All of the guest writers were asked to write on the topic "Reflection." Today on MommyMaestra, author Amy Costales reflects on her reason for picking up a pen to write for Latino children. I hope that you are as moved by her article as I am.
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I wanted to portray the Mexican immigrant community that most the children I knew, including my daughter, were growing up in. I wrote about shared housing, a relative coming from Mexico, families working together, a loved used car, uncles who live in the garage to keep their rent cheap, undocumented immigration, children who sleep on pulled out mattresses in the living room, fathers who work two jobs, single mothers and, most importantly, love. Children coming from those backgrounds deserve to have their lives portrayed as normal. I wanted to write those books for those kids.
And yet it is not just Latino students who are robbed of this history. It is a nation. It is not just Latino students who are robbed of their reflection in literature. It is a nation. 25% school-age children in the U.S. are Latino. By 2050, that number is predicted to be closer to 50%. To ignore Latino history and literature is to ignore la historia of a very significant segment of our population. It is equivalent to a nation not seeing its true self. As we go through this significant demographic shift being brought on by an aging white population and a young Latino population, an accurate reflection of nation would facilitate the change. I am no longer just concerned about how Latino children see themselves. I am concerned about how a nation sees itself. Latinos are part of the "we" that make this nation, as are all ethnic groups.
Personally, I am feeling the need to pick up my pencil again. I feel sad that I still have Latino students who use the word "American" to mean white. And if my daughter has grown, I now have a bilingual son who deserves a book about his life with his part Latina mother and his Mexican stepfather, as well as his Italian-American stepmother, and his Scandinavian-American father. He is as complex as this nation. This time I am going to think about the complexity of the Latino population itself, for as we write (or read) about Latino children, there is a diversity in regards to family, ethnicity, generations in the U.S., region, language, and social class that needs to be portrayed. It is a mosaic.