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My 7-year-old son loves books. He likes the “Dogman” series, “The Diary of a Wimpy Kid” books, and he also loves the “Who Was” and “Who Is” series, a collection of biographical books that focuses on notable historical and contemporary figures like Abraham Lincoln, Steve Jobs and Rosa Parks to name a few.
As a mother, I was super proud to see him captivated by this non-fiction series where he can actually learn about history and read about things that didn’t involve boogers and farts. (Well, he is seven after all.)
We bought him several books from this children’s biography series where he learned about how Steve Jobs created the Apple computer, how scientist Jane Goodall’s work with chimpanzees has advanced our understanding of these primates or how Oprah Winfrey broke barriers in television and media.
But then, I had an a-ha moment myself. In this “Who Was” series where were the books for his age about his community? Where was the story about astronaut and engineer José Moreno Hernández? Where was the book about activist Dolores Huerta, an important trailblazer for our community? Where was the book about Oscar-winning actress Rita Moreno who made history as the first Latina to achieve EGOT status?
My questions soon turned into disappointment and then anger. My son is half Mexican and half caucasian, and I want him to grow up being proud of his Latino roots. I also have a teenage daughter who is at the age where she is developing a stronger sense of self-identity. They need to learn about the amazing accomplishments our community has achieved in this country in fields like science, medicine, sports and politics. They need to learn about how Latinos have contributed to the history of the United States.
With the current political climate and rhetoric we hear in the media about Latinos, it scares me to think that my children will associate being “Latino” with all the negative stereotypes we have been hearing from certain political leaders. These divisive times make me worry about how Latinos, especially children, feel in general about their place in America.
Hispanics are virtually absent as characters in the entertainment media, and books are the first piece of media children are exposed to. I wanted to create something so that my children, could not only see themselves reflected but feel proud of their culture.
I was determined to create something that I could read to my children to show them how Latinos are accomplished politicians, Supreme Court Justices, award-winning journalists, Oscar winners, world-renowned scientists and much much more. I felt the urgency for this project so strong, that I didn’t want to delay it any further by “pitching it” to a traditional publisher that has tons of gatekeepers and that could change my vision and perhaps even reject or suppress it.
I didn’t want anybody to tell me what I could or couldn’t publish or write, so I decided to create my own publishing company and publish it myself. From concept to completion, the entire process took about six months.
My first task was to figure out a title. I knew I wanted my first book to be about Latinas who have made U.S. history, but I also wanted to include a call to action for our little ones, so I added “Be Bold, Be Brave” to the title which complete reads “Be Bold, Be Brave: 11 Latinas who made U.S. History.“
At the end of the book is a picture of a mirror and the last line reads, “Although we’ve reached the end of this book, your story is next, just go to the mirror and take a look. If there are things in the world you want to see different, you can change them for sure, just don’t be indifferent. Be Bold Be Brave, and be Courageous, because your destiny is also greatness. Like all of these women who weren’t afraid, so go out into the world, and just remember to Be Brave!”
Our children need to be brave in order to be able to navigate the world we are living in. They need to be fearless and bold, and I’m hoping that by showing them examples of these notable Latinx figures, they will gain a sense of confidence to help them achieve their dreams because I truly believe that if you can see it, you can achieve it.
My second book, “Be Bold Be Brave: Chiquitos” is a board book version of the original. It is meant for babies 0-3 years old because I think it is never too early to start learning about who we are. It’s important they learn pride in their community from the very beginning.
As a journalist, I have always had a passion for telling stories about my community. As a mother, I want to teach my children to stand tall and have pride in their roots. This journey as a children’s book publisher and author has allowed me to merge my two passions, and hopefully change the current dynamic for future generations.
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A version of this post was published September 26, 2019. It has been updated.