Tuesday, July 19, 2016

On-line Floricanto. Floricanto for the Organizers of the Texas Teen Book Festival

Michael Sedano

Invisibility, erasure, exclusion, subversion

Today’s La Bloga-Tuesday marks two important occasions, one of immense joy, another of bitter frustration, yet…

The first brings the joy of the month’s second La Bloga On-line Floricanto. The second brings forth a welter of frustrated voices that nonetheless compose messages of hope and reason, and more so an upswelling of a community speaking out against being invisibleized by people who are better than that, gente who could be our friends, colleagues, associates in our shared need for cultural growth.

A La Bloga On-line Floricanto is always important as it marks La Bloga’s ongoing commitment to poetry, to emerging voices, and principally to creating a space where raza writers--Chicana Chicano Latina Latino and our allied writers--have free expression. This is a space where no one needs to defend their identity, nor their writing, whether the writer elects a stringently political voice or sings out a lovely lyrical message, whether writing in English, Spanish, or mezcla.

Every La Bloga On-line Floricanto proclaims our existence. Our voices announce the ongoing affirmation of cultura. Aqui estamos. Punto final.

A community response to an act of cultural subversion is the second.

We belong here. In the United States, in school texbooks, in popular media, in uniform, in books. It’s a frustration that it appears we’re among the only people to recognize that we belong. There’s a profound sadness, identical to the motivation for saying “Black Lives Matter,” when raza is forced to say We. Belong. Here.

Not that raza cultura isn’t as Unitedstatesian as gluten-free empanadas de manzana and apple pie, but surveying the literary landscape of publishing and book festivals, others are proclaiming there’s no place for us. Case in point: the Texas Teen Book Festival.

Texas, where 32% of the population is Latino—70% of these native-born, where 48% of K-12 students are Hispanic [sic], Texas this year couldn’t find a place for us in the Texas Teen Book Festival.

Scheduled for October in Austin, the organizers chose not to invite any raza writers. This exclusion hasn’t always been the case, but nearly always so.

Last year, Sonia Manzano’s memoir, Becoming Maria, on the writer’s life as Sesame Street’s Maria, was the only Latina keynote author. It was the first year any raza writer was a keynote.

In 2013, Rae Carson set her novel, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, in a world “that emulates Hispanic culture.” An interviewer queried the setting. The writer laughed and said she was learning Spanish at the time. The interviewer notes, “She has a number of friends who are of Mexican descent. After eating the food and ingesting the culture through her friends, it just felt natural.”

Queries into TTBF’s database strike out on searches for various terms. “Latin” yields three hits, Manzano, a typo in a pinay writer’s surname, and a reference to the Latin language. “Mexican” finds Carson’s book. No results return on “Mexican-American,” and “Mexican American.” On “Hispanic” Carson again. “Raza,” nothing. Scanning the author lists since 2009 finds Matt de la Peña, Cristina Garcia in 2011,  Guadalupe Garcia McCall in 2012 and 2014.

When Barrio Writers founder Sarah Rafael García observed the triumphant announcements and smiling faces of this year’s TTBF keynoters and featured authors, that touched a nerve. Exclusion always appears subversive--of the broader culture's needs for perspective, and the invisibleized culture's need for inclusion.

García rallied gente via social media to speak to the organizers of the TTBF, to tell them “we are writers, too.” The responses are moving and heartfelt.

They’ve heard the call and will be making changes. 

Share the voices of our pueblo following today's La Bloga On-line Floricanto. It's another floricanto, for the TTBF organizers, for ourselves. Writers, classroom teachers, professors, mothers come together today in prose, in poetry, with reason, some anger, many with suggestions. At the close of el pueblo’s voice, read the TTBF’s response. The organizers have heard the call, heeded their consciences, and will be making changes. There are promised changes, too, in the larger Texas Book Festival.

Orale, Sarah. Who says our voices don’t count? A ver.

On-line Floricanto For July’s Penultimate Tuesday
John Meza (One Deep), Odilia Galván Rodríguez, Sharon Elliott, Kyle Newman-Smith, Tomás Riley

“My name is America” By John Meza (One Deep)
“Blood in the Streets” By Odilia Galván Rodríguez
“Newborn” By Sharon Elliott
“Addressed to: The Majority” By Kyle Newman-Smith
“Untitled” By Tomás Riley

My name is America
By John Meza (One Deep)

My name is America
Brothers and sisters
Because I am human
I bleed your red blood
Because I have faith
I worship beneath your blue sky
Because I have hope
White doves carry my prayers
To the heavens

My name is America
Brothers and sisters

Because my dream
Is your dream

I dream to live in peace
To be more than a neighborhood
To be a brotherhood
I am a poor man
Rich in culture and heritage
Hungry for the freedom
From your constitution
Free to laugh, live, love
And pursue happiness
My name is America
Brothers and sisters
Am I a fool to love you?
To believe in your soul?
I choose to love you America....
Love me back

I was born a migrant farm worker in Fremont, Ohio. Did that till I was 17 yrs old. Military service, 10 years active duty Army and reserves. From San Benito, TX. Currently lives in Corpus Christi, TX. No previously published poems. Compete in poetry slams in the valley as part of the RGV International poetry festival and Balabajoomba poetry slams in corpus. Been writing for over 20 years.

Blood in the Streets
By Odilia Galván Rodríguez

conspiracy theorists
concerned with the truth
not Hollywood versions
or reality TV
life bleeds red in the streets

Odilia Galván Rodríguez, poet-activist, writer, editor, and social justice activist, is the author of six volumes of poetry, her latest, The Nature of Things, along with photographer Richard Loya. She is co-editor, along with the late Francisco X. Alarcon, of Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, from The University of Arizona Press. Odilia was the English edition editor of Tricontinental Magazine in Havana, Cuba for many years. Currently she edits Cloud Women’s Quarterly Journal, facilitates creative writing workshops nationally, and is a moderator of “Poets Responding to SB 1070” and “Love and Prayers for Fukushima,” both Facebook pages dedicated to bringing attention to social justice issues that affect the lives and well-being of many people.

By Sharon Elliott

my response to recent events

she felt the drum of the house
in her bones
she had known
what she was up against
furniture leaned in
from corners of the rooms
dark menace

heat split
meager days
into magnetic things
wound with wire
flickered through her
newborn and sharp

night tipped
thrummed with stars
day toppled

the tide came in
over the road
saltwater freed her
from weight
and circumstance
she shed her skin like a snake
craved paper
soft from her fingers
written on
with red ink
like vows

Copyright © 2016 Sharon Elliott. All Rights Reserved.

