This is a guest post by Natalie Miller, 2023 Junior Fellow in the Literary Initiatives Office, with contributions from Literary Initiatives intern Delaney Runge. This is an updated post with links to author talks recorded on August 12, 2023.
In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, please enjoy author talks from these twelve authors that appeared at this year’s National Book Festival. There is something for everyone: fiction, nonfiction and poetry; middle grade, young adult and adult; fantasy and graphic novels.
This year’s National Book Festival theme was “Everyone Has a Story.” Within this theme, the Library expresses its committed to featuring a diversity of stories, ensuring that we represent voices from different cultural backgrounds, gender experiences, orientations and racial identities. The Library keeps records of Hispanic heritage and aids in research on Latino studies. These collections are within the Hispanic Reading Room and the American Folklife Center. To discover more about these collections, take a look at the “A Latinx Resource Guide: Civil Rights Cases and Events in the United States” page (the image above is from this collection).
And now, the author talks from the 2023 National Book Festival:
Elizabeth Acevedo is an Afro Dominican writer and a National Poetry Slam Champion. Most of her novels feature Afro Latina heroines in contemporary settings. Her debut adult novel “Family Lore” will be featured at this year’s National Book Festival. In the past, she has written award-winning YA novels-in-verse “The Poet X” and “Clap When You Land,” and her novel “With Fire on High” was named a best book of the year by the New York Public Library.
Esmeralda Santiago is a Peabody Award-winning fiction writer and memoirist. She was born in Puerto Rico, and much of her writing involves the island. Her books include “When I Was Puerto Rican,” “Conquistadora” and “Almost a Woman.” In 2022 she was awarded the “Best of Brooklyn” award at the Brooklyn Book Festival. She will be at the 2023 National Book Festival with her newest novel, “Las Madres,” which highlights women’s emotions, friendships and sexuality within a community unsettled by catastrophe.
Héctor Tobar is the son of Guatemalan immigrants and is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and novelist. He is the author of the critically acclaimed biography “Deep Down Dark,” which was adapted into the film “The 33.” He has also written the novels “The Tattooed Solider,” “The Barbarian Nurseries” and “The Last Great Road Bum.” Tobar is a Professor of English and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California Irvine and a Guggenheim Fellow. His most recent release “Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of ‘Latino’” will be at this year’s National Book Festival.
Luis Alberto Urrea is a Mexican American poet, novelist and essayist who uses his dual cultural experiences to explore themes of love, loss, and triumph. He is a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist and a Guggenheim fellow, and he has won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award and an Edgar Award, along with various other awards. He will be at this year’s Festival with his newest novel, “Good Night, Irene.”
José Olivarez is the son of Mexican immigrants. He grew up in the Chicago area and is a poet, an educator and a performer. In 2019 he was awarded a Ruth Lilly and Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Fellowship from the Poetry Foundation. His most recent book of poetry, “Promises of Gold”—written in English and combined with a Spanish translation by poet David Ruano—will be featured at the 2023 National Book Festival. He is a co-host of the interview-based podcast “The Poetry Gods,” which features poets discussing their works. Olivarez’s first book of poems, “Citizen Illegal,” won the 2018 Chicago Review of Books Award for Poetry.
YOUNG ADULT (YA)
Jennifer De Leon is an author, speaker and educator. Born to Guatemalan parents, she’s from the Boston area. De Leon has written the young adult novel “Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From” and the essay collection “White Space: Essays on Culture, Race, and Writing.” Her newest novel, “Borderless,” will be featured at the National Book Festival this year. She has received several awards and residencies and was named a 2020 Latinx Trailblazer by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After a decade of teaching in Boston Public Schools, she is now an Associate Professor of English at Framingham State University and an instructor in the Creative Writing and Literature Graduate Program at Harvard University. In 2022, De Leon founded Story Bridge LLC, which holds programs to bring people from all walks of life to shape, share and hear each other’s unique stories.
