Las Musas is united in solidarity with the Black community. We mourn with you. We are outraged with you. We fight with you.
We demand the arrests and prosecution of the police officers who are responsible for the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and countless others. We demand the prosecution of ex-police officer Travis McMichael and his son Gregory McMichael for their murder of Ahmaud Arbery.
We support the Black freedom fighters who daily rise up against white supremacy to dismantle systemic racism and risk their lives in the protests for their human right to breathe in peace; for their human right to liberty and the pursuit of happiness; for their human right to fight against the brutality they have continued to suffer for centuries in America.
We acknowledge anti-Blackness in our Latinx community and seek to root out and extinguish it. We have all been drinking from the poisoned well of systemic racism and, therefore, each one of us has internalized racism. We vow to examine our own hearts and call in dialogue those in our families and communities who perpetuate the cycle of systemic oppression against the Black community. We vow to intervene when we see Black people being harassed, gaslit, and antagonized online.
We call for the decolonization of our education systems that are at the root of raising white supremacists and domestic terrorists. We call for an end to school-prison pipelines. We call for the divestment and demilitarization of police and investment in Black and Brown communities and education systems not corporate bailouts.
We call on the publishing industry to be accountable and hire Black agents and Black editors that represent the Black demographic in our society. We call on publishers to make the industry accessible by creating virtual internships and job positions. We call on library systems and librarians to purchase, promote, and circulate diverse works by Black creators.
We know the power of words and demand news outlets to be held accountable. We will not accept false narratives that seek to reframe and criminalize the Black Lives Matter Movement. We demand that Telemundo and Univision stop endangering the lives of the Black community by demonizing the BLM freedom fighters and instead use the power of these platforms to fight for justice.
We will not be silent. We will speak up with our voices, our art, and the power of our platforms for a rightful redistribution of the wealth the Brown and Black community have afforded this country. We promise to support and uplift Black creators. As Patrisse Cullors, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network said, we will “reimagine a world with an economy of care versus an economy of punishment” and fight for it with our allyship, our money, and our activism. The Black community’s fight for justice is our fight. In moments of protest and moments of celebration, we are united. Black liberation and Black joy is our joy. Black lives matter. Black voices matter. Black futures matter. Black dreams matter.
If you wish to join us in this fight, below is a jumping off point of suggested activism, places to donate, and ways to educate yourself in how to be anti-racist. This list is by no means comprehensive and will continue to grow, but we hope it serves as a place to start on your journey.
- Las Musas
MIA GARCIA: I’ve been a fan of Jenny Torres Sanchez’s writing since The Fall of Innocence tore my heart out two years ago. I’ve been a fan of Jenny since way before that, when I met her during the whirlwind that is NYC Teen Author Festival.
Since then Jenny has joined as a Madrina! She is a kind and incredibly thoughtful person both in life and in her writing; which is why I wanted to ask some fellow Musas to take a moment to gush about her heart wrenching new novel, We Are Not From Here.
Below, NoNieqa Ramos (The Truth Is), Yamile Saied Méndez (On These Magic Shores), Alexandra Villasante (The Grief Keeper), and I (Mia García, The Resolutions) discuss what makes We Are Not From Here a stunning novel, why we need it, and why you need to read it... but first a little bit about the novel:
We are thrilled to celebrate the book birthday of A Breath Too Late by Rocky Callen! A Breath Too Late has received some incredible reviews and blurbs. Here are just a few:
“Bittersweet and haunting.” ― Booklist
“A memorable, hopeful story of regret.” ― Kirkus Reviews
“A haunting story of suffering, punctuated with brilliant points of hope and light. This is an important story. A necessary story for so many countless people who need to know they are not alone in their pain. Callen’s writing radiates with passion, honesty and love.” ― An Na, National Book Award finalist and Printz award winning author
“Achingly poignant...a love letter and life raft to the broken-hearted.” ― Alison McGhee, NYT bestselling author
"An exquisitely played love song to life, in all of its hurts, wonders, memories, and loves. This book will remind you that you are needed, in this big and often messy world." ― Jeff Zentner, Morris Award winning author of The Serpent King and Goodbye Days
"Absolutely devastating and yet hauntingly beautiful, A Breath Too Late is a poignant and timely debut from an incredibly gifted author." ― Isabella Ogbolumani, Buffalo Street Books
And here is a little bit about the book:
For fans of Girl in Pieces, All the Bright Places, and Girl, Interrupted comes a haunting and breathtaking YA contemporary debut novel that packs a powerful message: hope can be found in the darkness.
Seventeen-year-old Ellie had no hope left. Yet the day after she dies by suicide, she finds herself in the midst of an out-of-body experience. She is a spectator, swaying between past and present, retracing the events that unfolded prior to her death.
