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Yes! We Are Latinos: Poems and Prose About the Latino Experience Paperback – March 1, 2016
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From School Library Journal
Gr 4-8–A collection of narrative poems meant to represent young Latinos of diverse and multiple backgrounds. All of the selections start with the statement, “My name is…,” followed by a bit about where the narrators live, how they came to the United States, and how their families' cultural identities are shaping their future. Each entry is followed with another short narrative that includes historical references to contextualize the “child's” story. It is refreshing to see a varied presentation that includes those from different ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds, in addition to representing some of the smaller Latin American countries and the islands in the Caribbean. The vignettes also help to illustrate the meaning of being mestizo–the blending of indigenous, African, and Spanish lineage–mentioned in the introduction and explored throughout. Another notable detail is the inclusion of Asians in Latin America, which is often overlooked in children's literature. The illustrations are interesting lino cutouts, black and white, reminiscent of Latino folk art, akin to wood carvings and papel picado. Teachers looking for a starting point to write personal narratives will find the book extremely useful as will those seeking to recognize and highlight this diverse population. A short list of Latino-inspired literature is appended.–Maricela Leon-Barrera, San Francisco Public Libraryα(c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This book celebrates the amazing and underappreciated diversity of the Latino community and makes great strides toward ameliorating one-dimensional stereotypes. Through 12 narrative poems, the authors explore the experiences of fictional men and women; Christians and Jews; immigrants, indigenous people, and second-generation Americans; professionals and farmers; all of whom identify themselves as Latinos. Each poem is followed by brief factual explanation of the major themes within, such as the Spanish Civil War, Asian influences in Latin America, and Cuba’s relationship with the U.S. Black-and-white abstract art by Caldecott winner Díaz elevates each individual’s story by illustrating major themes. While the authors include a bibliography of source material, they also acknowledge a lengthy list of people who provided inspiration for the topics discussed in the book. Perhaps it is the use of these real-life figures that gives the fictional vignettes such an air of realism and relatability for both Latino and non-Latino readers alike. Grades 3-6. --Erin Anderson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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By Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy, pictures by David Diaz
Voices! Power and pride singing in this book is felt in each of the thirteen distinctive narrative poems. Each poem is told in the first-person of a Latino child who introduces his or her unique cultural background and situation. Personalities shine. Individuals become real. Stories touch your heart. Each poem is followed by a few pages of informative nonfiction that outlines related aspects of the child’s history and culture. What a rich and diverse bouquet of celebration!
May I introduce Juanita who says:
“I am Mexican, I live in New York. I am Latina.”
But unknown to her teacher, her home language is not Spanish, but Mixtec, a “secret language that no one in this school even suspects exists.”
And then a surprise arrives at Juanita’s classroom – a new student, Elena….
“Next to the teacher stands a girl –
her skin the same rich color as mine,
her hair, black, long, and as straight as mine, and
her face showing the same surprise as mine ---
a surprise that makes her dark eyes sparkle
like black obsidian in the sun….”
Meet for a moment, Rocio, whose grandparents were refugees from Spain during the terrible times when General Franco was the dictator. Rocio shares lines from her grandparent’s diary and then her impressions when --
“A year ago I went with Abu Amaya to see Guernica –
the town…that inspired Picasso
to paint the horror of the war….”
These individual voices will touch your heart. David Diaz’s bold woodcut illustrations done in the style of the “papel picado” add a rich visual, especially his
I asked the authors, Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy about their creation of this remarkable book. Here are their responses:
During our visits to schools we have had the fortune to meet countless numbers of Latino teachers, parents and children. Those encounters have always provided a rich communication between us, about the many things we all shared as Latinos, and the ones we did not, all within the same culture.
We met parents from different countries, grandparents that added sometimes two or more backgrounds to the mix of the same family. We met Latino children that only spoke English, children that only spoke Spanish, bilingual children that proudly walked the bridge of their Latino culture.
I was born in Spain, but I consider myself Latina. I have lived longer in the United States that in my native country. The story told in the book about Alicante, is a true story. The realities of war and the poverty that follows, is an unfortunate reality Spain and Latino America have shared.
I often repeat that I am a mestiza, of cultures, of ways to see life, and I think is a virtue to belong to an identity that can feel, love, laugh and cry in more than one color.
In Yes! We Are Latinos and now also in its Spanish version ¡Sí! Somos latinos we have tried to explain to us and to anyone curious about our identities, who we are, where do we come from, what are the realities we have survived and which we are still suffering and how, only through knowledge we will be free.
History belongs to those who write it. We have already taken the pen in hand!
As Isabel has mentioned, knowledge is necessary to enjoy true freedom. As a life-long educator I have felt the need to share with young people, Latinos and non-Latinos alike, important moments of our history. But I do not believe that information can only be presented through non-fictional text, but, instead I strongly believe that literary narrative can provide the deepest aspects of reality, what Unamuno called the “intra-historia”, the daily experiences, that support the official history.
The free-verse vignettes that introduce each of the chapters of the book are meant to make the facts alive through realistic characters, boys and girls who live the consequences of the facts presented.
It is our hope that their portraits –based on composite of real life individuals we have known throughout our lives- will not only be good motivators to read about the history of their people, but that they will be memorable, and, become a motivation for the readers to want to get to know better their own relatives, friends, and classmates, and perhaps offer some insights about themselves.
David Díaz contribution has enriched the book. By making his woodcuts in the style of “papel picado” a beloved handcraft he offers an additional element of authenticity to the narrative.
We were absolutely delighted seeing how he could capture the essence of the characters and embellish the book with those black silhouettes.
READERS of all ages, this is a stunning book that crumbles stereotypes.
Published by Charlesbridge, 2013.
Here is a sample from one short story in the book entitled, "My Name is Jose Miguel-Not Joe, Not Mike". Jose Miguel's teacher keeps asking him to "blend in" and use "Joe" or "Mike" in class. Jose Miguel's response is: "Do you know who Cervantes is, Mr. Tate?" I asked him politely. Don Miguel de Cervantes or Miguel de Unamuno or Miguel Hernandez? Look them up, Mr. Tate. I was very sure to keep my tone soft, my words polite. Google them. Then you would know why I can't be called Mike."
Adelante! Yes, these stories are the truth, the real reason why some of us are afraid of migration, immigration, documentation and any other means of newly arrivals returning to the land that was taken as a "war prize". A large percentage of these children will sit in positions some day passing laws and in control of our well being.