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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Disney is Making a Latino Version of ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

Entertainment

Disney is Making a Latino Version of ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’

Photo by Chesnot/Getty Images

Another day, another Latino-fied reboot of a beloved story. Recently, we reported that “Father of the Bride” is going to be rebooted, this time with a “sprawling Cuban family” at the center of the movie. Now, apparently ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ is getting the same treatment.

According to Deadline, this version of ‘Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day’ is going to “focus on a multigenerational Latinx family”.

Since there was already a 2014 version of the popular children’s book that starred Steve Carrell and Jennifer Garner, the movie is technically being called a “reboot”. But we just like to think of it as a reinterpretation.

Per Deadline, the movie is being developed specifically for Disney+. Seeing as this reinterpretation is being written by the same guy who is writing the “Father of the Bride” reboot (Matt Lopez), it looks like this writer is definitely carving out a niche for himself in Hollywood.

“Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” is an incredibly popular children’s book that was published in 1972 by the author Judith Viorst.

Latino artist Ray Cruz illustrated the famously distinctive pictures in the book and its three sequels, “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday”, “Alexander, Who’s Not (Do You Hear Me? I Mean It!) Going to Move”, and “Alexander Who’s Trying His Best to Be the Best Boy Ever”.

Viorst, who was also a psychoanalysis researcher, wrote the book to help children process the all-too-common feelings of isolation and frustration that occur when nothing seems to be going their way. It is considered a classic.

Although it’s exciting that another Latino-centric story is going to be brought to the screen, it would also be nice for new, original Latino stories to be told.

For example, part of “Coco’s” popularity was the fact that the movie celebrated and elevated specific aspects of Mexican culture. The movie wasn’t a Latino interpretation of a white text, but it was a Latino narrative through and through.

A lot of the time, Hollywood thinks it can just swap out the characters’ names and slap some Latino actors on the cast, and they’ve hit their “diversity quota” for the year. But true representation goes much deeper than that.

Think about how many “Latino Reboots” there have been. “Charmed”, “One Day at a Time”, “Party of Five”, “Magnum P.I.” , “Father of the Bride”. It’s exciting that Hollywood is taking steps to employee Latino actors and creatives, but it might be time for an original, authentic Latino story to be told.

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Netflix’s ‘Vampires Vs. The Bronx’ Takes A Horror-Comedy Approach To Gentrification

Entertainment

Netflix’s ‘Vampires Vs. The Bronx’ Takes A Horror-Comedy Approach To Gentrification

Netflix / YouTube

Netflix has been making the content we have all been waiting for and the latest hit is “Vampires Vs. The Bronx.” The movie is a new way to tell the narrative of gentrification through the lens of family-friendly horror. Netflix viewers are clearly loving the movie and some want to see it make history.

It’s hard to tell who is the biggest danger in “Vampires Vs. The Bronx.”

The comedy-horror was directed by Osmany Rodriguez who is the mastermind behind some of the funniest moments of “Saturday Night Live.” Basically, all of the 2016 election sketches with Alec Baldwin and Kate McKinnon are thanks to Rodriguez and his directing prowess.

Rodriguez brings his same comedic look on the darker issues to this movie where vampires, gentrifiers, and gangsters are overwhelming the Bronx. Yet, despite all of the obvious dangers out there, it is hard to figure out who the real threat to safety is.

First off, people were here for the way to real cultural moments.

Like, okay. We all know that Timbs are a thing in the Bronx. They are a cultural icon of the neighborhood and to see them used as a weapon in “Vampires Vs. The Bronx” was just *chef’s kiss*. Tbh, it was the kind of reaction you could feel in your soul as our communities are still actively fighting against rampant gentrification in our neighborhoods.

The trailer shows a group of boys trying to exist in their neighborhood as the ultimate turf war begins between the three factions. White people with canvas bags, insanely evil vampires, and the stereotypical gangsters are out in full force in this relevant and quickly beloved movie.

Rodriguez did what most filmmakers should: he talked to people in the Bronx.

Rodriguez didn’t shy away from learning what the people had to say about what was happening to their neighborhood. The most common complaint and observation he heard from people in Washington Heights and the Bronx was that gentrification was really taking a negative toll on the communities.

According to an interview with The Daily Beast, Rodriguez learned from Bronx and Washington Heights residents that gentrification was killing the souls of the two Latino neighborhoods. The same can be seen in Boyle Heights in Los Angeles, a Mexican and immigrant neighborhood.

People on social media cannot hype up the movie enough.

Fans of the movie appreciate the balance the movie has been able to strike when telling the story of gentrification. Also, the addition of vampires that seem to be just as horrible is a comical relief that communities impacted by gentrification seem to welcome. Rodriguez wanted to intentionally flip the narrative of gentrification making neighborhoods better and instead show that the neighborhoods are strong and vibrant with their own communities.

The movie has been compared to classics, like “Dracula.”

“Vampires Vs. The Bronx” is a clear commentary on the current class struggles happening in communities of color across the country. Much like the 1931 film “Dracula,” the narrative painted by the Netflix movie is poignant look at what is happening in the world.

“Dracula” was seen as a capitalist’s nightmare with the vampire representing the dead labor. That dead labor, which is the relentless work under capitalism, can only survive by draining the life out of the living to keep itself thriving.

It is clear that Netflix and Rodriguez gave their fans exactly what they wanted out of “Vampires Vs. The Bronx.”

People are more than fans. The movie has become a cultural entertainment moment for the communities represented in the film. This kind of representation is amazing. Afro-Latino talent is front and center in the film as the heroes and that is something we can all celebrate. Dominicans, Puerto Ricans, and Black actors delivered a performance that is resonating far beyond the Netflix-universe.

“Vampires Vs. The Bronx” is currently streaming on Netflix so you can watch it now.

READ: Netflix Finally Gave Us The Release Date For “Selena: The Series” And Fans Can’t Wait

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