The Latina Book Club is pleased to welcome children's author Yadhira Gonzalez-Taylor. Yadhira is a Native New Yorker, born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents. She served in the US Army Reserves, was an Assistant District Attorney, and is now an adjunct professor at a community college. She was inspired to become a writer by her three daughters and her parent's homeland, Borinquen bella.
Q: Yadhira, you are a lawyer by day and an author by night. What attracted you to writing? Why children’s books?
There is a great deal of writing that takes place in a lawyer’s working life. However, the writing is often dry and lacks passion depending on the area of law practiced. Lawyers write legal memoranda, briefs for appeals, complaints, and more. These writings are serious in nature and leave very little room for creativity. Legal writing has been part of my daily professional life since 2002. Reading documents also forms a large part of my day to day work experience.
I dabbled in creative writing as a child but never thought of myself as someone who could write a book for sale or distribution. Most of my writing, until two years ago, consisted of self-reflective writing like journaling and poetry that I shared on social media.The idea for the children’s books came as a result of being a parent. I read to all my children at bed time and sometimes I would recite folktales.
About two years ago, my youngest, was very interested in old folktales. At first, I used to tell the usual ones like THE THREE BEARS, THE THREE LITTLE PIGS, and other Grimm tales. Then my husband suggested that I find something a little closer to our culture. I immediately thought of la Cucarachita Martina who was a staple character in my household growing up. My grandmother used to tell me the story often. So I started reciting it to my daughter as I remembered it. Before we knew it we had adapted it with our own version, with new details and a different ending.
I tried the traditional publishing route but no one was interested in publishing. I self-published the first title, MARTINA FINDS A SHINY COIN, in July of 2013. Soon thereafter my daughter and I found ourselves inventing other stories for Martina, which lead to MARTINA AND THE WONDROUS WATERFALL. Currently, there are several other stories working their way out of the confines of our imaginations.
Q: Do you write in Spanish and then translate into English or vice versa? Do you write in both languages?
I think in Spanish, I write in English, and translate to Spanish. I was born in New York City and went to live in Puerto Rico when I was five. Spanish is my first language, but my English language skills are stronger. I translate my work into Spanish and then use the assistance of hired editors to double check all those nuances, conjugations, and accents that come with the Spanish language.
Q: Tell us about Martina. What kind of stories should we expect to see in the series?
Oh, Martina! I love Martina. I feel like I gave birth to a fourth daughter. The illustrator, Alba Escayo, and I hold the cute and clean little roach dear and near to our hearts. Martina is humble yet proud. She is flexible, yet stubborn, and beautiful in a simple way. She is smart, talented, and musically gifted. She is a complete package.
Both stories deliver a lesson in a fun and entertaining way. The stories teach values and character. The fables mirror our human existence, our jealousies, insecurities, and selfishness. Both stories have a Puerto Rican flair. For the Martina series, any future stories will contain moral, cultural, or ethical messages with an artistic focus on Puerto Rico or Latino culture. Who knows maybe Martina will visit the great City we all know as Gotham. Stay tuned!
Q: Do you have plans to write in other genres like young adult? Fiction?
I have been writing a memoir for years, but I am not ready to expose that side of me yet. I wrote a manuscript during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in 2013. The working title is “Soledad Abandoned” and it is in the redrafting stages at the moment. It is a love story that will be published under a pen name. For November 2014, my NaNoWriMo adventure was writing an urban dystopian novel.
Q: Tell us about you. What is your background? Where did you grow up? How do you celebrate your Latinidad?
I am the oldest of two. My parents came to the Bronx from Puerto Rico in the 70s and soon after I was born. When I was five I went to live with my grandparents in Caguas,Puerto Rico. That was the best thing that could have happened to me. I learned Spanish and was immersed in Puerto Rican culture. The place where I lived was very small and rural; a working class neighborhood with a population of less than 800 people. All the neighbors knew each other and were like family. I came back to the Bronx when I was eight and returned to Puerto Rico when I turned thirteen and back to the Bronx when I was sixteen. I guess you can call that a transient upbringing between two different worlds!
I celebrate my Latinidad by showing pride in my history and in my writings. I am always proud to say I am Puerto Rican from the Bronx and I am more than happy to educate people on what Puerto Rican culture really looks like. I think we are responsible for breaking the stereotypes that have evolved through our representation in the media and in mainstream literature.
Q: How can fans find you? Do you have a website? Are you on social media?
I can be found in several places on the web. My website is www.ygtbooks.com and that site has links to other sites that contain information on my work, blog interviews, news articles, and book reviews. I am a goodreads.com author and I do giveaways so be sure to join me as a friend and add my books to your “to be read”shelves. I am on Twitter @gothamesq.
Also, Martina has her own Facebook fan page and a Twitter account. She is at www.facebook.com/martinafindsashinycoinavailable at La Casa Azul Bookstore, on 103rd and Lexington; through amazon.com, bn.com or directly from my website.###