Today, we're sharing an interview between Musas Ana Siqueira and Gloria Amescua, to celebrate Gloria's debut picture book, Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua. Scroll on to learn more about Gloria's inspiration, future writing plans, and more!
Ana: Gloria, thanks for allowing me to read your wonderful book. What an inspirational story about being proud of your culture and showing the same to the world! I also love the lively illustrations by Duncan Tonatiuh.
First of all, can you tell us what inspired you to write about Luz Jiménez?
Gloria: Thank you for loving our book, Ana. I was inspired when I happened upon a pamphlet about Luz Jiménez and realized I had never thought about the models in paintings and their lives. As I read about her, I was amazed by her life and knew I had to write about her. She was an intelligent and curious little Nahua girl, who wanted to become a teacher, and though she had many struggles throughout her life, she became a very important link between the indigenous people of Mexico and the rest of the world. She came to represent the dignity of the native people in Mexico through the famous 20thth artists who painted her and the Náhuatl language she helped preserve with scholars as it was fading, becoming a teacher after all.
I connected with Luz on a very personal level. When the Mexican government made school mandatory, the indigenous students were shamed about their native language and clothing. The same shaming of Spanish in the US and punishment for speaking Spanish in school affected how I grew up.
Ana: And I have a question about your author’s note, you wrote her name was Julia Jiménez, but she’s known as Luz Jiménez. Do you know the reason for that?
Gloria: I do and I wonder about why Luz did this, but I only know this part. Luz entered a contest for indigenous girls in the section of Mexico City where her mother and sisters ended up as a result of the Mexican Revolution destruction of their town. The contest was called the Loveliest Flower of the Field, and Luz decided to enter as Luciana instead of Julia. She won the contest. From then on she was known by a shortened version, Luz.
Ana: Luz Jiménez was very resilient. She wanted to be a teacher since she was thirteen and she not only taught at a college but also she taught the world about her culture. Can you tell me about your author’s journey and how resilient you had to be to achieve your dreams?
Gloria: I have written since I was a kid, mainly poetry. I always dreamed of being published to share with others. I’ve had poetry published in journals and a textbook, but it wasn’t until my granddaughters were young (5 and 7) that I became serious about writing picture books. I wrote a story for them and used pictures of them. They loved it because it was about them, but I knew it really wasn’t good—too complex an idea and too simple a story. I decided to learn all I could. I wrote my first draft about Luz in 2014. It’s taken this long to keep learning, revising, finding an agent and an editor. Then it took over two years to be published, partly because the fabulous Duncan Tonatiuh was finishing his book. But I’m thrilled he is the illustrator! My granddaughters are now 12 and 14. It does take resilience and perseverance!
Ana: Also, you mentioned in your author’s note you were a teacher? What did you teach? Do you miss teaching?
Gloria: I taught high school English for nineteen years and also worked in other positions in education. I really enjoyed engaging students in activities and discussion about literature and writing in meaningful ways. I loved helping them connect their own lives to the literature they read and to their writing so it made a difference to them. It was wonderful seeing their growth over the year. I recently made some author visits to a summer school writing program, and it was great connecting with students again.
Ana: Luz was so proud of her culture. What can you tell me about your culture? How are you showing the world your culture?
Gloria: I grew up in the country and didn’t get to see my cousins very often, so my family was isolated. I didn’t learn about the Mexican legends, stories or celebrations. I also didn’t have grandparents around, so my environment was mostly my immediate family and school. My parents decided to speak to us only in English because of the struggle and punishments Spanish-speaking kids had in school. As a Mexican-American who didn’t speak Spanish, I felt like an outsider, as if I didn’t fit in anywhere. Some of my poetry deals with that in-between identity. As an adult I started trying to regain my culture and language. Though I’m not fluent in Spanish, I can carry on conversations with my father’s family in Mexico and California. I’m sharing my culture through the stories and poetry I write. I loved that Luz spoke both Nahuatl and Spanish fluently. I want kids to feel pride in their culture, languages, and who they are. I hope Child of the Flower-Song People, Daughter of the Nahua shows them someone who felt that pride and shared it. In other stories, I’m writing about kids who are more acculturated in a modern world, but who are still retaining some of their culture.
Ana: Tell us about your future writing plans.
Gloria: I have a fictional picture book with an editor and another picture book biography I’m revising to resubmit. I also have several other fictional picture books written and waiting in the wings. I want to explore other genres besides picture books. I have ideas, but haven’t started writing them yet.
Ana: Last question: Tell us something most people don’t know about you.
Gloria: Totally unrelated to writing, I used to play the alto saxophone in the University of Texas Longhorn Band and the alumni band up until two years ago. I gave my sax to my son and his family so they might enjoy playing it.
Buy Child of the Flower-Song People: Luz Jiménez, Daughter of the Nahua today!
Buy Bella’s Recipe for Success today!
Gloria Amescua (Ah MES qua) loves books that reach a young person’s heart, head or funny bone and strives to do just that in her writing. She is an educator, poet and children’s book writer. Her debut picture book biography, NEW CHILD OF THE FLOWER-SONG PEOPLE: LUZ JIMÉNEZ, DAUGHTER OF THE NAHUA is written in verse and illustrated by Duncan Tonatiuh (Abrams Books, fall 2021). An earlier version won the 2016 Lee and Low New Voices Honor Award. A Hedgebrook alumna and an inaugural CantoMundo fellow, Gloria’s poetry has been published in a variety of literary journals and anthologies. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt acquired one of her poems for their national textbook literature series. Gloria is represented by Taylor Martindale Kean at Full Circle Literary.
Ana Siqueira is from Rio, Brasil, where she is an award-winning published author. In 1992, she moved to the United States where she teaches Spanish to elementary children. She has published a Spanish book for the educational market, El Pato Quiere Uvas, published by Teacher’s Discovery. Ana is also an Abuela and she loves playing with her grandkids, reading, writing, and cooking. She has never learned how to bake...yet. She lives in Florida with her husband and with her college-aged son. She has four kids and five grandkids. Her favorite things in life are family, books, and chocolate.
Her debut book, Bella’s Recipe for Success, tells the story of a Latina bilingual girl who tries to learn how to bake with Abuela and discovers the value of making mistakes and trying again. Publication by Beaming Books is planned for Spring 2021.
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