Award-winning Cuban-American author and Richmond native Meg Medina writes picture books, middle-grade and young-adult fiction from the perspectives of Latino families.
The most recent of Medina’s publications, “Burn Baby Burn,” released in March and is set in 1977 New York City. The plot intersects with Medina’s personal upbringing, which she said she often incorporates in her writing.
“Still, in 2016, we’re looking at less than 10 percent of books being by or about people of color and that’s not matching what’s in the population,” Medina said. “Micro-aggressions by the dozens, every day that you just have to sift through. In some cases you have to confront and in others just delicately side-step and keep going forward.”
Despite the fact that Medina’s experiences often show within her work, more universal themes dominate the plot.
“I look at violence in the lives of kids, whether it’s family violence or social violence, social meaning the wider city or sometimes the school community,” Medina said. “I look at loss a lot, what it feels like to lose really important things, people, trust, that sort of thing.”
According to Medina, the lack of people of color in publishing creates challenges for authors writing from multicultural perspectives.
“A lot of times, I’m put in the position where I’m helping them think,” Medina said. “So, it’s all of us putting our heads together to share information and try things and see what works and what doesn’t. And that’s really different, I think, than other authors.”
For example, Medina said sometimes cultural sensitivity is neglected in the editing process, and advertising to minority demographics can pose challenges to white marketing teams. Medina said another challenge is deciding which books to publish in different languages while being fiscally responsible.
“My publisher (Candlewick Press) and I had this exact discussion on why it matters to have dual language editions and my publisher got on board with that right away,” Medina said.
For this reason, three of her works have been translated into Spanish, two of them being her children’s books “Tía Isa Wants a Car,” and “Mango, Abuela and Me,” which Medina said have been quite successful in their dual editions.
As an author, Medina said she has witnessed firsthand the benefits of her writing. Medina said she recalls fondly experiences with young Latinos who expressed their appreciation for her work when she visits schools. More broadly, she said, young girls have thanked her for confronting issues with bullying or romantic partners.
“I think we need to write the world we live in, which is a world with a little bit of everybody,” Medina said.
Georgia Geen, Contributing Writer