Hispanic Heritage month comes to an end this weekend but before it does, we wanted to give you a sneak peek at a debut YA novel coming next February that you’ll definitely be talking about for Hispanic Heritage Month 2017! Lilliam Rivera’s The Education of Margot Sanchez, described as “Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx,” is heavily influenced by Rivera’s own childhood growing up in The Bronx. In celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, Rivera’s shared a little about her life and experiences with us — hear from Rivera below and read on for your first sneak peek of The Education of Margot Sanchez.
It took 25 minutes to walk from the Twin Parks West Housing Project to the nearest library. There were five of us in the family (three younger brothers, one older sister) and I can still picture Mami trying her best to wrangle us across those busy South Bronx, New York city streets. The Bronx Carnegie Library: Fordham Branch was where I discovered Judy Blume, S.E. Hinton, and many other young adult authors. That library became my oasis but even back then I craved something more. It was that something I continually searched for on TV shows and films—the validation of a brown face that looked like mine.
As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, it got me thinking… When was the first Latinx young adult novel published? I recently put the question out on Twitter. Librarians, scholars, and writers chimed it. Authors like Piri Thomas, José Antonio Villarreal, and Sandra Cisneros were mentioned. We tried to figure out the timeline but couldn’t quite agree. The first time I read a young adult novel that captured a bit of my reality wasn’t until high school. The book was Nilda (1973) by Nicholasa Mohr. Although Mohr insisted the novel wasn’t intentionally written for young people, reading it back then was still a revelation. It was that “aha” moment, an affirmation that someone like me could exist in a book.
We’re in an exciting time in publishing. There are so many Latinx voices being launched. You want contemporary? Pick up Isabel Quintero’s Gabi: A Girl in Pieces. Craving something magical? Order Zoraida Cordova’s Labyrinth Lost. When I was longing for a bit of the Bronx, I read Sofia Quintero’s Show and Prove and my heart kind of surged. “Whenever a Latina writer is published it just makes everyone else’s work stronger. There is plenty of room…” Mohr said an interview for the Latina Self-Portraits: Interviews with Contemporary Women Writers book. Yet, there’s still so much work to be done. As Hispanic Heritage Month winds down, the goal is not simply to pause during this particular month. The goal is to celebrate diverse voices every day.
I read that the Carnegie Library shut down in 2005. It now takes me ten minutes to get to my library in West Hollywood, Los Angeles. I cherish the walk and the literary discoveries that are within reach.
Lilliam Rivera is a 2016 Pushcart Prize winner with work in Tin House, Los Angeles Times, Bellevue Literary Review, and Latina, among others. Her debut YA novel, The Education of Margot Sanchez, comes out on February 21, 2017. Lilliam lives in Los Angeles with her family.