Matt de la Peña

Into the Trenches

By Julie Bliven, Editor, Charlesbridge

As an editor, I wish I had more opportunities to see first-hand how young readers interact with the books I’ve worked on. I gauge reader responses from sales figures, reviews, and blog posts. I also solicit blunt commentary from my niece and nephew. But that’s about all I’ve got.

In the aftermath of the controversy surrounding A Fine Dessert and A Birthday Cake for George Washington, I wondered a lot about how kids might respond to these particular books. And I wondered how an adult reader would discuss these books with kids. What would I say? This got me thinking about the books I’ve edited: How might I discuss issues like race, class, gender, sexuality, and disability in these books? And why do these conversations matter?

I felt compelled to head into the trenches.

Armed with apprehension, I joined the kindergarten classroom of a friend and teacher in the greater Boston area. These were my goals:

  1. Read one multicultural picture book that I’ve edited.
  2. Read one multicultural picture book recommended by the teacher.
  3. Discuss the books, encouraging diverse viewpoints. (This particular class of twenty-one has six students whose first language is not English, and four students of color.)
  4. Check my own biases by asking and answering questions literally and objectively. (For instance, avoid discussing elements in the text—like a soup kitchen or Arabic—using words like “good,” “different,” or “other.”)

Here’s what happened when we read the books:

Keep reading


Happy Friday! Watch as Matt de la Peña brings his book, Last Stop on Market Street to life.

A few months back, the kind people at Random House Books for Young Readers sent me this incredible commission by Andie Tong (look at what Diana is reading!). I wasn’t allowed to share it until we announced the amazing project they’ve been cooking up with DC and Warner Brothers: Marie Lu on Batman, Matt de la Peña on Superman, Sarah Maas on Catwoman, and me on WONDER WOMAN!!! I’m truly honored to be a part of this team… uh League? 

Diana means so much to so many people, and I tried to write a bit about her impact on my life in the upcoming Last Night a Superhero Saved My Life anthology. I love that she is as kind as she is kickass, and getting to tell a part of her story is a dream come true. 

See you on Themyscira in 2017! 

I saw a request for Hispanic or Latin@ YA/Children’s books and I’d like to offer a few recommendations:

  • Mexican WhiteBoy by Matt de la Peña
  • How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents, and Finding Miracles by Julia Alvarez
  • Down to the Bone by Mayra Lazara Dole (though some of the depictions in this book are problematic, so be warned)
  • The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  • Esperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi León, and The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan
  • Feels like Home by e.E. Charlton-Trujillo
  • Marisol (an American Girl novel), and The Afterlife by Gary Soto
  • Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida by Victor Martinez
  • Cuba 15 by Nancy Osa
  • Dreams of Significant Girls by Cristina Garcia
  • Drift by Manuel Luis Martinez
  • The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
  • The Brothers Torres by Coert Vorhees
  • Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass by Meg Medina 

Certainly, the list could go on and on.  Now that I’m working towards a Masters degree in Latin@ literature, I’m finding more and more that the children’s/YA books that get the Latin@ or Hispanic stamp put on them are largely books about culture, written for insiders looking in.  You get a lot of food books (“Maria and her family eat tortillas for lunch!”), or holidays (“Jose and his family celebrate El Día de los Muertos.”).  These books are windows instead of doors.  And what I’ve realized given this campaign is that though books that are doors may be written, and even published, they’re not the ones that get the notoriety they deserve.  The books that allow outsiders to experience some campy caricature are more accessible and often less demanding for readers because they allow outsiders to perpetuate the idea of a single story of any given people.  They allow for generalizations to be made.  I encourage everyone in participating in this movement to look up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk (No, not the one Beyoncé used in her song, sorry!) “The Danger of a Single Story”, though she talks about Africa in this TED talk, I think the message applies to all marginalized, or othered groups.  

—-thank you!!!

“In the fifteen weeks since starting her freshman year at the University of Bumfuckville, Sophie had counted at least a dozen What the Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth? moments.”

—Opening line of “What The Hell Have You Done, Sophie Roth?” my story in the upcoming holiday anthology MY TRUE LOVE GAVE TO ME. It was edited by Stephanie Perkins and also has stories by her, Holly Black, Matt de la Peña, Ally Carter, Jenny Han, David Levithan, Kelly Link,  Myra McEntire, Rainbow Rowell, Laini Taylor and Kiersten White. It comes out next week, 10/14.
YA authors will take on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Catwoman
DC's biggest names meet teenage drama and "coming-of-age romance."
By Aliza Weinberger

Random House has brought on a super league of writers to do the characters justice, all of themNew York Times bestselling authors. There’s Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy) on Wonder Woman, Marie Lu (The Young Elites) on Batman, Matt de la Peña (Mexican Whiteboy and The Living) on Superman, and Sarah J. Maas (The Thrones of Glass series) on Catwoman.

wild-blooms  asked:

Hi, can you recommend any books written by Latino authors or have Latinos as main characters? I'm also looking for books written by African American authors, and I've only read Walter Dean Myers' books so far. Thank you!

