Thursday, March 29, 2018

Q AND A WITH CYNTHIA LEONOR GARZA, AUTHOR OF LUCIA THE LUCHADORA


I mainly knew about luchadores, Mexican professional wrestlers who often wear masks, through the movie Nacho Libre and through images of luchadores depicted on mugs, t-shirts, posters, and candle holders. In the film, as well as in the other product-based imagery, the luchadores are all male.

I had never seen a reference to a female luchador befored discovering the children's book, Lucia the Luchadora, at PowerHouse Books in Brooklyn.  Written by Cynthia Leonor Garza and illustrated by Alyssa Bermudez, Lucia features a girl luchadora who wears a mask to the park, stands upfor herself, and fights for what is right.  Lucia is Cynthia's first book.

Q: What were some personal highlights for you during the process of creating Lucia the Luchadora?  What did you learn about yourself during the creation process?

A: I wanted to write a story about lucha libre for a long time and could never quite figure out how to make it work. It had to be fun and high energy to match the feel of a real-life lucha libre match. When I got the idea to write a story about a little girl who wants to be a superhero, it just cliqued that she would become a luchadora. Lucía gives this book all its energy. She is quite a fierce little girl.

Q: What might surprise people to learn about what it was like for you to put this book together?
Many times, there is a wall of sorts between the author and illustrator with the publisher in between while a picture book is being illustrated, but with this book, we had good collaboration. It was a great experience as an author to be let in on the entire process.

A: What kinds of feedback, and from whom, have you received in response to the book?  What were some of the themes from the feedback?  Do you have a sense of the kinds of ways the book has impacted people?
The book has had a terrific response from both childrenand grown-ups. We all read books through our own unique lens, so it’s been interesting hearing the different take-aways folks have after reading this story. A lot of children are captivated by the superhero aspect of the story and the masks and high-flying moves. I’ve heard from parents who liked the strong girl power message in it. Others have said it’s a good lesson on fending off bullies, or standing up for what is right. It’s even been equated with the #MeToo movement, at the point in the book when Lucía unmasks herself and all the other girls follow her lead in solidarity. 
Q: What suggestions do you have for parents, coaches, teachers, and other people who directly impact the lives of young females in terms of how we can best be allies to them, best help them stay true to themselves, their minds, and their true power in the face of sexism, racism, etc.?
A: We have to work to smash the self-doubt that girls often carry, and remind them at every opportunity that they are capable and worthy of their biggest dreams. Luchadora literally means a fighter – a female fighter. Girls are often told to not fight, and one of the lessons of this book is that fighting is not always a bad thing. It is sometimes necessary. Also, girls don’t have to be nice all the time. It is okay to get angry when something is unjust. The part of the book that everyone seems to like is when Lucía gets mad, spicy mad, Ka-Pow kind of mad. It’s a feeling I think we can all relate to.

Q: What are you working on now?
 
A: Lucía the Luchadora and the Million Masks is in the works and is set to be released in October of this year. Lucía’s trouble-making little sister Gemma makes her debut in this story, which is also filled with lots of fun and adventure.

Q: What do you like to do for fun, to blow off steam?

A: I take a lot of long walks to help clear my mind. I live in Nairobi, Kenya and near my home is a forest with trails that has become my most recent obsession. The sights and sounds and feel of the forest is such a welcome change from working on my laptop.

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