Sharon Elliott has been a writer and poet activist over several decades beginning in the anti-war and civil rights movements in the 1960s and 70s, and four years in the Peace Corps in Nicaragua and Ecuador. She is a Moderator of Poets Responding to SB1070, and has featured in poetry readings in the San Francisco Bay area. Her work has been published in several anthologies and her poem “Border Crossing” appears in the anthology entitled Poetry of Resistance: Voices for Social Justice, Francisco X. Alarcón and Odilia Galván Rodriguez, eds. She has read it in Los Angeles at AWP and La Pachanga 2016 book launch, and at the Féis Seattle Céiliedh in Port Townsend, WA. Her book, Jaguar Unfinished, was published by Prickly Pear Press, 2012. She was an awardee of Best Poem of 2012 by La Bloga, for The Day of Little Comfort.

Addressed to: The Majority
By Kyle Newman-Smith

Your mother told you only the good die young,
But she might have gotten good confused
with black.

She might have forgotten to look back
and realize that birth as a black man
Comes with risk as serious and dark as our skin

Maybe she just didn’t realize
That the hashtags bearing our names
Were actually fathers, brothers, and sons
not just words on a screen

She might have told you that all lives
are equal, but never realized
That if white life was a dollar
Black life is sixty cents
And that’s just change we don’t need

Your mother may have told you
Police protect and serve, but maybe
She didn’t watch the news the decade
All my brothers were killed

Your mother told you what she knew;
It was wrong.

Kyle Newman-Smith is an African American poet whose work focuses primarily on racial issues in the United States. He is a recent graduate of Gonzaga College High School and a current rising freshman at Tufts University, where he plans to study economics. Kyle is an avid lacrosse player and plans to play, while studying in Boston, at Tufts. He has just recently found his love for writing and plans to produce more work in the future.

By Tomás Riley

let the news come quiet as it's kept
shabby suede boots fall silently
like breath
but not to carry him away
they wrestle with the caskets
toward organ burials by moonlight
and all that sleep and dream
they cage into a moment
a fingernail space
for just night's peace
they are walking with the caskets
toward becoming
already becoming
twice this week
the cameras blur
the street color blue
a love supreme
lingering in picket signs
and rolls of yellow tape
masking the mouths
sealing the prayers in protest gospels
dying in tongues
in psalms for mothers' sons
and sweaty cop patrol cars
circling the pool
when the young men plunged
the stark sunlight wavered
swung through the neighborhood
from top to bottom
jordan broke 10,000 miles from herself
and caught their lashes
soaking through the clothes
and darkening the water
like reflections
on the porcelain sky
when the first shots came
abdomens whipped inside out
seeping down the tearless sidewalk
in a slow parade of bodies
diving into one another
floating through the air
suspended by sky
in a red
and black

Tomás Riley is a poet, writer, educator and a veteran of the Chicano spoken word collective The Taco Shop Poets. He is the author of two collections of poetry entitled Mahcic (Calaca Press, 2006) and Post Chicano Stress Disorder (Tinta Vox, 2011). Currently he lives and writes in the Mission District of San Francisco.

Voces Del Pueblo: On-line Floricanto for the Organizers of the Texas Teen Book Festival

La Bloga has the pleasure of sharing the voices of our community on why all Texas teens need exposure and opportunity to see raza literature and writers in the Texas Teen Book Festival, this year and every year to follow.

I Still Remember…

I still remember the first Mexican American writer I read, it was my senior year in high school, Richard Rodriguez.

I still remember the first Mexican American teacher I experienced, it was my first year in community college, Lisa Alvarez.

I still remember the first Mexican American famous writer I met in person, it was my last year in undergrad, I helped bring him to campus, Tino Villanueva.

I still remember the first autograph I signed, it was in 2008 for my newborn nephew, Rafael Castellanos.

I still remember the first Barrio Writer who said she related to me, it was in 2009, I gifted her my teen diary, Valeria Alaniz.

I still remember the first conference where I was asked what I did when I couldn’t find a role model, it was the 2014 National Association of Chicano and Chicana Studies Tejas Foco conference in San Antonio, I responded, “I became one.”

I still remember the first time I challenged an institution on their lack of diversity, it was in 2015 during my last semester at Texas State University’s MFA program, they never responded.

I still remember the first time I emailed the Texas Teen Book Festival…

—Sarah Rafael García
First Generation Graduate, Author, and Barrio Writers Founder
Santa Ana, California

I am not writing to shame you. I believe shame is harmful, and when weaponized, shame, or the attempt to make one feel shame, does little if any human good. But I believe a mistake has been made. An oversight. I refuse to believe there is malice in a group that works tirelessly to benefit young people in Texas, and I also believe that most errors can be corrected, that we can hold ourselves accountable and acknowledge mistakes, even build stronger, more lasting relationships after rectifying mistakes like the omission of Mexican-American authors as part of this year’s Texas Teen Book Festival. I do have a personal stake in this. Not because I am a YA author, not because I am a Mexican-American man who grew up in Texas and makes his home here and loves this state with all the parts of my heart. I teach high school at Thomas Jefferson High School in San Antonio, Texas—I’ve done so for more than ten years—my stake in this speaks from my commitment to doing what is best for students in my classroom: literature by and about people like them needs to be included.

—Joe Jimenez, MFA
Texas High School Teacher, Author

Thought You Knew: We Are Writers Too

We are writers too
and have been
even when the emperor’s scribes
didn’t paint our individual stories
we told our own
passed down word
ancient mouth to tender ear

We are writers too
We share our stories
at home
in front of the TV
along with the radio
on envelope, receipt, grocery list
spray painted on wall
in photo, digitally recorded—
we got cameras on our phones!
stepping, stomping, tapping, sliding, gliding
on the dance floor
in harmony
as cacophony when we yell, scream
“Glad to be alive!”
“We will survive!”

We are writers too
have been storytellers since forever
even though our codexes
our libraries of knowledge
were fired to ash
or stolen across an ocean
today they sit in sterile museums
or coffee tables of private collections

We are writing and publishing (!)
this story and countless others
even as you try to ignore us

We are writers too
and we’ll keep writing
and fighting
and living
and breathing
cuz that’s what writers do
thought you knew!

