Author Diane Gonzalez Bertrand has been selected as this month's Classical 91.7/Arte Público Press Author of the Month. In the next installment of a series of monthly features, Classical 91.7's Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Bertrand.
Diane Gonzales Bertrand, a native of San Antonio and one of seven children, often created imaginary worlds and interesting characters inspired by her favorite books. Writing soon became an important way for Gonzales Bertrand to establish her individuality.
During high school, she began developing her skills as a poetry reader, winning a variety of debate competitions, and she soon began writing her own verses. Both her writing and speaking skills were challenged during her years at the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). She won the Battle of Flowers Oratorical Contest with a speech she wrote about José Antonio Navarro and which she performed at the annual Battle of Flowers Fiesta Luncheon. "We were supposed to talk about an individual who personified the spirit of Texas. Navarro was only one of two Mexican men to sign the independence document, and I wanted everyone to know his story. That speech is one of my most prized pieces of writing."
After earning her bachelor's degree in English from UTSA, Gonzales Bertrand began her career in education, teaching at schools in the same neighborhoods where she was raised. It was during this time that her passion for writing took a new direction. Realizing the important connection between self-esteem and an ability to communicate, especially among the Mexican-American students, she wanted to learn more about teaching writing, so she enrolled in the graduate English program at Our Lady of the Lake University in 1989. Gonzales Bertrand was informed on the first day of class that a "good writing teacher is a writer herself." Ultimately those words would lead Diane towards a goal of writing for publication. Graduate school was not only a creative and intellectual challenge, it was also an economic challenge. Determined to complete her education, Diane wrote a variety of scholarship essays to help with her tuition, and not only received assistance from the American Association of University Women and the San Antonio Women's Club, but also won a National Hispanic Scholarship Award.
During graduate school, Diane wrote and published three novels with Avalon Books, a small publishing house in New York City. The main characters were Mexican Americans, something new in popular romantic fiction. "When I couldn't find any romances with Mexican-American characters, I decided to write my own. Mexican-American people, the young women especially, need to see us reflected in a positive way in books. My lead characters are always educated, they are creative in solving their problems, and they always have a sense of humor."
She is the author of several bilingual picture books for children: The Empanadas that Abuela Made / Las empanadas que hacía la abuela
(Piñata Books, 2003), Uncle Chente's Picnic / El picnic de Tío Chente
(Piñata Books, 2001), The Last Doll / La última muñeca
(Piñata Books, 2001), Family, Familia (Piñata Books, 1999), and Sip, Slurp, Soup, Soup / Caldo, caldo, caldo (Piñata Books, 1997).
She has authored three novels for intermediate readers: Alicia's Treasure
(Piñata Books, 1996), Upside Down and Backwards / De cabeza y al revés
(Piñata Books, 2005), which was a finalist for the 2005 Teddy Children's Book Award and received Special Recognition in the 2005 Paterson Prize for Young People, and The Ruiz Street Kids / Los muchachos de la calle Ruiz
(Piñata Books, 2006), which received a 2007 Skipping Stones Honor Award, a 2007 International Latino Book Award—Best Young Adult Fiction-Bilingual, and was a finalist for the 2007-2008 Tejas Star Book Award. Gonzales Bertrand has also written several novels for middle and high school audiences, including Close to the Heart
(Piñata Books, 2002), Lessons of the Game
(Piñata Books, 1998), and Sweet Fifteen
(Piñata Books, 1995).
Gonzales Bertrand is Writer in Residence at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, Texas, where she teaches creative writing.
Arte Público Press is the nation's largest and most established publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors. Based at the University of Houston, Arte Público Press, Piñata Books and the Recovering the U.S. Hispanic Literary Heritage project provide the most widely recognized and extensive showcase for Hispanic literary arts and creativity. For more information, please visit www.artepublicopress.com
In the next installment of a series of monthly features, Classical 91.7's Eric Ladau spoke with Ms. Saldaña about his works.