20th anniversary Rivera Book Award celebrates Tonatiuh, Quintero

By Stacy Lunsford
University News Service
September 15, 2015

In exploring the themes of social justice and self-discovery, authors Duncan Tonatiuh and Isabel Quintero have been named recipients of the 2015 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award.

Texas State University established the award in 1995 to encourage authors, illustrators and publishers to produce books that authentically reflect the lives of Mexican American children and young adults in the United States.

The awards will be presented during a conference, titled “Remembering, Discovery and Volition,” celebrating the 20th anniversary of the award program. The conference will be held Friday, Sept. 25, in the LBJ Student Center on campus.

The 20th anniversary celebration will continue with the Rivera Award Literature Fair scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 26, at the San Marcos Public Library and the San Marcos Activity Center.

Friday’s conference will begin with a poetry presentation by Poet Laureate of Texas Carmen Tafolla, followed by a keynote message from community activist Rosie Castro, mother of twin politicians Julián and Joaquin Castro.

Texas State’s Merge Dance Company will perform an original dance using the José Limón technique. Their dance is based on Tomás Rivera’s poem, “The Searchers.”

Internationally acclaimed artist, and Rivera Award recipient, Carmen Lomas Garza will present to the conference via live video. She will speak on being a Chicana artist.

United States Poet Laureate Juan Felipe Herrera, a Rivera Award recipient, will give the afternoon keynote presentation.

Recipients of the Rivera award from the past 10 years will host breakout sessions to discuss Mexican American children’s and young adult literature.

This year’s recipients include Tonatiuh, who is being recognized in the “Works for Younger Children” category for Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation, and Quintero in the “Works for Older Children/Young Adult” category with her book Gabi: A Girl in Pieces.

Separate is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation

With his signature style as a storyteller and illustrator, Tonatiuh takes the reader to one of the origins of desegregation in U.S. Schools. In 1946, eight years before the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education landmark case, Sylvia Mendez’s family embarks in a legal fight to end segregation in the California school system. When Sylvia was denied enrollment in her neighborhood’s “Whites Only” school because of her Mexican and Puerto Rican heritage, and the color of her skin, her parents took action by organizing the Latino community. Their lawyers filed the Mendez v. Westminster lawsuit in federal district court and in February 1946, this desegregation success brought to an end segregated education in California. The author brings this successful struggle for civil rights to life so children and young adults can understand the history and importance of school desegregation in the United States.

Gabi: A Girl in Pieces

In Quintero’s novel, Gabi conveys an authentic cultural perspective as a Mexican American high school girl growing up in a complicated world. Gabi is a realist, and her confidence is revealed when she is forced to understand love and its different demands, when she strives to make sense of her father’s addictions, and each time that she must defend her identity and beliefs within the complicated dynamics of family, best friends, and her educational goals. Gabi’s resilience depends on being authentic, using wit, humor, raw honesty, and writing poetry. 

About the Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award

The Tomás Rivera Award at Texas States celebrates authors and illustrators dedicated to depicting the values and culture of Mexican Americans. Rivera, who died in 1984, graduated from Texas State with both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees before receiving a Ph.D. from the University of Oklahoma. A Distinguished Alumnus of Texas State, Rivera published his landmark novel, …y no se lo tragó la tierra/…And the Earth Did Not Devour Him, in 1972. In 1979, Rivera was appointed chancellor of the University of California-Riverside, the first Hispanic named chancellor to the University of California System.

For more information on the Rivera Award, please visit the Rivera Award website at http://riverabookaward.org.