Meg Medina is the current National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature at the Library of Congress. Medina, a Cuban-American, is the first Latina to serve in this position in the program’s history. She was raised in Flushing, Queens, and is a former public school teacher. She writes for readers of all ages, and many of her novels feature Latina main characters. Medina strives to have all her books be available in both English and Spanish. She supports freedom of expression and is passionate about access to all stories in public and school libraries. She also works on community projects that support girls, Latino youth, and literacy. Medina’s many awards include the Newbery Award, Pura Belpré Author Awards and the Cybils Award for her young adult novel “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.” At this year’s Festival she will be presenting this novel in its new graphic novel adaptation with artist Mel Valentine Vargas.
Mark Oshiro is a queer nonbinary young adult and middle grade author. They’ve written the YA books “Anger Is a Gift” and “Each of Us a Desert,” and the middle grade books “The Insiders,” “You Only Live Once, David Bravo” and “Star Wars Hunters: Battle for the Arena.” Oshiro has co-written “The Sun and The Star: A Nico Di Angelo Adventure” with Rick Riordan. Since 2009, they have run “Mark Reads,” a site where they’ve reviewed nearly 100 books; they also founded the companion website “Mark Watches.” They are a dog lover and when not writing, they are trying to pet every dog in the world. Oshiro will be at the Festival with their newest speculative fiction YA release, “Into the Light.”
Mel Valentine Vargas is a comic artist and illustrator. They are a queer Cuban American whose work is focused on graphic storytelling that highlights minority lifestyles from LGBT, POC, and fem experiences. Through their work, they aim to show characters that their younger self needed while growing up: Hispanic main characters, nonbinary characters, and bodies of all shapes and sizes. Mel Valentine Vargas will be joining Meg Medina at the 2023 National Book Festival, where they will present their graphic novel adaptation of Medina’s “Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass.”
Pedro (Peter) Martín is a former Hallmark artist, and while there he created the “Asteroid Andy” cartoon shorts. He has illustrated several children’s books including “Parker Picks” and “Don’t Know Much About the Solar System.” In his debut middle grade graphic novel memoir, Martín shows his Mexican American childhood as he remembers it. He documents how he and his eight siblings traveled with their parents to Mexico to bring their Abuelito back home to live with them. The book highlights these pivotal moments in the founding of his identity and gives insight into his relatable family dynamics.
Claribel A. Ortega is a former reporter who currently writes middle grade and young adult fantasy. She is often inspired by her Dominican heritage. Her books include “Ghost Squad” and “Frizzy,” a 2023 winner of the Pura Belpré Award for Children’s Text. “The Golden Frog Games”—the sequel to “Witchlings,” her middle grade novel full of quirky Latina witches—will be featured at the 2023 National Book Festival. She also co-hosts the “Bad Author Book Club” podcast and is a Marvel contributor and writer for the comic “Marvel’s Voices: Comunidades (2021) #1,” which celebrates “the mighty Latin-x heroes and creators from all corners of the Marvel Universe!” (Marvel.com, 2021)
R.J. Palacio is the daughter of Colombian immigrants and author of the award-winning book “Wonder.” She grew up in Flushing, Queens—and a fun fact: she was friends with Meg Medina in elementary school! Many of Palacio’s books are set within this “Wonder” universe, including her most recent addition, the novelization of the graphic novel “White Bird” with Erica S. Perl, which will be featured in the 2023 National Book Festival. Palacio majored in illustration and worked as a book cover designer. Her message of spreading kindness started the Choose Kind movement, sparked from the Dr. Wayne Dyer quote: “When given the choice between right and kind, choose kind.”
The Library of Congress works to preserve the voices of artists, creators, culture-shifters and witnesses to remember that came before us, sharing our cultural treasures, and inviting creativity and inspiration. As you enjoy the writings of the authors described above, make sure to also check out the beautiful voices in the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature collection.
Spread the joy of reading! Donate to support next year’s National Book Festival.