Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Even Kids in Remote Colombian Villages are Reading Piñata Books!

As Americans, we don’t think twice about our easy access to books through libraries. As kids, we went to the public library to check out books that took us around the world, into Outer Space, and to lands that exist only in our imaginations. And we used the school library to read books for reports and other projects. If we were lucky, we were overcome by what author Pat Mora calls “bookjoy” and trips to the library were for pleasure and not just to meet school obligations.

Here in Houston, residents can choose from a slew of libraries. They can go to libraries run by the city —Houston Public Library, which has over 40 branches—or they can go to libraries run by Harris County Public Library, which has over 25 branches. There are libraries close to home and others close to school and work. There are even libraries with “drive through” service. How easy is that? Order your book online, and then drive through to pick it up.

But many people around the world are not so fortunate. Libraries as we know them don’t exist everywhere. Sadly, many children don’t have access to books the way Americans do. But the awareness that books are critical to self-improvement ensures that people find a way to share books and encourage literacy skills.

For people in rural Colombia, books, and even the ability to read, are a rare luxury. But 38-year-old Luis Soriano has made it his mission to spread literacy by taking books to children in villages where schools often don’t exist. With the help of two faithful donkeys, Alfa and Beto, he operates the biblioburro, a different kind of mobile library.

CNN recently profiled Mr. Soriano and included a short video on its site. We were thrilled to see a child holding a particular book—Butterflies on Carmen Street / Mariposas en la calle Carmen by Monica Brown—which was carried by a biblioburro and found its way into the hands of a little boy living a world away; and that is pure “bookjoy!”

To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cisneros, Cisneros, AND Cisneros

The dust seems to have settled just ten days after the Texas State Board of Education voted on changes to be made to public school textbooks. In light of certain changes, it becomes more apparent that our mission to continue making the names of Latino writers known to children in Texas and beyond is more important than ever.

From the San Antonio Express-News we read, “Textbook vote boots Cisneros.” This is Texas we’re talking about, so the reference to boots is not surprising. But what doesn’t make sense to us, as a publisher of not only Latino literature but a fairly new book by [Henry] Cisneros, is that the first Hispanic mayor of a large U.S. city who was also selected to serve as the nation’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, is not going to be referenced in textbooks because he hasn’t “done anything” in recent years. We don’t think so; the book he edited, Latinos and the Nation’s Future, demonstrates that he is still an influential voice on public policy matters.

And author Sandra Cisneros will no longer be mentioned in textbooks. We published her seminal work, The House on Mango Street, in 1985. It’s likely that the book will still be required reading for students, but they will not learn about her in social studies courses as an example of a Texas artist. It’s not easy to understand the logic behind the decision, but we are very pleased that author Diane Gonzales Bertrand will now be included in new textbooks.

The business of removing and adding names to history books is clearly not so clear. It is obvious that it’s a politically motivated process. As it stands, Henry Cisneros and Sandra Cisneros will be (final decision after a public hearing in March) erased from social studies books. And we will forge ahead, as an outlet for the voices of Latino writers. One in particular happens to be another Cisneros. Carlos Cisneros is the author of a forthcoming legal thriller, The Name Partner. More on him and the book soon.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Publishing, media, and the internet are constantly changing. In the past, publishers frequently promoted books by sending authors on tour. For a number of reasons (the economy, the demise of the independent bookstore, etc.), book tours are far less common. But fortunately, we have entered a new, digital age, which allows endless possibilities for book promotion.

Last season we published Meet Me under the Ceiba, a novel by the Panama-based author Silvio Sirias. When we learned we’d be publishing a book by an author in Central America, we thought that would be the death knell. How could we possibly promote a book in the U.S. by an author who wouldn’t be around for promotional events? A new, or relatively new, author’s willingness to self promote is often the key to a book’s success. Fans don’t magically appear, and you can’t sell a book if no one knows about it, no matter how good it is.

So, we were excited to discover that Silvio—a literature professor in his mid-fifties—was quite internet savvy. He has a Web site, blog, Twitter and Facebook accounts that he actually updates regularly. Then he hit us with news: he was going on a virtual book tour. With the help of a virtual tour company called BronzeWord Virtual Latino Book Tours, a ten-day tour was set. Each blog host offered a free, signed copy of the book for the person who had the best comment or discussion topic. Through reviews, posts, and discussions on these blogs, interest is being generated, fans are being created, and books are being sold.

Unlike so many young, naive writers, Silvio wasn't going to expectantly wait around for fame and fortune to come to him. And because of his use of the internet, Silvio and his new book have more of a presence than many books with authors who are physically in the U.S. Silvio’s book tour began on Monday, January 11 with Book-lover Carol and will continue until Friday, January 22. To follow his tour or see his previous stops, check out his schedule below:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

"climb up / that ladder / bring down / the moon ..." —Angela De Hoyos from her collection WOMAN, WOMAN (1985)

Pioneering Mexican-American poet Angela De Hoyos passed away September 24, 2009 in her hometown of San Antonio, Texas. She will long be celebrated for her impact and influence on so many Latino authors.

The author of Arise, Chicano! (M&A Editions, 1976) and Woman, Woman (Arte Público Press, 1985), De Hoyos’ work is groundbreaking, politically charged, and much admired. The winner of numerous international awards, she will undoubtedly be remembered for stirring a sense of conscience about the Hispanic-American experience. De Hoyos read a letter to the editor in a San Antonio newspaper in the 70s telling “Mes’kins” to go home and subsequently took up her pen to argue against blatant intolerance. De Hoyos continued writing during turbulent times, and her unique voice called for an end to discrimination against the less fortunate—women, farm workers, etc.

Carmen Tafolla, award-winning poet and author said, “An exquisite poetic voice and one of the first Chicana poets to publish, Angela was not only significant as a writer but also as a pioneer in Chicano publishing.”

Tafolla understands the significance of honoring pioneers in the Latino community. Her great grandfather, Santiago Tafolla, blazed a trail as an early Hispanic Methodist circuit-riding preacher. He wrote about his experiences in a memoir started in 1908 and published for the first time in 2009. Carmen Tafolla co-edited A Life Crossing Borders: Memoir of a Mexican-American Confederate / Las memorias de un mexicoamericano en la Confederación. The autobiography serves as an invaluable aid to understanding the upheavals of the 19th century in North America. In the same vein, De Hoyos’ voice will live on in her poetry as evidence of her passionate call for human rights.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

arte público [ar’-tay poo’-ble-co]

Over the years, people have frequently been confused by the bilingual name of our organization. Many assume that Arte Público Press must publish Spanish-language materials. But the reality is that our focus is on Hispanic culture and life, whether it takes place in English or Spanish.

Arte Público Press, the oldest and largest publisher devoted to producing books by U.S. Hispanic authors, has been breaking down barriers for 30 years, since its inception in 1979. Dr. Nicolás Kanellos envisioned a “people’s press,” a place for Latinos to publish their work when no one else was interested.

Many of our books—in fact most of our books—are in English, because our authors were born and raised in the U.S., have gone through the educational system here, and speak, read, and write in English. But their writings are influenced by their Hispanic heritage.

So what you will find here are the musings and behind-the-scenes takes on what we do as the largest Latino publisher in the country. You will find posts from our staff, authors, and supporters. This blog will also serve as a forum to foster awareness and discussion about issues that affect the growing Hispanic population and therefore everyone ; so, please comment, share posts, and accent your time spent online with this blog.

For more information about Arte Público Press’ history, click here.

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