Cathy Arellano, Poet
Author of Salvation on Mission Street

As a queer writer, librarian, person of color, son of immigrants, and individual who has had to endure ridicule and the feeling of not being included, I can attest that it is not only important, but detrimental for Latino, Latinx, X/Chican@, Mexican American, Mexicano writers to be included in the Texas Teens Book Festival [and all festivals, conferences, and conventions]. Growing up in Santa Ana, California, a city known for its high density, crime, gang violence, drug and alcohol abuse, teen pregnancy, and high school drop-out rate, was a reality that I didn’t live alone. However, the reason I knew I was not alone was because of the few writers I was exposed to whose words I was gifted through mentors. Writers like Rodriguez, Cisneros, Villaseñor, Anaya introduced me to my gente. These writers helped me create the dream world I sought to discover as an aspiring writer. It is thanks to the diversity I saw in these books that I never gave up on myself and on my community. As a librarian, I fight this fight every day--to include everyone. I never forget that every day is an opportunity to make a connection and build community.

—David Lopez – Writer/Librarian
Santa Ana, CA

In this time of the violent erasure of Black and Brown lives, the total 2016 Texas Teens Book Festival omission of Mexican American writers (and near total omission of representation of writers of color) is dangerous. It dehumanizes peoples, devaluing the diversity of our complex communities and the human beings within them. Such a loss reveals a disregard for the validity of our stories, our ideas, our legacies. This absence enacts a trauma of omission. This MUST be changed, immediately changed. Our stories and our lives matter.

Be that festival that represents a community, wealthy in its cultural difference. Be that festival that serves as another educational space, supporting the voices that may well be absent from high-stakes-testing bound curricula. Be that festival that stands in community solidarity, celebrating our voices, our struggles, our joys.

—Raina J. León, PhD
Associate Professor of Education
Saint Mary's College of California

Nueva Generación

Jóvenes muchachos
Niñas mujercitas.
Adolecentes todos.
Llenos de vida y esperanza.

Quien eres? te preguntan.

o Guatemalteco?
Mexico Americana?

American citizen?
Ilegal alien?

Tantas preguntas
Que confusián
Solo venemos
con toda esperanza
buscando una vida mucho más mejor.

¿De adonde viniste?
¿De adonde eres?
¿Adonde naciste?
¿Adonde vas?

Busco a mi madre
quizàs mi padre
Trabajan duro
como burros,
o peor - esclavos.
Papá de obrero
Mamá de gallinera.

(Y no tienen papeles,
confiesas con una voz
casi silenciosa
como la de un ratóncito
en el sótano.)

Eso no importa, te contestan
y te invitan
a leer tu mundo nuevo,
a cantar tu própio mundo
Lleno de sagradas alabanzas de querida poesía de lo nuestro:
Neruda, Mistrál, Martí
Alarcón y Tafolla.

¿ Los conoces? te preguntan.
Ven. Acá. Acércate aquí
A este temple hecho
Especialmente para tí

En donde puedas acariciar
la Palabra,
cuando sientes
que te habla.

Diles que quieres saber todo sobre el mundo entero.
Que quieres leer
Que quieres recitar
y actuar
como cuando primero se creó el Quinto Sol.

Ven, jóven.
a la féria de estos benditos libros.
Son tuyos tambien!
Tus mejores amigos
Que te darán vida
Y toda esperanza
para un mundo
Mucho más mejor.

© Oralia Garza de Cortés
Bibliotecaria / Librarian

We are not rapists, drug traffickers, job thieves or lazy. We are not illiterate, unimaginative, antipatico, subversive or illegal. We have languages and poems, architecture and stories older than your world religions. We know how to pray to one god or the four winds. We read. We write. We are the body corrido. We are the body conga. We are the body of the sun. When you (enter in the name of any group that DECIDES not to include Mex-American writers) ignore us in formats, you are choosing to say “hey you Mexican kids, we’ll exclude you, because we know you don’t read to begin with.” Wrong. We want to sit in a space and read on the floor of a bookstore, of a living room, of a library just like any other kid. When you decided to not include a Mexican-American writer in your work, you are walking away from a conversation. You are erasing a people. We will no longer allow this to happen. We got a guy in the White House [Juan Felipe Herrera]. He’ll tell his people. Word will spread. The best chisme in town. Give us the books we need. For we ARE readers. #WeAreWritersToo

—Lupe Méndez

When I visit high schools, you should see how eyes light up when the Mexican-American students realize that I’m not their tía or mother picking them up for an early dismissal. No, I am actually a brown-skinned writer who might look very much like a beloved family member. It is not lost on me that when these students sit up, engage and participate--even staying afterwards to ask for advice or reading suggestions--this means that seeing a Mexican-American writer at their school is an experience for which they greatly hunger.

I’ll never forget one Dallas high school, where I presented to hundreds of teens in the assembly hall. The applause was nice and the attention was flattering, but the memory I’ll hold closer is when a Mexican-American student approached me after the program and shrugged shyly, as if to say “Sorry, not sorry.” After my first poem, she was so inspired by my words that she tuned me out, grabbed her spiral notebook, and began eagerly to write. I told her that hearing how I’d motivated her to pen her own poems was the best compliment. Hearing my voice helped her honor and express her own.

—Tammy Melody Gomez
Poet/Performance Artist/Activist
Fort Worth, Texas

It is disheartening to see no Mexican American authors will present at the Texas Teen Book Festival in 2016. There are many reasons, that I hope are obvious, why young people need to see themselves (their communities, languages, etc) reflected in books. In Texas, where almost 40% of young people are of Mexican American heritage, it is vital to promote authors who speak from this experience. Historically and continuing to present times (for example the struggle for Mexican American Studies this year), Mexican Americans have been marginalized in political and educational institutions of Texas. The Texas Teen Book Festival has the opportunity to speak back to this marginalization. However, here I want to stress that Mexican American literature is important for everyone. In a year marked with racial and ethnic conflict in Texas, across the United States and the world, one thing is clear—we need more compassion and understanding across differences. How better to inspire this than with our youth? There is a wealth of talent within the Mexican American community who write for teenage audiences. Here are some recommendations from Texas:
· Joe Jimenez
· Guadalupe García McCall
· Xavier Garza
· Carmen Tafolla
· Benjamin Alire Saenz
· Diana Lopez

— Jesse Gainer
Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award


I find myself looking at my face, always looking at my face.

Confused because for a lifetime mine was the face of awkwardness, of the other, always the other. A face that screamed Met-si-can or Chee-can-oh. That didn’t want to be one of those people,
THOSE people

That contemplated killing herself over and over again until one day I found ‘me’. A ‘me’ reflected on the pages of books I never knew existed.

