Back in my teaching days, I taught creative writing. Early in the semester, I would ask my students to describe something that I placed in the middle of the room. Then I’d ask them to lie down on the floor and write about the same thing. The results were so different, of course. A change in perspective altered what they saw. It was our springboard to point of view, to character, to voice.
All these years later, I still think about the impact that perspective—or the lack of it—plays on how we move through the world.
As an author of young adult fiction, it’s my job to write about the dark corners of growing up. But as a Latina author in particular, it’s also my job to make sure that the kids who read my books know that I have a distinct perspective, that I’m naming those universal experiences through a lens. What we see through that lens is sometimes very different from what they have ever considered before.
To write young adult fiction about the lives of Latinx families is to shine a light on experiences that are always threatened by stereotype. It’s an exhausting and thrilling act of love and advocacy. But here’s what I have come to know about books, story, and culture. They can be braided together to make powerful kids who can discern, kids who can self-advocate, and kids who can be reliable allies.
I’m looking forward to joining NCTE, not from the perspective of a teacher this time, although my heart is always there. In November I’ll come to you as an author and friend—and we’ll talk about unleashing voice by celebrating the stories of all of us.
Meg Medina is the author of the young adult novel, Burn Baby Burn. She is a two-time recipient of the Pura Belpré medal: Mango Abuela and Me (2015, honor) and Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass (2014). In 2014, she was named one of CNN’s top ten visionary women in America for her advocacy involving girls, reading, and Latinx youth.