November 10, 2014

REVIEW: THE GHOSTS OF HERO STREET: How One Small Mexican-American Community Gave So Much in World War II and Korea by Carlos Harrison

In honor of Veteran's Day, The Latina Book Club would like to take a moment to say "Thank You" to all the men and women who have served and continue to serve in this country's armed forces around the world.  We thank you for our liberty and our freedom, and we wish you come home soon, safe and sound.  God bless You All.---mcf

All gave some. Some gave all.

Carlos Harrison has written a gripping, harrowing and triumphant book about Mexican families who immigrated to a small railroad town in search of a better life.  It was rough for them--learning a new language, adapting to a new cultural, and facing discrimination at every turn.  Yet, their faith in their new country never faltered.  These "new" Americans sent 57 of their sons to fight in two fierce wars; Not all came home.  Through interviews with families and friends, Harrison introduces us to the survivors and the fallen. Heroes all.

BOOK SUMMARY:  They came from one street, but death found them in many places: in a distant jungle, a frozen forest, and trapped in the flaming wreckage of a bomber blown from the sky. One died going over a fence during the greatest paratrooper assault in history. Another fell in the biggest battle of World War II. Yet another, riddled with bullets in an audacious act of heroism during a decisive onslaught a world, and a war, away.

All came from a single street in a railroad town called Silvis, Illinois, a tiny stretch of dirt barely a block-and-a-half long, with an unparalleled history.  The twenty-two Mexican-American families who lived on that one street sent fifty-seven of their children to fight in World War II and Korea--more than any other place that size anywhere in the country. Eight of those children died.

It's a distinction recognized by the Department of Defense, and it earned that rutted, unpaved strip a distinguished name. Today it's known as Hero Street. This is the story of those brave men and their families, how they fought both in battle and to be accepted in an American society that remained biased against them even after they returned home as heroes.  THE GHOSTS OF HERO STREET, is the compelling and inspiring account of a street of soldiers--and men--who would not be denied their dignity or their honor.##

NOTE:  You can follow The Ghosts of Hero Street on Facebook.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Carlos Harrison is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, editor and writer of more than a dozen books in English and Spanish. A former national and international correspondent for the Fox News Channel, Harrison also has written two award-winning television documentaries and seven feature-length screenplays, as well as hundreds of newspaper articles and dozens of magazine pieces.  Visit him at

November 5, 2014


by Jonathan Marcantoni

Authors Jonathan Marcantoni and Chris Campanioni are the founders of YouNiversity.  Their first class is about to “graduate.”  It’s been a learning experience for both the students and the teachers.  The Latina Book Club congratulates Jon and Chris on their vision, and wish their graduating students much publishing success.---mcf

Jonathan Marcantoni
 I am a Puerto Rican writer. That is how I introduce myself. Puerto Rican first, writer second. Writing, not only the practice but my entire conceptualization of the artform, is filtered through that identity. I pride myself in being a storyteller of my people, of our struggles on and off the island, of our pan-Latino community. As co-founder of Aignos Publishing, I put such a heavy emphasis on Latino literature I would receive emails from non-Latino authors asking if we signed them as well. I felt bad when I received those emails, I never meant to be exclusive, and it planted a seed of doubt concerning whether my nationalist swagger was helping or hindering artists.

When Chris Campanioni and I started the
Chris Campanioni
the idea was for it to be universal, yet our main focus was on finding Latino students. . The goal of the YouNiversity is to empower and strengthen passion for the art of writing as well as educate aspiring writers on the business aspect of a literary career. Having been published in both English and Spanish, I knew how hard it was to find a good, respectable publisher willing to take our work as it is, without whitewashing the content or asking us to change the way we tell stories to be more palatable to Middle America. To try to publish in many Latin American countries is an uphill battle, especially in the Caribbean. Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, and Chile have the best infrastructure for publishing opportunities. Otherwise, most publishers you find are dedicated to academic, historical, or political works. There are but a handful of publishers that focus on experimental or socially-conscious literature. In Puerto Rico, there is only one, Isla Negra, that is dedicated to serious, innovative literature, and they only accept submissions once a year. So our attention was immediately on Latino artists who desperately need a leg up in finding their way in the publishing world.  What we ended up with was something different altogether, and the experience has opened my eyes to the importance of being an international, and not just Latino, author.

