The other day I sat down with one Karen Coeman to discuss the state of Mexican children’s books today. Working as she does in Mexico with the hope of bringing more Mexican titles to American shores, she filled me in on a lot of the difficulties facing Mexican books for kids. Between the difficulty of distribution (there aren’t as many bookstores in Mexico as there are in the States), problems with purchasing materials for libraries, and the fact that few publishers in America have taken it upon themselves to seek out Mexican fare for our kids on this side of the border, the pickings are slim.
It seems to me that a strong push to acquire and capitalize on Mexican children’s literature could only be a good thing at this point in time. The bulk of Spanish language imports we see in the States on a regular basis comes from Spain. All well and good, but considering the number of Spanish-speaking Americans from Spain versus Mexico, it would be quite lovely if we had more materials representing our neighbor to the south.
Then comes the question of reaching kids here. There’s a general feeling out there that when immigrants come from countries where English is not the first language, the parents will push their kids to learn the language of their new country and eschew the old. That may well be, but given subsequent generations, often the kids and grandkids will want to reconnect to their parents’ and grandparents’ homeland. None of this is to say that we don’t still need new ways of reaching out to Latino readers. However, there are ways to find them and ways to find them.
Add into all of this the rise of interest in the Latino population. Between the most recent presidential election and the recent New York Times article about the dearth of Latino characters in children’s literature, the subject is hot and yet the answers not exactly forthcoming.
I’m not saying I have any answers. I just raise the issue and wonder if an increase in imports from Mexican authors and illustrators above and beyond the delightful Yuyi Morales and Francisco X. Stork (there are many others you could name here, if you like) couldn’t be a step in the right direction.
Thoughts? Corrections? Fancies?