Author Christina Gonzalez middle grade debut The Red Umbrella was very good. I still remember the powerful symbolism of the umbrella.
The author was kind enough to answer three questions. If you missed it More Latino authors please/necesitamos mas autores Latinos
1. What did you think of author Mayra Lazara Dole's article?
I think it highlights an important fact about the Latino/Hispanic culture – that each ethnicity has its own differences/nuances and we shouldn’t lump all of them together just because they speak the same language. As writers we need to research to make sure our characters are authentic to the group they represent (besides being true to themselves) and this means speaking to people of that ethnicity, doing primary and secondary research and having a general appreciation for the culture.
That being said, I would disagree with the stance that only writers from “within” a culture should write about those cultural experiences. I believe and encourage non-Hispanics to write stories with Hispanic characters with one HUGE caveat…be authentic. Don’t do a sprinkling of Spanish words or a minute amount of research into a culture and believe that you’ve done enough. Even “insiders” have to research. I always encourage people to spend time with people similar to the characters they are writing about and ask questions.
There’s also a lot to be said for having someone of that ethnicity read your manuscript, to make sure you haven’t fallen into stereotypes or have misconstrued a particular part of that person’s heritage. Our Hispanic youth deserves to see themselves accurately represented in books and non-Hispanics should be given an authentic window into the culture of the Hispanic characters they read about.
2. Congratulations you are one of the chosen few. This year you were one of 16 Latino authors to write a MG/YA book. Why do you think this number still so small?
Only 16? Wow, I didn’t realize there were so few. I’m not sure why this number is so small, but hopefully as more publishers see the value of having books with Latino characters the demand for authentic Hispanic characters/books will increase the supply of Latino writers!
3. I've always thought about the lack of Latino voices in children's literature but not the void in culture distinctions. Why are there so many quinceanera novels? I loved Mayra Lazara Dole's YA novel Down to the Bone. Thankfully the only coming out story featuring a Latina teen is a great one.
What will it take for the book industry to embrace more stories from the Latino authors?
I think the realization that a huge segment of future readers will identify themselves as Hispanics, will drive the need for more stories because it makes good business sense. Based on the last census, 25% percent of children under the age of five are Hispanic… with numbers like these growing, publishers that present stories that these children want to read will reap the financial rewards. The key is for publishers to realize that Latino children are like all children…they live in a world that is varied and complex (not just thinking about their quinces)…their stories need to reflect all facets of life, whether those stories are written as picture books, historical fiction, fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary or any other genre.