Three students, Yma Johnson and Emma Mayhood from Eastern Michigan University, and Julia Horniacek from Ramapo College in New Jersey, were selected from fifteen applicants. We had originally chosen a fourth author, from Mexico, but she quickly dropped out due to her unwillingness to complete the assignments. We had a Puerto Rican author who contacted us, and who was full of charisma and enthusiasm, but not enough to actually submit a writing sample. The experience was incredibly disheartening, and it made me wonder why Latino authors were not taking us up on the opportunity we had presented them with. This attitude blinded me to a bigger truth, which is that we had reached out to college organizations, writing groups, Facebook and Twitter, yet for all the promoting and outreach, very few people in general responded.

The question I should have asked myself was, why are aspiring writers passing up the chance to learn about their industry, hone their craft, and make long-lasting business connections, for free? My immediate thought was that it was due to Chris and I not being famous. When a person is in a media and artistic mecca like New York or Los Angeles, it can be easy to forget that outside those cities lie endless communities where the arts are a fringe element, and worse still in the United States, largely unprofitable. Unless you are famous, you do not draw a great amount of attention from your communities. When I did semi-professional theatre in Georgia, there was always the self-parodying “diva” that obsessed over the twenty people who came to see them act in a community theatre production they had been doing for a decade or more, as if they were Bette freakin’ Davis. For most, art is more a pastime than something essential, and so trying to convince a bunch of college students bred on the mentality of making money over pursuing passion (hell, even college writing programs spend more time preparing their students to find work in the publishing world or as teachers than they do on the actual craft and art of storytelling) to dedicate a year of their lives to a creative endeavor was perhaps a bit naïve on our part.

Now, four months into the program, I believe that the reason is even simpler:

This program is very demanding. 

Since June, the students have learned how to write query letters, they have networked with industry professionals, built social media platforms, and learned how to brand themselves as artists. The YouNiversity has entered its second stage, where the focus has shifted from the business and promotional aspects of being a writer to the artistic. We want our students to understand that storytelling and promotion are separate disciplines, and that an artist should create their work outside of industry demands or trends. In order to document the progress of the students, a blog was established at where the students have interacted with publishing and media professionals from the U.S., Europe, Latin America, and Africa. In the coming months, the students will focus on strengthening their particular styles and honing their voice. They will also create multimedia projects to find new ways to translate their art to other mediums and also create new communities for that art.

Yma, Emma, and Julia, as you can tell from their names, are not Latinas. Emma and Julia are white and Yma is Sierra Leonean. They all have distinct, endearing, and intense voices. These women write with an enviable passion for exploring their inner and outer worlds, and are not afraid to push buttons or break down barriers in the pursuit of fully realizing the story they wish to tell. Working with these three women made me feel silly about my moniker of Puerto Rican writer. It is good that I love my culture and wish to help my people, but that can be done without negating the struggles inherent in all of humanity. The YouNiversity has opened up doors, professionally and creatively, for our students, but it has also taught me about the importance of artistic expression. To engender in another person the confidence to face the world and proclaim the depths of their souls is a tremendous gift, and that is what Chris and I wish to do as we expand the YouNiversity to other communities.

What I am going to say now will seem to contradict what I just said, but I do still feel it is important that we use the lessons from the YouNiversity to impact the Latino community. It is a chip on my shoulder that needs to be satisfied, and so the next iteration of the YouNiversity, in 2015, will be strictly Latino. It will also accept writers who are not in college. Chris and I will approach local organizations (Chris is in New York and I am in Colorado) to bring them on board in participating with our students, who we will seek out both in the U.S., Spain, and Latin America. By making our local communities involved, we wish to create greater participation and interaction between the students and their peers. We will also be seeking sponsors to make the YouNiversity a more immersive and multi-tiered experience that better combines visual media, social media, and literary growth amongst the participants.

