The month of May has been designated as Latino Books Month by the Association of American Publishers’ (AAP) Publishing Latino Voices for America (PVLA) as part of their ongoing effort to “promote reading among Latinos” and “to raise awareness of the rich variety of books authored by Latinos.” The month-long celebration invites booksellers, librarians and others in the book industry to encourage their communities to discover and explore the importance of Latino authors.
In Rhode Island, for the first time, the Hispanic Heritage Committee’s Rhode Island Latino Arts (RILA) will join the literary celebration, and looks forward to making it an annual event.
Marta V. Martínez, founder and chairwoman of RILA, says that by embracing Latino Books Month the organization hopes the celebration will have a similar effect as Hispanic Heritage Month, in that it will bring together the Latino community to celebrate the similarities and also differences within the diverse cultures of the Latino community.
“We know that the R.I. Latino community has come together already to celebrate with us during Hispanic Heritage Month,” says Martínez, “and we believe that Latino Books Month will be fully embraced and will take on a similar life of its own.”
Martínez discussed RILA’s decision to jump on board this year, explaining that “as a community organization, long recognized for developing projects of cultural and educational importance to the local Latin American community, RILA launched a community reading program, called “RI Latinos Read”, in 2012 to encourage literacy among Latinos.”
In 2013, the program gained momentum, and that summer the Providence Community Libraries and the Club de Lectura participated with bilingual book discussions and a screening of the critically acclaimed film was held in October.
Then, in early 2014, RILA reached out to the Pawtucket Public Library to join them in further promoting Latino writers, books and all literature by launching this year’s first Annual Latino Books Month in R.I.
“They are more than happy to collaborate with us,” says Martínez, “and have even committed to formalizing it through the local library association and will continue to work with us in the future.
“Our R.I. Latinos Read program promotes literacy among Latino youth and their families,” she added, “and by launching this year and celebrating Latino Books Month each May in R.I., it is our hope that Latino young people can be introduced to role models that would help them aspire to become authors and writers; that it would help them find a way to unleash their creative spirit in words on paper. We also wish to highlight bilingual literature in all its shapes and forms: poetry, short stories, fiction and nonfiction writing.”
The main promotion during Latino Books Month is a reading list composed entirely of Latino authors, for both adults and children, in English and Spanish. The reading list is the biggest component of Latino Book Month, and is created by the PVLA for both adults and children. The list can be utilized in classrooms, reading groups and for personal use. There is a wide variety of books included, ranging from adult fiction, adult non-fiction, children’s books and poetry.
Other promotions throughout the month include a Hispanic Heritage Month reading list; information on how to start a Spanish-language book club; and a Children’s Day/Book Day (El día de los libros) which brings attention to the importance of literacy for children of all backgrounds, regardless of culture or language.
“On the young reader’s list, my favorite book is The House on Mango Street,” says Martínez. “Sandra Cisneros is one of my favorite authors in general, and a wonderful role model to Latinas. I have read many of her books.”
Martínez says the book on the adults list that she would like to read is Dreaming in Cuban (Soñar en Cubano) by Cristina Garcia.
“I know nothing about it,” she says, “but the title intrigues me.”
There are many other intriguing titles on the list this year, including, and certainly not limited to: El infinito en la palma de la mano / Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand by Gioconda Belli; and The Disappearance of Irene Dos Santos by Margaret Mascarenhas; or Frivolous Women and Other Sinners / Fri´volas y pecadoras by Alicia Borinsky.
The reading list offers something for everyone and there is no need to be fluent in Spanish to enjoy them, as most of the books appearing on the list are available in both English and Spanish translations.
The AAP/PVLA urges all booksellers and libraries to participate in Latino Books Month mainly because it is “good for business and good for communities.”
Considering that a recent census data shows the Latino population is the fastest growing group in the United States, Martínez believes that promoting the importance that Latino authors bring to all literary genres just makes good sense.
“There are over 9.5 million Hispanic families residing in the U.S.,” cited Martínez. “Over twenty two percent of all children under age five in the U.S. are Hispanic. Our goal is to help ensure that the availability of books by and for Latinos continues to grow so that all Americans, English and Spanish speaking, Latino and non-Latino, have access to them.”
Martínez urges everyone to discover a new author or re-read a favorite book this month to celebrate Latino authors and “the fiction, poetry, drama, autobiography, and the art that they create.”
“By launching Latino Books Month in Rhode Island,” Martínez says, “it is our hope that Latino young people aspire to become authors, writers and can unleash their creative spirit in words on paper. We also wish to highlight bilingual literature in all its shapes and forms.”
Annika Darling CTLatinoNews.com