Things That Matter

After 20 Years Junot Díaz Kept His Promise To His Goddaughters And Wrote A Picture Book

Dominican-American novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Junot Díaz (“This Is How You Lose Her,” “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao,” “Drown”), just announced that his new project is a children’s book. The 48-page book was illustrated by award winning Colombian artist Leo Espinosa. Twenty years ago, Díaz promised his goddaughters he’d write them a story, and he finally got around to keeping his promise.

“Islandborn” is Díaz’s first picture book and is the result of a promise he made to his goddaughter’s about 20 years ago.

According to the New York Times article Díaz shared on Facebook, the project started two decades ago as a pitch from his goddaughters, who asked him to write a story with characters like them: “Dominican girls living in the Bronx.” The book, released through Dial Books for Young Readers, is an attempt to bring more visibility to literature for people of color. As a young voracious reader, Díaz didn’t see himself represented in literature, saying, “It was an absence I felt acutely,” to The Times.

Two decades after his initial promise, it was another young girl who helped nudge him to keep his word. The daughter of a friend asked him to tell her a story and he obliged, coming up with one on the spot. After being recorded while reciting the story, and after lots of convincing from colleagues and his agent, Díaz eventually sat down to write the story that became “Islandborn.”

The book follows Lola, a young Dominican girl from Washington Heights who is asked by a teacher to draw her family’s homeland. When she can’t, having left DR as a baby, she asks her family for help. The story contains themes that Díaz incorporates into his vivid stories normally aimed at adults, including immigration, identity, and displacement.

The official description of the book on the Penguin Random House page reads:

So when Lola’s teacher asks the students to draw a picture of where their families immigrated from, all the kids are excited. Except Lola. She can’t remember The Island—she left when she was just a baby. But with the help of her family and friends, and their memories—joyous, fantastical, heartbreaking, and frightening—Lola’s imagination takes her on an extraordinary journey back to The Island.  As she draws closer to the heart of her family’s story, Lola comes to understand the truth of her abuela’s words: “Just because you don’t remember a place doesn’t mean it’s not in you.”

The book releases on March 13, 2018, until then, you can brush up on Díaz’s other work — probably best not to read those to children, though.

READ: Try Not To Cry While Listening To This Junot Diaz Poem About Latino Greatness

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The New ‘In The Heights’ Trailer Is Out And You’ll Wish You Were In This Latino Fairytale

Entertainment

The New ‘In The Heights’ Trailer Is Out And You’ll Wish You Were In This Latino Fairytale

There is a new “In The Heights” trailer and release date and fans are getting excited (again)! This is the second time that Warner Bros. has released a trailer to tease the release of “In The Heights” but Covid derailed its first release. Here’s to summer of 2021!

Here’s the new trailer for “In The Heights.”

“In The Heights” is Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first wildly successful musical before “Hamilton. The show is based in Washington Heights, a Latino and immigrant enclave in New York City where music runs through the streets and the residents.

Usnavi, portrayed by Anthony Ramos, is the protagonist who is central to the community. He runs a bodega that everyone visits and it isn’t long until he and his large community fight back to protect their friends and family.

The story has it all from love to despair to triumph.

Usnavi is in love with Vanessa, portrayed by Melissa Barrera, and their love story grows alongside the community through the summer. At the same time, it seems that Abuela Claudia, portrayed by Olga Merediz, is facing deportation and the community comes to her defense to keep her here.

Miranda and Jon M. Cho, the director of “Crazy Rich Asians,” beautifully captured the resilience and diversity of our neighborhoods. Actors Stephanie Beatriz, Dascha Polanco, and Leslie Grace bring the play to life on the big screen in a big way.

Fans cannot wait to see the new movie offering Latinos so much representation.

People have been anxiously waiting for this moment since 2008. That was the year that Universal Pictures announced their plans to make the movie adaptation of the play. It was supposed to be released in 2011 until Universals Pictures dropped the project. Then The Weinstein Company acquired the rights, however, Harvey Weinstein’s sexual misconduct came to light and Miranda pulled the rights in response. Warner Bros. then got the rights in 2018 and we had our first trailer in 2019. It was slated to be released in June 2020 and the Covid caused the company to cancel the movie’s release. Now, with a deal with HBOMax, Warner Bros. will finally release “In The Heights” more than 10 years after fans were promised a movie.

“In The Heights” will be on HBOMax on June 18, 2021.

READ: The Trailer For ‘In The Heights’ Is Finally Here And It Looks Like A Latino Fairytale

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Six Dr. Seuss Books Are Being Pulled From Publication Due To Racist Imagery

Things That Matter

Six Dr. Seuss Books Are Being Pulled From Publication Due To Racist Imagery

Don’t call it a total cancellation.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises has made the decision of their own accord to no longer publish or license six of the books written and illustrated by the writer Theodor Seuss “Ted” Geisel. The American children’s author who passed away in 1991 was also a political cartoonist, illustrator, poet, animator, and filmmaker. His first children’s book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937), and his book  If I Ran the Zoo (1950) are among the books being pulled as a result of racist and insensitive imagery.

On Tuesday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises shared a statement on their website explaining their decision to cancel the publication of the books.

Citing the four other books including McElligot’s Pool (1947), Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953), On Beyond Zebra! (1955) and The Cat’s Quizzer (1976) the company explained that they came to the decision citing the fact that they each “portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.”

“Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’ catalog represents and supports all communities and families,” explained the statement.

Dr. Seuss Enterprises is a company that, according to Time Magazine, works to preserve and protect “the legacy of the late author and illustrator, who died in 1991 at the age of 87, also noted in the statement that the decision was made over the past year with a panel of experts, including educators, academics, and specialists in the field, who reviewed the catalog of titles.”

Children’s books by Dr. Seuss have long been considered a classic contribution to children’s literature.

The books’ colorful and fun illustrations and rhymes are still to this day instantly recognizable. Recently, however, the writer’s work has been re-examined and scrutinized for racial caricatures and stereotypes. This is especially when it comes to the depictions of Black and Asian people. Many have also pointed out that before he was known as Dr. Seusss, Geisel’s work had been strongly criticized for “drawing WWII cartoons that used racist slurs and imagery, as well as writing and producing a minstrel show in college, where he performed in blackface—a form of entertainment that some children’s literature experts point to as the inspiration for Geisel’s most famous character, the Cat in the Hat.”

Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s announcement of their decision to pull these books coincided with the anniversary of the writer’s birthday.

Geisel’s birthday coincidentally comes at the same time as National Education Association’s Read Across America Day, which has long been attached to his books,

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