From there, the sky is the limit. Ultimately, we envision bringing on more mentors from specific communities and specific genre backgrounds and literary movements. That way we can blend the universal pursuit of art with the needs of particular countries and groups. The more we can bring people together, the less we will feel the need to pigeonhole ourselves. Having self-identity can be a wonderful thing, but the identity we too often forget is that of human being, citizen of the world, and it is that identity we wish to develop most. Ultimately, the YouNiversity will be a haven for the global literary cause, giving voice to our human spirit; uniting, educating, and most of all, inspiring connection.###

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Jonathan Marcantoni is the author of COMMUNION (with Jean Blasiar), TRAVELER’S REST, and THE FEAST OF SAN SEBASTIAN.  A PEN member and advocate for raising awareness of the persecution of writers and artists worldwide, he is the co-founder of Aignos Publishing and has been featured in El Nuevo Día, El Post Antillano, Warscapes, Fronteras on Texas Public Radio, Jazz y Letras, Across the Margin, and el Movimiento Independentista Nacional Hostosiano. With fellow author Chris Campanioni, he has launched the YouNiversity Project, which gives students from around the country the opportunity to learn about the publishing industry and how to pursue a career as a writer. He is an active duty Army soldier, husband, and father of three girls. He lives in Colorado Springs, CO.  To learn more about the YouNiversity Project, follow their blog at

November 4, 2014


November is National Novel Writing Month aka NaNoWriMo.

The challenge is to write 50,000 words -- basically a 250 page novel! -- in the 30 days of November.

I urge all Latino writers, especially the wanna-be writers, to take advantage of this opportunity and write, write, write.  Don't edit.  Don't revise.  Don't over think it.  Just write.

We need more books with diverse characters, and in OUR case, Latino characters.  So start writing your own novel today.  It can be a children's book, a young adult, a memoir, a romance, a paranormal, a vampire can be anything.  Just add some Latino flavor!

Register for NaNoWriMo at  You can still "enter" the challenge.

I too am taking up this challenge and have started my own novel with a sassy Latina heroine and a Latino hero that can cook!   Once you enter NaNoWriMo, make me one of your Writing Buddies; my moniker is "lovebooksmaven."   Very Latina, right?!  LOL.

Happy Writing! ---maria

October 29, 2014


Poetry is the language of love, of revenge, of despair, of hope, of the people.  Here is a Top 14 List of Latino poets we should all be reading more of.  Among them we have the FIRST Spanish American Poet to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature, an inaugural poet and two Poet Laureates.  I've tried to find websites for all the poets and, where there isn't any, I've posted a link where you could get more information on them.  Happy reading! --mcf


Gabriela Mistral
1.    Gabriela Mistral (First Spanish American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature) "Song of Death,"

2.    Pablo Neruda, "Cantos Ceremoniales,"

3.    Julia de Burgos, "Rio Grande de Loiza,"

4.    Richard Blanco (Fifth Inaugural Poet of the U.S.), "For All Of Us, One Day,"

5.      Thelma Reyna (Poet Laureate of the Altadena (CA) Library District), "Rising, Falling, All of Us",

6.    Carmen Tafolla (First Poet Laureate of the City of San Antonio), "This River Here",

Carlos Andres Gomez

7.    Carlos Andrés Gómez, "My Journey,"

8.    Ire'ne Lara Silva, "Flesh to Bone,"

9.    Karina Guardiola Lopez, "Latinos Unidos,"

10. Melinda Palacio, "How Fire Is A Story, Waiting,"

11. William Archila, "The Gravedigger's Archeology,"

12. Ruth Irupé Sanabría, "The Strange House Testifies,"

Melinda Palacio
13. Lorna de Cervantes, "Drivet: The First Quartet,"

14.  Natalia Treviño, "Tia Licha,"

Happy Reading!

October 22, 2014


The Latina Book Club welcomes children’s author Diana Lee Santamaria.  As a child she struggled with reading so she understands the importance of literacy.  As an educator she recognizes the need for more diverse books.  Hence, the birth of DLee’s World – bright fun stories that engage young readers and expands their learning.

GIVEAWAY!  Please leave a comment below to win a free copy of DLee’s World.

"As a child who struggled with reading, I understand the importance of literacy and making it fun for children, so I work on bringing all the essential elements into DLee's World to engage children and increase learning."  --Diana Lee Santamaria    

Q: Schools seem to slowly be coming to the realization that there are no books with “diverse” characters –African-American, Asian, and Hispanic – available for children. As an educator, do you also think that, “we need diverse books?” 

Yes, I do believe that there is a lack of books displaying diversity. Therefore it is my belief that as educators, we need to begin introducing books that have diverse characters with which children can relate. Growing up, I remember reading books and seeing characters in those books, which I felt did not look like me. So at times, it was hard for me to relate to them. I wondered why there were no characters that even remotely resembled my family or me. That idea sparked something in me and I decided that the characters in my stories would include people of all distinctions. Therefore as a children’s writer, I made sure to create a group of diverse characters in “DLee’s World,” to which all children can relate. As our population is getting more and more diverse, it is important to display that diversity throughout all forms of media including books - and with children’s books a great avenue to start. 

