2021 MULTICULTURAL CHILDREN’S BOOK DAY – INTERVIEW WITH VANESSA VARELA, ATTRIBUTES OF A HISPANIC GIRL: I CAN
The Latina Book Club is honored to participate once again in
Multicultural Children’s Book Day
January 29, 2021.
The book was a gift, but the review is our own.
We welcome author Vanessa Varela.
ATTRIBUTES OF A HISPANIC GIRL: I CAN
Written and illustrated by Vanessa Varela, M.Ed., M.A. FLL.
The stick-figure drawings are powerful in their simplicity and femininity. The book is short, sweet, pink!, and to the point. The author has taken all the negative remarks about girls and Latinos, and turned them into positive attributes, like speaking two languages allows girls to bridge two cultures. And she does it all in English and Spanish. All we can say is: Brava!
The Latina Book Club: This book started as an academic paper based on Gloria Anzaldua’s book BORDERLANDS & Jaques Lacan’s MIRROR STAGE. Share with us what you saw in their work that inspired you.
Vanessa Varela: Literature is the window that has let me understand the concept “Latino” in the United States. As an immigrant who came to the US in my early 30’s, I became a Latina overnight without any official certificate, or document that identified me as a Latina. It was easy to feel empathy with the community, however, it took me some time to identify myself as a Hispanic and develop that sense of belonging.
Years later, I had the chance to read BORDERLANDS written by Gloria Anzaldua. I liked it so much that I decided to write a final paper for a class to talk about the formation of the female identity, the mirror and the Coatlicue. My work’s hypothesis was about how Gloria Anzaldua used the Coatlicue as a literary figure to express her emotions and desires. She walked her during this psychological process of self-knowledge to construct her image in front of the mirror. For me, la Coatlicue was the feminine figure that supported that process.
During her self-analysis, Anzaldua needed to talk about the “other”, so she exemplified the roles of the members in the Chicano community, in particular inside of a traditional family, and how her relatives had certain expectations about her based on that social structure. When she sees and talks with the Coatlicue, she confronts herself and she breaks those pre-establish roles to become a new mestiza, happy and empowered person.
I wish my book could motivate the Latina girls to embrace some of the attributes that would help them to redefine their role as adults in our community. If it is truth that the postmodern area opens the doors to redefine ourselves in different ways, and we are living in a democracy where you have the right to create your own identify, it is also truth that we still own our Hispanic girls the opportunities, tools, and spaces to help them to flourish more.
I named this book ATTRIBUTES OF A HISPANIC GIRL: I CAN because the word “attribute” has the connotation of having a gift of birth. I wanted our Latina girls to think that they were born “triunfadoras”, capable to inspire and dream. I visualize and that the girl who is reading the book is not only holding a book, but a mirror in which it reflects a little person who can compete, persevere and create.
It may happen that some girls do not know the meaning of some of these words, but by teaching the meaning is the perfect way to start talking about leadership, empowerment and relevance of the Latinas in the US.
LBC: You are a teacher for young students, and this book is a wonderful tool to teach them about their culture & leadership. Do you plan to write a book with these attributes for teens as well? For Adults?
Vanessa: At this point, I am focused on writing a couple of books related to cognates because one of my goals is to develop vocabulary among ESL young students and/or newcomers. I think this will keep me busy a little bit. However, I embrace the idea of writing for teens or adults, I see myself in the future writing about empowerment and motivational novels.
LBC: What are the Top 3 attributes for a Hispanic Girl?
Vanessa: For me, the Latina girls are natural leaders, they inspire, and they persevere.
LBC: Name the Top 3 Hispanic Women today that exhibit those attributes.
Vanessa: This year, I created a mural to celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month, and I decided to spotlight the Latinas. It was a challenge to select just a couple of them since they are unique and talented, I really admire all of them. But I can name three Latinas that I see as natural leaders that inspire and persevere to achieve their dreams: Sylvia Acevedo, engineer, and former CEO for Girl Scouts USA, who nowadays is a Tech Executive; Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court; and Laurie Hernandez, Gold Medal Winning Olympic Gymnastic. The three of them are leaders in their area and inspire me every time that I read something about them.
Beside her passion for technology, Sylvia Acevedo is an advocate for Hispanics in education and bilingual programs. During her administration as the National CEO of Girl Scouts, she implemented a STEM curriculum among girls. For me, this initiative opened the opportunity for the girls to explore careers where men dominate. She has also worked for NASA and other important Tech companies. She is an example of how Latinas can become a leader in any field.
I admire Sonia Sotomayor and the way she thinks about social justice and equity, but there is something particular that makes me identify with her as a Latina; her English. She stated in the past that she used to struggle with her English, just like me (well, I am still in the fight on this one) but as a person who speaks English as a second language, and as a teacher, I know that learning to read, write, speak and listen in a second language is a process that takes time and perseverance. Sotomayor shared her story about how she had to spend extra time in the library to learn more about how to write English. The lack of strong language skills, vocabulary and grammar could be one of the reasons why the Latinos drop out of school. Sonia Sotomayor kept persevering with a positive mindset to overcome the challenges that a second language learner could have. She succeeded in demolishing the language barriers, los muros.
Finally, Laurie Hernandez, for me, represents perseverance and inspiration. She is strong physically and emotionally. Her hard work, her self-control and concentration are sources of inspiration. She is a role model for our kids and adults. I am impressed that at her short age, she has competed against the best in the world, and showed everybody that she is capable of winning and assume her triumph with a smile on her face.
