Dear Haiti, Love Alaine - The Moulite sisters sit down with Tami Charles to talk about their much anticipated debut
It’s one thing to be a part of Las Musas, it reaches next level, however, when you finally get to meet a fellow Musa. In my case, I was lucky enough to meet the wonderfully talented sister duo, Maika & Maritza Moulite at BEA/Book Con this past June. Brilliant, funny, gorgeous, I just knew that their debut YA, Dear Haiti, Love Alaine, was going to be something special!
About the book:
When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended, shipped off to Haiti and writing the report of a lifetime…
What would a seventeen-year-old Haitian American from Miami with way too little life experience, have to say about anything?
Actually, a lot.
Thanks to “the incident”, Alaine spends the next two months in Haiti doing a “spring volunteer immersion project.” It’s definitely no vacation. Alaine toils away under the ever-watchful eyes of Tati Estelle and her mother, who is in hiding from her own, much more public incident.
All things considered, there are some pretty nice perks for Alaine…like flirting with Tati’s distractingly cute intern, getting actual face time with her mom and experiencing Haiti for the first time. She even explores her family’s history—which happens to be loaded with betrayals, superstitions and possibly even a family curse.
You know, typical drama. But it’s nothing Alaine can’t handle.
And now, on to the questions!
What inspired you to write this book?
Growing up, our parents were typical strict Haitian parents. All we knew were the three L’s: lekol, legiz, lakay (school, church, home). But they took it one step further and didn’t let us watch television during the weekdays either. The only way that we knew to entertain ourselves was by going to the library every weekend and checking out a ton of books. We read so many amazing stories but none of them had characters who looked like us or had some of our shared experiences. So one day we thought: what if we wrote a book ourselves? And that’s how Dear Haiti, Love Alaine came to be!
Summer’s coming to a close and what better way to keep it going than with a good book? Introducing our next Musa on the blog, Emma Otheguy, with her middle grade debut, SILVER MEADOWS SUMMER.
About the book:
When Papi loses his job, eleven-year-old Carolina's summer seems ruined. Now, she and her family have to move from Puerto Rico to her Tía Cuca and Uncle Porter's house in upstate New York. Carolina attends Silver Meadows camp, where her bossy cousin Gabriela is queen of the social scene.
But it isn’t all that bad—Carolina meets a friend, Jennifer, who loves art just as much as she does. Carolina gets a welcome surprise when she stumbles upon an abandoned cottage in the woods near camp. And for Carolina, it’s the perfect getaway to make art. With Jennifer by her side, Carolina begins to reclaim the parts of the life she loved in Puerto Rico, forgetting about how her relationship with Mami has changed and how distant Papi has grown.
But when the future of Silver Meadows and the cottage is thrown into jeopardy, Carolina and--to everyone's surprise--Gabriela come up with a plan to save them. Will it work?
Poetry plays a part in Silver Meadows Summer. Who are some poets you believe children should be acquainted with?
There are three poems at the heart of Silver Meadows Summer, each one exploring the theme of finding one’s path: “Que descansada vida” by Fray Luis de León, “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost, and “Caminante, no hay camino” by Antonio Machado. These poems offer diverging guidance about how to understand life’s journey, and each perspective is important to consider. My family, like many families of immigrants I think, leaned into the philosophy of Antonio Machado, which says “Caminante no hay camino, se hace camino al andar”--Traveler there is no path, you make your path by walking.
How can educators help displaced students like Carolina feel welcome in school?
Serious challenges come with moving to a new place, particularly to a new cultural context. But I have been inspired during school visits to realize how many kids identify with the experience of being new and therefore empathize with Carolina. And once I tell talk about the Latino experience in the United States and some of the obstacles Carolina faces, that empathy and identification grows. Children tend toward sympathy and solidarity if we support that perspective.
How can art be healing for students like Carolina?
I don’t think of books, beautiful words, music, or visual and performing arts as optional. These are deeply held human needs. When Carolina finds a friend who understands her drive to create, Carolina is transformed. Making art with a friend helps her feel less alone and more confident. Art allows Carolina hold on to who she was before so that she can build up her new life without fear of forgetting where she came from. It allows Carolina to explore who she is on the inside.
What advice do you have for educators teaching poetry?
Teach poetry from different cultures and languages, and look for poetry all around you—in conversations overheard on the bus, in song lyrics, in bits of sportscasts. Poetry is everywhere if we pay attention. Different cultural traditions offer different perspectives on the pressing questions poets consider, like Frost and Machado—offer your students both.
What picture books could be paired with Silver Meadows Summer?
