Many youth turn to literature as a way to find a place within a community, particularly when feeling like a freak. Feeling different. Young adult books have long satisfied part of that longing for teens - the desire to belong somewhere. In the pages of a YA novel, a teenager might find that teacher who insists on ridiculous papers, the best friend who turns out to be a traitor, or parents who just don't seem to be as cool as everyone else's parents. The recent rise of LGBT teen books has been a way that gay youth can (finally) find solace in characters they can relate to. Author Malin Alegria's debut novel, Estrella's Quinceanera, provides the same support to another strongly unrepresented sphere of YA lit - the Latino community.
NPR's recent review of Alegria's book summarizes the plot of the coming-of-age story, introducing the 15-year-old Estrella and her crazy road to her celebratory quinceanera. The article goes on to explain how Alegria's novel has changed the YA look for Latino teens.
As an author, Alegria is seen as somewhat of a literary superhero - she had every opportunity to chock her story full of stereotypes (something her publisher suggested), but instead created a stark, humorous, and staunchly realistic piece. This is something that the young Latino community needs. "Many of [the Latino] district's students are reading below their grade level," the NPR article stated. "And most are bilingual. They're hungry for stories like Alegria's - stories that reflect their language proficiencies."
Alegria has been invited to schools and libraries all over the country to speak to Latino communities about her novel. Scholastic recently commissioned Alegria to write a four book series called Border Town, the first of which will be released in May 2012. "It's going to be pretty similar to Sweet Valley High," she said, "but with brown kids."
Read more about Malin Alegria here.