Guest Column: Dan Olivas

Latino Books Month: Una Bendicion Mezclada

By Daniel A. Olivas

To great fanfare, the Association of American Publishers (AAP) designated May as the second annual Latino Books Month. The AAP, which describes itself as a national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry, dubbed it a celebration where “booksellers, librarians, and others in the book industry will encourage people in their communities to read books by and for Latinos, in both English and Spanish.” As a parent of a teenager and as a Chicano writer for both adults and children, I welcomed this news as una bendicion mezclada-a mixed blessing.

A few months ago, I was a guest speaker at a predominantly Latino high school. I read a couple of short stories and a few poems and lectured a bit on such things as metaphors, personification and the use of Mexican folklore in contemporary literature. I was delighted by the students’ often wise and always honest assessment of my writing and of books in general. I truly believe that I learned more that day than did these teenagers. But one thing in particular struck me during this experience. Repeatedly, the students told me that they had never met a writer before and that they enjoyed being exposed to stories and poems that had at their center the experiences of Latinos. A couple of students told me after class that they wanted to be writers, too. If AAP’s proclaimed Latino Books Month can produce similar sentiments in young people and adults alike, who am I to complain?

Daniel A. Olivas is the author of four books including most recently Devil Talk: Stories (Bilingual Press, 2004), and a children’s book, Benjamin and the Word (Arte Publico Press/Piata Books, 2005), which first appeared in the Los Angeles Times’ Kids’ Reading Room.

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