Literary doppelgangers who shared a love and hate relationship with our thick obsidian-colored hair. Versions of me that didn’t have to explain why my mom wouldn’t take us to the doctor but instead wiped away the bad with herbs or an egg. True to life me’s that spent parts of their childhood translating words like jail, disconnect notice, diabetes in a grownup world instead of having small talk about teenage crushes or the latest sale at the mall.

Salvation in the form of bound paper filled with the words of my world. Books about me, by authors like me, which challenged me. Made me see the world differently.

I find myself looking at my face, always looking at my face.

Now loving my face.

— Ofelia Faz-Garza
Writer, Dallas, Texas

The absence of Mexican-American authors from Texas Teen Book Festival reminds me of how easy it is to ignore the achievements people of color reach in this country and specifically this state. I want to know what the scale of quality TTBF organizers compared against recent YA releases from Mexican-American authors writing right in this state. What was wrong? Was it Spanglish they rejected? Was it the hard to pronounce names, or was it the use of a culture right outside their doors? I want to know why. What about our stories was lacking? I want to know why my youth is still not worthy of highlight, and I want to know why today’s youth must still reach into the shadows to find stories which can shine a light on their experience. The absence of Mexican-American authors from Texas Teen Book Festival reminds me of how easy it is for some to hide behind colorblindness and mediocrity because why know what it’s like to be different?

—Marilyse Figueroa
Texas State University MFA Creative Writing Candidate

You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.
You can’t ignore us.

—Daniel Farias - filmmaker
Garden Grove, CA

The importance of teens cannot be overstated. Their experiences will shape our culture in ways we cannot, for better or worse, conceive. Brown youth matter too. In Texas where a significant number of teens are like me, of "Hispanic" heritage, mestiza blood, of Mexican American origin, they have few experiences with literature, social sciences, or art that validate them, unless they look outside of school or literary festivals like these to their pop music icons like Jennifer Lopez or Shakira. The importance of being validated when we are young, by way of being included in the celebrated culture of our education, via leaders, histories, and artists also cannot be overstated. It can save lives simply because it reverses the charge in the one-way electric current that tells them their lives and heritage are not part of the picture they are forced to study and embrace that defines America. Include these authors conscientiously representing the population of your land, your vulnerable young, and there is one act that can have a most powerful ripple effect on our most fragile youth populations.

—Natalia Treviño
author, poet, and college professor of English
San Antonio, Tejas

Why Mexican American Authors Should Be Included in the 2016 Texas Teen Book Festival

1. Because if you’re going to celebrate a region’s literature, ALL voices should be represented.
2. Because if one of TTBF’s goals is to “connect teen readers to local and award-winning authors” and Mexican Americans are not included, then the accomplishments of Mexican American YA authors, like Carmen Tafolla, David Rice, David Bowles, Myra Infante-Sheridan, Pat Mora, Rene Saldana and many others, are being ignored.
3. Because I’m sure white authors didn’t have to compose a list such as this one.
4. Because many Texas teens are Mexican American and deserve to have the opportunity to celebrate their rich heritage of words.
5. Because Mexican Americans are here, have been here, and will be here long after this festival’s end.
6. Because how dare TTBF organizers forget the history of the soil they stand on.

—Nina Renee Avila- Writer/Educator
Weslaco, Texas

Brown on Both Sides

The blue thorn crown gave light to the fact that poetry has become her glory.
History has described me as a fruit- full, juicy, and waiting to be picked.
The stars spread themselves thin along my thighs.

I am here.
hard eyed.
Quiero nada.
Tossed and unloved.
I mend the wrinkles and my tongue.
Along the journey from the desert and moon rides on my fingers - I lost the language of desire.

I mean well by killing slow clicking clocks.
I've been poisoned by smoke and dreams.
Little girl from a refinery town - eyes grainy,
tears of yellow masa.

Strap your mystery to the bent backs of women.

I walked across the border
drunk with hollow dreams.

the moon,
and lowriders all became mirages here.

There- are candles,
little children crying,
link fences.

There is a butterfly close to death.

And still I ran,
hurried through
fields of horses,
rows of cotton,
streets of dust.
Payphones rang on the corners of the cement.

Then my feet stopped.
My hands laid on the sides of my thighs.

I stood there.
Looked up to the sun and mourned my breath.

—Diane Benavides Rios
Raza youth educator/artist/poet
Houston, Texas

Una voz es mas
voz que ni una.
Open your mouth
lips part the gates,
reinforcements follow,
teeth grind. Sharpening the dangers of words
sitting at the throat.
Ya estoy cansad@,
they tell you “no se puede”
y yo ya no puedo
con this silence.
Words are ready,
they launch from my throat into
my tongue. The speaker lashes out
“Si se puede!”
Unidos our voices are heard,
I am reminded.
Una boca sin lengua no es boca.

Saul Hernandez - Educator/writer
San Antonio, TX

In a city as culturally diverse and modern as Austin claims to be, it is shocking to me that you have failed to include authors of color in your programming. In order for us as a society to cultivate future readers and writers and to foster a love for reading and writing, the books and authors that young adults are exposed to should be a reflection of who they are. The books they read should contain stories by and about people they can relate to. And this should include teens from a wide spectrum of racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds. As an educator and writer I am urging you purposefully to seek writers of color and promote their work as it is only going to help grow and improve the status of your organization. We are living through traumatic times as a country, and literature can be an outlet and a place of comfort for teens but only if the work they are reading is a reflection of their own experiences written by people who look and sound like them. It is imperative that you make space for writers of color and let our voices be heard.

—Jasminne Mendez, M.Ed.
Houston, Texas

Hispanics are the youngest major racial or ethnic group in the United States. About one-third, or 17.9 million, of the nation’s Hispanic population is younger than 18, and about a quarter, or 14.6 million, of all Hispanics are Millennials (ages 18 to 33 in 2014. Altogether, nearly six-in-ten Hispanics are Millennials or younger.

If for no other reason, this significant group needs to hear the voices of writers who have experienced life, community and history from their perspective. These are native-born citizens or Mexican-born immigrants who have adapted to life in the United States. A good deal of the Chicano movement’s literary energy was expended in chronicling the American takeover of the Southwest, a considerable portion of it by prominent southwestern Mexicans who had supported American annexation only to feel betrayed and discarded. Many Mexican American youth feel the same way. They are lost and not accepted by both cultures.

