The San Antonio Book Festival is returning for the third year! And just like last year, the schedule is so packed with author readings, panels, and exhibits that I won’t get to see and participate in everything that I want to. I guess that’s a good problem to have for a Book Festival. There truly is something for everyone in the family.
San Antonio is home to many great authors. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview one of San Antonio’s favorite authors – Diane Bertrand Gonzales, author of several books for young adults including There’s a Name for This Feeling / Hay un nombre para lo que, The F Factor, Close to the Heart, Trino’s Time, Trino’s Choice, Lessons of the Game, and Sweet Fifteen. I most remember Diane for Trino’s Choice – a book I didn’t read until college but was moved by the realistic and relatable coming of age story of a young Latino boy. I wanted to know more about who she wrote for and what it was like to be a Latina author today. Thankfully, she opened up and shared some great insight.
Who is it that you are thinking of when you are compiling these stories?
A teenager who is sitting in the back of the classroom. Nothing that makes that student outstanding. He/she is not the number one student but also not the one always getting into trouble. I like to write for ‘the forgotten kid’. In their quietness, they are thinking deeply and creatively. They are trying to find out where they belong in their family, among their friends and in school. As a teacher, I have always watched the quiet student who needed just a little more encouragement.
I think about the Latino kids – even though I’ve heard from teenagers of all cultural backgrounds – who all share many of the same experience and who can relate to the stories that I present in my fiction for young adults.
Do you feel that being a Latina has made an impact on your readers?
When I was growing up, late 60’s early 70’s, I don’t remember seeing a work by a Latina or Latino author in grade school, middle school or high school. I remember the first time I was introduced to to several writers from Mexico, Latin America, etc. I was not introduced to Latino literature until early 90’s. That’s sad because I know now that there were writers who were writing but they were not being published.
I write with the Latino teenagers and children in mind. I write for people like my own two kids. They grew up in the 90’s. I was trying to find authentic literature for them. I thought if I can’t find it, I’ll start writing it myself. I’ve always been a writer. I’ve written since I was 7 or 8 years-old. I wrote essays, stories and poems. It wasn’t until I went to graduate school at OLLU that I gave myself permission and was given permission by my professors who said, “You need to be writing about your own experiences.” That’s when the seed was planted for me – in graduate school.
I’ve read stories of people in California like Gary Soto who was writing the stories of the kids in California. I thought ‘I need to be writing the stories of the kids in San Antonio.’
You have Denise Chavez and Sandra Cisneros – Denise was writing about the people in New Mexico and Sandra was writing about life in urban Chicago.
I began to ask ‘Where were the Texas stories? What was it like to grow up as a Gonzales in San Antonio, TX?‘
That’s what propelled me and inspired me to write for the Latino children and teenagers.
Gonzales Bertrand participated in the very first Book Festival in the children’s tent with one of her picture books. This year, one of her teenage book stories, There’s a Name for This Feeling / Hay un nombre para lo que, has been chosen to be a part of the Book Festival. The new book is a collection of 10 fully bilingual short stories. One side reads fully in English and then you can turn the book over and the other side is fully in Spanish.
Why do you think this is important for San Antonio?
It’s important for families – especially for Latino families – to attend so the children can see Latino authors sharing their books and sharing their stories. It’s important for children and teenager to be able to identify with the books that are in the library. To be able to see a Latino or Latina author and to be able to say “oh there’s a book that has to do with empanadas or vegetables from Latin American culture or here’s a cookbook uith Mexican recipes in it.”
It’s important for teenagers and children to be able to see themselves and their own experiences reflected in books.
This is an opportunity. It’s a free event and it’s a great opportunity for families to do something together that promotes literacy and promotes our wonderful San Antonio library.
It’s a great opportunity for people to meet other writers. For example, I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘I’d like to write my own story. You’ve inspired me to write a story that my grandmother told me.’
So, we’re able to inspire other Latinos to start writing down their own stories. Whenever I do a library event, I’m always encouraging the audience to read; read more books; and read more books by Latinos. I also encourage them to write down their own stories together and share them together. So we will continue to preserve our heritage and our culture not only with our families but with the general public as well.
Queridos, don’t miss your chance to listen to Diane share some of her work and get to meet her. She will be at the Book Festival at 11am in Geektown as part of the YA Events (located on the Library grounds on Augusta St.)
Depending on the audience, Diane might do reading of one of her favorite stories. She may have a conversation about a large theme in her new book which is not knowing how to describe the feelings we have when we realize that in some of our worst moments, we have our best outcomes.
The San Antonio Book Festival is free and open to the public on Saturday, April 11th starting at 10 a.m. Find a full schedule of the Book Festival on the San Antonio Public Library website.