LBC: Hispanic or Latina or Latinx? Same? Different? Interchangeable?
Vanessa: I think it is fantastic to have different words to talk about us. In the United States, some people like to use Hispanic for government institutions or official documentation, it could be more solemn; and Latino is used for everything else like culture, recreational activities, etc. For me, they both have the same connotation in this context; I use them as a source to avoid cacophonies. I also like the word Latinx especially for the use of the x. Spanish nouns, articles, adjectives, among others have feminine or masculine gender. The x is not only an effort to include both genders in a single word but that little “x” makes the word Latinx an unique term in the Spanish language. The Real Academia Española has not accepted this word in the RAE dictionary yet; however, I think it is ok that the Spanish in the United States develop their own linguistic terms, and personality. It would be interesting to see the evolution of the Spanish in the US, and its interaction with the RAE. ###
For more information on Vanessa Varela, visit her blog at https://twolanguageedition.wordpress.com/ .
Multicultural Children’s Book Day 2021 (January 29) is in its 8th year! This non-profit children’s literacy initiative was founded by Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen; two diverse book-loving moms who saw a need to shine the spotlight on all of the multicultural books and authors on the market while also working to get those book into the hands of young readers and educators. Eight years in, MCBD’s mission is to raise awareness of the ongoing need to include kids’ books that celebrate diversity in homes and school bookshelves continues. Read about their Mission & History HERE.
MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Medallion Sponsors!
FOUNDER’S CIRCLE: Mia Wenjen (Prgamaticmom) and Valarie Budayr’s (Audreypress.com)
Platinum Sponsors: Language Lizard Bilingual Books in 50+ Languages, Author Deedee Cummings and Make A Way Media
Gold Sponsors: Barefoot Books, Candlewick Press, Capstone, Hoopoe Books, KidLitTV, Peachtree Publishing Company Inc.
Silver Sponsors: Charlotte Riggle, Connecticut Association of School Librarians, Author Kimberly Gordon Biddle, Pack-N-Go Girls
Bronze Sponsors: Agatha Rodi and AMELIE is IMPRESSED!, Barnes Brothers Books, Create and Educate Solutions, LLC, Dreambuilt Books, Dyesha and Triesha McCants/McCants Squared, Redfin Real Estate, Snowflake Stories, Star Bright Books, TimTimTom Bilingual Personalized Books, Author Vivian Kirkfield, Wisdom Tales Press,
MCBD 2021 is honored to be Supported by these Author Sponsors!
Poster Artist: Nat Iwata
Authors: Author Afsaneh Moradian, Author Alva Sachs & Three Wishes Publishing Company, Author Angeliki Stamatopoulou-Pedersen, Author Anna Olswanger, Author Casey Bell , Author Claudine Norden, Author Debbie Dadey, Author Diana Huang & Intrepids, Author Eugenia Chu & Brandon goes to Beijing, Green Kids Club, Author Gwen Jackson, Author Janet Balletta, Author Josh Funk, Author Julia Inserro, Karter Johnson & Popcorn and Books, Author Kathleen Burkinshaw & The Last Cherry Blossom, Author Keila Dawson, Maya/Neel Adventures with Culture Groove, Author Mia Wenjen, Michael Genhart, Nancy Tupper Ling, Author Natalie Murray, Natalie McDonald-Perkins, Author Natasha Yim, Author Phe Lang and Me On The Page Publishing, Sandra Elaine Scott, Author Shoumi Sen & From The Toddler Diaries, SISSY GOES TINY by Rebecca Flansburg and B.A. Norrgard, Susan Schaefer Bernardo & Illustrator Courtenay Fletcher, Tales of the Five Enchanted Mermaids, Author Theresa Mackiewicz, Tonya Duncan and the Sophie Washington Book Series, Author Toshia Stelivan, Valerie Williams-Sanchez & The Cocoa Kids Collection Books©, Author Vanessa Womack, MBA, Author Veronica Appleton & the Journey to Appleville book series
MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by our CoHosts and Global CoHosts!
MCBD 2021 is Honored to be Supported by these Media Partners!
Check out MCBD's Multicultural Books for Kids Pinterest Board!
FREE RESOURCES from Multicultural Children’s Book Day
Diversity Book Lists & Activities for Teachers and Parents
Homeschool Diverse Kidlit Booklist & Activity Kit
FREE Teacher Classroom Activism and Activists Kit
FREE Teacher Classroom Empathy Kit
FREE Teacher Classroom Kindness Kit
FREE Teacher Classroom Physical and Developmental Challenges Kit
FREE Teacher Classroom Poverty Kit
Gallery of Our Free Posters
FREE Diversity Book for Classrooms Program
TWITTER PARTY! Register here!
Join us on Friday, Jan 29, 2021, at 9 pm EST for the 8th annual Multicultural Children's Book Day Twitter Party!
This epically fun and fast-paced hour includes multicultural book discussions, addressing timely issues, diverse book recommendations, & reading ideas. We will be giving away an 8-Book Bundle every 5 minutes plus Bonus Prizes as well! US and Global participants welcome.
Follow the hashtag #ReadYourWorld to join the conversation, connect with like-minded parts, authors, publishers, educators, organizations, and librarians. See you all very soon on Twitter!
Hashtag: Don’t forget to connect with us on social media and be sure and look for/use our official hashtag #ReadYourWorld.