It starts with inclusion of stories written by writers who are culturally and linguistically competent to reflect on the experiences of growing up Mexican American in America who can connect our youth to their culture, history, values and struggle to achieve the American promise.

—Professor Alan Hing-Ying Woo
Public Policy, Advocacy and Social Transformation
Springfield College
Tustin-southern California Campus

The Narrative es en mi Sangre!!

From Viva La Revolution to Long Live the Alamo, this narrative in my blood continues to define mi gente. It is a narrative that not only crosses borders, generational lineages, declaring war amongst your brother and neighbors, but also determined your patriotism to one country vs. another. During the Texas and Mexican Revolutionary War, it pitted brother against brother, father against son, many with Hispanic Surnames who at once pledged allegiance to Texas or Mexico, cutting bloodlines and family ties. It thereby created a defunct system, a fear of deportation or never able to go back home. The War segregated families, forever stripping lineages, closed borders to one another. Unfortunately, greed, westward expansion, and disagreements with Mexican Ideology caused the new settlers unrest and an eventual break and war with Mexico. How many times should I allow you to lynch my people either in the world of Academia or in the Political Sphere? Ya Basta y Si se Puede in the Classroom, Legal & Political Field, Educational Field and surely Mexican Writers stories should be included in The Texas Teen Book Festival.

—Monica Zepeda
Teacher and Writer
Houston, Texas

Texas was once Mexico.
*FACT: Mexican Americans make up the majority of Raza in Texas.
Uh oh, it’s that word: ‘Raza’ That translates to ‘Race’. Must be racists! Uy Cucuy!
If the word makes you uncomfortable it is because you do not know or understand its meaning. Labels like Hispanic and Latino seem to only agglomerate Raza.
They do not bring a greater appreciation or understanding of our distinctions.

Promoting books written about and by Mexican Americans provides a much-needed perspective. Educators in Texas should have an understanding of this knowledge.

More importantly, our youth must know.

Without knowledge and communication, there is no understanding.
Without understanding, there is no respect.
Without respect, there is no peace.

And if you think about it for just one second, how much sense does it make to ignore
this demographic when so many scholarly articles express a need for books
and stories at all levels in authentic voices?

You have an opportunity to make a positive difference by being inclusive now.
For the sake of the future of our great State of Texas, I hope you do so.
*Look it up. You are educated. If you don’t know where to start, ask a friend, call the Census or your favorite Reference Librarian.

—Carolina G. Martínez, MLS

Diversity has always been an essential element of great reading. As Rudine Sims Bishop wrote, books should be both “windows and mirrors,” and it is important that all young readers have access to both types of books. However, that urgency increases with the increasing diversity of our country, and it is now absolutely essential for young people to have access to books that reflect their lives, families, and existence.

However, putting the books out into the world is just half the battle; the other half, we know, is getting those books into the hands of readers. Book Festivals, conferences, and other literary events do the important work of bridging that gap. But they do no good when they reinforce the diversity problems in publishing by failing to include diverse authors. This is a deep disservice not just to the talented authors whose books remain hidden, but to the young readers who will never be exposed to those books and, even more importantly, never see authors who look like them on stage.

Book festivals should celebrate diverse talent, and should accurately reflect the makeup of their communities in the makeup of their author lineups. When this happens, everyone wins.

— Lee & Low Books

I did not meet a published writer until I was an adult in my twenties. I was thrilled to meet another adult who not only read science fiction, but wrote it, too. It did not bother me that he was a white male, because I knew that writers never looked like me.

In spite of many things, I eventually became a writer myself. I decided to write about all the things I never read about - a set of short stories, three novels set in 19th Century Mexico, and a collection of essays based on my family's history in Northern Mexico and the SW United States. These books were published by Calyx, Chronicle Books, and the University of Arizona. Now I have moved on to other people's stories, the small secret histories of food and community that make up our daily lives.

Imagine if I had met a writer who looked like me in my teens. San Bernardino would have to have been a very different place. But maybe Texas can be that place, one that recognizes all of us, and embraces all of our histories as your own.

—Kathleen Alcalá
Author, Bainbridge Island, Washington

We are writers too,
dedicated to the diosa.
Are you?

Can I listen to Carmen Tafolla
rhyming history
from el Alamo to the Maya?

Where is Rudolfo Gonzales'
'I am Joaquin'?
Can't find him anymore
in any schoolbook or magazine.

Do you know Américo Paredes
with his pen in his hand
describing how we come
from this land?

Sandra Cisneros
la genia con chistos
cantos y corridos.
Our gente can do it.
Just put us in the web
y los libros.

Then you will see
from codex to handpress
we chronicle our history
our folklore and our beauty,
our culture, our destiny.

Carlos Fuentes
Rigoberta Menchu
they need to be included
yes, yes them too.

And these others
don't leave them out,
or you will make Irene pout.
Xavier Garza
Lin-Manuel Miranda
and Tomás Rivera
he has some clout!

Then there is
'Bless me Ultima'
Anaya's book
that inspired so many,
let's take another look.
So you see
we are writers too.
Include our voices
for we belong on
bookshelves and in kindle
me and you.

—mary jane Garza

Texas will not recognize Mexican American authors at the 2016 Texas Teen Book Festival. This is a mistake for a state that was rumored to want to introduce textbooks that claimed slaves were interns. It seems to me that Texas is trying to make colonization totally normal and to question it would be un-American. The thing Texas does not or does not want to acknowledge is this: America was built by non Euros. You all may have the wealth you may have done your best to make us lose our roots but here we are aware that we are different. The blame does not land on our shoulders it lands on those who would not only silence us but who treat us differently. I think that it is time for Texas to show its best face and show that it can celebrate diversity. Giving young people a story they can relate to does not make a person any less inclined to make their country great and isn’t that part of your state’s deal, you want to make America great again? Do it to celebrate all Americans not just the ones that fit into your mind as what an American should be.

—Maria Elena Pulido
Mother, Sacramento CA

I am appalled to learn that the 2016 Texas Teens Book Festival fails to include any Mexican American writers among this year’s featured authors. In a state with a 35% Mexican American population, it strains credulity to think that there are zero writers from this demographic that are worthy of such recognition. This is especially true since the youth in this population has been shown to exhibit great artistic ability in a variety of genres written in English, Spanish, and bilingually.

I urge you to reach out to this community and to recognize some of the best writers to include as featured authors. Their work will serve not only to please and enlighten the broader community, it will provide Mexican American readers additional reasons to take pride in the history and the culture of their own people.

