Words Take Wing: Honoring Diversity in Children's Literature

Francisco Xavier Alarcón and Maya Christina Gonzalez: Children's Literature

Peter J. Shields Lobby — Lobby Display Cases
Winter Quarter 2009

In honor of the Fifth Annual UC Davis Children's Literature Lecture, the UC Davis University Library presents an exhibit of selected works of noted writer, performer, professor, and activist Francisco Xavier Alarcón. The exhibit also highlights the works of famed illustrator Maya Christina Gonzalez. Mr. Alarcón and Ms. Gonzalez will be the featured speakers at the Mondavi Center on January 28, 2009. This event is presented by the UC Davis School of Education and the Children's Center at Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento.

Francisco Xavier Alarcón

Francisco Xavier Alarcón was born in Wilmington, California, on February 21, 1954, but during his childhood he moved back and forth to Mexico, getting his education in both countries and in both languages. This bicultural education is inherent in his work and ideology.

He is the author of ten volumes of poetry, including, From the other side of night = Del otro lado de la noche: new and selected poems (University of Arizona Press, 2002), Sonnets to madness and other misfortunes = Sonetos a la locura y otras penas (Creative Arts Book Company, 2001), No Golden Gate for us (Pennywhistle Press, 1993), Snake poems: an Aztec invocation (Chronicle Books, 1992), De amor oscuro = Of dark love (Moving Parts Press, 1991), and Body in flames = Cuerpo en llamas (Chronicle Books, l990). Two of his books have been translated into Gaelic in Ireland, Cuerpo en llamas = Colainn ar bharr lasrach (Indreabhán, Ireland: Cló Iar-Connachta Teo, 1992), and De amor oscuro = Vin an ngrá dorcha (Cló Iar-Connachta Teo, 1992). De amor oscuro = Of dark love was also translated into Swedish, Cuerpo en llamas = Kropp i lågor (Lysekil, Sweden: Fabians Förlag, 1991).

Alarcón's most recent book of bilingual poetry for children is Animal poems of the Iguazú: poems = Animalario del Iguazú: poemas (Children's Book Press, 2008). His bilingual book titled Poems to dream together = Poemas para soñar juntos (Lee & Low Books, 2005) was awarded the 2006 Jane Addams Children's Book Award. His previous bilingual book for children, Laughing tomatoes and other spring poems = Jitomates risueños y otros poemas de primavera: poems/poemas (Children's Book Press, 1997) was awarded the 1998 Pura Belpré Honor Book Award by the American Library Association. He also received the 2000 Pura Belpré Honor Book Award for his second book of bilingual poems for children, From the bellybutton of the moon and other summer poems / poems = Del ombligo de la luna y otros poemas de verano / poemas (Children's Book Press, 1998), and the 2002 Pura Belpré Honor Award for his fourth book of bilingual poems for children, Iguanas in the snow and other winter poems = Iguanas en la nieve y otros poemas de invierno / poems/poemas (Children's Book Press, 2001). He has published another book for children, Angels ride bikes and other fall poems / poems = Los ángeles andan en bicicleta y otros poemas de otoño / poemas (Children's Book Press, 1999).

UC Davis Professor of Music Pablo Ortiz composed 13 songs based on Alarcón's bilingual children's poems that were recorded in Mexico and released as Canciones del ombligo de la luna = Songs from the bellybutton of the moon under the auspices of grants from the Fidelmex USA-Rockefeller Foundation and UC MEXUS, a University of California institute devoted to the study of Mexico-related studies, in 2003.

Alarcón was member of the Board of Directors of the Mission Cultural Center of San Francisco from 1986-1990, and served as its Board President from 1986-1989. He also served as a member of the Board of Directors of Children's Book Press from 1997 to 2003. This is a nonprofit press that has published multicultural books for children for more than 25 years in San Francisco, California. He is co-founder of Los Escritores del Nuevo Sol (Writers of the New Sun), a collective of poets and writers based in Sacramento, California.

Alarcón received his undergraduate degree at California State University, Long Beach, and his graduate degree at Stanford University. He currently teaches at the University of California, Davis, where he directs the Spanish for Native Speakers Program.

Maya Christina Gonzalez

Maya Christina Gonzalez was born on January 24, 1964, in Lancaster, California. She is an award-winning artist and children's book illustrator. Widely exhibited, Gonzalez's artwork is known for its vivid imagery of strong women and girls. Her illustrations have broadened the acceptance of, and love for, children's books by and about Latinos.

Gonzalez commented:

"I have loved to draw and color for as long as I can remember. As a child I would go looking for my face in my coloring books, in my storybooks… but I never found my round, Chicana face, my long dark hair. So I would go to that blank page in the back or the front of these books and draw my own big face right in where it belonged.

"That's what I tell the kids when I go into the schools. Those empty spots are actually there so that we can draw ourselves in. We belong everywhere. Our face is important. It is a mark of who we are and where we come from. I work almost exclusively with children of color. Children with faces like mine. I teach the kids to claim all that they are: their face, their feelings, their experiences… and express that for all the world to share through art.

"All my books are bilingual. This always seems like a secret prize for me. As a small boy my father was enrolled in an all English speaking school. He spoke only Spanish. I know this was a difficult way for him to learn. It must have affected him because although his family spoke primarily Spanish, I was not raised speaking it at all. In fact I am still learning to speak it. When I am alone in my studio working on one of my books, there is a part of me who is painting for that small boy who became my father."

Gonzalez's artwork has appeared in numerous art books and magazines, including the cover of Contemporary Chicano/a Art, considered the "bible" of Chicano art. Gonzalez currently resides in San Francisco, California.

For additional information about this exhibit, please contact Humanities, Social Sciences and Government Information Services Librarian Roberto C. Delgadillo, (530) 752‑8266 or rdelgadillo@ucdavis.edu