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I'm the Local Gal in Richmond, Indiana, exploring my hometown and heart. I write about all thing local, sometimes global. It's a small world after all.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Local Lady Interview/Featured Event: Visiting Author & Illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh

Photo by Alma Ramos- McDermott via La Bloga
"At the end of the day, children are children and people are people. We are more alike than different" 
~Duncan Tonatiuh~

This October in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, Richmond Indiana will host acclaimed author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh. Duncan Tonatiuh will be visiting area schools to read and present his books. Duncan is an artist, storyteller & creator who is using his talents to advocate a better understanding of migration & primarily to celebrate Mexican heritage and art. When contacted by the Local-Lady for an interview, he was quick to respond! Here we go:

When did you decide to write children's books?

"I graduated from Parsons the New School for Design in 2008. My senior thesis was a short graphic novel called Journey of a Mixteco. It was based on the story of my friend Sergio, an undocumented worker who left his Mixtec village in the south of Mexico to find work in the US. 

A professor named Julia Gorton came to critique my work. She really liked my project. She had illustrated a few books for Abrams Books for Young Readers and introduced me to an editor named Howard,  who she had worked with and was friends with. Howard liked my illustrations. I told him I liked writing also. He said, great, and explained to me a few things about children's books like typical page count. If you write something you can send it to me, he said and gave me his email.

One day while I was still working on my senior thesis I had an idea for a book about two cousins, one that lived in a rural community in Mexico and one that lived in an urban center in the US, and even though they lived in different environments were more alike than different. That eventually became my first picture book Dear Primo; A Letter to My Cousin."

Audience & Fans: Image Source
Can you tell us about how Ancient Mexican art & culture have shaped your art? 

"I was born in Mexico City and I grew up in a town called San Miguel de Allende in central Mexico. When I was a kid I loved Japanese anime and comic books. I would draw my own superheroes and make small comics. I came to the US when I was 16. In high school I became interested in painting and liked painters like Van Gogh and Egon Schiele. After being away from my country of origin for a couple of years I began to miss the food, the music and traditions; things I took for granted when I lived there. I became extremely interested in Mexican art and culture when I was in college. 

When I decided to make the short graphic novel about Sergio I began to look for Mixtec artwork in the Parsons library. I was delighted when I found  books about the Mixtec codex of the fourteenth century. I decided that I would make a modern codex about Sergio's story. That is how I developed my current illustration style. I draw by hand, but then I collage my drawings in the computer. I've been working in that style for the last five  years. 
Image Source

My father is American and my mother is Mexican, therefore I have dual nationality. I am specially interested in making books that reflect the experiences of people of Mexican origin on both sides of the border. My second book Diego Rivera: His World and Ours is a simple biography of the famous Mexican muralist, but then the book tries to imagine what he would paint nowadays. My latest book Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote reads like a classic fable, a little bit like Little Red Riding Hood, but the book is also an allegory of the journey that undocumented immigrants go through to reach the US. Coyote is slang for a person that smuggles people across the US-Mexico border."


What can attendees expect at your upcoming presentations and readings?

"I will speak and read from my three books. I will also give attendees a sneak peak of a picture book I finished recently and that will be published next May. Its called Separate is Never Equal; Sylvia Mendez and her Family's Fight for Desegregation. The book is about a civil rights case that desegregated schools in California seven years before the landmark case Brown vs Board of Education took place. 

I try to tailor my readings according to who is in the room. Although my books are in English I "read" them in Spanish if the audience is predominantly Spanish speakers. If there are young kids at the event I usually do some drawings on a large pad of paper for them. I often stand on my head like the break dancers in a page from Dear Primo for them too. When the kids are older I connect my laptop to a projector and show them how I collage my illustrations in Photoshop. 

Hopefully my books and presentations are a way to introduce topics like immigration and Mexican art to children. I try to make books that are accessible and that can be enjoyed by all children, regardless of their background. One of my aims though is for Latino children to see themselves reflected in my books and feel proud of their roots and background. I hope my books will inspire them to read, draw and write their own stories."

Thank you for sharing your art & stories with us, Duncan, and thank you for your response to my questions! I hope you enjoy your visit to Richmond, Indiana! 

Visit Duncan's Blog HERE.



Watch: "Life on the other side / La vida en el otro lado: 

Duncan Tonatiuh at TEDxSanMigueldeAllende"









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