Please include some Chicana and Chicano writers. Thank you.

—Eduardo Hernández Chávez
Associate Professor of Linguistics, Emeritus
Director of Chicana/o Studies, Retired
University of New Mexico

Oh to be American

oh to be American
born in the land of the free
to practice manifest destiny
as God gave us command
where we installed democracy
sweet land of liberty

we always say what goes
in this our homeland wide
we took great strides when we installed
the boundaries with our border walls
we’re fair we’re right we use our might
God made our institutions white

we freed the slaves to show our grace
too bad it took a civil war
and southern flags still fly…
we treated Mexico with gloves
by letting it retain half of its land
we could have taken all
we treated Mexico with love

oh to have white privilege
to stay away from stress
we took away the signs
no dogs or Mexicans allowed
and blacks can protest in the streets
under the big white cotton clouds

so what if we teach our white strength
you ethnic folks are always spent
our books and movies are just us
that’s why we got so many treaties
and you don’t even have committees

oh to be white to be white
to be beautifully light
and spread our fair pedigree
across this land of liberty!

Copyright by Nephtali De Leon

This summer I read, Bloodline, by Joe Jimenez and Playing for the Devil’s Fire, by Phillipe Diederich. In Bloodline, a 17-year-old boy tries to stay out of trouble. I could relate to that book; it reminded me of my own youth in urban San Antonio.

The second book takes place in a Mexican village and describes the drug-trade and violent atrocities experienced by a young boy. That book helped me understand more deeply why many Mexicans risk their lives to cross the border into the U.S.

I am Mexican-American. I want characters in books that I can relate to, genuine characters in realistic settings dealing with life’s challenges.

As a bilingual educator, my classrooms are 95% Hispanic. I use all genres of books with my students, but I also seek out books they can feel. The first time I read Chicano literature in college it energized me! I had never read about Hispanics as the main characters before! Reading Tomás Rivera empowered me! I want the same for my students.

Please invite Mexican-American authors to your upcoming Book Festival. Now especially, let’s use stories to bring diverse people together.

—Diana Garcia
San Antonio, Texas

In this age of so much racial and ethnic hate, it is extremely important to learn about each other. Many of us cannot travel to other countries or even to other states. But our travels can be done by reading books. Our understanding of other human beings can be accomplished with books. I, a Puerto Rican author and faculty member of the Northwest Institute of Literary Arts Whidbey, WA MFA Workshop can attest that my adult students began to understand humanity better in my diversity books class. But why do we have to wait until we’re grown up? Why not provide the understanding since childhood in the schools and libraries where the poor don’t have to pay for books? Why not read Matt de La Peña’s Newberry Award, Last Stop on Market Street or Mexican Whiteboy? Let me make it clear, books with Mexican or other Latino characters are not just for Mexicans and Latinos, but for everybody. But when the population is as high as yours on Latinos, you must have books that represent them. Otherwise you are doing a disservice not just to Latinos but to everybody.

—Carmen T Bernier-Grand

Writers are born observers. They listen, they record, they internalize.

They remember. I was a seventh-grader in McAllen, Texas, the first time I read a poem by a Latino writer. “Oranges” by Gary Soto was about a 12-year-old (like me) and his first encounter with love. The image of the boy’s peeled orange cradled in his hands, fiery against the gray December as he walks with a girl, was as striking to me as the poet’s name.

Up until then, I’d experienced literature as something that came from a place that felt foreign to me, full of faces and names that looked nothing like my own. My love for words turned this into a place I thought I should aspire to. Maybe one day, if I became good enough, I could trade my experiences for those “worth” writing about.

I would’ve silenced my own voice if not for writers like Gary Soto in seventh grade, Sandra Cisneros, Cristina Garcia and Eduardo Galeano in high school. Our youth need to see themselves in words, too, in writers like Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Valerie Tejeda, and Lilliam Rivera. In writers whose voices say, No. Literature comes from all of us, because we are writers, too.

—Natalia Sylvester
Writer, Austin, TX

I am heeding your call to comment on the fact that zero Mexican American authors are in this year's Texas Teen Book Festival. This is shameful! It implies there are no Mexican American authors for teens worthy of note, and that there is no audience, Mexican American and other, teen and older, for their books. Wrong on all counts. It does show that the TTBF organizers are out of touch.

Thank you for speaking up and encouraging others to join you.

—Tura Campanella Cook, President
Jane Addams Peace Association
Sponsor of the Jane Addams Children's Book Award since 1953

One third swiftly tucked under the landscape of Texas.
Stories of my daughters,
and abuelas
a b a n d o n e d
at the back door of the Texas Teen Book Festival of 2016
like ragged mochilas before entry.
Did we forget our papers?

Not Welcomed, reads the sign at the authors’ table.
Oh, but we did not come empty-handed.
We brought stories too, tucked in our skin.
piel Morada,
ready to take up arms with books, festivities, and chatter.

We will no longer shapeshift to be included,
dangle like something in between fences and borders.
Our testimonies – a tapestry of narratives,
wrap the outstretched arms of Texas
like a mother wraps her newborn child before a deeply hospitable welcome.

TTBF should invite authors who represent the landscape of Texas more accurately.
Here’s some help:

Zoraida Cordova, author of Labyrinth Lost (Brooklyn Brujas), September 2016.
Melissa De La Cruz, author of Something in Between, September 2016.
Kami Garcia, author of The Lovely Reckless, October 2016.
Amalia Ortiz, poet of Rant. Chant. Chisme, 2015.
Christina Henriquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans, 2014.

—Carolina Hinojosa-Cisneros
Mother and Poet
San Antonio, Texas

As a young Chicana, I was not exposed to a single Chicanx author in school even though I grew up in the racial and cultural plurality of San Francisco. I did not read my first Chicanx author until college, when I enrolled in Chicano Literature and Popular Culture class, where the visiting professor generously exposed us to Chicanx writers, authors, storytellers writing in every form imaginable from corridos to punk rock songs to poems to graphic novels. Through this course, I finally read House on Mango Street, a novel authored by a Chicana.

Unfortunately, three decades later, the youth who arrive at Resistencia Bookstore are still struggling with an illusion of paucity that still plagues the mainstream understanding of Chicanx literature, which many schools, book festivals, bookstores, and public libraries still perpetuate. They arrive to our bookshop excited, starved, overwhelmed, and angry, after realizing their core formal education and other institutions have erased the existence of books, zines, publications, chapbooks, collections and anthologies written by Chicanxs.

