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Young Adult Books for Latinos

Publishers large and small are tapping into the literary demands of a young Latino audience

En español | For years, bookshelves have been noticeably devoid of young adult (YA) literature featuring Latino characters. But as Hispanics become an ever-increasing share of the school-age population in the United States, publishers and authors are stepping up.

"The need for Latino literature — for Latinos and non-Latinos alike — has always been there," says Marina Tristán, assistant director of the University of Houston–based Arte Público Press. "And certainly, as the Latino population grows and improves its educational status, there are more and more Latino writers looking for homes for their work."

See also: Award-winning novelist Esmeralda Santiago revisits Puerto Rico's history.

Young Adult Fiction – Girl with books in library

— Photo: Shalom Ormsby/Blend Images/Corbis

A nonprofit founded in 1979, Arte Público is one of the few publishers with a tradition of providing literature that reflects Latino lives. In 1994 the press created Piñata Books, an imprint that focuses on books for young readers.

Each year it puts out six bilingual picture books, one or two bilingual flip books for intermediate readers and four YA titles. Last spring's list included You Don't Have a Clue, edited by Sarah Cortez, a short story collection of whodunits, mysteries and thrillers by Latino authors.

For small publishers like Cinco Puntos Press, in El Paso, Texas, the YA and children's market has proved to be a lifeline to its own bottom line. Established in 1985 by husband-and-wife team Bobby and Lee Byrd, the press began with three titles that included one children's book La Llorona/The Weeping Woman. In September, Cinco Puntos will release its 10th YA title, Maximilian & the Mystery of the Guardian Angel: A Bilingual Lucha Libre Thriller, by Xavier Garza.

"Teachers and librarians were always asking for books that reflected Hispanic culture," says Lee Byrd. "We quickly understood that publishing books for children and young adults would be one of the important ways in which we sustained our work."

Next: Slang and rap make for a powerful literary mix. >>

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