The Latina Book Club’s mission is to promote Latino authors. Now, we must add Latino characters to our mission statement. Ms. Wolff is not Latina but one of her main characters is – Lillian Garcia, a spunky girl from “New Yawk,” whom children of all ages and all races will fall in love with, along with Brandi, Fei, Nisha and Tabitha. Join me as we “speak” with the author about the series and the importance of having racially diverse characters.
By Garen S. Wolff
WolffHouseBooks & Publishing, July 2011
THE GIRLZ OF GALSTANBERRY Series is “a refreshing alternative to books about tween vampires, liars, and sensuous love; characters from this series experience reaction to real-life situations, exposure to new and different cultures, and most importantly, the process of learning and accepting who they are.” Book #1 was an International Book Awards Finalist.
Q: Tell us about your background and how you got the idea for The Girls of Galstanberry series.
So, “Where does Galstanberry come in?”
Last year, I was a research fellow at the National Institute of Health in Washington D.C. After long days at the laboratory, I retreated to my apartment to just write. I reflected on my educational background and diverse friends and soon enough, THE GIRLZ OF GALSTANBERRY was born. Every girl has a story to tell due to their geographic location, ethnicity, socio-economic status, family structure, etc. Therefore, I created THE GIRLZ OF GALSTANBERRY to reflect these stories.
Q: Why an all girls academy? Isn't that an archaic idea given today's society?
Galstanberry Girls Academy, is not just an all girls academy. It’s an institution comprised of history, tradition, and most importantly, faculty that empower their students to be leaders in their community. Galstanberry significantly reflects my alma mater Wellesley College, an all women’s college renowned for its prominent alumni, such as Secretary of State Madeline Albright (the 1st woman), Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyers, and more.
I don’t think an all girls academy or college (such as Wellesley or Barnard) is archaic in today’s society. In fact, I see it as more valuable than ever. In this day and age of bullying and cliques, girls need to learn how to build each other up, rather than tear each other down.
Q: You purposely added Latina and African-American characters to your series, why?
The world is diverse! Most importantly, however, Latina and African-American girls, deserve to see themselves in literature. Unfortunately, the majority of popular literature neglects the diversity of its readership. Therefore, East Asian (Chinese, Korean, etc.) and South Asian (Pakistan, Indian) girls are also overlooked. THE GIRLZ OF GALSTANBERRY allows girls to see themselves, not only ethnically but in the personalities of the 5 diverse characters.
Because each character is fully explained in Book #1, I don’t want to give too much away. Therefore, I will share pieces :-) Lillian Garcia is Puerto Rican and from the Bronx, New Yawk (as she pronounces it.) Spanish is incorporated into the dialogue between her and her loved ones. I wanted to have bi-lingual characters because it’s realistic for girls around the country. Lillian, as the website states, is spunky and enthusiastic about life and all it has to offer. She, along with girls around the country, underwent a rigorous admissions process, and was ultimately accepted into Galstanberry Girls Academy.
Q: The series is about the girls, but will readers also get glimpses of their families and cultures?
Yes! Book #1 takes readers across the United States to meet the 5 main characters’ friends and family members. In fact, the first 5 chapters of the book are dedicated to each girl. It was very important to divulge into each girls’ family, friends and cultural background because those factors shape their personalities and opinions. When readers progress through the series I want them to understand “why” and “how” girls make particular decisions.
Laughs, self-reflection and disappointments! Throughout the series, the diverse personalities of the 5 girls will lead to inevitable drama and internal conflicts. However, with each triumph and tribulation, the girls grow, learning more about themselves and classmates.
Q: Who are some of your favorite young adult books and authors?
HOUSE OF SPIRITS by Isabel Allende. Allende’s book is pure genius. Even though she writes magic realism, I’ve learned tremendously from her.
HOUSE OF MIRTH by Edith Wharton. The book explores the difficulty of being a woman in the early 19th century. Through this book I learned how to not only deepen a character, but also make them both complicated and endearing.
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry. The whole idea of a utopian society, that is not completely utopian (hence the main drama of the book) was intriguing. Lois Lowry therefore taught me how to make interesting plot twists.
NEXT STOP ON THE BLOG TOUR: MyPrettyWings.com
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DO LEAVE A COMMENT: Let us know what you think of the Girlz, and what other books you’ve found that portray such a diverse cast of characters.
Happy Reading, and as always, Read Latino.