But there are gaps in her memory, fractured pieces Ellie is desperate to re-assemble. There's her mother, a songbird who wanted to break free from her oppressive cage. The boy made of brushstrokes and goofy smiles who brought color into a gray world. Her brooding father, with his sad puppy eyes and clenched fists. Told in epistolary-like style, this deeply moving novel sensitively examines the beautiful and terrible moments that make up a life and the possibilities that live in even the darkest of places. Perfect for fans of the critically-acclaimed Speak, I’ll Give You the Sun, and If I Stay.
And now, the Las Musas interview with author Rocky Callen, arranged by NoNieqa Ramos:
From Mia: Can you talk about how you approach writing difficult and complex topics like depression in your novel?
My mission in writing A BREATH TOO LATE was to make sure to strip depression and suicide of the glamour that often media cloaks it with. I wanted to show the raw ache of both by being honest about the experience. The first draft of the novel was the most explicit and as time went on, I researched, leaned on professionals, and sensitivity readers to make sure the story and prose remained true to the experience while not being gratuitous in its portrayal. I wrote about the experience of writing and revising Breath and also gave ideas for others writing their own stories in the We Need Diverse Books blog with my post “Writing Responsibly About Mental Health and Suicide in Children’s Fiction.”
At the heart of it, I think we must be honest and sensitive and fiercely compassionate as we approach these with our stories (and ourselves) every step of the way.
From Raquel: I always LOVE to hear about how authors choose character names!
I love picking names! Ellie’s name means ‘light’ and I wanted her to be symbolic of being a light in her own life even when she doesn’t realize it. Regina means queen and I wanted to underscore how we can give our power away in toxic relationships AND reclaim it with our choices moving forward. Abel was a name that actually had a lot of significance originally to Ellie, but that thread in the story line was cut before submitting to editors. The idea that sometimes the good son can have Cain fists and the world wouldn’t even know it. August’s name chose itself. When he appeared on the page (I’m a panster), his name appeared and so did the next line: “I kind of like the fact that his name is a month of the year, a month of sunlight, humid air, lightning bugs, last parties, beach trips, and my birthday.” And since that very first draft, his name has never changed.
From Alexandra: I'm always intrigued at what inspired authors to write their stories. How did the idea for A BREATH TOO LATE start? What was the spark that brought it to life?
I wrote the first page as a flash fiction piece I posted on World Suicide Prevention Day. Someone asked me if it was going to be my novel and my first reaction was a hard, visceral NO. It felt too intimate, too raw for me to hold. But over time, the story kept tapping on my heart. The book started almost as a love letter to the girl I once was who almost made the same choice Ellie made and as a reminder of all that I could (or would lose) if I ever did. I faced my own depression that I had long locked behind closed doors with the mask of productivity and accomplishment, the childhood memories that we kept secret, and the grief of all those I have lost to suicide over the years. I wrote the first draft in just over a week, sobbing every step of the way. Over time, the story evolved and took on its own heart and wings, but at first it was a reclaiming of so much of what I had kept in the dark myself.
From Francesca: What were some challenges you encountered while writing in your unique frame (epistolary-style, a character having an out-of-body experience, etc)?
I actually found the POV and epistolary format for this novel to be very organic and natural to write. It is just what came out from the very first draft. Unlike other stories that have a “ghost”, Ellie has no influence or impact on her environment. She is simply there to bear witness to the life she lived and lost. The novel also jumps between past and present and I think that is where I had to really spend more time teasing out the bridges between those moments and also be more explicit about the significance of Ellie retracing her own memories on the page so the reader could follow in a meaningful way.
From Nikki: How does writing heavy material affect you? Do you have any tips on how to take care of yourself while writing? (I ask as someone who is trying to figure this out myself!)
It impacts me tremendously. The last few years have been full of heavy material projects that all have a level of intimacy to me that feels very raw and vulnerable. I am learning my own routines of self care, but tend to work best by going ALL IN and writing as much as quickly as possible so then I can completely step away for a time. I need substantial breaks and bright, luminous, playful things to anchor me along the way. Meditation and journaling (I do daily), music, unplugged time, fun reading, and family activities all help. I think the biggest thing for me as I write things that are heavy or painful or vulnerable is to acknowledge that I am here to tell this story and that is not something to take for granted. I am here and that matters. I am here and this story will unfold as not only it needs to, but as I need it to.
You can order A Breath Too Late at Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon. Please add the book to Goodreads here!
“A collective of women and non-binary (identifying on the female spectrum) Latinx Picture Book, Middle Grade and Young Adult debut authors. Our mission is to spotlight the new contributions of Las Musas in the evolving canon of children's literature and celebrate the diversity of voice, experience, and power in our communities.”
With this text heading our website, Las Musas wanted to take a moment to clarify our language and our intentions regarding gender in this group. We arrived at this wording after a thoughtful group questioned the ambiguity of our original terminology of “women and nonbinary authors.” Our current wording still feels imperfect, so we thought it would be best to explain in more detail.