Q:   Who is DLee and how did she come to be? 

DLee the character represents bits and pieces of me as a child and as an adult. DLee is a quirky and inquisitive preschooler who loves to learn and have fun. The name DLee derives from my own name Diana Lee. As a child, my mother always called me DLee and I decided to use the name because I think it is catchy, cute, and different. It just seemed so appropriate. Thanks Mom! When I wrote my first story, I was not quite sure who my character was going to be. But I did know that I wanted the character to represent someone who was different then the norm. Then I thought back to the way I looked as a child and figured that my childhood appearance would make a great character. Since I had a full face and large glasses, I experienced a lot of ridicule from children and even adults. Thus based on my own personal experiences, I wanted my character to represent that child who does look different; and I would hopefully demonstrate to children that it is okay to be divergent and also show children to be accepting of others no matter how they look. However, the difference between DLee and me is that as a child I was very shy and fearful of everything.

It wasn’t till later in life, after enrolling in acting classes, that I was able to fully come out of my shell and become the “DLee” I always wanted to be. So I created a character that was the opposite of me as a child and more like me as an adult. As a result, I used DLee as an outlet to share my knowledge of early childhood education concepts and knowledge of children and their struggles inside and outside of the classroom to create my bright, bold, and fun preschool learning stories. Additionally, each character in DLee’s World has been created in the image of the people closest to me. For example, DLee’s mother, father and best friend were created in the images of my actual mother, father, and fiancé. 

Q:  Does writing about personal experiences make the writing easier? 

I think incorporating personal experiences does make creating concepts of DLee’s World easier however it does not necessarily simplify the writing process. For example, I had a great story in mind that I wanted to write about DLee going to the zoo with her abuela and abuelo. Unfortunately, for some reason when I went to write the story it just wasn’t coming out right. Since, for now, all my stories incorporate rhymes, I was having trouble making the story fit the “DLee’s World” rhyme scheme, which can make the writing process a lot more difficult than you would think.

Q:  You have plotted 15 books in the DLee series. What kind of stories should we expect? Are there any plans to translate DLee's stories into Spanish?

Yes, I am proud to say that I have already written a total of 15 DLee stories and I am always brainstorming new concepts for future books. Each of my stories touches upon different objectives that preschool teachers would use in early childhood classrooms. My books include concepts related to all educational domains social, emotional, cognitive, mathematics, literacy, language, science and so on. Resultantly, I have written books on color recognition, number and numeral recognition, new experiences like the first day of school, and moving, sharing, germs, being afraid of monsters, planting seeds, exploring caterpillars etc. I would love to one day be able to translate DLee’s stories into various languages including the Spanish language. I think translating my books would be a great opportunity to take DLee to the next level to allow all non-English speaking children to experience DLee’s World learning books. My stories have been created so that children can relate, learn, and have fun with literacy. However, they are also supposed to be useful resources or tools for parents, teachers and families of all diversities.

Q:  I noticed that your website offers a lesson plan and cue cards for each book. Can a schoolteacher use your books in the classroom or are they for personal reading only?

Most definitely! My website does offer free lesson plans, cards or cutouts, and assessments for both parents and teachers to utilize. As a teacher, I wanted to make sure that my books were relevant to children as well as resourceful learning tools for both parents and educators to utilize at home or in the classroom. Therefore, I created lesson plans that coincide with each book that anyone can use to enhance the learning experience for each child or group of children reading my books.

Q:   Tell us about yourself and how teachers and parents can get a copy of your books. Also, give us your website and social network addresses.

My name is Diana Lee Santamaria and I am a quirky, positive, creative, fun, and artist Hispanic woman who loves spending time with my family and friends, working and helping to teach children and most of all writing children’s books. I have been teaching for six years and I have a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education. I absolutely love working on my DLee’s World Series and cannot wait till early childhood children and educators everywhere are experiencing my bright, bold, fun learning books for themselves!

DLee’s World books are available on paperback and kindle and can be found on, under the BUY NOW tab, in addition to Funky Monkey Toys and Books in Greenvale, NY and Orion Toy Works in Delaware Water Gap, PA.

My website is and my social networking addresses are as follows: Facebook: