previously published books of any sort we would very much like to hear them. You can send them to me.
Sara Kramer, New York Review of Books"

Ms. Kramer's offer isn't addressed only to me and La Bloga. It's a message to all readers, authors and publishers of latino children's lit. Send her your suggestions, maybe explaining why a book should be included, it's "credentials" and literary worth. If you're a publisher or author, decide whether you should send her a copy. [Her E-mail, below.]

However, that's not the complete answer to whether the NYRB Children's Collection should add latino (and other) books to its list.

Here's some definitions of "Classic": 1. a. Belonging to the highest rank or class; b. Serving as the established model or standard; c. Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.

So, your ideas about books meeting this criteria should be sent to NYRB.

BUT, secondary definitions of "Classic" include: 2. a. Adhering or conforming to established standards and principles; b. Of a well-known type; typical; 3. Of or characteristic of the literature, art, and culture of ancient Greece and Rome.

Books by and about latinos might not conform to "established standards and principles," depending on how mainstream-oriented (think, exclusionary) such standards are applied. How well known by mainstream readers does a latino book need to be? Additionally, there are few latino books related to ancient Greece and Rome.

European colonialists who inherited the Greek-Roman traditions were responsible for the destruction of all American libraries in the 16th Century, the reason no archives of children's stories survive to be translated into English, so as to become classics. That damage is irrevocable. Other "sins" can be corrected.

English translations can be included on NYRB list, e.g., The Bears' Famous Invasion of Sicily by Dino Buzzati, originally written in Italian. As they state, "Inevitably literature in translation constitutes a major part of the NYRB Classics series."

Consequently, latino books originally written in Spanish, as well as bilingual editions, could qualify. Books originally published in the 60s and 70s qualify, like two on the NYRB list: He Was There from the Day We Moved in (1968) and The Glassblower’s Children (1973), for instance.

However, Ms. Kramer of NYRB stated that they can't help "partially reproducing publishing sins of the past." Why not? If they're recognized as "publishing sins," why would an intellectual body aspiring to the caliber of NYRB voluntarily go along with promulgating those sins?

She further elaborates that NYRB "resurrects out-of-print works of interest and merit." That means latino books not out of print yet would not qualify for the list, since NYRB may not pick up the publishing rights. In that case, latino children's books that continue to be reprinted because of their popularity can't expect acquisition by NYRB. I believe that puts certain latino books between the proverbial rock and hard place on meeting such criteria.

The intention of NYRB Children's Collection, among other things, was to "set a new standard for the definition of a classic.” As long as the list excludes American people of color, it would be defining itself with the old, privileged standards. No?

Here's E-mail for addressing to Sara Kramer, New York Review of Books:

nyrbATnybooksDOTcom or webATnybooksDOTcom

I haven't attempted a comprehensive evaluation of problems with NYRB's methodology in determining children's classics. I welcome opinions and viewpoints of others to be posted here as they come in. If you submit books, book ideas or posts directed to NYRB about this, please CC me so that I can reference them or reprint with your permission.

Authors, agents and publishers involved with latino children's books are definitely encouraged to elaborate further--or correct--my points. The invitation is also still open to NRB for their additional response.

Gracias, y es todo, hoy,
Rudy Ch. Garcia

Author FB -
Twitter - DiscardedDreams


Maria de Lourdes Victoria said...

Thank you for the article, is there another email address for Ms. Kramer? The one provided is not a valid address… I did a search on google and could not find a way to contact her directly. Mil gracias!

Barbara Renaud Gonzalez said...

The boy made of lightning, by Barbara Renaud Gonzalez
Illustrated by Debora Kuetzpal Vasquez

The FIRST interactive book on the life of Voting Rights pioneer Willie Velasquez, independently published by AALAS, September 16, 2013

Original narrative, art, music, sounds. Written in Tex-Mex.
Pop-ups and translation

Nominated for a Tomas Rivera Prize.

Anonymous said...

Maria de Lourdes, one of these E-mails should work: or