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Review: Yes, We Are Latinos! September 23, 2013

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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Yes! We Are LatinosI’m used to the expressions of surprise and wonder the first time people hear me speaking Spanish. 

Says the character Lili in the new poetry collection Yes! We are Latinos by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy. While the demographic group ‘Hispanic’ is one of the fastest growing in the United States, what does that term really mean? The popular stereotype of ‘Hispanic’ as seen in television,  movies and literature rarely matches the vast depth and variety of Latino heritage. For readers who want to learn more about their ancestry or are simply curious about this community, here is a beautiful collection of first-person poems that celebrate Latino culture.

Ada and Campoy introduce us to (fictional) girls and boys from all over the United States. They have roots in just about every country in Central and South America, as well as Spain and the Caribbean. Some have grandparents from Asia, while some trace their roots to indigenous peoples of North America as well as the great Meso-American civilizations. All of them are proud to be Latino, as they struggle with various challenges–learning a new language,  hoping for legal status,  standing up to bullies making fun of a name (and well-meaning teachers who say “If you would let us call you Joe or Mike, it would let you blend in”). They also celebrate their heritage in many different ways–from Ladino songs to New Mexican wood carvings. I saw  aspects of my own life and story in these poems and I’m sure many other readers will feel the same way.

David Diaz pairs each poem with a black and white illustration of the speaker; stylized silhouettes that reward closer examination of their creative use of negative space. Each poem is also followed by a non-fiction section with further information about Latin-American history. Here is background on the Spanish conquest, the Spanish-American War and the Spanish Civil War, along with more contemporary issues such as undocumented immigrants and migrant farmworkers. All are presented in straightforward, child-friendly language and a list of additional resources is included at the back.

While this is clearly a fantastic resource for Hispanic Heritage Month, and schools with large Latino populations, I hope that classrooms and libraries will also use it as a day-to-day resource as well. It would make a fantastic read-aloud or inspiration for poetry-writing project with both elementary and middle school students. This is a special book that deserves a wide audience. I’m excited to share it with lots of people!

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