Culture

A Latina Author In New Mexico Is Delivering Books To Asylum Seekers On The Border To Brighten Their Spirits

It was a normal day at her New Mexico bookstore when author Denise Chávez was approached by a customer who needed help finding Spanish-English dictionaries. As is common in life, asking questions is what generates the most change, and the customer’s answer to her question of “Why?” sparked an idea. The customer wanted to help out the migrants who were passing through and finding refuge at the Peace Lutheran Church respite center. Understanding language as the vital life source to forming social bonds, communities, and basic navigation in society, Chávez decided to go a step further. In May 2019, Chávez started bringing bilingual storybooks to the Peace Lutheran Church shelter. Soon, word got around and she began to expand the project, initiating a soul-nourishing project called “Libros Para El Viaje” or books for the journey.

Chávez’s book drive has been promoted and supported by various bookstores across the country, including national nonprofit, the American Booksellers Association (ABA). Since then, Chávez has hand-delivered thousands of books to migrants on both sides of the border, offering the gift of exploring unknown worlds from the unacceptable confines of a tent, detention center or hiding.

Meet Denise Chávez.

CREDIT: @BOOKSELLERSOFAMERICA / INSTAGRAM

Chávez grew up in the border community of Las Cruces, New Mexico, the daughter of a teacher and a lawyer. “I was just inculcated from the very beginning with books, books, books,” Chávez shared her story on social media. “Growing up as a Chicana close to the Mexican border, my stories came to me in many languages, including Spanish, Spanglish, border language… I was filled with the beauty of spoken words. And I’ve always loved books,” she shared on Booksellers of America’s featured bookseller post.
“Bookselling means more to me every day,” Chávez shared on her experience of owning Casa Camino Real Bookstore, which serves as a community center and art gallery honoring border culture. “The stories of connecting, the people who come in—booksellers attract all sorts of people. To sell a book or to give a book away is a profound experience,” she added.

Chávez sees proof every week that giving a migrant a book is “a major healing experience.”

CREDIT: @RIVERDOGBOOKCO / INSTAGRAM

Libros Para El Viaje’s success is, in large part, thanks to Chávez’s presentation at an ABA conference that garnered national attention from booksellers. ABA has promoted her project, which has spurred many other community projects to help fund Libros Para El Viaje. For example, Minneapolis booksellers Red Balloon Book and Wild Rumpus created “Books for Border Kids” to host a two-month book drive. Those two independent booksellers alone sent over 3,000 book donations to Chávez in Las Cruces, according to The Salt Lake Tribune

“Every week, I distribute books in Spanish to families and children,” Chávez shared on social media. “So my work has deepened because we’re reaching out to people who arrive with nothing. To get a book means something. It’s a major healing experience. So when I see a tiny, little woman—and I wish people in the United States could see the people that stand in front of me with those ankle bracelets; they’re small people, they wouldn’t hurt anybody—I try to remember her face. She is on a journey. She’s going on a bus. She’s going on a plane. And she’s taking a book for the journey. I mean, wow! Right?”

“Books can heal us,” Chávez believes.

CREDIT: DENISE CHÁVEZ / FACEBOOK

Whether it’s a Guatemalan teenager looking for a Stephen King novel or seeing the beauty in a mother “hugging three Isabel Allende books,” Chávez has found healing in her project. Whether “somebody is picking up a Spanish language version of H.G. Wells’ A WAR OF THE WORLDS. Or to give a dictionary to an older man who’s learning English. It’s exciting. This is truly being connected with what a book does, which is to inform, empower, enlighten,” she testified in a social media post.
“My reason to be a writer is because I have been healed by books, and I do believe that books can heal us. It is a challenge to be a bookstore, but I continue because I know the power of a book,” Chávez attests.

