Looking Back: Musings on Diversity and Identity in Hispanic and Latin American Children's Literature | We Need Diverse Books

By Alma Flor Ada

When My Name is Maria Isabel

I was delighted to see that many schools and some school districts saw the benefits of this chapter, because they recognized the significance of that students' names, whichever their origin, be respected. Through the years I have seen enthusiastic teachers doing wonderful projects with the book and I have received numerous letters from students sharing with me how themselves, or some in their family, had suffered by having their names changed or disregarded. I had imagined that this practice would disappear. My name is Maria Isabe I would like to leave a note of my book, of course, my hope is that they will continue to be read, but I would have hoped be read as something that happened in the past, not currently. Unfortunately this is not the case. José Miguel, one of the characters in Yes! We Are Latinos , insists that he is not Joe, nor Mike, defending the name he was given after his grandfather because of the issue. The need to respect diversity continues to be a major issue in our society.

In Yes! We Are Latinos, Isabel Campoy and I, combined free presentations of significant moments in the lives of young Latinos and Latinas to introduce the thirteen topics about the Latin history and contributions shared in this book, hoping to bring new awareness to Latino identity.

These multiple identities are in no way, in conflict, but rather like a set of Russian wooden dolls, are nested in each other. They all bring their own richness and make me who I am. But above all of them I am a woman, an activist, a human being devoting my life to foster knowledge and reflection, to celebrate diversity, to fight for social justice as the only road to everlasting peace.

As I write for children and youth it is natural that the values ​​that are important to me would become the subject of my books, whether presented through realistic characters or not. I have recognized how many of these values ​​are part of my legacy, the education received directed from my family, or gleaned by observation of life around me, even when very young. My childhood memories : Growing Up in Cuba , published also as Treasures of my island: A Cuban childhood is an effort to show how it all began.

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The value of diversity as opposed to discrimination and prejudice may be expressed as well as geometrical figures in Friends, where the figures who have been taught to mix with others who are different discover the joy of sharing with each other, and The realm of geometry, where King Square VII banished from the kingdom all Dancing Home , co-authored with my son Gabriel Zubizarreta, who is a story of immigration and identity.

The value of friendship among those who might not be alike, is the theme of Friend Frog , depicting the difficulties of Field Mouse, who can not croak, or jump, and does not particularly care for swimming in gaining the friendship of outstanding Frog that can do all those things. It is also central to The Unicorn of the West

The joy and strength to be derived from family is throughout my work in another book co-authored with my son Gabriel , Love, Amalia . Sometimes the family depicted may be a bi-cultural family as in I Love Saturdays ... and Sundays. Gathering the Sun, a bilingual alphabet book in honor of Migrant Farmworkers, but also the biography of César Chávez in

Paths and many other pages.

And these are some of the many themes present in my poetry: Coral and Foam , a book of poems about the ocean, includes the poem Sun [Sun], enemy of shadow , friend of the truth , "enemy of shadow, a friend of truth". The poems in Siren Bunnies [The mermaid's lullabies] are a tribute to motherhood and the unique feelings of being a grandmother. The anthology of my poetry Everything is a song [All is Song] has poems like Song of all the children of the world, , and still a message necessary today. It affirms: I do not speak your language / you do not speak mine / but you laugh / when I laugh ... ... we live far away / we are not close / but I tell you / we are brothers I do not speak your language / you do not speak / but you laugh / when I laugh ... we live very far away / we are not nearby / but I can assure you / we are all brothers and sisters]. >

When I was asked recently how I would like to be remembered when I am no longer here the natural answer for me was: "I would feel honored to be remembered as a teacher, true teacher, and yes, as a teacher who writes. "

Alma Flor Ada is the author of numerous award winning children's books, and Transformative Education in the pursuit of social justice and peace. Born in Cuba, she has studied in Spain, Peru and the United States of America. A strong advocate of Bilingual Education

since 1970, she has spoken nationally and internationally on issues of language rights. p>

  • Adam Floyd