Chicanx youth need to meet the authors and see themselves in YA titles that express their stories provocatively, with an understanding of the challenges, resistance, and rebellion that make up our lives collectively and individually.

—Dr. Lilia Rosas, Executive Director
Red Salmon Arts casa de Resistencia Bookstore, Austin, TX

Imagine, that as a child, you had no imagination. You’ve looked so long, on TV or in books, searched the shelves in your local library for someone who looks like you and knows how to pronounce your name. Imagine, that as a child, there was no one in the mirror, staring back at you. I ask you to imagine, because by not including authors of color, particularly authors of Latino descent, you are contributing to the ways in which young children, boys and girls, are unable to imagine themselves on the page, in the world, agents of imagining a better world. The onus, as cultivators and advocates of literacy, is to understand that some children want desperately to see their reflection on the pages they read, in authors who know from where these children come. Here is your opportunity as an organization to see that imagination soar. To see, if you are willing to do the work, that it is not that difficult to create moments when a child can a new world—their family, their community, their reality, see themselves—and say, yes. I can imagine, therefore I exist.

—Ángel García
Poet and Educator

Upside Down World: Or what Dick and Jane Taught Me About Being Mexican American

dick and jane told me mine was an upside down world
where everything was backward from the way they lived
in their blond-haired, blue-eyed world
with little sister sally and mother and father

bundled up in their snow suits dick and jane played
in the snow around the evergreen tree
that grew in their front yard

en mi valle, the magic valley, in south texas
all the trees are always green
so all the trees must be evergreens

dick and jane knew it was spring when the robins came
and fed on worms they plucked from the ground
around the evergreen tree that grew in their front yard

en mi valle, mi bello valle, the robins came in the winter
when the winds came from the north to fog our windows
and the smell from the cotton gin blanketed our barrio

no blondes or blue eyes at crockett elementary
---except for the teachers’---but lots of wide dark eyes
eager to read and to write and to learn

only to learn we lived in an upside down world

By Sahara © 2016

People have told me: Children can’t tell the difference. But they can. I remember I used to read Judy Blume and Beverly Clearly books and while I loved the characters in those books as a child, I did notice that their lives were vastly different from mine. I didn’t feel a real connection because they didn’t have Mexican names or eat tacos de barbacoa. It wasn’t until later in life when I picked up books by Rudolfo Anaya and later, Benjamin Alire Saenz and Sandra Cisneros that I really felt that connection with characters who actually represented me. I believe the root of a lot of our societal problems lies in the lack of multicultural literacy. If we fix that, then we’ll start seeing a lot more change.

When I learned that Chican@ writers would be excluded in a Texan book festival, I had to say something. This is a state where Chican@s have been fighting legislation that seeks to extinguish Mexican-American Studies programs in schools, and resisting textbooks that state that Chican@s “want to destroy this society”. That is why inclusion is important, to prevent people like that from erasing multicultural education in our schools and libraries. Mexica tiahui!

—Hugo Esteban Rodriguez,
Rio Grande Valley expat and Houston-based poet and writer

Without the works of authors such as Sandra Cisneros, Gloria Anzaldúa, Héctor Tobar, Oscar Casares, and Esmeralda Santiago, I would not to be the teacher and educator I am. Writing by Tejan@ and Latinx writers opened my eyes to what it means to be American, to be celebrate my heritage, and wrestle with the blood-stained pages of US history. Youth, especially youth of color, need to see Texas and the US in all its complexity, from all different perspectives. We demand that the Texas Teens Book Festival represent the people of Texas whose ancestors are Mexican, indigenous, immigrant, German, Black, white, and so much more.

—Regina Mills

gray timber

I am alien; a person;
living in a land
of covetous milk
absent of voice,

I've no place
in America,
I've no culture
to cede to either
I've no heritage
to bud from;

a big leaf blossoming;
my golden eagle
long flown away;
my presence
a measured plank
drawn & quartered
long thrown away
set adrift

I don’t know
my road home,
home is a shadow
of ruin, home
is exile

my lifetime
is a pit
of grappling tongues
and leathery Industry;
I’m not even sure
what that means –

I can’t hear the singing
of the carpenter,
or the boatman
or the shoemaker,

I can’t hear
what belongs to the day;
there is nothing robust
or friendly
about the song of America;
maybe there was once,
but there isn’t

How can I sing of myself;
my river flows all ways
and you want to divide me
with walls, America?

I am an oak,
hard as wood;
set adrift
with no road

But I have hope
of something more;
because hope
is not just a word;
it’s a being together,
it’s admitting
the intersection
of our oak
from the same

It’s listening
for a song
that may
never come.

—G. F. Harper
Austin, Texas

I am a writer! My recollections of Papa’s exploits in the war, Mama, Abuelita who had remedies for anything, and a man who sold bananas from a horse drawn cart were published in a weekly column in the El Paso Times. My stories are like salsa with enough spice to whet any appetite.

Border Buster is my novel about Gabriela Alegria, a border Mayor faced with trade stoppage when angry Mexicans block the 2000 mile border. She finds a solution but instead of sending the State Department, the American president asks that she travel to Mexico with the proposal. Faced with corruption in the U.S. and Mexico, Gabriela confronts her fears.
I write about what’s happening in the world, how it affects my children and grandchildren. The evolution of technology, the simplicity of life, and the complications of aging. I write about anything that strikes my fancy.

Soy escritora, escribo en español, el idioma de mis antepasados e en inglés, el idioma de mi país natal con bastante orgullo en ambos.

My stories make you smile, laugh out loud, and shed a tear because I write what I know, and it comes from the heart.

—Margarita B. Velez,
a writer from El Paso, Texas


The voices, las voces
echo in Texas
In Texas
las voces want to be heard
the beautiful voices
deserve to hear
the beautiful voces
in Texas
En Texas
dreams of freedom together
Freedom dreams
of unity in freedom
of peace in unity
of flower and song
echoing across tejas
into our homes
into humanity’s spirit.

—Paul Aponte, Chicano Poet
Sacramento, California

Serious Gap

“Our daughter has clear instructions not to tell anyone she’s half Mexican. If they ask, she’s to tell them she’s Cuban, or Puerto Rican or Ecuadorian. Anything but Mexican.”

“Why?” I asked, as a headache formed in my temples and a heaviness filled my heart.

“Because people will think less of her; they’ll make assumptions about her. That she’s lazy or not very smart.”

