In honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15th-October 15th), I’m posting an interview I did for the Storyology eZine with Author, Storyteller and Librarian extraordinaire, Lucia Gonzalez. Lucia is a two time winner of the Pura Belpre Honor Medal, awarded to Latino authors whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Hispanic cultural experience. In fact, Lucia’s newest book, The Storyteller’s Candle is About Pura Belpre herself, the first Puerto Rican librarian in New York City. In addition to the Pura Belpre Honor it won the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award, Honor; the America’s Award, Honor, the Skipping Stones Honor Award; and is an ALA Notable Book. Lucia is also the author of The Bossy Gallito (Scholastic, 1994), winner of the Pura Belpré Children’s Literature Honor Medal and among New York Public Library’s 100 Picture Books Everyone Should Know, and Senor Cat’s Romance and Other Favorite Stories from Latin America, an Americas Award Commended Title.
For more information, please visit her website www.luciagonzalezbooks.com.
Lucia, can you tell me what inspired you to write the Storyteller’s Candle?
I was inspired by New York Public Library’s storytelling tradition and the visionary children’s librarians who were pioneers in providing services to immigrant families and who understood the importance of honoring the immigrants’ languages and preserving their stories. I wrote this book to the memory of Pura Belpre, a devoted and talented librarian, author, and storyteller who became, in 1921, New York Public Library’s first Puerto Rican librarian.
Do you have suggestions for ways to increase multi-cultural awareness through books and stories?
Research shows that the use of multicultural children’s books and stories helps children identify with their own culture, exposes them to other cultures, and opens the dialogue on issues regarding diversity. There is a need to understand the interdependence of all people in a global society. Multicultural children’s books can be used effectively as a means for coming to understand individual human stories, and the universal emotions and themes they contain. Picture books are useful tools for teaching many abstract and complex concepts of the world while supporting and encouraging tolerance and understanding among children.
When preparing for a story hour, or putting together a class reading list, librarians and educators should make an effort to be inclusive in their selection. Culture is not a costume one wears during a particular celebration (Cinco de Mayo, Asian Pacific Month, etc.). Culture is who we are at all times. The community’s cultural tapestry is to be acknowledged and celebrated at all times.
The Bossy Gallito is one of my favorite multi-cultural books! Can you share some of your favorite multi-cultural books for children.
There are so many wonderful multicultural books published that my list is very long. Some of my all-time favorites include: Perez and Martina, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears, Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters, Anazi and the Moss Covered Rock, Tomas and the Library Lady, Doña Flor, Peppe: the Lamplighter, Grandfather’s Journey, and so many more!