Southwest Children's Literature

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My Nana's Remedies/Los remedios de mi nana

Interview with Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford:

Photo of Roni Capin Rivera-Ashford
When did you decide that you wanted to write children's books?
I began writing for children when I was a bilingual kinder, first grade and reading teacher, after realizing that my students needed more reading material to which they could relate, in either language.

What inspires you when you write?

My childhood memories, experiences and dreams inspire me; along with the child that still lives in my heart.

Have you written other children's books? What are they?

Yes. I have written many stories. However, they are not yet published. I hope they will ALL be published someday soon. All of my stories, so far, are non-fiction; and most are bilingual. Here are some of my titles: Hip, Hip, Hooray, It's Monsoon Day, Jewels of the Desert, The Topsey Turvy, Most Definitely Dizzy Tarantula, What Color is Your Hand?, My Firefly Fairy, Arthur the Arthropod, Chocolate Cheers and Vanilla Snow, In My Nana's Kitchen, My Tata's Remedies, My Nana is Jewish, and My Nana Makes Fridays so Special.

Is writing bilingual children's books a priority for you as an author in the Southwest? Why do you think this is important?
I believe in bilingualism for EVERYONE, whether or not you live near some other country's border. Because of modern advancements and technology, our world is becoming more and more like a neighborhood. Wouldn't it be wonderful to be able to speak to, communicate with, anyone in your neighborhood, and/or on our small planet Earth? The more languages and cultures we know and embrace, the more humans we can communicate with. Learning languages is something the human brain does quite easily from birth up until the beginning of puberty. The brain undergoes changes at the onset of puberty which prevent the ease of learning language from then on. This is a proven scientific fact.

Do you plan to continue writing picture books, which focus on southwestern traditions/themes?

Yes. Hip, Hip, Hooray, It's Monsoon Day, Jewels of the Desert, In My Nana's Kitchen, and My Tata's Remedies focus on Southwestern traditions and themes. The Topsey Turvy, Most Definitely Dizzy Tarantula focuses to some extent on these traditions and themes yet it has a very universal theme as well.

Were some of the remedies described in My Nana's Remedies used in your own home?
I am very familiar with all of these remedies, not so much from my own home, although some were used, as much as the homes of my childhood girlfriends where I spent much time. Their nanas would prepare these for us. As an adult, I learned more about these and other remedies from my mother-in-law, Teresa Rivera Ashford. The love and nurturing in my story was given to me by my nana, Lillian Capin, to whom I dedicated the book. She died at the age of 61, when I was 13.

What is your favorite children's book? Why?

It is too difficult to focus on one favorite. I like Quick as a Cricket by Audrey Wood because of the emotions it captures…. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and Brown Bear, Brown Bear What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. (illustrated by Eric Carle) because of their simplicity and repetition. I like Time for Bed by Mem Fox…….and some of Dr. Seuss because I love rhyme. As my own children got older, we thoroughly enjoyed reading Shel Silverstein's Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic. I also appreciate Less than Half, More than Whole by the late Michael Lacapa for the message of culture and embracing humanity he brings to children through literature.

This interview was conducted via email in the spring of 2005.

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