Monday, April 27, 2015

Margarita Engle for the 2015 L4LL Dia Blog Hop

It is my greatest pleasure, once again, to be one of the hosts of the L4LL Día Blog Hop! As a co-founder of Latinas for Latino Lit, supporting Latino children's literacy remains one of my biggest passions. I especially love it when I can feature one of the Latino authors or illustrators who create the magical books that reflect the Latino experience for our children. 

This year's Día Blog Hop runs today through Thursday, April 30th. Each day three different authors or illustrators are featured on three different Latina blogs. I hope you'll follow along! You can find the complete schedule here

So without further ado, I'm pleased to introduce poet Margarita Engle writing on this year's theme of "immersion" on behalf of Latino children's literacy.

photo courtesy of Amish Karanjit


Immigrants and refugees are often subject to a unique state of mind called añoranza. It is a form of tristealegría, the sad-happy nostalgia of feeling wrapped in music, feasting, and joy, while mourning the distance that separates loved ones. The children of immigrants may inherit only a slim corner of that world of memory, a corner passed on through stories. Without inherited memories, we don’t know who we are, or where our ancestors originated. By the time añoranza reaches my U.S.-born generation, it bursts with curiosity and wishes.

Writing my childhood memoir required total immersion in a devastating past. Enchanted Air (Atheneum, August, 2015) is the true story of my travels back and forth to Cuba during the revolution and Cold War. Remembering was a privilege, but it was also excruciatingly painful. I cried while writing, and I will cry while reading out loud at conferences. Somehow, at the same time, it is a truly hopeful book. The subtitle Two Cultures, Two Wings was born from the magic of travel. Family visits allowed me to know and love my abuelita, bisabuela, tíos, and primos. Travel gave me the gift of connection and the treasure of compassion. Travel immersed me in tropical nature, Cuban culture, Spanish poetry, and the grief of an enormous before and after that chopped my family in half. The Missile Crisis. Severed diplomatic relations. Loss. More than half a century of hostility between my two countries of origin. During my teen years, it was easier for an American citizen to walk on the moon than to visit relatives in Cuba.

Amazingly, exactly one week before I received advanced review copies of Enchanted Air, President Obama announced the first glimmer of hope for renewed diplomatic relations with Cuba. Irrationally, I felt like my immersion in memories had served as a silent prayer, even though the little book of poems was not yet published, and could never reach the ears of anyone influential enough to determine foreign policy. More realistically, I will acknowledge that writing Enchanted Air has served as a bridge between my childhood and adulthood. With enthusiasm for all bridges between cultures, I dedicated it to the estimated ten million people who are currently stateless as the result of conflicts all over the world. I hope that young readers will read my memories as a plea for peace.


Margarita Engle is the Cuban-American author of many young adult verse novels about the island, including THE SURRENDER TREE, which received the first Newbery Honor ever awarded to a Latino, and THE LIGHTNING DREAMER, recipient of the 2014 PEN USA Award. Other honors include multiple Pura Belpré and Américas Awards, as well as Jane Addams, International Reading Association, Claudia Lewis, International Latino, and MANA Las Primeras Awards. Books for younger children include MOUNTAIN DOG, SUMMER BIRDS, ORANGUTANKA, DRUM DREAM GIRL, and THE SKY PAINTER.

Margarita grew up in Los Angeles, but developed a deep attachment to her mother’s homeland during summers with her extended family in Cuba. ENCHANTED AIR, Two Cultures, Two Wings (Atheneum, August, 2015) is a verse memoir about those childhood visits.

Margarita was trained as a botanist and agronomist before becoming a full-time poet and novelist. She lives in central California, where she enjoys hiding in the wilderness to help train her husband’s search and rescue dogs.

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