You can support Casa Camino Real Bookstore‘s Libros Para El Viaje by purchasing any of these recommended bilingual books and mailing them to:

Casa Camino Real Bookstore
314 South Tornillo Street
Las Cruces, New Mexico 88001

READ: Lil Libros Finally Adds Musician Ritchie Valens To The List Of Icons Highlighted In Bilingual Children’s Books

Celebrities Are Reading Children’s Books To Help Parents And Children Cope With COVID-19

Entertainment

Celebrities Are Reading Children’s Books To Help Parents And Children Cope With COVID-19

savewithstories / Instagram

The world is still trying to get a handle on the COVID-19 pandemic that has forced billions into lockdown measures from various government orders. More than 220 million Americans are living in states with lockdown orders leaving children with no school and parents with no childcare. Now, celebs are offering their time with Save with Stories to read children’s books to help parents and children cope.

Gina Torres reading “Sofia Valdez, Future Prez”

Save with Stories, created by Amy Adams and Jennifer Garner, is being done in conjunction with Save the Children and No Kid Hungry. Celebrities are joining up with Save with Stories to offer a bit of reading education to the millions of children not in school right now as the world battles the coronavirus.

Eva Longoria reading “La vida de Selena”

Save with Stories is asking for donations to keep children taken care of during this crisis. Many children rely on getting their meals from their schools. With schools, many children are facing uncertain times with their food. By donating to Save with Stories, you can help the organization continue to provide children with their meals during the shutdown.

Zoe Saldana reading “Cómo dan las buenas noches los dinosaurios?”

Some of the celebrities have given their storytime a more culturally relevant tone. Both Zoe Saldana and Eva Longoria offered Spanish-speaking children stories in their language.

Lupita Nyong’o reading “Not Quite Narwhal”

According to UNESCO, 87 percent of the student population around the world have been separated from their schools, teachers, and peers. In the U.S., 55.1 million children are not in their K-12 schools as the U.S. prepares for a surge of cases in COVID-19 infections across the country. As of yet, the U.S. government has not called for a nationwide lockdown unlike several governments across Europe and Asia.

Jenna Ortega reading “Don’t Call Me Bear”

The initiative is a good reminder that we are all in this together. As billions of people around the world sit at home and social distance to prevent the spread of COVID-19, it is important to feel more connected in your isolation. Movements like Save with Stories show how the world can come together in a time of crisis to help everyone cope.

How are you coping with self-isolation in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic?

READ: AOC Has Strong Words About The Trump Administration’s Response To The COVID-19 Pandemic Crisis

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” Debuts On Stage And Proves To Be A Huge Hit

Fierce

“I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter” Debuts On Stage And Proves To Be A Huge Hit

The beloved bestselling novel I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter captivated just about every Latina in 2017. So when it was announced that the book, which follows 15-year-old Julia as she learns to cope with her older sister’s death, was getting the stage treatment, we were beyond thrilled.

Now, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is officially on stage and once again breaking hearts.

The theatrical adaptation, which is written by Chicago playwright Isaac Gómez, retells the story of Julia a girl stricken by the grief of her sister’s untimely death. Always under her parents’ watch, Juila questions her sister’s death as well as how to deal with her own issues with self-esteem. In the midst of her suffering, she decides to fight her way out of her family’s financially poor living conditions and into college outside of Chicago.

Speaking to Teen Vogue about the adaptation of her book, author Erika Sánchez spoke about her motivation for the book.

“I felt like I wanted to write the book I needed as a kid, [the one] young girls of color also need,” Sánchez said explaining that she wanted to write a book that “makes [young people] feel less alone, that someone understands them and what they’re going through.”

The 90-minute play made its debut in Chicago last week.

Actress Karen Rodriguez plays the part of Julia and told Teen Vogue she fell in love with the book because of its relevance. “I think the biggest thing that struck me the most was [Julia’s] journey of discovering that she is not okay mentally. She is going through a serious bout of depression,” Rodriguez explained to Teen Vogue. “I want young women that look like me and people who are outside of that experience to realize that Mexicans and brown people are not monoliths. It’s important to relate to experiences that might feel outside of your immediate experience, but actually you can totally relate to.”

 The show will run through April 5.

On March 13 there will be a special Spanish captioned performance. Tickets are $20.