Las Musas was always meant to be a space for Latina authors (cis or trans), who face specific though varied roadblocks and responses from a largely cisgender white patriarchal publishing industry. (While we seek alliance with binary Latinos in publishing, we exist as a unique and separate entity. This in no way disregards the difficulties faced by the Latinx community of all genders, nor the intricate prejudices within the community.)
In our ever growing evolution of understanding, we quickly realized that limiting our collective to binary genders would deny community to Latinx authors who faced similar and in some cases more severe roadblocks. At the same time, we don’t want anyone to be hurt or caught off guard when the group uses language or focuses on experience that center womanhood.
What this all means is that we do not want to police or gatekeep anyone’s entrance into Las Musas.
If you want to be a Musa, we want you here.
If you feel that your writing career is impacted by your proximity to femininity, we want to uplift your voice.
If you have any questions about this, have a suggestion for how we can word this all more clearly in ten words or less at the top of our website, or want to point out a flaw in our thinking, please reach out so that we can make sure we are achieving our goal of creating a unified and inclusive community.
Las Musas wishes Kim Baker the happiest of book birthdays for her release of the middle-grade novel, The Water Bears.
Las Musas wishes a happy book birthday to Zara González Hoang on the release of her picture book A New Kind of Wild!
What does it feel like to move to a new city, leaving behind what you knew and loved? Can you find “a new kind of wild” in a strange new place? Zara González Hoang explores these questions in her magical and colorful author-illustrator debut, A New Kind of Wild, which “is an imaginative exploration of the true meaning of ‘home.’”
Alexandra Alessandri interviews Zara about her inspiration and process, but first, here’s a description of this stunning book:
This sweet author-illustrator debut celebrates imagination, the magic of friendship, and all the different ways we make a new place feel like home.
For Ren, home is his grandmother's little house, and the lush forest that surrounds it. Home is a place of magic and wonder, filled with all the fantastical friends that Ren dreams up. Home is where his imagination can run wild.
For Ava, home is a brick and cement city, where there's always something to do or see or hear. Home is a place bursting with life, where people bustle in and out like a big parade. Home is where Ava is never lonely because there's always someone to share in her adventures.
When Ren moves to Ava's city, he feels lost without his wild. How will he ever feel at home in a place with no green and no magic, where everything is exactly what it seems? Of course, not everything in the city is what meets the eye, and as Ren discovers, nothing makes you feel at home quite like a friend.
We couldn’t be more thrilled to share Raquel Vasquez Gilliland’s interview with Loriel Ryon, author of INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS.
But first, here’s a description of this magical, middle grade novel:
A girl journeys across her family’s land to save her grandmother’s life.
Yolanda Rodríguez-O’Connell has a secret. All the members of her family have a magical gift—all, that is, except for Yolanda. Still, it’s something she can never talk about, or the townsfolk will call her family brujas—witches. When her grandmother, Wela, falls into an unexplained sleep, Yolanda is scared. Her father is off fighting in a faraway war, her mother died long ago, and Yolanda has isolated herself from her best friend and twin sister. If she loses her grandmother, who will she have left?
When a strange grass emerges in the desert behind their house, Wela miraculously wakes, begging Yolanda to take her to the lone pecan tree left on their land. Determined not to lose her, Yolanda sets out on this journey with her sister, her ex-best friend, and a boy who has a crush on her. But what is the mysterious box that her grandmother needs to find? And how will going to the pecan tree make everything all right?
Las Musas is thrilled to share Karla Valenti's interview with Claribel Orgeta about her upcoming novel Ghost Squad (Scholastic, 4/7/20), which Kirkus called a “warmly-spooky middle grade debut.”
Before we dig in, here’s a teaser of this phantasmagoric adventure: For Lucely Luna, ghosts are more than just the family business. Shortly before Halloween, Lucely and her best friend, Syd, cast a spell that accidentally awakens malicious spirits, wreaking havoc throughout St. Augustine. Together, they must join forces with Syd's witch grandmother, Babette, and her tubby tabby, Chunk, to fight the haunting head-on and reverse the curse to save the town and Lucely's firefly spirits before it's too late.
Las Musas is pleased to wish a happy book birthday to Karla Valenti, author of Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence!
Marie Curie is widely known for her achievements in physics and chemistry. But is she also a superhero?
Karla Valenti answers that question by presenting a twist on the typical biography of Marie Curie, highlighting the perseverance and tenacity required for her to achieve success. Much to the delight of young readers, the story of Marie Curie’s life is juxtaposed with the tale of Super Evil Nemesis, a creature determined to stop Curie and the spread of knowledge. He sends his most devious minions on a mission to discourage Curie, who must use her brains and determination to fight against all the obstacles thrown in her way.
Adrianna Cuevas interviewed Karla, the author of this engaging, informative, and inspiring biography.
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