Publisher Highlight: Arte Público Press

Have you heard of Arte Público Press? It is “the oldest and most accomplished publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors.”

As part of the ongoing efforts to bring Hispanic literature to mainstream audiences, Arte Público Press launched the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project in 1992. This project represents the first nationally coordinated attempt to recover, index and publish lost Latino writings that date from the American colonial period through 1960.

The notion of an imprint dedicated to the publication of literature for children and young adults was planted by an urgent public demand for books that accurately portray U.S. Hispanic culture. In 1994, a grant from the Mellon Foundation allowed Arte Público Press to transform the dream into a reality. With its bilingual books for children and its entertaining novels for young adults, Piñata Books has made giant strides toward filling the void in the literary market created by an increased awareness of diverse cultures.

You can learn more about this great independent press here. Here is a selection of some of their YA titles in case you would like to add to your #WeNeedDiverseBooks collection:

Can You See Me NowCan You See Me Now by Estela Bernal

On Amanda’s thirteenth birthday, her father is killed by a drunk driver while on the way to pick up her birthday present. She’s stunned when she overhears her mother blaming her: “If she hadn’t insisted on that stupid watch for her birthday, he would still be alive.” Her mom retreats into extra shifts at work, leaving Mandy with her grandmother and making her feel as if she has lost both parents.

To make matters worse, she’s the butt of cruel pranks at school. One day, some girls even glue her skirt to the chair! But things take a turn for the better when she befriends Paloma, an unusual new student at Central Middle School, who introduces her to yoga and meditation. And she reluctantly becomes friends with Rogelio, a fat boy who is bullied even more than she is by their classmates.

Mandy’s new friends, a dog named Lobo and an interesting school project help to ease the pain of her father’s death and her mother’s absence. She maintains a connection to her father by writing letters to him each night. But will she always be invisible to her mother?

Estela Bernal’s debut novel, a fast-paced and entertaining read for middle school teens, explores tough issues—including death and bullying—with sensitivity and humor.

A Good Long WayA Good Long Way by René Saldaña, Jr.

This affecting novel follows the troubled lives of three teens in deep South Texas “Stop it. The two of you, stop it! You’re father and son; you should love each other.” Roelito howls at his father and older brother as their heated argument turns into a pushing, shoving match. Beto has again come home way past curfew, and worse, smelling like a cantina.

When Beto Sr. tells his son that he either needs to follow the rules or leave, the boy—a senior in high school and a man as far as he’s concerned—decides to leave, right then, in the middle of the night. Once he has walked away, though, he realizes he has nowhere to go. Maybe his best friend Jessy—a hard-as-nails girl who has run away before—can help him.

The story of Beto’s decision to run away and drop out of school is told from shifting perspectives in which the conflicted lives of Roel, Beto, and Jessy are revealed in short, poignant scenes that reflect teen-age life along the Texas-Mexico border.

Each one has a good long way to go in growing up. Roel fights against the teachers’ assumptions that he’s like Beto. Unlike his big brother, Roel is book smart and actually enjoys school. Jessy is smart too, but most of her teachers can’t see beyond her tough-girl façade. Her parents are so busy fighting with each other that they don’t notice her, even if she’s packing a suitcase to leave. And Beto … somewhere along the way he quit caring about school. And his teachers have noticed and given up too.

Author and educator René Saldaña, Jr. once again writes a fast-paced, thought-provoking novel that will engage young adults in questions about their own lives and responsibilities to family, friends, and most of all, to themselves.

The Witches of RuidosoThe Witches of Ruidoso by John Sandoval

Young Elijah was sitting on the porch of the Ruidoso Store when fourteen-year-old Beth Delilah and her father climbed down from the stage coach. Blond with lovely pale skin, big blue eyes and “dressed from boot to bonnet in black” in mourning for her mother, she was the prettiest, most exotic thing he had ever seen. And when she bent over to pick up a horned toad, which she then held right up to her face in complete fascination, Elijah learned that it’s possible to feel jealous of an amphibian.

In the last years of the nineteenth century, in the western territory that would become New Mexico, the two young people become constant companions. They roam the ancient country of mysterious terrain, where the mountain looms and reminds them of their insignificance, and observe the eccentric characters in the village: Mr. Blackwater, known as “No Leg Dancer” by the Apaches because of the leg he lost in the War Between the States and his penchant for blowing reveille on his bugle each morning; their friend, Two Feather, the Mescalero Apache boy who takes Beth Delilah to meet his wise old grandfather who sees mysterious things; and Senora Roja, who everyone believes is a bruja, or witch, and who they know to be vile and evil.

Elijah has horrible nightmares involving Senora Roja, death and torture. And when the witch enslaves a girl named Rosa, the pair must try to rescue her from her grim fate. Together, Elijah and Beth Delilah come of age in a land of mountains and ravens, where good and evil vie for the souls of white men and Indians alike.

NildaNilda by Nicholasa Mohr

“Damn you bastards, coming here making trouble. Bunch of animals.” The two police offers responding to a call about an open fire hydrant lash out furiously at the Puerto Rican residents of New York City’s El Barrio neighborhood. It’s the summer of 1941, and all ten-year-old Nilda wants to do is enjoy the cool water with her friends. But the policemen’s curses end their fun, and their animosity is played out over and over again in Nilda’s life. She is repeatedly treated with contempt and even disgust by adults in positions of authority: teachers, nurses and social workers.

At home, though, she is surrounded by a large and loving–if somewhat eccentric–family that supports and encourages her artistic abilities. She experiences the onset of World War II and watches anxiously as several brothers go off to war; her stepfather s poor health means he can t work, causing serious financial difficulties for the family; one brother slinks off to the underworld, leaving behind a pregnant girlfriend, adding two more mouths to feed to the family s already dire situation.

Named an “Outstanding Book of the Year” by The New York Times and one of the “Best Books of the Year” by the American Library Association in 1973 when it was first published, Nicholasa Mohr’s classic novel about life as an immigrant in New York City offers a poignant look at one young girl’s experiences. Issues of race, religion and machismo are realistically and movingly depicted in this groundbreaking coming-of-age novel that was one of the first by a Latina author to be hailed by the mainstream media.

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One Comment on “Publisher Highlight: Arte Público Press
  1. Great publisher! Thank you for featuring them. Nilda and A Good Long Way are among my favorite YA novels, and I can’t wait to read Can You See Me Now? I was in a workshop with Estela when she was revising it.

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