Either of the two picture books about Pura Belpré (The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucía González and Planting Stories by Anika Denise) would offer more context to the stories of the Cucaracha Martina that Carolina discusses in the book. Parrots over Puerto Rico by Susan Roth and Cindy Trumore explores the history and natural beauty of Puerto Rico that Carolina misses in the novel.
It's an honor to introduce to Las Musas blog readers the gifted Natasha Díaz, freelance writer, producer, and screenwriter. Natasha has been a quarterfinalist in the Austin Film Festival and a finalist for both the NALIP Diverse Women in Media Fellowship and the Sundance Episodic Story Lab. Her personal essays have been published in the Establishment and the Huffington Post. On August 22nd, Delacorte Press releases her debut young adult novel COLOR ME IN!
COLOR ME IN is a brave, poetic, engrossing coming-of-age and coming-to-wokeness story of 16-year-old Nevaeh Levitz who grew up in an affluent suburb in NYC disconnected to her biracial roots and unaware of her privilege. When her Black mom and Jewish dad split up, she relocates to her mom's family home in Harlem and is forced to confront her identity for the first time.
You Tweeted once that COLOR ME IN is your love letter to NYC. Can you discuss how your love of NY infuses the book?
Aside from being multiracial, Jewish, and a woman, being born and raised in New York City is the next most defining thing about me. I’m sure many people feel this way about the place(s) they grew up, but being a New Yorker is something I take serious pride in. Being raised here gave me a lot of independence at an early age, as well as a no-nonsense, tough exterior. I learned real quick how to watch out for myself and move through the world with confidence, or at least, enough feigned confidence that people believed me enough not to mess with me too much. A lot of the transitions Nevaeh goes through in the book are about coming into herself and finding her voice, so I tried to put her in the middle of very New York moments and experiences to help aid in that growth.
COLOR ME IN is not a memoir but the emotional depth of the novel feels very personal - how much did you draw from your own history and where did you draw the line?
The book is mostly fiction, but I did pull a handful of my own experiences that I included in Nevaeh’s story and I was also inspired by people in my own life as I crafted some of the characters. In the beginning, it was hard to allow myself to stray from what I had gone through because I was worried it would mean the book was not authentic, but in truth, I needed to separate what I had lived through and what makes a good and engaging story. I did my best to explain in my authors note what was real life and what was fiction to give a reader a sense of my own experience.
About The Other Half of Happy...
Twelve-year-old Quijana likes to say that she used to be Pangaea. Unsplit. Not half white or half Latina. But that was before her Guatemalan cousins moved to town. Before her dad seemed ashamed that she isn’t more in touch with her Latinx heritage. Before her parents planned a family trip to Guatemala where she’ll feel like a failure from first tortilla to last. Now her continents are splitting apart. With the help of two new friends and kid-powered ingenuity, Quijana makes a plan to ditch the trip. After all, she’s never been great at Spanish, and she never asked to be named after Don Quixote, Spain’s most famous loser. Will she find happiness by staying half?
In the beginning of Rebecca Balcárcel’s moving and heartfelt middle grade novel The Other Half of Happy, narrator Quijana Carrillo declares, “That’s what it’s like being twelve. Everything rolling toward you.”
And what’s rolling toward Quijana? A new school. A blossoming crush. A little brother whose behavior no one can explain. Expectations from her parents that Quijana feels she’ll never be able to meet.
Complicating these issues is Quijana’s bicultural identity. The daughter of an Anglo mother and Guatemalan father, she doesn’t speak Spanish and is embarrassed of her father’s accent. She doesn’t appreciate the intricately embroidered huipil her abuela sent her. She exists in the gray space deeply understood by children straddling two cultures. Children who want to fit in with their peers, want to please their parents, and want to understand themselves.
Children like me.
We are so happy to announce the selections for the 2019 Hermanas mentorship program. Las Hermanas is a selection-based mentorship program for traditionally unpublished Latinx kidlit writers. It connects unpublished writers with current Musas and Madrinas.
Mentees benefit from the craft and industry experience of their mentor and will have the opportunity to ask for publishing/marketing related advice and/or receive help with a specific manuscript.
We are so excited to work with these talented writers, get to know them via their social profiles below!
Melanie Marquez Adams - Twitter | Instagram
Carolina Flórez Cerchiaro - Twitter
M. M. Collins - Instagram | Twitter
Megan Karina Jensen - Twitter
Mariel Jungkunz - Twitter
Josie Melendez - Twitter | Instagram | Blog
Jessica Parra - Instagram
Sonora Reyes - Twitter
Shirley Espada Richey - Twitter | Facebook
Sonia Alejandra Rodríguez - Twitter
Angela M. Sanchez - Twitter
Stephanie Seales - Instagram
Christina Truillo - Twitter
Interested in becoming an Hermana?