Hi. We have a lot of booklists available on our blog that might help. Here are a few:

Five Debut Latin@ Authors:

Black History Month:

Hispanic Heritage Month (Hispanic/Latin@):

National Hispanic Heritage Month:

Author Spotlight: Coe Booth:

Also, CBC Diversity has a Goodreads account and has shelves designated African-American and Hispanic/Latino that you may want to check out

Latin@s in Kid Lit is another great place to find titles:

I would recommend looking for books by these African American authors: Sharon Draper, Coe Booth, Jason Reynolds, Marilyn Nelson, Sherri Smith, Jacqueline Woodson, Kekla Magoon, Walter Dean Myers, and G. Neri

And these Latin@ Authors: Meg Medina, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Matt de la Peña, Benjamin Alire Saenz, Margarita Engle, Ashley Hope Pérez, Isabel Quintero, Francisco X. Stork
YA authors will take on Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Catwoman
DC's biggest names meet teenage drama and "coming-of-age romance."
By Aliza Weinberger

Random House has brought on a super league of writers to do the characters justice, all of them New York Times bestselling authors. There’s Leigh Bardugo (The Grisha Trilogy) on Wonder Woman, Marie Lu (The Young Elites) on Batman, Matt de la Peña (Mexican Whiteboy and The Living) on Superman, and Sarah J. Maas (The Thrones of Glass series) on Catwoman.

Currently reading:
My True Love Gave to Me
- Angels in the Snow by Matt de la Peña

That’s the third story in MTLGTM. The first one, by Rainbow Rowell, was LOVELY and so so so COZY (really, you feel like wrapping yourself in a blanket and drinking hot cocoa while reading it - it feels like you watching a holiday movie). I didnt like the second one, by Kelly Link, that much (or at all to be honest). And now I’m getting into Angels in the Snow, and it seems as lovely and cozy as the Rainbow Rowell’s one. I mean, just look at the kitty!

Unedited audiostream of the #WeNeedDiverseBooks panel at BookCon 2014 in New York, NY:

“After taking the Internet by storm, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign is moving forward with brand new initiatives to continue the call for diversity in children’s literature. Join the WNDB team as they share highlights of their campaign, discuss the success of grassroots activism, highlight diverse books and how everyone can diversify their shelves and talk next steps for the campaign. Ellen Oh (PROPHECY Series), Aisha Saeed (Written in the Stars, 2015), Marieke Nijkamp, founder of DiversifYA, Lamar Giles (Fake ID) and Mike Jung (Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities). Special Guests include acclaimed Authors Grace Lin (Where the Mountain Meets the Moon), Matt de la Peña (The Living) and Jacqueline Woodson (Beneath a Meth Moon). Moderated by I.W. Gregorio (None of the Above, 2015).”

Made with SoundCloud

After the session, Joshua came to the front of the stage and asked to speak with me in private. He told me he was born in a prison and that he’d been held back in school. Twice. He didn’t belong in junior high anymore. It made him feel like a loser. But he wanted me to know that he wrote stories sometimes. About San Antonio gangs. When he asked if I’d be willing to read the one he’d just finished, I told him I’d love to. “But you’ll have to get it to me quick,” I said. “They’re about to shuttle me to the next school.”

He sprinted off toward his locker on the other side of campus.

The librarian told me she was stunned as we both watched Joshua disappear into the halls. It was the first time she’d seen him engage in anything school related.

A few minutes later he was back with thirty typed pages. He was sweating and out of breath. He handed me his story and told me I was the first person he’d ever let read his writing. I gave him one of my books in return, and we shook hands. He called me “sir.”

That night I read Joshua’s words. They were beautiful. And ugly. And sad. They were full of heart. This Mexican kid, who was a thug, who was not pretty and felt like he was too big for his grade, too old — he had all these feelings he didn’t know what to do with. So he wrote them into stories.

My professor said something I will never forget when I went and talked to her the following week. Even in the harshest and ugliest of circumstances, she explained, there’s still hope. That’s what she loved most about The Color Purple.

It’s what I loved most, too, I decided.

That hope.

I immediately went in search of other stories that might move me, too. I read all the novels I’d skipped in high school. I read novels by black female authors like Toni Morrison and Zora Neale Hurston. I read Ruth Forman’s first poetry collection so many times I had every line memorized. And when I discovered Hispanic writers like Sandra Cisneros and Junot Díaz and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, it was over. I was hooked. Novels became my secret place to “feel.” My dad and uncles didn’t need to know about it. Neither did my teammates. But I could sense something happening inside of me: reading was making me whole.

Young-adult author John Green has done an amazing job mobilizing a generation of readers and writers through his ‘nerdfighter’ campaign. Kids from all around the country shout from the rooftops that they love to read and learn and make art. One day Mr. Green will undoubtedly win a MacArthur Fellowship, or something similar, for the groundbreaking online community he’s created (as well as for his fiction). But not every kid is able to own his or her creativity in this way. In many working-class neighborhoods, the “nerdfighter” label just isn’t gonna fly. Self preservation won’t allow for it. I’m sensitive to this because it’s the way I grew up, too.

YA lit author Matt de la Peña visits a junior high school in “a rougher part of San Antonio”:

As the librarian introduced me to the school, I studied this kid. Joshua. He was bigger than everyone else. He had neck tattoos and a shaved head. He kept smacking the kid next to him in the back of the head and laughing. A nearby teacher shushed him.

I started my talk by describing my own early struggles in school. I was nearly held back in second grade because I “couldn’t read,” which shattered my confidence. For a long time after that experience I viewed myself as unintelligent — and the most difficult definition to break free from, I told the students, is self-definition.

Joshua began to pay attention.