Creativity Salon: An Interview with
Diana Nunez

Diana NunezDiana, thank you for sending me the video you created based on the poem I wrote many years ago, “Legal Alien.” It’s the last poem in my first book, CHANTS. You are the first person on the Creativity Salon I haven’t met, so I have many questions. I want to mention that in the final scene of your video, we hear the Mexican National Anthem, yes? That makes me smile since my dear, dear aunt, whom we called Lobo and about whom I’ve written so much, new and sang verse after verse. It’s a sweet memory for me.

Where were you born?
Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity to be a part of your Creativity Salon! You are absolutely correct; the song you hear at the end of my video is the Mexican National Anthem. Although I was born in Chicago, I spent two years of my life in Mexico City, my 2nd and 3rd year of elementary school. Every month we would gather around the courtyard and sing the national anthem while some of the students would carry the flag. This is still a very prominent memory of my childhood and my culture, thus I had to include it in my video. After my two years in Mexico, my mom and I came back to the United States.

In the e-mail you sent me, you mentioned reading the poem in high school. Was the poem in a textbook? Where was the high school?
I started high school in the city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where I am now attending college as well. In my last year of high school I took an English class that was focused on thoroughly interpreting short stories and poems and finding the meaning behind them. This is where I first heard of your poem. My instructor handed us a sheet of paper with poems that were relevant to each other and yours was the first one I read. Although the other poems also dealt with being a Mexican-American, I connected with yours instantly because everything you wrote about I had experienced in my life. I wrote it down so that I would never forget who I was and where I came from and because I felt that there was someone out there that understood me.

Why did you decide to become a film major? And, what are your challenges as a film major?
Since I was a little girl all I wanted to do was create other worlds and become a different character in each world. I would also like to act and sing and put on shows for my parents in my living room. As I grew older I tried to experience different things, such as exploring science, and writing stories, however my passion for movies and my desire to make them grew. I had a hard time explaining to my parents that I wanted to be a filmmaker or potentially even an actress because I knew that finding a job in this industry could be difficult. Thus, I told my self that I would stand out from the rest of the crowd by including my culture in my films because it is fascinating and unique. I know that I might have a rough path ahead of me but I am excited because I will be doing something I love.

On a lighter note, what makes you laugh?
Without a doubt my grandpa makes me laugh. He is a wild, interesting dancer. He does not care who is watching, and could dance all night. He dances for himself and it makes both him and myself happy.

Watch Diana’s video:

September: International & National Literacy Month

Día, a collaboration of national literacy organizations, presses and readers, creatively celebrates all our children, the importance of bookjoy in their lives, and promotes culminating April Children’s Day, Book Day celebrations. We encourage savoring books and sharing them throughout the year. Readers know that literacy transforms our lives and our families’ lives.

Although readers experience the usefulness and pleasure of reading, concerned about violence in our world and cities, we can need reminders that literacy is power and that literacy challenges are local, national and international. The United Nations through UNESCO reminds us that “literacy is a fundamental human right.”

UNESCO’s International Literacy Day 2014
Teachers, join IRA’s challenge, “Lift Off to Literacy.”

Aren’t we lucky to be readers? Let’s pass the pleasure on.

Desert Garden Gift

In our cactus garden, the small century plant, agave Americana also known as maguey, amazed us by blooming this June. Natives of Mexico, Texas and Arizona, century plants bloom at the end of their lives. What a lovely notion.

Walter Dean Myers: A Diversity Legacy

Walter Dean Myers died July 1. This is sad news to readers, educators and literacy advocates. His New York Times article, Where Are the People of Color in Children’s Books? continued his rich legacy. A prolific author and moving speaker, he tirelessly promoted the importance of diverse books for our diverse children and young people.

His physical presence and voice will be missed, but his literary voice, an inspiration, live on.