Our first round of applications ran until July 15th, 2019. Upcoming rounds will be announced via our social channels. Stay tuned for more!
Mirrors, Windows and Walls: 8 Children’s Books for Seeing Ourselves, Others and Breaking Down the Walls that Separate Us
We have so much information. We have voices on the TV and hot takes on social media. We have photographs that pierce our hearts and haunt our dreams. We have oceans of ink spent on getting the details, the facts – and sometimes the lies – just right. As Dr. Rudine Sims Bishop said, we need mirrors and windows to understand people who are like us (or like our parents or grandparents) and people who are not like us. We need something greater than information. We need story.
In my debut YA novel, The Grief Keeper, Marisol Morales crosses borders, sacrifices her physical and mental well-being and endures racism, for the chance of safety for her sister, Gabi, and herself. I can easily understand why someone would risk so much, but I am a daughter of immigrants. The idea of having to flee your homeland, whether because of violence or because of a lack of opportunities does not seem farfetched to me at all. But I know that for some people, it can seem foolish, or downright selfish. My intention in writing The Grief Keeper was to engender understanding and deep empathy—of ourselves and of others who are not like us.
Here are 8 books for children that I think do the same.
We are so excited to reveal to you the DELIGHTFUL cover of Kim Baker's THE WATER BEARS!
But that's not all! In addition to revealing this lovely cover we are also sharing the first chapter AND doing an ARC GIVEAWAY!
To enter leave a comment at the end of this blog post! (Open until August 15th)
ABOUT WATER BEARS...
Newt Gomez has a thing with bears.
Last year, he survived a bear attack. Now he finds an unusual bear statue that just might grant wishes. Newt’s best friend, Ethan, notices a wishbone on the statue and decides to make a wish. When it comes true, Newt thinks it’s a coincidence. Even as more people’s wishes come true, Newt is not convinced.
But Newt has a wish too: while he loves his home on eccentric Murphy Island, he wants to go to middle school on the mainland where his extended family lives. There, he’s not the only Latinx kid, he won’t have to drive the former food truck— a gift from his parents— and he won’t have to perform in the vaudeville festival. Most importantly, on the mainland, he can escape memories of the attack. Newt is almost ready to make a secret wish when everything changes.
Tackling themes of survival and self-acceptance, Newt’s story illuminates the magic in our world, where reality is often uncertain but always full of salvageable wonders.
The Water Bears is a quirky, empowering story arriving April 21, 2020 from Wendy Lamb Books, Random House Children’s Books.
Read the 1st chapter...
TAKE ACTION NOW • RAISE YOUR VOICE
The migrant story is our story. We are the descendants of immigrants. We are immigrants. We are descendants of ancestors indigenous to these lands. From them we all rise. Yet in this America, state-sanctioned policies of imprisonment and terror along the border and across the US destroy families and communities of color and the very fabric of our nation. As authors for children, our work is part of the human chain – the brown and black links that seek to create a bridge for all of our brothers and sisters. Our work is our prayer, our poetry, our memory, our voices, our protest.
We do not consent to the inhumane treatment of any migrant.
We do not consent to the imprisonment of refugee and immigrant families in concentration camps.
We do not consent to the separation of children from their caregivers.
We do not consent to massive ICE raids of migrants in our cities.
We do not consent to funding these draconian policies with our tax dollars.
We do not consent to allowing US corporations to profit from this terror.
\We do not consent that our government creates and supports these inhumane conditions.
We do not consent to the molestations and rapes.
We do not consent to their deaths.
We do not consent.
We do not consent.
We do not consent.
We seek justice in the present to ensure the future of goodness and beauty on this planet. Cross our hearts, our voices will be a wall of resistance and rebellion to the racism, sexism, and homophobia that are responsible for these gross violations of human rights.
Authors (in order of appearance): Aida Salazar, Donna Barba Higuera, Ernesto Cisneros, Mia Garcia, Daniel Jose Older, Meg Medina (Cuba), Ismee Williams, Yamile Saied Mendez, Rebeca Balcarcel, Alberto Ledesma, Alex Villasante, Kim Baker, Nonieqa Ramos, Matt Mendez, Ana Meriano, Rene Colato Lainez, Natlia Sylvester, Liliam Rivera, Emma Otheguy, Nancy Mercado (Latinx In Publishing), Monica Brown, and Yuyi Morales.
