We love seeing Latinx writers representing in publishing, shattering glass ceilings and breaking new ground along the way. In 2021, Natalie Diaz became the first Latina poet to win the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Last year, Ada Limón made history as the first Chicana poet to be named the National Poet Laureate by the Library of Congress. Now beloved Cuban American author Meg Medina, raised in Queens, New York, has just been named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress for the 2023-2024 season. She is the first Latina in history to serve in the role.
“I’m interested in reconnecting how kids talk of books and reconnect with reading not just as a subject in school, even though that’s important, too,” Medina told Richmond Magazine. “What I’m after is reading for joy and for passion, and reading as a way for families to connect and kids to connect. When you read something great and tell someone about a book, you’re telling them about yourself, what excites you, the things you love and the things that are interesting to you. You’re telling them that to connect.”
Originally established in 2008, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature is biannually awarded by the Library of Congress to an author or illustrator who has made a positive, lasting impact on literature for children and young people. Other qualifications include being able to communicate well and having experience and skill working with children. During their two-year term, ambassadors embark on a national tour visiting libraries and schools to encourage reading and promote books.
Medina could not be a more deserving candidate. In 2019, she won the Newbury Medal for her middle-grade novel Merci Suárez Changes Gears and the Pura Belpré Award in 2014 for her book Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass, which is being adapted into a graphic novel for publication later this year.
“My books always center on three things: Growing up, culture and family. And how those three things intersect,” Medina told NPR. “Sometimes they’re beautiful intersections and sometimes they’re really bumpy, right?”
In addition to her regular ambassador duties, she also hopes to push back against book censorship in school libraries and connect with parents, guardians, and families to promote the importance of oral storytelling, especially in marginalized communities and immigrant families. She’ll be engaging with readers across the nation through her platform,”Cuéntame,” which is all about having discussions around literature beyond the classroom through her curated reading lists.
Equally as important as written storytelling, oral histories, Medina argues, play a huge role in developmental literacy and love and enjoyment of reading because they are an insight into “how we came to be, of the people who loved us, the people still over there loving us, the people who imagined us before we ever were,” she said.
“That sense of roots is a grounding influence, and also it’s a celebration of our experience,” she told NBC. “No child begins here, right? There’s a whole system underneath them.”
We are thrilled to see another Latina promoting literacy and love for reading in the U.S. and can’t wait to see what strides she makes during her term.