I am participating in the Latinas 4 Latino Literature Día Blog Hop (L4LL’s Dia Blog Hop). Established in the United States by poet and author Pat Mora, Día is a celebration of books and children. The month long program celebrates Latino Children literacy by pairing a different author or illustrator with a different blogger each day. The 2nd annual blog hop has 24 authors/illustrators paired with 24 Latina bloggers.
I’m honored to be paired with Professor René Saldaña, Jr. today. His children and young adult books inspire us to pursue our dreams through passion, dedication and hardwork. I can relate to many of the books he has written, especially, The Jumping Tree. The book is a coming of age novel about the experiences Rene faces to become a young adult while living between Mexico and Texas.
I was raised in a bicultural home by a Latina mother who instilled the importance of hardwork. We celebrated the arts, literature and culture with our familia across the border.
Consider carving out some time in your day to follow the month long celebration at Latinas4LatinoLit.org Dia Blog Hop after reading today’s inspiring reflection.
This morning in Lubbock, Texas, it rained. It’s such a big deal here when it does rain because it doesn’t happen often. A local news station even runs a sort of a pool, wherein viewers predict when we’ll get our first rain and they’ll win goodies in the form of paraphernalia from the TV station. I’ve yet to participate myself, but I’m happy somebody won because it means it’s rained.
We are several years into a drought in West Texas, which makes sense because we’re basically a desert out here. It’s bone dry, I tell you, and the local meteorologist occasionally will put up on the screen how much it would have to rain daily for us to catch up to normal levels. Though I get it that we’re so far behind, I’ve seen these numbers before, and I still can’t quite wrap my brain around how dire our situation.
So, this morning, there were puddles on the ground. And though I tell my own kids not to walk through them because they’ll ruin their shoes, they still do it, and inside, I smile. I smile because I know how fun it is to stomp on a puddle, making a big or small splash depending on the size of the puddles. I used to do it myself as a kid, against my mother’s wishes. Incidentally, she gave me the exact same reason why I shouldn’t plow through a puddle: I’ll ruin my shoes. And yet, today, inwardly, I smile when my own kids “ruin” their shoes that way. Because secretly, I wish I had the guts to do it still. But I’m an adult, and so I don’t.
What I do, though, is to look down into the puddles as I’m stepping over them, and I see my own reflection in them and that makes me happy. In the middle of this drought, puddles are so infrequent that I take any and every chance to see myself reflected in them. My reflection is precious in this format because it is as uncommon as the rain. You know what? I admit it: I’m so egotistical because I can’t get enough of myself in these puddles. I have to wonder: is it the reflection of myself that is attractive, the puddle, or both? I think it’s both.
Recently, Walter Dean Myers wrote in the New York Times (03/15/14) that there is a similar dearth within the publishing industry of books by writers of color about kids of color: books in which young readers might see themselves represented accurately and fairly: books in which young readers of color are “struck by the recognition of themselves in the story, a validation of their existence as human beings, an acknowledgement of their value by someone who understands who they are.” I’ve been arguing the same on behalf of young Latino/a readers for years now. So has Matt de la Peña in Arizona of late, where the powers that be have seen fit to do away with Mexican American studies, in essence rubbing out of existence Americans of Mexican descent by outlawing the culture’s literature. (For more on the subject of the futile attempt at the unmaking of a people, follow Tony Diaz, founder of Librotraficante, on The Huffington Post.)
When such titles appear on the scene, imagine the response on the part of young Latino/a readers at seeing their own reflections in the characters therein: they are validated, they see for themselves how they are very much a part of the American-Dream tapestry.
They will experience the same joy I do at first stomping a foot into a puddle, making a splash of indescribable proportions; second skipping over the puddles to see a flash of myself flying; and last, seeing myself clearly reflected back at me, not as stranger, not as other, not as illegal, but very much at home in my own skin, in my own story, in my own books.
Tonight, there is a hint of more rain in the air. A sort of coolness in the breeze. I’m waiting for the first sign of rain: the pitter-patter of drops on the skylight as I’m typing this. The prognostication for tomorrow says no rain, though. It’ll be dry, dusty, and windy, says the weatherman. But man, having seen myself in those puddles earlier in the day I’m comforted because for a brief moment today I saw myself in countless puddles and the next rain can’t be far off. So like our kids must who wait on the next book about them, I, too, will wait for the next storm. At first, I’ll wait patiently. And then anxiously. And then I’ll be out of my mind waiting. Mad like that because I’ve caught that clear reflection of myself in the puddles now, and I know how right that is, and how wrong the drought.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
René Saldaña, Jr., is an associate professor in the Language, Diversity, and Language Studies in the College of Education at Texas Tech University.
He is also the author of various titles for children and young adults, including The Jumping Tree, Finding Our Way: Stories, A Good Long Way, the Mickey Rangel bilingual detective/mystery series, among others.
In May, his first picture book will be published; it is a bilingual counting book that follows a boy on the day of his birthday fiesta. It is titled Dale, dale, dale: una fiesta de números/Hit It, Hit It, Hit It: A Fiesta of Numbers (Piñata Books).
He, his wife Tina, and their children Lukas, Mikah, Kalyn, and Jakob have adopted a puppy that they named Chito, after René’s pet dog from childhood.