Celebrating the 4th of July

I Pledge Allegiance by Pat Mora and Libby MartinezThe 4th 2014 will be a memorable one. My husband and I will celebrate our granddaughter’s first 4th with her and her parents. I’m also thinking of all the new citizens who are proudly celebrating their first 4th. My daughter Libby and I wrote I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE, a family story, to honor the proud new citizens of the United States.

Individually and collectively, we Americans are planning an annual celebration of our country, our freedoms, and our shared values. As we listen to and read the news, we are daily reminded of the challenges we face to be a beacon of hope that justice and compassion can prevail. May our fun on the 4th deepen our commitment to work collaboratively to create a rich legacy for our diverse children.

June 14, Flag Day

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted our American flag. Visiting the Santa Fe Botanical Garden recently, I was intrigued at how metal artist Kevin Box interpreted what’s often known as the Stars and Stripes. Artists amaze us, don’t they? I also loved the title of this piece, part of Box’s Origami Garden exhibit, “Basket Full of Stars.” I thought not only of our 50 states but of our wishes for this diverse, multi-cultural and multi-lingual country, our basket full of wishes for the well-being of our young who will inherit the country we’re shaping together.

Pat Mora and daughter Libby Martinez, authors of I Pledge Allegiance.

Pat Mora and daughter Libby Martinez, authors of
I Pledge Allegiance.

A New Día Dynamo

I’m pleased to introduce our newest Día Dynamo. Originally from El Salvador, Roxana Barillas is Director of Hispanic Engagement for First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has provided over 110 million books to children through its network of over 90,000 educators, librarians and program leaders serving children in need. Roxana’s own immigrant experience has shaped her professional and service career. I haven’t met Roxana but have been so grateful for her enthusiasm about Día and for her determination to expand Día’s impact on all children and families.

Roxana Barillas

1. When and how did you become interested in sharing bookjoy?
I volunteered as a tutor, mentor and teacher during high school and college, but spreading bookjoy on a large scale is due to First Book, a nonprofit social enterprise that has distributed more than 115 million free and low-cost books to programs and schools serving children in need — that’s tons of bookjoy!

2. How did you first learn about Día and what has been your experience with Día?
I had heard about El día de los niños, but I had not heard about how communities were tying the celebration to literacy until I joined First Book. My colleague Alison Morris met Pat Mora and introduced us. I have had the pleasure of learning about Día’s history and evolution through her, Día partners and Día Dynamos. At the time, we were preparing to launch a new category on the First Book Marketplace featuring books by Latino authors and illustrators and about Latino stories and characters, so I was able to reach out to Día partners to share the opportunity of adding even more bookjoy with these books at amazing discounts for their Día activities.

3. What are your hopes for Día’s future at First Book and nationally?
We share the aspiration of Día partners to make it a national celebration for all children. This year, in an effort to spread the word about Día, First Book sponsored with Qlovi our first El día de los niños, El día de los libros Virtual Read Aloud featuring eight authors and illustrators featured in the Latino Culture category of the First Book Marketplace. They shared their stories and talents with 35,000 young viewers in classrooms, afterschool programs and child care settings. Univisión, LULAC National Educational Service Centers and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation joined us as sponsors. More partners for even more bookjoy for all children!

4. What helpful tip(s) do you have for those organizing a Día event for the first time?
Become a Día ambassador and help connect programs, schools, libraries and community venues to Día celebrations. Engage families in the planning process and bring together partners from various sectors to make it a community celebration that continues to grow. Provide books as incentives to draw families to your Día activities. If you don’t have a book budget, First Book makes it easy for you to host a Virtual Book Drive so that children who may not own any books can receive a brand-new book they can read with their families.

5. What is your favorite example of Bookjoy either as a child or adult?
Reading Gabriel García Marquez short stories and novels on long flights.

6. What are you reading now?
I just finished The Absolutely True Diary of a A Part-Time Indian and can’t wait to discuss it at our First Book employee YA Book Club.