Books and films for all ages exploring the many cultures and identities of the Latinx and Hispanic population both within and outside of the United States are on display for National Latinx Heritage Month, which begins on September 15. Several of the featured materials were chosen by Brie Gettleson, Latin American Studies Librarian.
“When I was asked to select some Spanish-language materials to celebrate National Latinx Heritage month, I immediately turned to our poetry and children’s literature collections,” Gettleson says. “I wanted to highlight materials that create connection, intimacy, and feeling across generations and borders. These genres’ stories not only share histories and information, but also spectrums of emotion, through wordplay or the use of vibrant color illustrations. The Penn Libraries is full of scholarly materials on Hispanic and Latinx histories and contemporary life, but narrative arts and children’s literature, too, reflect and produce enduring and important aspects of our shared world.”
The entire collection of featured books and DVDs can be found on the first floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. Here are just a few of the selections.
Note: The descriptions below are collected from publishers and edited for brevity and clarity.
Mis colores, mis mundo / My Colors, My World (English and Spanish)
Maya longs to find brilliant, beautiful color in her world, but wind and desert sands have turned her whole neighborhood the color of dust. With the help of a feathered friend, Maya searches high and low to find the colors in her world. And she does―in the vibrant purple of her Mama’s flowers, the juicy green of a prickly cactus, the hot pink clouds at sunset, and the shiny black of her Papi’s hair.
Estas manos: Manitas de mi familia / These Hands: My Family’s Hands (English and Spanish)
In this heart-warming ode to family, the young narrator compares the hands of family members to plants in the natural world. For example, the girl compares her mother's hands to rose petals, which represent tenderness in Latin America. The book includes an author's note about Latin American symbols, which introduces children both to the natural world and the idea that one thing can represent another.
Diaspora: narrativa brevo en espanol de Estados Unido / Diaspora: A Brief Narrative in Spanish from the United States (Spanish)
Spanish language lives a dual reality in the United States: it has become the nation's second language by the number of speakers, but today it is also suffering a strong pushback. Diaspora is an attempt to bring geographically and culturally diverse voices from Spanish-speaking authors who have made a point of writing and publishing in their mother language in the United States. The 25 authors make a case for Spanish as a language that not only resists, but flourishes creatively and beautifully in a strange land.
La Tinusa: Poetas latinoamericanos in the USA / Latin American Poets in the USA (Spanish)
This anthology, the first of its kind, brings together representative work by 20 Latin American poets living in the United States. All the poets in the sample were born between 1950 and 1963. The editor of the book, Arturo Dávila, also founded an organization called La Tinusa with the mission to disseminate poetry.
Eight poets are united by the very thing that separates them: the border, in this case the border between Mexico and the United States. These eight distinct voices share different images of migration, diaspora, and identity, yet they also have something in common. They are what Carolyn Forché calls the "poetry of witness." They stand as testimony to the human tragedy and nobility of spirit that defines the borderland.
“I was in prison before I was even born.” So begins the story of Dr. Victor Rios who, by 15, was a high school dropout and gang member with three felony convictions and a death wish. But when a teacher's quiet persistence, a mentor's moral conviction, and his best friend's murder converge, Rios's path takes an unexpected turn. The Pushouts interrogates crucial questions of race, class, and power, as well as the promise and perils of education.
Brincando el Charco contemplates the notion of “identity” through the experiences of a Puerto Rican woman living in the United States. Claudia Marin, a middle-class, light-skinned Puerto Rican photographer/videographer who is attempting to construct a sense of community. In a mix of fiction, archival footage, processed interviews, and soap opera drama, the film becomes a meditation on class, race, and sexuality as shifting differences.
Growing up in the Mission district of San Francisco, Che has always had to be tough to survive. A reformed inmate and recovering alcoholic, Che has worked hard to redeem his life and do right by his pride and joy: his only son, Jes, whom he has raised on his own after his wife's death. Che's path to redemption is tested, however, when he discovers that Jes is gay.
This film is based on an award-winning novel about a young, half-Puerto Rican, half-white boy grappling with life, love, and identity as he comes of age. Three brothers tear their way through childhood, pushing against their parents’ volatile love. While the older brothers take cues from their unpredictable father, Jonah, the youngest, increasingly embraces an imagined world all his own.
Dolores Huerta is among the most important, yet least known, activists in American history. An equal partner in co-founding the first farm workers unions with Cesar Chavez, her enormous contributions have gone largely unrecognized. With intimate and unprecedented access to this intensely private mother of 11, the film reveals the raw, personal stakes involved in committing one’s life to social change.