I am so proud to host Meg Medina (I am a huge fan!) for the 3rd Annual Latinas for Latino Literature (L4LL) Dia Blog Hop in honor of Día de los Niños, Día de los Libros which is celebrated annually on April 30th. Established in the United States by poet and author Pat Mora, Día is a celebration of books and children. The 3rd annual L4LL blog hop has 12 authors/illustrators paired with 12 Latina bloggers. Click HERE to see the complete schedule.
Immersion – a guest post by Meg Medina
I intended to raise my kids bilingually, immerse them in the language of their grandmothers in order to make sure they knew their roots. Young people want and need that sense of being grounded. They need to know what came before them as they work out the compass of where they want to go next.
But when my oldest daughter, who was born with cerebral palsy, struggled to acquire speech, I found that I gave away that dream.
“It’s just too hard to master even one vocabulary,” her therapists said, unaware that bilingualism is a way of knowing, not really a system of translation. These were well-intentioned people. I’m sure they didn’t consider the heavy price they were asking me to pay. In truth, even I didn’t consider the risks. Unsure and wanting to help my daughter, my husband and I kept our conversations with all our children predominantly in English.
My daughter is a young adult who can communicate pretty well – in English. But as our family leaned toward a monolingual life over the years, my children were collectively cut away from the older generation in our family. Language is how we tell stories, after all. It’s how we share the tales of the people who came before us, the ones whose lives in some way shaped our own. It’s how a grandmother tells you the story of her first love or how her town faced hunger or what it was like when she first arrived in the US.
We tried as best we could. My other children took obligatory high school Spanish, and the result was that they spoke to their abuelas haltingly in thick accents and using lots of finger pointing. Each time they turned to me for translation, I had an empty feeling, as though something important and natural had been lost.
As an author I write books for the English-dominant Latino reader in mind, maybe kids like mine, who spend most of their day in English. Still, a shared language is never far from my mind. You can see it in my use of Spanglish and in the use of phrases throughout. I may write about the universal problems of growing up, but I always return to writing about obstacles to staying connected with our families – and that includes language. This is certainly true in my upcoming picture book, Mango, Abuela and Me (Candlewick Press 2015), which is exactly about this issue. Mia speaks no Spanish. Abuela speaks no English. What can they do to sort it all out?
My publisher made the brave investment of publishing both a Spanish and English edition simultaneously this time. I’m so grateful for that decision. I love the idea of a family being able to experience the same story in whatever format is most comfortable for each person. It removes a barrier to connections and conversation.
My children are grown now. I have done my level best to keep my kids collectively connected to their cultural history, even if language was the weakest link I provided. And who knows? Maybe what is in someone’s roots will eventually flower anyway, no matter how we chop it away.
Take the miracle that happened this past year. My son, now 21, spent six months living with a family in Spain. He returned to the states with fully conversational Spanish, right down to that pesky lisp.
His first act upon returning? He kissed my cheek and said, “¿Como estás, Mamá?” Then he marched downstairs to have an hour-long conversation with my tía Isa about all he had seen in the world. And she, for the first time at 82, was able to start to tell him some of what she had seen in hers.
Meg Medina is an award-winning Cuban American author who writes picture books, middle grade, and YA fiction.
She is the 2014 recipient of the Pura Belpré medal and the 2013 CYBILS Fiction winner for her young adult novel, YAQUI DELGADO WANTS TO KICK YOUR ASS. She is also the 2012 Ezra Jack Keats New Writers medal winner for her picture book TIA ISA WANTS A CAR.
Meg’s other books are THE GIRL WHO COULD SILENCE THE WIND, a 2012 Bank Street Best Book and CBI Recommended Read in the UK; and MILAGROS: GIRL FROM AWAY.
Meg’s work examines how cultures intersect through the eyes of young people, and she brings to audiences stories that speak to both what is unique in Latino culture and to the qualities that are universal. Her favorite protagonists are strong girls. In March 2014, she was recognized as one of the CNN 10 Visionary Women in America. In November 2014, she was named one of Latino Stories Top Ten Latino Authors to Watch.
When she is not writing, Meg works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth and/or literacy. She lives with her family in Richmond, Virginia.
For more on Meg Medina visit: www.megmedina.com
Books by Meg Medina
Mango Abuela and Me (Candlewick August 2015) illustrated by Angela Dominguez
Mango Abuela y Yo (Candlewick Press, Agosto 2015)
Tia Isa Wants a Car (Candlewick Press 2011) illustrated by Claudio Muñoz
Tia Isa Quiere Un Carro (Candlewick Press, 2012, paperback)
And coming in 2016, the Spanish translation of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass
Yaqui Delgado Quiere Darte Una Paliza (Candlewick Press, 2016)