- An interaction at work

“You absolutely must finish this book and see it through to publication. I work with migrant children in eastern Washington. Many come from Mexico each summer. I am constantly looking for children’s books by Mexican authors, with protagonists the kids can relate to - so they can see themselves in the stories, so they know someone like them can become an author, too. Books like that are very hard to come by. It’s a serious gap. So, please, don’t give up! What you’re doing will have an impact, beyond what you know.”

- Note passed to me during a breakout session at a writers’ conference

“I’ll keep at it and do my little part to address the gap. Thank YOU for the inspiration,” I wrote back.

—Diana J Noble
Author – Mariposa, middle grade historical fiction, coming in 2017 from Arte Público Press
Edmonds, WA

Young people need to see themselves represented in the books they read both in the characters and the authors. By not including Mexican-American authors in the 2016 Texas Teens Book Festival you are doing a serious disservice to the 35% Latino/a teens living in Texas as well as the other 65% who are being deprived of exposure to Mexican-American authors. As a former Library Associate who helped plan and deliver literacy programs to young D.C. residents I know that when children and teens see characters who look like them and share their cultural heritage they're more likely to develop reading habits that will benefit them throughout their lives. Please don't sell Texas teens short.

—Toroitich Cherono - former Library Associate

Reasons to Include Mexican-American Authors at the Texas Teens Book Festival:

Because the next Mexican-American author at your festival might be a Rosario Castellanos or an Octavio Paz.
Because including Mexican-American voices provides bright mirrors in which our youth can see positive reflections of who they are right now or who they might aspire to be in the near future.
Because Mexican-American writers have a unique voice with unique stories that no one else can tell or should tell.
Because we need cultural diversity in every cultural area present and accounted for in the United States of America.
Because our young Mexican-American children are starving for rich narratives that will ignite their own imaginations.
Because I have been teaching for 18 years, and the Mexican-American presence in the form of literature has decreased instead of increased in elementary school textbooks.
Because there is a dire need for our young people to learn critical thinking skills that only well-crafted literature can provide.
Because about one-third, or 17.9 million, of the nation’s Hispanic population is younger than 18, and about a quarter, or 14.6 million, of all Hispanics are Millennials (ages 18 to 33 in 2014).

Because statistics don't lie.

—Julieta Corpus
Proud Mexican-American Poet

As a Language Arts Teacher educator and an avid reader who follows Chicano literature, I would love to see a greater inclusion of Mexican-American Authors at the Texas Teen Book Festival. It is vital that young people are able to see themselves and their concerns reflected in literature. It can also be very uplifting to meet authors in person who create relevant books and share their stories. Some of the outstanding authors whose work I've read recently are Reyna Grande, Maceo Montoya, Angela Cervantes and Luis Alberto Urrea. It would also be great to have someone from Huizache, the premiere Latino literary magazine represent. We have an amazing range of talent in the U.S and I'm convinced that the Latino Literary renaissance is upon us! Let us not discount Juan Felipe Herrera, our US Poet Laureate!

—Leticia Del Toro

As a migrant student, I went to various schools in Texas. Sadly, I didn't see any books written by Latinx authors until I went to college in upstate New York in 1993. What a world of possibilities opened up for me when I first read writers like Helena Maria Viramontes, Ana Castillo, Francisco X Alarcón, Sandra Cisneros, and many more. I would not be the poet writer I am today without their work and my exposure to them. 23 years later there is no reason for any Latinx youth in Texas not to be exposed to our rich literary heritage or to all of the exciting new Mexican American, Latinx, and writers of color who are creating and publishing a tremendous new body of literature.

—ire'ne lara silva
writer, concerned community member
austin, tejas

If you were to see me, would you think that I, a brown skinned and black haired man, was a college graduate? Would you believe me if I told you I was a PhD candidate? Well, I am not that either, at least not yet—but I will be, soon!

And, still as a Mexican-American doctoral student, my brown skin continues to mark me as a labor worker (you know the guy outside of Home Depot stealing your job), a gang member (part of cartel that supplies Americans with their demand for…well, you know what I am taking about), or just an illegal alien (yeah, like from another planet or something—actually, I never understood this one). What I do know is that in the U.S., brown skin is never imagined as the skin of the tenured college professor, the novelist, or the poet. And yet, here we are in mass.

This is not a matter of belonging or asking for recognition—we are just simply making you aware of our existence. We too are Writers, Educators, Veterans, Doctors, and more!

—Manny Galaviz
Doctoral Student, Department of Anthropology
University of Texas at Austin

I believe that is fundamentally important to have Mexican American writers at the 2016 Texas Teens Book Festival, because our brown youth should be able to see themselves and a representation of their culture in literature. As an advocate for Ethnic Studies and Mexican American Studies in K-12th grade, it is important for students not only to know that there are writers in this world that look like them, but also understand that it is possible to write about our own experiences and history. Inclusion can create opportunities for students that they may have not been aware of and also be encouraging to future writers. With access to the Mexican American authors booklists created by the festival, we as educators can use these sources in our classroom since it is our responsibility to create bridges between communities and cultures. It is the responsibility of the festival to create a foundation of cultural connections beyond the literature that our brown youth has been exposed to, which predominantly has been viewed through one lens.

—Michelle Tovar
Advocate and Educator
Houston, Texas

We look forward to sharing details later this week of new author confirmations and programming plans

From the Organizers of the 2016 Texas Teen Book Festival:

Our mission at the Texas Teen Book Festival is to celebrate great books and to foster a love of reading in Texas teens. Over the last eight years, we’ve tapped into an enthusiastic community of readers eager to connect with all kinds of authors with something to say about the world. As Festival curators as well as librarians, booksellers, and literary advocates, we’ve seen first-hand how empowering it is for kids to see themselves in a published story. With so many young people of Mexican-American and Latino heritage in Texas, we want to ensure that our Festival represents these important voices. We agree there's work to be done, and pledge to work more closely with the Latino writing community to keep making our Festival better. We look forward to sharing details later this week of new author confirmations and programming plans that have come out of collaborations with Barrio Writers, Red Salmon Arts casa de Resistencia Bookstore, and the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award. We're excited about partnering with them to celebrate Mexican-American writers at this and future festivals. After all, great stories help build a world in which we can all begin to really see each other.

—The Texas Teen Book Festival

1 comment:

Unknown said...

All powerful and important voices. So glad to read all these. Glad the organizers of TTBF are revising the way they approach working with credentialed folks. Honored to be a part of the collective voice. Onward!