About two months ago, I was contacted by a Professor of Liberal Studies in the Liberal Studies Department at CSU Monterey Bay about 25 miles from my neck of the woods. He taught a Latina Reading group! Yes, a group he put together himself to encourage and support some CSUMB Latino students as undergrads who want to become teachers. As part of this process they were reading a series of picture books and YA novels. One of their proposed novels was Graffiti Girl. He had recently had a visit by another local author, Ann Jaramillo, author of La Linea.
Of course, I was flattered! And truthfully, I was a little nervous and not sure what to expect. These wouldn't be middle grade students, but adults reading my book, and I'm just a newbie author, who never attended a university...what could I bring to these students?
Well, I could bring chocolate! *grin* But this time I knew I wouldn't be throwing around candy to get the group to open up. But there was no need, once I arrived Professor Miguel was so welcoming. He joked that Miguel in Graffiti Girl was him! And the group was so friendly, it really was like they were a family of cousins with mostly woman and two men.
The only part that made me nervous was the video camera. *grin* But the professor assured me it was for studying purposes so they might revisit the meeting. We went around the table and introduced ourselves, and the students each told me of parts of the story that they related to, what scenes touched a personal cord with them, and the themes that they felt were important.
I had never been to a group where the readers had each taken time to read my book and them discussed it with me. I tried to share my feelings about each scene and character and what made me write them. It was a very honest, and enlightening, and humbling experience. I was incredibly honored.
Near the end, they each described what their "tag" name would be and how it would look painted. That was very fun and creative! I followed up by signing a few books and taking pics. One of the students baked cupcakes and I took some home. *grin*
Professor Miguel has since sent me photos, a writing prompt from one of his students about what it means to be Latino, and mentioned they have now changed their name to the Latina Reading Crew! I wish the best to this wonderful group of Latinos. And like I mentioned, it was an awesome experience I won't forget. :)