Español traducido por David Bowles:
La historia de los migrantes es nuestra historia. Somos descendientes de inmigrantes. Somos inmigrantes. Somos descendientes de ancestros indígenas de estas tierras. De ellos todos surgimos. Sin embargo, en el Estados Unidos actual, las políticas de encarcelamiento y terror sancionadas por el gobierno a lo largo de la frontera y en todo el país destruyen a las familias y comunidades de color y al tejido mismo de nuestra nación. Como autores de libros para niños, nuestro trabajo es parte de la cadena humana, eslabones cafés y negros que buscan crear un puente para todos nuestros hermanas y hermanos. Nuestra obra es nuestra oración, nuestra poesía, nuestra memoria, nuestras voces, nuestra protesta.
No consentimos el tratamiento inhumano de ningún migrante.
No consentimos el encarcelamiento de familias de refugiados e inmigrantes en campos de concentración.
No consentimos la separación de los niños de sus cuidadores.
No consentimos las redadas masivas de inmigrantes hechas por ICE en nuestras ciudades.
No consentimos en financiar estas políticas draconianas con nuestros impuestos.
No consentimos que las corporaciones estadounidenses se beneficien de este terror.
No consentimos que nuestro gobierno cree y apoye estas condiciones inhumanas.
No consentimos los abusos y violaciones.
No consentimos sus muertes.
La historia es lo que hacemos para buscar justicia en el presente, para asegurar el futuro de la bondad y la belleza en este planeta. Ojalá y nuestras voces sean un muro de resistencia y rebelión ante el racismo, el sexismo y la homofobia responsables de estas graves violaciones de los derechos humanos.
Las Musas are thrilled to host the exclusive first look at the cover of Loriel Ryon's debut INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS!
INTO THE TALL, TALL GRASS comes out April 7, 2020 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. Learn more about this gorgeous debut and cover below!
Read the dynamite first chapter...
Yolanda crept to the bedroom door, cracking it just so and peering inside. Her abuela, Wela, was lying in bed with a yellow serape tucked beneath her arms, her chest barely rising. Three orange-and-black butterflies nestled into her long white curls, their wings opening and closing ever so slightly as the morning sun flickered through the tree branches outside the window. It was exactly the same sight it had been for the past two weeks.
Yolanda sighed in disappointment and pushed open the door, letting it groan loudly on its hinges, hoping the sound would cause Wela to stir. Wake up. Wela, please wake up. But Wela didn’t move.
Was this all her fault? She sighed and walked over to the nightstand, twisting the vase of scarlet milkweed blossoms toward the light. Two butterflies sipped nectar from the wilting flowers. She brought the vase to Wela’s fingertips in hopes that her touch would liven the blossoms. But they remained wilted, and she made a mental note to switch them out before she left for school.
The way the light danced across the serape and the fine lines surrounding Wela’s closed pale lips made Yolanda’s heart sink even lower. She’d seen this before, less than a year ago.
When I was a teenager, there were two things I longed for most: my own room, and to somehow change my roots from Mexican to Italian. I got my wish for the former in my university dorms at the age of twenty-two; the latter, not unexpectedly, was impossible to achieve. Still, I tried.
I’d long been obsessed with Italian food, spending my free time trying to master dishes, especially lasagna. When my friends went on a trip to Rome, I thought I would die from jealousy. I practically crawled into their laps when they returned, sighing with longing at their descriptions of ancient stone ruins, endless glasses of blood-red wine, and the cutest boys they’d ever seen, each one flirtier than the last.
I knew I was meant to be Italian, somehow. I was mixed up from birth, or had a secret parent, or maybe a variety of past lives to account for my connection. I imagined myself a peasant, gathering sun-warmed grapes on a vineyard, or a baker, crossing each loaf of bread for protection before it entered the fire. When Eat Pray Loveby Elizabeth Gilbert was published, I was almost twenty, and I read about Gilbert’s travels in Italy over and over again. I hosted dinner parties centered around pasta, I brought home books on Italian cooking, on the language, on the history.
It's clear to me now, that although Italy has a rich and gorgeous history and culture, my attraction, my longing for my identity to be a part of it in some way was centered in the idea that who I was—Mexican American—just wasn’t enough.
All my life, I’d heard ‘Mexican’ as synonymous with an insult. People made jokes on our height, our food, the volume of our voices, the ways we celebrate, the ways we mourn. My mother told us stories of her childhood: being called spic by white men while walking on the street. How my grandparents, who were migrants, were forced to used separate facilities in their travels. How they encountered signs that proclaimed,No Mexicans allowed.
I remember, as a teenager, pronouncing empanada at a Mexican restaurant, and my friend’s white father becoming intrigued. “Say it again,” he told me. “Again.” As though I were a circus animal, saying things correctly for his entertainment.
I remember one of my sister’s white friends, making faces over my mother’s enchiladas, cheesy and bubbling from the skillet. She took one bite and ran to the trash to spit it out.
I remember my grandmother and her internalized racism, refusing to call any white man or woman by their first names, even at their insistence.
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